As with all good things they must come to an end but this new and most precious memory would stay in Ben’s mind for the rest of his life and be one of those treasured moments he could call on to make his heart feel fantastic. His daughter called him Da Da. Recognition and a name. She could tell even from so many miles away that on the other end of the phone was her Da Da. She knew it was Ben that she was talking to just by the sound of his voice. (Now what Ben did not know was that as soon as she got off the phone and crawled over to the house cat, Kodiak, she held him by his furry tail and called him Da Da ...so please don’t burst Ben’s bubble okay???)
Ben cleaned up the party plates and glasses from the previous evenings ‘swaray’ with Agnes the following morning ...who wore sunglasses the whole time and swore under her breath. Seems it was a good red wine for Agnes and she sang and toasted Ben, Aubrey and Zara with every sip. Ben gave her the day off to recover after the reception area was cleaned and then Ben went to make himself a coffee from the coffee machine. Now this coffee machine was almost exclusively run and operated by Agnes who was now sleeping off four tap dancing elephants in her skull.
Ben stood in front of this huge shiny metallic looking octopus that he really didn’t know how to use and was wondering if a cold glass of milk would be a better substitute? His pride and ego would not let it get the better of him so he twisted a handle and a jet of scolding hot steam hit him Fair Square in the crutch. His hands could not turn the handle off fast enough as he pulled his scolding hot zipper away from his nether regions. That was obviously not the right handle. Thankfully his testicles made him stop trying every single handle of the metal octopus and head on into the kitchen for that milk instead. It seemed the safer option. So now he was sporting a very large damp patch in the front of his pants while holding his milk and shortbreads and none too gracefully he went outside to drink and eat them in silence.
Ben walked around to the place where he went in swimming and sat down on a huge rock. He didn’t spill a drop of his milk and only lost half of a shortbread biscuit in mid dunk when he thought he saw something in the water that looked like a mermaid. The soaked shortbread sunk to the bottom of his glass and was retrieved in one big swill with the tipping of the glass into a vertical position so the contents could slide down the glass and into Ben’s mouth. Upon straightening up and looking at the water he looked into the blue eyes of Zillath who was watching him intently, with her head turned to the side still trying figure out this land creature.
Ben bowed his head to her in respect and then said.........‘Good morning Queen Zillath. Guess what......my daughter called me Da Da today.’
‘I am happy for you but I thought your name was Ben,’ said Zillath in a voice riddle with questions.
‘Yes, I’m sorry, my name is Ben your majesty but my daughter called me Dad for the first time and I am just a bit happy about that.’
‘I see...no...I don’t. Can you explain the name to me please?’ said Zillath holding both of her webbed hands out of the water in front of Ben.
‘Um, let me see,’ said Ben putting down his empty glass on the rock next to him. ‘She knows that I am her father, her dad and I look after her. Do you have children?’ said Ben with a small smile on his face.
‘Yes I have little Merrows but they don’t come up here because it’s not safe because you land creatures can be rather dangerous.’
‘Yes we can, I agree, but at the same time Lanthe has a good set of choppers in her head and I am sure she is no fun to watch eat anything,’ said Ben making his fingers look like teeth in the front of his head as he talked to Zillath.
‘Yes she is one of the best guards I have to protect me so be careful how you move around me or you might lose an arm...quickly,’ and Zillath pointed to Lanthe and Cleodora watching the proceedings just at the edge of the Dx4H. At Zillath’s waving hand they joined the conversation standing either side of their Queen and casting diligent eyes over Ben as they talked. Lanthe smiled and she really shouldn’t have because Ben moved back a little on his rock at the sight of her teeth. Her choppers were mood killers definitely. Cleodora was unmoved and her face remained emotionless, cold and ready to strike out to defend her Queen.
‘Hello ladies nice of you to join your highness and I,’ said Ben smiling at them.
‘I have to say again how sad I was to learn of your husband’s death because of the reckless behaviour of a ghost who was trying to kill me. My heart goes out to you Queen Zillath,’ said Ben and he put his hands together as if in prayer to her.
‘Thank you Ben, your honesty and sincere language, it is dually noted,’ and Zillath bowed her head to Ben as if to say thank you.
‘Queen Zillath if there is anything I can do in return to help you just let me know okay. I have a mate who has a boat and we can get things moved for you if you want?’
‘You are an interesting creature Ben and for a while I was extremely threatened by you and because of my husband’s death I was intent on taking your life because of his death.’
‘How about now?’ Ben said reaching for his glass as the only form of protection he had on the rock.
‘Put the glass down Ben, I did not mean to scare you, and yes we may need your help one day.’
‘Oh good....’ said Ben nervously but with a little giggle that denoted he was comfortable talking to the Queen at last.
Out of the corner of Ben’s eye he saw Hambone stick his head from around the corner of the front entrance to see where his friend was and he growled. Instantly Cleodora and Lanthe darted to the back of the Queen and protected her. ‘Hambone settle down mate, these people are friends!!!’ said Ben in a loud voice and at once Hambone dropped his head and floated slowly over to Ben’s side. Both Cleodora and Lanthe followed Hambone’s progress toward Ben and drifted around Zillath until they were in front of Zillath and Hambone was by Ben’s side. A slightly jittery party all around and tense with any movement on Hambones behalf greeted with small aggressive sounds from both guards. Ben wished he could pat Hambone and his hand hit fur and skin instead of drifting right through to the ground to ease his protective urges as well.
Zillath stared intently at Hambone as he watched her guards watching him while Ben and Zillath continued their conversation on all topics about marriage; children, law, Amazing and Graceful history and how many Merrows lived in the Dx4H. It was very enlightening for all parties, even if Hambone, Cleodora and Lanthe kept their respective distances. Hours flew past and in no time at all Ben was inside into his diving gear and with his flippers on, flapping back outside, down the path to the water, with small white bubble pacing his face while wearing goggles as he swam alongside three mermaids. His heart was soaring and his flippers working overtime trying to keep up with these three ladies who glided through the water around Amazing and Graceful so many times he lost count and almost forgot to check his air tanks.
Ten minutes remained when Ben pointed to the surface close to the stone steps to bring his swimming adventure to a close before he ran out of air. Zillath smiled and followed Ben to the steps where she launched herself out and on to the first step to converse with him before she left.
‘Thank you for your company in and out of the water Ben. I have learned many things from you today and I will return in two days to further our education.’
‘Does it take you a day to get down to your home ...because it is really deep?’
‘Yes, our home is a long way down but I have a reason to return now so the journey and the distance are worth the knowledge if you understand me.’
‘I do and thank you for swimming with me,’ and then he looked at Cleodora and Lanthe. ‘Thank you for not eating me,’ he said smiling at them and for the first time a small grin appeared on Cleodora’s face. Ben smiled back.
He took the flippers off his feet and put them by his side. He lowered the air tanks onto the stone step and made a mental note to put them on refill once he got inside. His newfound friends and royal mermaid all waved goodbye to him and smiled. Ben hoisted up his tanks and flippers onto his shoulders and went up the steps. Once he reached Lamb Shanks kennel he looked toward the Dx4H and was witness to Cleodora and Lanthe leaping out of the water in tandem and then Zillath graced the sky with her body arched. She did a circle in the air before disappearing beneath the water without the slightest ripple. Ben was blown away.
These were special Mer-people that have trusted Ben and his family enough to make themselves known to him. They had taken a big risk on detection but Ben is a big risk taker anyway. So far it has been so very enjoyable, especially swimming with them around his home. The fish all dart out of sight and Zillath’s guards always helped Ben catch up. It was something that would happen once in his lifetime so with all the memories he had collected along the road thus far he intended to keep them close and treasure them. As his arm and hand holding his flippers went to his side he saw a beautiful shell inside both of his flippers.
While he was talking to Zillath, Cleodora and Lanthe put shells in his flippers as gifts. It was a special moment and he would keep the shells in his room.
Ben kept his shells there for one night then he had to soak them in a bleach to stop the smell from driving all the guests away, it was so bad. He left his bedroom window opened and it rained on him, the bed, and the dressing table and soaked the rug, but Ben didn’t close the window, it was foul!!!! But the shells were beautiful and treasured gifts and he still has them....but if I tell you why they are special it will spoil the plot. So There! But the shells are special, so please read on.................