Just as the light was just failing I heard her call out. She mimicked the bird call “Maaark, Maaark,” Just the once. So I risked calling back “Marina” just the once myself then repeated it after a few seconds so she could check the direction that my call came from. Then I got up and walked down to the water’s edge careful not to be too close in case a bigger wave pulled me off my feet.
I waited what seemed like ages thinking that her call was in fact a bird’s after all, and then with a whoosh she came up with the next breaker and lay there at my feet. I was so relieved I could say nothing but bent down and held her in my arms and hugged her. This was a mistake as the next wave came in and washed over me soaking me and I risked being pulled into the turgid sea and being toppled over.
Marina held on tight and with a couple of flips of her tail pushed the both of us up the shingle bank. Every part of her within kissable distance I was kissing and licking and hugging as the sea continued to wash over my feet and her tail that still dangled in the water.
“Let’s get up the beach a bit I said.”
She laughed, “I was going to say let’s get back in the water.”In the end she agreed that I should pick her up and carry her up to my sleeping bag, whispering to me “Is there anybody close by?”
“No, we are far from any habitation and the park rangers that look after the area will have gone home by now.”
She nodded in satisfaction and took my hand and placed it on her tummy, “He’s there,” she said simply. I bent down and kissed her cold tummy and progressed up to her neck and chin and then kissed her gently on the lips. “You are a clever girl.”
She nodded contentedly and I wrapped her in my arms and placed one leg over her flipper to make sure I had all of her close to me and whispered “I missed you.”
She nodded in reply but was alert as ever wanting to check the surroundings in the poor light before the moon rose. “There is an old sea lion smell, and this thing we are lying on, who has been on this …it is not only your scent is it? I bent down to sniff at it. It just smelled of sleeping bag, not really of me or anyone else…or did it?
From my silence she knew it was my wife’s scent she could smell. “That’s all right then.” She said quietly, but still pushed it away and lay on the pebbles instead. So I changed the subject and said. “Have you found somewhere safe to be?”
She nodded cautiously, “Wives do not tell husbands everything, Mark. My only concern is to bear this child…our child. You have done your job, but I know you want to be involved and care for me and the calf very much. I love that you feel that way but it is not natural for mer people to think this way. You think like a woman and are too soft. You love too intensely and I cannot risk your feelings putting the little one at risk.”
She then continued, “One day if you cannot find me you will want to get a boat and look for me. You must not do that. Already you have suggested in your thoughts that I should be checked to see if the baby is safe inside me. He will stay inside me until he or she comes out. That is my decision not yours. You do not know the way of the sea. If I lose the little one you must realise I will turn away from you and look for one of my own kind to try again. I will do this until there is no hope left and you are no longer in my mind such as you are now. The sea is cruel and those that survive here appear so too. We do not love as you do but with determination and an instinct for survival. Our paths have crossed; I love you but will turn away from you unless my species can continue.”
She sensed my bitter disappointment that it was not me but her kind that was uppermost in her mind. “I love you Mark for little things as well as big. I notice how you check my tail and back for scratches which might become infected, I love that you look at me and lavish me with such gentleness, no mermaid ever expects that!” She ran her fingers over my chest. “Even in our differences you see me so much more worthy than yourself. I do not deserve that.”
“I do not understand.”“I am built to manoeuvre on beaches and shingle, yet you pick me up. You touch every part of me and consider it beautiful. When you talk to me you do not say how much better it is to walk on two legs or be constructive and built boats and those planes that fly in the sky, or catch fish in their thousands rather one or two in your hand because that is all you really need. You do not consider me to be abnormal.”
“Shush Marina, I do understand. The most important thing is the baby. I will go away later like a merman, but like a human I will return every month to check if you are well. I will worry alone and then rejoice when we are together again. Though please say if you need me to bring something for you, anything at all.”
“Just come and check on me once a month, Mark. That is all.”
“When will the baby come?”“I know, but I cannot say. It will be a dangerous time for the two of us and there is no one to help me.” She paused and then said, “We are very protective at that time, and would not want mermen there either let alone land creatures.” She said with a little smile.
“But wouldn’t the dolphins help if there are no mermaids to help?”
“How did you know about that?” Marina said surprised.
“Well they quite like and trust us, don’t they?” I replied.“No, they are using you; playing with you perhaps.” She smiled and then she went on “But, yes, they will help to protect me and the baby...I hope…if they haven’t anything better to do.”