The Phone Call
It had been three weeks and five days since Darya came to shore and there’d been no sign of Marlowe. It’s been ten years since she saw his figure fade in the distance, waving from the sandy beaches of Florida. Darya wiggled her freshly manicured pink toes in the sand, enjoying the feel of the fine grains creating friction against her skin. The sun from the past three weeks had tanned her skin to a golden brown. The joy she should be feeling from being on shore was being eaten up by her longing to see Marlowe. They always met on this beach and enjoyed the short time they had to spend together. The conch shell around her neck was already ringing with the sound of the ocean, calling her back to sea. Marlowe called it her “shell phone.” She wasn’t ready to answer it. She wasn’t ready to trade her legs in for fins. Her mood soiled despite the beautiful day, she got up and gracefully walked towards the bar. Heads turned, male and female, but she took no notice. She’d always been beautiful, always would be. When she ordered a margarita on the rocks her voice was an enchanting melody, floating into nearby ears. It was then she saw him. Marlowe. He was leaning against one of the columns holding up the roof to the outdoor bar. She made to rush towards him but something in his posture made her pause. She could see he was on the phone, his face was lit up and out of his mouth came words like “baby” and “sweetheart.” The conversation ended with an “I love you too.” That was the final piece that crushed her heart. He looked up from his phone and their eyes met. Marlowe stood there in shock. He shook his head, mouthed “I’m sorry” and hurried to the parking lot. Darya knew it was bound to happen. She knew he was bound to move on someday but never let herself dwell on the topic. There’d been a long string of men she’d visit every ten years and then they’d find someone else. Start a family. Forget about her. She viewed it as a curse, the curse of being of and belonging to the sea.
The conch shell around her neck was already ringing with the sound of the ocean, calling her back to sea.
After another drink, a man sat down next to her. He was handsome, blonde hair, tanned, and tall. He ran his hands through his hair and she felt sprinkles of sand land on her shoulder amongst droplets of saltwater.
“Can I buy you a drink?” he inquired.
Darya nodded her head and pieced together a smile for him.
“I noticed you and that guy earlier, on the phone. You’re better off without him.”
“I’m sorry, what’s your name?” Darya asked.
“Dylan.” he replied. “Yours?”
“Literally means sea. Looks like the name fits you,” he winked.
“You have no idea.”
“Anyway, you’re better off without that guy. He’s up here with a different girl every week,” Dylan gossipped.
Darya’s heart broke a little further. “Thanks. I guess you’re right.”
“Don’t look so sad! Like I said, you’re better off without him.”
Darya shrugged. She never liked the part of the relationship where it ends. The salty taste of a love gone bad never washed away easily. The string of men she’d had in her life had left her feeling empty and alone. Most things about being a mermaid were beneficial but long life and the inability to remain human made matters of the heart difficult. Her mother always told her that “the one” would show up someday but Darya had her doubts. She has waited one hundred years and still no such man has appeared. Becoming human for a month every ten years has come to be something she dreads instead of longs for. It’s hard to spend that much time away from a man pondering about what he is doing without her. Dylan touched her hand, bringing her back to the bar.
“I’m flying to New Orleans tomorrow. I have an extra ticket. You want to go?” Dylan asked.
Shocked, Darya’s instinct was to decline. How could she get on a plane with a stranger?
“I don’t know. Isn’t there someone else you’d like to take?” she asked politely.
“It was for my wife and I but she divorced me a few months ago. I’d already bought the tickets and they were nonrefundable.”
This time Darya touched his hand, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It’s ok. At the rate we were going it was bound to happen eventually. We are just too different.”
Darya totally understood. She gave him her hotel’s address and he said he’d pick her up at six in the morning. Darya finished her drink and went to her room to pack.
The next morning Dylan picked her up precisely at six. They boarded their plane without mishap and off they headed to New Orleans. Darya had never ridden in a plane before and held Dylan’s hand to dispel some of her fear. It’s one thing to swim and a whole other thing to fly. In the few moments where she could set her fear aside, she stared out the window with her mouth hanging open in awe. The world below her no longer looked like Earth. It looked like a toy set that toddlers usually play with. The mat has roads amongst landscapes printed across it. The toddler guides the cars through its journey on roads and terrain. Except in her view there weren’t any giant grubby toddler hands making the cars move.
When they left the airport the sun lit up the historic buildings and bustling people preparing to party. It was after all, Mardi Gras. And what better place to celebrate than New Orleans? A beautiful city with lots of history, variety, and enthusiasm. The streets were blocked with people parading in blurs of pink, yellow, orange, and other bright colors. Dylan and Darya joined the fun. They walked bar to bar. They danced and met new people. They explored the world.
The next morning, Darya’s shell phone was roaring in her ears. It was time to go home. She left a note for Dylan, thanking him for his kindness and wonderful time. It was with much regret that she was leaving this beautiful place. She had never enjoyed her time on land as much as the past two days. She didn’t care anymore about having a man at her side. She only cared about trying new things and going new places. Darya wanted to learn everything there was to know about humans and their way of life. She had fallen in love with the human existence. Brooding over this, she walked in the early pre-dawn light. The waves’ call getting louder as she approached. Finally at the water’s edge, she glanced back at the sleepy city and whispered, “I love you.” Her first steps into the warm ocean no longer felt like coming home. She waded into the salty sea but it kept pushing her back. Her shell phone no longer called with the ocean but with the calls of land. It was emanating the sounds of hooves click-clacking on pavement and voices of people, amongst other sounds she hadn’t heard yet. She pushed harder and harder against the waves but they kept pushing her to shore with the morning tide. Eventually she was back to digging her toes into the sand, finally understanding she found her true love.