The Mermaid and Her Boy
(Sequel to The Scientist and His Fish)
Mai wondered if being in the ocean was a lot like being in the womb. Maybe because of the water, but mostly because the constant white noise it made that, even after birth, soothed a babe. Shhhhh. Shhhhh. Shhhhh.
So why did it not sooth her now? A mermaid, more than anyone, should be comforted by it, and yet in the middle of the night, the day after Jamie disappeared into the depths with a trail of drowning men, Mai lay on her patchy bed, awake and trembling. The moments she'd managed to catch sleep fled her when the nightmares stepped in—of water, of glass, of trails of bright red dissipating into the green-blue water, and of goggled faces pressing closer and closer till a jolt like the electrocutions of her old prison woke her.
Her limbs and muscles ached. Her lips chapped from gnawing and spit. A part of her played with the idea of crawling into the shower in the idea that intensifying the hushing white noise might finally calm her into her much needed sleep. But, then, the boat might run out of fresh water. Though the real reason was because she didn't want to turn into a mermaid; stuck in scales and fins, flipping between breathing air and gills.
Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhhh.
The pink of dawn peeked in through her cabin window when she gave in. She dug her fingers into her short hair and let out mewls of misery.
Because she was alone. After all, the white noise only comforted a babe because it meant being with mother.
But Mai didn't even have that.
Desperate, she realized she did have someone, even if that someone was unconscious and confusing. Trying to reel back in the little whimpers escaping her, she slipped off her bed, a wool blanket held about her like a cape, and shuffled out onto the deck. The old yacht sighed against the waves, and that pink dawn carpeted the ocean horizon. The cold wood numbed her feet, but it didn't take long to reach the end of the deck and to the door of the Captain's Quarters.
She made sure to rub her face dry before walking in, just on the off chance he would be awake. Thankfully, he wasn't, and with her heart in her mouth, she closed the door behind her and went to curl up in a tight ball against his sleeping back. Only when his familiar sagebrush scent reached her did she slip off into sleep.