(For more information on my Genre Self-Challenge, read previous entry here.)
“Encounters with Merfolk”
“Hey Jen,” I began tentatively. “If…well, suppose things like mermaids were real. Do you suppose they’d be the size of a normal human, or might they be smaller?
“Mermaids?” she laughed. “What sort of question is that?”
“And then,” I continued absent-mindedly, “what do you think a male mermaid would be called?”
“Uh, a merboy?” Jen laughed again. “Cassie, are you feeling okay? You’re acting a little strange.”
“Ah, is that so…” I mumbled.
“Yes, it is.” Her tone was more serious now, causing me to snap out of my daze. I glanced over and met with worried eyes.
I smiled forcefully. “Sorry. I just have something on my mind, that’s all.”
“Is it—?” she began.
“—I’m worried about Moshe,” I interrupted, not wanting her to finish her question.
“Moshe?” she asked, and I resisted the urge to smack myself on the forehead. Bringing up Moshe was a mistake.
“Yes…Moshe is…” I trailed off, unconsciously lifting the grocery bag that had his food inside it.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “Is Moshe your cat?” She nodded her head toward the bag. “You were buying cat food at the store when I ran into you at the store earlier, right?”
“Oh, yes…a cat. Moshe’s my cat,” I replied. “And, well, it’s past his supper time. He gets fussy when I’m too late.”
Jen laughed again, and I felt a wave of relief pass over me. “Well, that’s fine. Actually, I should be going soon too.”
“It was nice seeing you after all this time,” I said, getting up from the park bench. “I hope we run into each other again soon.”
I began walking away when I heard, “Cass? You do know, right? About Ken?”
I turned around again, making sure to continue smiling. “His wedding is this June, right? It’s great news. I’m really happy for him.”
Jen sighed audibly. “Right. Anyway, take care of yourself.”
“Thanks! You too,” I returned with a wave before making my way back to my apartment.
“Oooh, if only I could’ve explained things properly to her,” I bemoaned as I opened my door. I looked around the living room cautiously before moving to the kitchen and setting the grocery bag down on the counter.
I took out a can of cat food that proclaimed “Made with Real Salmon!” and opened it quickly onto a cheap plastic plate. “Let’s hope Moshe eats salmon,” I sighed before picking up the plate and walking to the bathroom.
I clicked on the light. “Moshe? You’re still here, aren’t you?” I crept over to the bathtub, peeking at it through the fingers on my free hand. “Moshe?”
And there, swimming around in the water, was a four-inch mermaid…scratch that, four-inch merboy. Right where I left him this morning.
“I really must be losing my mind,” I laughed nervously as I crouched down over the bathtub. The tiny merboy finally noticed my return and looked up, a smile on that clearly human face of his surrounded by iridescent scales. “Yep,” I sighed, “definitely losing my mind.”
I hesitantly held my hand over the water, holding a piece of the salmon cat food above it. Moshe—as I tentatively decided to name him—swam up to the surface and peeked out of the water. He looked at me for a few moments first before sniffing the food. Then he scrunched up his nose, and a strange sense of worry crept over me.
“Please eat,” I whispered, my voice shaking a bit. “This is the second day you’ve been here, and you haven’t eaten a thing. I already tried fish food…this is all I can think of now…”
He watched me for a few moments more, his head still above the water and his eyes clearly studying me. Finally, he moved back to the food and nibbled at it.
I laughed, strangely relaxed now. “Good,” I sighed contentedly. “You’re eating. I wouldn’t want you to starve just because I didn’t know what to do with you.” I continued watching the strange creature, adding, “Of course, I’m not sure who would. I doubt I’d find anybody over the age of eight who believed in the existence of merfolk. I doubt many people would’ve even stopped if they saw you there, splashing around in a shallow puddle like that.”
By now, Moshe had eaten until he was content and began swimming around again with renewed vigor. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I watched him eagerly move along the perimeter, soaking in every detail of his new surroundings.
“I wonder how you even came to be there in the first place,” I mused. “Or how it was that I was the one who happened to find you. I wonder. Maybe I just never grew up, hmm?” I rested my head on the rim of the tub. “I guess that’s why Ken ended up with someone other than me…”
At that moment, Moshe stopped his patrolling and swam back up to the surface to watch me again. His head tilted from side to side, and his little mouth frowned slightly.
Then I realized it. “Heh…are you actually worrying about me?” He continued to watch intently, inching as close as he could to my side of the tub.
“Don’t be silly,” I continued. “You should be more worried about yourself, after all. I’m just…a plain, naïve sort of woman who…who’s still so much of a child that she can believe in something like mermaids and merboys,” I said, forcing myself to laugh as I fought against the tears welling up in my eyes. “Even if I’m alone, even if the man I love—well, at least, who I thought I loved—is marrying someone else, it’s certainly nothing when compared to your situation.”
I couldn’t help myself any longer. The tears flowed freely, rolling off and creating ripples when they landed in the bathwater. When I managed to see through them, I looked back down at Moshe and was surprised to see him with one strange, webbed little hand reaching up to me. I chuckled softly, touching it with one finger. It was surprisingly warm, and for the first time in a while, I couldn’t help but really smile.
“Thank you,” I whispered. “Even without being able to speak or understand everything, you’re trying to comfort me, right?”
Seeing my response, he smiled and darted back under the water, swimming around happily.
I laughed, a little more cheerfully this time. “I really should figure out where you came from and how to get you back,” I said. “But in the meantime, it seems like I’ve made a new friend. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go back to the store and see if I can find some toys or something for you.”
He splashed up to the surface again and grinned at me. I grinned back.