Mariska gripped the knife, breaths quick and tight from running. She leaned on the windowsill for support. Through the glass the surf crested and frothed, crashing on the shore, fingers of foam grasping at the sand, taking and dragging its finds into its depths.
She glimpsed churning sand and whirling shells long empty, looking from inside the protection of the waves.
The water called to her.
She struggled to brace herself; her legs shaky. Their sudden weakness surprised her as she strove to stand. Her head ached from the inner pounding, like something contained within her skull tried to break free.
Footsteps approached, and panic welled inside of her. She steeled herself.
“Mariska, it’s time for your medicine,” said a male behind her.
She turned from the window and gazed at the tall dark-haired man. His brows creased with concern, lips settled in a way that seemed familiar, yet different. He held out a cup filled with red liquid, gesturing for her to take it.
“Drink,” he said. “It’s a few minutes past nine.”
What was his name, and why didn’t she remember? The fog in her mind clouded her vision, and she wobbled, feet slick on the marble tiles. She pulled at the sill, heaving herself higher.
He took a step, and she pointed her knife at him.
“Stay back,” she said. “What if it’s poison, or some kind of drug?” She pressed a hand to her forehead. “Why does my head hurt?”
“There’s no poison. You have this every night.” His tone soothed. “I’m late is all. Drink, and you’ll feel better soon.”
“Who are you?”
“Dylan, your husband. When you don’t take your medicine, you forget.”
She fingered the window latch, the sea’s voice calling. Come. Come back to us. It was strong, an enticing summons hard to resist.
“You’re remembering aren’t you?” He asked.
She was. A vision of tossing waves and tall seaweed curling. Friends, were they friends, she hadn’t seen in—how long?
The heaviness in her mind expanded, pushing and clawing until she thought it would burst from her head. Her legs wouldn’t move. They bonded to each other, a change taking hold. It started at her neck and spread to her torso, thighs and calves, all the way to her toes. Her fingernails grew and sharpened into frightening claws.
She looked down. A large fish tail unfolded from beneath her nightdress. She lifted the hem. Small scales covered her body.
The knife loosened in her grip. “I’m a—” She stopped herself from saying it.
“You’re my wife,” Dylan said. “And you mean more than anything I own, or could buy. Please, take the medicine.”
“And what will it do? Make me human? Make me forget what I really am and where I belong?”
“If you drink, we can be together.”
Memories assaulted her, then. The storm, the waves, a drowning man. And she had compassion for him. So unlike her. Her sisters said leave him to drown as they had others. But, for the first time in many years she broke their law and went against her sisters.
“I saved you.”
He extended the cup. “You gave me the ingredients, told me how to make it. It’s your recipe. You said to give it to you every night at nine, not a minute earlier, or later. I was late tonight.”
She looked at the contents with suspicion, the ruby liquid swirling and sloshing in invitation. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?” She clutched at her head. “I don’t know what’s true anymore.”
“If you drink, it will help you remember.”
Her tail curled and uncurled as if eager for the water. She wasn’t human, not like him.
“Please. Drink and stay with me.” His plea pierced her through, and the knife slid from her hand and clattered on the white floor with a clang.
“Why did I save you?”
His smile held tenderness. “You didn’t. I saved you from your sisters and life as a monster.” He crossed to her side and picked up the knife, tucking the blade into an inner pocket. “I love you, but won’t force you to stay. It’s always been your choice. It still is.”
He placed the mug on the ledge beside her, a single drop of red spilling over the side to fall on the sill. One fingertip brushed her cheek. “My greatest treasure.” He walked away, his gait sure and confident.
She stared at the cup a long time.