The Murmuring Sea

Copyright © Isabella Dalzell 2017. All RIghts Reserved.

The sea seemed to murmur as I lay prone on the flat rock, eyes closed, dreaming that I had not come here alone to escape the singles holiday. It was a nightmare! All those middle-aged women clustering around the few men in the group, the stilted conversations, the false smiles the sheer effort of mingling. Instead I soaked in the blissful peace and the warmth of the sun and listened to the sounds of the sea hissing and slapping as it swept the rock, occasional waves tickling my toes. I reached for the sunscreen and slapped a good layer on my fair skin; although I love to be warm and to slumber under the warm breeze, my skin does not take very well to exposure.

 

Just on the edge of hearing, I was aware of some playful shrieks but no, listening more closely, it was more harmonious than that, singing almost. Entranced by the sound I lay perfectly still and the soft sibilance grew louder, its cadence attuned perfectly to the rise and fall of the tide. I thought how delicious it would be to swim in the depths and then bask on a rock just like this away from the land and the noise of people and of the complexities of life. And just sing. And play.

 

My mind drifted back to my recent encounter in the music room. Sitting there, playing his guitar, long dark curls framing plaintive eyes, he’d asked me to sing accompaniment at the public performance, and as we’d practised, a bond had grown. Rigid with terror, I faced them from the stage. I had only just learned to sing, taking lessons from the holiday tutor. Standing there together in the cave, in front of the audience, we started off well enough but then he fumbled with the chord and started to sing the wrong verse, throwing me off key in my surprise. He was the experienced performer and either novice, giving my first ever public turn. Faltering, we stumbled through the song, waves of embarrassment and disappointment washing over me. I couldn’t wait to finish it and get off the stage. I thought he might console me, commiserate, but immediately the last discordant notes had sounded, he darted into the crowd and disappeared, leaving me anchorless in the night. The next act came on and I, too, disappeared; crept away to hide my shame.

 

Sitting alone in the dark on the windy clifftop, trying to get myself together, I sensed someone plunk themselves down next to me and turning saw Roy, who with a wry and friendly smile passed me his open bottle of wine. I took a swig, enjoying the feel of it warming my body and soothing my hurt.

 

“He comes every year, you know. Series of different women each time. He’s with Penelope right now, if you’re wondering, they’ve been something of an item all week.”

 

Somehow I’d guessed. Just hadn’t wanted to put it together. Why else the swift disappearance?

 

I felt a twitch in my foot, it almost flapped into the air and disconcerted, I wriggled in so far as the hard rock would allow, into a more comfortable position. My legs were beginning to feel cold, but it did not seem to matter as I lay there, humming in tune to the siren call, entranced by the wailing harmonies growing louder all the time. I felt a flick of wet hair on my shoulder - I had piled it neatly on the top of my head but surely it should be dried by now? And when had it grown so long? No matter, drowsily I swept it aside with my hand which brushed my thigh as I placed my hand back on the rock. My thigh felt strangely wet and rough, almost scaly.

 

I smiled. How wonderful to go diving through the depths in the cool dark waters and to sleep in a sandy cave. To play tricks on the local fishermen and steal their bounty, releasing it back into the waters. To swim through the oceans at night, following the stars and riding the tides as they changed with the moon. To eat the raw mussels and crustaceans, enjoy a dainty sea urchin perhaps-wait a minute! I had always hated molluscs!

 

My ankle twitched again, quite violently this time and my eyes sprang open. In astonishment I gazed at the forked fin tail and my eyes followed the green and grey scales covering my lower body almost up to the waist. I looked out to sea and saw three heads bobbing in the waves, long hair strewn with air bubbles floated like seaweed around them and looking towards me, they waved, beckoning me over. Their mischievous delight entranced me and my tail seemed to have a life of its own, twisting and rolling until I was on the edge of the rock and then plop! The delicious waters embraced me and I felt a huge sigh of relief resound through my whole body as I swam towards my new friends.