I had looked in on my mermaid several times during the night, and had tied up the restraints that would keep her from falling out of the bunk. Each time, she had been sleeping.
This time, she was awake. Her eyes were wide and dark, and frightened. I stood by her bunk and said, “Good morning. How long have you been awake.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I slipped in and out at first.”
“How do you feel?” She didn’t look good, but that may have been because Wahini’s new motion was something of a lift and wiggle, followed by a sick slide downward like a slow roller coaster. It seemed to have more effect here below than it had on deck.
She said, “Is this heaven or hell?”
“You be the judge. Coffee?”
She shook her head. I pumped up the stove and put a pot of water on to boil. Then I rummaged in the drawer that acted as medicine chest and returned to her.
“What is that?” she asked warily.
“A patch. I’ll put one behind your ear. It lets your skin slowly absorb a seasickness medicine. I’d give you a pill that works faster, but I’m afraid you might not be able to keep it down.”
She turned her head away and said, “You’re probably right.” I applied the patch.
I returned to making breakfast – a sailor’s eggnog of powdered milk, powdered egg, water, and a lot of sugar to kill the taste. I used it to wash down a couple of multi-vitamins, then rinsed the glass and moved up beside her again. I haven’t rescued many mermaids, but this one seemed awfully incurious.
And awfully scared.
I put my hand on hers and she flinched. I said, “You don’t have to be scared of me.”
She said, “I’m naked.” Her hands clenched tighter on the blanket.
She blushed scarlet.
“Your nakedness is not my fault. You came to me that way. I just dragged you out of the water, dried you off, and put you to bed.”
I made coffee while she thought about it. Then I stuck my head out of the hatch for a look around. When I closed it again, the smell of coffee had filled up the little cabin.
She said, “That smells good.” I gave her a cup and loosened the canvas restraint that had kept her from flying out of the bunk in her sleep. She wedged herself into a corner formed by a locker, holding the blanket up with one hand, and took the coffee in the other.
I sat down across from her. She had reason to be scared. She didn’t know me, and she was about as vulnerable as anyone could ever be. No one knew she was here. I could rape her, kill her, and then drop her overboard. No one would know.
I wouldn’t, but she didn’t know that.
I said, “What’s your name?”
I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. It had been a long night. After a while, she asked, “Who are you?”
“Ian Alisdair Gunn.” I didn’t volunteer anything more. I was giving her time. I was also falling asleep.
She said, “Is this your boat?”
I struggled upright and took another drink of coffee. more tomorrow