Ally's Wish and Garai's Prize
“Wake up! Wake up! Our journey starts!” Alima marched around her chamber and bellowed loudly. The boom of her voice was louder than twelve alarm clocks combined. The girls groaned and whined as they got up from the couch and floor.
“We’re up,” Maria said, her thick dark brown hair a mess and her sandy sleepy eyes shut.
“Has everyone packed their things?” Alima said, full of energy.
“Your jokes aren’t funny,” Garai said. “What would we pack anyway?”
“Clothes of course. We’re going to be on land almost as much as in water,” Alima said and gasped. “Wait here.” Alima sprinted to a large wooden chest that was across the chamber and hastily lifted up the lid of the chest. As she dug through it, she coughed from the combination of stale air and dust from the chest.
“What are you looking for?” Maria went to her and crouched beside her. She swept a piece of her long brown hair from her eyes and tucked it behind a rose thorn in her hair.
“I’ve been waiting an awful long time to use this again.” Alima took out an old folded piece of paper from the chest.
“Paper?” Garai said.
The girls watched as Alima unfolded the paper slowly. It didn’t take long for the small paper to multiply in size. The girls oohed and awed at the map’s magnificent beauty and intriquent details.
“The exploration era was the peak of my life,” Maria said, her Caribbean blue eyes still glued to the map. “But I have never seen a map so superior.”
“I got it from a friend,” Alima said.
“Is it Mat_”
“Please don’t.” Alima cut off Garai sentence and the girls were silent. Victoria had said nothing the entire time. Alima realized she had made the atmosphere uncomfortable and laughed sadly. “Sorry,” Alima itched her face. She always did this when she felt awkward. It didn’t happen a lot but it did from time to time. “It...it kind of hurts.” Alima forced a smile and swiped up her bag packed of necessities from the table and said, “Let’s go. Ally and Freddy have already started. We’ll all eventually meet up.”
Alima dived out of their exit pool and the girls followed her move.
“This is totally cheating.” Ally squirmed in her seat in discomfort.
“C’mon,” Freddy playfully ruffled her head and said, “airplanes aren’t that bad.”
Both Freddy and Ally cringed as they heard a man who sat in front of them cough and wheeze while a little boy in the back kicked their backseat. Ally leaned her head back and closed her eyes. She hated planes as much as she used to hate swimming. On planes, you were forced to sit next to unbearable people like coughing old men, screaming babies, and of course, rotten kids. Ally was also bored to death from having been on the plane for six hours with nothing to do but looking out her window (which caused her to feel sick) or watch some unheard soap opera on the plane t.v. She wasn’t proud of it but the only thing she was able to resort to was whining.
“What?” Freddy didn’t look up from his word word search.
“What if we get to Amsterdam before the girls do? How will we ever find them?”
Freddy let out a soft chuckle and said. “If you can swim from the east Florida coast to the Great Barrier Reef and back, I’m sure they’ll get there just as quick.”
Ally let herself think and she turned to Freddy. Her right cheek was smushed against the airplane seat and she stared at her brother doing the puzzle. He was only missing two more words: chocolate and rainbow.
Freddy felt his sister stare at him and finally looked up from his word search. Freddy and Ally had always been a little different with her being energetic and hyper and him being laid back and aloof. But their differences could never have prevented him from understanding his sister. He always seemed to know what other people were feeling, especially if it was Ally.
“Is something wrong?” Freddy asked.
“Would Matthew be our uncle?” Ally said.
Freddy nodded. “Yeah, he would.”
“I wonder what he looked like.” Ally let a smile grow on her face. “I bet he’d look a lot like you.” Freddy cocked his head in amusement.
“What makes you think that?”
“I just know.” Ally shrugged.
“Sure, Ally.” Freddy let it slide. It seemed ridiculous. The way their grandmom had talked about Matthew was the same way one would mourn a hero. Freddy was anything but a hero. He wasn’t bold or a show off. He wasn’t sure if he had the heart for it either.
“I just wish I could meet him,” Ally said and gently rested her head on Freddy’s shoulder.
“But he’s dead,” Freddy said.
“Grandmom said that body was gone.” Ally argued quietly.
Freddy scoffed. “So what? You want think he’s some sort of zombie?”
“Maybe.” Ally said.
“You’re kidding,” Freddy said.
“No. If mermaids are real then so must be__”
WAHHHH! A baby cried.
“I WANT ICE CREAM!” yelled the boy behind them. His mother shushed him harshly and looked around in embarrassment. “I WANT ICE CREAM! ICE CREAM!” The kid slammed his feet on the back of Freddy’s chair and he yelped. The boy’s feet thumped vigorously and he screamed with hot tears in his eyes.
And right after the boy, the old man sitting in front of them sneezed loudly and sniffed. After a few seconds, he sneezed again and again. Soon, the whole plane was plagued by the chaotic symphony of annoying passengers.
Ally and Freddy slumped in their chairs and sighed when they realized they had yet, another five more hours until the plane would land in Amsterdam.
After eight hours of hard swimming and a few breaks, the four mermaids kicked their tails until they broke the surface of the water.
“That’s it! No more swimming!” Maria said and gasped. She clutched her abdomen in pain. Maria was cramping up big time. Her body was tightly curled up like a cooked shrimp and she began to sink down under the sea. Victoria had to plunge her arm in the water to pull her back up.
“This water…” Garai scooped up some of the opaque dark water and let the water dribble from the cracks between her fingers. “It’s so much colder than what I’m used to.”
“Well what did you expect?” Alima said and referenced to her map. “It’s the Celtic sea. The water’s cold in the north.” And it was true. Although Alima didn’t show it, she was cold. It wasn’t like her homewaters at all. Alima was starting to develop feelings of homesickness and Garai seemed to be in a bit of pain. “How much are you hurting?”
Garai shrugged and said, “I’ve gotten used to it. It just stings, that’s all.”
Alima still found it difficult to believe that Garai, a river mermaid, was swimming openly in the sea. It shouldn’t have been possible. A river mermaid swimming in the sea was like dumping your goldfish into the beach. She should’ve been crying out in pain, but she wasn’t. Alima lowered her voice into a whisper and leaned in to Garai’s small black ear and said, “What is it that you desire so badly that you are willing to go through so much pain for it?”
“It’s none of your business.” Garai said and left Alima to attend Maria.
Alima sighed. Sure she got the girls to work together as a team but it wasn’t likely they were going to be friendly to each other. Alima tried to think more positively. At least there was one person who seemed to be having fun Victoria was breaching exuberantly. That’s right, breaching. She was jumping out and back into the sea as a whale would. And each splash was so huge it was almost a mini-tidal wave.
“I miss the cold!” Victoria said when she finished her stunt. Alima was happy that Victoria was enjoying herself. Of all of her years, she had only visited the Celtic sea twice. She wasn’t sure why she didn’t visit more often. The Celtic sea was cold but the view of the U.K islands and the coast of France was absolutely breathtaking with its green earthy cliffs.
“We’re almost there.” Alima said. We have to keep on heading east to the English channel, and after that, the Strait of Dover and__” Alima stopped mid-sentence and shushed her friends.
“What’s wrong?” Victoria asked and looked around. She gasped. She saw what Alima had saw. “Duck,” Victoria said. Alima soundlessly submerged into the water, from her fin to her head. Victoria went next and so did Garai but Maria was confused on why they had to hide. Maria turned around and saw a large fishing ship that towered behind her.
“Oh,” she said. Maria’s lips curled into a mischievous smile.
Alima, Garai, and Victoria were hiding underwater. “Where is Maria?” Garai said. Victoria tilted her head up and saw Maria’s blue tail swish beneath the water’s surface.
“What is she doing?” Victoria said anxiously. “There’s men up there!”
“I don’t know,” Alima said and shook her head. “But I’ll go find out.”
“Us too,” Victoria and Garai said.
They quickly swam to the surface and were shocked at what they saw.
“Crikey! They’re two of them!” said a man. He was a tall black man with crooked teeth. His eyes widened and he pointed at Alima with a shaky finger. “Come quick Greg!”
Alima grabbed Maria by her blue fin with a tight grip and said, “What do you think you’re doing?”
Maria yelped from the pain of her fin and said, “I’m getting us a free ride. You’re a siren, help me. I can’t hypnotise them, but you can.”
Alima scowled and said with clenched teeth, “I don’t want to. That’s not how I do things. And it’s wrong!” Maria responded with a petty laugh.
“Don’t play innocent. It’s not like you haven’t done other things.” Maria wiggled her brows and Alima sighed. She had no choice. The man had already seen her. Alima looked up at the boat and saw that another man had gotten to the deck to check them out. He was breathing hard and laughed as he ran a hand through his hair.
“You know, Antoine, I thought you’d went bonkers for a second but you’re right!” The man cupped his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice and shouted from the deck. “HELLO YOU TOTTIE SEA-MAIDENS!” The man waved.
Maria jerked back, offended, and said, “Did he just call us tottie?”
“It means pretty,” Alima said. “We are near Wales after all.”
The man who had just spoken was breathing with great effort and wore a wide smile on his face as if this was a dream come true while his friend next to him was staring at them in disbelief.
“CAN YOU SPEAK?” The man shouted.
Alima turned to Maria and winked. “Watch how it’s done.” Alima shouted, “AYE SIR! AND MAY I SAY, YOU DON’T LOOK SO SHABBY YOURSELF!”
“THANK YOU!” Alima said. “UM...CAN I ASK YOU A TEENSY FAVOR?”
The man shrugged. “SURE!”
“ME AND MY FRIENDS NEED A LIFT!” Alima voice was starting to hurt from all the shouting.
“WHERE TO, MISS?” The man asked.
“AMSTERDAM WOULD BE NICE!” The head of the Rhine river started in Amsterdam. There, the girls could just follow the river and hopefully find the right castle where the next clue awaited them. Alima’s heart fluttered with excitement.
“COME ABOARD!” The man said and ran across the deck. He tapped his hand on the metal ladder that was attached to the side of the fishing boat. Alima gave him a sheepish smile and lifted her dark-grey tail to show them.
“I’M AFRAID WE DON’T HAVE THE LEGS TO CLIMB!” The man rubbed his chin and snapped his fingers. He threw down a large fishing net. Alima gestured for Maria to go first and went back underwater to explain to Victoria and Garai what they were going to do. The man pulled them up one at a time to the deck where they flopped on the deck and dried off. When they dried off, they sprouted legs as usual. The girls quickly covered their bodies with the fish net.
“You’ve got any spare clothes?” Victoria asked. The man didn’t answer and his friend was silent as well. The man was too busy goggling at Garai who was greeted him with a frown.
“Guess who’s in love?” Maria muttered.
Garai smiled with malice and chanted a spell. Seaweed then popped out from the sea and wrapped itself around the man. The man was caccooned and hung upside down. The man shrieked and his friend desperately tried to shred the seaweed but it was no use. Garai left without the net to cover herself had walked away proudly with her chin up high.
Alima ripped through the seaweed cleanly with her sharp teeth and the man fell onto the deck. “Sorry,” Alima apologized. “I’m not sure what’s wrong with her.”
“That’s alright,” said the man that was just cursed by Garai. He held out his hand to shake to the three girls. “I’m Greg. And this is my best chap, Antoine.”
Antoine laughed. It was apparent that he was a bit anxious. His body jittered. “I can’t believe it. We have real sea-maidens on our deck!”
“I know!” said Greg. “We should chat! There’s some fish if you lassies want__” Greg didn’t get to finish before all the girls ran off to eat. All the girls, except Garai who slowly followed them.
Greg and Antoine had given the girls some old t-shirts to wear and they all sat down to talk. Antoine was trying hard to make conversation but he never really gotten his words out right. On the other hand, Greg was baffled at how much the girls ate. Within ten minutes, half of their newly caught fish was gone.
“Your cod is amazing,” Maria said with her mouth full of raw fish.
“Your coalfish is even better,” Victoria said.
“I love all of it,” Alima said.
Greg laughed nervously. “Um...thanks. So, what are you sea-maidens doing here?”
“We’re on a mission,” Maria said.
“To save the princess,” Alima said.
“We don’t care much for her though.” Victoria said.
“Yeah, the prize is the thing that counts.” Maria said.
Greg and Antoine exchanged looks as if telepathically saying, I have no clue. Greg then coughed and said, “Is your friend over there going to eat?”
“She’ll be fine,” Victoria said and continued eating. “She’s probably in a bad mood or something.”
Greg took a deep breath and put on a face of determination. He picked up a dead fish and walked over to Garai despite the girls’ warnings. “Hey,” he said. “I brought you some fish.” He held out the fish to her but she didn’t even bother to look at him. “I’m sorry if I did something to offend you.” Greg was beginning to feel foolish. It was like he was talking to nobody. He tried again. “I’m giving you a ride. The least you could do is talk with me.”
Garai mumbled a soft thanks.
Greg sat down beside her and knudged the fish towards her. “Please eat.”
“I only eat freshwater fish.” Garai said without looking at him.
Greg sighed. He never was good with women. “What did I do wrong?”
This time, Garai turned to face him and said, “Nothing.”
“Then why are you mad at me?”
“You should stick to your own species, and I, mine.”Garai’s voice began to break and she got up to go away.
“Stay. I won’t judge you.” Against Garai’s urge to run away, she stayed. “You’re talking about you, right?”
Garai sighed and hit the back of her head against the boat. Her eyes reddened but she could not cry. She wished she did, but mermaids couldn’t. It made their pain unbearable. And despite the pain, she laughed. But her laugh was bitter and painful. “You should know I already love someone. I’m not interested in a relationship in the moment.”
“Okay,” Greg simply said.
“You’re not upset?” Garai asked.
“I barely know you,” Greg turned to her and smiled. “I did fancy you though.” Greg batted an eye and said, “So who is the lucky laddy?””
“What is a laddy?”
“Well he is far from a boy,” Garai said.
“An older man, eh?” Greg said.
Greg’s smile dropped as she expected. “Oh.”
“We loved each other when we were young and I refuse to love anyone else.”
“He’s human, right?”
“Oi, he’s going to be gone soon,” Greg said gently.
“No he isn’t.” Garai said quickly. “Once we find the princess, the queen shall give me an elixir of youth so that we may be together for a few more decades.”
“Don’t call me sweetie!” Garai snapped.
“I’m sorry,” Greg bowed his head down. “But is this what he wants?”
Garai was silent. She knew Greg was right. He even told her himself that he was looking forward to passing on. At first, Garai thought he was just saying that to comfort her but she remembered how he had tilted his head up to the ceiling and whispered, I’m coming home. Garai’s body shook and she sobbed. Her eyes were still dry but she she whimpered.
“I don’t want him to go!” she said. Greg wrapped an arm around her and patted her on the back.
“I don’t want-I-I don’t!” Garai sobbed with dry eyes.
“Let it all out,” Greg said. “You deserve to cry, to grieve.” Greg’s heart ached just by sympathizing with her. He realized that, human or not, everyone had to go through life the same way. We all lose, we grieve, we suffer. But that was just life, despite how long you lived, whether it be one-hundred or three-hundred.
Garai’s crying began to lessen and he continued to pat her back as the hours passed.