The Mermaid

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29/08/2015 by paulinebsc

‘Ready for your big day, poppet?’
Tria twitched a little.
‘I’m terrified Uncle Jimmy’
Uncle Jimmy was no relation, but to Tria he had been ‘Uncle Jimmy’ all her life. As usual he was full of support and reassurance.
‘You’ll get the job, no trouble. You’re a natural’ he laughed as he lifted her into her wheelchair. During the drive he kept her distracted with a stream of his latest dirty jokes. Tria felt that he was the only member of her family who accepted that she was an adult now, and she loved him for it.

From watching television dramas Tria had expected a job interview to be her facing a lot of stern looking people. In fact there were only four. The oldest of the men introduced himself as Mr. Garcia. He owned the company. Two men wearing wetsuits were Markus and Tom, and the young girl introduced herself as the lead swimmer, Jasmine.
She was told that the two divers were there to film her audition. They did not work for the company but often helped when filming was necessary.

‘That’s a nice touch’ the blonde diver said, nodding towards the wheelchair.
‘It’s not just for show, I do need it. Is disability a problem?’
‘Nah. If you can do the job we can work round it. You don’t look too heavy for one of the lads to carry you on and off the boats.’
Tria breathed a sigh of relief, that problem was solved. Her heart fluttered a moment at the thought of being carried by one of these handsome men.
‘You ready for a trial dive?’ The older man asked.
Tria nodded her head, knowing that if she spoke she would reveal her nervousness.
‘We had a costume ready for you, but I see you brought your own. That’s a great tail, it really looks realistic. Who made it?’
Tria wriggled the tail.
‘My mum. I hope it’s okay to use this rather than yours?’
Jasmine smiled.
‘Yeah, that’s fine; I won’t have to waste time fitting it. Let’s get you into the water and see what you can do.’
Her friendliness put Tria instantly at ease. She knew her swimming would impress them, as long as she remembered the tips Uncle Jimmy had given her over the last few weeks as he helped her practice. He was a registered diving instructor, and had helped her training, helping her to put together a routine, and more importantly, telling her what she shouldn’t do.

Markus, the darker of the two divers moved towards her looking awkward.
‘How do you want to be picked up?’ He asked his voice concerned. Tria was used to this. Most people felt uncomfortable picking her up until they got to know her. Looking up at him she sincerely hoped that Markus would get to know her better but she managed to keep herself businesslike.
‘Just hold my waist and I’ll put my arms round your neck to make most of my weight.’
‘Uh, okay, right then.’
When he had her firmly, he looked down and grinned.
‘Usually when I do this to girls they are hammered.’
‘That’s because they have to be drunk to notice you.’ The other diver joked as the whole group moved to the boat anchored outside. Markus placed her on a seat and bent over to put on a pair of flippers, unintentionally showing Tria the shape of his bum.
She turned away. She needed to concentrate on her performance not him.
The small motorboat had the words ‘Biscayne Bay Mermaid Show’ on the side. As the two divers were preparing their gear, Jasmine pulled down her jeans and wriggled into a marvellously constructed mermaid’s tail. She pulled off her sleeveless top to reveal a bra fashioned to look like two shells.
‘Have you used a hoist before?’ Markus asked Tria.
‘Yes. My uncle uses one on his yacht. It’s no problem, Markus’
‘Call me Marco’ the man said, lifting her. ‘It sounds Italian and sexy.’ He put on a deliberately atrocious Italian accent and twirled an imaginary moustache while wriggling his eyebrows.
‘Come on, Casanova! There’s work to be done.’ Tom handed Markus a camera as soon as he had Tria safely secure in the hoist.
‘I’m Tom’ he told Tria. ‘The sexy one.’
‘Oy!’ Jasmine tugged at his Tom’s ear. ‘The married one.’ It was clear from the way she acted that the pair were a couple.

The playing around stopped as Mr. Garcia cleared his throat, pointedly.
‘Wait for these two to go down with their cameras, Tria, and then you can start your performance. Jasmine won’t interfere; she’s just there in case of emergency. If she signals you to go up then head straight for the surface. I’ll be monitoring your performance from up here.’
He noticed Tria biting her lip, and smiled his encouragement.’
‘Break a leg. No. Break a tail.’
Later Tria would find that he always made the same comment before every dive, but to her, now, it was fresh and she felt better as the hoist lowered her and she approached the water.

Tria savoured the feel of the water, ducking under for a few minutes. She heard two splashes as the divers jumped in and Jasmine followed her down using the hoist.
‘Take it easy. You’ll need that breath later.’
‘I’m fine.’ Jasmine assured her.’
‘And that’s how you want to stay, so listen to me.’
Tria looked crestfallen. She knew that what Jasmine had said was right. She was not following Uncle Jimmy’s instructions. She must be more careful.
‘I’m sorry’ she admitted.
‘S’okay. It’s your first time.’ Jasmine reassured her. ‘We don’t expect perfection yet.’

One of the divers raised his hand, the thumb pointing downwards. Jasmine couldn’t tell which it was because their wetsuits were identical and they wore breathing masks.
‘Okay then. Start when you’re ready.’
Jasmine took a deep breath so Tria copied her and flipped her tail to propel herself downwards, thrilled as she felt her long blonde hair trailing behind her.
She stopped in front of the cameras and started her carefully choreographed routine, rising to the surface at the correct times, and being careful to move so that the camera shots would include part of the artificial reef. Eventually she swam back to the boat, taking care to appear more out of breath than she was.
‘That was a lovely routine’ Jasmine assured Tria. ‘Now up you go.’
She pulled over the hoist.
Tria pouted.
‘I prefer being in the water to being on land and in the wheelchair. You go first.’
Jasmine shrugged her understanding and strapped herself in.
Tom was climbing the steel ladder attached to the boat. Tria longed to sink beneath the surface again, but Markus had stayed with her, presumably for safety. She allowed him to fasten the straps on the hoist. Unfortunately that meant that it was Tom who lifted her at the top and returned her to the seat.

Without thinking about it, Tria shook her head vigorously to clear water from her hair, raising complaints from the others, who had stripped off their suits and were putting on shorts and tee shirts.
‘Sorry’ she blushed and accepted the rapidly offered fluffy towels Jasmine handed her.

‘Coffee or soda?’ Mr. Garcia asked.
‘Coffee, please’
She was alone with him, everyone else was in the small cabin.
‘They’re watching the footage in detail, but I assure you have the job.’
‘Oh, thank you Mr. Garcia.’ Tria gushed.
He looked at her closely and she shifted backwards as he moved a hand towards her cheek.
‘Don’t worry, I am not going to do anything inappropriate.’
He lifted a lock of hair which lay across her cheek and fingered it. When he looked at her and smiled with raised eyebrows she realised he knew her secret.
‘You’re not the first. I’ll keep quiet.’ He whispered in her ear before rejoining the rest of his crew at the video monitors.

Six months later Tria was an established performer. The girls she worked with were nice and she enjoyed performing, especially for children. Although business eased down in the autumn, it picked up in December as the troupe was hired for Christmas parties. The firm held their own party in January, when they wouldn’t have to cancel bookings.
Tria bought a pretty top on the internet, and her mother helped her tie her hair into an elaborate arrangement. Tria had heard that Markus and Tom were going to be there. She knew that she should keep away from Markus since their worlds were so different and told herself that she had dolled herself up to impress the other mermaids, but deep inside, where Tria tried not to look, she wanted to feel his lips on hers.

‘You do know you can show your legs outside of work? Yeah?’ Tom teased.
‘The tail looks prettier than my legs do.’
She was ashamed of herself as guilt swept over his face, and Jasmine hit him, indicating that he should leave Tria alone.
The meal was a revelation. Tria’s mother’s cooking tended towards fish most of the time, and when she escaped Tria usually went for fast food or ‘greasy spoon’ diners. She had never tasted anything like it. She was so stuffed when the coffee arrived that she had no room for the mint chocolate that accompanied it. Surreptitiously she swept it into a pocket, since it was a shame to waste it. Then she saw other girls doing the same thing, much more openly, and giggled.

Tria was glad that her colleagues were careful not to leave her on her own at the table as most of them went to dance, but found it a trial as most of the ‘mermaids’ saw the job as a starting place for getting into show business, and talked incessantly about celebrities that Tria had no interest in. Her wine glass was topped up by each of them, so Tria was not aware of how much alcohol she had consumed.

It was getting late when the music slowed. On the dance-floor people were forming couples. She laughed as she saw Tom slide his hands down from Janice’s waist, and then her hands push them back again. One or two of the mermaids had found partners, but most of them came back to the table in a wave of noise.
She stopped paying attention to them as Markus swayed up to her, took her hand and kissed it, making her blush.
‘Can I have this dance?’
Markus in tight trousers and a leather jacket was even more handsome than Markus in his wetsuit. She frowned at him.
‘I can’t.’
‘Yes you can.’
He lifted her and carried her to the dance-floor where he gently swayed in time with the music, moving her with him.
‘I’ve wanted to do this a long time.’ He whispered and his lips fell against hers. The deep and hidden part of Tria’s brain cheered. The rest of her wine-soaked mind refused to act sensibly. Tria returned the kiss.
Markus looked down at the slight figure resting in his arms, and smiled tenderly. He knew all of these girls but there was something different about Tria. He had been very impressed with her audition. Most of the girls moved clumsily at first, Tria had been graceful right from the start. It was a shame about her disability, although she didn’t make a fuss about it. Markus wanted to know her better. There was no weight to her body, and he felt that he could have held her for hours. He had been watching her drinking during the evening, and wasn’t surprised when she relaxed against him.

Three or four dances later Mr. Garcia tapped Markus’ shoulder.
‘Everyone else is heading out. Can I rely on you to get her home safely?’ He gave Markus a faux stern look. ‘With no hanky-panky.’
‘Yes Dad. Am I allowed to sober her up first.’
‘I think that would be for the best, son. Be careful with this one, she’s different.’
He moved away before Markus could query this strange statement. Snuggled into Markus’ shoulder Tria was oblivious of the exchange.
‘Hells Bells, you’re drunk’ Markus whispered. Carefully he placed Tria back in her wheelchair and headed for the car park where he had left his car.

‘Drink!’
Tria sipped at the bottle which was touching her lips.
‘What the …?’
‘Drink first then ask questions. Take it from somebody with experience; drinking lots of water now will help the hangover in the morning.’
‘Markus?’ Tria wondered if she was dreaming. Why was Markus forcing her to drink? Where was she? How did she get here? It was dark, but she could smell the sea close, and hear waves crashing. Markus was sitting on a park bench beside her.
‘How are you feeling?’ he asked.
Tria gave this some thought.
‘I can’t remember anything. What happened?’
‘I was going to take you home but you were too drunk to tell me where you lived.’
‘Oh!’ The last thing she remembered was Markus dancing with her.’
‘Did I do anything silly?’
‘Nah. Just went to sleep. Do you want to go home?’ Markus wanted to his best by her but he hoped she would say no, so that he could spend more time with her.
‘No. I think I’d better be completely sober when I get home.’
‘If your mum is like mine, that’s probably a good idea.’
Tria giggled, then laughed a big belly laugh and snorted. She looked annoyed with herself.
‘I want a swim.’
‘The state you’re in, you’ll drown.’
‘Don’t be silly. Mermaids don’t drown. Only humans drown.’
‘Yeah, yeah. I’ll take you swimming as long as you drink at least one two strong coffees. There’s an all-night diner just round the corner.
‘Promise you’ll let me swim afterwards.’ To her dismay Tria realised her words slurred.
‘I’ll take you down to the beach myself. Somebody needs to watch you.’
As he pushed her towards the diner Markus had time to think about what Tria had said. After his father’s remark about Tria’s being different her comment about mermaids and humans was leading him to a ridiculous conclusion. He shook his head, laughing at the ridiculousness of it. Nah, it couldn’t be.
The Shipwreck Diner was deserted. Five in the morning was too late for drinkers staggering home and too early for breakfasts. Markus pulled a chair out from under a table and pushed Tria so her chair filled the space, before sitting opposite her, so he could look at her.
The waiter brought their coffees and left. Markus looked at the girl in front of him, registering the light grey eyes, almost silvery. Tria looked at him over the rim of her coffee cup. His stare was so intense that she thought she should have been embarrassed but instead she looked into his beautifully chocolate coloured eyes beneath the thick eyebrows and found herself unable to look away. She wasn’t sure if she felt less drunk because of the coffee or the look in his eyes, but she was more aware of her surroundings now. Mentally she knew that she should push Markus away but then he smiled and Tria changed her mind.

Half an hour later, satisfied that she was sober enough not to do anything silly, and hoping his recent conclusion was right, Markus carried Tria across the dark beach to the water.
‘Put me down.’
‘What?’
‘You don’t want to drive home in wet clothes.’
Markus wasn’t going to argue with that. He unbuttoned his jacket and pulled off his shirt before stepping out of his trousers.
‘Am I allowed to keep my underwear on?’
‘I guess.’ Tria’s voice showed playful doubt as she ran her eyes down his delicious body. Markus lifted her back into his arms and headed for the water’s edge.
As he stepped into the water Markus ran his hands down her tail. He had seen plenty of the tails used by the troupe, and knew how they felt. Tria’s was different. When he reached waist deep he released his hold and felt Tria’s tail flex more sinuously than any model tail. He watched her enjoyment as she swam around his legs, and gradually moved in a wider circle. She kept in mind what he had said about safety and ignored the instinct which told her to swim deep and long.

After ten minutes she moved close to him again.
‘Had enough?’
‘Thanks.’ She grinned at him.
He bent down to take her weight then lifted her up until their lips met.
‘Did you really kiss me at the dance?’ Tria breathed before opening her lips to his tongue, her voice barely audible over the waves.
‘At the dance. Yeah it was real.’ Markus broke off long enough to answer her question.
‘Do it again.’
‘Greedy girl’ Markus laughed, but he didn’t refuse.

‘We’d better be getting you home, before it gets light.’
Tria sighed deeply. ‘I guess. Can we sit on the beach for a bit?’ Tria was reluctant to leave Markus and go home.
As he put his clothes back on Markus had a debate with himself as to whether to confront her with his suspicions or leave things as they were.
‘Tria, are you a mermaid?’
‘You know I am. You’ve seen me perform.’
Her laugh sounded false.
‘No, I mean a real mermaid. A not-human mermaid.’
Tria looked at her lap, unable to look at him. Markus hated having hurt her, and immediately tried to put her at ease.
‘I don’t mind. I love you anyway, whoever you are, whatever you are.’ He put his arms around her. ‘You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.’
The last argument convinced Tria.
‘How did you know?’
Markus repeated what she had said when drunk, and admitted to having examined her tail.
‘And my father gave me a warning.’
‘Your father?’ Tria looked surprised, before something she had heard at the dance clicked in her head. ‘Is your name Markus Garcia?’

‘I’m guessing my father knew what you are. How did he know?’
‘We had a long chat one day. He started the firm with a troupe of professional mermaids, but later he employed some of my people. Mermaids like my family who like to live among humans need an income. This was ideal for me.’
‘Can humans and mermaids, uh …’ Markus was embarrassed to ask the question which was suddenly important to him.
‘Mate? It’s not easy but it is possible. Why do you ask Marco?’ She batted her eyelids at him, exaggerating the motion so he would know she was joking.
Seeing him looking confused, she laughed.
‘Don’t you remember telling me to call you Marco because it was sexier?’
Markus didn’t remember, but it was a line he had used before.
‘Are all mermaids such wicked teases?’
‘If we get together you’ll find out.’
‘You want to?’
Markus held his breath. He needed to know the answer. She didn’t answer verbally but her kiss told him all he needed to know.
It was long and deep. Markus decided he loved the feel of her tail wriggling against his leg, and wished he wasn’t wearing trousers so he could feel it against his skin. Still that could wait until he married her.

Note:
Professional mermaids do exist (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mermaiding) but as far as I know they are all human!
Any resemblance to real people or mermaid companies is unintended and accidental.

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