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Was marriage the only think a mermaid was supposed to do when she grew up? I asked myself that as I began getting ready for the big day ahead. My friends Coral and Oceana were braiding my hair and fixing it with seashells. Since my hair was the longest among my friends, they loved braiding it. I looked at my appearance in the mirror and realized how beautiful the hairstyle had turned out to be.
"You look like a princess Blue!" Coral complimented me. "I'm sure Adrian will fall head over heels in love with you."
Today was supposed to be a big day. I was going to be engaged to my best friend, Adrian. He and I had been friends since childhood and everyone used to tease us back then about how cute we looked together. The teasing had gotten serious during high school when Adrian confessed his feelings to me. My parents and his were actually thrilled about us getting married. Me? not, so much.
I had a sinking feeling inside like I didn't want to do this. I didn't want to marry yet. I thought we were supposed to be in love with someone to marry. I read in those cliché Mermaid love storybooks that a person in love constantly felt the butterflies in the stomach or the longing to be with that person. With Adrian, I sensed nothing. It felt more like I was packing and moving into my best friends home. I couldn't think of Adrian that way. He just did not evoke any romantic feelings and that made me nervous. I knew he was head over heels in love with me, and that kind of made me feel guilty about not feeling the same.
I wish I had some feelings for my future husband.
Maybe after I married, I'll fall in love with him. That's what happened with all the mermaids. They were matched in their respective clans and betrothed soon after their birth, destined to marry their partners just how Coral and Oceana were and they were always giddy with excitement whenever I mentioned the names of their respective fiancés.
Coral added some pearls into my braid that made it shine brightly.
"There." Oceana said delightfully, "You look so beautiful today, Blue. I'm so jealous you're getting married before me." She pouted.
I laughed. "Don't be stupid. Your engagement is next month. It's not that far."
"I know, and I'm so excited. I can't wait. We should do the shopping for our wedding together."
"Of course," I said.
My gaze flitted towards the ring finger. Soon I'll have an engagement ring on my finger. I hoped Adrian didn't go all out and bought the most expensive pearl or something like that. I wanted something simple. The sea-horse carriage was waiting outside my home. After I got ready, the girls and I settled down inside the carriage that would take us to the venue which held my engagement ceremony. Throughout the ride, I felt agitated and nervous.
Once Adrian puts that ring on your finger, it's a done deal. There won't be another chance.
The voice hissed in my hear.
Swim away while you still can, Blue.!
But what about my parents? They won't like it.
You can deal with your parents later. Swim away and when you're back you can explain how you're still not ready to be engaged.
What about Adrian? He would be heartbroken!
You can explain Adrian later. He would understand, he's your friend after-all.
Swim away, Blue.
The voice kept repeating the same thing in my head until I screamed. "Stop it!"
Coral and Oceana stared at me, their expressions puzzled. "Are you alright, Blue?" Coral asked.
I nodded. "I'm fine."
The girls placed their hands on mine. "It's okay. It will be fine. Everyone's nervous on their special day. Think of your first kiss today. You can't just keep dangling that in front of him, you know. At least let him kiss you."
I smiled at them, unable to say anything else.
It would be like kissing my brother.
The engagement venue was a sea-garden decorated with illuminating shells and corals. Jelly-fishes swam around the place. There were also water balloons and flowers. It was going to be a private ceremony. Coral and Oceana began fixing my appearance again, analyzing their handiwork.
A few minutes before the ceremony began, I excused myself to go to the mer-ladies restroom. I was afraid the girls would follow me there too but thankfully they did not. Instead of heading towards the restroom, I swam out through the entrance making sure I wasn't being noticed. I swam far away from the gardens, swimming until I knew I was far from the place. I didn't have a particular plan in mind, I just wanted to stall the engagement with Adrian. A few hours later, I planned on calling him through the shell-phone and telling him the truth.
The truth that I didn't want to get engaged yet. I assumed he would be hurt and maybe he would also scream at me and stop talking for days but eventually I knew he would understand because Adrian was a good merman.
I kept swimming for a good thirty-minutes until I realized I'd strayed into a much deeper end. The part of the ocean where no mermaid swam into. I panicked. I'd heard a lot of stories about the deep-end, about how mer-folk disappeared down there, eaten by a large species of fish or something more sinister. The horror stories of the deep end were infamous. In school, we used to do dares and see if anyone could swim until the deep end and swim back but no one dared to do it.
I saw a shadow of a large fish. Perhaps a shark. Those were some nasty fish and attacked the mer-folk constantly. I eyed him and slowly began swimming back.
All I could see was the darkness surrounding me. Tears began reaching the corner of my eyes, getting dissolved in the seawater. I swam in no particular direction and that's when I saw something fall from the top. It was too fast for me to dodge. The thing fell around me and wound me up in it. I was tangled in a net. I'd heard these stories from mer-folk about how the humans came for fishing constantly and killed the mer-folk with their nets.