Everyone has heard stories of the mermaid who wanted to be a human. Some say she became human; others say she died and became sea foam. It doesn’t matter, really, what version of her story you know; the point is that you know her. I can guarantee that nobody has heard of the girl who tried to be a mermaid.
Her name was Caitlin and she wanted to be special.
All her life, she had lived in her sister’s shadow. Her sister was prettier, smarter, better at everything. All Caitlin had was the sea. She loved walking in the waves and gathering shells. Occasionally, she would spot a pod of dolphins swimming in the water. They looked so free and only made her feel more trapped in a body that would not dance on the waves. She yearned to be as free as the dolphins were; as beautiful. Sighing, she resigned herself to knowing it would never happen. She would never be free. Or beautiful. Or…special.
A few weeks later, she was once again on the shore. The music of the sea could do nothing for her; her only confidante had betrayed her and she felt more alone than ever. Caitlin sat in the sand. Waves crashed over her feet and gulls’ raucous cries only accented her loneliness and stabbed deeper into her shattered heart. She wept.
When she had cried her eyes dry, she looked up. It was nearly sunset and time for her to be headed home. At her feet, an exquisite conch shell, sized perfectly for her hand, was lying there on the sand. It was so beautiful that she just stared at it for a few minutes, lost in the glory of its designs. Eventually, she headed home.
That night, she had a dream. The dolphins were playing, but this time, Caitlin noticed people dancing with them. But there was something strange. These people had fins instead of legs! She knew that she was looking at mer-people. “Come and join us,” they said to her, “we know you want to.” She tried, but it was like a wall separated her from them. The mer-people began taunting her. “Can’t dance, human?” Their harsh laughter rang in her mind as she jolted awake. She wanted more badly than ever to join them.
The nightmare was repeated every night. Every morning she woke up desperate to swim with the mer-people.
She could not see that the nightmares were making her act strangely. Her family commented on her sudden unwillingness to eat anything but fish. Her swim coach commented on her sudden unexplained improvement. Her teachers wanted to know why she, formerly a model student, would suddenly start turning in assignments written in gibberish. Caitlin insisted that she understood the assignments perfectly and could not understand why her teachers could not read Mermish. She would sit for hours on the beach listening to the waves, holding the conch shell to her ear.
She got worse and worse. A few weeks later, she had a dream. It started out the same as all her previous nightmares, but this time, she could join the dance. The mer-people didn’t mock her this time. Instead, they looked at her with a new respect as they led her in the steps. She was becoming one of them. She was special. It was everything she had wanted.
She woke up, more eager than ever to join the mer-people and become one of them in reality, if she could figure out how. While getting dressed, she looked at her legs and had to stifle a scream. She was growing scales. Everything came crashing in on her. The dreams, her unexplained affection for fish; all of it was real. She was turning into a mermaid. She would get her chance.
That day, though, everything changed.
Caitlin was sitting on the beach, when her former friend and confidante walked up. “Hi,” she said. “Hi,” responded Caitlin softly. “Listen, I wanted to apologize for everything. The way i treated you was wrong. You haven’t been in class for days now and I feel like its all my fault. I’m so sorry. Please come back. I miss you.” She walked away, leaving Caitlin on the sand.
Her mind spun. How could she go back and forgive the person who had betrayed her? On the other hand, what had the mer-people done for her? She didn’t even know they existed until they started enchanting her, now she was failing her classes and eating fish. She didn’t even like fish. However, they had never betrayed her. Yes, but they had mocked her and maltreated her. Her friend, however, had come to ask for forgiveness. She missed her. She mattered. Caitlin began to cry.
The conch shell was sitting at her feet, just as it was when Caitlin had found it. Before she could change her mind, Caitlin picked it up and threw it into the ocean with all her strength. Surely it was her imagination that a bit of song was carried back to her ears on the wind. “Human,” it seemed to say. She immediately felt better.
As time went on, Caitlin and her best friend grew even closer. She eventually lost the scales and her appetite for fish, and never told anyone why she suddenly developed a taste for it. Most importantly, though, she never again forgot that she mattered.