**I search the beach.
Little Rikk is beside me. He darts in and out of the waves, swimming like a native. Or one with a gift. I finger the seashell necklace, and look out among the waves. Looking for something. Looking for mermaids. Looking for her.
I search the beach.
Rikk is gone now, on his quest. A man from the village stays with me, he is sweet and caring. He touches me with tenderness and love. I try to love him back, but there are others in my mind. A girl with iridescent skin, and a voice like a dolphin.
He sees it in my eyes; he sees it in my ways. Every morning I walk the beach, looking, the sun in my eyes. Every evening I walk the beach, the sun casting my shadow on the waves. Every day I look for her, but every day I return to him.
He holds me while I weep, and makes sweet, tender love to me.
I search the beach.
War has come between the faeries and the elementals and people are caught between them. The men have gone to fight, for one side or another. Rikk visits, secretly — he can go where he pleases, now, he is so strange. But he loves his mother.
The mermaid’s kiss is matched by others now, and I know someone has marked his heart. He finally understands why I do what I do. Before he leaves, he takes the seashell necklace, and carves me an ocarina from the conch shell. He mutters unhearable words over the rest and hands it back to me.
He kisses my cheek, and then is gone.
I search the beach, and sometimes I stop to play the ocarina.
It is quiet now; the man is gone, and I am too old to attract the attention of anyone else. One of the village children helps me in my chores, gathering items from the beach. We were done early, and I sit on the dunes.
Rikk is coming in a few days. It will be the last time, I know. He has bigger things to do, and I am an old woman who was once young and taken advantage of by faeries. I wouldn’t change much about my life — it has been good and satisfying, with a wonderful son.
But I miss her so, the mermaid I met when he was only four.
And so, I walk the beach, searching.
The sun lay behind me, casting my shadow long across the sea, reaching for the incoming sea. I saw dolphins on the horizon — it had been so long since I had seen them. I touched the necklace, pulling the attached conch to my lips. I began to play a tune Rikk taught me only a few weeks before.
It is a maudlin tune. It speaks of goodbyes and it speaks of the sea. The waves crashed against the beach, keeping time for my playing. I closed my eyes, losing myself to the song, and breathing in the scent of the sea, the scent of the mermaid I found so long ago. The dolphins called out to me, so like her halting voice. And still I played the song my son gifted me.
Then I heard a voice, female and lilting, harmonizing with my melody. I opened my eyes, and she was there, standing in the surf, ocean spray swirling around her feet. She was naked and blue-green, and there is a pink scar running from her right shoulder, down between her still-perfect breasts. Her arms are out and inviting, a spear in one hand. Her face was lovely and youthful, but her eyes were old as mine.
And suddenly I was aware of the toll time had played on my body. The wrinkles on my face, the drooping of my breasts, everything about me that was no longer the lovely girl who wandered too far into the woods, or the young mother who saved a mermaid’s life
We stopped at the same time, she and I. I dropped the conch, and it swung where it hung on the seashell necklace; she halted her singing, and smiled at me. “The war is over,” she said, her accent much improved. I walked toward her, feeling the waves crash about my feet.
I touched her scar, my hand between her breasts. We kissed, and I felt the old electricity. She pulled off my shift, dropping it into the surf, where it was carried away. It no longer mattered to me.
She slammed the butt end of the spear into the sand, and cupped my breasts in her hands, and I sighed at the touch. I missed it so. “We won,” she said.
I pulled her close to me, our bare skin touching. I wore only the seashell necklace. She carried only a spear. “I know, he told me.”
“I have been fighting for so long.” Her voice was a quiet whisper against my neck. Her eyes grew even older, and I felt my own age in them.
“I waited.” She kissed me then, her lips against my neck, and I felt it all the way down my body.
Her kisses were like water after a desert crossing. Soft salty licks on my lips; tiny touches sliding down my neck. Her hands enclosed my breasts, lifting them back up, her thumbs teasing my nipples. She began to whisper, sing-song words which I could not hear. I felt excitement course through my body as the seashell necklace grew warm around my neck.
One of her hands slid down my body, my legs opened to allow her access. She continued to speak and my arousal grew. I clasped my hands behind her neck, holding on, keeping my balance. I became acutely aware of the surf, then, the same crashing waves that had accompanied me on the ocarina fed their energy into my arousal. With each crashing wave, I felt it build; her fingers on my bud kept me there, kept me rising with the tide.
Her words remained unhearable, but I knew her chant grew louder as the waves became more and more insistent, my arousal more inevitable. She removed her hand from my breast, and touched the central shell — a sand dollar, from which the ocarina hung. I heard three notes, and she kissed me.
I came then, a wonder like I’d never felt. The waves crashed over us, and through us. Her taste filled my mouth, my legs clamped around her hand, keeping her near me. We fell, and we were sucked out to sea in the undertow.
The water turned us around so that her tongue and lips were between mine, and her fins melted away, allowing me access to the special place between hers. We rolled in the water, our lips locked on each others’ sex, I reveled in the memory of her taste even as I reclaimed the sensation. I felt wonderful and alive with her hands on me, as we frolicked in the ocean.
At some point, I realized we’d been underwater since we’d been pulled out to sea.
Soon after, I realized, so long as we kept moving, I didn’t need to breathe — I didn’t need to remove my lips from hers, interrupting her pleasure. And she didn’t need to do the same to mine.
With that, I clamped my lips on her, sliding my tongue between her lips, teasing her clit with my tongue. She cried out, and this time it wasn’t dolphin clicks, but sound I could feel all around us. Her cries of pleasure rippled across my skin, echoes of sound all around us. I felt the others, dolphin and mer, around us, swimming, playing, making love.
I was one of them now, and they swam to touch me, too. I came then, over and over, for a very long time.
Rikk and the mermaid — they had made me part fae, allowing me to join her. And they had made me young. I wept salty tears, as she kissed me again, and led me among my new kin.
I no longer search the beach.
But sometimes, I’ll look out at my old village, and wave to the people there, wistful but happy.**