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“I love the water,” he said to me. He smiled at me then, muscles rippling, he jumped in. The water graced his presence by barely moving. He bobbed up then shook the water out of his hair. “Come in!”
I shook my head and backed away from the pier. “I hate the water,” I muttered to myself. I didn’t want him to know about my fear, even though I knew it was so obvious.
“I HATE THE WATER!” I screamed. There it was; no secrets, no lies, just the truth; I hated the water.
He looked at me like I was crazy, the merman, the fictional creature; and I was crazy? “Why?” he called, his voice like a whisper yet I could hear it as clear as day. I motioned for him to come closer; I didn’t want anyone else to hear this. He swam over to me, his tail moving in and out of the water just barely so I could see it. Then he waited for me to tell him my secret.
I sighed then murmured, “My parents died in the water. They were riding in a boat and they were thrown overboard. They knew how to swim and tried but the water and current was too strong…and they drowned. The water killed my parents so I hate it.”
He shook his head, “Dani…it didn’t kill your parents. Your parents died in the water. You can’t hate it for that.”
“Max…I can’t forgive it for that. My parents died there, I’m just not ready to jump in!” I hissed, looking around. Max shook his head and got up out of the water and jumped on the pier with me then grabbed my hand and started running away. “Where are we going?” He didn’t answer me and we kept running. Eventually we reached my house and he pulled me into my bedroom.
He sat me down and slammed the door shut. “Do you know what killed my parents?” I shook my head; I didn’t even know Max had parents. “Humans, creatures just like you. Your ancestors even. Yet I’m your friend, I’m here and I don’t hold judgments against you for being human.”
“Why are you here?” I asked getting up. Max wasn’t a best friend, a relative, an elder; I didn’t need to hear all this from him. I knew it but I just didn’t want to go in, couldn’t he deal with that? I gave him a place to stay when he was homeless, why was he trying to talk common sense into me? I hated it when he did that.
He shrugged and replied, “I don’t know any more than you do. I just woke up on land and well…you know I was weak, you gave me shelter, I still can’t return home, and I go home you leave and your vacation ends. But maybe you have to not be afraid of the water before I can go back.”
So that’s what it was. I had to be comfortable with the water. I didn’t care what Max said, the water did kill my parents and I would never trust it. “Dani?” my brother called, he was home from work.
“Hide!” I hissed and pushed him into my closet.
“Jeff?” I called opening my bedroom door. Jeff walked over to me and came into my room.
“Dani…you know we come here every year for three weeks on vacation, the only vacation we have, and you never do anything but stay in the beach house the whole time.”
Someone else talking sense. “I just don’t want to go to the water okay!? You know very well why.” My brother acted like it had never happened, he may be seven years older but he was seven years older when it happened. He couldn’t pretend like it never happened. It was too horrible for either of us to ever forget, or ignore.
He put his arm around me and said, “Well Dani…you can’t just keep going on like this kiddo! I know it’s hard, it took me a long time too but you used to love it, Mom loved it, Dad loved it, they wouldn’t want you to be sad like this.”
“They wouldn’t want me to do like this either,” I muttered. Jeff shook his head, kissed my cheek, and left.
“He’s right, we both are,” Max said from inside the closet. I rolled my eyes. “Want to go to the beach?”
“Do we really have to?” He nodded and jumped out the window. I followed and we walked back. The tide hugged shore and Max jumped back in. His legs became fins once again but he stayed close to me.
I walked closer to the water and he waded back to me. “Tell me the story of the mermaids again.”
“Mermaids and mermen; but sure…I’ll tell you. Okay…once upon a time there was a race of people that were wonderful. They were beautiful, intelligent, and they practically ruled the world. They were of course kind to everyone else but they did think themselves superior to everyone else. One day a goddess named Athesis invited them to the land of the gods and goddesses. They celebrated and made merry but the people were very rude to the gods and goddesses, they acted superior and this greatly offended the gods and goddesses and Athesis as well as they were her guests. Athesis gave the people a chance to apologize but they didn’t they refused to apologize for anything. Athesis then cursed them, everytime they touched water they would grow fins and gills and become half fish. So the people thought Athesis’s curse meant nothing. They tried to go on through life normally but like Athesis said; every time they touched water they became half fish. They realized they could no longer live on land for long amounts of time so they all went to live underwater and they became mermaids and mermen.”
“I don’t hate it…”
“The water; I don’t hate it. I just needed someone to blame. When they died, I was mad at them. I had just argued with Mom and Dad, I told them I hated them. I was angry they weren’t taking me with them in the boat and I couldn’t go swim with them. Then they died and I felt so bad…I said it was the water’s fault and I never let it go.”
Max held out his hand to me.
“You say there is no reason for it. So come on.” I looked at the water fearfully…I just couldn’t go there, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to, I didn’t need to. “You’ve got to…just to get over it.” I took his hand and then waded into the water slowly. I waited until the water was at my waist before I started swimming. I wasn’t used to the feeling so it took me a little while to get back my ‘swimming expertise.’
Max smiled when I went out to open, deep water. He dove down deep with me and we swam around, like little kids. Then I came up for air and he followed. “Feel good?” he asked.
“Yeah…” I answered, nodding softly. I was sad that it had taken me so long, so long to get back to the water.
“They loved you, you know.”
“I know but it doesn’t make them come back.”
He lay a hand on my shoulder and replied, “Nothing can make them come back, but you can make them happy from up there.”
I nodded then kissed him. “Thank you…thank you so much.”
He smiled then looked down into the water.
“Do you have to go?”
“Yes I do, I’m sorry…” he replied looking at me sadly.
“I’ll miss you, a lot.”
“I know when you come on vacation, I’ll visit, I promise.”
I looked at him; this boy that I owed so much to. I sighed sadly then asked, “Just one question; why do you have to go Max?”
Max looked at me thoughtfully for a few seconds, hugged me, and then whispered in my ear before swimming off, “I love the water.”