She wanted to be a mermaid. Her mother always told her there were no such things, but she knew better. She knew adults often lied, especially to children, and so swore one day she would be one.
The sand settled around her feet as the waves retreated from shore. She looked down at her inadequate legs and frowned. She would never be able to swim in the deepest part of the ocean without fins. She looked back at the body of water before her. Excited waves rushed to greet her, beckoning her to follow them back home.
When she was a teenager, she came to the beach for the first time. The ocean was huge and wild, but the first time she stepped foot in water, she knew that is where she wanted to be. She waded out to just before the breakers, determined to fulfill her mermaid dream. The next thing she knew, the undertow caught her and she was swirling in a blue green cloud of foam, water, sand, and seaweed.
She never told anyone, but to this day she knows she saw a mermaid there waiting for her. She reached out her hand, but grabbed the hand of a rescuer instead. They pulled her to shore and helped her heave water out if lungs. She laid there in tears. Her parents thought it was fear, but it was regret that made her cry since she missed the mermaid’s hand.
She didn’t see the ocean again for a long time after. Her heart filled with sorrow over it. And, as the mind often does, she began to convince herself it was just a dream. It was easier to accept than if she had really seen the mermaid and missed an opportunity.
She had almost convinced herself, too, until her first wedding anniversary. Her husband knew she loved the beach and brought her there as a surprise. She hugged and kissed him in gratitude. That night they made love with the sounds of the ocean in the background. When she was sure he was asleep, she crept to the beach and put her feet in the path of the waves.
The moon shone a silver sword along the water and the gulls were silent. Just her and the waves. Her feet were covered with sand once again as the waves retreated. The water pulled at her calves beckoning her. She looked back at the little house where her husband slept. He was a good man. Everyone told her so. She was almost happy until she came back to the sea.
It called to her again. Stronger this time. The dark water suddenly calmed, waiting for her decision. She waded out once more and, once more, was caught by the undertow. Black water swirled around her as she reached out her hand…
Mermaid by Idgie Stark is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.