When I was a little girl, I would pretend I was a mermaid. In the bathtub, in the pool, in the ocean. I would swim with my arms, and body roll my way through the water.
It was the only time I felt invincible.
My sister and I would call ourselves Misty and Marina, and we would swim in the pool in our backyard for hours at a time, wishing we were the real deal. The Little Mermaid was our favorite movie to watch, and we were believers that mermaids actually existed.
After my sister turned sixteen, she stopped playing mermaids with me. Actually, she stopped going in the water entirely. When I asked why, she said, “Maya, I’m too old to be playing that game anymore.” So I dropped it, and continued to pretend by myself.
You know what, I was lucky I had a good imagination, because playing Mermaids by myself became a whole thing on its own. I was obsessed. I’d come home from school, change into my bathing suit, and jump into the pool.
When my parents were young, my mom didn’t have much. She grew up in Brooklyn, so she didn’t have a pool of her own—it was the ocean, or nothing. So she made a promise to herself that when she became an adult, she’d have a pool of her own.
Which she did.
And since both she and my dad loved the idea of having a pool so much, they had it heated for the winters. So we had this thing open year-round. It’s the best.
Our mom always supported my and Dylan’s love of mermaids growing up. It even turned out that she was, too, for as long as she could remember. She would tell us that the water was our friend, and that there was nothing to fear in it.
Well, except for sassy, evil cecaelia. And sharks, but that’s beside the point.
Although Dad loved the water as much as the next guy, he became super conscious about our pool, and how often we were in it. He didn’t necessarily hate how often we used it; he’d actually joke about how he knew it was worth the purchase.
But when Dylan became a teenager, he suddenly started worrying about us girls when it came to the water. It was pretty odd, since he and mom trained us how to swim so early in our lives. He even became anxious about it.
Dylan and I figured it was because we started going in without their supervision, but then she randomly stopped going in. Part of me felt like I should have gotten the hint and followed her lead, but the water was a part of me. I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer.
And then on my sixteenth birthday, three years, four months, and seventeen days after my sister’s, something weird happened.
It was a Friday, so I jumped in at midnight, knowing I didn’t have to worry about school the next day. I swam around for a couple minutes, and then I got this weird feeling in my leg. I ignored it at first, but a couple minutes later, the feeling was in both legs. They were tingly all over.
I swam to the shallow end of the pool and sat on the stairs for a minute.
You know, until my legs were suddenly no longer legs. Instead, my muscular legs were one teal-colored fin. I was a mermaid.
An actual freaking mermaid.
I knew I should have screamed out of shock or terror or something, but it suddenly all clicked for me: my dad’s nervousness, my sister’s aloofness, my mother’s hidden obsession, my obsession. It all made sense.
After the shock hit me like a wrecking ball, it subsided just as quickly. I stared at the other end of the pool, and then up at the house, before deciding to move. My parents and Dylan were standing on the balcony, silently watching. I wonder if they were there the whole time.
I waved at my content family, then submerged myself.
And then I started to really swim for the first time.
Prompt: Tell us a story about water.