A New Mermaid Tale from Mermaiden Serena
My heart flew as high as the sun when I woke up to find a bouquet of Red Algae draped on the ledge outside my window. Leon, all of me seemed to sigh collectively. I smiled as widely as my cheeks would allow and fluttered my fingers through my hair to settle it down before shooting out my door.
Nadine and I went tumbling head over tail. When the sand settled, I ended up lying across my little sister’s middle while she laid on her back, groaning and holding her nose.
“So you saw the flowers, huh?” Her congested voice threw us both into a fit of giggles. When she laughed her stomach shook and I bounced up and down, making us both laugh even harder. Nadine is only a year and a half younger than I am, but she has a more outgoing sort of personality that seems to nicely complement my more introverted nature. We’ve been close since we were little. We’d been apart for the past few weeks though, Nadine staying with our only aunt (on our mother’s side) while I went with the rest of the family to the MerCouncil.
She’d fought my Dad tooth and nail not to have to go to the MerCouncil. “It will be so dull!” She complained, “No offense, Serena.” She’d flashed me a wicked grin and I just laughed and told Dad that I didn’t mind. In truth, I thought it would have been nice to have her there with me, but Poseidon knows I ended up with six adopted sisters the moment I got there. Not counting my two littlest who are four and whom I only see occasionally—usually, at the dinner table and when they’re being chased down the halls covered in some sort of sweet they stole from the food pantry.
Aaaanyway! I pushed myself up into a sitting position and wiped the laughing tears from my eyes. Nadine tried to rise, but flopped back down in an instant. “Oof. You know, I’m starting to think this young merman is a really bad influence on you,” she said as she heaved a sigh and pushed up off the floor, exaggeratedly brushing imaginary silt specks from her arms. She continued in a mock snooty voice, shaking her head, “You get one little flower from him and go dashing into his arms like a fish on a hook, knocking helpless MerPrincesses on their royal backsides along the way. What would your mother have to say?”
I gave my little sister a hand and pulled her upright. “A lot, I’m sure. But not as much as she’d have to say on the matter of the naughtiness of a certain little mermaid who I saw snuggling with an anonymous young merman in the gardens yesterday!” My voice slowly carried in pitch and I pointed my finger at her in triumph.
Nadine’s eyes widened. “Hey keep your voice down…and don’t point that thing at me!” We giggled again as she thrust my finger down and looked around dramatically as if expecting our mother to appear out of thin air.
“Well then,” Nadine arched one of her long dark eyebrows and raised her hands, clapping slowly. “I applaud you, big sister. I’m rather impressed with your performance. Not to mention your sleuthing skills. How did you—you know what? Nevermind. I’ll figure you out yet. Now, you may take your leave.” She nodded and stood to the side, bowing formally as I began to float away.
Oh wait, I don’t know where I’m going. “Hey, Nadine! You never told me where my fisherman awaits his catch!”
My sister turned and looked at me with an expression that clearly read ‘I’m not at all certain about the sanity of the mermaid floating in front of me’.
“Your ‘fish on a hook’ metaphor?” I reminded her with a suppressed laugh.
“Ahhh, yes. Your fisherman fair had some brothers to tackle next. He said you could find him at home.”
“Thank you!” I chirped, and was on my way.
About halfway to my destination, I’m ashamed to admit, was about the time that I realized that I’d forgotten something. Or rather, someone. “Oh!” I exclaimed, as I remembered the rainbow fish whom I had neglected far too much lately. Why isn’t he here? He always follows me around! This is so unlike him.
I whirled around a little, searching the path around me for Picasso. As I thought back over the morning, I didn’t recall seeing him at all today! Hmm…well there’s only one merman Picasso has ever taken to following like he does with me. I smiled wider and swam even faster toward the kingdom below me.
The winding path that leads down the sloping rock mound that our little palace home perches on is more for decoration and as a guide than for actual merfolk use. We don’t really need paths, as we can usually just swim over anything that’s in our way. I wonder why humans don’t do that? I once asked my father and he tried to explain to me something called ‘gravity’. It was confusing and I found myself thinking that ‘gravity’ was a silly thing and why didn’t humans just get rid of it? “Bobbers are just plain strange and that’s the end of it!” as Zoey would say.
Sadly, our kingdom isn’t very colorful. It almost pains me to see the bland sand and rock houses. They look more than a little dull next to our glittering palace of diamond. I found myself wanting to skim my fingers over each dwelling I passed and transform the wilting blacks and beiges and grays into bursting shades of emerald, yellow, and violet. Maybe someday, I thought and I sped on.
Finally I came to a halt right in front of Leon’s small house made of a light gray rock. There were windows in every side of the house to allow the most light in. I ran my fingers through my hair again and cleared my throat, rehearsing what I would say in my mind. I’d never met Leon’s family before! The only time I’d been at his house was once a few months ago when he’d stopped by to tell his mother he would be out for the day. We had snuck away to have a picnic in our clearing, but he had insisted on informing his mother, although I had told him that defeated the purpose of sneaking.
Just as I lifted my fist to knock on the flimsy seaweed covering, it swung in and a slim, tall merwoman swept me into her arms. “Ah, Serena! How good it is to finally meet you! Leon’s told me so much, dearest, and I feel as though I’ve known you a long while. Come in, come in! Don’t mind the mess, if it keeps the children happy and away from hanging on my tail for a few moments, then I’m happier because of it. Oh, I’m Adella by the way.” She led me into the house and through a maze of little merboys zigzagging back and forth, playing and screaming and laughing galore. The house was small, but cozy. I could only see about three rooms jutting off the center, and two looked like they had been added recently.
Leon’s mother pulled me into what could only be the eating area and sat down on a small bench, patting the space beside her. She looked so much like Leon. Her naturally tan skin, although wrinkled a little, was still as lustrous as his. Her hair had a worn out curl to it that I imagine looked much like Leon’s in her prime. Her arms had a toned look from wrestling little boys nearly all her life, and her shoulders were broader than most. But her almond eyes and striking cheekbones gave her a very feminine beauty, as well as the daintiness of her wrists and fingers. Her tail, as well, was a glistening pattern of soft green to set off the specks of the same color in her otherwise blue eyes. I instantly knew I liked her.
As I sat beside her, Adella took my hands and smiled at me. “You do look like the kind of girl my Leon would like. Look, there’s sweetness written in the lines by your eyes and oh Neptune aren’t you pretty?” I lowered my head a little in a blush and said, “Oh thank you.”
Adella studied me for a few more seconds before straightening up and yelling, “Boys! You leave that fish alone! Oh Leon, you’re just in time. Serena just got here,” I turned to see Picasso swimming circles around Leon’s little brothers as they chased him back and forth. He had a wide grin on his little face as he dodged little hands. Leon had just emerged from one of the three sleeping rooms and came floating forward toward us with a wide grin on his face. He reached us and pulled a stool over to sit right beside me. “Hey, you,” he whispered.
“Now Leon, you explain to me why I haven’t met this darling girl before now?” Adella lifted one eyebrow and stared at her son with a piercing gaze. Leon merely smiled and leaned forward to kiss his mom on the forehead and said, “Now Mom you know it wasn’t you I was hiding her from. I was more concerned with keeping her safe from the heathens (He pointed back at his six brothers as he said this) so they wouldn’t scare her off.”
Adella made a show of looking me up and down. “I don’t know, Leon she looks like a sturdy girl to me. I’m not sure you’re giving her enough credit!”
Leon turned his green eyes on me again and smiled so widely his dimples showed. “I think you’re right, Mama. She’s even better than I ever thought she’d be.”
I could have been an iceberg and right then and there he would have melted me with his smoldering smile and flaming eyes. I’m sure my cheeks were red as a lobster and so I quickly laughed and turned towards Adella for help. The heaven sent angel shooed Leon away for a moment so that “we girls” could talk. Then I insisted on helping her clean up the boys for an early dinner and I enjoyed a lovely meal of fresh oysters and seaweed soup.
After dinner, Adella, Leon, and I watched the boys play outside while we talked. I entertained them both with stories of Picasso and my sisters, as well as brought them the news from the MerCouncil. When Adella asked to see my power, I asked her what color she would choose for her home, if any. “Well,” she said, standing back and looking at it. “I’ve always adored a nice sky blue.”
“Done,” I grinned. Picturing the perfect hue, I raised my hands and pointed them at the house. Immediately a whirl of blue enveloped the house and in seconds the entire structure was a lovely shade of sky blue, while the window edges were laced with lovely white shells. Adella’s eyes went wide and her hand shot up to her mouth. “Oh! Oh Serena it’s so lovely!”
As I waved goodbye that evening, Adella gathered her six younger boys around her and they all waved and shouted their sweet little goodbyes. Leon accompanied me back to the palace, my hand in his the entire way with Picasso spinning circles around us like he was dancing. As we reached the doors of my own home, Leon pulled me to a stop. My fishy friend went on ahead to scout for the tiny oysters he sometimes found in the ground.
“What you did for my mother, Serena. That was beyond amazing. I just…thank you.” He looked at me with such adoration and love in his eyes I felt like I had given him the moon. “It was nothing special,” I shrugged. “I just wanted to do something to repay her for her kindness. And to show off.” He laughed and looked down at our fingers that were entwined.
“I was a little nervous to meet your family,” I admitted. “But your mother is so wonderful! She just scooped me into her arms and made me feel like I’d known her forever.”
Leon smiled and nodded. “She’s been so excited to meet you, to finally have someone she could treat like a daughter. I know she loves all of us boys but I think she’s lonely for a girl.”
“Well you just tell her that any time she needs her girl time, I’m always there for her.”
“She’ll be happy to hear that.”
Leon’s face suddenly went serious. Slowly, he brought one of my hands up and laid a light kiss on my knuckles. Then again, he softly kissed my other hand. My heart began to race until I was sure he could hear the rapid beating. Leon’s eyes glittered in the dark as he leaned closer to me, his nose brushing mine.
Just then, something smacked me in the back of the head. “Ow!” I yelled, my head snapping forwards. “Ow!” Leon yelled, holding his nose from where it had collided with my forehead. “Oh, oh, oh I’m so sorry!” I reached forward to touch his nose, then thought better of it. I whirled around and saw Picasso looking very guilty. I scooped up the shell he had spit at me and looked at him. His thick red lips were puckered and his eyes were wide in innocence, as if he had no idea what had just happened.
Behind me, Leon began to laugh. I shook my head but smiled along with him. “I’m sorry, Leon. I don’t know what got into him.”
Leon shook his head and smiled down at me, still holding his nose and wincing. “No, it’s my fault. I’m so glad to see you home again, Serena. I missed you so much.” Taking his hand away from his nose, he bent and quickly kissed my forehead, keeping one eye on Picasso as he did it. “There. See, Picasso, I mean her no harm.” Then he turned to me, “Goodnight, Serena.”
With one last half-smile, Leon turned and dashed away, down the hill. I watched him go with both a tinge of sadness and hope. Then I turned toward Picasso, grabbed him, and tucked him under my arm. “Come on, you miserable little fish, you. It’s a good thing you’re so cute.”