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There was silence in the car. Maren, who was seated at the back, was on her iPad with her ear pods plugged in her ears. Kevin, who was also at the back seat, was fast asleep. I was at the front reading while Matthew was driving.

"So, did you finish reading the little mermaid?" he asked. I looked up from the book and met his gaze.

"I finished it in a night and decided to reread it." I said. "And you weren't kidding about it. I'm never going to look at the Disney movie the same ever again. I feel like my life has been a lie."

Matthew spurted into laughter.

"But seriously. The price she had to pay. The pain she felt during the transformation. Her feet hurting every time she walked. Her dying if the prince married someone else," I commented. "and despite all the red flags she still went for it. All that for a guy she saved from a shipwreck."

"Well...love is like that sometimes." He said. I looked at him. "A lot of people do a lot of dumb shit because of love. The mermaid was no exception to that."

"How are you sure that it was love?" I asked inquisitively. "As far as I could tell it was nothing more than a fifteen year old having a crush."

He paused for a moment, probably processing my argument, or finding a way to counter it. "True...but if you're willing to sacrifice a lot to be with that person, then it's love." He told me. "You know, my favourite part in the story is the conversation she had with her grandmother."

"The one when she was told that mermaids don't have souls and that the only way for them to get one is if a human falls in love with them?"

"The very one."

"What's so great about it? All she had to do was seduce the prince or just spike his drink with love potion or something." I said. "But then again, the latter would have costed her more than her voice, so she was pretty much screwed from the get-go."

This caused him to laugh as he reached for my head and gave it a pat. Something he always did to Maren since they were closer on a personal level. He must have been that comfortable around me to do that, but I wasn't complaining. In fact, I kind of liked it.

"You have a lot to learn, young one." He cooed at me.

"Hey! I'll be twenty-one soon, asshole." I huffed.

"First off, out of everyone in this car, you're the youngest. Second, you don't exactly look your age. I'd say you look about eighteen."

I narrowed my eyes at him and flipped him off, to which he responded with a chuckle. "Anyway," he said getting back on the topic. "the whole soul exchange is kind of like giving a part of yourself to someone so you can feel whole; to feel alive. Remember, mermaids don't have souls so you can imagine how empty she must have felt before she met the prince."

"Okay, but how was she able to feel love if she had no soul. A soul is tied with emotions and you can't exactly feel anything without one."

"True...but you can fall in love with a person because they make you feel a certain way and make you feel complete."

"But was it worth it? Her leaving her life and family behind for a guy she didn't know and ended up not reciprocating her feelings. Her life was pretty well off."

He paused again. "You can live you best life whether you have money, fame and so on but material things don't bring you happiness nor do they satisfy you," he told me. "because deep down you will always feel like there's something missing and you find yourself wanting more and more because you don't want to feel trapped or lose yourself.

"And when you do find that something or someone who does make you feel complete and fills the void, you never want to let go. Instead, you treasure it, savour, and relish every fibre of its existence because you will never know how you will live with yourself the moment it or they just disappear and next thing you know, you're back where you started."

I stared at him awestruck, like a child being told an interesting but inspiring bedtime story by their parents. It was amazing though frustrating that he managed to elegantly answer my questions and counter my arguments as if he was a Literature scholar. It was also incredible how he put points and counter arguments so impeccably that I could see where he was coming from and notice things I never had and understand what the author was trying to convey in his story no matter how ridiculous it was

However, I couldn't help but notice the slight sad and nostalgic look on his face even though his gaze was fixed on the road. It was even evident in his tone. To me, it seemed like he was speaking from experience or relating to the little mermaid whilst reflecting on his past. And with how his gaze avoided mine as he spoke, it was almost as though he didn't want me to see how much it was affecting him.

In a way, he was giving me life advice. The kind a senior would give their junior, telling them what they needed to hear so they could prepare themselves for what was to come in the life ahead of them.

My curiosity was starting to get the best of me and prompting me to ask him if he ever had such an experience.

If he had that special thing or someone who made him feel complete.

But I chose not to pry since it sounded too personal for him and I doubted it he was planning on divulging further on the subject. After all it was just a discussion not a heart to heart where we shared and opened up about our problems and secrets to each other. We weren't on that level to do such.

The silence wasn't awkward nor uncomfortable. We didn't have anything to say or add seeing that the conversation which started off light-hearted with me ranting about a children's story written by a Danish author became a bit serious and turned into a deep talk which was possibly drawn from a personal headspace I had no business knowing nor asking; and I could sense that Matthew was berating himself for creating such an atmosphere.

"I liked Andersen's version of Ursula better than Disney Ursula." I said changing the subject. He casted me a quick confused look before looking back on the road. "Why? I thought she'd be the last person you'd like after the bullshit she put the mermaid through just to fulfil her wish." He said.

"Correction: the mermaid chose to put herself through all that bullshit." I said. "Ursula was just hustling to make a living."

"The mere fact that she was making a living out of doing shady stuff doesn't exactly rule her out as a bad person, bruv."

"Well at least she was honest form the beginning. She was real enough to warn the mermaid about what to expect if things went wrong and gave her an opportunity to back out on the deal. No shady person would have that much compassion and consideration to do such."

He pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Well...when you put it like that..." he supposed.

"Ha-ha! You see!" I exclaimed victoriously. "She was like; 'Look honey. What you're asking is stupid, but I'll help you anyway since it's kinda what I do, and I do have the shit to grant your wish. But what you're asking for is gonna cost you and my services aren't for free. It's called equivalent exchange, sweetheart and I got bills to pay'."

He laughed at my remark. "Yeah I'm sure a tongue will be able to cover her rent and electric bill for the month." He said flashing a smile. "Or her mortgage." I added.

We both looked at each other briefly and spurted into a fit of laughter.

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