“May I have your attention, please?” called Sebastian.
The crab tapped his baton on the podium to call the rehearsal to order. King Triton’s birthday was fast approaching, and the court musicians were planning a special performance in his honor: Ariel would sing along with an entire orchestra. Sebastian wanted the concert to be spectacular. But they still had a lot of work to do.
He raised his baton, and the musicians began to play. Beautiful music filled the sea, until—CLANG!
“Who did that?” Sebastian demanded.
“Um… I did,” said a timid voice.
“Not again, Coral!” cried Sebastian.
“Sorry,” the young mermaid replied, her cheeks red with embarrassment.
“Coral,” said the conductor sternly, “the best way to play the cymbals is to HOLD ONTO THE CYMBALS!”
“Yes, sir,” Coral answered.
The rehearsal went from bad to worse. Over and over, Coral missed her cue. Then she dropped her cymbals again. Then she tripped and landed on top of the kettledrum.
Sebastian threw down his baton. “Rehearsal is OVER!” he fumed as he stormed off.
Ariel hurried over to help Coral up. “Don’t mind Sebastian,” she said reassuringly. “He just wants everything to be perfect.”
Coral bit her lip. “I might as well quit the orchestra now,” she said. “I’ve never been good at anything—let alone perfect.”
“The only thing I’m perfect at is making Sebastian mad!” Ariel said with a laugh. “You should have seen his face the last time I went to the surface. His eyes bulged right out of his head!”
“You’ve been to the surface?” Coral said, amazed. “Wow! You must be the bravest mermaid ever!”
Ariel laughed. “I don’t know about brave,” she said. “It’s just something I liked to do that’s different. Surely you have your own special hobby.”
“I don’t know,” said Coral. “I have nine brothers and sisters. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have anything that’s all my own.”
“I know what you mean,” Ariel admitted. “I have a lot of sisters myself. But I have a special place where I keep treasures from my collection. Would you like to see it?”
“I’d love to!” Coral exclaimed.
The two mermaids swam to Ariel’s grotto. Along the way, they met up with Flounder.
“Make yourself at home,” Ariel said to Coral when they arrived at the grotto.
Coral’s eyes widened. She swam around the cavern, examining jewelry and shiny trinkets she had never seen before. “Where did you find all of this?” she asked Ariel.
“I found some of it at the bottom of the ocean,” Ariel answered.
“And in sunken ships,” Flounder added.
“You’ve been inside a sunken ship?” Coral gasped. “Weren’t you scared?”
“Of course not. Were you, Flounder?” Ariel teased.
“Nothing to it!” Flounder fibbed.
“So what are we waiting for?” asked Ariel. “Let’s go!”
Coral and Flounder trailed behind Ariel as she swam. Soon they arrived at a ship resting on the ocean floor.
“Come on!” said Ariel, disappearing through a large porthole.
“She wants us to follow her in there?” Coral exclaimed in disbelief.
“Yup,” answered Flounder. “And the sooner we do, the sooner it is over with. Come on!”
When Coral and Flounder found Ariel, she was going through the contents of an old steamer trunk.
“Look at this!” said Ariel, holding up a purple parasol.
“And this!” Coral exclaimed, picking up a fancy lampshade. “I wonder what it’s for?”
“My friend Scuttle can tell us,” Ariel said. “Follow me!”
Soon Ariel found herself swimming up, up, up. “Where are we going?” she asked Flounder.
“To the surface,” he replied matter-of-factly.
Before Coral had time to be scared, the friends had already arrived at the rock where Scuttle was perched.
Scuttle examined their treasures. “That scribbleflow,” he said, looking at Ariel’s parasol, “is something that small humans use to go paddling around in the ocean.”
Then he turned his attention to Coral’s lampshade. “Oh!” he said with excitement. “That’s very special! It’s a fancy human outfit ladies wear when they’re going someplace important.”
As they headed home, Coral asked Ariel if she could keep the lampshade at the grotto. “It might get lost or broken at home,” she explained.
“Of course,” Ariel agreed. “The grotto is my secret place, but it can be yours, too.”
A few days later, when Ariel swam up to the grotto, she head the most beautiful singing. The voice was strong and clear – but sweet, too.
“Coral!” Ariel cried. “I didn’t know you could sing!”
“I can’t,” Coral said. “Not like you.”
“Nonsense! You have a lovely voice,” Ariel declared. “You should be singing in my father’s concert, not playing the cymbals.”
The little blond mermaid shrugged. “I just like singing to myself,” she explained.
The next day at rehearsal, Sebastian made Ariel and the orchestra rehearse the concert over and over again, but something seemed to go wrong each time.
“The big day is tomorrow!” the crab fretted. “This concert must be fit for a king—King Triton, to be exact! Now let’s try it again.”
By the end of the rehearsal, everyone was tired. “See you tomorrow,” Ariel said, her voice coming out as a whisper.
On the day of the concert, Ariel was still whispering.
“Laryngitis!” wailed Sebastian. “Oh, no!”
Ariel just nodded. She couldn’t speak, let alone sing.
“It’s my own fault,” the conductor moaned. “Yesterday’s rehearsal was too long! Now who’s going to sing the solo?”
Ariel motioned for Sebastian to come with her. She led him to the grotto, where Coral was singing exuberantly. As soon as Sebastian heard her, he asked Coral to take Ariel’s place.
“Me?” Coral said. “But I can’t!”
“You must!” Sebastian insisted. “Otherwise, King Triton’s birthday celebration will be ruined!”
Ariel and Sebastian hurried Coral back to the band shell, where they met up with Flounder.
“Tell them I can’t sing in front of a crowd of merpeople, Flounder,” Coral pleaded. “And I certainly can’t sing in front of King Triton! You understand about being scared, don’t you?”
“Sure,” he answered. “But I don’t let it stop me from doing things.”
Coral thought about how she had visited a sunken ship and gone to the surface, things she never thought she could do—all because of Ariel. Now her new friend was counting on her.
“All right,” Coral said slowly. “I’ll do it.”
That night, when Coral peeked out from backstage, she nearly fainted. The entire kingdom was there—including her parents and all of her brothers and sisters! And there, sitting in the royal box, were King Triton and Ariel.
When it was time, Coral took a deep breath and swam onstage. As the orchestra began to play, Coral began to sing softly. But as her confidence grew, Coral sang louder, her voice filled with joy. Before Coral new it, the concert was over, and the audience erupted into applause.
“Coral,” said Sebastian, smiling broadly. “You can give away your cymbals. From now on, I’m making you a court singer!”
After the show, Ariel found Coral backstage surrounded by her family.
“I didn’t know you could sing like that,” blurted out one of Coral’s sisters.
“No one ever would have known if it wasn’t for Ariel,” replied Coral. “She believed in me, and that helped me believe in myself.”
The young mermaid took Ariel’s hand. “Thank you,” Coral said.
Ariel still couldn’t speak, but she smiled at Coral and gave her a big hug. To the young mermaid, it was worth more than a thousand words.