Garai's Hot Shower & Alima's Banquet
Garai had made a mistake. How huge? It was sort of bad. The girls were counting on her to transport them to Africa...not a shower. The water was running and misty steam puffed from the shower chamber. Hot water from the shower head drenched Garai and upon contact, her legs fused. Her jeans ripped. She was now in mermaid form. Her long grey catfish tail flopped and she fell to the shower floor.
“Eww, Garai! Your tail is touching me!” Victoria cringed and tried to back away but it quite impossible with seven people crammed together in a shower. Garai sighed. Being a river mermaid sucked. It was a lot more easier to transform since freshwater was everywhere. But Garai was special. She could also transform in sea-water. She could live anywhere.
“Where are we anyway?” Phoebe asked.
Garai was afraid to answer. The truth was that while she was chanting her spell, she wasn’t exactly focusing properly. Two days ago, Garai had swapped numbers with Greg, a British fisherman who’d been a listening ear when Garai needed it. When she’d called Greg again when she was upset after her fight with Phoebe, Greg told her a hilarious joke about three sailors at a bar. For some reason, at the moment of her spell casting, the joke suddenly popped into her mind and now here they were at Greg’s shower.
“I can try again. “ Garai said. Garai concentrated once more. She imagined her home in the Zambezi river. She remembered its waterfalls and it’s curves and rapids. The water from the showerhead collected and as soon as a portal was formed. It was all working fine until the shower door opened. Everyone gasped. Standing there half-naked with nothing but a green towel around his wait was Greg.
“Oh, hello Garai. I see we meet again.” He beamed a smile that made Garai heat up. And it was definitely not from the hot water. Her group of allies stared at her with annoying smirks on their faces. Garai wished she could wipe their annoying smirks off their faces but she was already stunned.
“Greg.” Alima said. Garai was thankful For Alima’s nonchalant manner. “Sorry about the intrusion. We had a little accident. You know how difficult magic can be?”
“I can imagine.” Greg said, thought Garai found it odd that even though he was speaking to Alima, he was looking at her.
Garai could hear Phoebe whisper to Ally. “Who’s the blond? He’s cute.” Immediately, Garai wanted to use her magic to summon a flood but she refrained.
“I’m afraid we must be going. Tell Antoine I said hi.”
“Sure thing sweetheart! ’Right after he gets back. He’s with his fiance to be.” Greg winked. “I’ll be sure you all get invited to the wedding.”
“Alright. We’re going to go now.” She saw the water portal shrinking. Garai wondered why she was so nervous. “I’ll call you. Right now, we need to go.” Garai used her magic to move the portal closer to the floor (since she couldn’t stand with a tail) and the rest of her allies jumped through after her. Greg was alone with his steamy shower.
Greg smacked his lips and nodded. “Okay Garai. I’ll call you.” And he took his shower.
Fortunately for them, they finally made it to Africa, specifically, the Zambezi river. They landed in the deeper part of the river so aside from Garai, the rest of her allies were on the verge of drowning. Garai rolled sighed. Sea mermaids, she thought to herself. And humans (Freddy). They really needed to learn how to swim. Garai dove into the crisp waters and collected all six of her allies. They coughed dramatically and shivered as they crouched on the grass beds near the river.
“S-So c-cold!” Ally shivered and rocked herself back and forth.
“We’re in the wilderness! We’re going to die!” Maria said and turned her head side to side to scout for any dangers. “I heard there are these ferocious creatures called Hippos.”
“I should’ve packed some swim trunks.” Freddy said and poked at his wet clothes.
“Can you all quit whining?” Garai scolded. She lifted her body from the river and onto a grass bed and waited for her tail to dry off. “My goodness, I never expected for you all to be such weaklings.”
“Cut us some slack.” Victoria said with an icy glare. “How about you explain why we ended up at Greg’s shower?”
Irritation itched Garai all over. Her hot anger dried up her tail and she marched to Victoria “Do you have a problem with me or something?”
“Yeah, I do.” Victoria and Garai were now face to face. No one could tell who was more frightening.
“Now girls,” Freddy said nervously. He really didn’t want to be caught in the middle of a mermaid fight. Who know’s what will happen? “We’ve need to focus on more important things.”
That seemed to distract the two from each other. “Freddy’s right,” Alima said. “I’m guessing we have about a day or two, maybe even three if we’re lucky before the scientists reach us.”
“So let’s get this straight,” Maria said. She seemed to have recovered from her case of the chills and melodrama. “The scientists are after you because you careless enough to have a chip implanted in your neck.” Alima nodded. “How the heck does that happen?”
“Abhilash.” Ally said. “That was his name. And there was a young woman with him too. Dr. Queen.”
“That’s him.” Alima said and sighed. “I can’t believe I was so stupid not to have known__”
“It’s not your fault.” Freddy patted her shoulder. “That chip is tiny. I didn’t know chips could be made that small.”
“Still, it wasn’t you that killed those agents. It was your creation.” Phoebe’s eyes sparkled pink as if she was replaying her flashback once more.
Alima nodded. “Yes. It’s true. I created him. It was...a very bad accident.”
They heard a grunt from behind them. Behind them was an a family of enormous purple hippos who were definitely not happy about them invading their territory. The hippos’ beady round eyes gave them a warning that said you have less than a minute. They snorted and pawed their flat feet on the muddy ground. Their jiggly bellies vibrated.
“In the river.” Garai said in a low voice. Her allies did not hesitate. They all swan-dived into the river and because they couldn’t swim (with the exception of Garai), they allowed the current to sweep them away. Luckily for them, the hippos were satisfied and did not decide to hop in the river for an epic chase down. Their heads bobbed on the river’s surface.
“W-What was that?” Phoebe asked.
“Those were Hippos. And you’ll be seeing them a lot around here.” Garai said and looked around. She could hear Phoebe whimper.
“Yeah, I guess you’ve never heard of those back in Greece,” Garai turned around to look at her. Phoebe was shaking and it wasn’t from the chilly morning waters of the Zambezi.
“It’ll be fine,” Garai made sure to sound more confident than she felt. “I’ll get us to my village. There’s a place we can stay.”
“Yes! Yes! Human civilization!” Ally said as she floated on her back lazily down the river.
“That’s good.” Alima said. She tried to copy Ally. Her neck was about to cramp up so she figured lying on her back would fix it. “So Garai, how much longer until we reach your village?”
Garai scratched her fuzzy head. “Probably by sundown.” The sun was still high in the sky so it was going to a long while.
“Why can’t you use your magic?” Maria asked. Out of all of them, she looked the most miserable. It must’ve been the first time she’d entered water and not sprout a tail. Legs were ever so tiresome.
“We’re already in the river. The spell only takes us to our chosen waterplace.”
“There MUST be a way to speed this up.” Maria whined.
“Nope, no more spells.” Garai shook her head.
“Eh, on the bright side, we can use this time to exchange information.” Alima said. She switched her position from on her back to feet first again. “Um...about my creation.” Alima had to look away. It was so uncomfortable, sharing her secret. She had to hide it for so long. The shame almost hurt as much as the guilt. She turned to Freddy, Phoebe, and Ally. They hadn’t heard of the first parts of the story. “Any of you girls mind catching those three up on what happened?” Victoria volunteered. Alima was surprised by how much detail Victoria had remembered. She really did pay attention. When Victoria was finished, Ally and Freddy shared a bizarre expression. The edges of their mouths curved and their eyebrows crinkled.
“We have a uncle named Matthew.” Freddy said. “I know it’s weird but with our grandmother being a mermaid and all…”
“He died by an infection. Something bit him.” Ally’s voice trailed off. It was clear now what bit him.
Alima breathed a shaky sigh. “Before he came back from the war, I had already assimilated into Jamestown. I learned English. I worked for your grandmother as a handmaiden.”
September 4th, 1783
“Alimaaaaa,” Mrs. Smith sang. It was the first time Alima had seen Mrs. Smith so happy. She rushed from her bedroom and ran to Alima with open arms and spun Alima around until she was close to vomiting.
“Mrs. Smith. I see you’ve gotten the news.” Alima said as she tried to keep her balance from the spinning room. A bright smile lit Alima’s face. “The war is finally over. America is now an independent nation.”
“Yes child.” Mrs. Smith said. Her long blonde hair was pinned into a neat bun that bounced to her every movement. “Not only that, but the soldiers are coming home!”
“Your son,” Alima said. Her heart raced. It had been four apprehensive years since she last saw him. He was the very reason why she was here, why she had left her people. Now that it was time for her to meet him again, her mind flooded with doubts. What if he didn’t remember her? What if he had perished in battle? What if he didn’t want to see her? But she pushed away these thoughts. Even if all her doubts come true, Alima would have no regrets. It was nice having to go through such a drastic change. She was living as a human. Life seemed more quicker and more fulfilling than the slow schedulicity life of a siren-where she would spend the day finding prey for her people.
Mrs. Smith took Alima’s hand in hers and said, “Come with me this noon. There’s a banquet being held for the soldiers and everyone in town is invited. You can meet my son. I assure you miss, he’s a lovely boy.” Mrs. Smith had these shining blue eyes that were impossible to resist. How could she ever say no?
“Of course.” Alima said.
“Excellent!” Mrs. Smith chuckled. “Now let’s go to the tailor. This is a banquet after all.” And off they went.
The sun was low in the horizon and was deeply orange in hue. It was Autumn. Crunchy leaves were scattered all over the ground and up in Virginia, the crisp air made the long-sleeved dress Alima wore more bearable but her high-pinned hair was still uncomfortable.
“Was the hair really necessary Mrs. Smith?” Alima poked her hair with an index finger and Mrs. Smith slapped her hand away.
“You’ll mess it up! Besides, you look so beautiful without your hair in your face.” Alima sighed and left her hair alone. Although she was uncomfortable, Alima had to admit that it felt nice dressing up finely. She wore a long-sleeved lavender dress that touched the floor. And her sleeves flared out at her wrists. The bows on her corset added an elegant touch. They were under a white pavilion along with a hoard of hundreds of other folks that have traveled a long way to celebrate the coming home of the soldiers. There were so many people that it was hard to breathe and the man next to her was treading on Alima’s new shoes.
The announcer made his way to the center of the pavilion. He wore a blue court suit with whimsical silver linings. The man was very short and so he brought a wooden stool with him. As he stood on the stool, he said, “We are here today to celebrate the coming of our brave soldiers who fought courageously on the battlefield.” He paused so the audience would clap. “But you all must understand that some of our fine soldiers have not made it home. So can we please take a moment of silence to honor the souls of these brave men.” After a moment of silence, he continued his speech. “Now that we had our moment of silence, let’s get on to the our fellow soldiers, shall we?”
The soldiers lined up in a long line that ended far from the pavilion. Alima felt a bit sorry for them. They must’ve been hot in the afternoon sun in their uniforms. She searched the line for Matthew but couldn’t make him out from the numerous men.
“Daniel Adams!” The first soldier stepped up and bowed. The names went on and on.
“Samuel Anderson! Benjamin Brown! Tyler Charles!” After the first hour, the announcer finally got to the ‘S’ section.
“Regenald Sader. Damon Salvator!” Mrs. Smith and Alima held their breath. “MatThew Smith!” Matthew waved to the audience. When he spotted Mrs. Smith, his face lit up brighter than the sun. Mrs. Smith began tearing up. Just when Matthew was about to exit the center so the next soldier can come up, he spotted Alima. His eyes widened and Alima could tell exactly what he was thinking, son of a gun. It’s her. Alima scratched her high hair. Well, this was interesting. He did remember her.
After the name calling was finished, everyone went out with their soldier to eat. There was a long line of tables. Mrs. Smith had ran to her son and they were happily conversing. Alima watched them across the table. She chatted with the soldiers whose families hadn’t shown up. But all her focus was on Matthew. She and Matthew had been giving each strange looks throughout the whole banquet.
“May I say, I can’t help but notice how exotic you are,” said the soldier next to her. “May I ask where you’re from?” Alima finally snapped out of her trance and answered him.
“My father’s a merchant from Arabia. Excuse me,” Alima rubbed her cheek in embarrassment. “I’ve been a little disorientated.”
“Are you sick?” said the soldier. His shaky hand moved forward to lightly touch her forehead. Alima studied him. Judging by appearance, he was about forty. He had so deep etches on his face and the most down-to-earth brown eyes Alima had ever lain eyes on.
“I don’t think so.” This time, Alima felt Matthew watching her hard but she ignored it.
“So who were you hoping on seeing?” The soldier asked her.
“An old friend.” Alima smiled.
“You should be talking to him, not me.” Said the soldier. He laughed. Alima knew for sure that he had once been a father. He had such a cozy aura.
“I would. But I wouldn’t know what to say.” Alima shrugged. “I’ve never good with people.” She was used to hunting them down but she kept that silent.
“Men are simple.” The man said. The man shifted his eyes towards Matthew who was laughing with his mother. “That’s him, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Alima felt her guts twist into knots.
“I knew it.” The man said. “While at the camps, I overheard him telling his buddies about the time he’d saved a mermaid.”
I’m not a mermaid. I’m a siren. Alima wanted to say. She wasn’t worried. She doubted the soldier truly believed she was a mermaid. “Really?”
“Yep. We all laughed. ’Thought he was one wild story teller. But the boy just kept bringing it up.”
“What else did he say?”
“He needed to see her again. He’s quite a strange one, huh?” The man sipped his wine.
That brought a sad smile to Alima’s lips. For a moment, she was grateful sirens and mermaids couldn’t cry. Her tears would’ve filled the entire ocean.
“So are you two friends?” Alima tried to keep her voice steady.
“He was the only man who’d talk to me at the camps.” The soldier said and sipped his wine glass, only to find out that his glass was empty. Alima giggled. She nodded to him.
“Let’s go have a talk with him.” “Together, “ she added.
The soldier nodded. “By the way, I’m Frank.” And he extended his hand. Alima shook it.
“Alima. Now let’s go.”
They went up to where Matthew and Mrs. Smith were sitting. There were no more seats left so she whispered to the two men who sat across them. “May we sit here, please?” She put so much meaning into her siren’s spell that the men got up right away.
“Sure thing, ’miss.”
They sat down. “Hello Mrs. Smith.” Alima said. “I’d like to introduce you to a new friend of mine. This is Frank.” Alima pulled his chair closer to her with one arm. Being a siren, she was far more stronger than an average human man so Frank almost toppled out of his seat.
“Hello m’am.” Frank took her hand and briefly kissed it.
“Alima.” Matthew said with a secretive smile.
“The famous Matthew.” Alima said with the same smile.
Mrs. Smith raised a brow. “You two have already met?”
“Certainly.” Matthew said, his eyes fixed on her. “And we have much to talk about.”
“I couldn’t possibly agree more.” Alima said and turned to look at Frank who was shyly picking at leftover food. “But first, let’s eat.”