chapter 4 - the disquieting nature of love

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Lionel closed the front door firmly behind him and walked up the stairs. 

“It’s all right, he’s gone,” he shouted through the bathroom door, but he didn’t go in. Instead he went to his study and sat once more at his desk. The problem of the mermaid was getting more complicated, and the time for thinking clearly had come.

Why, in just over twenty four hours had the mermaid gone from being an unwanted nuisance to being something or someone he had, at least temporarily, saved from the police?   What would the police do to her if they discovered she was a real mermaid? Nothing at all good could come from that, Lionel thought, imagining scientific investigations or the circus as possible outcomes. He also realised with a start that he had quite forgotten about the rubber ducky and didn’t care much if he never saw it again.

Which brought him to the most difficult question of all. His feelings for her. The fact was that visions of her repeatedly intruded into his thoughts: little crabs in her long wavy hair, rivulets down her back, her beautiful scaly thighs, droplets – he had to admit to himself that this made him feel weak at the knees – droplets on her nipples, her smile which could melt an ice cream cornet at a hundred paces and most of all her deep sea eyes. The columns of figures all added up. It was very disturbing, but there was no doubt about it.

On the negative side of the balance sheet were the following. Item: she hasn’t spoken one word to me. How do I know what she thinks of me? Does she even understand English?  Item: she has a fishy tail. How can there be any future in a relationship between a man and a maid with a fishy tail? And most serious of all, item: why would any woman have feelings for me, a dull and in no wise handsome chartered accountant, who is neither tall nor rich and drives a very ancient brown Morris Minor with rust in the front wings just behind the headlights?

One thing Lionel was now sure of. Whether the mermaid liked him or not, whether there was any future in their relationship beyond this brief encounter, these moments stolen from time over fish tea and cod in newspaper, he was determined to let no harm come to her.

To love – Lionel dared think the word – to love is a risk. Most of all it is a risk of being rejected, of being hurt to one’s core. To love is also to risk loss. He was used to his life being grey – comfortable in a dull kind of way, like those days when you don’t go out because it’s the weekend and it’s raining and no-one’s called, so you stay in and play patience. 

With those thoughts turning in his head Lionel felt there was nothing more he could do, now that he had confronted some of the truths of the situation. He felt overwhelmingly tired. On his way to the bedroom he knocked gently on the bathroom door and heard in response a little splash.

Taking this as a signal to open the door he peered cautiously in. As his head rounded the door his gaze met the mermaid’s. She fixed him with those deep sea eyes and this time he did not look away. It was not that he felt brave or that he was steeling himself. It was simply that he had no energy left for being embarrassed, that he was tired of being Lionel, that he had no energy any more for being the dull and in no wise handsome chartered accountant who is neither tall nor rich and drives a very ancient brown Morris Minor with rust in the front wings just behind the headlights. What happens will happen.

He stood in the doorway a long time, and all the time she looked into his eyes. Her face was open, guileless, almost expressionless, almost serene yet betraying a sense of longing. It would be a cheap metaphor to say that he was drowning in her eyes, but he wanted to.

“Goodnight,” he whispered softly. He felt her eyes still on him as he gently closed the door.

***

A note from Myfanwy

Hello Littoral Luminaries,

Well I like it so far. It's kind of a love story isn't it? Boy gets girl then loses her almost immediately because she's a mermaid. Sort of like when you fancy someone in spite of the fact that there's an insurmountable problem, like the boy being English and stuffy and the girl being Welsh and passionate.

Anyway, Marin Marinade has asked me to send you the next chapter, in which Lionel takes the accounts to Captain Kipper. Don't worry, it's not about accounts, it's about feelings.

love,

Myfanwy

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