They both knew–they had to know–that it would never work. Making a mermaid trade in the vast sea for the upstairs bathtub, even if she did so willingly, was no proper fix. And it didn’t matter how many books he read to her about human history or newspapers about current events, how many board games he taught her or how many candles he lit: the legends were just stories. You can’t change what you were born to be and Stella was born a mermaid and my brother, a human. But they tried. Of course they did. Because they’re in love and the impossible doesn’t feel insurmountable when there’s a glow like the sun in your chest, burning so hot you can’t sleep and you hardly want to eat for fear of smothering it. Even breathing feels risky, as if it were a flame that one deep breath could blow out. He was burning bad.
So they talked, their voices murmuring down through the floorboards, humming down the hall when I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night. When they weren’t talking, they were watching movies. Or he was sleeping in the bed of blankets he’d made on the floor. Or they were kissing and he was telling her how to close your eyes. The burn in my chest was a sucking wound, a muffled scream. It won’t work, the scream tried to say. I know. I already tried.
This one haunts me a bit, I’ll be honest. There was something about the twist of this being the sister watching from a distance while her brother slowly sets himself up for heartbreak. I might do something with this one day. It intrigues me.
The others wouldn’t go near the water or even consider boarding the ship until this was done.
The captain was at the pub now to talk to Mr. Pembridge about getting a move on already–in the politest possible terms. He needn’t have bothered if he believed. But that wasn’t his fault necessarily. As a captain, he’s expected to believe that the might of his ship and crew were enough of a deterrent. He would never campaign–openly anyway–in the power of books to ensure a safe journey.
I knelt at the end of the pier, setting a stack off to one side to slip my boots and socks off. From the corner of my eye, a knot of sailors aboard the Rip Tide gathered at the railing to watch me. The phrase “He’s out of it” floated across the shifting water. I scooted closer to the edge and lowered my feet into the water.
There wasn’t a disturbance, no ripple or indication of a large body moving beneath the surface, but there was a tug on my hem and when I looked down, she poked her head out. Seawater sluiced over her face, which was pale from lack of sun and flattened as if from water resistance. She didn’t smile but her eyes were keen.
“I’ve brought a few things,” I said, and let her choose from the stack after I told her what each was about. She pointed a finger at two. “And I’ll have the next in the series when I come back.”
She grabbed the books with a smirk for my trick and with a surging splash, she vanished under the waves. I did not know what magic allowed the books to go underwater without damage, but I did know that our voyage would now be free of mermaids.
I somehow got onto a mermaid kick? I honestly can’t account for it. I think I clicked on one mermaid pin on Pinterest and suddenly started getting slews of them and so many of them were interesting to me! What can I say. Also, mermaids are a thing now, aren’t they?
Click here for the pin that inspired this piece! There’s a whole series of ones just like it and they’re all really cool!