Swept Away! Part II

She knelt on the tile floor, carefully picking up the shards of glass. Why did it have to be this one that broke? Of the entire collection, this was her favorite, its subject the most intriguing. Her tears fell upon the inlaid marble tile as she endeavored to piece the figurine together. She stopped a moment to examine the intact pieces: the head and torso, the mermaid's tail, the now-empty left hand. Again, Ariel's eyes danced around the floor. All the pieces are here except it...Where is it? Of all the dumb luck! All she did was place, upon the mantle, an engraved invitation to a ball one of Eric's friends was hosting next week. She made special effort not to knock over several of the many, very delicate, glass ornaments; alas, her long, lacy sleeve caught onto the one of the pretty mermaid. In an instant it crashed to the floor.

"Ariel, don't cry so," said Prince Eric as he knelt beside her and assisted picking up the shattered figurine. "I'm sure our glass master will make a new one."
She shook her head. "A replacement won't be the same, Eric." Gathering her thoughts once she regained her composure, she explained, "You had this made for me after my father told you all about Marisol. She was a very special mermaid; both my parents and Sebastian knew her." Ariel's eyes dropped to the floor again.

"She died before I was born."

Eric said no more as he helped Ariel pick up the figurine's shattered remains. With a sigh, he pieced the treasure back together noting a missing part.
"It must have rolled under a table, a chair...," he said as arose from the floor and replaced the pieces in on the mantle.
"Ariel, I still want to have another made for you. Marisol is such an important part of Atlantica's history."

Eric held the head and peered into the emerald green eyes then instantly recalled King Triton's recount of Marisol, her legacy, and her ultimate fate. Even in its shattered state, the figurine reflected Marisol's incredible beauty and inner fire. Very much like Ariel, but there were telling physical differences. Where Ariel was all fair-complexioned, Marisol was of dusky hue. Instead of fiery red, the long, free-flowing hair was the shiniest raven black. Oh yes, those eyes, a piercing green, held many a tale, secret, even tremendous sadness.

It was said Marisol was a free spirit, never one to settle in one place. She hailed from Spain along the Andalusian coast where the Mediterranean Sea met the Atlantic Ocean. According to King Triton, Marisol's initial forebear was not of the merpeople but human, one woman to be precise. A young woman named Yazmine, one of the newly arrived Romany during the 15th Century, in an attempt to evade a pursuing mob of locals who resented the gitano presence, took the ultimate escape route. She merely and deliberately plunged into the sea but not before beseeching the gods for help.

"Turn me into great fish and the sea shall forever be my home. Only there shall I, and my children, and all those that come after them, be free."

Yazmine's prayer was answered, but not exactly as she hoped. The moment she hit the waters her legs quickly morphed into a long shining fish tail; the head and torso remained all beautiful woman. From that moment she never regretted that spontaneous, desperate, decision; neither did she bemoan her transformed body. For what is was worth, Yazmine saw this as a chance to be happy for the rest of her life. An orphan — her parents died at the very hands of those who pursued her — Yazmine believed life as a mermaid, content with the wide open sea as her permanent home, was far more preferable than death by the noose or stake.

Quickly Yazmine became acculturated with her marine environs and encountered other merpeople, learned their ways, and, in time, forgot her former life on the surface. In fact, such was not missed at all. It was, after all, the past, and, for Yazmine, there was no looking back.


"Yazmine met a merman named Mario who took her to Atlantica," recounted Ariel, gazing at the figurine's shattered form. "They married, had many children, thus establishing a long lineage."

"Yet," rejoined Eric, "Marisol was supposedly the last of that great family." Ariel nodded and noted, "She left Atlantica, roamed the sea far and wide until she returned to the very place of her ancestor. There she met a merman who hailed from West Africa, near Senegal. He was a nomad, much like Yazmine, and also descended from a human."

That would be Oji, a handsome sepia-toned merman who proudly claimed a human as one of his forebears. Seems the human male, whose name neither Ariel nor Triton could not recall, was, almost like Yazmine, on the run. Only this time the man fled from slave hunters. Not wanting to live a life in forced bondage, the man, upon reaching the sea, pleaded with the gods to save him. The moment he plunged into the waters, he immediately transformed into a merman. His head and torso, all beautiful, ebony- hued, and gently muscular, remained the same. A long, shiny black fish tail appeared in the place of legs and feet.

"My mother," said Ariel, "sensed Oji inherited his ancestor's wandering spirit; it matched Marisol's."

"And so," countered Eric, "they married. But they left Atlantica, shortly after your mother died."

Ariel nodded, saying, "Yes, but not before gracing my father's kingdom with their music. They shared the gift of song, but their way with music was different than what we were used to. Marisol sang the songs her mother taught her and her mother before, just as Yazmine sang to her merchildren."

"Songs of the Gypsies," commented Eric, "Similar to Oji's songs that harked to his own African roots."

What a shame all that talent would be no more. With Queen Athena's death, and King Triton's subsequent ban on music throughout Atlantica, Marisol and Oji, their free spirits calling, decided to strike out on their own. Perhaps they'd transverse across the ocean to the Americas, perhaps visit those exotic Caribbean islands, the Mexican and Brazilian coast to imbibe various styles of music. After all, music was in their blood. This is what Marisol told Triton upon saying good-bye.

"And that was the last time we heard from them," said Ariel in a tear-choked voice.
"Somehow, via the marine grapevine — creatures of the deep serve as our messengers — Oji and Marisol made it as far as the Caribbean when a fierce storm occurred. Marisol had just given birth to a baby girl, and Oji wanted to find a place to keep his family safe."

"However, just as they managed to reach Grand Cayman, out of the storm's path, Marisol found herself caught in a surge, sweeping her directly into the path of a moored cruise ship."

Eric sensed his wife's utter grief, finishing, "Marisol was sent straight into those propellers. She died instantly. The little girl was with her but was separated from her parents in a second surge."

Then, "And no one knows what happened to the child."

Ariel recomposed herself, saying, "Some time latter, Oji returned to Atlantica, but without his wife and daughter. He told us what happened, which embittered my father even more toward humans. Oji set out to look for his lost child, but, to this day, he has yet to return. The creatures of deep say Oji probably died looking for his child. Makes sense as no one's heard from or has seen him since."

"And the child, Ariel? Any word on what happened to her?"

Ariel shook her head. "Nothing. If she survived...How can anyone survive alone like that, without a parent's love and guidance?"

Eric ruminated over his and Ariel's sad reminisce of the ill-fated mer-couple and the still unknown whereabouts of the child. As far as anyone knew the child perished, too, not long after the mother. Yes, just as Ariel said, how can any child survive the elements alone without a parent's guidance and love. At least the child's name was known throughout Atlantica as it was Oji himself who informed Triton. Born on the wings of the West Wind, Oji said, and he promptly named the little girl Zéphyrine.


Oh, where am I? That was some storm! Thought it'd never end...Hope Joe's all right...What is that I hear? Voices...Oh, no! Must be humans nearby searching for survivors or, worse yet, the dead...Can't be seen by other humans...Only Joe knows I exist...Can't risk being seen...Must go back beneath the surface, but...Ow, I ache all over...Let me catch my breath. Oh, dear, where am I?

Zéphyrine, dazed and sore from the hurricane's wild ride, finding the shore at last, hoisted herself onto the rocks and just lay there. Perhaps resting in the full sun would help alleviate the annoying soreness in her muscles. No, she wasn't that incapacitated, just in minor discomfort. At this point she didn't care if a search and rescue mission was nearby, and perhaps her days of hiding from the human world were swiftly coming to an end. However, and Zéphyrine noticed this, despite the sound of what was most likely approaching human voices, that other, more obvious human presence was simply not there, at least not where she landed after the storm.

Where is the news media? Where are the planes and helicopters, the cameras, the reporters? Surely the place would we swarming with TV and radio people. The storm of the century, that's what my undersea friends called it, a Category Four or Five, that's what the humans called it. A possible dead-on hit to the Gulf Coast, and even New Orleans would not be spared. What could she do? Wait for word about Joe and the tens of thousands humans affected? What if Joe didn't survive? What about his family and business?

Zéphyrine let the tears flow. O the great loss of life, entire towns wiped out, so many more people homeless. Oh why didn't I stay in deeper water, away from the surface, far from the storm's fury, then I'd be able to find Joe and give him...

"It's gone!," she shouted out loud, not caring if anyone heard her. From staring at her now-empty hand to searching frantically her present surroundings, Zéphyrine quickly surmised the great pearl simply slipped out of her hand during the storm. Come on, with 150-plus mile per hour winds and stronger than strong surges, anything anyone held onto for dear life would be lost.
With a sigh, Zéphyrine burrowed her face in her hands and sobbed uncontrollably. She really let it rip, all outright bawling and cries of abject sorrow. It's all over, all the evasion, keeping myself safe from the humans but at the same time they...so...so thoroughly fascinating me. Like Joe and his friends who'd come out on warm nights and play jazz and blues, and I'd listen to their stories about their younger days when they and Joe played the jazz circuit. But he quit music to help his uncle's fishing business. Wonder if I'll ever see Joe again.

Closer the swell of voices came. Now it would be a matter of minutes before they find her. Joe was right: The humans would misunderstand, perhaps become quite afraid, discovering a living mermaid, to them a fabulous creature of myth and legend, literally under their noses. Yeah, like Joe said, they'd lock me away, study me, regard me as a freak, a monster...

Again, Zéphyrine, in full realization her fate — swept away to a land unknown, a treasure found definitely lost for good — glanced about her current environs, taking special note of the damage, or, in this case, the lack thereof. Odd that there was not one downed tree, not a single boat ripped from its moorings. Even the few buildings she managed to make out in the distance suffered not one toppled steeple, shattered windows, or smashed roofs. It was as if the hurricane never touched this land. All right, she thought, if the storm crossed the Atlantic into the Gulf, then almost every land mass, the smallest island very much out of harm's way, would have felt something, even if it was just bigger than normal sea swells, a bit more wind and rain than usual. Nothing really serious. But here...Oh my goodness, that storm carried so far that I may not be anywhere near the Gulf.

She cried again, tears of frustration and uncertainty. She tugged at the sweatbands that served as bracelets of sorts. Joe gave those to her last Christmas. He also found the reddish top she always wore which now was tattered and soaked. Her damp body shivering in the cool breeze, Zéphyrine, through tear-soaked eyes, could now see the approaching voices had shapes — Human shapes.

Let them come. I'm weary, hungry, cold, and, for what it is worth, homeless. I have no idea where I am, and from the cool sea air, I'm undeniably so far from the entire Gulf area.
Oh dear Goddess, that hurricane must have blown me clear to the other side of the world. My pearl is gone, Joe is most likely gone. He never made it to Jackson; I can feel it. Let them come, let them lock me away. I don't care...I have no where else to go.

So lost in her lamentable reverie Zéphyrine did not hear the approaching footsteps nor the young voice calling to her. She almost didn't feel the small hand on her shoulder.

"Are you all right?," asked the young voice couched with much concern and empathy.

What? No shrieks and screams of utter disgust mixed with surprisingly delightful discovery? No, "A mermaid! It's a mermaid for real!"? No swarms of humans with spear or stun guns, no cages, no ID tags — Oh yes, Zéphyrine recalled several of her ocean friends sporting little tags on tails and fins. Such is the humans' way to track the creatures and study their ways.

Again, the voice asked, "Are you all right?"

Now Zéphyrine raised her brown eyes to the voice's owner, a young girl not more than twelve. Such a pretty child with long dark hair, big blue eyes that registered much love and tenderness. Was there a tad of mischief in those eyes? Well, she is a child after all.

She finally replied, her own voice still quaking with sorrow and confusion, "I don't know where I am. A big storm brought me here."

The girl smiled, saying as she drew closer and draped her arm around the mermaid, "You're in my father's kingdom. And don't worry. My mom's a mermaid and so is my grandfather, a merman really. He's King Triton of Atlantica. Well, Mom was a mermaid before she became human and married my dad."

Zéphyrine didn't quite comprehend what the child said. Did I hear right? Her mother was a mermaid, and the grandfather is a king...So that means there are more of my kind...here? In the sea? Why didn't I know about this place? Oh...Now I remember. Someone or something tugged at me just before I fell back into the sea, while I was in the eye...Azul! He must had gone for help, but how did he know just who to call? Was that King Triton who pulled me to safety. I must thank him for saving my life, but I want to know this little girl better.

Blinking, she asked the child, "What is your name?"

"Melody," came the swift reply. "What is yours?"

The mermaid, now partially composed but still somewhat confused, smiled and answered, "Zéphyrine."

Did I see the child blink? Did I see her face show some surprise, awe even, at the mention of my name? And why do I feel as if I've been here before, but...They have to know, but how?

To be Continued...

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