Bruises

October 2, 2010
By , Eugene, OR
Sometime in 2008…

“Why don’t cha come swim, sis?” Mike asked amiably, splashing water on me. To that I kicked water in his face. “You’re always here, but cha nevuh go swimmin’. You ‘fraid of me?”

“No.” If I was afraid of him I’d have left a long, long time ago. “It’s just that you call me sis all the time and I’m not your sister. Ha ha.”

“Wouldja rather I call ya bro?”

“No, heh.”

“I know you’re lying, sis.”

“Um, I seriously wouldn’t like being called bro.”

“No, not that, about not wanting ta swim.”

I looked at him dryly. Mike grinned his sharky grin, but that faded quickly.

“Seriously.” He said, frowning now. “You tell me ya swim all da time. Every day. Your pool, the gym, the whatevuh. And yet ya don’t swim in dis lake. You did when I saws ya in, mehbe sixth grade, huh?”

“I just don’t feel like it, what’s the big deal?” I swung my legs over the edge of the rock I was sitting on, dipping my feet in the water. I wasn’t even in swimming attire, just jeans, a T-shirt, and a sweatshirt.

“Is it me? Seriously, sis. Tell me. Am I contaminatin’ da water?”

I looked at him, this time looking at him. At his greyish-blue skin, round, fishlike eyes, seaweedlike hair, porpoise teeth, the gills on his neck, his long, fish tail where legs should’ve been…

He looked at me back, almost seeming worried.

Merpeople were weird like that. While most boys would just be apathetic and complete a**holes, he was always concerned and polite with me and my problems…

“It’s not you… I… fell down and hurt myself. The bruises are ugly so I didn’t want to let you see.” I said.

Mike blinked. “Why din’t cha tell me? Dang you humans are so self conscious. I coulda gotten sum medicine from mah sis that’d make ‘em go away.”

I grumbled.

But then he scrutinized me with his golden eyes and asked, “But what about those other times, sis? It’s been ‘bout two years. You can’t have fallen down all that time, ya know.”

I didn’t answer. I pulled my feet out of the water.

“What’s with that look, Nat?” He’d only call me Nat or Natalie when he was absolutely being serious.

“It’s nothing. I’d better be going home; my parents want me back for dinner.” I hopped off the rock and onto the bank, but his webbed hand wrapped around my ankle.

“Sorry, Nat, but something’s up.” He was halfway out of the water, looking at me with such worry that I almost changed my mind.

Almost.

“Look, it’s alright, don’t worry about it.” I said, annoyed, tugging my foot out of his grasp. Mike narrowed his eyes. He knew me better. “Just drop it, okay?”

“If ya leave, Nat, I’ll come up there and dry myself out.” Mike threatened. “Mah skin will fry from da sun and mah gills will shrivel up to nothin’ so I won’t be able ta breathe underwater. I’ll die, Nat.”

“You won’t do that.” I started to walk off.

“Natalie, come back!”

But there was the horrifying sound of splashing water and rocks tumbling, and I turned around to see Mike actually hauling himself out of the lake, pushing himself up the dirt trail to catch up to me.

“Mike, get back to the water!” I nearly shrieked. “You wouldn’t go this far and risk death!”

“Then obviously ya don’t know meh very well.” He heaved himself farther. His bluish skin was getting covered in mud.

“Mike, go back!” I spun around an briskly walked off, hoping he wouldn’t follow, but I could hear his scales scraping against the ground so I knew he wasn’t going to give up.

“I’ma gonna go find me a patch of sun! The next time ya see me I’ll be fish sticks!” He panted.

I didn’t turn around. He was gonna go back. He was being stupid. Stupid for assuming something was wrong. Stupid!

“Natalie, stop- d***it!”

To that I whirled around, seeing his dark blood run down his arm. A blackberry bush had tangled around his arm.
He met my gaze with inhuman intensity.

“Fine.” I said, my voice shaking. “I’ll admit it, there’s something wrong.”






---

After I helped him back to the water, I showed him.

I showed him all the bruises.

I pulled my sweatshirt over my head and put into view the ugly, black and yellow bruises all over my arms. I lifted my shirt enough to expose my midriff so he could see the marks on my sides and back. I rolled up my jeans so he could see the scrape marks on my knees from rubbing against the carpet trying to crawl away frantically.

“Who the h*** did this to you!?” Mike demanded.

I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my cheeks.

“Natalie-this-this… Who… gave ya these…?” The merboy looked completely shocked, but also absolutely furious. “Who the h*** did this!?”

I couldn’t get out the words. My throat felt like it was closed off.

So I just sat down on the bank, buried my head in my knees, and sobbed.

I heard Mike get out of the water again, and he parked himself down next to me and put an arm around my shoulders. He… was trying to soothe me. Really, he told me that merpeople hardly ever touched each other like this; close contact was a big no-no in their culture unless they were married to one another, but he knew that close contact for humans was something they’d do to calm each other down and comfort them…

I just wrapped my arms around him and cried.

“My parents did this…” I sobbed quietly.

I felt Mike flinch, and he pulled away to get a better look at me, his goldfish eyes wide with alarm.

I wished I’d have just left to go home.
“You can’t stay there, Nat.” He said fearfully. “I won’t-I won’t let ya stay there. You’re comin’ with me. Mah parents will take care of ya, Natalie, I’m not gonna let ya stay with those people anymore-”
“Mike, I can’t!” I cried. “You’re a freakin merboy! I’m a human! We can’t live together! Even if you found some way for me to breathe underwater-”
“Natalie, don’t argue, ‘kay?” Mike interjected, his expression pained. “Ya livin’ in an abusive relationship, I can’t allow ya to be in those conditions. It’s wrong, Nat. Ya gonna get more hurt and I can’t just sit around and watch.”
I was so afraid. Too afraid to say anything to that.
Mike just pulled me into a tight hug. I could feel his heart pounding hard.
And that’s when I saw the man rise out from his hiding spot and walk over to us. He wasn’t even trying to conceal himself or his club, or that the fact he was wearing some insane sci-fi costume. He was covered from head to toe in red plated armor, his helmet looking a lot like a gas mask…
I didn’t get a chance to scream.





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