Author’s note: This is my first attempt at first line stories. The first line of the story was suggested by Fraggle. Thank you, FR. I hope it loves up to your expectations.
The death of the goldfish is the last straw.
My tail is twitching with agitation. I want to kill Gilly. I’ve been telling her since day one not to overfeed Goldy but she’s been constantly offering him treats for tricks when she thought I wasn’t looking. And now as I return from work, Goldy floating sideways in water, eyes closed, close to the cove roof while Gilly is looking at me sheepishly from the far corner, waiting for the sharp rebuke that is sure to come. The weight of the life lost is coming down on my shoulders making it difficult to stand.
I can’t always keep an eye on her. I’m a single mother with a job to keep. Apart from my regular job at the Shell and Pearls art shop, I work three nights a week at the Oceans One Disco to pay for Gilly’s tution. So, she’s alone after study hours. I adopted Goldy, hoping he’d give her the much needed company. I hadn’t considered if, without adult supervision, my young daughter would be able to keep him alive…
I sit down heavily on the ancient coral reef seat that once belonged to my great-grandmother. How did my mother manage to raise me and her mother before her, since none of our fathers—the stranded sailors—stayed long enough for us to grow up. They’d rather catch the first ship back home. But in those times, mermaids raised their children together in large schools so there was always someone elderly to take care of the young ones while mothers foraged for food and wannabe mothers foraged for sailors. I remember clearly the hours I had spent hanging around in open ocean with friends and elderly mermaids, learning how to sing, dance and read. I had a happy childhood.
But now, as the city of Atlantis grows to the outskirts and unfamiliar faces become a common sight, it isn’t safe to leave behind our children out in the open. So, schools are limited to a few hours a day with classes held in closed rooms, and children are sent back to empty homes to fend for themselves. Gilly has to spend uncountable hours alone and I had believed a pet would make her happy. He did too as her constant companion and friend. But now, he’s gone, and I’m not sure I’ll risk another life again.
A deep sadness settles in the pit of my stomach. Goldy wasn’t just a fish; he was family. He was my responsibility too—another one I failed at. Should I rebuke Gilly for being a careless owner? But she must also be grieving…
I look at her and am greeted with expectant eyes. I open my arms to Gilly and beckon her to me. She shouts with glee, “Didn’t I tell you, Goldy, she loves me too,” as she swims in my lap, and Goldy rushes forward to join her, leaving the play-dead act behind.
I roll my eyes to show I amn’t affected by their little drama, but my heart throbs happily, beating a steady rhythm against my chest, trying to drive away the memories of ancient pain.