She crawls from the sea, her eyes trained on the light shining from the window of the nearby beachfront house. Under one arm she clutches them, her most precious things, shimmering beneath the final rays of sunset. She hauls herself upright and begins to hop hop hop up the shore, wobbling precariously with each tiny leap. She isn’t made for this. Every jump is harder than the last. But this is what she must do. He can provide a better life for her loves than she can. Out at sea, she has nothing. He, on land, has everything. The unfairness knots her insides in pain and fury.
They’d met while he was at sea. He’d spotted her sunning herself on a flat rock and had stolen a rowing boat from the ship just to come and meet her. She’d thought that romantic. She told him about her life beneath the ocean, where nothing ever happened and she was always alone. He told her about his life in England; the big, wooden house on the shore that he’d built himself, the glimmering rock pools that surrounded it, a picture of the ocean painted across the walls to show how much he loved the sea. He made her laugh. He was handsome. He told her how beautiful she was. He made her feel wanted for the first time. And so she’d let him do it, there, on that rock. He’d promised he’d come back the next day. He didn’t.
Now she’s tracked him down. It had taken days and weeks of swimming around the coast, but just as she was starting to give up she’d found the house. It’s just as he’d said. Wooden. Rock pools. Painting. It has to be the right place. She totters onto the porch, places her cargo at her feet and then, through a window, notices a woman, sitting, watching some sort of box in the corner of the room with moving images flashing across it. He hadn’t mentioned her. She feels her guts spasm once more. Should she really do this? But then she looks through the window once more at all the things he has. They are things she doesn’t recognise and doesn’t know the words for, but the important thing is that he has them. She has nothing. Then she looks again at the woman and thinks that she has kind eyes and that even if he doesn’t take care of her treasures, she will.
She bangs on the door once, then twice, and flees. ‘Get that would you, dear?’ she hears the woman shout. She sobs for her loves as she flees for the ocean, leaving them in this unfamiliar place.
Her tail slides beneath the waves just as the door opens. Naval Commander James Mahon looks down at his feet. On his porch there is a large, lidded glass bowl and inside, flickering in a blur of movement, are half a dozen tropical fish of deep, beautiful red and gold. He looks bewildered for a moment, then thinks how familiar those colours are and in an instant is transported back to that day in the mid-Atlantic nine months ago, a day he’d thought about often but never spoken of.
‘What’s all this?’ says his wife, appearing at his shoulder.
– David Cook
David Cook’s stories have been published in print and online in a number of places, including the National Flash Fiction Anthology, Spelk, Flash Fiction Magazine and Pygmy Giant, and he has previously been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He lives in Bridgend, Wales, UK, with his wife and daughter. Say hello on Twitter @davidcook100 or find more of his work at www.davewritesfiction.wordpress.com.