The Mermaid of Zennor

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4.

Inwardly, she was astounded at being able to identify abstract ideas and thoughts into comprehensible symbols. Or even sounds. She had pulled one of Matthew’s novels from the dresser: a book of cosmology somewhat eclipsing astronomy, with brief explanations of astrophysics. Every word tugged back a veil that clouded her mind. She traced the solar system illustration as the sun fled into the home.

Matthew drifted to sleep after some tea. He’d placed the painting on the kitchen counter. Morveren leapt up to the cracked open windows, where her clothes dried, peering up and out to the sky. She had tried to clean the gossamer dress as best she could, but it was still tattered at the hem. She slipped it back on and folded his shirts. Silently, she slinked out of the house and dashed to steal one last glimpse of winking stars.

Squeaking strings charmed her ears as she reentered. He perched on the couch in Breton stripes, his hair more wild than usual, strumming away. Jaimie was too involved in her meal at the moment to be aware of anything. After he’d fried up some eggs and hash, Matthew patiently taught her piano chords. She started off slow, grasping the unfamiliar shapes of the hand.

Matthew mentioned he needed to head over to his parents’ place soon. He explained his job, which was helping his mother create furniture and trinkets, not to mention the fairing biscuit side business she had. He also held some responsibility for church events.

“I don’t know if I want to continue in the church. There’s so many other things I want to try. Zennor’s my home, and my parents have made an easy life for me but I want to travel. I want to make my own way in the world.”

Morveren thought Zennor so splendid she didn’t even realize how much more there was to the earth. But she’d only come for music and then stayed for Matthew. What if he just disappeared? Before sadness swallowed her entirely, he swiveled to face her with eyes illuminated by excitement.

“What do you want to do?”

She paused, thinking. “I’d like to study the stars. And whatever’s beyond the Milky Way.”

“That’s a great field to go into. You should totally do that.”

“I don’t know. Where would you go?” she finally asked.

“Anywhere. Italy, Vietnam, Canada,” he listed. “If I stay in England, I’d move east or north. Not that I have the money right now. I don’t hate assembling and packaging Mom’s products, but it gets tedious and dull.”

Morveren furrowed her brow at the ivory keys, plucking away from memory. To him, she seemed pensive all of a sudden. He peered at his tiny clock and had ten minutes to spare. As he fitted on his shoes, he offered to introduce her another time.

“Okay.” She continued practicing.

He bustled in, fighting with the door. Ginger and cinnamon stung his senses. Over a dozen flat biscuits cooled on the stovetop. Mrs. Trewella flitted around the kitchen, switching on every fan and organizing piles of wood that desperately needed lacquer.

“Oh, thank God. Your father’s out to tea with the minister.”

He wandered to the lime green kettle, but water was already boiling. He poured them each a cupful. Holding one out to her, he asked for her attention, “Mum.”

They set out to paint an open frame headboard that resembled blooming flower petals. His mind was tangled with the conversation about his future. She talked on about a dream she had but he remained silent.

“What’s on your mind?”

He hesitated, not knowing how to approach.

“I’m thinking about moving.”

“Oh.” Her face dropped.

“Not anytime soon. I just think it’d be cool to travel if I ever got the opportunity.”

“Where are you thinking?”
“Somewhere east of the country,” he averted his eyes. “I don’t absolutely loathe your business, but I’d like to travel a lot, you know. I want to stay by the sea, though, if that’s possible.”

“Okay. I understand wanting to move from Cornwall. There’s St. Ives, where I used to vacation. Bristol seems lovely, Brighton and Hove if you want to really go east. I think it’s a great idea.”

He almost mentioned Morveren, but held his tongue.

“I still don’t know what I want to do career-wise. I could try music. There’s a ton of things on my mind I want to try.”

“Any place would pay well for a voice like yours. Take the boys with you and tour Europe.”

While the frame dried, they got going a mirror. Both had a love of culture and ended up discussing cities they’d always wanted to visit.

He made an effort to frequent there at least four times per week, although he could bring home unfinished decor if need be. Morveren almost wanted to visit out of sheer boredom. She idled around the house, strumming the guitar and fumbling on the piano. She could only read for so long before the astrophysics boggled her mind.

A fog shrouded Zennor throughout the day. She decided to walk Jaimie through town. Around a cottage and mill, Jaimie spotted a languid orange tabby and sprung to it. The cat perked its ears and jutted its head forward with curious eyes. Morveren held her back. She crouched, astounded by the cat’s outward intellect.

The minister and his wife had the same idea, strolling around after tea. They introduced themselves. The cat, Oliver, was theirs. Mr. Trewella wasn’t far behind; he pushed around the unkempt bushels. Recognizing Jaimie, he pressed

“You a friend of Matthew’s?”

“Yes. I’m new to town. He’s been so nice, showing me around today. He went to his mom’s and asked if I’d look after his dog.”

“He’s a good kid,” the minister’s wife added.

“He is. I’m supposed to meet him at Tinners before dinner,” she lied with ease.

He met her acquaintance, “I’m Ben Trewella.”

Heart banging in her chest, she shook his hand and stated her name. She searched for Matthew in his serious face, only finding a trace. Later, she sat herself outside of the pub, a bundle of frayed nerves. Just in case Mr. Trewella came around. Matthew laughed it off when his dad arrived with the tale; she stopped sweating when he appeared at her rescue there for dinner.

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