Ben hurried out of the water, up the small pathway that lead to the front reception area of Amazing and Graceful and did not stop yelling for Aubrey the entire time. Her name resounded all over the Loch and surrounding hillsides. (‘The hills are alive with the sound of Auuuuubrey!’ Sorry bad joke I’ll shut up now ...hummmph.) Aubrey appeared at the top of the stairs and gave Ben one of those looks that said, ‘Why are you making so much noise Ben Maitland?’. He beckoned her to come and sit with him outside because he still had on his holey wetsuit and didn’t want to walk water through the hall as he talked to her. So Aubrey followed him outside to the stone steps and out of the wind so they could talk. The Dunmours and Raphael had their interest ignited when they saw how excited Ben was.
‘Guess what Aubrey?’ said Ben hurriedly.
‘You are crazy and you passed the crazy gene on to our daughter?’ said Aubrey instantly back to him.
‘No my little Satin Estapol, guess what I just saw where we used to park Little Oz under the water......come on guess?????’ said Ben in a voice dripping with saltwater and excitement.
Aubrey looked at her husband sitting there all excited and dripping with sea water. His wetsuit was full of holes and made strange glushing sounds when he moved around in it. He so desperately wanted Aubrey to guess what he had seen so she said the first thing that came into mind...‘The Dunmours having a seaweed picnic on the ledge?’
‘You saw an old cement mixer talking to a tuna?’
‘Close...it was a mermaid.’
‘Ben how do you get a mermaid from a cement mixer talking to a tuna, that’s just nuts,’ said Aubrey looking around at her footings and getting ready to stand and leave Ben on the steps.
‘I saw a mermaid Aubrey and watched her swim back into the deep, deep, double deep hole just near the ledge where Taran punched a hole in the cellar wall. I was checking it to make sure it was holding up okay and there she was!’
‘How do you know it was a she mermaid?’ quizzed Aubrey.
‘That would be because SHE had a pair of mammalian protuberances,’ said Ben quick as a wink grinning like an idiot.
Aubrey was really sure she had to get back inside now that her husband was telling her he was ogling mythological breasts under water. The events leading up to this conversation and all the ghosts and stress had finally zapped his poor male brain of its regular function. He would have a hard time trying to convince a psychologist that he was sane enough to be left in normal society if this ever got out.
Good God what next thought Aubrey to herself as her shivering, dripping wet and excited husband tried to explain how he saw the creature floating in front of him? Aubrey sat and listened and remained unmoved by his detailed account of how he waved at the creature and she swam off. It was time to go back inside and tend to baby Zara and leave her lunatic husband alone for a while till he calmed down. The cold water must have done something to him and his usually rational thought pattern.
‘I don’t think it’s a good idea to be swimming in the Loch anymore Ben, the cold water has taken away your senses my darling,’ and with that being said Aubrey walked back inside Amazing and Graceful and left Ben on the stone steps. He sat there gazing into the indigo coloured water as if searching for his new found friend. When Aubrey walked into the reception area she looked left at the mirror and the Dunmours all waiting for some sort of sign from her to extinguish their concerns and Aubrey gave it to them.
‘Mermaids......What next, I ask you?’
At once the Dunmours all turned to face each other and they began whispering in haste about what Aubrey had just said. Raphael repeated what Aubrey said in a hushed French tone and this was enough to keep Raphael busy for a few hours thinking about mermaids and if he could remember seeing any in his lifetime on the French coastline. Aubrey went upstairs to check on Zara and then back down to the office to check on bookings and reservations with Agnes.
Ben was left on the steps shivering, smiling and remembering every detail about the mermaid he saw. It was fantastic. She had scales. They were bluey green in colour and the tip of her fanned tail had the hint of a red tinge to it. She had long red hair and fiery blue eyes. It might be time to hire or even buy the aqualung he hired off D-Mac before. That way he could stay under water and try to communicate even more with the mermaid. Ben was cold and shivering so it was time to get warm and sit in front of the fire and discuss what he had seen with the Dunmours and Raphael. Maybe they could shed some light on what was happening under the Loch waves. Ben stood up and walked back up the stone steps towards the entrance door grabbing his towel that was hanging over Lamb Shanks kennel. He undid his wetsuit and let it fall to the ground. He had to buy another wetsuit because that one was not cutting the mustard anymore and he was sure he was colder in the water than the water was.
Inside it was warm and toasty by the fire and Ben went up to his room and had a warm shower. He then put some warm clothes on and hassled Agnes to make him one of her tasty chocolate coffee drinks that were great with a fabillion shortbreads. (A Fabillion is a hell of a lot more than a Gazillion. Just so we are clear on the amounts okay?) Ben grabbed his coffee and shortbreads and headed off to the comfort of the new chair and some conversation with the ghost community that now lived in his house, especially the ones who liked the mirror above the fire. He settled back into the chair and felt Raphael move the padding around till he was very comfortable and the heat from the fire seeped into his body.
‘Zara...I told Aubrey in all seriousness that I came face to...er tail I guess ...with a mermaid near the deep, deep double deep hole and she didn’t take very kindly to it...what’s that about?’
‘Ben I don’t think you understand the gravity of what you have had happen to you. If they decide to make contact with you, be very careful. This kind of contact rarely ever happens,’ said Ghost Zara from the mirror.
‘Why should I be scared, she seemed really lovely,’ said Ben sipping his coffee and dunking his ninth shortbread.
‘Ben, when you are under the water you are in their domain so PLEASE be extremely careful,’ said Mr Dunmour putting in his five cents worth. His tone was very grim and the look on his face denoted that he was deadly serious. Ben listened to the Dunmours tell him about the history of mermaids in the area. Some of the souls that they had contact with on the ‘other side’ met their demise by being dragged under the water by these ‘really lovely’ creatures and they also told the Dunmours to tell Ben that he better be careful.
Raphael listened to all that was said and when Mr Dunmour and Zara finished telling him to be careful he asked in his low French tone.... ‘Excuse Moi mon ami, but was she beeeyootifull?’
‘Oh yes Raphael, like the day is long,’ said Ben putting his coffee back next to the chess board with a game in play. Actually Raphael had finished the game with Ben and checkmated him for the 100th time. Ben just had not figured out how he did it so quickly. Ben took another look at the chess board then at the wings of the chair and began to set up the game again. After the pieces were reset Ben got up and went to his office to call D-Mac about getting a double aqualung to be able to stay under water a bit longer. He also asked if D-Mac had a special on wetsuits because his last one looked like Swiss cheese. D-Mac was only happy to comply and knock some of the price off for Ben as he seemed to be turning into a great customer. And ....he always paid cash. All in all, that was enough to make D-Mac stop saving his drowning grandmother and turn his complete and undivided attention at the mere mention of the word cash.
Ben put the phone down and looked back towards the fireplace with Hambone trying to take Lamb Shanks old gunky tennis ball off him unsuccessfully. Ben’s thoughts travelled back to the underwater meeting again and he could hardly wait to get back into the water to see if the mermaid would come back.
Zillath sat in her cave thinking about the land person she had seen and why he kept waving his hand to her. Was he trying to start a fight with her and that was his signal?
(In all the books I ever read about mermaids they were the ones who made all the sailors lose their frekin minds and crash their ships, boats, canoes, surfboards, blow up airbeds and old dead floating trees into razor sharp rocks, letting the ocean dash their brains and bodies into the sea. They seemed to tease the sailors out of rational thought and lead them to their doom and destruction.
(Mental note to self ...don’t mess with them. Ben should be very careful me thinks.)