The Encantado and the Mermaid
By Beth J. Whiting
Jamie was twenty years old. He was growing into the encantado lifestyle despite his mother’s pleadings. His father who had gone through the experience, being a weredolphin as well, told the mother to let him have his fun while he was young.
The mother didn’t understand it. Jamie lived in the Enchante, a peaceful glorious place to live. Why would you want to fuss around with a bunch of humans then? Humans were full of misery and pain.
Jamie agreed. But it was the imperfection that made them appealing. It was something to work with. Besides, it wasn’t like he was going to a psychology session with them or anything. He was just going to parties.
Jamie would always find one by the sea. If they found out he was an encantado all he had to do was race into the ocean and then he would become a dolphin and flip away. That only happened once. The person who made the call was probably a human whose grandmother read stories to them at night.
His father had told Jamie that if anything it was better to be an encantado nowadays. The belief was dying. Back when he was alive he had to run to the water frequently. He was even shot at once.
Jamie wasn’t really trying to disguise himself, but his outfit smartly achieved the effect. He liked his father’s old white suits. He found them appealing and sharp. They looked good on him. He was handsome in human form. Not in a Cary Grant sort of way, more boyish. He was average height and had wavy brown hair.
In the past, girls thought that the white suit looked odd. He stuck out, and not in a good way. Yet Jamie still found some who would approach him to flirt. Jamie was a good dancer, and managed to become one of the main attractions at every party he went to.
The fact that he wore a hat made him stick out. Hardly anyone wore hats nowadays. Jamie had to. His forehead didn’t shapeshift. It still remained dolphin-like. Back in his father’s days it may have been easy to hide, but a twenty year old these days always wearing a hat? Regardless, the white hat went well with what Jamie thought was a snappy suit.
Jamie was ready to leave the Enchante. He was in the mood for a party.
Lucille turned 18. She was given one week. That was all. If she was married by the end of the week, then she could stay human forever. If not then she was to return to the mermaid world.
Not that Lucille minded it so much. She loved the mermaid world. She loved the sea, her family.
Everyone had a chance once they turned 18 to go abroad for a week, to temporarily become a human. The stories they returned with made that week out to be magical. They would describe the sights they saw, the people they met. Since it was so short a time very few actually got married. To get to know someone and have them marry you within a week? That must be impossible.
Many who have done so were only triumphant because they had concocted a successful love potion. There was some debate around the land on whether the love potions were ethical. It was using someone against their will. Besides, her family told her that the love potions were only temporary. Then what would she have? A bad marriage or divorce most likely. No, the person needed to be in love with you sincerely. That was the only real way it would work out.
Lucille had a neutral attitude on the trip. If she met someone, that was fine. However if she didn’t she wouldn’t be depressed for the rest of her life. Many people were and Lucille considered that a waste. Lucille was curious about what it would be like to have legs and feet for awhile. She already had her clothes prepared for her. Her mother had a beautiful purple dress that she had found on her trip long ago. That was a rule. If you didn’t succeed in finding a spouse, you had to bring something from the human world back with you. Most people picked clothes, that way their offspring could have a better start in the new world.
Some people recommended to just run off with anyone. To Lucille that was stupid. It wasn’t like things were that bad here.
On the day Lucille turned eighteen she found that her tail had shed itself in her bed. She discovered her legs and feet. They were strange to behold. The toes were so wiggly. Her mother came in to help her put on the purple dress and fix her hair.
“Make sure he’s a nice one.” She was talking to her daughter as if it were the last time she would see her. For some it really was.
“Of course I won’t pick a jerk,” Lucille said to comfort her mother.
Lucille was handed over to an instructor. It seemed like they swam forever. The mermaid world was left far behind. Then when it seemed like Lucille couldn’t take it anymore the woman told her to keep swimming until she reached the shore.
Lucille didn’t know what she meant, and just kept swimming until she lost consciousness.
When Lucille woke she found herself on a beach. A number of people were standing around her asking each other if she was okay. When Lucille breathed the crowd triumphed. After she was declared to be all right she was left alone. Lucille was confused. What was she supposed to do?
For the rest of the day Lucille observed the people on the beach. She noticed that some just like to sit back and relax. Others went out into the ocean. Some made sand castles, and others just talked with each other. Most of them were wearing swimming suits. Lucille thought they looked half-naked.
Hours later a passerby randomly gave Lucille an invitation to a party that would be near the beach soon. She didn’t know what a “party” was but it sounded interesting. Maybe she could meet men there.
Jamie always crashed parties. That was the problem. Sometimes people would say “He didn’t get an invite,” and throw him out. Jamie learned not to be mad about it. There were other parties, other nights. It wasn’t like he could argue with them. He wasn’t invited, but that bit of danger was part of the fun.
Jamie was excited tonight. His white suit sparkled. He felt like having fun tonight. Jamie flirted with girls but never felt special about one. He saw the way that his parents loved each other. He expected that would happen ten years from then, but for now settling was for old men. He was young. The night was young. Everything was good.
Lucille went over to where a number of people were gathered. She figured that was where they were having the party. She saw a lot of people drinking and acting funny afterwards. She decided not to touch that stuff.
Lucille just sat on the sidelines observing. She had no intention of joining the people at the party. She wouldn’t know what to say. She noticed that some came dressed nicely and some remained in their swimwear. She felt indifferently about it all until he walked by.
He looked about her age. She liked the white suit he wore. It stood out in the crowd. He looked flashy. She blushed. He was handsome.
The party went on. He was quite a dancer. Lucille sat in the back with the rejected girls. She wasn’t aware of this though.
It happened quite suddenly. Jamie went over to her and said “You’re much too pretty to be sitting here alone.”
Then Lucille realized that the guy meant her wanted to dance with her.
She blushed, “Oh but I don’t know how to dance.”
“I’ll do all the work. Don’t worry.”
He was right. She just stood besides him while he wowed the crowd.
“What’s your name?”
“I haven’t seen you around here.”
“I’m kind of new.”
“Good. These parties need new faces.”
Lucille danced with him for a while. The he switched off to another girl. She didn’t complain. She just sat back down and watched him as he went. The guy made quite an impression. She learned by the end of the night that his name was Jamie Oates.
Jamie thought it was a fair party. It didn’t have the jazz records that he liked such as Louis Prima where the saxophone could be heard. They usually played dance music at these parties which he didn’t care for. It sounded fake to him.
He remembered the girl in the purple dress. She was there the next night at the same spot. She still had on the same dress.
He asked her to dance but questioned her, “Why are you dressed the same again?”
She said “It’s all I have.”
This made Jamie wonder. He found that his mind was focused on her the whole night. He wasn’t enjoying the party.
Jamie’s suspicions seemed to be confirmed. When he was going back home much later he saw her wandering around the beach. Who was this mysterious girl?
The third night he asked her if she was homeless.
“No, I have a family,” she answered.
She had a home, the sea. She didn’t really see his point.
“I mean do you have a house or an apartment that you go home to.”
“Don’t you get cold on this beach at night.”
“It’s all right. I won’t be here for very long.”
“You mean you’re on vacation?”
“Something like that.”
But then she asked him something that made him jump.
“Can I see you without the hat?”
With that he switched to another girl.
The fifth night Lucille knew that it was over. Lucille hadn’t found a man to marry her. She failed. She knew that by that night her tail would start growing out again. When the scales covered her legs completely she would have to get to the water to swim away.
She danced with the guy in the white suit and thought to herself that this flirt was the closest she had gotten. She didn’t expected anything out of the ordinary to happen that night, but it did.
In the middle of the party someone screamed out, “Encantado!” and pointed to Jamie.
People paid immediate attention. He became the focus of the scene, and this time not in a good way. He began to run for it. The crowd followed him. He ran as if his life depended on it out to the sea. Soon enough he disappeared into the ocean.
Lucille’s despair turned into laughter. Encantado. He was the same as her, a half-sea creature. No wonder he never took off the hat.
By the time it was midnight Lucille’s legs had become fins and she started swimming in the ocean. She found the instructor waiting there for her.
“You didn’t make it did you.”
Lucille smiled, “I don’t think I failed.”
When Lucille’s mother heard that her daughter had failed and hadn’t found a male she expected to soothe a heartbroken child. Instead she found a daughter gleaming.
“I found someone I like.”
The mother expected her to cry on her shoulder and tell her about some boy that she liked but couldn’t woo to marriage.
So Lucille told her story, only when she got to the encantado part her mother passed out.
“Mom, I have a chance with this guy.”
Her mother said disapprovingly, “No. He’s an encantado.”
“But he’s around my age and we’re both sea creatures.”
“Your father won’t like it.”
Her father didn’t.
“That’s bringing shame to the family. Why did she have to fall for an encantado.”
The mother reasoned, “I’m sorry, but it makes sense. She’s a stranger in a strange land so she falls for one of her own. I don’t think it will be all that bad.”
“It’s mermen or human men. Nothing else. An encantado? What will the neighbors think?”
Word spread around fast in the sea. A mermaid named Lucille had fallen for an encantado and his name was Jamie Oates. People thought it was funny.
Jamie didn’t think it was. It explained some things about Lucille. Why she only had one outfit and why she looked so confused. Frankly it made him like her more. She was a sea creature like him. Plus he imagined she looked more beautiful as a mermaid. The concept of the mermaid itself was romantic. He had one liking him.
He didn’t like the fact that people thought it was a joke. Why did people have to laugh at encantados.
Jamie was more than ready when her father called on him. He had to. His daughter was lovesick. He had to have an alert daughter, not some daydreaming creature.
When Lucille’s father saw him, he didn’t see what his daughter saw in him. Maybe it was just the dolphin form, but still.
He was harsh on the boy.
“So how many children do you have?”
If encantados were known for anything it was their illegitimate children.
Jamie said, “None.”
He didn’t believe him.
“You can ask my father,” Jamie insisted.
“You do realize that if you have a child it will be completely messed up. A half human encantado mermaid sounds like a person with an identity crisis.”
“I think you’re getting ahead of yourself.”
The father frowned. He didn’t have a reason for saying no, other than that it was an embarrassment.
On the first date Lucille was waiting outside her house.
She asked Jamie, “How do we split up our time between the Enchante and the merpeople?”
Jamie shook his head.
“Let’s just take this one step at a time.”
- - -
Beth J. Whiting was born in 1983 to a large family of brainy eccentrics. At eight years old she developed a love of books through the works of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis. Her short stories revolve around underdogs in suburban settings, such as the one in which she was raised. She currently lives with her artistic twin sister in a tiny apartment in Mesa, Arizona.
Labels: Beth J. Whiting