“I don’t want lemon in my water.” Mary told the waitress for the third time.
Chris waved a hand in her face, “Forget about the damn lemons, will you. I need to hear your news Mary.”
She looked to the other tables of the diner. All empty but for one old man in the corner, slouched over his morning paper.
“Okay Chris, but you have to promise me that you’ll believe every word I say.” Mary absently tore her napkin into tiny pieces and waited for his response with a somber expression.
“Yes, of course.” He said softly and stalled her nervous habit by intertwining his hands with her own.
Another deep breath and Mary began…
“I was born in the North Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Guam.”
Chris held up a hand, “Wait, so you were born on a boat?
Mary looked annoyed for a second but answered, “No, it was in the ocean. My family has been doing it that way for centuries.”
“Ookay…sorry, go on.”
After clearing her throat, she resumed her story. “I had a normal childhood playing in the waves and fishing. But then, people came into our settlement with robots. They poked around and collected samples. At first we just avoided all contact with them and made sure they didn’t know we were even there. But still, they kept coming back so the decision was made to leave everything.”
“But, who were they? Couldn’t you just call the authorities?”
“There were no authorities. We decided that the only safe thing to do was to adapt into the current society. It wasn’t easy and many of us returned to hiding. I was close to giving up myself, but then I met you…”
Chis pushed a wild, wavy lock of blonde behind Mary’s ear. Silently encouraging her to go on.
“They were marine biologists. My settlement is hidden near the very bottom of a deep ocean trench. Because… I’m a mermaid.”
A silent minute passed.
Mary sat stone faced through Chris’s initial chuckled disbelief. Waiting until his expression finally metamorphosed into acceptance. He’d shook his head a few times and blew deep breaths into his hands for a minute, but in the end he wholeheartedly believed her. Witnessing so many of her strange quirks and funny social habits over the year he’d known her, helped. It actually, somehow, all made sense. Finding his voice, he said low, “Alright, go on.”
She smiled timidly at his repectful, calm tone. “I’m telling you this because I’ve got some unexpected news…
Confused Chris asked, “What’s more unexpected than you being a freakin mermaid?”
“Well, I’m pregnant. We are having a baby.”
Mary nervously watched Chris’s whitened face. There had been conversations about children before and Mary was sure he would eventually feel excitement, she just didn’t know how long it may take, especially after the news she’d just dumped on him.
She decided to just soldier on, “I’m due in six months. I wanted to tell you sooner, but I didn’t want to tell you before I needed to.”
Chris finally broke into a full beaming smile, “Why..Uh..Why wouldn’t I want to know? This is wonderful news Honey!”
Mary’s face clouded over with grief, “I’ll have to leave you for five years, at least.”
“What? Why?” Chris said rather loudly, causing the old man to look up from his paper and over to their table. Chris repeated in a quieter tone, “Why?”
Mary explained, “Our baby won’t grow his full lungs until he’s around five. I can’t leave him alone in the sea.” She said as tears began rolling down her cheeks.
After a minute or two of sitting with a dazed look Chris blurted, “Of course not. I’d never want that. But… five years is so long! I won’t see him grow. I’ll miss it all…” Dropping his chin to his chest, Chris asks, “Would it be possible for me to come with you?”
Mary lay a soft hand within his own, “I wish you could. There are ways though, we can meet at the docks, or there’s always scuba visits. You’ll have to learn. Take a class or two. That’s if you want to wait that long for us. I will understand if you dont think you can handle it. It’s a lot to ask.”
“Anything for you Mary…for our family.”