In Love with a Soldier
“Mmm…” The man said as he sipped his coffee. He had a thick salt-and-pepper mustache that soaked in his drink as well. He wiped his lips and his stache with a napkin and said, “This is the best coffee I’ve tasted.”
“I’d knew you like it sir,” said Abhilash. The two men were sitting outside in the open at a table. The weather was calm and the sun basked them in warmth. Abhilash had ordered a black coffee. It’s sweet aroma was intoxicating but he had something urgent to discuss. The man who was sitting across him was the head of a secret organization called the SOTS, otherwise known as the Secrets of the Sea. Abhilash had joined the organization not too long ago but he was as committed as any other member.
“So, what did you call me out here for?” The man said. He was aged. He had some wrinkles on his face along with his greying hair. But he still managed to keep his powerful vibe. He was tall for a man of his age and still as strong as he had been in his middle years.
“It’s about the girl, Alima. I really think she might be,” Abhilash lowered his voice to a soft whisper, “a mermaid.”
“Are you sure?” The man said quickly.
“I’m positive. At dinner, I had switched her drink with sea-water and ‘accidentally’ spilled it. She ran out of the restaurant faster the Gazelles I saw at my trip to the African savannas. And believe me, they’re fast.”
“But you also said she works as a marine biologist? How can she dive in the sea without growing a tail?” The man said and stroked his mustache.
“The wet-suits are water-proof.”
“I see,” said the man. “Well then, make sure to stay close to her. Bond with her, get her to trust you and she might reveal herself to you. And make sure to take and record some evidence as well. Abhilash,” The man put down his coffee cup and smiled. His eyes reflected his inner ambition and his vision. “If we have enough evidence, we can show the world. It can mean that there is an entire civilization, another world underneath us and we’ll have more to discover. You would be a hero.”
“What will we do with her if she really does turn out to be a mermaid?” Abhilash asked.
“We convince her to join us,” the man said and sipped the last drop of his coffee.
“And if she refuses?” Abhilash said. His fingers tapped his thigh nervously.
“There are other ways to get a woman to cough up,” the man said. Immediately, his cell-phone rang and he pulled it out of his pocket. He pressed a button and held it to his ear. “Dr. James. I see...I’ll be there as soon as possible.” He turned to Abhilash and said, “I need to go. Keep up the good work.”
“Thank you sir,” Abhilash said and took out his cash to pay for the coffee.
Before the man left, he turned his head to his son and said, “It’s nice to have my son join in on the research.”
“It’s been awhile since you’ve last referred to me as your son,” Abhilash let a grin grow on his face.
“Try to get used to it,” he said and he left.
“Alima, how did you build this place?” Garai observed the chamber. The walls were made of hard grey stone and it should’ve been completely pitch dark if it weren’t for the lit wall torches that brightened up the stone chamber in an veil of orange glow.
“It was always there. I just discovered it and gave it a bit of a makeover.” Alima said and opened her fridge. She took out two frozen fish and started preparing dinner.
“Make yourselves at home,” she said and gestured to her stone furniture. Her furniture was draped in dark cloths so that her chamber might have resembled a sanctuary.
“Home was never this dark,” Maria said and took a seat. Alima placed the baked fish on four plates and brought it over to the girls. The girls settled down and ate.
“This tastes really good.” Garai said and took bite a chunk of fish.
“Yeah, almost as good as my sister’s fish tacos,” Maria said.
Alima was glad that everyone was enjoying dinner, everyone except Victoria. Victoria hadn’t taken a bite.
“What’s wrong?” Alima asked.
“I’ve been thinking about the story you told me on our trip to your kingdom. What ever happened to the boy?”
“A boy?” Maria giggled. “This must be interesting.”
“I’d also wondered what you were doing at the United States at the time. Didn’t you say you were from the Arabian sea?”
This time Garai stopped eating and payed attention.
“It was a long time ago. It’s not important now.” Alima said and finished eating her fish.
Maria put her arm around Alima and said jokingly, “Come on now, I’m sure abuela Alima has some interesting stories, spill.”
“Fine,” Alima said. Her shoulders slumped because even his memory was a heavyweight in which she was forced to carry around her for all eternity. It crushed her body and her heart.
“I did get to see him again.”
Ever since Alima’s first encounter with him, Alima would swim as often as she could from her large pod in Arabia to the northern Atlantic waters of the Thirteen Colonies of the U.S. She didn’t know why she wanted to see him so badly. It was partly out of her curiosity and confusion on why a human would aid her. But alas, each time she swam there, she was disappointed that she could not find him. Had he forgotten her already? Or was the boy too scared to ever come back to the docks? It wasn’t until ten long years later Alima finally saw him again. And this time, it was he who found her.
Alima was hiding under the docks again. She had traveled far and wide just to reach there, but again, she saw no signs of him. She sighed and before she was about to dive back into the waters to get back to her homewaters, a friendly familiar voice greeted her.
“Hello there,” the boy said.
Alima quickly turned around and saw that it was a boy. It was the same boy that had rescued her ten years before. Alima’s eyes widened at the sight of him and she quickly submerged her body underwater. The boy kneeled on his knees on the wooden dock and lowered his head to speak directly to the waters. He knew she was still there.
“You have nothing to fear. It is I who should fear you.”
Alima rose from the waters. Their faces met an inch away from each other, and her wet nose met up with hiswarm nose. The boy had changed. He grew tall and strong. His brown hair had grown and was tied back in a pony-tail. His face grew longer too and sharper. But the best thing about him was that his eyes hadn’t changed, they were still the same as she had remembered them, deep blue and thoughtful. He had became a handsome young man.
“Do you remember me?” He asked.
Alima couldn’t understand a word he had said and cocked her head to the side in wonder.
“Right,” the boy laughed. “You can’t understand me, you don’t know english. Well then,” he pointed to himself and said, “I’m Matthew.” He made sure to enunciate his name slowly and clearly. “MA-THUHH-EW.”
Alima tried to say his name. “Maa...Maathh...Maatheww.”
Matthew nodded. “That’s very good. How about you?” Alima gave him another confused look and he said more slowly, “Yooouur naaamme.” Matthew pointed to himself first and said, “Me. Matthew. You?”
Alima had a hunch at on what he was asking her and she said, “Alima.”
“You have a very beautiful name.” Alima’s tail swooshed gently in the waters. She didn’t completely understand everything that he said but she loved it. Alima’s eyes darted to his unusual clothes. He was wearing a blue coat with a starched white shirt. And with his khaki trousers he wore long black boots. On his head, he wore a black hat. Alima tugged on his blue coat and Mathew said,
“I’m enrolling in the war. And this is called a uniform.” Mathew took off his black hat and placed it on top of Alima’s wet head. The hat was too big for her and it covered her eyes. “Even the hat is part of it.” Matthew took back the hat and said, “It’s time I serve my country.”
Alima didn’t understand what this ‘war’ was but she knew it meant he was leaving. For the very first time, she felt sadness. She didn’t want him to go. Mathew looked over his shoulder and then turned back and said, “I must be on my way. I’ll come back someday.” His blue eyes twinkled and his wide smile had so much confidence that it made Alima believe he was for sure coming back. The boy nodded.
“Wait for me. It won’t be long.”
And Alima’s heart was warmed up again. Alima watched him leave and her heart was overwhelmed by her yearning of him as she would have to wait for him once again. It wouldn’t be until four more years until they met again.
“How absolutely romantic! You fell in love with a soldier,” Maria said with glee. She was lying on Alima’s stone couch and Garai was listening intensely while perched on Alima’s night stand. Victoria was eager for more.
“What happened next?” Victoria said.
Alima glanced at her clock which hung on the wall from across from her. It was 11:00 p.m. “It’s getting late,” Alima said. “I have work tomorrow.”
In truth, Alima was tired from her long day. They’d been to Australia and back in less than a day. Mermaids were naturally fast and strong swimmers but swimming that far did take a bit of a toll on her body. She was now sore in every place, more sore than usual. She hadn’t been this sore since the times she’d swim from Arabia to the Atlantic to visit Matthew.
“Just one more story,” Victoria pleaded.
“He probably died in the war,” Garai scoffed and added in. “Shot maybe?”
Victoria and Maria stunned her with a dirty look.
“I’m joking!” Garai said.
“I wished he died in the war,” Alima muttered.
Victoria gasped and said, “Alima, I’m as much as a cold-blooded killer as any of these two, but I know for sure that sounds crazy, even for you. Didn’t you like the guy?”
“I need to sleep. You three can settle for the couch or sleep underneath my chamber.” Alima’s chamber had a pool that connected it from the ocean to the chamber. “Just remember to close the lid so my place doesn’t get flooded with water.
“I’m sleeping on the ocean floor,” Garai said and exited. She had opened the lid to the pool slightly and dived in. With a splash, she was gone.
“I’ll settle for the couch,” Maria said.
“Um…” Victoria looked around and saw there was no available place for her to sleep. Victoria was too big to fit on the couch but she didn’t want to sleep on the ocean floor because that would mean she would be near Garai and Garai annoyed her a lot. “I guess I get the floor.” Victoria curled up on the hard cold stone floor and slept.
Meanwhile, Alima had went to the other side of her chamber and lied down on her sea rock bed. Usually, she loved sleeping. She was surrounded by her wall of lit torches and her library was right next to her so she could just read herself to sleep, but this time was different. All she could think about was Matthew. It had been centuries but she’d missed him so much as though it was just yesterday she’d lost him. A chill went throughout Alima’s body and she curled up into a ball. She buried her face in her hands and although sirens couldn’t cry, her face heated up and she sobbed. His death was all her fault. Matthew had died because of her. Alima had killed him. Alima took a few deep breaths to calm down and she sighed. It was pointless to grieve over him now. There’s nothing that would change. Nothing.