I have the privilege of hosting Friday Fiction this Christmas weekend, so please feel free to post your link in the list and join in the fun!
I love writing the Pod Christmas stories, and this short scene takes place the first Christmas after the events in the story, “Allison.” Merry Christmas, and I hope you enjoy all the stories this week!
The Mermaid Under the Mistletoe
Pod Christmas Story, 2011
By Rick Higginson
Every eye in the room turned towards the door as word spread of who had just arrived. Joshua Cardan was accustomed to such attention; there was no company facility or function that he, as owner of Cardan Pharmaceuticals, could ever hope to sneak into.
“Josh,” Marta said beside him. “Is it too late to change my mind?”
He patted her arm. “Probably,” he said. “Of course, you did walk into Diego’s church this way, and for all the times you said you wanted to accompany me to the annual Christmas Party, you really should go through with it now.”
Robert Barron slipped through the crowd and stepped in front of them. “So, we finally get to meet her, eh, Josh?”
“You don’t know how many times over the past few years I wished I could tell you about her, Rob. Yeah, you finally get to meet her. Marta, this is Robert Barron, the Chief Executive Officer of Cardan Pharmaceuticals. Rob, this is Marta.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Cardan,” Rob said, extending his hand.
Marta shifted her weight on the walker to take the hand. “Please; it’s just Marta.”
Rob smiled. “Of course; Marta.” He turned towards the gathered employees and gestured for a path to be made. “We’ve had a special table prepared for you tonight.”
Josh took the wrap from her shoulders, and handed it with his suit coat to an attendant. It always seemed strange to see her in clothing, but the bright green holiday dress fit her nicely and looked attractive on her. If one ignored the tips of the fluke sticking out from under the hem, it would have been easy to miss the fact that she was a mermaid.
Rob’s wife was already seated at the table, and she greeted them pleasantly as they approached. A medical style gurney waited at one place setting, draped in festive cloth to mask its utilitarian nature. At Rob’s direction, they stepped up next to the gurney, and a couple of young men gently helped Marta onto it. Josh took a chair next to her, and scooted into place.
The CEO picked up a microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, Joshua and Marta Cardan. I think this party can officially begin!”
Before and after dinner, a steady stream of people came to the table, introducing themselves to Marta and extending their holiday greetings. Marta seemed to get more comfortable with all the attention as the night wore on, though eating at a table with formal place settings was much too confusing for her. Meals in the Family Room were never formal.
After dinner, tables were cleared and moved out of the way. The DJ changed the music from holiday classics to dance tunes, and couples soon made good use of the open floor space.
“Well, Marta,” Rob said, watching the festivities. “How do you like the party?”
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I think the only thing that would make it better is if I was able to go out there and dance with Josh.”
“Josh said you might feel that way,” he said, and nodded at some of the attendants.
The men pulled the curtains back, and opened two large glass doors. The courtyard outside was decorated for the holiday, and lights shone on a large swimming pool.
“It will be a bit cool out there, but the pool is heated and the music is being played in the courtyard as well.”
She raised up on her arms to get a better look. “Josh? Did you know about this?”
He grinned sheepishly. “I had a hint, yeah. I was told to come prepared to swim.” Removing his tie, he added, “I have my swim trunks on under my suit, and why I suggested the bathing suit top would be good to wear under your dress tonight.”
Rob took his wife’s hand. “You two have fun. I’m going to enjoy the dance floor with Mrs. Barron first, and then we’ll change and join you two in the pool.”
Marta was helped back into her walker, and they made their way through the doors to the poolside. Curious onlookers watched as Josh unzipped the back of the dress, and helped her slip it from her shoulders. There were noticeable gasps as the fabric fell to the ground, revealing the gray tail where hips and legs should be, but Marta didn’t react to them. She lifted her fluke enough for Josh to remove the dress from beneath her, and an attendant took it to hang up.
Scooting the walker closer to the edge of the pool, she turned around to face away from the water. With the mechanical device no longer between her and the water, she fell backwards into the pool and flipped gracefully around.
Josh stripped down to the bathing suit and lowered himself more gently into the pool. He was no sooner in the water, then Marta took hold of him and drew him into the deepest part. With arms around each other, they began to sway and twirl in time to the music. People watched the first dance, and when the next song began, many started dancing in the courtyard.
“If you look up, Mrs. Cardan,” Josh said, after a number of songs. “You’ll notice that we’re under mistletoe.”
A large leafy sprig, wrapped around with bright ribbons, hung from a line stretched over the deep end of the pool. She glanced up and grinned. “I guess this year I don’t need to tell you to stay away from it.” She kissed him, which resulted in loud applause and cheers.
“See?” he said between kisses. “It’s not just the Pod.”
Rob and his wife paddled out near them. “Okay, Josh. You two make this look easy, but I don’t think we quite got the hang of it.”
Marta gave Josh a mischievous look, and he smiled back at her. “Just don’t drown him. He’s the only one who really knows how to run the company.”
She spun from in front of him to extend a hand towards Rob. “May I?” she asked Rob’s wife.
The woman nodded, and relinquished her partner to Marta.
“The first thing to remember,” Marta told Rob. “Is that the water is your friend. Now, deep breath,” she said.
“Huh?” Rob said.
“Take a deep breath,” she repeated. When he did, she wrapped her arms around him and dove sideways, taking him on a quick, tight circle around the bottom of the pool.
“Well, Mrs. Barron, I’m not nearly as good at this as Marta is, but I think I can show you enough that you and Rob will be able to manage.”
“You’re not going to dunk me, are you?” she asked.
“I’m definitely not as good at that as Marta is, so no, I’m not going to dunk you.” He took her hand and guided her into a waltz position. “Biggest trick when it’s two regular people, is coordinating the leg kicks. Dancing with one of the Pod makes it easier, because they can hold us up with little effort on our part. We, though, have to keep kicking if we want to keep our heads above water, so just like dancing on land, we need to time our steps.”
Marta and Rob surfaced again in the center of the pool. “Comfortable with the water now?” she asked.
“I don’t think I dare say no,” he replied.
“Hey, Rob!” Someone yelled from beside the pool. “You’re under the mistletoe!”
Before he had a chance to reply, Marta planted a quick kiss on him. He pulled back, surprised, as the whistles and cheers echoed over the water, and turned a confused look towards his wife and Josh.
Josh laughed, along with Rob’s wife, and returned to the dance instruction.
Before long, others had changed into swimwear and transitioned to dancing in the pool. Festive Holiday tunes kept everyone moving, and the queue for a dance with Marta grew longer than the night would accommodate. Almost all wanted to maneuver the mermaid under the mistletoe, and Marta seemed only too happy to let them. For all her earlier trepidation, she was having more fun than Josh could remember her having on any Christmas since the first in the Family Room.
He spun in the water with the date of Marta’s current dance partner, and smiled. For an evening, she could enjoy being a part of the world of regular people.
When the last dance of the night was announced, he turned to find Marta with her hands held out to him.
“I told the rest of them, that I wanted one more dance with my husband tonight,” she said, pulling him into her arms.
“Are you going to take me under the mistletoe again?” he whispered to her.
She kissed him. “You, Mr. Cardan, have never needed mistletoe with me.”