When trying to decide whether to continue with #FridayFlash, I realized I wouldn't stick with it without a plan. Last week's character study gave me an idea though, and I've decided to take a page from my friend, Danielle's, book and do a series for five weeks showing the five stages of grief, each one from the perspective of a different character.
The first stage is denial, and who better to show this than the woman whose dream she gave up her life for was torn away by the very home she left. With that I give you the scene that precipitated my mermaid novel-in-progress, Surrender to the Tides.
From a chair ten feet past the high tide line, Liera watched as waves licked the shore. The salty tang on the breeze brought back memories of seashells and coral reefs and she smiled, wishing she could frolic in the water with Joshua and the kids. Andrew dunked his sister, and Alicia sprang up, water spraying in a cascade as she flipped her long auburn hair. They were glistening, beautiful, like they belonged to the sea. Liera’s lips curled into a smile at the thought.
She turned toward the voice, catching sight of a round little woman waddling up the beach, her salt and pepper hair sprayed so heavily the breeze didn’t touch it. “Sonya, hello.” Brushing herself off, Liera embraced her. “Looks like your arthritis is doing better today.”
Sonya shrugged from her arms. “Better than most. Why are you on the sand again? You should be in the water with your children. They won’t be young forever.”
As much as Liera agreed with her, joining them in the ocean was impossible. “The sea frightens me too much. I don’t want them to live in the shadows of my fear, so I stay here while they have their fun.”
Shielding her eyes from the glare, Sonya frowned. “But you trust them out there? Even though you’re afraid?”
“Joshua’s with them. I know he won’t let—”
The scream turned Liera’s blood to ice. Her head twisted in slow motion as if her spine had frozen in place. She saw them just as the water covered her son’s head and Joshua dove under after him. Alicia was nowhere to be seen. Hand clutching at her heart, Liera staggered toward the surf as a young man--a lifeguard--threw himself into the water.
Liera’s toes crossed the high tide line and curled against the sensation while a battle raged in her head.
It isn’t safe here.
I have to go.
Someone else will save them.
They’re my family.
Not if you go in the water.
The warning didn’t matter. Liera was halfway down the beach before hands grabbed her, hauling her away from ocean that had come an inch from licking her toes. A horrible keening rent the air, like the song of the sirens if heard true. Through her thrashing, Liera vaguely realized it came from her throat. Her lungs.
She remembered feeling water rush into them when they'd formed, the searing pain and pressure as she tumbled in the waves, searching for the surface.
Her body crumpled as the seconds ticked by, the terror replaced by something quieter, something deadlier.
“No. Not my babies.” She shook her head, staring at the crashing waves. “This can’t happen to them. They were born for the sea.”
But you denied them that birthright when you became human, little mermaid. You cost them their gills and flippers.
Liera trembled in Sonya’s arms, trying to banish the inner voice as the old woman rocked her back and forth and slid a hand along her hair.
“No. They aren’t gone. They can’t be gone. They are my children,” She whispered, still staring wide-eyed at the water. “Swim, little mers. Swim for all you’re worth.”
In Liera’s mind, slits formed in her children’s necks, letting the water rush out from their bodies even as scales erupted from their skin, sealing their legs together in long, glorious tails. They weren’t dead. Couldn’t be.
She sighed as certainty took hold. It was simple then. If Joshua couldn’t be saved, she’d return to the sea and find her children. Reject the very wish that had brought them to her and go back from whence she came. A tear caressed her cheek as she thought of Joshua and the years they’d shared. Not nearly enough, but he’d given her the life she’d dreamed of and two beautiful children who even now waited for her in the sea’s depths.
Soon, she would join them. No one would question her disappearance. They’d be a family again and she would introduce Alicia and Andrew to all the wonders of the ocean. They would survive this.
Relaxing in Sonya’s arms, she gazed anew at the water as they head of the young lifeguard broke the surface, seafoam coating his body like glitter. Someone ran into the water toward him, reaching out…
And lifting the limp body of her daughter in his arms.
Her eyes shifted back to the lifeguard, who hauled her son’s still form ashore.
Liera’s screams carried over the surf, touching the ears of the denizens of the sea and making them mourn along with her.