The Mermaid of Zennor

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6.

Her week was up. She felt it as soon as she rose. Her anxiety didn’t need to choke her, for the oxygen was already constricting her airway, but held a tight grip on her lungs. Regardless, her frenzy to escape caused a massive storm brewed above. She floundered on the living room floor, her legs drying out rapidly. Matthew woke to a strangled noise. He bolted up and froze at the sight of Morveren, half nude and crying. As if hit by a lightning bolt, he understood in abstract thought the weeklong spell and her need to depart.

Waves violently slammed into the bluffs, spraying the perimeter. The sea, in addition to King Llyr, wanted back its jewel. In a split second, Matthew gathered her in blankets and flew out. The entire time he felt afraid he’d spill her, but his legs somehow seemed to know where to go. Hurriedly, he found a spot where he could deposit the mermaid at a safe height. He gently dumped her into the turbulent waters, then sank down to his knees, severely trembling. His mind and heart raced side by side.

All the while, he lost his footing on the slippery rocks and tumbled in. The sea swallowed him and he believed he was dead. Morveren in sheer terror willed the sea and wind to spit him out. When that wasn’t enough, she shot like a bullet in his direction. A wave ejected him onto a boulder, heaving and bawling. Until he believed his legs wouldn’t fail, he rested there.

Matthew layed low for a week, sipping on gin; he was still in disbelief of the fluke poking out of the blankets and near death experience. Merrymaid tales weren’t scarce in Cornwall, nor was the paraphernalia; most wrote it off a tourist attraction. Mermaids, most of whom were known to incite tempests and brew kettles of trouble, were inevitably interwoven with Cornwall. And it all made sense. Her behavior and things she said. He tried to move past the strange mermaid experience, not wanting to believe in any life form besides humans. Thankfully, his voice never wavered in church despite being so shaken.

About three weeks later, a familiar pretty head peered around to meet his gaze in St. Senara from the same exact spot. Involuntarily, he sucked in his breath. Her eyes faltered in guilt and she pulled herself back, facing straight ahead for the rest of the service. He averted his eyes to the back wall, heart beating at his ribs.

Afterwards, he chased her down. She suffered from an outburst of hiccups again, which gave her away from one of the lanky graves. Matthew called to her, more afraid than angry.

“Did I see what I thought I saw?”

“Yes. You can’t tell anyone,” she shot back.

“I-Then how?” he eyed her legs.

“Can I explain over lunch?”

“Does this mean I get three wishes or something?”

Autumn had just begun to tumble over the hills and whisper warm tones to the trees. It was that time for Tinners, everyone’s favorite watering hole, to import cider. People huddled around the hearth, squirming away from the door.

“No,” Morveren giggled.

She divulged about her father, leaving out his royal status, the spell he cast and the few pods surrounding the island. She hunched over her crabmeat, eyes glued to her plate. In turn, he told her how people grew up with legends about merry maids, merrows and selkies. They were notorious for curses and nasty weather. To Zennor, and all of Cornwall, mermaids weren’t to be messed with anymore than sharks. Not that Matthew mentioned that, but she took the hint.

“I’m not here to hurt anyone. I’m not bad.”

“I never thought so. Didn’t you save my life?”

“Maybe,” she remarked, “you saved mine first, so I owed you one. You’re taking this really well.”

“I’m trying to.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Why’d you pick Zennor of all places?”

“I heard interesting music.”

For a couple years, she’d return at least once a month, always returning to Matthew Trewella, valuing their friendship over all the gold in the earth. No one made sense but Matthew. When it was time for her to leave, he’d find picked flowers lounging on the table and an empty living room. He traveled to Veor and Pendour Cove in his free time. As soon as his feet hit the sand, his first thought was always Morveren. Her shining image never failed to gleam in his mind’s eye. They both held this shiny red thing called love in their hearts. Although neither spoke much of it, it was there. And over time, it faded to a tender pink. A perfect, selfless rosy color.

Festivals and holidays were celebrated with vigor. Seasons were painted. Zennor was kept alight with the enigmatic lady’s sprightliness. Although always elegantly dressed, she loved a good stripe and ended up with her own set of clothing. Both were seen around in each other’s shirts and coats.

Matthew and Morveren were believed to be a couple, which was neither correct nor incorrect. They both loved each other, wholeheartedly. Even though it could be difficult. Morveren had once said, “I’ve seen you at your best and worst, and I love both.” Matthew had a tendency to shy away from affection, but found it easier this time; he always melted at her kind words, and also was impressed with her boldness. He had quieter ways of expressing it.

Like the sea itself, being with Morveren cleared Matthew’s head. He was deciding future plans while Morveren was barely keeping up with the constant back and forth of land and sea. He indicated he wanted to move, and Morveren mused on how much she adored Zennor’s seaside charm.

“You could stay. I could help you find a job.”

“I can’t stay. My entire life is down there,” she reasoned. When he didn’t speak, she told him, “My world’s a much nicer place with you in it.”

“Likewise.”

He massaged his neck, brainstorming.

“Are you mad?”

“No. Morveren, you’re so good to me, but I don’t want you to miss out on things because of me. Or because of your family.”

“Matthew, I want to go wherever you go. I could never love anyone as I have loved you.”

“Don’t let me tether you here,” he scolded, but his face softened. “You can go anywhere to study space and build an amazing career. If that’s what you want, talk to your dad about it.”

“I don’t know what I want. But I can figure it out wherever I go. I want to be with my best friend.”

He looked ready to cry.

“You’re deciding to stay with me? It’s a big step.”

“I already stay with you,” she laughed. “But yes. If you’ll let me.”

“You sure?”

She rolled her eyes.

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