Third Thursday Short

A catch up post from July

She’s pissed…

Today’s prompt was: Mermaids in college.

Campus Mermaid

Barring rain, sprinklers, and stupid jocks, I’m one mad dash away from top of my class. No rain. The campus ran the sprinklers yesterday. That leaves the jocks. And I love to run. I sprint across the final courtyard, a waterproof bag bouncing on my back. The presentation’s safe inside.

They jump me as I skid onto the final sidewalk before the building entrance. Three dumb, giggling frat boys dump a cooler full of water straight over my head. I can taste the salt as it dribbles past my lips and into my sweater. Fuck. The salt was overkill.

“Damn you, you dry-walker bastards!” I splash hands first into the concrete. My tail entangles in my skirts.  I had learned early on in my college career not to wear pants or jeans. “Not funny.”

But they’re already running off. The one that most resembles a square, from his buzz cut, to his full fathom shoulders, to his size 13 double wide feet, turns around.

“Compliments of Mark!” he shouts over the others’ roars.

That eel. That stinging, scorching  jellyfish of a boy that couldn’t even do his own dirty work. Well, I will not let a minor set back stop me. Scraping scales off on the concrete, I manage to flip until I’m facing the doors. Ten feet or so. My bag clings to my back despite my dorsal fin. I’d engineered that solution a mere two weeks after I met Mark. 

There’s a rhythm to it. Two hands forward, lean hard and push. Swing the hips with a twist, threading lateral fins through my arms. Two hands forward again. 

I’d tried to apply for a discrimination excemption two years ago. The college board had told me that pranks were to be expected, that the boys were otherwise excellent students, and there just wasn’t the budget for a personalized transportation service for one student. I should just keep my mouth shut and use these years to learn. I hadn’t bothered with authority since. 

“Are you alright?” The voice calls from behind me and to the right.

They aren’t offering help, so I ignore them and haul myself forward another few inches. 

“Hey, seriously. You need some help?”

I collapse onto one elbow trying to turn and haul my tail forward at the same time. “Shit. Ow. What do you fucking think?”

Standing behind me is a girl with about fifty large books in her hands. The pain fades to the background as I stare up her long, long legs, smooth and strong. By the time I get to her face, crowned with a halo of ringlets poofing around her head, she’s raised one very judgemental eyebrow.

“I’m not going to deny your right to haul your own ass around, but I’m just sayin. It looks uncomfortable.”

She’s got about twenty sparkling bangles on each strong arm and wearing a slinky silver top to match. The sun does really good things to the play of light and shadow over her front.

She snaps her fingers. “Hello? Rescuer for hire, here. Gonna take me up on it?”

Tempests, she was fierce. “Sorry. I’m more used to pointing and laughing.”

“From Phi Beta Asshole? Yeah, I’m not surprised.” She drops her books on a nearby bench. Well. She bends down and places them. It’s a very nice view. 

She might catch my stare as she turns back around. Certainly her full lips broaden into a smile. I duck my head, warm currents flowing through me and probably turning my face blue-purple. Damn it. I’m no good with girls. 

A piercing whistle echoes over the quad. Three more girls come pelting over. They only need one look to see what’s needed. Three bags join the first on the bench.

“Ok, gentlefoks, we’ve got a damsel in distress, here. As fabulous as I am, I can’t haul her all the way to, where was it you heading?”

I check my watch. Seven minutes. “Mineralogy with Prof Boothe.”

“Really?” 

“What, you were expecting Marine Biology?” I cross my arms. 

Bad idea. I fall straight into the arms of the blonde behind me. Fuck. Ow.

“Teach me to have expectations. Anyway, I’m Nia. That’s Brooke that’s got you now.”

“Watch the dorsal fin,” I grit out.

“Sorry. I’m not Marine Biology either. History. That better?” 

I nod. It’s easier to concentrate on Nia’s warm, sunlight-on-water voice. 

“To your right is Klara, and handling your tail is the lovely Lee.”

This last is a person of indeterminate gender, short hair and eyeliner and the comfy college clothes anyone could wear. “Anyplace I shouldn’t grab?” 

“Don’t pinch too hard, and don’t try to move it if I jerk. I’ll likely toss you into the wall, first. Could I have your pronouns?”

Lee beams at me. “They/them, today.”

I nod. “I’m Aviva.”

“And avoid the fins.” Nia sets one hand on my sweater, one on scales. “All right, gentlefolks. One, two, lift!”

The girls haul me up. I wrap my arms around Nia’s and Klara’s necks. Brooke abandons my back once I’m airborne, shifting to help Lee with my tail. They march into the building as if this is something that they do every day of their lives.

“What classroom?”

“210.” I want to rest my head on Nia’s shoulder. Would that be weird? It would probably be weird.

She gives a soft hum that reverberates through me like whale song. “Only one flight. Stairs or elevator, ladies?”

“Stairs if she’ll fit sideways. Quicker that way,” Brooke says. None of them were even breathing hard. “Otherwise we can wait for the elevator.”

“She fits sideways if she has to.” I squirm to get a better grip. Five minutes. “Just let me move my tail if we have to scrunch.”

“You heard milady, let’s go.” Nia tosses her head at the entrance to the stairs. Her hair brushes against mine. Every time she moved, I could feel every twitch in the air along my lateral line. 

“You rescue mermaids often? Professional ladies in shining hoodies?” I’m babbling. I know it. 

“You are looking at half the gymnastics team at this school,” Nia says. “We’re the ones that are not tiny blonde twigs.”

The conversation gets lost in quick orders and rather hopeless shouting as we maneuver into the stairwell. Ever tried to get a sofa up a third floor walk up? It’s rather like that, except the sofa squirms, has a mind of her own, and can toss you off the staircase with one flick of her tail. I guess it’s not really like moving a sofa. 

Three minutes to go. Professor Boothe’s classroom is right across the hall from the stair, so it’s a matter of seconds to get me inside. 

Mark smirks, in the middle of a speech. “So since she obviously couldn’t make it, Professor, shall I just go ahead with my presentation?”

“I’m right here, you bastard.” 

Mermaid tails were not meant to sit on human stools. But Mineralogy is used to this. Three students at the front lab bench gather their things. My rescuers arrange me artistically on top of the bench. Nia even helps me get my bag off without totally overbalancing. If I lean on her for a bit, it’s entirely necessary, and nothing will get me to say otherwise. She gives me another of those winks as she pulls away.

“Shall we wait till the end of class? Will you need a ride anywhere else?” 

I smile up at her. “I should be bipedal again by then, but I wouldn’t mind a ride.”

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