The Desert Mermaid
This story begins as it always should, with a school of fish swimming in a beautiful coral reef. The water is warm and blue but the reef is a rainbow of colors. The fish swim around the rock formations with the coral sitting serenely on top of it. This place is the epitome of peace. The long blonde hair of Thalisa the mermaid flows around her as she swims around each structure. She always loves to explore the waters around her. There is something new and wondrous to see everyday and Thalisa never wants to miss a thing. She smiles and waves her pristine pale hand at her usual fish friends who swim around her whenever she is near. They are Nala the angel fish, Max the clown fish, and Ty the stingray.
For the fun of it, Thalisa does some loop-de-loops around the rock formations. The rocky seabed calls to her when she got tired of swimming around. With a stretch of her long green shining tail, she swims to the bottom and relaxes. A contented sigh bubbles out of her lips as the warm water courses around her. The tropical fish swim around her leaving her alone but not lonesome. Her eyes close and a sweet smile slowly appears on her face.
She looks to her left and sees the small faces of children waving to her from outside of the tank. Thalisa swims up to the glass to face the little girl on the other side. The girl puts a hand against the glass. Her little face lights up with pure joy when Thalisa does the same. Other mermaids join her in the tank as they do their underwater show.
Two of the mermaids flip over the rock formations while Thalisa and the two other mermaids twirl around the pool. The audience laugh and cheer for the performers especially the children who just beamed. The mermaids swim eye-level to the children and blow kisses to them. At the last phase of the show the mermaids get together to do a final pose for pictures. When the event master announces that the show is over, the mermaids swim to the surface of the tank as the assistants rush to help them out of the pool. As soon as she gets her towel, Thalisa waves over one of her best friends, the marine biologist Doctor Alice Kowalski.
“That was a beautiful display as usual girl!” Alice says walking up to Thalisa. “The Silverton Casino is lucky to have you!”
“Thanks! I think it went over great.” Thalisa says happily. “But let’s face it, I’m just the show piece. You are the one who makes this tank look and feel like the ocean.”
Alice chuckles as she looks over to the mermaids, their assistants, and other marine biologists to say, “We’ll catch you later guys. I’ll help Thalisa get out of her tail.”
The groups nod and leave thinking nothing of it. Alice takes another towel and helps Thalisa dry her tail at the fins. What people didn’t know is that Thalisa is a real mermaid. With her newly dried legs appearing, Thalisa goes into the change room to get her clothes on. Alice thinks back to when she found Thalisa in Cancun, Mexico ten years ago.
In a motorboat on the ocean with her curly black hair tied back, her fresh espresso skin feeling the heat of the hot sun, she studies the sea turtles swimming below her. A happy sigh escapes Alice’s lips as she gets out her notebook. She is writing down notes of their behaviors for her dissertation, when a girl with long blonde hair and a mermaid tail jumps into her boat.
She points out to the ocean and screams. “Shark! He’s coming! Shark!”
Not thinking twice, Alice starts the motorboat and races to the dock where she rented the boat. Both Alice and the girl look towards the ocean to see the dorsal fin of the shark surface and pick up speed.
“Hang on!” Alice screams and steps on the gas. The mermaid holds onto the handle bar of the storage cabinet in front of her. By the time the two of them reach the dock the shark swims back towards the ocean.
Taking a sigh of relief, Alice shuts off the boat, throws down the anchor, and ties the boat onto the dock. She looks at the girl in the tail and says, “Thanks. I owe you my life.” She pauses to look at the girl’s fishtail and asks. “What’s with the tail? Are you one of those performers? What were you doing all the way out there?”
The girl’s eyes go wide and Alice realizes that she is bombarding this poor girl with questions. She takes a breath, sits down at the seat, and says “I’m sorry. When I get nervous, I ask a whole bunch of questions…”
Alice trails off when she sees that this girl’s tail has suddenly gone from a dark green to a lighter green. Although she keeps a respectable distance, Alice studies her tail. It’s so life-like.
“It’s real.” The girl says. “Just wait a moment.”
As they wait, Alice watches the tail slowly turn into long human legs. Her eyes go wide in shock, realizing that she has a real mermaid on her boat.
“Oh my god!” Alice says and looks to the mermaid’s face. “Who are you? Why are you here?”
“My name is Thalisa and I was banished from my clan.” She says sadly looking to the ground.
“So, you got nowhere to go?” Alice asks and Thalisa shakes her head.
Alice feels her heart break for this girl, knowing that she is all alone and has no options. Since Thalisa saved her, there could be something that Alice could do for her and she knows just where to start.
“Here. Put this on.” Alice says as she opens her backpack, pulls out a long multicolored beach dress. She hands it to Thalisa. The mermaid smiles at her and slips the dress over her head. “I’ll bet your hungry too. Let’s go get something to eat.”
Thalisa says nothing as she follows Alice to her Jeep. She doesn’t know that to think of this vehicle when she first sees it. Cautiously, Thalisa strokes the passenger door. Alice smiles at Thalisa as she opens the door, startling Thalisa and making her jump with a surprised look on her face.
“Climb in.” She says gently. Thalisa nods and gets into the Jeep. She mimics Alice by putting on the seat belt.
When the jeep starts up, Thalisa freezes, not knowing what is happening. After a few moments, she relaxes and begins to enjoy the ride. As Alice drives along the coast, Thalisa leans out of the window, feeling the warm salty air flow all around her.
“I could get used to this.” she thinks as she smiles.
They end up at a restaurant called Senor Frogs. A place with the best fajitas ever! Alice and Thalisa sit at a table with a beautiful view of the ocean. Alice orders them both vegetable fajitas. While they wait for their food, Alice wants get to know the mysterious mermaid in front of her.
“So why were you banished from your clan?” She inquires.
“I apparently contributed nothing to the clan so they chased me away.” Thalisa explains. “But I think it is because I’m fascinated with the Earth Realm.”
“This place. Where all the humans live.” Thalisa states. “It’s not an interest that anyone where I am from considers safe. My clan in particular is very weary of the human race and we fear them coming into our territory, even by accident.”
“But what does that have to do with you?” Alice asks as she sips her glass of water.
“I was spotted up North along the mountains. I just wanted to see what a Ferry boat looked like.” Thalisa says. “Not much happened in my opinion. Only a child saw me and there was a very blurry picture of my tail. Apparently, it is enough to start an uproar in that area and at home. So here I am.”
The fajitas finally come and Thalisa’s face lights up as it arrives. Thalisa loads up the vegetables and fixings to her plate without the fajita shell. Alice studies her and feels awful for her. What is this poor mermaid going to do? She never even had a fajita before. Alice knows that if she turns Thalisa into her marine studies, then that would be putting her in horrible danger. Thalisa giggles as she gets her fingers and mouth messy from the cooked vegetables. She creates such a mess on her plate which makes Alice realize something. All this mermaid needs is a friend to show her the ropes of this “Earth Realm.” With how friendly and chipper she is, it would not be hard to do. Alice chuckles, pats Thalisa’s messy hand and shows her how a fajita is really eaten.
Alice picks up the tortilla and Thalisa follows her lead by picking up her own. Alice puts the vegetable ingredients on it, followed by the cheese, salsa, and guacamole. After they both finished making their fajita, Alice and Thalisa eat their concoction. Over the delicious and messy Mexican dish, they laugh and talk.
Since then, they have been close friends who looked out for each other. As Thalia and Alice walk out to the casino, a young blackjack dealer with short black hair slicked to the side is sitting out on the high-backed chair in front of the tank. Thalia and the man’s face light up as soon as they see each other.
“Jason!” Thalisa bounces excitedly as she trots up to him and wraps her arms around him. “Hi!”
“Hi Babe!” He lifts her up, gives her a quick peck on the lips, and hugs her. “Once again that was a great show. You’re the prettiest mermaid in there.”
“Aww. Thanks!” Thalisa says as Alice walks up to the two of them.
“You’re biased Jason.” Alice jokes as the couple hold onto each other.
“Am not! I’m just telling the truth.” He jokes back at her then turns and smiles back down to Thalisa. “I’m just starting my shift but I wanted to say hello.”
“That’s better than good-bye.” Thalisa says smiling. “I got a couple of yoga classes to teach so I better let you get to work.”
“Understood.” Jason says as he gives her a one-armed hug and kiss good-bye. “I’ll call you later Babe.”
“Okay Bye.” Thalisa says and waves at him.
“Bye Jason.” Alice says and turns to look at the love-struck Thalisa. “It looks like things are getting serious between you and Jason.”
“You think?” Thalisa asks tilting her head slightly. “It’s hard to tell.”
“Really? I thought mermaids could read minds.” Alice says as they both walk through the entrance door.
“Only with other siren clans.” She says.
“Siren clans?” Alice inquires.
“Mermaids, selkies, nixies, and the list goes on.” Thalisa replies.
“Wow!” Alice says. “Just when I thought I knew everything about you already.”
They both laugh as they walk in the parking lot and jump into Alice’s trusty jeep.
That night, Thalisa walks into the two-bedroom loft that she shares with Freddy Wolman, the best photographer in Vegas. He constantly dyes his hair in bright, unusual colors and wears sleeveless shirts to match it. This month it is red with the sides of his head shaved. His bright blue eyes constantly sparkle with mischief and his tall, lanky body contains more energy than an electric eel. Freddy has been her roommate for six years and she just adores him. He is also the only other person who knows that Thalisa is a mermaid. He’s known since her first night moving in there when he walked in on her in the tub and saw her tail.
Instead of running out screaming, he smiles at her and says, “I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet a mermaid.”
Snaps, clicks, and flashes fill the apartment which means that he hasn’t finished his photoshoots yet. Thalisa smiles and drops her yoga mat beside the door, dumps her keys in the blue green dish, and puts her jacket in the closet.
“Hi Freddy!” She calls as she walks through the hall. “I’m home!”
“Hi doll!” He calls from the loft holding his camera. “I’ll be done in five minutes if you pour the wine for us.”
“Sure!” Thalisa calls.
In the kitchen she gets out a bottle of white wine and pours it into two glasses. When she sees two flashy scantily-cladded showgirls walk past the kitchen, she waves at them as they leave and they wave back at her. They didn’t pay much attention to each other as she is used to seeing all kinds of performers and people in the apartment since Freddy has a lot of clients.
“Got the wines!” Thalisa calls and he runs down the stairs from his studio. They both plop down on the couch and start their nightly relaxation ritual.
“Another day done!” Freddy says and takes a sip of his wine. “So, when are you going to let me shoot you in your mermaid form again?”
“The photos you have already done are suiting me very well thank you!” Thalisa says as she relaxes against the sofa.
“Still! You’re a real mermaid and I have never done anything that great since capturing you on film.” He whines to her. “I can’t even make my own boyfriend look as good as you and he is a cirque de soleil performer.”
“Oh, you are so dramatic.” Thalisa laughs.
“Did it convince you to let me photograph you?” He says smiling at her.
“No but I did bring us home some take-out.” She says smiling.
A loud whoop sounds out of him as he grabs her face and kisses her cheek. “I love you!” He says jumping up to get the food.
Freddy brings in the Subway bag from the kitchen with a couple of plates. Being fussy as he is, Freddy always has to eat everything on a plate and drink everything in a wine glass. Subway is their favorite fast food when they don’t want to cook. She always gets the egg salad sandwich with vegetables and extra pickles. He gets the all new deluxe pizza sub which he swears tastes like a real pizza. Freddy unfolds the wrapping and places their sandwiches on the plates on top of the coffee table.
“So, did you see that hottie Jason today?” Freddy says grabbing his sandwich and sits next to her.
“Yes, I did.” She smiles but then sighs. “Alice thinks we might be getting serious.”
“And what do you think?” He says biting into his sub.
“I think I might love him but if we really are getting serious then I’ll have to tell him about my mermaid heritage.” She replies looking nervously at Freddy before taking the first bite of her sandwich.
“Oh honey!” He says as he puts his hand on her shoulder. “It’s important to be true to yourself but be careful who you share that secret with. Not everyone is as understanding as Alice and I. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jason but I know exactly how it feels to have a secret and when its out, the people who are supposed to love you start hating you. It’s another unfair reality.”
They eat the rest of their dinner and sip their wine silently as she considers Freddy’s advice. The truth is, she doesn’t know if its serious or not. She has to find that out first.
The next day, Thalisa waits for Jason outside of the Stratosphere casino, hotel, and tower after she finished teaching her last morning yoga class. She and Jason decided to go out for lunch. The STRAT is close to his condo and the yoga studio that she teaches at.
She sees him walking towards her. His short black hair, brown eyes, and long well-toned body makes him look like a romantic secret-agent when he has his tuxedo uniform on. However, since he is in a T-shirt and jeans, he looks a little more dangerous and a lot sexier. Then there is that crooked smile of his. That is the smile that got her to say yes to a coffee/tea date when they first met a year ago.
“Hey Babe.” He says as he leans down and kisses her on the mouth. “How was your class?”
“Great.” She says smiling and holding his hand. “I really think my students are getting the hang of the wheel pose.”
“Cool!” Jason says and has a random idea pop into his head. “You know, it is such a beautiful day. We need something wonderful and magical to happen.”
“What?” She looks at him with a slightly confused expression.
Suddenly, he picks her up and spins her around. “Something wonderful and magical!”
Thalisa laughs as he just holds her there and kisses her. It is at this moment that she realizes how much in love she is with him. Her heart is beating so fast, her smile gets bigger, and a tingle travels all over her body. How can this not be love? Talk about something wonderful and magical.
He sets her down and they happily walk hand-in-hand inside to the STRAT Café. A hip, modern place where young professionals and tourists like to go for a casual meal at a reasonable price. White tiles adorn the equally white walls but colorful mod pictures make the place more colorful. Thalisa and Jason come here a lot. She can not resist their tomato-basil soup, avocado toast, and potato skins. The soup tastes savory in the beginning but has a kick for an after taste. The avocado toast is fresh with a variety of flavors from the tartness of the tomatoes to the creaminess of the goat cheese to the slight sweetness of the balsamic vinegar. The potato skins were made the way they should be; with lots of cheese, fresh salsa and guacamole. It is Thalisa’s favorite meal here and it comes to no surprise that she chooses it again. Jason too has his usual with his ordinary burger and fries.
After they order, Jason speaks up. “I’ve been thinking about something.”
“What’s that?” Thalisa asks.
“The future.” He says as he reaches across the table to grab her hand. “We’ve been dating for a year now and I’m just crazy about you.” He pauses, stroking her knuckles with his thumb. “I was thinking, what if we take things to the next level and move in together?”
Thalisa smiles at him. So, this relationship is serious and that means she has to tell him. “I’ve been thinking about our relationship too but before I can answer that question. I have to tell you something important about myself.”
Before she can say anymore, Jason’s cellphone rings in his pocket. He takes it out and says, “Sorry Babe! Jason here.”
Thalisa looks at him with his series of uh-huhs and yeahs as she patiently waits for him to finish. At the same time, she thinks about what she is going to say to him. She knows that she loves him and wouldn’t mind taking their relationship to the next level. So, she has to tell him. In her mind, she thinks she should just come right out and say it but it is a lot harder to do that as opposed to thinking it.
He hangs up his phone and gives her an apologetic smile. “Sorry about that Babe but Nick called in sick and they need me to come in earlier. What was so important that you needed to tell me?”
“It can wait.” She says tenderly but feels the guilt wash over her. “You better go, you don’t want to be late.”
“Sorry about this Babe!” He apologizes again as he gets up, puts down a fifty-dollar bill, and kisses her on her forehead. “I promise I’ll make it up to you.”
He dashes out of the restaurant and Thalisa sighs woefully. She picks up her own phone as the food they ordered arrives. She thanks the server and goes on to text Alice and Freddy. Her heart is racing right now and not in a good way. The only thing that could help her now is some retail therapy. That’s why on a shared text she writes:
“You guys its an emergency. Retail therapy is in order.”
“Let’s do it! The usual place?” Freddy texts back.
“Where else?” She replies.
“I can’t get away right now. I’ll be there in an hour.” Alice replies.
“Okay. See you guys there.” Thalisa responds.
With that, Thalisa eats her lunch, packs up Jason’s burger with plans to deliver it to him before going to the best store in all of Las Vegas. She will also need to get a ride from UBER.
Outside the Goodwill store, the three friends dig in the bins.
“Find anything yet?” Alice calls to Thalisa three bins down.
“No. nothing.” Thalisa calls back as she looks at an old T-shirt.
“Speak for yourselves.” Freddy runs up to them carrying a blue-green dragon jersey-like tank shirt. “This will look great when I dye my hair this color. Nothing like going teal for a new season.”
Alice looks the T-shirt up and down with a mixture of skepticism and amusement before saying, “Maybe we should go into the actual store and look at all the flashy stuff.”
True to their word, the trio goes into the store and look at all the bright colored clothes hanging neatly on the clothing racks. Nothing really appeals to Alice or Thalisa but Freddy could not help but pull out a glitzed up green showgirl costume. He waves it in front of the two women with a big grin on his face.
“Who am I?” He asks jovially.
“You’re not Ru Paul that’s for sure.” Alice laughs.
“It’s not for me, it’s for you.” Freddy gives Alice a saucy look and says. “This is your color Alice.”
The three of them laugh at the joke but Thalisa slips slowly into sadness. She decides to be honest with her friends. “Jason asked me to move in with him.” Alice and Freddy stop laughing and look at Thalisa with concern. The pause lasts for a few seconds before Alice speaks up.
“Did you tell him about…” Alice asks as she waves her index fingers at Thalisa’s legs.
“No, I was going to but he got called into work.” She says, as she picks up her cellphone and shows them the message that Jason sent her.
It says, “Hey Babe! Sorry about earlier and thanks for delivering my burger. I’d like to make it up to you. How about Ambra in the MGM on Saturday?”
As she puts her phone back into her purse Thalia says with a slight smile, “He managed to text me before he started his shift. I love him, you guys. I have to tell him the truth.”
Alice walks up to her and puts her arms around her shoulders. “That’s the right thing to do. You can do it girl.”
Freddy then comes up the other side of Thalisa and puts his arms supportively on her shoulders. “I know I advised you against this but if you trust him that much, then tell him. If he really loves you, he will not care about your heritage. And just so you know, you’ve always got us. No matter what.”
Thalisa could not help but smile. They are right. No matter what she at least has them and if Jason truly loves her, he won’t care that she is a mermaid. She is sure that he loves her. With a sigh, she pulls out her phone to confirm the date.
At the Ambra restaurant in the MGM Grand hotel and casino, the ambiance is the opposite of the STRAT Cafe. It is dark, romantic, and seductive with candlelight, a shining chandelier that at the right angle looks like a rose, and the walls are a meld of colors that resemble a beautiful sunset. Thalisa loves this restaurant. It reminds her of lounging on the rocks in her tail watching the sky change colors.
Jason and Thalisa sit at the coziest little table with a good amount of privacy. She made sure that she picked her best dress to go out on this date with him. A sweet little red faux-wrap dress with little flowers.
“You look beautiful Babe!” He says as he reaches across the table for her hand and plants a kiss on it.
“Thank you.” She smiles and blushes at him. “You’re looking very dapper tonight, yourself.”
She looks at him as he straightens out his black suit. Their drinks arrive and Thalisa takes a sip of her favorite wine since she arrived in Las Vegas; Moscato. She twirls the wine glass around when Jason breaks the silence.
“Have you thought anymore about us moving in together?” He asks after putting down his wine glass.
“I have but I need to tell you the truth about myself.” Thalisa says and begins to explain the best she can. “You know how my tail looks so real as opposed to the other mermaids?”
“Yeah. I always thought it was great craftsmanship.” He says giving a half-smile in confusion. “Why?”
“Well it is a real tail.” Thalisa leans close and whispers, “I’m a real mermaid.”
“Oh, come on!” He chuckles at her. She thought that is going to be his response. That’s why she came up with a plan. Thalisa grabs her glass of water and sits next to him.
“I’ll prove it.” She says looking around to make sure that no one else is around. Luckily the restaurant is nearly empty.
She lifts up the skirt of her dress and pours a few drops on her legs. Jason wiggles his eyebrows showing his appreciation for her showing her legs. She sighs and looks down at her legs to see the dark green scales slowly appear. Jason looks down too and his amorous smile turns into a frown of disbelief. He sees her scales but he wants to find an explanation. He lightly brushes the scales to see that they aren’t make-up but actual scales. Disbelief becomes shock. He looks at Thalisa wide-eyed, not knowing what to think.
“I…” He breathes out, abruptly getting out of his chair. “I have to go.”
He leaves the restaurant in a run and Thalisa finds her heart sinking into her gut. A single tear falls down her cheek as her spaghetti pomodoro arrives with Jason’s lasagna al forno. She looks down at her beautiful plate of spaghetti with its subtle spices tempting her nose to eat. She doesn’t bother to stop herself. She eats the spaghetti and orders another glass of Moscato. Although the spaghetti is warm, tasty, and spicy like the Ambra atmosphere, it could not heal the sorrow she is feeling right now.
She ends up ordering four glasses of Moscato and eats Jason’s meal. All delicious and worthy of the food coma she is leaving with. Thalisa takes care of her bill and leaves the restaurant as quickly as she could. By the time, she reaches outside of the building, her tears flow freely as she waits for her UBER.
Back at her apartment, Thalisa rests on the couch with her sweats on and sitting with her friends. She told them everything that happened at the restaurant.
“Seriously?!” Freddy says angrily. “He just up and leaves?! He doesn’t at least take care his portion of the bill?”
“He was in shock.” Thalisa says, defending him. “And I ended up eating his meal anyway. I might as well have taken care of the cheque.”
“Never-the-less girl!” Alice says putting her hand on Thalisa’s. “He should have handled that better.”
Thalisa didn’t want to argue. The devastation is too overwhelming right now. A ping sounds on her phone and it’s Jason sending her a text. A little glimmer of hope has Thalisa scramble up to read what it says. “Hi Thalisa. I’m sorry to rush out of the restaurant the way I did. It was soooo not cool. It just took me by surprise seeing your leg change like that.”
Thalisa shows her friends the text and Alice asks. “Why isn’t he calling you?”
“Why don’t we talk about it and not by text.” Thalisa texts back to him, following Alice’s advise, and prepares to call him. Until this message pops up.
“No that wouldn’t be a good idea. I got an opportunity to be on the Princess Cruise line as their new blackjack dealer. I just accepted and will be leaving in a couple of days. So, this is the end. I’m sorry.”
Whatever is left of Thalisa’s heart shatters into dust. She drops her phone and runs to her room in tears. Freddy picks up her phone and reads what the text says before he shows it to Alice. Both look at each other and see why she ran into her room.
“Not cool.” Freddy says shaking his head.
“Not cool at all.” Alice agrees.
For a few weeks now, Thalisa’s depression over her break-up has been weighing on her. She leaves the yoga studio and removes the brave face she has been holding onto for the last hour and a half. This is her first day back to teaching yoga after taking some leave. She intends to go back to the mermaid show this Thursday coming up and she can’t stop feeling so horrible. A long walk would be good for her, she figures. Thalisa is determined to try to get out of her funk.
While walking towards Las Vegas Boulevard. Thalisa raises her face towards the sun. She nearly forgot how much she loves feeling the sun on her skin and indulges in this sensation. It’s like she has been trapped in a dark, dank cave for the last few weeks. In a way she was. She didn’t leave her room too often unless it was to get food or use the bathtub when her tail needed to surface.
A little smile escapes her when she walks past the Prada window at the Shops at Crystals in Simon’s Mall. These bright pink sparkling shoes in the window surrounded by Prada purses remind her of those magical shoes from the “Wizard of Oz.” They are so cute but sadly out of Thalisa’s price range. Still it’s fun to watch them sparkle like little jewels in a treasure chest.
After moving on, Thalisa finds herself outside of the MGM. The place where she got her heart broken. It still hurt and she is not ready to go into the casino yet. Luckily there is this beautiful Italian market before her called Eataly Las Vegas at Park. A grocery store/deli dedicated to all things Italy.
Curiosity gets her to walk inside the store. The first thing she sees is the dessert counter. All kinds of petite tarts, cakes, and cream puffs just waiting for her to try them all. It isn’t a hard decision to buy something, but she has to choose what she wants. That is the hard part. After a few minutes, she leaves the deli with three tiny tarts of lemon, raspberry, and chocolate. She also gets a little cream puff. A bite out of the cream puff has the satisfying sweetness dancing on her tongue. Thalisa makes a silent promise to get something different the next time she comes
A ping on her phone sounds and sees a message from Alice. “Dress up tonight and come to Harrah’s Piano Bar at 5:00 PM. I’m buying the first round.”