“What is your name?”
“I am a girl,” brightly proud. “And I like to eat fish soup. What are you?” A child’s harmless question.
“I’m lost from the sea,” lolling lightly with the buoyant saltiness of the thick fractured marine.
Shifting for comfort, soles of her knee-high skin boots crunching and shaping white crystals, “Do you know any songs?”
But the crack and split thunder of breaking ice interrupted, plates and saucers smacking the hardwood surface of the Scots Pine table.
“Soon she’ll be calling, I don’t want you to go.” Concern and conflict replacing her joy.
“Go there, it is time, and I will come back to you soon.” With that, the strange creature slipped from the surface and back into the sea.
“Maarit, please come down, dinner is warm and it’s just on the table.” Maarit’s mother calling.
Passing around the planed edge and smooth swing of her bedroom door, the savory sensation of rye and rice from Karjalan pies met Maarit’s nose. Descending a crooked stair, thoughts no more about her new friend, her mother gathering Maarit’s tiny fingers in the palm of her hand, heading to the wide-open warmth of the dining space. Helping Maarit onto the hard cushion of a high-back wooden chair.
“Oh, little girl, your hands are ice, how is that?”
“My new friend, he is waiting for me and he can’t find his home.”
“Your friend must be blue?” spoken with a mother’s smile in her eye.
“Yes, well I think so, no, I don’t know,” looking thoughtfully now at the thick creamy potato and fish swirls in her bowl.
“Does your friend have a name?” Dropping her head to meet Maarit eye to eye.
“I think he is a fish or maybe from space?”
“Well that’s very nice, maybe you can take him some pie when we finish with the dishes?”
With bed-time upon her, stepping high and back up the same crooked stair that leads to and from her bedroom.
“Oh no, you are really gone,” the whispering sigh of a child’s disappointment and putting the pie on her lonely nightstand.
Orange and blue bands of the warm woolen raanu tucked up under her chin, staring at the ceiling that she could see right through to that place, Maarit lay wondering what worlds lay beyond the sea and within the stars and not knowing his name.
“I will call you Nuuk,” and that made her smile.
This time she wore big-fat red woolen mittens so her mother would not know and from the edge of the hole that had formed in the ice she observed him approaching displacing the slush. Rolling right over onto his left-side showing grey spots and a depth to his black-eye.
“It’s time for me to leave the Lapland and search for my home.”
Maarit, closing her eyes tight, sealing the little girl’s wish beyond doubt, “Oh please take me with you I’m going me too!”
“What is that?” Maarit puzzled the gnarly grey spike.
“It is time,” the reply as Nuuk spun in a circle, looking beyond the tip of his horn and up beyond the moon.
And knowing no fear, but to be alone, Maarit stared at the creature in the center of the hole and into the darkness below and the deep and the cold. Ice that surrounded shaped smooth formless shadows and the tips of the wake kissed the air as they collided. Maarit now in full flight.
The shock from the cold caused a burst of white light as her lungs filled with fire and then her world faded to black. Icy sharp fingers reached out for the child as she spiraled and sank, but it was Nuuk that dove hard and reached Maarit first. Reaching out with a fin, he reached for hers. What was black was now blue and then green and then yellow and had the warmth of a cozy night blanket. A new world righted in that moment below the ice floats, and Maarit stopped her descent. Shaking her head it was her turn to float.
“I can swim!” voiced in wonder that knew nothing of swimming.
“Of course you can swim,” it was Nuuk’s turn to speak. “Of course you can swim with that very fine tail.”
Where there had been mittens now formed webbed fingers with nails shaped like key hooks and where boots and then feet now a length of flowing tail. A tail that streamed out into the breeze of the current to wave like a flag made of very rich silk. Shimmers of metallic green, purples and pinks and then joined at the knees. Silver scales interlocked in a wrap of her legs reflected what light that could survive a trip through the dark.
“I can breathe!”
“Of course you can breathe, you can breathe, you’re like me.”
Taking a Maarit felt the thickness in her throat and could count the sensations as her neck pulsed with her breath and her hair hung about her face in an opaque halo of lace.
Nuuk was swimming in circles around and around observing Maarit glow accepting her form.
“Let’s go let’s go there’s no time to waste!” Nuuk pointed his horn to the south and much deeper.
“Where are we going?” Maarit’s words bubbled as she checked for her watch.
With a twist and a thump of his powerful flukes, Nuuk was clean out of sight, leaving nothing behind but his own trail of bubbles. Bubbles that started as small as pin-points and then grew and grew in size to the shape of grand holiday balloons, and from inside the bubbles the sound of brass trumpets announced it was time.
“Wha… where are you?” Words escaping bursting bubbles of confusion.
Brass trumpets accompanied by the percussion of sheet metal hi-hats and splash, a calliope of rattle-trap crowing and thin-tin bells ringing. Indeed it was time…time to wake up. Maarit’s alarm clock turning gears and dancing across swift currents of grain in her bedside table. Where the wood cried and Maarit lay fatigued from her journey. Having a rough time now waking from the warm blanket trappings of deep blue sea.
“Good morning,” words to herself, reaching a naked arm out to calm down the new day’s reminder as it continued to waltz. The brush from the side of her hand about toppled the glass there filled with fresh water. Early morning rays try at prying open the fine fabric and slats of her blinds. Needing and then finding the toggle of her desk-lamp switch and to brighten the room. Illuminating.
And from the store-bought block shelves and squared shadow boxes, a little girl’s toys remained frozen there in the light in their dances. A toy horse, tail braided, balancing on its back legs, kicking the sky. Books of adventure, one laying on its side, pages read repeatedly, feeding dreams. Picture of her grandmother kissing Maarit and holding her tight. Several dolls long forgotten, living in the margins of yesterday’s fancy. Sailboat, sail puffed out bold from a child’s untamed manifest. Where there were droplets of water following the line of the keel and then succumbed gravity.
“Good morning Maa…,” this time Maarit’s mother opening the bedroom door to greet her daughter….trying to make sense of the puddle spreading in the middle of the floor.
Now Maarit that’s the last…,” tone a warning caught in her throat as she considered the contents of the glass, squared on the desk and so filled to the brim and the odd chill to the room and nascent scent of high adventure. Maarit’s mother, close to the floor kneeling, broke the surface tension of the puddle with a flattened palm, her right hand true and steady found it ice-cold.
“But I didn’t…”
“Salt,” as she placed a wet finger-tip to the curve of her lips and tip of her tongue, somehow knowing, believing the whole of the truth. “Where did you say he is from?”
No words, Maarit’s dreamy eye drift to the ceiling acknowledged her mother.