Mermaid

Mari sometimes wishes she's a mermaid. She knows it silly – she's 17, really, too old to be thinking these things. But she can't help it. It's because of the water. She feels at home there – she feels free.

It hasn't always been this way. She used to feel at home at home – she used to feel free with her family. When Ben was here. When her brother was still alive. Oh, she loved the water back then too, but not as much as she loved it when Ben and Dad and Mom cheered her on from the stands as she swum – when they smiled those special proud smiles when she won.

But Ben is gone now. One day he was here and the next day a stern-looking policeman stood in the door and Mari was told to 'Please! Go to your room'. Instead she stood hidden behind the wall at the top of the stairs and she could hear Mom cry and cry as if she would never stop.

Something broke inside of them that day – Dad and Mom, and Mari too. It was like big cracks appeared inside and it began feeling empty and hollow. But a week later Mari jumped back in the water again and suddenly she didn't feel so empty. The water seeped into the cracks and filled them, and though it didn't feel the same as when Ben was here, it didn't feel empty anymore either. Especially when she began swimming again, putting all her energy into every stroke, swimming until she could barely move and even then not stopping. With her head under the water and her arms and legs working and her thoughts on her breathing she can almost hear them cheering her on – Dad and Mom… And Ben. "Go for the gold!"

But only Mom is here now. And she's not cheering. She's barely smiling and Mari knows that she hasn't filled her emptiness with water. She's looking for something else to make her whole and Mari has a feeling that Mom thinks she can find it here with her but Mari doesn't know how – or if she can even help.

Dad didn't have the water to fill the cracks in him either. He's not a swimmer, he's a doctor, and there's no water in a hospital to make you whole – only blood. Blood from patients, from the dying and dead and the ones you save but they'll die too one day. It's not enough.

It's not enough for Mom either. She's decided to go on vacation. And she's taking Dad and Mari with her whether they want to or not (they don't really, but they go anyways because Mom is sad and cracked and empty and it makes them both feel guilty). It's going to be tough for Dad, Mari knows. There're no patients or blood to fill the cracks in the lake house.

At least she'll be able to swim and wish and pretend that she's free and that it doesn't hurt that Ben is dead. That she isn't broken and sad and alone. That she's a mermaid and that she'll never have to come out of the water again. At least Mari will have the water.