Erica had to do some mental resets when she played pufferball. The game didn’t have a net. Instead, the players swam in a circle, hitting the ball to each other in a three-dimensional hackey sack match. You had to pass twice before you hit the ball, and you could hit the ball with any part of your body. You had to hit it at the other team. If it went wild, the other team scored a point. From there, the other team had to pass twice and then hit the ball back. If someone flubbed their pass, you scored and got the ball back.
Erica passed to Jory, who passed to Aaron, who set up Erica for the third hit. She knew she was getting more than her share of sets, being the guest and all. She wanted to make them proud. Erica smiled, then tucked what would have been her knees to her belly, snapped her tail out and smacked the ball like a baseball bat. The slap sounded like a gunshot. The ball hit uncle Yurri in the arm and bounced away from him before he could pass it.
“Who taught her that?” Yurri asked. He shook his head. Others were applauding.
Jory slapped tails with Erica, an underwater high-five. She laughed. Aaron swam over and hugged her. “You’re getting the hang of this!” he said.
“I’m a water baby. I spent my whole life swimming.”
Jory looked around for the ball. People were so busy ooh-ing and ahh-ing that no one paid attention.
“I think you’d fit in down here. How do you feel about it?”
Erica’s grin broadened. “Is that a yes?”
“It was always yes. The question’s whether it’ll work.”
Erica pushed his shoulder. “You could’ve said ‘yes’ on the beach, then. Would’ve made the moment a bit more romantic, don’t you think?”
“Yes. Guilty. I didn’t want to get your hopes up before you had a chance—”
“Where did Jory go?” Yurri asked.
Erica and Aaron looked at him. People looked at each other. Yurri and others swam in circles around the group. People started looking.
“How far could a dumb ball go?”
Erica let go of Aaron. She kicked upward to get a better view. She felt what would have been hair standing up on her arms. The metaphorical eyes in the back of her head were looking around. She’d felt this before in the field, when twilight fell. When predators came out. The fish the separated from the school always got eaten.