"you look like a mermaid."
the girl perks up at his voice as he speaks. she turns her head to face him as he sits on the tiled floor of the bathroom, back pressed against the pink porcelain of the tub. the girl grins at him.
"really?" she asks, teeth glinting in the dull, sickly yellow light. the man nods.
"mhm. if mermaids existed, you'd be one."
the girl swipes a few strands of wet hair away from her face, fingers grazing flushed, ghostly skin. "i haven't got a tail, though."
"eh, we'll find you one," the man sniffs. "can't be all that hard to come by."
the girl smiles again and folds her knees up to her chest. the bubbles from the bath cling to her skin. she pretends that they're scales, greenish blue and shiny.
"i always wanted to be a mermaid," she says, resting her head on the rim of the bathtub, "or a siren."
"what's the difference?" the man asks.
"i don't really know. sirens are evil, i think?" the girl replies. "they sing to sailors and yank them off their boats."
the man makes a face. "does that make me a sailor?"
"mm, more like a pirate," the girl hums.
"ouch," the man furrows his brows in response to the empty insult. the girl giggles.
"i'd like to think i have a good singing voice," says the girl, "the best in my choir, some said."
"uh oh. maybe I shouldn't be sitting so close then," the man replies.
the girl laughs. she pokes at the water droplets that hang on the bathtub rim, watching them slide down onto the floor.
"i'll pull you in and drown you," she murmurs, wide brown eyes peering up into his face.
"i don't think my tub will fit the two of us, i'm afraid."
the girl frowns and sighs in fake disappointment. there is a long silence after the exchange, the noise of rain on the rickety tin roof being the only audible sound.
"i've never seen the ocean," the girl breaks the quiet. "my parents would never let me."
"are you serious?" the man gapes in disbelief. the girl nods gently.
"i think they were scared of what would happen when i saw it. it was too big for them," the girl murmurs, dark hair falling over her eyes.
"what, as if you'd run in and drown?" the man raises a brow.
"mhm," the girl gazes at her reflection in the bathwater. "i'd disappear into the seafoam."
another long silence follows her statement. the man shifts a little.
"i'll take you," the man says suddenly after a moment, voice filled with resolve. the girl gazes up at him.
"really?" she asks. the man nods steadily.
"yeah, you'll see it. you can go visit all your fish friends, too. they miss their mermaid."
the girl laughs and swears she can hear the tide rolling in from somewhere far away. like when you put a seashell up to your ear (although she wouldn't know that because she's never seen a real seashell before).
"i'd like that very much."