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Children of the Ocean

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James Mason was happy. Not just as a passing feeling, because moving to Palos Verdes was the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in his life. It was more permanent than that, Jim was a happy person, in general. He had a close-knit family, with a beautiful mother, a successful father and a twin sister who was his very best friend in the whole world. He was a beautiful boy with the brains to match, which meant that keeping up with school was never a problem. Quite the opposite, he seemed to excel in everything he did. And, thanks to his naturally friendly disposition, he’d never experienced any trouble when it came to making friends. So of course he was excited about the endless possibilities that would come with moving to California and living in a big house by the beach.

To the Mermaid, on the other hand, it was appalling enough that the land-people would even dare to build that enormous brick monstrosity so close to her home, and now she was watching in an offended silence as a loud family of four moved into that big house. The Mermaid remained at a safe distance from the shore, the lower half of her body underwater, so anyone that looked in her direction would just take her for a casual swimmer, and probably wouldn’t even bother to give her a second look. That’s when she first saw him.

 

Jim was standing by his family’s new swimming pool, enjoying the ocean view and thinking about how life was, indeed, very good. His dad had popped a bottle of champagne and the entire family was raising their glasses to the life ahead. He closed his eyes and let the champagne bubbles dance on his tongue, raising his face towards the sun, letting the sea-breeze brush his hair back from his brow, and enjoying its sharp scent. When he opened his eyes again, he was surprised to find a girl staring back at him from the waves. From that distance he could feel, more than see, the anger in her glare. Like he was invading her property, when she was the one swimming in what was basically a private beach. Even if she was a little too far from shore to seem safe.

 

The boy was staring back at her. She knew that look. He wasn’t the first male man to look at her that way. But, for the first time, she didn’t feel like swimming away from those eyes. There was a light about him, an air of kindness and joy. The boy seemed made of sunshine. She felt her own face relax, her frown disappearing. The boy’s face lit up with a smile, and she couldn’t help smiling back at him. They just stared at each other for a second that felt frozen in time. When he slowly raised a hand to wave at her, the spell was broken and she disappeared beneath the waves.

 

Sleep didn’t come easy for Jim on his first night at his new home. Like a child on Christmas eve, he spent most of it twisting and turning on his bed in restless excitement. He decided to open the window and let some air in. Sitting on the windowsill and watching the moonlight glistening on the water below, he wondered if he could ever get tired of this view. Of the soothing sound of the waves and the gentle caress of the cool breeze on his warm skin. While he was lost in those thoughts and marvelling at all the novelties, he felt a song that seemed to come from the ocean itself filling his heart with peace. He went back to bed, leaving the window open, and fell asleep to the sweet lullaby.

 

He didn’t know the song he heard was coming from the same girl he had seen earlier. He wouldn’t dream she was a mermaid, and that in spite of the fact that she was supposed to stay away from beaches that were inhabited by humans, she just had to see the boy again. That an irresistible force had brought her back there, and how her heart did a somersault when his restless figure appeared on the window. He couldn’t know how much she wanted to sing him to sleep. So much that she had started singing without even realising she was doing it. It was a song that spoke of a girl waiting for the return of her lover, who had sailed to sea. A song of longing and promises.

 

His hair it hangs in ringlets

His eyes as black as coal

My happiness attend him

Wherever he may go

 

Not knowing any of that, Jim slept like a baby. Every night he’d leave his window open. And every night she’d come to the shore and lull him to sleep.

 

From Tower Hill to Blackwall

I’ll wander, weep and moan

All for my jolly sailor

Until he sails home

 

As the days went by, Jim realised life in Palos Verdes wasn’t going to go as smoothly as he had thought at first. The atmosphere in the house was getting so dense, you could practically cut the tension with a knife. And he could almost hear a ticking sound in the growing silence between his parents, like a bomb about to go off. But the first tell-tale sign of disturbance for Jim was Medina. Regardless of the scenic surroundings and the friendly people they met, she just couldn’t seem to fit in. His twin sister was clearly unhappy. And that was not something Jim was willing to accept. They were a team. It had been Medina and him against the world from the moment they were born. Either both of them were happy, or none of them was.

 

Medina took to surfing as a way to feel connected to her new home, and Jim was eager to follow her. He loved it when it was just the two of them and the sea. Just the endless blue and the blinding sunlight, and they could simply drown all their worries in salt water. Teaching their bodies to ride the waves, until their muscles would give in to exhaustion, and they would walk back home tired but happy. And feeling closer to each other than ever. It was their moment, and Jim treasured more than anything the fact that he was able to share this new-found passion with Medina.

 

One afternoon Jim had been too tired to hit the waves himself, so he just sat on the sand and watched his twin sister. She was getting better every day, a lot better than Jim himself. But far from being jealous of Medina for it, he was proud of her. He was wondering how she could seem so relaxed and so focused at the same time, when he heard a familiar song. A song he had only felt in his heart so far, but that now he could hear loud and clear. Without a conscious decision to do so, he got on his feet and followed the sound.

 

Come all you pretty fair maids

Whoever you may be

Who love a jolly sailor

That plows the raging sea

 

He found her sitting on a rock that made a pretty good diving spot to a somewhat deep part of the sea, cradling what looked like a wounded seagull on her lap and singing. His eyes wondered through her long wet hair cascading on her back and covering her breasts, and he noticed she had tiny seashells entwined in her many thin braids, but was only vaguely aware of the iridescent glimmer of the scales that covered half of her body. Jim was lost in marvelled disbelief while his brain connected the dots, and he realised that the song that brought peace to his heart every night came from that mysterious girl he had seen on the day he moved in.

 

While up aloft in storm

From me his absence mourn

And firmly pray arrive the day

He’s never more to roam

 

It all happened so fast that everything seemed to happen at the same time. The sound of Medina’s voice calling her twin brother’s name rang throughout the beach, and Jim turned around towards it, in reflex. The seagull took flight and he heard a soft splashing sound that told him the rock would be empty when he looked at it again. And just like that, she was gone.

 

The next day it was Jim’s turn to hit the waves all by himself. But he wasn’t there to surf, he was a man with a mission. He paddled his surfing-board as far into the sea as he would dare. If what he thought he had seen was indeed what he saw, he wouldn’t be able to make contact with the mysterious girl from a place where people could listen in. But now what? He was sitting on the board, one leg on each side, in the middle of the ocean in the blinding sunlight. And how would he get her attention? He couldn’t just dip a hand in the water and shake it to call her, it wasn’t like she was a trained dolphin! He had to think better than that…

 

He knew what he had to do. He closed his eyes and, with a deep breath, gathered the courage he needed to try and sing the song that’d been engraved in his heart by now.

 

My heart is pierced by cupid

I disdain all glittering gold

There is nothing can console me

But my…

 

His voice broke off mid-sentence when he felt a slight weight shift on the end of the board that was in front of him, and still with his eyes closed Jim let out a relieved sigh even before she had said anything.

 

“I didn’t even know it was possible for any living creature to sing so awfully…”, when he opened his eyes, he found the sweetest face he had ever seen looking at him with kindness, in spite of her harsh words, “… I’m not entirely sure what you were doing may be called singing, to be honest.”, the warmest smile spread across her face, reaching her bright eyes. And this time it was Jim who had no choice but to smile back at the girl resting her forearms on the edge of his surf-board to stay afloat.

 

“Hi”, he said, feeling silly and unoriginal.

“Hi”, she replied, delighted with its simplicity.

 

“Are you really a…”, he began to ask when she shifted her body a little, and the tip of an iridescent mermaid’s tale appeared above water behind her, making his jaw drop and his blue eyes widen, “… oh. Ok. I guess that makes you kind of an authority when it comes to singing, uh?!”, he chuckled awkwardly and she giggled in response. Even that sound was musical. The sparkles in her eyes danced when she laughed like the sunshine on the waves around them. “So what’s it like… living in the Ocean?”, was he really trying to make small-talk with a Mermaid now?

 

She didn’t mind his curiosity, she was too curious about this land-boy herself, so she told him everything she could about her aquatic home, and how everything was getting more difficult with every passing year. How the ocean seemed to grow every day, because of the melting icecaps, but it also seemed to be getting smaller with all the pollution. Most of it was not inhabitable anymore, the sea creatures were dying and the mermaids like herself were being driven farther away from the shores by human presence.

 

Jim listened to her, grasping the seriousness of her words, while still marvelling at the way she batted her wet eyelashes when she talked and at the droplets of water on her face and hair that looked like tiny crystals. On his turn, he told her about how he wanted to be one of the people who might actually do something about it, how he hoped his generation was going to be the one to put an end to the worldwide environmental crisis, and he wanted to be an active participant on this action.

 

This beautiful boy, who seemed to hold the entire ocean in his eyes, was telling her that he wanted his life to amount for something good. He said that he wanted to die knowing that he left the world a better place than it was when he came into it. And looking at the way his eyes widened and his eyebrows moved when he talked about things he was passionate about, she had no choice but to believe him. He seemed so honest and kind, looking at her from behind the dark curls that fell in front of his eyes as they dried, a little bit of sand still clinging to them. And his sun-kissed skin seemed so warm to the touch, she had to make the conscious effort to keep her hands to herself.

 

Under normal circumstances, her underwater home was like a beautiful and multicoloured garden. She described it to him. The way the rays of sunshine would reach through the water in the morning, making everything come alive in light and colour. He looked at her with a dreamy expression “That must be a beautiful sight… what wouldn’t I give to see it!” he sighed. “Maybe you can… I know a way”, indeed she knew she could give this to him, if she shared the Gift of the Ocean. She could make the grace that she was given to her pass on to him if she wanted, it’s just that she had never wanted to. Until now.

 

“Come closer”, she said not much louder than the sound of the ripples that hit his surfboard. He leaned forward towards her and she held his cheek in one hand, bringing her lips towards his “open your mouth, Jim”, he obeyed and she blew a soft breath between his parted lips. He felt a pleasant shiver running all over his body as she breathed into his mouth and,without thinking, he closed the distance between their parted lips when she was done. Jim half expected to taste the sea salt on her lips, but instead they were cool and fresh, capable of quenching every thirst he’d ever felt in life, and he felt himself melting into her lips, his tongue gently asking for permission to meet hers.

 

Jim’s surfboard turned over under their combined enthusiasm and he fell to the water, but they never broke the kiss. Now that she had given him the Gift of the Ocean, he couldn’t drown even if he tried. So he just wrapped his arms around her, one hand on her back pulling her closer, the other entangled in her long hair. She ran her fingers through his adorable curls and held on to the back of his neck like her life depended on it. And they both sank slowly in their underwater kiss. Losing themselves in the endless peaceful blue around them, and on each other.

 

For Medina Mason, her twin brother was the glue that kept their family together. What she didn’t know was that the opposite was also true: it was the family thread that kept the fabric of Jim’s life in one piece. Once that thread had been broken, it didn’t take long for the entire fabric to come undone before their eyes. Jim just couldn’t stand being in the middle of the crossfire between Medina and their mother. He couldn’t leave Sandy Mason alone right when her entire world was crumbling down, but it was against his very nature not to stand up for his twin sister. And in spite of his best efforts, the two women in his life just didn’t seen to be able to meet eye to eye. And every day he felt more and more like he was drifting away from his father. To the point where Phil Mason had become a complete stranger to him.

 

It was too much for Jim, he needed a way out of all this pain. He still had surfing hours with Medina and their shared love for the sea. He met with the Mermaid whenever they both could, and they’d spend hours talking and kissing by the bonfire at night. Then he would usually go back home and hear her singing him to sleep from the beach. But even that was not enough to calm his tormented heart anymore. And Jim’s new friends were quick to supply him with new ways to escape his overwhelming reality.

 

It started as fun, as those things always do. Just a little bit of drinking, to relax. Something stronger when those drinks were no longer enough. And Jim slowly became a whole different person. There was no more laugh in his voice, no more joy on his walks home from school. He became cold and distant and suddenly the very thought of being sober became unbearable. So he was never sober. And he wouldn’t find pleasure in surfing anymore. The amazing ocean view from his house, that once filled his heart, meant nothing to him. He just wanted to dull his senses, until he couldn’t feel a thing.

 

His encounters with the Mermaid happened a lot less often. Not that he didn’t want to see her. Sometimes he missed her so much, he couldn’t breathe. She was all the peace he had left in life, but he didn’t feel worthy of it anymore. She was just too pure, too sweet. And he was a ruined mess, just a shadow of the young man she had met. A shell, devoid of feelings. He couldn’t offer that to someone who was willingly giving him her entire heart. He couldn’t taint her like that.

 

What felt like their last encounter happened on one night when he was particularly wasted on mushrooms and misery. He went to the rock where they had first met, and built the bonfire, as he always did, and she appeared on the rock shortly after, answering his call. Whenever she had visited the beach before, she’d liked to stay somewhere she knew she’d be able to return to the sea by her own efforts. But that changed when she met Jim. She trusted him to carry her to the sand and back to the waves later. He placed her gently by the bonfire and put his denim jacket around her shoulders, like always did, but she could tell something was off.

 

She had noticed the change in him, better than anyone else, and not just by the way the light had left his eyes. As soon as he started drinking and doing drugs, she could smell it in his blood. His entire scent changed, like he was poisoning himself. She could taste the alcohol and the tobacco growing more present in his kisses at every new encounter. She had seem him from a distance, too. Even though the grace she had given him would keep him from drowning, that stunt of his on the hood of his friend’s car told her clearly that he would find another way to go. She was desperate. She didn’t know what to do, she wasn’t familiar with this situation. All she knew was that the boy she adored, who had once felt as much like a Child of the Ocean as her, was now the kind of person who would mindlessly throw trash at it.

 

He sat by her side and took her in his arms harshly. He gave sloppy kisses to her lips and carelessly groped for her breasts. She even tried to adjust herself to his new ways. Then tried to make him go slower, be gentler, but he was blind and deaf to her. His touch now felt unpleasant and uncaring, and his lips had a toxic flavour that was making her sick. It wasn’t just the ocean that he didn’t mind polluting anymore, Jim was polluting his own body. Not knowing what else to do, she froze. She was too scared of this mindless Jim, she didn’t know how to get him to stop, so she just stopped moving herself. After a few moments of kissing what felt like a girl made of stone, he finally realised something was wrong and looked into her eyes for the first time in she didn’t even know how long.

 

Even in his drugged haze, Jim saw that she seemed scared out of her wits, her eyes filled with tears. He was hurting her. Hurting her heart as well as her body. And that knowledge hurt Jim more than anything he had experienced before. She asked in a weak whisper if he could carry her back to the sea, and he didn’t argue. He couldn’t do this to her anymore, he couldn’t make her carry the burden that was him, she deserved better. With one last kiss on his lips and tears streaming down her face she swam away, leaving Jim waist-deep in the waves, feeling his heart turn to stone.

 

She wasn’t surprised to find his window closed later that night, but that doesn’t mean it hurt any less. Neither did it hurt less a few days later when she saw him getting out of the sea into that girl Heather’s arms. It was more than just jealousy that cold stab she felt in her chest, watching Heather wrap her legs around his waist in a way she knew she never could. How happy and light she looked when he lifted her from the ground onto his arms, holding a firm grip on her buttocks. Even though the Mermaid couldn’t drown, she felt like all air had been knocked out of her lungs when he kissed the girl’s neck, gently running his nose on her jaw. It was bad enough that she knew he had been lost to her, seeing how quickly he had just bounced back and into Heather’s arms felt like dying.

 

Jim’s relationship with Heather felt like a pale comparison to what he had experienced, but deep in his heart he felt like it was all he deserved after the way he had treated that precious creature of the sea. His attraction to Heather was nothing but hormone-induced lust, not a trace of the deep connection he had felt from the first time he and the Mermaid had laid eyes on each other. But Heather didn’t make him feel like he had to be a better person for her. In fact she’d let him do whatever the hell he wanted. She didn’t know any better, so there was no way she could tell him better. He could just dive deeper and deeper into alcohol and substance abuse, and she would still be by his side, telling him how amazing she thought he was. Even if he felt dead inside.

 

They were supposed to run away, Medina and Jim. They were all each other had, they were each other’s Tribe, as Medina had said. They needed to get away from this life, from this mess. Just the two of them traveling out there, surfing and seeing the world. But at the last moment, Jim realised. Medina didn’t trust him anymore. He could see it in her eyes. He had lost his twin sister too. Even her had given up on him, even her was afraid of him. When he lit the flare he had in his hand, she did the unthinkable: ran back home to their mother.

 

He had nowhere else to go, no one to turn to. He ran down the road with the flare in his hand, and his feet took him to the beach without him even noticing. Back to the rock, where he used to meet the Mermaid before his life fell of its tracks. He built the bonfire but even in such an altered state he knew he couldn’t honestly expect her to come. Not anymore. He walked into the ocean fully dressed, shoes and all. He was desperate to have his head covered by the cold water, silencing the rest of the world. If only he could silence it forever. He was up to his chest in the water, when she appeared in front of him.

 

She had seen the bonfire from afar. He was calling for her, desperate and alone, and of course she would answer. He looked at her with clouded, disbelieving eyes, not sure if she was actually there or if this was just a hallucination. When she whispered his name he let himself fall in her arms. She held him close, trying to soothe him with shushing sounds while he sobbed against the curve of her neck. She convinced him to go back to the beach, by promising she would go with him. They sat by the bonfire, trying to get a little of its warmth and dry his clothes. Eventually he fell asleep with his head on her lap, while she ran her fingers through his hair and sang that same old song, that reminded him of simpler times.

 

My heart is pierced by Cupid

I disdain all glittering gold

There is nothing can console me

But my jolly sailor bold

 

The next day Jim was found by the police, lost and disoriented. But alive. They took him to the hospital and he would soon be back home. He would take care of himself now. His family would help him get better. Everything was gonna get better. It had to. He’d have given anything never to feel that way again. And he really would have had. If only he wasn’t so tired. Just so damn tired.

 

He had been sober for a while now. He was trying, but it was nearly impossible to stay that way when he felt the effects of abstinence crawling under his skin. He was sitting on the sand, looking at the bonfire he had built and trying to understand how it was that everything had gone so wrong. She called him from the rock, like she hadn’t done in so long, and he threw himself in her arms kissing her slow and deep, not even thinking. The feeling of her kissing him back with the same abandon she had before gave him a high better than any drug he had ever done. And he allowed himself to smile into the kiss. His first genuine smile in a really long time.

 

When he broke the kiss to look at her, he saw in awed surprise that what was once her tail had split in two perfect human legs. Where once there had been scales that reflected the firelight in tiny rainbows, there was now smooth skin inviting him to touch. He took her to the soft sand by the fire, too aware of her nakedness. In fact, for some reason, it had only now hit him that she had been naked all the time and he blushed a little. Although she didn’t seem to mind it herself.

 

She wasn’t surprised by this sudden transformation of her lower body. She had heard about it before, she knew it was possible. She just never thought it would be possible for her. And she had been almost sure it wouldn’t since the night she asked Jim to carry her back to the waves. If it wouldn’t happen for her adored land-boy, it wouldn’t happen for anyone else. She would always keep her mermaid’s tale to protect her from the unwanted advances of human males. But Jim was different. He was worthy of leaving her scaly armour for.

 

Jim thought he was probably going to feel less conscious of her nudity if he wasn’t so clothed himself. He undressed between passionate kisses, with her help, his fingers always eager to return to the delicate skin of her thighs, with the softest of touches. Soon he found himself kissing her silky inner thighs, moving slowly up, until finally he covered her wet core with his mouth, the sweetest moan escaping her lips to the contact. He ran his tongue flat over her folds, daring to let just the tip inside her, and closed his lips on her sensitive bundle of nerves sucking gently, holding her hips in place with both hands while her entire body was shaking with pleasure.

 

This was heaven. Better than heaven. But soon the delightful caress of his lips was no longer enough. She needed to have him. All of him. She tightened the grip of the fingers she had on his hair and pulled him up. He hesitated for a moment, looking deep into her eyes, asking for permission. She gave him the smallest nod and a soft kiss, and he entered her, as gently as humanly possible. It wasn’t without pain when he took her on the sand, making her gasp loudly at the foreign sensation. But that didn’t mean she wanted him to stop. She pushed the searing pain between her thighs to the back of her brain and tried to focus only on the beautiful boy lying on top of her, moving his body to a rhythm that matched that of the waves on the shore.

 

The delicate sounds that escaped his lips, the way he closed his eyes and a little crease appeared between his eyebrows when I jolt of pleasure shot through him. The way he tried so hard to get hold of his senses, so he wouldn’t get carried away and end up hurting her was absolutely endearing. The shaky sighs when it seemed like he wouldn’t be able to hold it any longer, and he would whisper sweet nothings in her ear to help her relax and ease her pain. Everything little thing he did was to guide her into her own pleasure, and he lovingly lead her there. It was only after he felt her writhing in ecstasy beneath him that Jim let himself find his own release, and he came undone buried deep inside her. And that’s how they fell asleep, him never leaving the warm nest of her body.

 

At the sunrise they walked into the ocean hand in hand. Jim was ready to leave everything behind and become one with the sea. Smiling at each other, they disappeared beneath the waves, where they could live together forever, away from all the pain and trouble of his human life. His mortal shell was found lying face down on the sand, on a beach located south of his family’s home. But it was only when his ashes dissolved with the sea-foam that he fully became a Child of the Ocean for good.

 

As happy as he was with his new life in his new aquatic home, Jim knew he would never stop feeling guilty about leaving his family behind. Specially Medina. They had come into the world together, it was not fair that she would have to walk on it alone now. Part of him wanted to bring her along so she could live with him and the other sea creatures. But he knew his twin sister still had much to do on the land. She was going to travel. Surf and see the world, as they had promised each other they do together.

 

He only hoped she knew he had never truly left her. He hoped she would know where to look whenever she missed him. She would always find his eyes, gently watching over her, from the infinite blue where the sky meets the ocean. If she missed his laugh, or the sound of his voice, she only had to sit quietly and listen to the murmur of the waves. He would be there, whispering her his secrets, as he always had. When she felt herself being touched by the warm rays of sunshine on a clear morning, it would be him. Wrapping her in a loving embrace. He hoped she new. That as long as Medina could find her way back to the sea, Jim would always be with her.