Standing on the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea, a young woman makes a tough choice.
|Under the blazing silver of the full moon, the smooth sea sang to a part of her soul she long ago tucked away. Sharp rocks poked out of the sand and poked her feet but her steps didn’t slow. The waves kissing the shoreline held her hypnotized, speaking of worlds existing out of sight of man.|
It would be so easy to climb down the craggy rocks and let the cold water caress her skin, welcome her back into its dark embrace. Her tail would form and she would be gone before the moon rose to the height of her nightly splendor.
Oh, how easy it would be.
Her long, slender fingers reached out to cup the moon and she closed her eyes. Home beckoned to her, but Ivan kept her anchored to this miserable, little island.
She loved him.
She thought of the first time she laid eyes upon him, a time when her tail didn’t split into the two awkward legs she now stood on. Her heart stung with longing for the freedom the tail brought her. But, she recognized she would suffer more if she left Ivan behind.
Her dark curls flared out behind her, rippling with the current as she used her powerful silver tail to sluice through the water. She chased a small fish with the intent of catching dinner, but someone else hunted their meal too.
A shadow hovered on the surface of the water, blocking the sunlight, but she gave it no notice. In the lagoon, there were often shadows and creatures that meant very little to her. She just wanted her meal.
Something glinted in the water in front of her, something shiny and beautiful. The fish slipped into the life around the reef, completely forgotten. She floated next to the glittering thing, feeling almost compelled to touch it. Her hand reached out and she closed her fingers around the object, planning on taking it with her back to her undersea cave.
The moment she clasped her fingers around it though, barbed points of pain shot through her flesh. She screamed and flipped about in the water, trying to detangle the vicious monster from her limb. Little puffs of red diffused into the water. She froze, terrified a shark might sense her distress and come to the call.
Only when she quit moving, she realized the biting thing drew her upward, towards the shadow. Terror provoked her to claw at the item, but panic prevented her from being able to figure out how to work it out of her hand.
Her webbed fingers broke the surface, followed by her head. A startled shout bounced off the water. Blinking in the brilliant sunlight, she stared into the face of a creature not unlike her.
But, without a tail!
His fingers wrapped around a pole so tight his knuckles changed color. A string dangled from it to the pain stuck in her hand. She held up her hand, hoping he would free her.
His eyes, the shade of the sky on a stormy day, widened and he stammered, “That’s mine! Oh, I am so sorry. Let me get that for you.”
He dropped the pole into the thin, green boat and leaned over the edge, his tan hand reaching for her warm, brown one. A shiver passed through her when he made contact. His tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth as he focused on wrestling the glistening barbs from her skin. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from crying out.
The sharp spikes of misery dropped into the boat, but he didn’t let go of her hand. Something about his touch made her heart want to burst through her chest.
“I didn’t mean to hook you. I would never want to hurt you. But, I’m glad I did and got to meet you.” He smiled and a flash of brilliant white teeth parted his face.
His grin ignited her own and she nodded back with enthusiasm.
His eyebrow cocked and he asked her, “You can understand me?”
She nodded again. Her kind was gifted with the ability to understand whatever species they encountered. It allowed them to move easily through the vast expanse of the sea, slipping into whatever society they chose to home with temporarily, before moving on to the next place.
“Well, then.” He gave her hand a soft squeeze, being careful to keep his fingers away from the small spots of blood. “I’m Ivan. What can I call you?”
“Seanna,” she said before dipping her mouth back into the water. Heat burned in her cheeks as if she spilled some ancient secret.
She wanted him to talk more. His voice sounded so kind and familiar, she loved listening to the soft timber.
“Seanna,” he repeated, tasting the word like a decadent fish. “Such a lovely name. It suits you.”
Flustered at his compliments, she ducked her head under the water. With their hands still touching each other, she popped back up. His dark gray eyes followed her. It made her stomach flip-flop and her tail tremble. She wanted to touch his light, curly hair, and examine the dry texture so unlike her heavy, wet curls.
“Seanna, I wish I could stay here always and talk with you,” he said, “How I dread going back to land.”
“Why?” she asked, her word swirling with the accent of the ocean. “I can come sit with you and we can talk as long as we may wish.” Though she was most comfortable in her tail, it went away when she dried upon the sandy shores.
“Will you come with me now?” His words ran into each other excitement.
“Yes Ivan, I will come with you.” The words hit a chord deep inside of her. Somehow, she understood she wasn’t just agreeing to a sunny afternoon on the beach.
With her eyes squeezed shut, Seanna thought of that fated afternoon. She could remember the crisp smell of the sea air mixed with the lush green of the inland behind them. Everything they said seemed important at the time. Now, all she could remember was the way his lips molded against hers and the realization she would leave her precious ocean for him.
It seemed like such an easy choice that day. She didn’t even look back at her beloved lagoon as Ivan took her back to his homey cottage. He married her the next day. At first, he’d been more than enough. Ivan stole every ounce of her focus.
As time wore on though, the sea called to her more and more. She would catch a whiff of the familiar salt in the air and find her feet carrying her to the cliffs overlooking the blue expanse. The seagulls sang to her, asking why she didn’t swim anymore. She never spoke back, but she knew the answer.
If she felt the true joy of her tail again, she would never come back.
When she opened her eyes and glanced up at the moon, she pictured Ivan’s handsome face in her mind. The way his stormy gray eyes lit up when he saw her and how he grinned over the silliest things. He constantly brought her home little trinkets, teaching her a little about his world through the pretty baubles. Thinking of his arms wrapped around her, his breath tickling her ear, her heart seemed to melt and her knees felt weak.
She turned away from the calm ocean and began the walk home. For tonight, at least, her love for Ivan was enough.