What sort of woman was she? She’d known how to swim for as long as she could remember. When she was growing up, her parents had been hard-pressed to get her to spend more time out of the water, but what of that? Plenty of people loved the water, whether it was oceans teeming with fish, a backyard pool, a public beach, or even running through sprinklers. Many people went skinny-dipping too, but not always in such a public place.
Of course, her relative isolation at the time had appealed to her inner tadpole. How could she resist waters so tranquil and clear? However, that was before the schoolbus arrived, teachers and children chattering about spending time at the Castle. Someone took her clothes. When the Castle closed, they would leave, she’d dash to her car and… damn. Her keys were in her missing pants. Still, it was late, the kids should be leaving soon…
That was, of course, before she knew about the fireworks.
As the sun slowly sunk into the horizon, darkness descended, and Kate hid against a log floating some distance from shore. She retreated underwater once the children gathered on her previous hiding spot, the pier. Though there were no boats, the wooden structure jutted out into the water, and schoolchildren sat dangling their legs along its edge. She gazed resentfully at them with their flashlights and sparklers. They oohed and ahhhed at the fireworks lighting up the heavens.
“Nice show, ain’t it?” came a voice from beside her in the water.
Kate gasped, the beginnings of a scream forming as the man swimming beside her clasped his hand over her mouth. “Shhhhhhh,” he said, pressing one webbed finger over his mouth. “Don’ wanna alarm the kiddies, do we?”
She shot a look at the shore. Teachers and children happily chatted, pointing out the display in the night sky. Luckily the fireworks noise had covered their conversation, plus they were a fair distance from shore. Kate began to wonder how lucky she really was.
Though it was difficult to tell in the light shed by the differing hues of fireworks, the man had light green, shining skin, scaled slightly along his hairline and the edges of his fingers and hands. Flowing green hair floated behind him, and his eyes were two pools of darkness she felt she could easily fall into for the rest of her life. His facial features were angelic. She continued to gape as he watched the display.
“Eh, don’t mind me, chicky. Just wanted a bit o’ company, din’t I?” continued the man, unphased. “No fun watching a show by meself, ist?” The gills along his sideburns opened and closed as he spoke. What kind of sense did that make? Also, what the hell was his accent? Merman-cockney?
Was she hallucinating?
“I… you speak English?” she said, feeling stupid.
“Well, couldn’t resist meeting a sweet lil’ catch like youself, could I?” he continued. “I hafta say, you a beauty, aintcha?”
Despite the water’s cool, Kate felt the heat rise to her face as she realized exactly what “beauty” he meant. She suddenly had the horrible suspicion it wasn’t fish nibbling at her feet and legs earlier. A large fin bumped against her thigh, and she yelped. Though the merman continued watching the atmospheric display, she detected a smirk during one brief moment of illumination.
Oh, what the hell, she thought, resigning herself to madness. If she was hallucinating, what else could she do?
“Look, I sort of got stuck out here,” she replied, unable to think of anything else to say. “I need to cover up, so I can get out of the water and go home.”
“Cover up?” Now it was the merman’s turn to gape. “Why the bloody ‘ell ‘ou wanna doa thing like that for?” He dipped beneath the water, then came back up. “I mean, lookatcha!”
Kate bit her lip in frustration. Maybe she could just run past the kiddies. I mean, could streaking through a crowd of middle-schoolers really be worse than this?
Before she could form a reply, the merman disappeared beneath the water again. She stayed as still as she dared, hoping he wasn’t ogling her from below. After awhile, she began to wonder if he was coming back. Had she scared him off? She contemplated that streaking scenario again. Would these fireworks never end?
The merman suddenly emerged beside her holding, with an air of triumph, a soaking paisley beach towel. “There! That do?” he asked, handing her the sopping material, a knight bestowing his most treasured possession upon his lady.
“To dry off with?” asked a bewildered Kate.
The merman emitted a childish giggle. It was quite endearing, almost innocent. “Naw, sweets. I mean, you seem to wanna cover up them beautiful boobies and buttox and all dat. I still don’ unnerstand, but whatev’ you need, love.” The giant fin brushed against her thigh again.
“Uh, thanks…?” said Kate. “Why do you have a towel? Er…”
“‘Name’s Carl, sweets,” replied the merman. “I nicked it, dint I? People leave all things along the shore, don’t they? If you ever in the neighbor’ood…” He winked, slid gracefully beneath the water, and disappeared.
Kate waited for another thigh bump, which never came, and firmly refused to admit she was the tiniest bit disappointed. Maybe Carl wasn’t such a bad guy after all. He did bring her a towel, though she began to have different suspicions about her clothes’ disappearance. Still, it wasn’t every day she met a merperson. She smiled, wrapped the heavy towel around her body, and made her way to shore.
*This story was inspired by a photo prompt at the six minute story site. I decided this needed more time and editing. Since May 25th is Towel Day, I combined the photo prompt with my personal challenge to include something about towels and flashing, all in honor of Douglas Adams and #FridayFlash. I hope you enjoy the result!
*image courtesy of BigFoto.com