The Fate Of The Muse

By: Derrolyn Anderson

I could never be like Evie– who could? I struggled with the reasons for my existence, looking for some kind of sign as to what my greater purpose could be. Why was I so different from all the others? None of the other muses had the ability to transform into a mermaid, or even understand their language. I could talk to them and sea creatures as well; it had to mean something. Sometimes the situation seemed comically surreal, and I had to laugh at myself, realizing that seventeen was a weird age for an existential crisis.

Ethan’s constant presence was like a hand on my back, guiding me toward the routines of day to day life, and I’d be lost without him. He calmed me down, and kept me from my obsessive worrying. When we could be together every day and every night I knew that my life would start to make sense, and I’d eventually find all the answers I was looking for. Being around Ethan made everything seem so clear and simple that I knew we were meant to be together forever.

He was impatient, ready to get on with our married life, but we quickly discovered that it would be impossible without the consent of my guardian, who for now was my Aunt Abby. Despite the fact that she’d surprised us all by suddenly eloping with Ethan’s dad, I knew she’d be shocked at our plans. Abby and Dutch had obvious reasons to rush into things, for there was a baby on the way. No one could see or know why I needed to marry Ethan so soon.

Then there was my dad to consider. Abby would never give her permission without informing my father, and he’d be even more shocked than her about it. He’d say I was being impulsive, and that I was too young to know what I wanted. Dad hadn’t even met Ethan, and he would never understand what the big rush was. I wanted to move in with him– to find a place to rent and start college together, side by side, but Ethan was resistant, afraid to get off on the wrong foot with my father. After the way him and Evie clashed, I suppose I could understand his hesitance.

So for now, we kept our plans to ourselves, and tried to be patient. We had finals week to get through, and college to think about in the fall. I’d signed up for just a few classes, uncertain as to what exactly I should study. Ethan would be attending on a full-ride scholarship, and he knew exactly what courses he needed and how long it would take to graduate. Ethan worked so hard for everything he got that I was embarrassed when my father called on his connections in order to get me enrolled after the deadline.

I wouldn’t be eighteen until January, and once I was, no one had any say in our plans but us. Those eight months stretched out before us like an eternity.

The next morning I woke at dawn, eager to get to Ethan. I wanted to tell him about the meeting with the council, and what we planned to say. I needed reassurance that everything was going to be okay. I dressed in a hurry and found Abby in the kitchen, reading the paper.

“Good morning honey! How was the prom?”

“It was alright,” I said, “How are you feeling this morning?”

Abby smiled as she stroked her pregnant belly, “I’m good, just a little more tired than usual. I’m sorry I didn’t stay up to see you get in, Cruz told me that Evie came by to take you all out. That was sure nice of her.”

“Yeah… nice,” I said. I hoped Ethan was over it by now.

“Do you want to go with me to the farmer’s market?” she asked.

I smiled, “I was just on my way there.”

She got up to get ready, pressing her hand on the small of her back. I offered to drive, and when we got to the market we went our separate ways, agreeing to meet up later. I made a bee line for Ethan’s booth, disappointed to see his friend Long standing there with him.

Long was the grandson of Lue Khang, Ethan’s employer and my confidant. A wise and kind man, Lue seemed to know all about the mermaid’s presence and my connection to them. His Hmong beliefs considered them to be part of the natural world– he thought I was good luck. His grandson didn’t see things that way at all. Long viewed me with suspicion and fear, believing that I was using supernatural powers to manipulate and control Ethan. Little did he know, somewhere deep down inside, I was afraid of the same thing.

I slowed my pace and approached them cautiously. They were engrossed in an intense conversation and didn’t notice me until I came right up to them. When they looked up at me both of their faces were serious, clouded over and unhappy.

“What happened?” I asked, looking back and forth between them, suddenly alarmed.

“I gotta go,” said Long. He walked away, taking care to avoid me.

“Come here,” Ethan said, walking to the back of his stand to meet me with open arms. He wrapped himself around me, clinging to me tightly. He seemed even more in need of a hug than I was.

“Uhm, no pun intended, but why the long face?” I asked, pulling back to look up into his eyes.

“We just got some really bad news. There’s a problem with Lue’s land,” he said unhappily, “Apparently the government’s seizing it and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

“What?” I was confused, “I thought he owned it.”