Marilla sat on the peer watching the tide as the waves crashed and rippled across the sand. Sometimes as she watched the water, she would feel a strange sense of nostalgia. She did not swim in the sea, it was dangerous, her mother had told her. With the undercurrents and the sea creatures, the sharp stones and the rush of the waves, the sea was no place for a girl like Marilla and she always listened to her mother. Still, she longed for the water in a way that made her ache. It was like watching a grand carnival just beyond reach and Marilla as usual was simply not invited.
Sighing deeply, Marilla kicked a stone and watched as it skittered across the worn brown wood of the peer, then disappeared over the edge. She waited for the sound of it hitting the water, but a muffled thump came up instead.
“Ouch!” a voice rose from some where below and immediately Marilla leaned forward and peered down into the churning water. She saw someone below and when his face turned up towards her, Marilla felt her heart skip a beat. His eyes were the color of marbles, cat slits in green and blue, surrounded by a face covered with tiny green scales that had a rainbow sheen when early evening light hit them. He had strong,angular features, and dark unruly hair. He was painfully beautiful and Marilla, surprised by his presence, and his appearance, could only stare down at him.
The creature rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. Marilla blinked. He waved up at her , his head tilted to the side assessing her, and Marilla blinked. He stuck his tongue out at Marilla and then waggled his eye brows at her in the way that old people some times do to make small children laugh. Marilla let out an involuntary bark of laughter and the creature broke out into broad grin, showing off a row of tiny sharp looking teeth. Marilla wondered for a second if she should be afraid, but he was out of reach, down in the water, and she was above on the wooden peer, untouchable for the moment.
“Are you just going to stare or…” he waved one hand in a circle indicating she should finish the sentence.
“or?” she asked uncertainly, trying to calm the wild beating of her heart. She had been alone so long and this creature seemed friendly. Sort of.
“Or you could apologize for hitting me in the head with a rock. You know, if you felt bad about it.” He rubbed a spot on the top of his head and Marilla put a hand to her mouth. she felt her cheeks flush with color as she realized how rude she must seem. First she hits him with a rock, then stares at him like he were a circus attraction, now she couldn’t even be bothered to apologize. Her mother had raised her better she thought and looked the creature in the eyes. Her heart beat loudly but she forced herself to speak.
“I’m very sorry!” she said the words coming out in a rush.” I was just up here all alone, and I didn’t see you there. I didn’t mean to hit you with anything, I don’t throw rocks at people and I’m not usually so rude Its just…” she stopped her rush of words when she finally perceived that the creature was laughing at her. Anger flared in her briefly and she sat up, pulling herself out of view.
She crossed her arms, how rude, she thought. At least she was trying to apologize there was no need to laugh at her. Tears stung her eyes as she recalled other times that people had laughed at her. School kids on the playground after they had stolen her things, the kids on the beach last summer making fun of her for not wanting to swim. The adults at her mother’s hair salon who laughed at her and called her silly when she was just trying to tell them about the lights she saw beneath the waves. She hated it when people laughed at her, and now this beautiful creature, was laughing at her as well.
She was so lost in her misery that she barely noticed as a rush of water rose up like a pillar from the sea below and deposited the creature on the wooden planks beside her.
“I’m sorry,” he said, and Marilla nearly jumped out of her skin. He laughed again harder this time and Marilla was about to take off running, her muscles tense, adrenaline pumping through her veins.
“Please don’t go” he said, “I’m not laughing at you.” She gave him a look and he stifled another giggle. “ok maybe a little. Its not you its just I find most humans pretty funny, and you seem to have it down to a science. I was just playing a joke, you didn’t really hit me with the rock.”
She did not look impressed, but he continued on anyway.
“I’ve seen you here before, hanging out on this peer alone. I just wanted to say hi, but I couldn’t resist a bit of fun. Forgive me?” he asked earnestly, and Marilla relented. He did look like he was being honest and he was about her age she guessed, kids can be cruel with out being aware of it and she forgave him easily. Its not like she had anyone else to talk to. He smiled at her, and she saw his teeth again. Apprehension stole over her, and she leaned back a little.
“I don’t eat people.” He said a bit sheepishly. “Not pretty girls who spend too much time alone anyway.” And Marilla relaxed a little. Then she realized what he had just said.
“Did-did you just call me pretty?” Marilla’s cheeks were on fire again and she smiled shyly at him. His face, hair and upper body were all that of a boy, but his skin, so beautiful in the sunlight, nearly glowed with irrodecent miniscule scales.
“I did!” he said, grinning again. “So, what’s your name ‘human’ girl?” he asked and used his fingers to make quotation marks in the air. He winked at her, as though she should be in on the joke which left her a little confused, a feeling she was getting used too.
Marilla grinned back, no one had ever called her ‘pretty’ before. With her flat little nose and strangely angular face most people called her ugly or worse. She certainly looked different, she knew that much at least, but to hear this beautiful creature called her pretty, and Marilla felt dizzy with pleasure.
She eyed him, taking in his features, something about him seemed almost familiar, not the way he looked but the way he spoke, his movements, the way he flicked his tail. That is when she realized he had a tail.
“My name is Marilla,” she said finally, then after a pause she blurted out with out thinking “what are you?” she asked with wonder realizing immediately that she had been rude, again. He was about to laugh at her, she though as she closed her eyes and braced herself. When no laughter came, she opened one eye and looked at him, finding an expression of confusion on his face that was almost comical.
“Don’t you recognize me?” he asked, a touch of sadness now to his voice and Marilla, confused again, shook her head. He nodded and then smiled, the sadness gone as though it had never been.
“Not to worry, its just not the time yet. Hey, listen, I have to go now, it is getting late, and I know you have to get back to your mom, but come see me again? “ a puppy like pleading entered his features and Marilla giggled with delight.
“Ok “she said, smiling shyly again, relieved that she had found a friend for once in her life. Then she thought of something and asked,
“How will I find you again? You haven’t even told me your name.”
“You can call me Kai, and if you want to find me, touch a sea stone to a mirror and ask your reflection. She will know how to find me.” then added as an after thought “ I’m glad you found me.” he said and reached his hand out holding the stone that she had thought she had hit him with. Now it shone with a bit of the iridescent rainbow sheen of the Kai’s scales. She took it from him, their fingertips brushing together for just a moment before he winked at her and called the water to pluck him from the wood and bring him back to the sea. He waved before he disappeared beneath the waves and Marilla clutched the stone to her heart.
It was the first meeting but would not be the last, she promised herself, as she smiled and skipped down the peer towards home.