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The Lighthouse Mermaid
By Sarah Schwister
“Minerva!” whisked into the wind from the door of the lighthouse. Ginger strands fluttered around bobbing pig tails as the girl turned back to the faded milk white house and her mother at its base.
“I’ll be back lata, mom!” the child called back, repositioning her book before running off. The battering lull of a bell pushed the mother’s words back into her kitchen with her five other children fighting over dinner.
“Whut if don’ want to read anotha love story?” Minerva said hotly, picking up the hem of her faded blue dress as the waves groped her antique brown rock, rings white around her.
“Oh, but please,” cooed the voice as tender as a pigeon. Lola lowered her thick lashes over her dark eyes, and smiled down her thin nose. She grabbed Minerva’s leather boots, and gave a quick, teasing jolt to them, causing the girl to almost lose her balance.
“Hey!” she screeched, reaching over to pull Lola’s blackened hair. But Lola just slinked under the water, her body shimmering against the grey green water. The tips of her pale rose fins tickled the water top playfully, and the gurgling air bubbles and rocking currents did not bother her.
“But please, Minnie, just one more,” the mermaid said lovingly, framing her elbows on the rock. “I do love them,” her slanted eyes removed her almost perfect human relation with its double lids, the horizontal and the top waxing and waning like a lizards.
“I already read you most of um,” the girl huffed, sitting crude cross legged as she flicked through her classics, finger prints, sea salt, and water accelerating its aging.
“How about the Rape of the Lock,” Lola said, lifting out of the water enough to lay her torso on it as to peer over the book. Her rump shimmered in the overcast, jelly fins running down the sides and a small hint of human showered, making Minerva uncomfortable enough to look away.
Lola grumbled and slipped back into the water to her nose, eyeing the girl carefully from the water.
“What’s wrong, love?” she said, her voice still being sickly seductive even under the water.
Minerva averted her gaze; blush brushed up against her suede freckles.
“Is someone being mean to you?” Lola asked, her voice shifting positions.
Again, Minerva dodged.
“Is it a boy?” Lola said, cautiously this time.
“Or is it something, else?” the mermaid asked, her fine eyebrow rising. Minerva looked up nervously to find Lola within inches of her, inhaling.
“Oi!” the girl barked, and pushed the mermaid back by her clammy shoulders. Yet, Lola got what she wanted.
“You had your menarche,” the mermaid grinned.
“Shove off!” Minerva yelled, jumping up and heading to jump away. Lola snatched the book from its perch and skittered back with it. The waves jumped up and speckled at it from Lola’s bracing arms, and Minerva stopped right before her leap back to shore.
“Don’t disrespect me like that,” Lola said in an icy voice, tinged with acid and pitches away from her normal songbird whistle.
Chest swelling, Minerva snapped, “Well, it’s easy for you! Your job is to just be wanted and beautiful; and you are! It’s so straight forward and handed to you, you don’t even try! Boys are mean. They are terrible, I...” tears started playing down.
Lola’s face softened, but a callus marked her tone when she spoke.
“Yes, it is in my nature. Life is not easy for the beautiful, though. No one trusts you, they accuse you of things you never did, it’s a scapegoat shrouded in fear. So I eat men, it’s in my nature. I can’t stop it,” Lola put the book on the rock at the girl’s feet. “I think you’ll understand what I mean. I hope you become beautiful, both for you and for your hate.”
“I’m sorry, Lola,” came out of a wet mouth, but the mermaid shook her head, meandering against the rocks.
“Of course, Minnie,” the mermaid called back.
“I would never do it to you again!”
Lola turned and gave her a sad smile, “I’m too old for you now, you know.”
A white discontinuous of the swell blurred out the lines of time; Minerva’s memory hazing out as the mermaid dived out of sight.
Minerva married at 17 to a boy who was handsome enough when he laughed, but no more than that. A speckled dress whipped back as she ran out of her parents’, shattering glass and screaming children chasing her away. Freckles shone to her first shack stacked against the sea rifting cliff, and that light in her heart was the last to be snuffed out by collapsed expectations.
Hard times struck as Minerva’s belly filled and churned like a whirlpool. Her first child demanded her sailor husband, Edward, to accept more contracts. Although he signed his name to get enough money to prepare for the child, Minerva started cultivating a seed of mistrust. She heard old sailor’s tales and believing them all to be true, and rumors drifted around the village about men who returned home with a broken heart for another woman. Four months passed, and the rumors took hold a truth in Edward; he returned with an aching heart and a dazed face.
Minerva found him walking, drunk, up the grassy path through a gray patched storm. When he looked at her with disgust in his eyes, brown hair fencing them from her, she felt the kindle of rage in her heart light. Fuming, she locked Edward out for the night. The next morning, rather then fetch her husband from the barn he was sleeping from, she went to her oldest brother in town: Edward’s captain.
Three days passed before the night call shook the woman’s shoulder. Sore, stiff, and damp, the woman rolled over her with effort as the globe in her core ached on her cot.
“Do you need help, ma’am?” the cabin boy winced.
“No,” she groaned, creaking to her feet. Wrapping herself in a cardigan, she waddled up the stairs to the top floor, the cabin boy staying in the hull. Screams and gunfire muffled through the door. Minerva held her hand on the wood for a moment, shaking. Puffing out her chest, she swung the door open. White mist shrouded the ship, the golden brown mast and ropes looked like trees and vines from her childhood stories. Shaking her head slowly, the echoing cries and calls of the sirens were thick in her mind, but her eyes showed nothing but tranquility.
“Sirens! Sirens off the harbor side!” she heard her brother call from the wheel, the ship moaning as he turned it sharply in the sea.
“Edward?” Minerva said, mostly to herself, as she saw a man walk towards the source of the screams. “Edward!” In a panic, she grabbed a harpoon her brother placed next to her door.
As she walked across the ship, the movement making her sick as they tried to escape the onslaught, the dream state turned nightmare. Webs shot through the air. Men were falling overboard. Breathing through her nose, determined, she continued to follow the man as he leaned over the edge. Swallowing, she held the spear tighter.
In a gasp, a web shot up the side of the ship, right onto the man’s face. An ailing cry fell out of her mouth as the man was whipped down, a sick crack meeting him at the bottom. Blind, Minerva ran over and threw her harpoon, screaming, “Die, you devil whore!”
Blood filled her eyes. The spear jabbed the mermaid in the torso, the weight of it pinning her against a rock. It was coughing; the clotted red drooling against the wood, Minerva started hyperventilating.
“Lo-Lola?” she cried through her aching mouth, her knees giving out. The mermaid looked up slowly, and blood spilled out as she smiled.
“Minnie? Is that you, doll?” Lola said, barely audible through the chaos. The ship was turning away, and Lola was shrinking. The sailor floating next to her started to sink, pressing the mermaid’s expiration to Minerva.
“I’m sorry, Lola,” came out of a wet mouth, but the mermaid shook her head, coughing as her tail curled in against itself.
“Of course, Minnie,” the mermaid called back.
“I would never do it to you again!”
Lola turned and gave her a sad smile, “You really are beautiful, you know.”
Sobs stabbed Minerva’s heart as she folded in on herself. Lola and her rock were blurring through her tears, and a single line of her arm went up and waved. Minerva reached out to the little blurb of color.
“I’m so sorry,” she whimpered, “I’m sorry for everything.”
#Unreal #ShortStories #ContemporaryLiterature #CreativeWriting #Prose #Mermaid #Fantasy #FairyTales
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