As Ariel climbed up the side of the ship, it took all her strength to keep from falling back into the water. Sitting on a ledge, she watched the sailors dance under the lights in the sky. A strange creature the mermaid had never seen before ran over to her, and she laughed as it licked her face. She froze when the dog's owner approached.
"Max!" He called, "Whatcha doing?"
Midnight black hair swept away from his perfect face. His eyes softened, and his smile faded when their eyes locked. For a few heartbeat, they just stared.
"Oh," He said softly, "Oh I see."
Desperately Ariel ducked and hid against the side of the ship. Closing her eyes, she wished to blend in somehow, knowing that her fire red hair could never be mistaken for anything else.
"Wait!" She heard him call as he ran to the side of the ship and leaned over. Nervously she looked up at his handsome face. Confusion warred with wonder as several different expressions transitioned over him. He could see her tail, and that she was wearing very little. His mind didn't know where to focus.
"You're a-"He started in a breathy voice.
"Please!" She cut him off with a pleading look, "Please don't draw attention. It's forbidden."
The worry on her face brought him back to his senses. Sailors had always whispered about mermaids and other nautical tales, but this was the first time he had ever believed any of it.
"It's okay. I'm sorry if I frighten you. I'm harmless." He gave her a smile that made her stomach do all sorts of flips. She kept staring at him in amazement. "Um… are you okay?"
He almost didn't hear her when she whispered, "I've never seen a human… this close before."
Looking around to be sure no one watched him the boy climbed over the side of the ship and sat on the ledge opposite Ariel. She recoiled, and it made him sad for some reason.
"It's okay. I'm not going to hurt you." He said gently.
She was hesitant at first and barely moved her hand toward him. When he didn't pull away, she carefully reached out. His heart was pounding by the time her hand was on his cheek. With a sigh, he covered it with his own and leaned in. She smelled like the sea, with skin so soft he feared how easily he could hurt her.
"So beautiful," she breathed, almost to her herself as she swept away the hair from in front of his eyes.
"What's your name?" He asked.
She opened her mouth to respond and then seemed to realize what she was about to do. "Oh- no!" She frantically started trying to get down, "I gotta go!"
Fear seized him as he realized he might never see her again. "Wait! Please-"He grabbed her wrist gently, but firmly.
"Please let go, my fathers gonna kill me!" she begged.
His eyebrows knitted together sadly. "I just want to know your name. I'm Eric."
She looked back at him and blew out a breath that made her bright red bangs puff out. With a groan, she said, "Ariel."
"Ariel," He whispered, testing it out, "Well that's kinda pretty. Alright then, Ariel." He took her hand and smiled at her. Despite the effort to get away, Ariel felt her heart begin to melt in her chest as his warm eyes looked at her. "Can I see you again?"
Over head, people were calling Eric's name, and Ariel began to panic. "Alright! I'll come back later tonight, but I've got to go!"
"Come when the ship is dark. I'll wait for you." He smiled when she nodded and jumped back into the water. Hoisting himself back onto the boat Eric's mind was reeling. He had touched her and learned her name, and despite that, she was so beautiful she didn't seem real. By the end of the night, Eric couldn't help but wonder if he had indeed seen her at all.