“There is no such thing as magic.”
Young Elle’s words cause her grandmother, Ama, to flinch. “It pains me,” she answers, “to hear you say such things.”
Elle is defiant. “How can there be magic?” she demands. “If such a thing existed, we would not be trapped here with housefires every night.”
Ama considers her granddaughter’s skepticism.
Outside, the singe of smoke alerts them that another shabby seaside home has gone up in flames. In the district to which they’ve been condemned, authorities do not bother to help. She hopes that the fire can be contained before a life is lost.
She admits, grudgingly, to understanding her granddaughter’s bitterness. In her thirteen years, Elle has known only a violent home.
Young Merpeople, folk with ocean-blood, have grown up with violence. They’ve never seen the magic their ancestors once practiced. For reasons that Ama can’t explain, the magic of Merpeople stopped—it seems to have dried up, as if the sea itself were empty.
“I promise you,” she tells Elle, who is crying silent tears—so young, and she knows she is trapped—“I feel in my old bones that you, in your lifetime, will see magic.”
For the sea has not dried up. Ama knows she is merely preparing, gathering her strength, for the great wave that will free her people.
Ama might not live to see it—but she is confident, and grateful, that Elle will.