September 2023 

competition results


First Prize

Saturday Morning by Genevieve Flintham


Second Prize
Flo by Sarah Loxton


Third Prize
The Boy and the Mermaid by David Longstaff


The three stories will soon be added below! Enjoy!


The September 2023 Shortlist


A Difficult Date by Madeleine Armstrong, Kent UK

Flo by Sarah Loxton, Billinghurst, uk

Saturday Morning by Genevieve Flintham, Plysmouth, UK

Shifting Sands by Martin Phillips, Cllompton, UK

The Boy and the Mermaid by David Longstaff, Ellen's Green, UK

The Transgression by Andrew Senior, Sheffield, UK



The September 2023 Longlist


A Difficult Date by Madeleine Armstrong, Kent UK

Closing His Account by Ian Gouge, Market Rasen, UK

Dance of the Seven Veils by Richard Smith, Newcastle-under-Lyme, UK

Flo by Sarah Loxton, Billinghurst, UK

Last Christmas by Chris Sewart, Beverley, UK

Parish Business by Andy Stewart, Saltash, UK

Saturday Morning by Genevieve Flintham, Plymouth, UK

Shifting Sands by Martin Phillips, Cllompton, UK

The Boy and the Mermaid by David Longstaff, Ellen's Green, UK

The Fairy Tale Girl by Elizabeth Adam, Newton Mearns, Scotland, UK

The Interview by Vivian Oldaker, Tisbury, UK

Only One Man Died by Denarii Peters of Didcot, Oxfordshire, UK

The Transgression by Andrew Senior, Sheffield, UK




Saturday Morning by Genevieve Flintham




That which comes easily:

We were twenty-seven and both unencumbered with the type of love for our partners that we had in the early, rose-scented days. Thirty was rapidly approaching and we laughed over the fact that we were a Taurus and a Gemini, as if it meant anything. My mother had moved to Greece to find herself and your mother was growing asparagus, so we decided we had things in common.


We started sending each other asparagus memes and funny Greek phrases as if we were winding ourselves into the other’s family life. We never enquired after each other’s partners, except to use such damning phrases as ‘If we were single, would you ever consider…’


I gave you my phone to put songs onto the office Spotify account, and you added ‘Saturday Morning’ by The Eagles. I started thinking about you on Saturdays, and then I noticed how you always put a new social media story up on Saturday mornings, as if you were thinking about me too.


We shared a work project, and we stole off into Meeting Room 5 – the only one without a window to the office – on more occasions than the work warranted. We pretended that we were delivering outstanding service on a project that required anything but, but we were just consumed by flirty hyperbole.


At the office Christmas party, I waited for a drink at the bar in the gaudy circus tent, trapeze artists winding their way through hoops in the sky, and you pressed your hand against the back of mine. It could have been an accident. It sent a thrill through me that was more exciting, more alive, than anything I’d ever felt.


I started to wonder whether you could make a good father – after all, we were of that age where I had to think firmly about such tropes. Thirty is a kicker on an oil-slicked horizon for a woman who wants their ovaries to remain firmly in gear. I tried to weigh up with logic, but logic falls foul of emotions and emotions pretend to be logic.


He'd make a great father, my emotions told me, dressed in the straightjacket of logic, nodding in the way of a therapist. He has those qualities…


My emotions ran dry there. Never mind; logic can be a wily bugger, always leaving at the moment that I require actual, factual qualities.


You were fun. Of that, I was sure. After the hand-touching incident, things dialled up a notch. You added a few more songs to my Spotify playlists, enhancing my ‘Deep Work’ and ‘Gym’ collations. Soon, I was even smiling on the treadmill, as one of your songs spasmed into my ears, driving my legs to go further, harder.



I thought about you when I made love to my boyfriend. I didn’t even think of it as making love anymore; it was an animalistic requirement that led to greater productivity and better skin. Both were proven facts. My emotions spun around logic again, like Christmas lights around a tree. They switched on and dazzled, hiding the fleshy green spindles underneath.


You gave me a book – Life Of Pi – and I devoured it, looking for the hidden meaning. Were you the tiger? Was I? Was the novel really a misunderstood love story? Did the sea represent passion? I read it twice. Who am I kidding? I read it five times and bought an additional copy so that I could highlight and annotate without you seeing my obsession grow on the original.


My boyfriend read it too. He thought it ‘must be good’, given how many times I was reading it; and even though he ‘never reads’, he decided that it looked too enticing to forego.


He started asking me about it, and I answered in crude, short words, wishing that his disputes, his mind, wouldn’t infringe on the book’s copyright.


And then you started asking me about it. We discussed it at length in Meeting Room 5 – which we’d started referring to as ‘The Red Room’ because of the colour of the walls, only we decided to keep the new name a secret. It gave me a thrill, knowing that we had a shared Red Room, even if the only clothes shirked were our jackets after a hot lunch break.


Our discussions became a form of foreplay; I would wait for my eyes to glitter before giving a response, as if I could say forbidden things without needing to move my lips. You swallowed everything. It inflated me, the power of knowledge, of conversation, and I added ‘intelligent discussion’ to my list of factual qualities. I imagined you sitting at the dining table in the evening, having ‘intelligent discussion’ with our intelligent offspring, saying delightful things that made us all laugh, before we sent the children to bed so that we could shag on the dining table.


Sex kept interrupting my wholesome images. It felt like an end destination which could never be explored, even though my body – my ovaries – were on an important road, bombing down a motorway at one hundred miles an hour, waiting to either crash or be rescued. Watching your hands as we sat in the meeting room, typing away on a nondescript keyboard, one strong finger twitch after another, was enough to drive me insane.


If we were fifty, things would be different, I reasoned. There is a certain expectation put upon women of a certain age who wish to birth offspring, to engage both logic and emotions in the selection of a co-pilot.


On a Wednesday afternoon, when the project had drawn on for too long and our bosses were questioning the additional time required – meaning that we had to start moving past exciting conception to birth something concrete – you told me that I’d make a great mother.


Don’t be ridiculous, I told you, batting my eyelashes as if I was offended. I’m way too young to think about that, I said.


I didn’t want you thinking of me as some gorged broad ready to spill; I wanted to be seen as a cirrus cloud; thin, streaking past, twisting into new and exciting shapes.


Thus was the dichotomy; I knew that I wanted children, and yet I didn’t want you to think of me as anything less than exciting. Twenty-seven is a tricky age.


As you were leaving the meeting room, I stood up at the same time and we accidentally pressed together. My buttocks set themselves on the edge of the table; your groin pressed into my lower stomach; I felt your body heat rocket right through me. Your breath smelled like porridge and I inhaled, automatically, my eyes in line with your lips. I ached all over.


And then you were gone, disappeared from the meeting room as if nothing had happened. I sat back down, panting, feeling my heart thudding in my neck, feeling that most dangerous excitement.


Feeling alive.


I confused my anxiety for all that is passionate and right in the world. This is how it’s supposed to feel, I told myself, as I waited for my legs to fill with blood and propel me back to standing. This is how love is supposed to feel.


We didn’t acknowledge the incident, but later, in the kitchen, you looked at me with eyes that were almost black. You’d changed the background on your phone; it used to be a picture of your girlfriend, but she had metamorphosised into a cactus. You tapped the screen to check the time, your dark eyes drawing themselves away from my face with a mixture of longing and confusion, as if there was thick treacle between us, and I took the phone screen as a sign.


You were showing me a sign.


And it helped that the cactus was the shape of an engorged penis.


I started listening to your songs on the way to work, filling my commute with a painful type of longing that cut through the humdrum of boring Earth. Why think about the news, or getting five fruit or veg a day, or texting my mother back – or checking what time it was in Greece before calling her – when there was something more ELECTRIC waiting ahead of me on the A road, dragging me along with promises of a glittering future?


Our project finished, but we had the company messenger app. We knew it was being monitored – everything was monitored – so we kept it light. You asked how my mother was doing in Greece and I asked whether your mother was planning on growing any other types of vegetables. In this way, we were able to keep each other injected into the normality of our lives outside of work.


Every time Mum said something remotely interesting about Greece, I told you. In turn, you sent me pictures of your mother’s vegetable garden, which I found fascinating. I would zoom in on each picture – on my phone in the toilets, obviously, not on the work monitor – and try and guess what she was like. She had patterned pink gardening gloves – was she a feminine type? Would she sew patterned pink romper suits for our fresh little buds?

You sent me a picture on a Sunday once, and I was filled with burning excitement all day. You were thinking about me at the weekend. It was a picture of asparagus and poached eggs. I took my boyfriend to the farmers market and bought as much asparagus as we could find. We had it with poached eggs in the afternoon before fornicating on the sofa, condom firm between us. He wouldn’t make a great dad; he didn’t even realise that the sea in Life of Pi represents the hidden depths of life.


I looked at the ceiling and thought about you.



That which comes harder:

I heard it first from my manager. She said it blithely, but her eyes were fixed on my face.


So exciting that he’s going to be a dad, she said.


She tilted her head to one side, as if I had become unzipped and she was examining the contents. We were in Meeting Room 3 – The Blue Room – and I stayed very still, a dried husk, a tumbleweed rolling across the great road.


Not true. Obviously, I assumed it wasn’t true. I cornered you in the kitchen. You wouldn’t meet my eyes.


Yeah, we’re really excited, you said.


But what… what about us? I said, breaking all of the rules.


There was never an us, you said, smiling weirdly.


I unzipped and it all came out. The songs, the book, the hand touch, the way you pressed me against the table. The pictures, the messages, the way you messaged me on a Sunday.


You’re imagining things, you said, your eyes as light as I’d ever seen them. I don’t mean to gaslight, but it sounds like you’ve invented a whole little world there.You laughed, and I zipped back up and felt my insides rearrange.


That which comes hardest:

“Hey.” You’re with them. Your wife smiles, her face blank and empty. There’s no way that she ever read your favourite book five times or listened to Saturday Morning on repeat. Your daughter ignores us.


“Hey,” I say, slipping my fingers between my husbands. We walk past, the supermarket aisle seeming to stretch on forever. 




Flo by Sarah Loxton


Mrs Pritchard was definitely a purple. Maybe a lavender purple, but not fresh, newly bloomed lavender, more like lavender at the end of summer.


Her daughter was harder to read. Children like Flo often were. Flo stood by her mother’s side in the queue in the pharmacy. She was more a haze of indeterminate colours that bled into each other and took on a different hue each time I looked. I wondered what Mrs Pritchard saw when she looked at her daughter. 


Flo glanced up at her mother cautiously and all around her. She snuck out a tiny hand to the shelf next to where they stood in the aisle. Little curious, probing fingers danced over the plastic of the labels, over the shelf and fingered each bottle and tube and box before stopping on the brightest packaging. She edged the box forward, but the movement caught Mrs Pritchard’s notice and brushed the little fidgeting fingers away. Disappointed, Flo looked around again before staring at me. I smiled. She smiled. She was becoming less hazy to me now; oranges and yellows unfurled around her.


‘Who’s next, please?’ the cashier called. The elderly man in front shuffled to the till, and the queue moved forward a step. I slid in behind Flo and ran my fingers over the cool plastic labels, the cold metal shelf and rows of products. I reached the box that had caught her attention; the label read, Pretty-in-Pink Hair Glitter. I wiggled it forward until it was right on the edge of the shelf, teetering. Her little mouth made a perfect O, and her eyes lit up with delight. I glanced each way, winked at her and then nudged the box over onto the floor. I clapped my hands delightedly, Flo squeaked, and Mrs Pritchard whipped round. She picked up the box and replaced it on the shelf, narrowed her gaze and held her hand out expectantly. Flo’s expression dropped.


‘Sorry.’ I mouthed.


Flo turned away and held her mother’s hand obediently. They stepped forward again. This time to the desk.


‘Prescription for Pritchard, I got a text to say it was ready.’


The cashier turned to a row of white paper bags on a counter behind her, all labelled and waiting.


‘Peterson, Price… Pritchard, here it is.’ The cashier was easy to read, the soft pink of a dusky sky. She returned to the till with the largest bag and called over the pharmacist. The pharmacist took Mrs Pritchard to one side, and the women spoke in hushed voices, pointing at different items in the bag periodically. It didn’t matter, I could still hear them. Mrs Pritchard took the bag from the pharmacist and nodded in thanks.


‘Come on, we need to get back.’ She ushered Flo back through the shop.


Flo followed her mum down the aisle, looking up at me as she went.


‘See you tomorrow,’ I whispered.




‘There’s nothing there, Florence, and we have to stop having this conversation. Look how exhausted you are, too. Come on.’ Mrs Pritchard righted Flo’s jacket and did up the zip as she spoke.


We’d just been playing pooh sticks on the bridge and were still breathless from running backwards and forwards across the wide bridge, trying to spot which stick would emerge first. We’d dropped the sticks over the rough stone wall, raced to the other side and waited to watch the sticks appear in their slow, dizzying spirals in the eddies of the stream before tearing back across the bridge to do it again.


‘Mum, it’s just a game,’ Flo answered quietly.


I tried to speak up too, but Mrs Pritchard had already turned away, and Flo was following behind.


‘One more game Flo, one more!’ I called, but Flo didn’t look back. She’d been yellow and gold today, all day, sunflower yellow. 


I dropped the last stick from our pile into the current below but didn’t race across to see its progress this time. I peered over the low wall, looking for my reflection in the ripples and dances of the water.




I sat outside on the window ledge, breathing in the sweet honeysuckle that grew up the trellis around me, waiting until Mrs Pritchard had turned off the light and left the room. But instead of going to Flo straight away, I followed Mrs Pritchard downstairs.


‘How is she?’ Mr Pritchard closed his laptop as we entered the living room.


I stepped forward to try and answer, to find the words, ‘She’s-’


Mrs Pritchard cut in, ‘I’m worried, Steve, she’s not eaten much at all today, and she’s so tired all the time.’


Mrs Pritchard was still purple, but it was faded and fraying at the edges as fatigue settled over her too. 


Mr Pritchard was more of an olive green, a sun-bleached green with a hint of earth to it. ‘Sounds like she overdid it yesterday, that’s all.’


‘I can’t stop her being a child.’ Mrs Pritchard clenched her fists in her cardigan as she sat down.


‘No one said we should love.’ Mr Pritchard rested his hand on her leg. ‘Anyway, we can’t jump to conclusions before we get the results back.’


I left them to it. I’d tried to reassure them before, but they were hard to reach. ‘You get some rest; I’ll sit with her.’ I said as I went back up to the bedroom. 


Flo was fast asleep, and I didn’t want to wake her, so I curled up on the foot of her bed. She woke with a start at one point, but I reassured her that I was there, and she fell back asleep.


In the morning, we played with Flo’s teddys and dolls. She sat them in rows and diagnosed what illness each one was suffering from. We checked their heart rate and temperature, bandaged some of them and prescribed their medicine, mostly M&Ms.


‘Who will look after us when you go?’ Flo gave voice to one of the bears.


Flo and I hadn’t talked about when we’d go or what it would be like. Flo shrugged her shoulders as she adjusted his new sling. ‘Not sure, Tobias, but you’ll be ok. In fact, I need you to look after Mum and Dad when I go.’


I rubbed her back gently. ‘I’ll pop back to check on them all.’




Not long later, well, it didn’t feel like long, maybe a few weeks, I lose track, Flo was asleep in bed, but it was daytime, and it wasn’t her bed.


Pink hair glitter fanned out across her pillow where it had nothing to cling to. Mr and Mrs Pritchard dozed fitfully in rigid chairs next to the bed; their fingers unconsciously gripped the armrests, and their jaws clenched even in sleep.


Tobias was nestled under Flo’s arm, and I quietly slipped in under the blanket, careful not to disturb any of the tubes or wires. I kissed her forehead gently.


She opened her eyes, ‘Is it time to go?’ Her voice soft.


‘Yes.’ She was still sunflower yellow, a hundred petals catching sunlight.  


‘Are you coming with me?’


‘Of course.’ I answered.


‘Will there be M&M’s?’




‘The yellow ones are my favourite.’


‘I know.’ 


‘Pardon darling?’ Mrs Pritchard leant over the bed, eyes dewy. She brushed her fingers over Flo’s cheek and adjusted the pillow. ‘It’s ok, we’re here.’ She whispered.


‘I know,’ smiled Flo.


I reached my hand up and cupped Mrs Pritchard’s face as 100 sunlit petals began to fall.




The Boy and The Mermaid by David Longstaff



His body sways as he stares down at the gurgling water swirling beneath him. Would anyone care if he was swept out to sea? He pushes off on one leg and jumps across the gully. His foot slips as he lands causing him to buckle. His knee cracks against the granite and both palms slap the greasy surface. He levers himself upright, he can’t even leap over a gap in the rocks. The shame of last night is still raw and he stumbles forward. A tiny beach appears, large boulders creating sides to a deep inlet. Head down he steps from ledge to ledge clambering lower until the soles of his shoes crunch on the shiny stones. He crouches, plucks a flat black pebble between his finger and thumb, walks to the water’s edge, and flings it into the grey sea. It skims twice before sinking. He turns and sees her.


She’s sitting with her back against a rock, cigarette in one hand, lighter in the other.

His mouth drops open. He’s never seen a mermaid before.

“You’re blocking my view,” she says, extending an arm in front of her and waving it from side to side.

He turns to the sea and then back to the mermaid.

“Cat got your tongue?” she lifts the cigarette to her mouth, takes a long drag, then, with her chin snapping up and down, releases perfect smoke rings that rise and drift towards him.

“Shit here, isn’t it,” she says, looking around at the plastic bottles and washed-up shoes lying stranded on the beach. She curls the cigarette into her palm, wraps her thumb over the tips of her fingers and flicks the butt into the air.  There’s a hiss as it joins others floating in a brackish rock pool.

“Don’t talk much do you.”

His mind is blank. He can’t think of anything to say. He looks up to the rocks he clambered down.


“Mummy waiting, is she?”

“No, I’ve got work soon.”

“Ooh, he’s got a job. What do you do big man?”

“Work on the pier.” He straightens his back and puffs out his chest. “On the dodgems.”

“No, you don’t.”

“What? Yes I do.”

“You don’t work on the dodgems.”

Why did he say the dodgems, the pier was enough. “Not yet but I will soon."

“Sit next to me.” Her tail swishes back and forth and she pats the ground next to her. “I won’t bite you.”

Feeling gangly and clumsy he tramps toward her. He can’t help but stare at her tail. It’s black and rubbery with white scars etched deep into the surface. It separates into two fins, there are fishing hooks and bits of line tangled around it and one fin has a big chunk missing from it. The bit where she stops being a fish and starts being a girl is hidden because her t-shirt is pulled down but he can see the outline of her chest through the thin fabric.   

“Why don’t you take a picture?”

His eyes flash to her face. She has her head angled down to her shoulder, eyelids wide apart and her tongue sticking out.     

He laughs kicking at the driftwood and tangled netting.

“Sit down.”

He slumps to the floor. He can smell her now, it reminds him of the bins he has to empty full of snotty seafood.

“Is this where you live?” she says, curling her lip at the rubbish around them.                                                 

“What on the beach! No way. The bloke that runs the fair on the pier, he owns bedsits.”  

“Good for you.” The lighter sparks and she slips the flame back and forth under the fingers of her other hand. “You’ve run away.”

“No. Just…”

“Same here.” She kills the lighter, lifts her tail, and slaps it down again. “I didn’t run though.”  A  smell of rotting fish fills his nostrils and he tries not to gag.

“How long have you been here?” she asks.

“A couple of months.” He looks down at his dirty trousers and scuffed shoes. “How about you?”

“A couple of months.”

He turns to the sea. “Why don’t you go back?”

“Why don’t you?”

He nods and lifts his wrist. “Better get going, can’t be late.”

“Nice watch.”

“Someone gave it me.”


“Not really.” He stands.

“Do me a favour,” she says, looking up at him, “come back with some chips later. I’m starving.”

“Yeah all right.” He turns, then swings back. “It’ll be dark. I won’t find you.”

“Meet me under the pier then.”


He smiles. “Okay.”

His wet shoes squelch as he trots onto the wooden boards of the pier.


“You’re late.” A hand grabs him by the collar yanking him backwards. It’s Mr Perks, his meaty fingers swell with heavy jewellery as he twists his fist and slices the lad’s neck with a gold sovereign. “Why do you think I gave you a watch?” The lad wriggles but the man pulls him closer, wet lips graze his cheek and he can smell onions and cigarettes as his boss whispers in his ear. “I can easily find another boy to work for me.” He releases his grip and pushes a nicotine-stained finger hard against the lad’s chest. “Late again and you’re back on the street.”


The lad runs to the tin shack behind the penny arcade. He turns the handle and shakes the door in its flimsy frame before banging it open. Two grey rats scuttle out of the dark and across the threshold. He steps into the gloom, grabs a sack and scoops up soft toys ready to fill the glass cabinets of the claw machines. A screw-top jar, full of chewing gum balls, sits on a shelf. The lad watches as wasps crawl lazily over the coloured orbs. As he leaves, he reaches forward grips the glass sides and shakes the contents hoping to squash the insects before throwing it in the bag. As he wedges the door shut, the lights lining the pier on loops of black power lines, flicker into life. Speakers crackle and buzz before music drowns out the screech of the circling gulls. 

Saturday night rolls into Sunday morning, the pier grows silent and the lights disappear into the dark sky. Workers crowd together by the exit gates. The lad watches as Mr Perks hands out brown envelopes containing the wages for the week.

“You haven’t finished yet,” says Mr Perks, holding the lad’s packet between finger and thumb.

The lad is guided through the darkness by the boss’s firm hand on his back. The sea whispers below and unseen bunting cackles in the breeze. They stop at a No Entry sign tied to a metal gate at the very tip of the pier. The lad is shaking and his stomach is cramping with fear. Mr Perks fumbles with the lock then pushes him through the gap and points to the floor. The lad drops to his knees, sliding in the sticky excrement from the seabirds and the slime from the sea. One weak security light throws shadows across the planked floor and the lad closes his eyes. When his ordeal is over Mr Perks pushes him away with the sole of his shoe and drops the envelope. The lad has to grab quickly before the breeze lifts it over the railings and out to sea.

 The newspaper is almost cold and leaks vinegar into his hands. A red glow bounces in the air below the pier and he stumbles toward it, trying not to cry.


“You took your time.” The glow brightens as she sucks in the smoke and he sees her sitting at the foot of one of the huge pillars. “The lights went out ages ago,” she says. “Did you bring the chips?”
He squats next to her and unwraps the food.


The Mermaid flicks a burning ember into the dark and plunges a hand into the greasy fries throwing them into her mouth.  She tilts her head back and he can see her throat moving up and down as she swallows the sticky clumps. Within moments the food has gone.

He looks at the scraps lying on the sand around her.

She burps loudly and then scrapes between her teeth with a fingernail.

“What happened then?”


“Nothing.” He blinks away tears and compresses the paper into a tight ball with his hands.  A seagull hops forward from the shadows followed by another. He hurls the wrapper in their direction.  

“I could help you,” she says, watching the fighting gulls. “We could kill two birds with one stone.” She smiles at her own joke and lights another cigarette. In the flare of the flame he notices two of her fingers are missing, bits of shrivelled skin hang in their place. A fly crawls toward the edge of her eye and as she shakes her head more lift from bald patches on her head.

“I want to go home,” she says.

He rolls his lips tight together and clenches his fists.

“I miss the sea.” He hears her tail move sluggishly back and forth in the sand.

“Just go.” He wipes his eyes and points to the waves. “Swim back.”

“It’s not that easy.” Her eyes are fixed on the horizon. Moonlight rolls across the surface of the grey water. “I will have to say I’m sorry.”

“Say it then. Just say sorry and then you can go back.”

“Sorry comes at a price.” She turns her head towards him. “My father is cruel, he will not back down until I pay.”

“What does he want? What do you have to pay?”
 “Too much.” She looks back to the sea. “He wants a soul.”


The lad swallows, he’s not sure what she means.
Laughter cuts through the darkness as a group of people stagger onto the beach. He looks across to see if they have been spotted but no one notices them. The promenade lights are still lit, and he watches them throw down blankets in the orange glow.


He lowers his voice and turns back to the mermaid. “A soul?”

“I would have to take someone back with me.”

“To live in the sea with you?”

“No, they would die, so I can live.” She drops her head in her hands and the flies swarm again.

He wipes his salty cheeks with his fingers. “I’ll do it,” he says. “I’ll go with you into the sea.”


The mermaid lifts her head, “You’d do that for me, why?”

“Because I love you.” The lad has never said those words before and it feels good. “I love you and I will do it.” He immediately crouches on one knee, and curls one arm under her tail and the around her back. He stands, staggering with her weight. He has made his decision. Slowly step by step he walks into the water. His feet sink into the wet sand and the waves lap at his ankles. He struggles forward until the mermaid becomes weightless, her body floating in the dark sea. He keeps walking the water rising over his waist. He still has hold of the mermaid’s arms. He feels a tug as she flicks her tail and slips from his grasp. She’s free, going home. He hears shouting from the beach and turns to look over his shoulder. People are running towards him waving their arms. He wades further into the sea. His jaw is trembling and his back is rigid with the cold. His palms are flat on the water and his eyes strain for a glimpse of the mermaid. His breathing is shallow and fast. Where is she? Has she left him? He hears splashing, her tail is slapping the water. She has come back for him. Salty droplets hit his face and hands close around him. He feels her pulling him toward her. He laughs everything is going to be okay she won’t let him die.

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