She never could have done it, otherwise.
The pale, trembling girl held the dagger in her quivering hands. No, not a girl—a woman. She was a full-grown, adult woman, and she fully accepted the consequences of her actions…and of her refusals to act.
…She loved her sisters.
She did; she loved each and every one of her siblings with so much emotion that it threatened to derail her entirely, but there were other desires which eclipsed that kinship, now.
Passionate, raw, romantic love.
Nothing could compare to it. Nothing ever would.
Because they were soulmates.
She knew it was selfish.
The woman knew that it was self-centered and conceited, to waste such a possibility, such a gift. But she had never asked for it. She had never requested that her sisters maim themselves, that they defile their own bodies so degradingly before the sea witch so that she alone may have a chance at redemption.
She did not want or expect redemption. Not now, not ever.
When she had initially exchanged her shimmering, emerald scales for mammalian legs, she had known exactly what possible fate she may have been damning herself to.
She had known in advance of the horrible pain that would sear through her foreign bones with every step that she ever took as a human. She knew that she would never speak or sing again.
…Oh, how she missed the singing.
She had lamented that particular loss more than anything else, living as a human being. Her family, her friends, the exquisite, extraordinary endlessness that was the sea… She could easily live without any of it, had she only had the escape of melody and song within her grasp. Alas, that was taken from her, too, in order to obtain these unsightly, fleshy legs.
Yet with the pain and indignity of it all came inhuman grace. The people above the water watched her in fascination when she merely walked among them. They stared and gaped and sighed as she passed, an impossible creature in her elegant, unnatural movements that made them think of flowing waters and fluid streams.
But they did not know of the unending agony that accompanied each and every one of her seamless steps, of her sophisticated, seemingly mundane gestures.
How could they?
There was no blood as evidence. No outright explanation for her excruciating pain.
For a short, substantial span of time, the woman had thought her deal with the devil worthy.
The man with whom she had fallen in love with cared for her. He had found her on a barren beach, alone and naked on an endless span of white, pristine sand.
When he had realized that she was unable to speak, he’d found it endearing.
When she had been clumsy in her inability to walk on her own, at first, he had found it worthy of sympathy and aid.
When she had failed to continually disregard every step that she took, and he, her beloved, had eventually become frustrated and annoyed at such unnatural and annoying signs of distress-she had learned to pretend and smile through such anguish, because his happiness was everything, he was her everything, and she would do anything for his love.
Because she needed his love. She needed it, and she wanted it, and it was her entire world, the prospect of his heart belonging to her and only her.
…What a fool, she had been.
What a fool, to believe that soulmates were real. What a fool, to think that the epitome of her entire existence depended solely on a human man whom she did not even know.
To believe in love, to believe in such far-fetched, romantic ideals.
…The part that pained her the most, of course, was that the love was, horribly, catastrophically real.
He did love her. He did, he had whispered it to her in the darkness of nights between silken sheets where her feet did not ache and his heart was wide open. He was deeply, irrevocably in love with her.
But humans are not so simple and straight-forward, and the perplexing, elaborate labyrinths of their hearts are capable of loving more than one individual at a time.
Her beloved had fallen for another siren. Only this one was not a foreign, sumptuous creature of the sea; but a natural, warm human being.
Just like him.
…She knew she had no chance, then.
A real, true human being who could laugh and speak and sing; one who was of his political stature and was seen as worthy of a prince in their outlandish, confusing, human world where names upon names determined whether one was acceptable for matrimony. It was a concept that had been unknown to her before her ascent to the dry world, and if she had known of mankind’s complicated and illogical politics, she would have never traded her voice and her life for a human man who would unflinchingly look at her with love in his eyes and then so easily and willingly look to another.
But the sea witch had known all of this, of course. Such a wise and experienced woman who made her livelihood off of such naive and rich young fools, and she had been just another victim of the elder witch’s trade.
The tragic victim supposed she should have been very grateful for the dagger in her hands. She should have been counting her blessings that she had such loving, caring older sisters who were willing to shear their hair for her return to the sea, for their youngest sibling to exchange her alien, pain-inducing man-legs for her natural-born fin of glittering green scales and finally come home.
She should have been thankful…but she was not.
The only way she could return home to the ocean with her beautiful, mermaid’s tail was to take this dagger—the one which she now held in her quivering, trembling fingers—and plunge it into her beloved’s heart.
Before he woke, before sunrise. Before he married another human woman.
…She never could have done it.
The false woman held the cursed knife in her hands all night and cried. She knelt on the beach with human feet that ached of raw, invisible pain that plagued her entire body in a way that no one, human or otherwise, could ever understand. She fell into the white sands and sobbed; voiceless, raw, emotional sounds that were born somewhere in her stomach and erupted out of her throat as deep, guttural howls.
Her sister’s bald heads emerged from the depths of the endless ocean at the sound.
‘You could still save yourself’, they’d pleaded with wide eyes and unmoving lips.
‘…I cannot’, she had responded wordlessly, desperate and begging and hoping against all hope that they could see the powerlessness against such illogical, irrevocable, young love in her eyes; that they could forgive her for casting aside such a monumental and colossal sacrifice.
She’d thrown the dagger into the sea and ran. With every step she’d felt pain and anguish and not once did she question her decision.
In the end, as she awaited the rising sun with dreadful anticipation and empty palms, she wondered what would become of her and her supposedly damned soul. Perhaps she would be lost forever in an ocean of endless, bubbling suffering, as she had been led to believe when she was younger.
Perhaps there would be something else.
She did not know, nor did she attempt to solve such complicated riddles as the dark, navy sky to the east began to warm with the promise of another sun’s rising.
All she knew was that she had not killed the human she had, admittedly, foolishly, fallen in love with. And as the night sky transitioned from deep sapphire to ruby, she knew that, whatever the outcome, she had made the right choice.
She exhaled loudly when the sunlight hit her face.