As an end to a great summer school break, Grandpa rented a cottage by the sea for the family to enjoy for a few days. Rebecca had been apprehensive when grandpa told her that both her mom and her dad would be joining them by the seashore. Rebecca's parents had been divorced for several years now, and as far as Rebecca knew, they only interacted with each other when she went from one parent to the other or for school concerns. Of course, Rebecca did not expect that a few days being around each other would fix anything, whatever it was that was broken. Still, she was glad to have both of her parents together at the same time, even if it was just for a few days.
The sun was setting on the horizon. It had been a beautiful hot summer day full of touristy activities from the area. Now at day’s end sitting by the seashore, the whole family was comfortably gathered on a rock outcropping overlooking the vast ocean. An open crackling fire burned as they all relaxed, gazing over the calm sea watching the sun go down.
It had been so warm today without any clouds in the sky that everybody expected to see wisps of steam rise from the ocean as the sun lowered itself over the horizon as if dropping directly into the sea.
Everybody sat surveying the water in hopes of seeing whales or porpoises. They were known to travel by here, at this time of year.
A campfire was burning, and all you could hear was the occasional crack of the wood splitting as the flames consumed it. The water from the ocean lightly lapped the shore as it climbed up the rock, indicating that the tide was coming in. Everything and everyone was ready for roasted marshmallows and hot-dogs over a summer fire.
"Gee Grandpa, this is a terrific cottage you rented by the seashore," Rebecca finally broke the silence. "Mom? Dad? I'm glad you both agreed to come and relax for a few days. It has been a long time since we have all been together.
"Yes, it has been," Clara, Rebecca's mom, replied. "I am glad Grandma and Grandpa invited me." She looked at her daughter and her in-laws with a smile, glad that Rebecca was pleased she was there.
“I guess it is the least we can do for our little Princess at the end of a terrific summer,” John, Rebecca’s dad added.
Once the sun disappeared over the horizon and darkness enveloped the family, the singing started. Old campfire songs rolled out, which got everybody involved. Everything needed for the evening’s activities had been brought down from the cottage in baskets earlier. That way, no one needed to leave the gathering and miss any conversation or laughs at any of the silly jokes being told.
Everyone had a go at telling a joke or two, and of course, Grandpa was continually throwing out the old 'dad' jokes. You know the groaners we all hear and moan like, "Did you hear the rumor about the butter? Well, I'm not going to spread it." Or this one, "Why did the scarecrow win an award? Because he was out standing in his field." Of course, everybody threw things at him when he said them, mostly food items.
Ruby was also enjoying the party atmosphere sitting on Rebecca's shoulder, often swinging side to side following the beat of the singing. Ruby also gave the occasional squawk to accompany whoever was singing at the time. No one could see or hear Ruby, of course, that is no one except for Rebecca and her grandpa.
Earlier in the year, Rebecca had learned that Grandpa had always been aware of Ruby. Since Rebecca had never said anything to him, he had been unsure as to whether Rebecca could see Ruby or not, so he had said nothing. That had all changed after her experience in the haunted house. Now Rebecca was glad that she was no longer the only one who was aware of Ruby. Now, Rebecca had somebody to talk to about Ruby and the magical things that Ruby could do.
To her dad, Ruby was just an imaginary friend that Rebecca had created. He played along, believing that eventually, Ruby would just fade away as Rebecca got older.
Somehow Grandpa seemed to know more about Ruby, who and what she was than he was letting on. The day that grandpa revealed to her that he could see Ruby, he had been quite cryptic about everything. Grandpa spoke about Ruby, himself, and secrets that he could not reveal to her just yet because she was not ready. Rebecca wondered what he had meant by that.
Ready for what? She often wondered since their talk. She had no idea or clue, but she knew that he would tell her in time. She did know, however, that whatever those secrets were, weighed heavily on him and caused him great sorrow. She had seen it in his face the day he told her he was aware of Ruby. Rebecca loved her Grandpa, and she would wait as he had requested. She had asked no further questions about it since that day.
Tonight, it almost seemed like time had stopped for the little group gathered by the fire. John looked at his watch and was shocked to see that it was already eleven o'clock. "Oh my, look at that, it's long past your bedtime young miss," he said, looking at his daughter, cuddled up between her grandparents, roasting a hot dog on a skewer.
"Oh dad, it's summer, there is no school, and it's great sitting here by the fire. I only have a few days left of freedom, and really, I am not tired."
"Well, maybe so for you, but I'm afraid it is getting too late for me, and I don't know how come you are still awake, after all, that running around you did today. I'm heading up to the cottage. I want to read a few pages of my new book I started before going to bed."
It is true, Rebecca thought to herself. Lately, I have so much more energy. When she commented about it to Grandpa, he told her it was part of the changes that he hoped would occur as she reached her age of puberty. Puberty had started for her, and grandpa somehow knew it would cause changes for her physical existence and somehow somewhere else, which he never explained. He did not know how much she would change in that somewhere else that he spoke of but just said that they needed to wait and see. Everything had to run its course, he said.
"If you are going up, then I think I will head that way as well," Clara declared, not wanting to walk up the trail in the dark on her own, later on. She got up from her seat to stand next to John.
"In that case, wait for me," grandma said. "Maybe both of you can grab some of these baskets of goodies and bring them back to the cottage. I will sort out what has to go in the fridge before I hit the sack myself," grandma added. "All this fresh air and running around has me bushed. Besides, the bugs are starting to get to me." The bugs always bothered grandma.
Just then, a gigantic moth’s droned by as it flew close to the fire. Grandma’s head snapped back as the moth suddenly disappeared in midair. She wondered where it had gone? She looked at Grandpa to see if he had seen the disappearance too. Grandpa, of course, had seen much more. But he just looked at grandma with a smile and shrugged his shoulders as if to ask, what? Grandma just shook her head, thinking perhaps she was more tired than she thought and was imagining things.
“You two dogs staying out here alone?” grandma asked.
"Yes, and leave the marshmallows," grandpa declared. "I am not done eating them. We will be up in a little while. We will just relax a bit, and since it is such a clear sky tonight, we can look at the stars, as we listen to the fire crackling."
"Honestly, I don't know where you two get the energy," grandma added.
The three grabbed what they could carry and headed to the cottage, leaving Rebecca and her grandpa alone by the fire. Their mumbling fading from Grandpa and Rebecca as the three of them negotiated the trail back to the cottage.
"Grandpa, thanks for organizing this trip. I had a lot of fun, and I think mom and dad did too, but they will never say so."
"I know, honey, but sometimes, people forget what life is all about," he said, hugging her closer to him, putting his arm around her shoulders.
"Hey, Hey, you guys, I'm here between the two of you, and you're crushing me," Ruby, aggravated hollered to the two of them. She squeezed out and tumbled to the ground backward.
"Well, change side dummy," grandpa shooed Ruby with the flick of his hand.
"I get no respect anymore. Rebecca? Since you found out that Grandpa can see me, I swear there are times I don't think you even know I’m here," Ruby grumbled as she flew up to move out of the way and find a new roosting spot.
Just then, another huge moth flew by them, and Ruby was off chasing it.
“Do you know anything about Mermaids?
"Mermaids?" grandpa asked, surprised at the question.
"I overheard some kids today in the museum, saying that they had seen one out in the ocean a few days ago. Are they real? I asked mom, but she said they were just fairy tale stories."
"Well, honey, they do exist, although not in as many numbers as they once did."
"REALLY, grandpa? You're not just saying that? she asked, quickly twisting herself around, eyes wide open and looking directly at her grandfather in disbelief.
"Have YOU ever seen or met any? Do you know where they live? Tell me about them, grandpa."
If grandpa thought earlier that he was only going to stay
outside for a little bit, he was in for a surprise. Now that he had revealed he knew something about mermaids and they were real, she would stay up till morning if she had to, questioning him.
"Well, honey, it is getting late. Maybe we should keep it for another day," he said, trying to avoid the subject.
"No way, grandpa, I want to know everything tonight. We are leaving to go home tomorrow, and you'll forget. Besides, there is no one else here to interrupt, and I promise I will be quiet and only listen," she pleaded.
"Well, I don't know where to start. Merfolk are magical creatures and are very old," he said, still trying to avoid starting the story.
"Your Majesty tell her the story of Gabriela, Ruby hollered out as she flew back to the campfire. As she landed, she had part of a bat wing sticking out from her lips as she chewed.
"Ahem," grandpa grunted, pretending to clear his throat, his eyebrows furrowed as he looked sternly at Ruby.
Ruby realized that she had slipped up, lowered her head close to the ground in a gesture begging for forgiveness.
“Majesty…? Ruby, why did you call grandpa Majesty?” she looked at her best friend in surprise.
"Rebecca, you misheard Ruby,” Grandpa quickly interjected. What she said was, why just tell me the story about Gabriela!" trying to redirect Rebecca's thinking. "Gabriela?… Uh umm, Gabriela… yes?" grandpa said aloud, holding his hand to his chin as if contemplating that story. "That is a long story, but it is a good one," he said, looking at Rebecca, sideways with eyebrows raised and smiling, wondering if his redirect had worked.
“Uh mm, maybe that’s what she said," Rebecca mumbled, “but I was sure…” as her voice trailed off to nothing, thinking and looking at Ruby. Rebecca’s face screwed up slightly as she puckered her lips in contemplation. I’m sure she said Majesty, she thought to herself. Ruby just laid there close to the ground like a scolded puppy. She kept quiet with a sheepish look on her face, and that is saying something about a dragon.
"Maybe we CAN start the story about Gabriela, the mermaid," grandpa quickly reached over to Rebecca’s shoulder, tugging her again close to himself. "Now about merfolk…" he began his storytelling.