Jennifer was having trouble sleeping. Ever since she saved Kevin, and wrangled a heartfelt promise from his parents that he would never throw stones at mermaids again, she’d heard mermaid song drift through her window. Mermaid song was beautiful, eerie, but beautiful. Men could be lured to it; women were immune. None of the men had gone missing, despite the nightly serenade. No one in town was sure why a mermaid was singing each and every night.
The song made Jennifer restless. She was grateful that Alfred, the second prince of Nearsea who relied on her to assist him with paperwork and logistics, was out of town. Jennifer didn’t have as much work to do while he was away. Finally Jennifer couldn’t take it anymore. She kicked off her blankets and got dressed, and then she went for a walk. Jennifer moved through the town, towards the bluffs she knew so well.
Jennifer caught a glimpse of the mermaid as she reached the top of the bluff. It was strange. The mermaid had pulled herself up out of the water on to a stone jutting out of the waves. Most of the time mermaids stayed in the water, their heads barely above the surface, impossible to spot in the black surf. Seeing a mermaid so exposed was rare, and novel enough that Jennifer found herself moving down to the shore for a closer look. The song seemed to falter a moment, then strengthen on Jennifer’s approach.
Jennifer walked down to the edge of the waves and began to walk along side them. The moon was waning, but still close to full. Jennifer could see the mermaid clearly in the soft white light. Jennifer’s breath caught slightly as she recognized the singer as Marisol. Jennifer hesitated, turning slightly to go. Marisol lifted her hand and started forward. She almost fell off the rock and her song wavered a moment. Jennifer stopped and looked at her, perplexed. Marisol settled back down and inclined her head, indicating the rocks that stretched out into the water just up the beach. Jennifer didn’t move. She used to visit those rocks to look at the tide pools as a child, jumping from rock to rock to see how far she could go. Jennifer was not doing that in the dark with a mermaid that she’d fought just nights before staring at her.
Marisol nodded at the rocks again. She was making it clear that she wanted Jennifer to go there. Jennifer shook her head. Marisol visibly tensed. Jennifer could hear it reflected in the tautness of her voice. It wouldn’t do to offend the mermaids. Jennifer hesitated. She pointed at a thin outcropping of shore with water on both sides about ten minutes away from her. It was shallow on one side and deep on the other. Jennifer would feel safer there. Marisol relaxed slightly and Jennifer started walking, accompanied by the mermaid’s music.
When Jennifer walked out on to the narrow stretch of land, the mermaid’s voice faded away as she slid into the water. Moments later Marisol’s head rose above the surface on the deep side of the shore. “You look tired.” Marisol said. “It’s cute.”
“I’m glad you think so.” Jennifer remarked drily. “You’ve been keeping me up the past three nights.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Marisol replied, sounding thoroughly unrepentant.
“You should be.” Jennifer crossed her arms. “You’re making people nervous.” She smothered a yawn.
“I’m not sorry for that.” Marisol smiled. “But I will pull it back. If only to insure that you get a decent night sleep.” Marisol splashed water up at Jennifer with her tail. Jennifer did not jump back in time.
“Oh, that’s mature.” Jennifer shivered, soaked to the skin for the second time in less than a week because of the mermaid. Marisol laughed.
“Go get some sleep, Jennifer.” Marisol advised. “I’ll sing a lullaby and then be quiet.” Jennifer looked down at Marisol.
“Thanks.” She said exhaustion coloring her voice.
“Don’t thank me yet.” Marisol smiled predatorily.
“Why?” Jennifer asked, wary despite her fatigue.
“The next time I sing, you come.” Marisol told her gleefully. “And if you don’t, I’ll keep singing.” With that, Marisol dove beneath the waves. Jennifer watched her go. She was too tired to argue anyway.
Jennifer made her way home. An eerie lullaby began as she walked. When she got home she collapsed into bed and drifted asleep to Marisol’s calming melody.