Seven-year-old Alyssa runs energetically across the beach feeling a cool breeze through her waist-length blonde hair and the hot sun on her fair skin. Her blue eyes look down the beach to see the woman with the same hair and eyes lounging in the sun. That is her mother and Alyssa runs towards her giggling. Her mother greets her with a smile as she brushes the sand off her dark purple fishtail.
“Mommy?” Alyssa says. “Which country are we in again?”
“Today we are in Cuba sweetheart,” She gently answers, “around the Santa Clara region. Its down season for tourists, so we won’t be bothered here.” She pauses to let out a big yawn. “I could really use the rest after all those shifts, I’ve been working.”
Alyssa knows her mommy is tired, but she still has to ask. “Mommy can I go look for shells?”
“Oh, you bet!” She says excitedly. “But you stay where I can see you. Okay honey?”
With her already morphed legs, Alyssa takes off running down the beach. Her mother is content to see how happy her little mermaid is. That is all she wants for Alyssa is to be happy. Well that and to stay out of trouble which is hard for such a curious and adventuresome little girl. With a comfortable sigh, she lays back down and lets the sun lull her to sleep.
Alyssa happily wanders around the beach to collect the shells that she wants to make into a bracelet. Even at a young age, she is already a talented jewelry maker. It is more than just a hobby that Alyssa shares with her grandma, it is her passion. She runs to her mother, but she sees that she is sleeping and doesn’t want to wake her. Sometimes, it makes her sad to see her mother so tired.
Leaving her mommy to sleep, Alyssa runs towards some big tall palm trees and bushes. It looks like a small forest. She knows she shouldn’t go but she never gets to look at all the plants on land. All she sees is seaweed and coral when they are underwater. Not that those aren’t cool either it would just be good to see something different. She silently promises that she will only go in a straight line and not go far.
Alyssa wanders mindfully into the tropical forest and finds little wildflowers everywhere. The one that looks like a bright pink starfish captures her attention first. It didn’t smell like anything, but the colors and the shape intrigue her. When she looks up she sees a tree with big heart-shaped leaves and funny pinky-white flowers growing from it. She never sees anything like this in the ocean. One day she will have to find more plants like these.
It’s not long before she comes out to a small clearing with the sun shining down on her like a spotlight through the trees. Alyssa could not help but smile when she looks up to the sky. As she crawls through the bush, she puts her hand on a slightly sharp object. Quickly removing her hand, she sees a beautiful necklace. It has all kinds of tiny shells wrapped in old rope-like string. The pendant is a green shell in the shape of a rose that sparkles gold in the sun. Without thinking about it, Alyssa puts it on around her neck and makes her way back to the beach.
When she returns to a beach, she sees that her mother is still asleep on the sand. She wanted to show the necklace to her, but she also doesn’t want to wake her. Instead, Alyssa puts the shells she found in her little purse and explores around the beach again. She hears a light whinny in the distance and knows that what she is hearing is called a horse. She knows this from a video she saw in school.
Alyssa loves horses. The way they look with their long manes, running in the wild, and being so free. They are such happy creatures that even their whinnies sound like joyous laughter. It’s too bad that they only have seahorses in the ocean and not land horses. At this moment, she pictures herself as a horse. She pretends she has a long white mane, a pure but strong body, and long legs to run with the wind. Suddenly, she feels different. She doesn’t remember walking on both her hands and feet yet it feels natural. She looks into the water of the ocean and can see the very horse that she pictured herself as looking back at her.
Startled, she backs up a couple of steps but looks again. She is that horse! Instead of being frightened, she is excited. She bolts down the beach and lets the wind blow past her. It’s like she belongs to the air now and it’s so much fun. She lets out a laugh that comes out as a whinny. Now she knows what it feels like to be a horse. Not wanting it to end, she gallops a little faster until she winds up in a place she didn’t expect.
She sees a big sign that says, “Plaza Gaviota Las Estrella.” She doesn’t know what that means but the need to find out gets the better of her. She slowly walks towards the center of the buildings in her horse form. Soon Alyssa figures out that she is in a marketplace, but she doesn’t see too many people right now. All these colorful buildings with arches and columns look a lot like the marketplace that she, her mommy, and grandma go to under the ocean. The only difference between the two marketplaces is the one under the ocean is darker and not as c
olorful as the marketplace here. A man and woman bring out a long table and startle Alyssa. She quietly hides behind the pink building closest to her while the same couple also bring out all kinds of drawings and pictures that intrigue her.
Alyssa hears people coming towards her and quickly hides behind the corner again. There she sees two little girls, one with brown hair and another with lighter blonde hair than Alyssa’s. The girls are laughing, smiling, and skipping with a little pink radio playing a song that Alyssa has never heard before. The two human girls grab each others’ hands and start dancing in a circle to the music. Alyssa smiles at them and realizes that she really wants to join them in their fun.
“Sydney! Carly! Come here girls!” Calls a woman with a straw hat and sunglasses on. They run towards her while Alyssa watches on. Alyssa can tell that’s their mommy by the way she straightens out both of those girls’ dresses. Alyssa looks down at her body and realizes she can’t go play with them in just her shell bikini. She needs a dress like those two girls.
Suddenly, a man shouting Spanish throws out a box full of dresses. She couldn’t understand what he is saying but Alyssa can tell he is mad by the way he kicks the box down the stairs. As it tumbles down she sees all kinds of little dresses spill on the ground. She should be able to use at least one of them. When the yelling man goes back inside, Alyssa sneaks up to the box and quickly pulls out a blue beach dress that will fit her perfectly.
After she puts on the dress, Alyssa walks out of the alley, but she can’t see the girls and their mommy in the same place anymore. More determined than ever, she walks through the market searching for them. It doesn’t take her long to find them in a parking lot where they are getting into a 1930’s red classic convertible. She must follow them but first she must go to a place where she can turn herself into something.
“Little girl?!” Says a strange man to her. “You lost bambina? Because your Mommy is asking around for you.”
Alyssa doesn’t like the look of this human. He smells like a mixture of pee and sweat. He also has the eyes of a shark on a hunt. She says nothing to him and tries to turn away but he tries to grab her arm. She quickly pulls her arm away, kicks him hard in the shin, and runs past him. She darts towards the bushes and dives into them like she would into a pool of water.
“Hey!” He yells and runs after her. “Get back here you little…” He stops and goes silent when he can see no sign of her. It’s like she vanished. Confused, he turns and walks back towards the marketplace.
Alyssa, who now knows everything is safe, flaps her little butterfly wings. She slowly flutters out and lands on the sign at the entrance. The mother and her two daughter’s car starts and it drives towards the entrance sign. Alyssa flies down and lands on the mother’s straw hat. Although it is a challenge, she holds onto the hat unseen as the car speeds down the winding road.
After a few moments, they end up at a resort called “Playa Cayo Santa Maria”. The mother and two girls get out of the car while Alyssa in her butterfly form flutters up to the archway of the entrance. She watches the mother pay the taxi driver for driving them. She takes her two daughters by their hands and they walk inside. Alyssa flies to the opposite of the entrance and sees the three of them walk out on the other side of the building. They cheerfully go to an apartment building with the number eleven on it. Alyssa quickly follows them and perches on the second story railing to watch them. They climb the stairs and go to a room that says 211 on the door.
“Mommy, can we go swimming?” The little blonde girl asks.
“Sure, but not for too long.” The mother says as she swipes the key into the door. “It’ll be dinnertime soon.”
With that, the three of them walk into their room. Deciding to give the humans some privacy, she flutters to the cement pathway and turns back into a little human girl. She walks towards the pool that she sees at the end of the path. Alyssa sits cross-legged at the edge of the pool and looks around her. The pool itself is so big that Alyssa thinks she can fit a million fish in it. Surrounding the pool is all kinds of gazebos and lawn chairs to relax in. The palm trees that also surround the pool helps remind people of the paradise they are in. Alyssa can see why humans like it so much.
It only takes her a few minutes to hear the familiar sounds of the two girl’s laughter as they run towards the pool. She stands up and smiles at them before they jump in the pool. They resurface faster than any mermaid she has ever seen. So, she walks along the edge of the pool close to them and faces them.
“Hi.” She waves at them cheerfully. They look up at her and smile.
“Hi!” The brunette looks to her and stands up. “Do you wanna swim with us?”
“Oh, I don’t know…” Alyssa says reluctantly because she knows what happens when water touches her legs.
“Oh, come on!” The blonde girl giggles as she playfully splashes her and her sister joins in. They both laugh and splash her until she is soaked.
When Alyssa looks down, she sees that she still has her legs and not her mermaid tail. She glances at the necklace and realizes that it also allows her to stay human if she wants to. With the girls still giggling, Alyssa chuckles and jumps in with them. They all happily start splashing each other.
After an hour of playing in the pool, they tire themselves out with of all the swimming and splashing. The girls swim to the side of the pool and sit on the edge to dry themselves in the sun.
“So, what’s your name?” The blonde asks.
“It’s Alyssa, What’s your guys’ names?” She answers.
“I’m Sydney.” Says the brunette girl. “And this is Carly.”
“We never saw anyone swim in their dress before.” Carly says innocently.
“Yeah. It’s something I always wanted to do.” Alyssa laughs. The other girls laugh with her until that same elegant woman comes around.
“Girls! Girls!” She shouts to them as she stops at the end of the pathway to the pool. “Come on now! It’s time for dinner.”
“Okay Mom!” Sydney shouts back and turns to look at Alyssa. “Will we see you tomorrow?”
“I don’t know. I have to ask my Mommy.” Alyssa answers.
“Okay!” Carly says as she jumps up and gives Alyssa a hug. “I hope to see you again.”
“Me too.” Sydney agrees joining the hug. Alyssa’s heart swells. None of her other friends have ever hugged her before. The two girls turn and trot towards their mother but before they reach her, they turn towards Alyssa and yell. “Bye!”
“Bye!” Alyssa waves and the two girls wave back at her. They turn and go towards their mother who holds out both of her hands to take their hands. As they walk towards their building, Alyssa realizes that she had better go back to the beach where her mommy is. It has been a long time and she might be worried.
Alyssa hides in the bushes and thinks of being a bird. Not just any bird though. A seagull. That way no one would notice her. After turning into a seagull, she takes a quick glance at her wings and starts flapping them. She soars off into the sky towards the beach that her mother is at.
Alyssa loves the feeling of flying in the air. It’s also kind of amazing that she learned how to fly so quickly but the truth is, it isn’t hard. It’s like swimming except she’s in the sky. She knows that she will have to do this more often. Before she could blink, she is back at the beach and her Mommy is still asleep. As soon as she lands, her mother stirs and slowly opens her eyes.
Without thinking, Alyssa turns back into her human-like self and hides her blue beach dress under a big rock. She runs towards her mother as soon as she sits up.
“Mommy!” she yells. “Mommy!” Her mother looks at her and smiles. “Hi Sweetie! How long have I been asleep?”
“A long time.” Alyssa says and kneels beside her mother to gather the shells she got in a little coin purse she left beside her mother. “I found lots of seashells.”
“I see that, and you also found a necklace.” She says gently.
“Yeah! Isn’t it pretty?” Alyssa asks. “Can I keep it?”
Her mother studies it. It looks like any other necklace and why her daughter likes it, she doesn’t know. There’s nothing special about it but seeing no reason why she can’t keep it, she looks to her daughter and nods. The mother stands up and holds out her hand to her daughter.
“Time to go.” She says.
“Can we come back tomorrow?” Alyssa asks her mother.
“It’s fun here.” Alyssa says cheerfully.
The mother looks down at her daughter’s innocent smiling face and says, “Maybe. But for now we go home.”
Alyssa looks towards the ocean with her mother. A playful smile appears on her face as she watches the ebb and flow of the water. Hand-in-hand, mother and daughter run towards the ocean. They both dive in and let their tails surface. Alyssa is very happy to know that she will have more adventures with this necklace and can’t wait to find out what tomorrow will bring.
Special Thanks to:
Playa Cayo Santa Maria All-Inclusive Resort - For a beautiful place and a beautiful time. Las Dunas 5, Cuba, https://www.hotelplayacayosantamaria.com/
Plaza Gaviota Las Estrella - For fabulous shopping and exploration - I couldn't find the address or Website but for good info go here ----> http://www.cayosantamaria.info/pueblolaestrella.html
To the fabulous friends I made in Cuba including little Chloe who inspired this story.