Of Mermaids and Monsters


I was a late developer. Slow to walk, dragging one leg after the other in a sporadic crawl, I found other ways to move around. My voice took a while too; in class I was quiet, introspective, studious. So it remained, year after torturous school year: the frog dancing in my throat as I raised my tremulous hand to speak, the ragged crimson flush which crept across my cheeks, my chin, my chest the moment anyone looked in my direction.

At fifteen, I experienced an awakening. I’m not sure which came first, the confidence or the sideways glances, but it was if I had woken up and burst from the chrysalis which hampered me all these years. I perfected my lolloping swagger, honed my sneer to perfection, slashed and dyed my mousey brown locks into a honey tinted bob and dared anyone to mention it with a withering stare. I had arrived.

He noticed of course. Leaning casually against the lockers, his eyes followed me along the corridor, waiting for the right moment to approach. I didn’t make it easy. Inside though, inside the tempestuous siren who stalked the hallways was the same awkward, stuttering introvert. I was haunted by my own inadequacies.

When he struck, I was ready. Intoxicated on more than the possibility of what could happen between us, I allowed him close. All the sober horror stories of losing your virginity rang like echoing peals of laughter in my ears. This was what I wanted. This was who I was now: siren of the senior ball. Closer still, I felt him hard against me, his solidity forcing me to the wall. He kissed me. I swallowed lightning and flashed it at him with a glance. He called me his mermaid and told me he was drowning.

Before long, we reigned supreme, sparking glimmering admiration which shimmered in our wake. This was why I had waited. This was what it had all been for.

My voice betrayed me the first time. I spoke too soon. Uninvited. I learned my lesson, chewing my bloodied lip and swallowing my words back down each time they rose up and threatened to choke me.

My body betrayed me the second time: straying too close to a forbidden fruit. I felt the wall against my back. This time lightning didn’t strike. His hand against my throat, I felt my belly twist and roll and forced the bile to stay contained within. My inner stutter grew legs and battered me from the inside.

My being betrayed me the third time, and the fourth, and the next: too loud, too sure, too right, too there.  I shrank into myself, my legs twisting together in a spasm of despair. My siren call became a strangled cry for help, uttered as a wordless ‘O’ against a background of whispered asides and knowing glances at the girl who allowed herself to fall into the depths

They warn us against becoming mermaids. Leviathan remains unchecked.

© Abi Hennig 2019

Written for the All for Writers 24 Hr Flash competition


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