It was a glorious day, the kind of day that urged you to spend time outside. So, I stopped working on the story I was writing and told my daughter to grab her hat and sunscreen.
“Sweetie, we are wasting a perfect day sitting in the house, lets go out into the garden.”
Thus, armed with a lemonade jug, two paper cups, the novel I was currently reading and her garden kit we parked ourselves under the giant red umbrella. An umbrella, that my husband had insisted we buy for just such occasions. I opened the foldable easy chair and plonked myself in it. While my daughter plonked her hat on her head and headed out into the golden sunshine to explore around.
‘Oh, what a pretty picture she makes!’ swelled my heart with pride. With her hair cascading down her back, head bent forward in concentration, and a song on her lips, I knew what her expression would be even though I couldn’t see her face just then, partially covered as it was with her ebony hair.
From time to time I kept warning her to be careful of the bugs – like any typical mother and she kept ignoring me, like a typical daughter. Content with our ritualistic banter I continued reading my book and somewhere down the line lost myself in the Matthew Reilly thriller.
It was the sound of nothing that finally pulled me out of the pages I had been lost in. I looked up and couldn’t see her, so I stood up and looked around and started calling her name. It wasn’t alarm in the beginning that I felt, just annoyance that she would be somewhere, where I couldn’t see her and she couldn’t hear me. Never the less, I raced to the back of the house where the white picket, fenced off the property from the public beach.
To my horror the gate was open. Now in complete grip of panic I raced out screaming her name. Luckily there were only a handful of people on the beach at that time of the day. At my panicked cries they turned around and came forward to help. I kept screaming, ‘My daughter, have you seen my daughter.’ Each no weighed down my heart. Then a hesitant voice said, ‘Is she yours?’ I looked at the woman and followed her finger to the low cluster of rocks to my left further down the beach.
And there she was, lying on the beach only her head visible, rest of her obscured by the rocks. As I ran and drew closer, I saw the waves lapping her knees. Oh God please, I screamed in my head and broke into a dead run. As I reached nearer, I could see her eyes were closed and she was just lying there. And when my shadow fell on her, she opened her eyes and laughingly said, ‘Look Ma, I am a mermaid.’ My anger deflated like a pricked balloon and I dropped to my knees in sobbing relief.