A Bird May Love a Fish
By Joanna Reeder © 2018
She stood on the end of the pier, took a deep breath, and jumped into the freezing ocean. She was going to get some answers, no matter what it took.
White hot anger coursed through her veins as she plunged deeper into the dark depths. The purple and pink and orange streaked sky was no longer visible from even a few meters down. And for that she was grateful. No happy sunsets down here.
The water easily slid from her pearl-colored feathers and she hardly felt the cold water even as she dove deeper. One of the advantages of being what she was. The only challenge was not to let her instincts take over and begin searching for a meal.
She would find him.
She would find him and confront him. She couldn’t let the thought of an entire ocean to search for one being intimidate her.
Before long she had to surface, after all, an air creature designed to dive couldn’t hold their breath indefinitely. Not like a sea creature could.
As her head emerged, the light exploded again and she cursed the heaven and the sea for being so beautiful in the twilight. She refused to enjoy even a glimpse of it and arched her back to take another breath before diving again, but the way some nearby floating seaweed reflected the light caught her eye.
He lounged lazily in the midst of it. Arms crossed over a now-bare chest, he moved and swayed with the waves in a fluid, very non-human way. More proof of what he was.
She tucked her feet underneath her body and wrapped her wings to her side so that she bobbed on the water like a cork. Then she narrowed her eyes at him. “You lied to me,” she said.
He chuckled softly and tucked a lock of black hair behind his ear, but the laugh didn’t meet his eyes in his guarded expression. “And you weren’t exactly forthcoming about yourself either,” he retorted.
“I was blending in.”
“And so was I,” he said.
“But you had to know what I was.”
“How could I? You weren’t exactly showing off those beautiful wings to the world.”
She didn’t notice the look of pain on his face at his words because she turned her head to hide the flush in her cheeks.
“Humans get nervous around beings that are other,” she said after a moment and twisted the end of her white braid that hung over one shoulder.
“Of course,” he agreed. “Which is why walking into a party with feet and legs is much more appropriate than being in my natural form.”
She kept her expression neutral.
“Unless they have an aquarium, I suppose.” He smiled wide. The same smile with that dazzling sparkle in his eyes that had remained a permanent fixture on his face that night at the party.
She was washed over with memories of that night and forced a laugh to hide the fluttering of her insides. His humor and his smile were exactly what made her fall so hard so fast.
“I wore one of my own feathers in my hair that night,” she said. “I may have been disguising myself from the humans, but someone such as you would have to know. Or at least suspect what I am.”
His eyes fixed on hers as he said, “I hardly noticed the feather.”
“So why did you say nothing? Why did you wear nothing to let me know what you are?” Her eyes didn't stray from his and she absently noted that their distance from one another closed slightly with the rolling of the waves. As if it was the ocean’s way of encouraging the conversation to continue. She silently wondered if ever there was a creature like her who had ever had a tete-a-tete with a creature like him.
“And what would you have me say?” He lowered his voice. “I thought you were human.”
“Do you often flirt unabashedly with humans?” She accused.
“Only ones worth flirting with.” He winked and flashed his smile again.
“But what if they fall in love with you?”
“That has happened more than once,” he said slowly.
Her heart stammered. “But why? Why encourage it? Only to break their hearts when you return to the sea?”
His face wiped away all emotion. “I have found myself in love with a human many times over the centuries. And though yes, I must eventually leave them, I am not as bound to the ocean as you might believe.”
A lump lodged in her throat. She was afraid if she spoke again, her voice would break.
“And why did I not wear a trident on my lapel? You ask? Or peel off two scales to use as cuff links?” If he noticed her struggle to hold her emotions at bay, he didn’t mention it. “Do you remember the line of work I am in?”
She quickly replayed every conversation they’d had through her mind. She nodded, but still didn’t speak.
“If my kind knew that I managed fishing boats?” He looked over his shoulder as if he might have been overheard even though he whispered the last two words. Then he drew a finger across his neck to imply what his consequences would be. “There is a reason I am careful to conceal what I am…to everyone. I don’t even wear blue.” He chuckled at his joke, but she didn’t laugh.
She almost didn’t dare ask, but she’d come to him for answers. “So what were your intentions with me?”
His pained look etched his features again. She noticed this time and it sent a jolt through her heart.
“Sixty years as my bride.” He said in a monotone voice and holding her gaze again. “Give or take a few years.”
“But we just met.” She whispered as her heart swam simultaneously in elation and despair.
“Sometimes you just know.”
Thoughts of that night swirled in her memory: Her in a lacy white dress, almost as white as her hair which hung down her back in a mess of curls; and him, wearing a jet black tux with a crimson red bowtie, his hair pulled together at the nape of his neck. Their eyes met across a sea of humans, and it was over for both of them. They were drawn to one another. They held eyes for no one else. Their individual reasons for attending the party no longer mattered.
“What about you?” He asked softly, and it shook her thoughts away.
“W-what were your intentions?”
She studied him carefully. The oranges and pinks had faded to dark purples now that the sun was below the horizon. Dancing shadows made his face even more stunning in the moonlight than she remembered. She made sure to keep her eyes on his and not let them escape to his torso and the tail that surely hid just beneath the dark seaweed. How he managed to stay so upright in the water was lost on her, but most things about his kind were a mystery to her and those like her.
“My intentions no longer matter,” she said bluntly though her eyes pricked with tears.
“I suppose not.” His mouth softened in a small, but sad smile.
“A bird may love a fish…” she said softly.
“But where would they live?” He finished the question.
“So what will you do?” She asked, hastily wiping an escaped tear.
“Keep running my business.” He said. Matter-of-fact.
“Will you find another human? Or…” she paused. “One of your kind?”
He looked at her thoughtfully and laughed bitterly. “Not likely,” he said, as if it should be obvious to her.
“Why not?” Tears now streamed down her face.
“Because when you’ve fallen for an angel, it’s over.”
In one swift motion she expanded her wings to their full span and hit the water with enough force to become airborne. One last salty tear disappeared in her wake, but he didn’t even notice as his eyes followed her white form until he could no longer tell if he was looking at her or a glittering star.