Time passed in a blur.
When Jonah touched her, Vickie found it hard to think.
All she could feel was the need for more.
Jonah himself spoke mostly with his eyes. He was self-conscious about his air voice, but also he just seemed to be awkward about words. She could feel his fingers tremble against her skin, see the longing in his eyes. Whatever the energy was between them, he was just as consumed by it.
She never saw him slip out of bed as she slept and watch her anxiously.
Eventually, she just had to escape to clear her head. She slipped out while Jonah was sleeping and headed downstairs to find something to eat.
A huge old ball of fluff met her in the kitchen. He was so happy to see her that his body wiggled all over. His joints were stiff enough these days that it took a lot of energy to get that excited. “Connery!” Vickie cried. “Just the pup I need to see!”
“There’s nothing like doggy love,” she said. “Want a smoochie?”
“Hey,” Winston said, coming up behind her. “Are you ok?”
“Um, sure I’m ok?” Vickie’s voice sounded even shakier than she felt. “I think so?”
Winston looked awkward. “I know you’re a big girl and all, Vickie, but you’re my sister. I’ve never seen you bring a guy home and lock yourself in the room with him all day. Do you even know him? I’m pretty sure that’s not Rodney.”
“He’s new,” Vickie admitted. She couldn’t bring herself to say that she’d only just met him, or that they’d only exchanged a handful of words. “Gosh,” she breathed, “this really isn’t something I do.”
“I was kinda thinking that too,” Winston said.
Here, with time to think half a house away from Jonah, Vickie could see how out-of-character her behavior was. It chilled her. Could she be under a spell? She knew there were romance spells, though she’d never learned to cast one. Could… oh dear… a drug do this? Not that Jonah had given anything to eat or drink… that she remembered… And of course he acted a bit strange. He was a merman without a lot of contact with landwalkers. Why was he here again?
Vickie too a deep breath and pulled out her phone. “I think I’m going to call a friend and see if I can get some advice,” she said.
Winston’s face softened. “Look, I don’t want to freak you out. I’m your brother. I have to worry about you. But there’s no harm in giving the guy some space, right?”
She thought she was going to dial Judith, but somehow that didn’t seem like the right kind of advice. She only knew one person who might give her some insight on mermen, but they’d only exchanged some sporadic texts since they met in Isla Paradiso.
“Maya? Hi, it’s Victoria Sample.” She paused. “Yeah, it’s me! It’s great to hear your voice too! ….Yeah, we never talk voice. We should fix that …Well, yeah, I did have a reason for calling. There’s a guy, and he’s a merman, and thought you might give me some advice about mermen…”
“You can stop squealing now, Maya! I get the point!” Vickie flushed. “Yeah, maybe I deserved that.”
To Vickie’s surprise, Maya insisted on meeting in person, and she was quick with the airline reservations. She found a flight that arrived in the afternoon, and they rendezvoused at the Old Mill teahouse.
“Wow, it’s been so long! You look great!” they chorused when they laid eyes on each other.
“I had no idea you could come visit this quickly,” Vickie said. “Why didn’t we do this sooner?”
“I can’t always travel on such short notice,” Maya said, “but you lucked out this time. I had other reasons to spend some time in Avalon.”
“I hope you were going to look me up,” Vickie said.
“Sure I would,” Maya said, though Vickie thought there was a guilty edge to her voice.
“Let’s sit down and have a drink then,” Vickie said. “The Old Mill is such a peaceful place, and I never make time to come here.”
“I want to hear about this merman,” Maya said.
“You listen, and I’ll pour,” Vickie said.
Winston wandered into the kitchen in the afternoon and found Vickie’s guest sitting at the dining table, eating what Winston thought uneasily might be raw fish.
He grabbed a slice of Andria’s flaming angle food cake from the fridge and sat down beside the merman. “Hey,” he said. “I’m Vickie’s brother. My name’s Winston.”
The merman paused and gave Winston a long look. At last, he said, “I am Jonah of the Waves clan. Thank you for your hospitality.”
“It sounds like you’ve been showing my sister a good time,” Winston said. “Good for you. Just a piece of advice, man to man — Vickie lives with two brothers and her mom. You might want to be careful about loud noises.”
“Waves clan, really?” Maya said with raised eyebrows. “Those finfolk are wild.”
“Wild how?” Vickie asked, feeling her stomach tighten.
“Wild like a lot of them have never used their legs at all,” Maya said. “They live out in the deep ocean. I’ve only met a few. I get the impression that they don’t think much of shore mermaids like me.”
“If his clan doesn’t like the land,” Vickie said, “why did Jonah come here?”
Maya snickered. “For you, obviously.”
Vickie thought about that for a while. “You don’t know if Waves clan merfolk have any unusual abilities compared to shore merfolk?”
Maya frowned. “Not that I know of… What are you getting at?”
Vickie felt her face heating up. She tried to keep her voice casual. “Maybe any mermaid can do it? Affect how a human thinks about you?”
Maya frowned. She caught Vickie’s eyes from across the table until Vickie felt uncomfortable and looked away.
“Vickie,” she said. “Have you ever been with someone who really drove you crazy? Like you can’t get enough of them feel most comfortable when you’re with them?”
“I…” Vickie began. She’d had some good woohoo for sure, but she had to be honest with herself — the relationship part had always been awkward. Roderick had been good for a while, but even he had always looked at her with this devotion she couldn’t share. It made her feel guilty every time.
“I guess not,” she finished.
“You know what I think?” Maya said. “I think that you’ve got serious chemistry with a guy for the first time in your life, and it’s freaking you out.”
“You know, Maya,” Vickie said. “I think maybe you’ve got it exactly right.” She leaned forward to pour herself a little more tea.
They let the conversation drift to other things. “It’s been amazing to talk like this,” Vickie said. “I wish you were closer so we could do this all time.”
Maya gave a secretive smile. “That could happen someday,” she said. “Don’t give up hope.” She winked.
“Tell your fishy boyfriend hello for me,” Maya said. “Next time, we double-date or something, okay?”
“Absolutely,” Vickie said. “Thank you so much.”
It was dusk when she returned, and Jonah was waiting for her.
“You were gone when I woke up,” he said. His eyes looked large and mournful. “You’re unhappy. We have gone too fast. If you wish, I will return to the sea.”
“I’m sorry,” Vickie said. “I just needed to get away to think. I want you to stay. Please stay, Jonah.”
His face lit up, and he pulled her close.
I had real writer’s block with this one, but it finally came together.