You may have heard a scurrilous rumour – started by persons unknown – that Dr. Data is writing a fantasy novel. Well, it’s time for me to come out of the closet and admit that yes, I am in the early stages of writing a fantasy novel. The time for playing with ideas is about over and the time for putting pen to paper and fingers to keyboard is just about here. In a month or so, I’ll start compiling the “bible” for this series and then it’s on to chapter one.
The following short story was written for an informal competition on Goodreads.com and I did it less as a competitor and more as an exercise. No doubt, the story is derivative and has been told many times before. Frankly, I don’t care. I simply took it as an exercise to see if I could cobble a short story on a given subject related in some way to the theme of my novel.
I would like to thank S.K. Munt, author of The Fairytail Saga, as well as Marie McKean and other members of the interest group devoted to S.K.’s series for their encouragement and support. I just hope that the end product is worth even a tiny bit of all that. The story contains a few cryptic nods to S.K. as well as authors Derrolyn Anderson and Chris Howard. If you want to understand the encrypted nods, you’ll just have to read Ms Anderson’s YA series, Marina’s Tales, and Mr. Howard’s Seaborn Trilogy.
Enough prevaricating blether!
Dear Mom,. . .
Lindsey squirmed in the beach chair as she watched Brad cavort in the surf. Every fibre of her being cried out for the almost sinfully delicious feel of salt water on her scales. It just wasn’t going to happen, though. Not today. Not with Bradley here. At some point in the future – if they ever got that far – she’d tell him. And show him. But first, she’d have to know that she could trust him. It’d been done before; telling – and showing — selected humans that merfolk really existed. Some had even decided to take the plunge themselves but that point was even further in the future. If they ever got that far.
Lindsey supposed that the fix she was in at the moment was all her fault. Though few mermaids made it as far as university, everyone back home thought her mad to consider going to a school so far away from the sea. Her friend, Penelope, had elected to attend Florida State and that was practically in their back yard. Nebraska, though, had the degree programme she wanted – the full scholarship didn’t hurt either – and she was a big Corn Husker fan, so off to Lincoln she went and became the first mermaid ever to pump her pom-poms on national TV. It had all worked out quite well, actually. She had flown home at every break in the school year and her summer job at Mr. Goldsmith’s jewelry store had provided ample time for before and after work swims. In fact, she spent most of her spare time in the sea so when September came around, she was actually tired of the water and ready for a significant stint on dry land.
She had accepted the job offer with the insurance company in Lincoln upon graduation because the salary was nothing to sneeze at and the position included a good bit of travel; much of it to locations near large bodies of salt water. Lindsey always managed to swing by home – even if for just a day – when her duties took her to Florida and her family actually saw more of her now than when she was at university. A mermaid with frequent flyer miles! Who would have imagined that?
Things had been different though, this past year. A huge project at work had curtailed her travel and kept her pretty much in Lincoln, Nebraska. She had spent so much time with her nose to the grind-stone that she wasn’t even able to use her frequent flyer miles for a get-away to warmer climes. The nearest substantial body of water was a 9 hour drive – one way – and though she didn’t mind swimming in cold water, Lake Michigan in the winter was decidedly not her cup of tea.
The only bright spot during that dreary winter was meeting Brad. He worked for the same company and was taking up the slack in travel time caused by this damned project. His schedule – and hers – meant that she only saw him every week or two and there was little time for more than a dinner and a movie. Nonetheless, there was definitely some strong chemistry between them and Lindsey longed for the time when they could spend a few days rather than just a few hours together. A few days alone with Bradley . . . if only! Meanwhile, it had been over eight months since she’d dipped her tail in the water and soaking in the tub delivered more discomfort than relief.
It was no surprise, then, that Lindsey took Brad’s offer of a week in Miami Beach, hook, line, and sinker. This blasted project was almost done and both of them were in dire need of a respite. The only problem was that she was in serious need of some tail-time. She had won prizes in elementary school for being able to go in the water without letting her body do what came naturally, but all that discipline was not going to help one bit the moment her toes touched the surf. Her plan had been to slip out after Brad fell asleep and go for a one or two hour swim. Heck! Thirty minutes would have done it!
Lindsey’s plans, however, had gone by the board when that other long-awaited moment arrived first. Bradley had been wonderful; tender, gentle and loving. It was . . . well . . . even better than her first time. Her 18th summer had been winding down and she’d be off to university as a freshman in a few weeks. With no prospect of a mate – or even a steady boyfriend – in the offing, she had asked her best male friend, Anthony, if he would do the honours. They had been close for years though both would readily admit that they weren’t meant for anything long-term together. Mermaids don’t labour under the same strictures that afflict humans but they aren’t strumpets, either. Anthony had proven to be the very best choice she could have made and those wonderful nights on the beach had sealed a lifetime friendship. He was going to make a wonderful mate to a very lucky mermaid someday.
Last night, Brad had easily taken the top honours and when it was all done, held her snug and safe in his arms. Had he said “I love you”? It sure felt like it. Lindsey had drifted off on a tide of happiness and contentment and the next thing she knew, room service was delivering breakfast. After they ate, Brad had insisted on hitting the beach the moment their morning ablutions were done. Now here she was; sitting on the sand with a tube of sunscreen in her hand, desperately trying to think of anything other than what she longed to do.
Seeing Brad leave the water and trot up the beach towards her, Lindsey began vigorously slathering sunscreen on every exposed bit of skin.
“Honey, come on in and enjoy the water with me!”
Lindsey held out her arms – now almost white with sunblock – and said:
“Sweetheart, I just finished putting all this goop on. Besides, all I want to do at this moment is unwind. It’s been a long, long winter and I need some chill time. Give me today to relax and I’ll be ready to hit the water tomorrow.”
Brad looked at her, his face mirroring his disappointment.
“Didn’t last night help things any?”
“Sweetheart, if you say one more word about last night, we’re going to both wind up in the pokey for performing lewd and lascivious acts on a public beach! Now go on and enjoy the water! I’m doing just fine sitting right here.”
Pleased that his efforts of the previous evening were so well received, Brad spoke with a big grin on his face.
“My princess, your wish is my command! I’m going to go out a bit farther in the water, however. I love surface diving and once I’m out past the sandbar, I should have enough depth beneath me to really enjoy it. Don’t worry about me, though; I’m really a very strong swimmer.”
Lindsey eyed him over the top of her sunglasses and said:
“Go and enjoy yourself but please, please, please be careful. I’m looking forward to many more evenings just like last night.”
“And eventually telling you a certain secret” she said to herself as he jogged off with a smile and a wave. Lindsey leaned back in her beach chair and pondered ways to get her tail in the water before tomorrow morning.
She must have drifted off for a while because she awoke with a start to the sound of people screaming “Shark!!!” Through groggy eyes she saw dorsal fins in an agitated patch of water. Looking around, there was no sign of Bradley. Anywhere. She sprung from her beach chair and sprinted towards the water’s edge. At that moment, she really didn’t care if anyone – including Brad – saw her tail fin. She’d deal with those consequences later. Lindsey dove into the surf tugging on the side-strings of her bikini bottom.
The shift between legs and tail seemed to take forever though it only took – as usual – a few seconds. Lindsey must have been able to keep it all under water because she didn’t hear screams of “Mermaid!!!” coming from the beach when she popped her head above the surface. In his wisdom, Poseidon had blessed merfolk with the ability to breathe through their skin like amphibians so clothing was definitely not an option. Undoing her bikini top, she clutched it along with the bottom and dove in search of Brad.
Frantically, she circled the area looking for him, all the while wondering how she was going to explain this to the office or his family. She should have just told him everything this morning and gone in the water with him. He’d be safe now; that is, if he hadn’t already fled in horror at the sight of her. Damn it!! Where was he??
A pod of dolphins swam off into the distance, obviously chasing something. Was that what everyone had seen? Dolphins? The larger issue at hand now was that Bradley was nowhere to be seen.
“Dear Poseidon, I’ve lost him! He’s gone! Gone!! No human can stay under water this long and live!” she sobbed.
Lindsey hadn’t had the time to pull her hair into a ponytail before entering the water and now it all floated in front of her. As she worked to clear her face and pull it all back into an emergency ponytail tied with the stings of her bikini top, Brad drifted up from below, his eyes wide and staring with a blank look on his face.
“Sweet Neptune, he’s dead! “she sobbed.
In her anguish, Lindsey cried for what seemed to be half an hour though it was actually only a moment or two and she suddenly stopped when she saw Brad blink. Not once, but twice.
“Thank you Poseidon! He’s still alive!”
She had taken on a good lung-full of air when she dove and it was still with her. Taking his face in her hands, she quickly placed her lips on his, forced his mouth open with her tongue and exhaled for all she was worth.
“I’ve got to get him to the surface! Maybe I can explain all this as a near-death hallucination.”
Lindsey reached down to shift Brad into a fireman’s carry so she could push him up to the surface and suddenly, her fingers touched something very familiar . . . and very much unexpected.
Now, it was her turn to sport a wide-eyed blank stare as she pushed back to see a regulation – and pretty sexy – merman’s tail attached to him. The telepathic bridge shared by all merfolk crackled to life as they both said in unison:
“Why didn’t you tell me???”
“How was I supposed to know???”
Since he’d had a bit more time to recover from his shock, Bradley took charge of the conversation.
“I’m from southern California. We had lived near a colony up around Santa Cruz but moved south because of Dad’s job. Fortunately, there were a few other families with kids in the vicinity so we all lived quite comfortably . . . and quite carefully. How about you?”
Lindsey blushed as Brad was looking at her in quite a different – and quite appreciative – way.
“I’m from Colony Island. It’s just up the coast a bit.”
“Yeah, I’ve swum by there and stopped for pizza a few times. Pretty good stuff if you ask me. Uhhh . . . well . . . would . . . would you like to swim with me for a while?”
As far as Lindsey was concerned, “a while” would be way, way too short a time but instead, she replied:
“I guess that we’d better put in an appearance on the beach before the humans think we’ve both been eaten by the sharks.”
Holding out his hand, Brad nodded his agreement.
“Let me retrieve my bathing suit. We can swim down the beach a couple of blocks and then casually stroll back up like nothing has happened. After lunch, I can show you a private spot where I go to put my tail on without having to worry about anyone seeing.”
Once more, Lindsey blushed as she took his hand.
“Can that be later this afternoon? I’d love to have some alone time with you back at the room.
“And also to send the following e-mail:
I think I’ve found a mate.”