Life Under the Sea Ch. 04byjlynann©
Lily waited anxiously outside Nikos' hut while the waves splashed over her. The sun was beating hard on her and yet she persisted. Two people in there are not even aware that she is so close. The storm from a few hours back had just disappeared from the sky, but it still left wild winds and dangerous waves in its wake. The mermaid did not know how long she could wait there, but she kept on remembering that she told Nikos she would. Nikos had wandered off again, probably bored. The least he could have done was keep her company, but it was too dangerous right now.
Of all the humans she encountered, Nikos was the only one who did not bother her when she was around. He was even pleasant to talk to despite a few times when he was just irritating. He sure surpassed the other humans in how intelligent she found him. A good number of men (and a handful of women) had sought her with lust in their almost disbelieving eyes. A decent number of women looked at her with nothing but jealousy, but merely dismissed her inhuman beauty as a mirage, the hot sun playing tricks on their minds.
Skin and scale created a barrier between her and the human race. To some she was a demonic embodiment of lust, sent by the devil to tempt the people. To the rest, she was just a freak of nature. Mermaids and mermen made sure to be extra careful when humans could see them. Discovery at least once in your life was unavoidable, but if it happened too many times, the humans would start to believe that the stories of old were true. That's probably how Jesse became a mermaid herself, she believed hard enough and she received her wish.
Lily hears a noise in the distance that wakes her up out of her daydream. She turns left and right searching for anything dangerous. No unfamiliar humans, but Jesse has just left Nikos' hut in the arms of her cousin, Damien. Lily submerges herself and swims behind a rock to peer around.
Damien has his cousin cradled in his arms as he walks into the surf. Jesse is looking back at him with a tired look on her face. He smiles back at her. In the uncounted minutes they spent talking and reminiscing in that hut, he barely recalls that Jesse is now a mermaid. That hardly matters to him anymore. She is still the same person he loved growing up.
He kneels down and sets her gently in the water. Jesse does not move from that spot, and she does not say a word. The mermaid just stares back at her human cousin. They can see the confusing mix of happy and sad in each other's eyes.
"Can I see you tomorrow? Here at this spot, at this time?" asks Damien.
"Of course... I'll be here... But what will you tell my mom and dad?" replies Jesse.
"I don't know yet. They won't believe what happened to you... I don't know how they'll take it... Still, I'm sure they would be happy to know you're still alive," says Damien.
Slowly and steadily, Jesse and Damien turn around to go back to their worlds. Damien walks back towards the hut. He remembers that the first thing he was supposed to do today was to get more information from that Nikos character. It had only been two hours since he got here so Damien decides to stick around for a bit. In the meantime, Jesse dives into the water and swims back towards Okeanos. Only a second passes before someone blocks her way.
"Nikos disappeared somewhere a while ago, Victoria...," she says.
"I'm not Victoria, Jesse," says the mermaid.
Jesse looks up at the mermaid's face and gasps at the sight of Lily.
"I- You- Were you following me?" asks Jesse.
"I couldn't help it. I was a bit curious about where you were going so early in the morning. So I followed you all the way here and waited outside. Nikos told me what was going on while you were in there."
"Nikos told you? You know him?"
"Of course I do. He isn't exactly human for a six thousand-something year old. Plus, the idiot has had that same hut on that beach for at least a couple thousand years now. Anyway, I was wondering what your cousin thought about that," says Lily, pointing at Jesse's tail.
"We didn't really end up talking much about me. It was all about how we missed each other."
"You broke his heart, you know," says Lily suddenly, "Even from here in the water, I could feel the pain."
"I know. I felt it too. Two years of pain is a lot to wash away..."
Damien walks back up to the door of Nikos' hut. It is closed shut. He didn't recall ever closing it because he had no free hands while carrying Jesse into the water. Just to humor himself, he knocks on the door.
"Just a second!" says a voice inside the hut.
Damien nearly falls over in surprise. The voice clearly is that of Nikos. He remembers it perfectly from yesterday. Damien gathers his strength and pushes the door wide open to find Nikos, as he was just about to slip some shorts on.
"Ah! Sorry! I didn't mean to...," says Damien averting his eyes.
Nikos laughs as he finishes putting on his shorts.
"I'm decent now," he says, "Though it seems odd that you'd act like that after spending a couple hours with a gorgeous mermaid in your arms."
"You're a guy! A man! I like women!"
"Yet, that mermaid is your cousin... You probably shouldn't be looking at her either... At least not in that way..."
"You knew? You knew that was Jesse? And I wasn't looking at her like that!"
"Yeah, I did. Don't you remember what I said?"
Damien thinks back to yesterday. After the time he spent talking to Jesse, it seems so far away. It's as if the two years they spent without one another returned to his life. The conversation he had with Nikos replays in his head. It then becomes clear to him.
"Nikos... you said she disappeared right before your eyes. You were looking at her and the 'woman' was gone. You meant she was transformed into a mermaid?"
"If you knew, why didn't you tell me right away?"
"Well, would you have believed me? Anyway, you did want to ask me questions about Jesse, right? Let's head into town. We can discuss it over lunch and a few drinks if you like."
Damien sighs and looks out over the water.
"Sure. Let's go right now."
Lily and Jesse are swimming back towards the underwater village of Okeanos. The two of them haven't said a word since leaving the beach. Jesse wants to say something but she feels herself holding back on letting everything out. Lily just smiles at her every time their eyes meet. Jesse didn't expect anyone to find out where she was or whom she was with so quickly. Lily's sharpness did impress her, but she knew it could swing in either a good or a bad direction in the end.
When the two of them get into the village, they see Miek and Brynn together. Lily motions to Jesse to swim in their direction. Up close, it appears they are just lazing around watching the other merpeople go about their day. The two of them look so happy and comfortable together. The two of them are sitting on a wall with Brynn on what would be Miek's lap. His arms wrap around her stomach while his chin rests on her shoulder. Their tails take turns twisting around each other. Lily slowly swims up behind them.
"Hey!" she yells.
Both Miek and Brynn yelp and turn around startled by Lily's loud voice, which continues to ring in their ears.
"What?" asks Miek.
"We're going up to the surface when the sun is at its highest. Can the two of you go get Varon and Riley? Tell them to meet with the rest of us just outside the village gate."
"Oh. Sure," says Brynn, clearly disappointed," Let's go."
Lily and Jesse watch the two lovers swim off to Varon's place.
"Jesse, let's sit here for now," says Lily.
"You sent them off so we could talk?"
"Sure, not many people pass through this part of town so I doubt there are merpeople eavesdropping."
"Thanks, Lily," says Jesse, smiling," I guess you really are becoming a great friend."
"You're welcome... So I suppose there are people on land looking for you. You don't really look like the women around here now that I think about it. I guess a good guess would be that you're from a place very far from here, right?"
"Well, if they came all this way just for you, doesn't it mean that you still have a purpose up there?"
"But I can't return to a human life... Nikos said that this spell was permanent. I never thought twice about something like this. I left my cousin and my parents a long time ago without even bothering to make contact. I always thought in my head that they let me go because I was old enough to make decisions for myself. Now I'm starting to wonder if becoming a mermaid in the first place was a good idea at all."
"That's wrong...," replies Lily.
"What do you mean?"
"Choosing to become a mermaid or choosing to stay as a human are neither good ideas nor bad ideas. You have to realize that everything you think and do will have positive and negative effects. By becoming a mermaid, you cut yourself off from your family on land. However, there is a bright side right? You met me, Brynn, Miek, Varon, and Riley."
"I guess you're right, but what do I do? I can't let my parents think I'm gone forever! I'm right here! Damien won't want to lie about me either to them! I want them to know I'm alive!"
"I understand, but it will be hard for your parents to see what I see. I think even Damien still carries some doubts about you."
"I know. He didn't look too convinced of what he saw when he set me down in the water..."
The two mermaids sit quietly while a few fish idly pass by.
"Hey, Lily?" asks Jesse," Would you mind meeting my cousin, Damien, in person? I just want him to know I have friends here who support me."
"Of course. I'd love to meet him. Besides even from where I was watching, I could tell that good looks run in your family," says Lily with a twinkle in her eye.
"No, please... not him, Lily...," pleads Jesse.
"Why not? You get to share a hammock with my brother every night. Why can't I just get to at least tease your cousin?"
"I don't want him to get the wrong idea. He came all the way here to find me. I'm not going to hide from him anymore."
"Good answer," replies Lily.
Back up on the island, Nikos and Damien are sitting down to lunch in town. The two of them hardly said a word on the way in. Damien has so many things that he wants to just blurt out, but the strange smile on Nikos' face makes him realize that he has to be careful with the words he has to choose. In Damien's eyes, Nikos looks rather comfortable for a man about to face interrogation. That confidence is unnerving. He clears his throat, but Nikos quickly interjects.
"So... What questions have you prepared for me then?" asks Nikos," I hope you haven't forgotten them already."
Damien looks back at Nikos' face; his expression has completely changed. The man before him seems more serious and professional than he would have ever thought possible.
"Well... I'd like to know how Jesse became a mermaid."
"Hmmm... I'd have to say that this was Poseidon's doing though I did perform the ritual."
"A ritual? You mean this is about magic? That can't be real! Stop messing with me!"
"Jesse looked very real in the hut, no?" counters Nikos.
"It's just a lot to take in right now...," says Damien.
Damien sits there silently. He picks at his salad as voices and images throb within his head. The man sees his cousin and her lovely tail while hearing voices scream that she isn't real. All of a sudden, both the images and voices fade away.
"I think I can believe this, that there are higher powers. I mean I can't just not believe. I might as well believe in magic."
"That's good, seeing as that's the first step."
Damien laughs to himself.
"The first step? I guess I should have known that there was much more... What else do you have to tell me?"
"I think you ought to know the reason she became a mermaid."
"It's been on my mind. It made me wonder what was down there that she already didn't have. Still, it makes sense since she already ran away from home once. She wasn't happy, I assume," says Damien.
"What was it like before she ran away?" asks Nikos, stuffing a piece of cooked lamb into his mouth.
"I lived with Jesse and my aunt and uncle for most of my life. My parents passed away when I was young. So Jesse and her parents were my family... It was... You know... At first, I hated Jesse..."
"Really? From what I can tell, she's extremely fond of you."
"She was always fond of me. Always kind. And yet, I hated her so much."
Damien pauses and takes a deep breath.
"I was jealous," he continues," She had her parents. I didn't. Sure, her parents were now mine in a way, but I wanted my dad and mom. It bothered me seeing her with my aunt and uncle."
"So what changed all that?" asks Nikos.
"As you remember, Jesse was always fond of me. She quickly noticed my bad mood and asked me what was wrong. I refused to tell her at first, but she bothered me for days until I gave in. I told her of my jealousy and my anger... She looked at me for a second then gave me a big hug. She started sobbing on my shoulder. Then she said 'Damien, I know you don't have parents like I do. But you have me and my mom and dad. We are your family also. So please don't hate us. I know that we are cousins, but I want to think of you as my baby brother. So... can I be your big sister?'"
"Seems very intelligent for someone seven years of age..."
"She was. Right after that, I loved my new family. I ended up idolizing Jesse because she helped my find where home really is. We almost never argued since we loved each other so much... Then the day after my sixteenth birthday, we didn't talk for a week. She forgot my birthday and I was so angry, I refused to talk to her. After a week of not talking, Jesse was gone. My aunt, uncle, and I never found out why she left that time. We always hoped she'd come back to tell us she was fine."
"I never asked her about why she ran away from home, but she did tell me why she wanted to become a mermaid."
"Love," says Nikos," She found someone down there."
Damien almost knocks over a glass of water hearing Nikos' words. He doesn't even notice what he almost did but continues to look at Nikos.
"It's true," continues Nikos," There is a merman she wants to share the rest of her life with."
Damien just stays silent.
"What? You thought she was alone down there?" asks Nikos.
"I didn't think about it actually. I just learned about one mermaid just now. I didn't expect there to be much more."
"That's where you're wrong. Mermaids and mermen are plentiful in the sea; they just protect themselves from humans. I think you'll find more questions answered later with Jesse."
Back under the sea, Jesse is swimming back and forth at Lily's place, wondering what to talk about with Damien. Lily just looks on with an amused look on her face. She sits comfortably on a sponge couch while Jesse mumbles to herself.
"You're lucky the others aren't here. They'd probably laugh at how worked up you're getting over this," says Lily.
"But- But I haven't said much to him in two years! I'm pretty sure that he'll ask me about why I left in the first place!" exclaims Jesse as she finally sits down opposite to Lily.
"It'll be fine," says Lily," Do what comes natural to you. If you think too much, that will become a problem. Anyway, I'm going with you to see him so I can back you up, just in case."
"Who's going to back up who?" says a voice.
Both Lily and Jesse turn around to see Riley and Miek swim in.
"Oh. Hey guys. The two of us were just discussing some mermaid-to-mermaid stuff," says Lily sweetly.
Riley and Miek ask no further questions, but just come to sit down. Miek sits down next to Lily while Riley sits next to Jesse. During all this mayhem, Jesse had almost forgotten about trying to win Riley's heart. It's only the afternoon but she feels as though she stayed awake for an entire fortnight. Without even thinking, Jesse leans her head onto Riley's shoulder and without further notice, she's out cold.
"What happened?" asks Riley.
"Oh, Jesse just got a little excited about something this morning," says Lily," She wore herself out so I don't think you should wake her. So where's Brynn? It's not like you to leave her side... eh, Miek?"
"Brynn is trying on shells right now. I left when she started to make suggestions for me. She's really thrilled about the trip to the surface tomorrow."
"What about you, Riley? Don't you want to show off as well?" asks Lily.
"I already picked out what I want to wear. I'm all set for tomorrow. Also, I heard something very interesting...," says Riley.
"And what's that?" asks Miek.
"Apparently, Varon was very satisfied with your outfit for tomorrow," says Riley with a smirk on his face.
Lily's face turns a light pink.
"You saw us out there?" asks Lily as the pink in her face becomes a clear shade of red.
"I only saw Varon coming back. I was looking for you but he wouldn't do anything but go silent on me and turn red whenever I mentioned you. Another clue was that spacey look that popped up on his face every other second. Besides, you did say you were going off to try out your look so... yeah..."
"Okay... Okay...," says Lily, calming herself down.
Miek continues to look at Lily suspiciously, but a scorching look from her ends that. Meanwhile, a strange feeling comes over Jesse's body. She wakes to something tickling her. When she looks down, she notices Riley's fingers gently brushing against her side. Riley stops and looks at her when he feels her stir.
"Oh? Sorry about that, Jesse."
"That's alright, Riley," says Jesse, unable to wipe the dreamy smile on her face.
Riley smiles back at her and warmth floods her body. Her body is still leaning against his. She doesn't want to move since this feels so great to her.
"It's almost time to check the surface again," says Lily, "Let's go get Brynn and Varon."
A little bit later, six of them break the surface of the water. Up above them, the hot sun beats down. The heat feels amazing in comparison to the cool Mediterranean waters around them. The view around them consists of just the sea, the sky, and the tiny islands in the distance. There aren't even any other merpeople around to distract them.
"What do you think?" asks Lily, "It's really nice today, but I hear that it's going to be even better tomorrow."
"Where did you hear this, Lily?" asks Varon.
"From Nikos," she responds, "I still go up every now and then for a chat."
"Still with the interest in humans?" asks Brianna, "If you keep on going up to see him, you may get your wish and find yourself caught by one of them."
"Besides, the rest of the village wouldn't like it if you revealed our location," adds Miek.
"Anyway... why are we going up here tomorrow?" asks Riley, "It's excellent right now. If the surface was like this every day, I'd never leave."
"The special thing I want you guys to see is happening in a certain place. Nikos said that a temple that appears out here on the water once every lunar year. The time it will appear is tomorrow."
"Then can you explain why you wanted us to dress up if we're just seeing a temple. There must be loads of sunken temples in this sea just like it. Why even go?" asks Varon.
"Just trust me on this, okay?" answers Lily with a wink.
Varon turns to Riley look for answers, but all he gets is an I-told-you-so-again smile back. He sighs in near-disbelief.
"Of course. I'll trust you."
Damien and Nikos are walking back to Nikos' place from the town. The path back to the hut takes them along the beach causing the subject of Jesse to arise again. Damien had been quietly thinking about her ever since he learned that she left the land to live in the sea.
"Hey, Nikos. Do you think it's possible for me to ever see the world she lives in?"