The fact that the non-merman of the pair keeps a stern expression the whole time makes me imagine he’s Erik, and the affectionate merman is Charles. :D
"Mutti, we can’t move away anymore."
Edie Lehnsherr sighs and shuts her eyes, her hands pausing in the sink, wet up to the wrist in soapy water. Swallowing down the lump of sorrow in her throat, the sick swell of frustration, she says as evenly as she can
"Erik I told you. We can’t stay here. I’m sorry you’re sad, but you have to stop this."
She expects anger—she has seen enough of it in the past few weeks, Erik kicking holes in the walls, slamming his door shut, refusing to eat, refusing to speak to her unless it was to beg or barter in a vain attempt to keep the house by the sea. The house he was born in. As though selling it is some perverse pleasure for her.
She remembers Jakob placing a broad palm on Erik’s shoulder and the way he spoke to him in a low private voice and called him Mannchen. Remembershow Erik puffed up his little chest with pride and shook his father’s hand. A sudden wave of loneliness threatens to consume her and she takes a moment, frail and hunched over at the sink, to remember how to breathe.
"No we can’t leave,” Erik protests, and Edie throws down the dish in her hands in a great splash, a scream fluttering inside her chest preparing to burst free and shatter the windowpanes, until Erik says, “who will take care of Charles?”
When she spins to face him, all words drain from her throat and puddle helplessly at her feet. There is her boy standing in the doorway to the kitchen, his expression obstinate as always. In his arms, however….in his arms he is holding a beautiful little boy who blinks at her with guileless eyes the colour of the sea outside her windows. Water drips from his pale, naked skin and the scales of the fish tale shimmering in the low light where his legs should be.
She gapes at them, sure she is about to fall over as her knees run to liquid and she grips the counter tight with wet hands. The little boy smiles at her and flicks his tale, water splashing over the linoleum.
"Oh…" she breathes, and Erik scowls at her, hoists Charles up in arms that must surely be aching if he dragged this…this child all the way up the rocky crags to their cottage.
"He’s mine Mutti. He’s going in the bath." He turns and leaves the kitchen without a look back.
She stands for a moment staring at the empty space where Erik had been, her head reeling with a thousand thoughts all at once. Her mind blurs with words like mermaids, water babies, nymphs, selkies. Feels her world crashing down again and reordering itself, this time not with the reassurance that she will always feel some splinter of grief in every day, but with a new miraculous sense of wonder.
She thinks about a boy taking her to his house by the sea, holding her hand under the stars and asking if she believes in love at first sight. When she scoffs and tells him that it’s the stuff of fairytales, he looks at her and smiles that slow, quiet smile. At the time she thought he was teasing her, as he always did, for her relentlessly clinical mind.
Now she thinks of that smile, and of the tiny boy with a fish tale instead of legs splashing merrily in her upstairs bathroom. Listens to her son laugh for the first time in three months. Wonders if maybe Jakob had brought her here and smiled at her because he had discovered real magic in the world, because he knew that fairytales and true love were real, tangible things, and was waiting for her to figure it out for herself.
She goes back to the dishes. She thinks about her husband smiling. She wonders if a baby mermaid will eat canned tunafish for dinner.