Steve shifted his toes as the wave took the sand beneath them. He knew he couldn’t do this much longer. He knew what the neighbours must think. But who were they to judge? Where were they that morning?
He remembered where he’d been, of course. Lingering under the summer duvet like a lazy bastard. She’d tried to get him to go with her; to join her daily ritual. But he’d groaned in response, throwing a t-shirt over his face to block out the dawn. She’d sighed and teased him about being a lazy bastard, and slipped out of the room. He’d mumbled a promise to make coffee, and promptly fell back asleep.
The pounding woke him. Like when his dad used to slam his fist on the wall to stop the noise. He rolled out of bed and went to the door, calling for Lexi along the way.
His neighbour Jill stood on the front porch, her face crumpling as her eyes met his, clothes dripping water in a circle around her. “I’m so sorry, Steve,” she whispered. “It’s…it’s Lexi. Sam is with her.”
“What?” he asked, confused.
“Lexi!” Steve bellowed, pushing past Jill and scrambling down the steep path to the lake. He rubbed his eyes, trying to erase the scene before him.
Sam knelt beside Lexi, holding her hand. Steve let go of his breath, thinking she must be all right…it was okay…she was all right. He staggered across the beach to them, deafened by his own heartbeat.
“She must’ve slipped and hit her head on the dock,” Sam said, wiping away tears. “Do you know how long she was down here? How long she might’ve been in the water? Oh, Christ, Steve! I am so sorry!”
Steve blew smoke into the damp November air, his feet now fully numb at the edge of the lake. When he stared long enough, he could see her skin sparking in the water, her smile merging with the waves. His mermaid.