• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 08

The Mermaid

“Come see the mermaid.” The loud, booming male voice made its way across the fair ground, drawing in a crowd.

“Can we go, Mum, can we?” Olivia pleaded, pulling me in the direction of the closed tent.

“Come see the mermaid. Come see the demon of the sea,” the man shouted again.

“Please, Mum,” Olivia said.

“Okay,” I said, giving in to her whining, letting her lead me to the back of the queue.

“I wonder what she’ll look like? Do you think she’ll be like Ariel?” Olivia asked, peering up at me with her big blue eyes.

“I don’t know honey. We’ll have to wait and see.”

“I bet she will. She’ll sing and have a beautiful voice, and I can tell everyone at school tomorrow,” Olivia continued.

She was so excited and the last thing I wanted to do was take that away from her. That would come later. Today was for making memories.

I took in a deep breath as I remembered why we’d come to the fair. My test results arrived yesterday and it was the news John and I had feared. The cancer had spread. Six months at the most they said. Everything went dark in that moment and all I could think of was Olivia growing up without me. I promised myself that I would use the time left to build memories with her and do as much as we could while I was still well. Cancer was eating away at my body. Piece by piece I would deteriorate.


The Mermaid

“We’re nearly there,” Olivia said, pulling on the bottom of my coat.

I looked down and smiled. “Yes, darling, almost there.”

She turned excitedly, watching the queue shorten as we neared the top. It felt a little like my life, moving forward with death getting ever closer. My eyes filled with tears and I fought to hold them back. Today was not for tears. Today was for laughter.

Reaching the opening of the tent a strong smell of salt water hit us. It took me back to my childhood summers spent by the sea building sandcastles all day long. It’s amazing how a smell can do that, transport you to a land far away.

“What’s that smell?” Olivia asked, her little nose crinkling as she waved her hand in the air.

“That’s salt water,” I explained. “It’s what the sea is made of.”

“Oh,” she said. “Ariel lives in the sea.”

We moved further into the dimly lit tent, crowds pushing and shoving to catch a glimpse of the so-called mermaid. At the front of the tent on a raised platform was a large covered structure. I immediately thought of a cage and shuddered. How these people got away with keeping animals in cages for amusement was beyond me. The poor things, trapped, waiting to be set free. In a way, just like me. I was trapped in my cancer-ridden body, waiting for the moment when death would set me free.