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FOOTBALL

Written by: Astrid Delphine;

From the authour who brought you "Rainbow Adventures", & "Chelsea's Courage"

Her email is: astrid_delphine@hotmail.com if you wish to comment.

 

For my Dad, who may not understand my love of mermaids but who enjoys an afternoon of watching football on tv. -AD

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My earlier argument with Arte had greatly upset me. He would not even look at me anymore.

As we all watched from the sidelines, Duke took that pigskin to the end field. Julie & I, being girls, hugged each other as we jumped for joy. Duke passed the field goal kick to (his little brother) Prince, who cleared the kick and added to our winning score of 47 to 45. The entire crowd was on their feet, cheering.

My voice was scratchy from yelling so much, I removed the lid from my personal bottle [salty water] and guzzled some down. (My coach uniform t-shirt had been taken in a lot so it could better show off my curves.) They [the boys on the team] were determined to have a wet t-shirt contest and got one when Luke & Mike gave me the water soak. I was so surprised that I dropped my bottle, spilling it on myself. I was in such shock; I knew what was about to happen but there was nothing I could do to stop it.

My true-self transformation was instantaneous and since I had been standing, I fell/flopped forwards onto the wet grass & my stomach [Rikki’s first, h2o]. I did not need to look back; I could feel the weight of my flukes as they gently flopped involuntary, in the grass; I could feel the scales top as I breathed in the mixed scents of grass, salty water and the ever-growing scent of sweaty socks. I crossed my arms & buried my head in shame as I began to cry. I could feel the millions of eyes stare at me.

Then I realized that the light from behind me was beginning to disappear. I gently raised my head & turned my whole body ever so slightly to see that the whole of my defence team had removed their helmets and each were now kneeling, completely surrounding me. They were using their bodies to block me from the crowds & cameras. Someone began tossing clean towels over their heads to me & they started covering my form. I looked to the captain, Sebastian, as the others continued to cover me. “What can we do?” he asked. “Get me to our locker room showers. I need to wash off (the salt) before I can change back. That is the curse of the oceans,” I answered.

Sebastian took charge: “Luke, go kill the power to the lights and cameras. Put the padlock on & steal the key.” | “Arte, Julie; grab those emergency flashlights from the VIP box.” | “Mike, Prince; grab us one of the stretchers. Tell the paramedics to stay back; there is nothing they can do to help; team tradition or something.” | “Duke, Ed, MJ, Fynn, Stokes; remove your chest gear & gloves.” | “Everyone, remove your jerseys & toss them to me.”

Sebastian had already done so and tossed his padding off to the benches. He removed a towel, replacing it with his sweaty-damp jersey and poured a plain bottle of water onto the jersey. The water felt like an infusion of pure energy. “We have to keep her wet while we wait for Luke. Otherwise she could dry out & get sick,” said Sebastian to all of the looks, including mine. “My youngest daughter is a mermaid fanatic. She makes me read to her from her books collection,” he said with a shrug. The others started obeying his orders and soon I was covered in football jerseys, being watered down with every water bottle left. Arte & Julie came forward with two huge, car-battery-sized flashlights just as all of the arena lights went completely dark and all of the cameras went dead, except for the one on the blimp flying overhead. I knew that since I was completely covered, we did not need to worry about that one.

The guys used the towels, sliding them under me, and lifted me – still on my stomach - onto the stretcher, careful not to lose any of the jerseys. Sebastian stayed on my immediate left hand side as Duke, Ed, MJ, Fynn, & Stokes took the other five places (almost like if they were carrying a flag in ceremony). A bunch of the other guys from the team filled in the gaps and around at both ends. I carefully shifted to my right side & pulled up my tail ever so much; the flukes now did not overhang at the end; I did not lose a single jersey in doing this. Arte & Julie lead the way with the flashlights as they all worked together to get me out of there, ignoring the hollers & boos from the crowd.

***


If the water bottles had been pure energy, then the shower was ecstasy! The soaked jerseys were now piled in the next shower stall as I was gently lifted from the stretcher to the wooden seat of the handicapped stall. From there, I could reach the taps myself & turned them on to full blast hot, to let the steam slowly warm my tail until I could no longer feel the stabbing pain. I turned the hot down, the cold up & found a comfortable lukewarm. Sebastian lowered the showerhead so I could move it where ever I wanted it. For now, I kept it spraying on low, onto my head as I breathed in the energy of the water. It warmed me from the outside in until I felt that I could melt from it.

I pulled my head out & moved the showerhead back as I heard the pounding of a fist on a door. Duke got up to check; Luke came in, carrying another of the oversized flashlights, apparently out of breath. “I managed to pull the switch but a guard got to me just after I locked it. We fought for the key for as long as I could, to give you lot time to get out. I dropped the key, stole his flashlight & ran. The whole stadium is in an uproar, demanding to know what was/is going on, Gwyn.” Luke looked to me, in both awe & worry. Suddenly, the lights all came back online. Julie & Luke turned off their flashlights and set them down on the benches behind them. I bent my head down for a moment, looked at them, and then took the showerhead so that my neck was directly in the spray, actually breathing the water as it passed my gills. They showed more shock as I closed the gills and returned the showerhead to its place.

“My real name is Guinevere and I am not from around here. When I was a small child, my people fought a huge war over territory. My father was the eldest younger brother of the King-of-the-Sea and so I lived in the same palace as the King’s son, Prince Arthur. Late one night, the enemy (led by the King’s youngest brother, my evil uncle) attacked the castle and killed both the King & my parents. In the confusion, Arthur & I were taken separately from the other children and were left on a beach, in human form. We were told not to return for at least 18 years. When a group of humans found us, we were further separated and I have been in search of Arthur ever since. I have been told that it is time for both of us to return home, where Arthur is to take the throne. Our evil uncle is dead and with no heirs, Arthur is next.” We all watched as the birthmark on my shoulder changed – this time added to it, ___________ [undecided]. “This is my version of the marking. Arthur’s has the glorious sword of Excalibur instead of a ________ [whatever]. But Arthur is too afraid to even let me prove to him of what I say is true; isn’t that right, Arte?” I looked up to the skinny boy, standing with the flashlight still turned on and obviously shaking & his face blushing red.

Every member of the team started laughing (except for Sebastian), which made Arte go a deeper red and my heart sank. This was not the way to win over the true prince & I felt ashamed. Arte must have seen how embarrassed I was for him; he walked over and sat on the bench across from me. He finally turned off the flashlight and set it aside. He just kept looking at me, inquiringly as the team eventually calmed down enough to speak; Sebastian sat on a bench sideways, his back leaning against the lockers, his left leg resting upon the bench. “Are you quite sure of this, Gwyn; Arte being king and all? I can’t even see him as a mermaid, let alone a king!” babbled Duke. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, guys,” muttered Arte but I interjected: “Arte is not a mermaid; he’s a merMAN and yes, he is the next King-of-the-Sea. According to our people’s prophecy, ‘the Arthur of this, the 21s, century is to be crowned King beside his Queen and rule the seas, bringing peace to all, as his human namesake had done in years past.’ ” I continued to stare directly at Arte as I spoke. Arte did not even flinch when I splashed a little water in his direction. “Hey! And just whom is to be this ‘Queen’ of his, hmm?” taunted Prince. “According to prophecy, I am,” I said without any flick of a smile and not taking my eyes off of Arte’s. The whole team (again, except for Sebastian) roared up in fresh laughter as Arte’s face returned to the dark red & he finally looked away. “You might as well just let me show you Arte, because it is gonna happen one way or another,” I said as I watched Luke & Mike sneak up behind Arte.

One quick swoop, Luke & Mike (obviously the trouble makers of the team, and identical twin brothers) grabbed Arte on his shoulders, stepped over the bench and shoved Arte into the shower stall. He stumbled into the stall, putting his hands out to stop himself from hitting the back wall. He was soaked through within seconds but no change occurred. The team was about to burst out in laughter again but I reached out and grabbed Arte’s hand. Julie handed to me a water bottle which had the strong scent of salt water. Arte had the look of absolute shock on his face and he was paralyzed with fear. “Look at it this way, Arte. If nothing happens, then no harm will come to you. It will just all be an honest mistake.” The bottle did not have a lid so I dumped the entire contents over Arte’s head as he just sat there on the floor of the stall, letting the water completely immerse him.

Again, the transformation was instantaneous and so was the reaction of the team, although not the one I expected. Every single member of the team knelt down on one knee, including Julie & the other coaches. “Long live King Arthur! Long live Queen Guinevere! Long live the merfolk!” they all chanted as we watched Arte’s birthmark appear and take on the sword of Excalibur. When this was done, time seemed to freeze in that exact moment. No one said anything; no one moved; I barely breathed until when a series of banging on the locker room door woke all of us from our own thoughts. Duke and Ed went to investigate while Julie closed the curtain of our stall & I turned off the shower’s water. Behind the curtain, I helped Arte to pull himself up onto the seat as we listened to the noise as one of them opened the door. It lasted mere seconds before the door was closed again.

Sebastian’s voice came from the room, “Coach Jake has gone out into the hall. What is to happen now, Gwyn?” I pulled back the curtain to still see the whole team. I bit my lip for a moment & looked at Arte; then I turned back to the team. “Arte & I really need to get to our beach and into the ocean. It must happen now, before this all gets out of hand, if it has not already. Boys, shower up; we’re going on a road trip!” I barked out my impersonation of Jake. The team roared with laughter as they started stripping off their uniforms & gear; Julie slipped into our stall as I closed the curtain back again. I did not wish to see them change and neither did Julie but I know that she did not want to leave the locker room either. The three of us carried on a normal conversation as if nothing had happened. Julie asked me more about the prophecy that told of me & Arte. All I could tell her was that so long as Arte & I returned to the sea before this month’s full moon, we would work together and bring peace to all oceans. “This month’s full moon is tomorrow night,” Julie said startled; Arte & I only looked at each other.

“It’s safe to come out! We’re all dressed now, Gwyn.” Sebastian’s voice echoed the locker room walls as Arte leaned behind me to check and then let Julie open the curtains all of the way.

This was when I realized that neither Arte nor I had transformed back and the water had long since been turned off. “I don’t understand; it’s always reverted after the salt is washed off! How can this be?” I asked, my voice, a high-pitched squeal of shock. “Who knows? It could be that you & Arte have been reunited, to ensure both of your returning to the sea... or it could be that it is so close to the full moon. Either way, we need to get you both out of here and quickly.” Sebastian always seemed to have a good head on his shoulders.

 

.... To Be Continued ... ?