When I entered the beachside cottage, I felt the real mahogany flooring underneath my feet and the wood cabinetry in the kitchen across the room. I had immediately fallen in love with the open floor concept when I had visited five months ago; it was the key feature that convinced me to buy the home I hoped would be mine forever. Smiling to myself, I walked back out to grab my luggage; the moving truck would be here soon, and I was lucky I convinced them to help move all of my furniture and appliances-there was no way I'd be able to do that all on my own. Good thing I didn't have a lot of belongings, it should take me an afternoon to set up my entire house. Afterward, I planned to organize my guest bedrooms, filling them with comfy blue and white comforters and tons and tons of throw pillows. Not that I planned to have anyone over to sleep in my guest bedrooms, but who knew, I could always rent out a room to someone in the future.
Once I hung up my clothes in the closet, I heard the loud sound of a horn. Pulling the last shirt onto the hanger, I set it on the hook in my closet and turned around to walk back outside into the sea breeze in order to greet the movers who would help me this afternoon.
Locking the front door in its open position, my phone rang, letting out a soft tune before I made a grab for it out of my back pocket. I had texted my mother's best friend, Claire, earlier to let her know I had arrived safely, she had responded immediately, pleased that I had kept my word and gotten in touch with her and offered to send her son, John, to help unload the furniture if I needed any help. She had moved to South Carolina years ago and I would always spend summers up here whenever I could, John had always been a brother to me and didn't mind showing me all the different things we could do on the coast. I guess that was one reason I fell in love with the ocean, the peace I felt and the desire to protect it all.
"Hey, Claire," I said, answering the call.
"Hello, dear. I was just wondering how you are getting on? Has the truck arrived yet? Do you need John to come help?," she drawled on the other side of the line, her southern accent hanging on every word.
"Oh, what great timing! The truck has just arrived, if your sure John won't mind coming over, I can give you the address?" I commented, smiling to one guy as he waved, walking around to the back of the truck to unlock the door. "I'm sure the guys would love an extra pair of hands."
"One second," she said in her cheery voice before she yelled at her son to get his big butt off the couch and help me, the 'nice young lady' with her move. I couldn't hear John's response from the background, but before I could ask what he said, Claire spoke again. "He'll be right over dear."
"Alright," I said, "If he's sure tell him I appreciate the help, he will be able to park in the driveway, there's plenty of room."
"He'll see you soon." She giggled at something I couldn't hear before hanging up.
"Good news, boys," I called, shaking my head before stuffing my phone back into my pocket. "Not only do you have me, but my family friend's son is on his way to help too. We don't have to wait though, we can start now if y'all want." One of them nodded just as they came behind me with a box. "Whatever the box is labeled, please set it in the designated room."
"Alright, ma'am," One man wearing a black t-shirt and a pair of jeans said, carrying a box labeled "Dishes" in big black letters.
Just as I was about to grab another box, someone pulled into the driveway next to my blue truck. The white truck seemed to be identical to my own except for the color. The driver got out, messing with the cuff of his shirt before throwing a ball cap on, sunglasses resting on it just like his father.
"Hey, Anne!" John greeted as he came toward me, pulling me into a tight bear hug as he had done every time he's seen me. I had to admit, John was attractive with his fiery red hair that shown stark against his pale skin further intensifying the coloring he had inherited from his mother, but I had always seen him as a brother even though his mother wished us to get together. "How have you been? You know, it's been years, and I was wondering how my baby sister was doing." His blue eyes sparkled when he said this, smiling down at me while he shielded his eyes from the sun..
"I'm older than you John." I said matter-of-factly, resting my hand on my hip and looking up at him teasingly, "And aw, you missed me?"
"I'm still taller than you, so, that makes you my baby sister."
I laughed, "Whatever Johnny!" I teased, "Alright, are you ready to get to work?"
"I told you I hate that name," He hissed, somewhat in anger and lighthearted when he looked back at me before reaching over to ruffle my hair but failed when I swatted his hand away, "And yes, Anna, I'm as ready as I'll ever be."
"Alright, let's do this." I said, ignoring his comment as I grabbed a box from the trailer while John helped one mover grab the wooden china hutch that was my grandmother's and then my mother's before they'd passed next to me.
"Where would you like this?" they asked, passing me.
"Oh, just set it along the wall in the living room," I said, as I set the cardboard box on the kitchen counter.
In a few hours, we had all the furniture and appliances set up in the house. All that I had left to do was put away my belongings, then grab groceries at Walmart. Grabbing my wallet from my purse, I handed the movers a twenty and then waved them off as John turned to me.
"Thank you, John, for your help," I said, looking him in the eye as I smiled appreciatively.
"You're welcome." He smiled. "Do you need help to unload the boxes?"
"Um, if you want to?"
"I'd be happy to help my baby sister with her boxes.," John said as we walked back inside and shut the door behind us.
"Oh hush," I called, following him. "I hate it when you tease!"
"You know you love me!" He shot back with a grin, opening one of the many boxes that lined the kitchen counters.
Two hours later, we finished decorating my home, fill the kitchen with all of its utensils and dishware, and furnish each bedroom with its respective dresser, bed, and bedding. Plopping down on the couch, I closed my eyes in contentment as I sighed, enjoying how my home looked and felt with me and my belongings in it. "Thank you, again, John."
"You're welcome. If you need nothing else, I think I'm going to head home," he said, walking toward the front door. Jumping off the couch, I grabbed my wallet and turned to John, throwing a ten into his hand before he could open the door.
"Oh, no, you don't need to pay me," he protested, trying to hand me back the money.
"Are you sure?" I asked, "That was like five hours of work!"
"My mother would kill me if she found out I accepted money from you," he mumbled. "It's fine, really."
"Okay," I replied, sticking the money back in my wallet. "Well, have a safe drive."
"Thanks." He smiled, before hugging me quick and opening the front door to leave me alone in my new home. When I heard his engine turn over, I grabbed my purse and the grocery list I had made earlier and exited my beach home, locking the door behind me. Throwing my purse onto the passenger seat, I quickly crawled into the driver's seat and shut the door beside me. I started the truck, the roar of the engine making me smile before looking behind me at the sea and driving into town. I knew at that moment that this was the start of a new adventure, one that I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.
With a large huff, I dropped the seven sacks onto the dining room table, sweat dripping down my forehead, the weight from the groceries leaving my arms. Before emptying the sacks, I turned the television on, and the news played through the speakers that John had helped me set up. I looked up as the news crew talked about the weather and the swell report for today's surf. I knew one of these days, I would learn how to surf, and I couldn't wait to get started. Maybe after I finish with my groceries, I could take a dip in the cool ocean that my home faced.
Shutting the fridge, I folded all of my cloth sacks and set them near the front door before turning towards my bedroom to change into my swimsuit and grab my beach bag. Peeling off my clothes, I quickly changed then grabbed my bag from my closet. Throwing a towel into it, I padded into the kitchen to grab a few water bottles. Suddenly my stomach growled, urging me to eat something before I did anything else. Shaking my head, I made a sandwich, eating it in silence while I looked around the room, admiring the overwhelming amount of Beach-themed décor that filled the house. I still wanted to go swimming but knew as soon as the sun was gone it was dangerous to be swimming in the sea.
After I ate, I slid the glass door open, stepping out into the outdoor world. Opening the wooden gate that would lead me to the white sandy beach behind my house, I instantly felt more at home than I ever had before. The pink and orange hues danced across the water, beckoning me closer toward the stretch of water behind my home. My feet squishing into the partially wet sand before my feet touched the water that crawled toward me. Laying out my towel, I spun back to the water, grinning as I ran towards it. Within moments, I was neck deep in the water, swimming happily while the waves rose and broke around me. I felt absolutely free here, that was, until I felt something scaly brush against my leg. I felt my heart stop as panic set in, staring down into the dark water while I tried to see what had just touched my leg.
Within seconds, I felt whatever had touched me before brush against my skin, making me lose my footing and drop fully into the water, letting out a scream only for it to muffle as the water cascaded over my face. Kicking my legs, I surfaced as quickly as I could, spitting up the saltwater as I drew in quick and panicked breaths. Looking around, I tried to swim away from the spot, feeling a little uneasy. I knew I shouldn't be scared; it was probably just a fish, but in the pit of my stomach, I wasn't exactly sure what this creature was, but I knew from experience that sharks don't have that texture on their bodies.
"Hello." Someone called near me, making me turn towards the low voice, finding myself face to face with a man I had yet to meet until this very moment. His eyes were silver, nearly white against the white of his eyes, and his long black hair was wet, sticking to his head as the water seemed to calm around us. "Are you alright?"
I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out, I watched as his brow furrowed, confusion filling his features, "Do you understand me?"
All I could do was nod, knowing that he shouldn't be here because this was a private beach and he was trespassing and he just showed up out of nowhere.
"Can you speak?" He persisted; swimming closer to me until I felt the scaly creature brush up against my leg again, panic consuming me as I swam away frantically, "It's alright. I will not hurt you."
"What - why are you here? You aren't supposed to be here this is a private beach." I rasped out, panic lacing my tone. "Is that a fish? What keeps brushing against me?"
"I think it's just a fish." He replied.
"Okay, well, I would be mindful of where you swim next time." I said, making my way towards shore.
"Wait," He called, "What's your name?"
I turned the water up to my waist, and smiled, not wanting him to know my actual name was Anna and giving him my nickname instead, "Annie."
I watched as he mouthed my name back, a hint of a smile on his face before I turned around, walking onto the shore, feeling the water run down my legs and seeping into the cooling sand. Grabbing the towel off of the ground, I dried myself. Glancing back out to sea, I realized instantly that the man who had shown up unexpectedly, who I had just spoken to moments before, was now nowhere to be seen, almost as if he had never been there. All that was left were the waves crashing onto shore. Confused, I stared at the ocean, my wet hair clinging to my shoulders and face, wondering if something had happened to him or if the creature had pulled him under. But he didn't call out as if he was in trouble, and I would have been able to hear him if that were the case. As I stared, I wondered if I would ever see the mysterious man again or if he was just a figment of my imagination.
I remembered the feeling of the scaly creature brushing up against me and how quickly the man had arrived straight after it happened. Although, I knew that what I was thinking wasn't likely, crazy even, but then again only two percent of the Earth's seas have been explored. He couldn't be a merman; it was probably just a fish. I was being ridiculous. There are no such things as mermaids, they are just stories and nothing else.
When I stared back out to sea, I saw the faintest sign of a fluke breaking through the surface, right before it disappeared back into the sea.