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Fish-girl

‘Julia was staying with her grandmother in Antibes and could hear the sea through her open bedroom window,’ I begin as we head towards the seafront, her hand small and warm inside mine. ‘So even though it was a windy evening, she decided to go for a walk.’ We pass brightly lit cafés; take a shortcut to the ramparts through a small park of palm trees, the sea so close now I can feel the spray on my face. ‘At the old town walls, she stopped to watch the surf crashing against the rocks below and that’s when she saw...’

‘I know, let me!’ my granddaughter interrupts, and the story is hers now: mermaids and black rocks, a girl dragged under the wild frothing sea. ‘Your turn,’ she says as we take a cobbled street into the town, away from the sea-wind.

I could let the girl drown, the mermaid’s cold arms wrapped around her tight as weed, her breath racing away to the surface of the sea, and pass back this story of danger and treachery. But not yet. She can breathe under water, will wake up the next morning with a necklace of pink seashells, proof that the unbelievable sometimes happens.

full moon
surprised by seagulls
flying between stars

French Literary Review Autumn 2007

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First published in CHO July 2017