The stories of mermaids tell always the same thing. They dwell in the water, beneath the rippling waves in the deepest part of the ocean, where the temperature is warm, and life unknown can be seen.
They dwell there.
I am half-mermaid. I grew into my legacy when I was sixteen and I’ve been hiding it for two years. But how much longer can I hide such a secret?
The beach has always been my home. The ocean, mere steps away. My boyfriend always wondered why I swam at night. And why I swam alone.
But it was my secret. Not his. He knew that. And respected it. Otherwise we were perfect.
Too perfect a couple some said.
But I didn’t care. I loved him, and he loved me back.
So why did I stand on the beach with the water caressing my ankles?
I imagined the scaly, slimy feel of my tail sweeping me off my feet throwing me into the water.
I imagined the rippling, scraping, emerging sensation of the scales as they seeped out of my skin, bursting with the shimmering, mother of pearl sheen the scales possessed.
My legacy would come when I called it. I was the one in control.
“Arianna come back inside.”
I turned to find my mother standing where our house met the beach. There was fear and cause of fear all over her perfect face.
My mother was a mermaid turned human. She knew what I was. She knew I had to swim every night to feel alive. She used to do it too until I was born. When I was born, she lost her ability to be a mermaid.
I turned back up the beach, casting the swelling curves of the sea once last look. She was still my mother; I had to dine with her.
Dinner was quiet. As usual father was away on business. Whenever he was gone mother was sombre and quiet. I knew the story between them. It was the sweetest romantic kind, which I would envy if I knew where in the world I belonged.
Mother was a mermaid princess. Father was a wealthy business man. She saved him from a shipwreck in her mermaid form and brought him back to shore staying with him while he remained unconscious. She sang to him. He heard. She ran away before he could ask her name. He never saw her either.
Back in her kingdom she begged a witch to give her the means to find her love. In exchange she lost her voice. On land mother had legs and yes she caught father’s attention. Things went swimmingly until the witch showed up, beautiful and undeniably entrancing. The minute she opened her mouth, father went to her entranced.
Mother was broken hearted and aimed to return to the sea having lost him. It took the coaxing persuasion and convincing of her closest friends for her to return to land to retrieve her love and voice.
The story ends happily.
I don’t know.
Mother says I’m human. I believe her. But I think I am also the sea. I feel the sea in my bones, my blood, my heart. It is in my ear calling to me, calling to the inner sea in me. Sometimes I give in and I swim where my human friends cannot. Sometimes I hold back because I love the life I have.
Does Poseidon, God of the Sea know what he meant when he created his creatures of the sea? Did he know that someday the creature would wish to be human? Is that why he created the witch?
I stand on the beach again. I’ve been doing this so much more lately, ever since the passing of my eighteenth birthday, everyone knows where to find me.
My boyfriend comes and wraps his arms around my waist. What would he say if he ever knew about my darkest secret?
I rest my hands on his and brush my thumb over the familiarity of his touch.
I would miss him if I went.
“What are you thinking of?” He asks me as we watch the sea push up, holding for a moment, before sinking down and swelling up again. It sighed in between and once again the ocean song filled my ears.
“I’m thinking of the ocean.” His hands tighten in their clasp around my waist as though he is trying to hold on to me. As though I am already deep beneath the ocean, skimming along the ocean floor.
But I’m not. I’m still here.
He says nothing. For once I wonder if my mother mentioned anything. In all our arguments about my legacy, she made it very clear that for me to go beneath the sea would inevitably be the end of me.
I was only half-mermaid. I cannot live below the water surface forever. Just like mother should not live on land forever. She might have lost her ability to transform, but she will always be a mermaid. I see the hunger in her eyes when she watches me swim in the ocean in my mermaid form. I cannot blame her. I am what she is not anymore.
Shortly after, my boyfriend leaves me promising to see me tomorrow. His parting touch relunctant. I knew he wanted to stay, but I wanted him to go for once. He couldn’t be here. I needed him to go because what I would do next would break his heart.
I watched his disappearing figure.
When he was gone I walked to the sea once again. My head turning to the house I was leaving behind.
“Goodbye,” I whisper. It was a whisper that would haunt my mother’s dreams when she figured out what I’d done. But this was my legacy. I had to go.
The familiar sensation rippled over me, gills sprouted below my ears and the scales shimmered down my waist. I walked further into the water, until my tail was submerged and there was nothing human about my bottom half anymore. Then I dived.