I had a mermaid for a lover once, whose face was sculpted of ivory marble. The mermaid’s mouth was red like the heart of a halved peach, tasting of sea-salt. Her lips dripped with promises and murmurs, distant and soft, pooling around my wrists whenever I leaned in to hear them. The eyes were a strange vacant gray, which silvered only in the faint light of dawn that tumbled through the waves crashing above her head. Limbs shimmered in a translucent blue with a dusting of black fish scales, no fingers to tempt me or toes to pirouette upon outside my bedroom door. My lover’s bones had been stretched by the nature of this queer design, elongated into fins like wisps of eel-skin, slick and soft beneath my fingers whenever we touched. And we so often touched.
The water of the pool in which the mermaid swam was always cooled by nightfall, swollen red sun sinking beneath the sleeping trees and their limp and drooping limbs, pregnant with foliage by the height of springtime. I would visit often, waiting for my lover. I skimmed the water’s surface with my toes, perched at the edge of the pool in silent reprieve, watching the crests of tiny blue waves in this miniscule sea break around my feet, black save my distorted reflection rippling across its face.
I waited, patient. Never speaking, never cursing or making a fuss as the sky wept ink on the grass beneath my palms and dipped into the water with slowly creeping fingers. I slept on occasion, lulled by the cricket-song in the gently receding brush. I rarely dreamt in this state, my imagination already sated as it was by the kiss of fish scales glistening beneath the surface of the pool. My lover’s kiss, wet and endless as the sea that had birthed her until she sank again, returning to its embrace, and quietly swam away.
For two seasons she was mine, March through September, when the trees turned crimson and gold. On the last day of summer the mermaid shed her skin, peeling away the scales and eel-flesh, to reveal the long white arms and legs underneath. At the edge of the pool she looked at me from beneath a tousled crown of black ringlets. She simply smiled, as quiet and faraway as her empty gray eyes.
“Are you going to leave me?” I asked, fearing the answer.
“The waters will become too cold for me soon,” she said, mouth full of sea-salt and whispers. “I will die if I stay here any longer. I am sorry.”
“Then you will just have to wait here with me,” I said, and reached out to touch the fingers of her newly formed hand, “until the waters are warm again.”
Magen Toole is a student and odd-jobber from Fort Worth, Texas. Her work has or will be featured in Every Day Fiction, Literary Fever, MicroHorror and The Battered Suitcase. More of her work can be found at her blog, http://magentoole.wordpress.com/.