The bungalow was quiet as morning vanished and moved closer to noon. Earlier Calista and Izzy shared breakfast—Izzy at the table and Calista sitting on the edge of the inner pool—after which Calista was picked up and taken to the lab for what was likely her last series of land-based test, after which she’d headed off into the lagoon to work with Harmony.
This meant Izzy was going to be alone for nearly the whole day, as it was likely Calista wouldn’t return until some time after 18:00. That wasn’t new: she’d been along for the four days Calista was away for training—and given that Calista slept underwater these days, as far as Izzy was concerned she was along all the time—
“What the hell are you still doing here?”
Izzy grabbed a hard cider from the refrigerator before turning to face Harmony, who was sitting on the edge of the inner pool. “You just gonna keep swimming in here like you own the place?”
Harmony ignored the question. “Why haven’t you—”
Izzy walked pasted the angry mermaid. “Outside—” She pointed at the patio. “It’s too nice a day to stay indoors.”
As Izzy was taking her seat Harmony leaped over the seawall into the ocean, boosting herself up on to the patio seconds later. She pulled her hair back from her face before saying anything. “You were supposed to be gone by now.”
“No.” Izzy took a slow slip from the cider bottle. “You suggested I leave by now. I decided I wouldn’t accept your suggestion.”
“Dammit, Izzy.” Harmony flipped her tail up and on to the deck as she spun to face the human woman. “I’m trying to get Calista to leave this world behind, and you’re still here—”
“Keeping her connected?” She shrugged. “Sue me in mermaid court.”
Harmony slammed her hand against the deck. “Bitch, do you have any idea what sort of harm you’re going?”
“Bitch do you think I care about what you care?” Izzy was on her feet and stormed over to her unwanted guest, towering over the mermaid. “I’m not ready to let her go. Sorry if you can’t get that through your fishy brain, but…” Izzy looked away for a moment. “I can’t let her go. It just—” She turned her back to the lagoon and her guest.
Harmony was certain she knew the problem. “It hurts, doesn’t it?”
Izzy spun around, tears in her eyes. “Damn right it hurts. But it’s not like you’d know that, right?”
The silence on the deck went on for nearly five seconds, so when Harmony spoke in a low tone her words hit hard. “When I was finally accepted for this program, I’d been with my partner for six years. Two times I applied in three years and after the second rejection I was like, ‘That’s it: I’m not getting in’. My partner urged me to submit another application—she insisted. She knew it was my dream and she told me that no matter what, she was behind me the whole way. So when I was finally accepted after that third time, she came here with me, just as you came with Calista.
“I was told I was going off to Kwajalein a couple of days before I left and I couldn’t tone down the excitement when speaking with my partner. It took me a while to realize my departure was bothering her and the moment I got around to asking her how she felt, we started fighting. It got so bad I didn’t talk to her for a day before leaving and swam over to the east end of the runway for pickup the day I flew out.
“Then… she was still here when I got back and the argument started again. Anger; hurt; sadness—it was all there. She let it all out and it got so bad I left here and swam over to Sand Island. I beached myself and cried for a couple of hours.” Harmony signed. “Do you know how exhausting it is to cry that long, to rid yourself of all that you feel is wrong through your tears?”
Izzy slowly nodded. “I’ve got an idea.”
“Then you know how I felt.”
“What happened after that?” Izzy returned to her chair and hugged her knees with her arms.
“I slept out in the open at Sand Island that night; I mean, it’s not like the weather’s gonna suck or something. In the morning I found my mentor and I spent that night with her at Down Below. I didn’t go back until two days after returning from Kwaj.” She looked out over the lagoon and shrugged. “She was gone. I didn’t ask if she left on her own or if she was told to go. She was gone and I haven’t heard from her since.”
Harmony looked down the length of her tail, taping her fingers against what would be her lap if she were human. “Calista still talks about you. I don’t know if she has feelings for you the say as yours, but she’s having a hard time letting go.” She looked up at Izzy with a hard look. “You need to cut the cord. You need to get up and go and just make this a clean break.”
Izzy looked at the deck as she shook her head. “That’s gonna kill her—”
“And a slow pull-away won’t?” Harmony slapped her tail hard against the deck to get Izzy’s attention. “You need to be the adult here. You need to tell Calista it’s time she went her way, you yours, and leave it at that.”
Izzy said nothing for a few seconds, then slowly made it to her feet. She looked down at the mermaid. “Tonight. I’ll tell her I’m leaving tomorrow and that’s that.” She tilted her head quickly to the left. “Okay?”
Harmony didn’t even need time to consider the question. “Do it tonight and be gone tomorrow.” She rolled over on to her back and slid her tail over the side of the patio, eventually falling into the lagoon with a splash.
Izzy picked up her cider bottle and drained it in a couple of gulps. “Tonight. Got it.”