Title: Believing in Heaven
Fandom: The Little Mermaid: The story of a mermaid trades her voice for three days as a human to try and win the heart of the human prince she has fallen in love with. She is accompanied by a fish who's scared of his own shadow and a crab who can belt the catchiest tunes this side of the Atlantic. I don't own it! The fairy tale is the work of Hans Christian Andersen, and the movie belongs to Disney.
Taunt: My fandom will get stuck in your head for hours.
It wasn't much. There was only a brief press of lips before the boat surged beneath them and overturned, sending them both tumbling into the water in a flurry of flailing limbs and wet hair and soaked clothing and coughing, hacking breaths.
It wasn't much.
But it was a kiss, and a deal was a deal. The contract had been signed in magic, and the magic bound it to be upheld, despite what one of the parties involved secretly desired to see happen.
And when the sun set on the third day, nothing happened. Where there had once been a fish tail, there were now legs, and would forever be legs. Never a mermaid again, but a human.
She remained in the palace, smiling her sweet smile at everyone she encountered, charming the people with her kindness and good nature, as well as her unique beauty. There were whispers in the court as well: this was the girl, they said, who would soon become their princess and their queen. A few questioned the wisdom of such a choice, but those who gushed with excitement at the prospect of this poor, sweet survivor of a shipwreck winning the heart of the prince far outcried the naysayers.
It was one of those rare occasions when the gossips had their day, and were proven right. Not long after those fateful three days had passed, Eric approached her, and brought with him two things: a confession, and a proposal.
She accepted both eagerly and happily with a smile, a nod, and a kiss. The wedding day was set, and all those in attendance agreed that there had never been a more beautiful bride to stand before the altar; she was radiant in white and gold, with flowers as her only ornaments. Nor had the prince ever seemed happier, glowing each time he gazed at his bride.
A year later, she bore a daughter. The kingdom rejoiced at the birth of their princess and the fortune of the beloved king and his queen. But they saw nothing of a few of the queen's stranger habits.
Eric noticed that she would frequently stand on the beach and stare out to the ocean, her eyes as distant as the horizon as she gazed out at some unseen point. He asked her about it once, and she merely shook her head and smiled that little enigmatic smile that said she held some secret that she would not or could not divulge.
In the end, he concluded that perhaps she was secretly searching for someone. After all, she had washed up on that beach from a shipwreck, and he had assumed her to be the only survivor. Perhaps she was holding some hope that someone else had survived as well, and was searching for a sign of that person. It was a rather endearing thought.
One day, a dead fish washed up on the sand. Such a sight was certainly not uncommon, particularly in this fishing town by the sea. Eric and his queen happened upon the poor yellow and blue creature during a walk along the beach. To his amazement, the queen began to weep, though she would give no indication as to why the sight moved her as it did.
Again, Eric was forced to draw his own conclusions, and all he could think was that she was such a kind-hearted person, she hated to see anyone or anything suffering. It didn't seem to fit with the reaction he had seen from her upon finding that single dead fish, but it was the best he could come up with.
There were a few other oddities here and there, but most were kept relatively private, and many seemed willing to write these off as perhaps being commonplace traits in the land the girl hailed from, though no one seemed to know where precisely that was.
And still, despite those odd habits, she was adored, sitting silently on the throne beside the king and ruling with smiles and hand gestures and expressions that spoke volumes more than even the most eloquent speaker could possibly manage with words.
For the queen never spoke. Not a word.
Time passed, as it has a tendency to do, and one day, many years after she had first appeared on that beach wearing only a torn sail and a piece of rope to cover her thin frame, the queen fell ill. The best physicians in the land were immediately called to her bedside, but their best efforts were in vain. Nothing could be done to save her, and she grew weaker and weaker.
Queen Ariel passed quietly during the night several days after the illness took hold of her.
The kingdom wept, though none mourned more deeply than her husband and daughter.
A few days after her funeral, Eric was looking through papers in her desk when an envelope fell from a drawer to the floor. His name was written across the front in an elegant cursive, which he recognized as his late wife's handwriting. The envelope was marked with her seal. Curious, he broke that seal and unfolded the several sheets of paper, filled with her words and signed in her hand.
And he began to read.
The story laid out before him by Ariel's familiar hand sounded for all the world like one of those fairy tales his own mother had told him as a child before her death.
She told the story of a little mermaid, an ocean princess and the daughter of the Sea King Triton, who had fallen in love with a human after seeing him aboard a ship one night. When that same ship had been destroyed in a storm, she had rescued the young man from drowning, and stayed with him on the shore and sang to him until he awoke and was rescued.
Desperate to be with the man she cherished, the mermaid struck a bargain with a sea-witch, a frightful being with tentacles and two eels to do her bidding. The deal was signed, and the mermaid became human and was able to meet the man she had fallen in love with…only to find that he was the prince of a small kingdom beside the ocean.
The deal, Ariel wrote, was simple: an exchange was made, a price paid for three days as a human. In those three days, she had to secure the first kiss of true love from her prince. If she could manage that, then she would remain human and remain with her prince. To fail meant a return to the sea and imprisonment, as well as a life without her beloved.
But she had succeeded, and been blessed with that single kiss on the evening of the second day, just before the boat they were riding in mysteriously capsized. She admitted to having her suspicions about the cause of that upheaval (again, the sea-witch had two henchmen), but she had beaten the game and reaped the reward, and remained as a human.
Soon after, she had again been blessed with a marriage proposal, one which she was thrilled to accept, and as a result, she had been able to spend her entire life with her prince, living as a human. She would occasionally found herself gazing out towards the ocean, wondering what had become of her friends and family beneath the waves; she knew little of them now. And seeing a dear friend dead on the beach had broken her heart; fish or human, a friend was a friend.
But in the end, the little mermaid's only true regret for all of this was that she could never actually tell her prince directly how she felt. For the price she had paid for the chance at love was her voice. The mermaid had been one with a great love of singing, and she treasured that voice.
And the contract she had signed by her hand and by magic never said that she would get her voice back if she was successful in winning the prince's heart.
So for all those years, she could not say the words I love you to him. She could not speak to him or converse with him, could not fill his ears with the songs that had always filled her heart. But she could smile at him, touch him, be near him, and receive his smile and his touches and know that he loved her because he could tell her, did tell her.
That was enough.
Years wore on, and the little mermaid (now an old woman) realized that she was nearing the end of her life. And so on one fateful day, she sat down and took pen to paper and wrote her story. She wanted to leave it for her prince so that he would know the truth after she was gone, the truth that she had never been able to tell him in life. He would understand who she truly was and where she had come from and what she had given up to stand at his side.
And someday, she added, he would come to her, and she would finally be able to speak to him as she had always wanted to. For she had come to believe in heaven during her years on land, she wrote. He had taught her to believe in that. And she would wait for him there.
The letter was signed with the words I love you and Ariel's name.
One after another, the sheets of paper fell noiselessly to the desk after being subject to Eric's perusal. When the last sheet fell, the elderly king was left to stare at them in silent wonder as he grasped the truth of the entire situation.
…his beloved queen was no sweet, lost girl miraculously spared from death at the hands of a ship tossed and destroyed by the ocean's cruel hand, but a princess in her own right, of a kingdom far greater and far more powerful than any to be found on land. Her father was the most fearsome ruler in the world.
And she was the same girl who he had seen through squinting eyes as he regained consciousness on the beach after that horrible night in the storm, her image outlined by the rising sun, its glow like a halo around his guardian angel. He had heard her voice, its gentle song calling him away from the darkness and back to the world of the light and the living.
She had saved his life that night, and then given that which she treasured most to follow him from the sea to the land, trusting faith and fate to help her on that one brief chance.
After contemplating all of this for a moment, Eric carefully gathered the pages and reordered them and folded them back into the envelope. He tucked the packet into a pocket for safekeeping. He would read them again later, probably many times.
It was hard to focus on what he was doing, though. He kept thinking of what she had said: that she would wait for him in the heaven that he had taught her to believe in, and that she would speak to him when he got there. In spite of everything, Eric couldn't help but smile at the thought. He would finally get to hear her voice again. He still remembered the sound of it, even so many years later.
As the tears he had refused to shed in the days since her death finally flooded his eyes, Eric put his face in his hands and wondered if Ariel would sing for him then, too. It seemed rather fitting.
After all, he now knew that it was how they had met.