Mermaid’s Tail

Juteau is sleepwalking again, the first time I’ve seen her do it since her uncle died. She comes downstairs and into the living room where I am laying on the sofa reading. I am invisible to her, and I pull my legs back before she sits on them. Her eyes are open and focused on something that only she can see, and her lips move almost imperceptibly as she whispers something that I can’t quite make out, a singsong of secret words meant for phantom ears.

There is a light coming from her, which rises up and out of her skin. It moves in eddies and currents, washing over her head and chest, swirling down her arms and across the backs of her hands like water over smooth tidal rocks. She’s a firework, all sparks and flares and sunlight turning the tips of the waves to liquid fire. She belongs here in this house as much as anyone, although I don’t know how much longer she’ll choose to stay. She has a life outside of this place, outside of this city, put on hold these past months but waiting for her when she breaks the surface and chooses to reenter it.

I want to put a fisherman’s net over her and pull her out of her sea and put her into mine. I want to make a wish on her mermaid’s tail and have the wish come true. I want her to stay, but I know that’s the wish that will not be heard, nor would I speak it aloud at any rate. If wishes were fishes, after all.

I sit up and brush my fingers through the strands of her hair that are framing her face and push them behind her ear. I’m not afraid anymore of waking her while she is asleep like this. We are all fearless here these days. “Go to bed,” I whisper to her. She doesn’t answer me, but I hadn’t expected her to. She does slightly smile, although if it is a smile meant for me or for the phantom she was whispering to a moment ago, I can’t say.

I put my book on the table and get up from the sofa to go upstairs to my own bed, where Bez will be sleeping by now. Juteau stays where she is, but I’m not worried about her. She is a light in the darkness, and no harm could wrap its arms around something as bright as her tonight.

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