"But m-" I struggled to get the word out, "mermaids don't exist, do they?" I glanced at him, hoping for an explanation. He watched me struggle and laughed. My glance turned into a glare. "You are joking aren't you." I stated. His face became serious again.
"No, I am not joking. But we don't call ourselves mermaids," he insisted, mocking me. "We are Waterpeople. We are just like you, well sort of. We live underwater and have talents, but we are mammals and have warm blood. We also have feelings and emotions," he stated, his voice becoming soft as was his face. "We are more like your kind than you think." It was still difficult for me not to become lost in his mesmerizing eyes. It was like I was being hypnotized, almost....
"Yes, that is what I mean," and he shut his eyes and turned away.
"Wait," I started, shaking my head, "what are you talking about, talents?" I asked lingering on the subject. Did he think that humans weren't talented? How rude!
"No, no! Not what you think. Don't you see what I just did to you?" I failed to see his point. I just stared at him blankly. "A couple of seconds ago you couldn't take your eyes off of me. Remember?" I didn't get what he was saying until I looked into his emerald eyes again. So beautiful....
"Oh! I get it." He was hypnotizing me. "Is that what you mean by talents.
He sighed. "Yes, that is what I mean." Good. It better be. I laughed at myself for thinking otherwise.
"So, what other talents are there. Does everyone have them?" I was suddenly intrigued by these talents of the Waterpeople. I waited while he thought of an answer.
"Well," he began, still thinking, "for your second question, yes. Everyone has at least one talent. Some rare talents are Mind-reading and Pyrokynetics. Fire making. It is most disapproved of though, because Waterpeople do not do well in excessive heat. Also, every Waterperson has Shapeshifting. We can change our physical features to fit in with the upper world," he eyed me, "your world." He stared at me for a few more seconds, then got back on track. "Where were we? Oh yes, our Shapeshifting. Take me for example. Watch my hair. You notice it is light brown?" How could I not notice it? It changed almost every day! But I said nothing and turned my attention to his pointy hair. Ben closed his eyes. His eyebrows pinched a bit. Slowly, his light brown hair turned darker, the color of milk chocolate, then dark chocolate, then to the darkest black that coal black didn't fit do the description justice. His eyes opened and looked at my expression, eager.
"Cool," I mumbled, not sure what to say. The sight was odd, but not in a bad way. I suppose I think it is odd because there aren't many people that I know that can turn their hair different colors. I chuckled slightly, then looked back at Ben's face.
"I can also change my apparent age. I can look like an old man, or a toddler. Would you like to see?" He asked. I shook my head quickly. I didn't want to see him any other way than he was now.
"But, you aren't an old man or toddler, are you?" I questioned shakily. Did I really want to know this answer. Ben looked upset by my question. I saw disappointment in his eyes for the first time.
"Does it matter?" I wanted to cry. I shook my my head, lying. But I insisted.
"Are you thirteen?" I said nothing more, afraid my voice would break. His eyes softened at my obvious pain. Why was I feeling so bad right then. Why did I care if this boy was older or younger than me. It wasn't like I was in love with him, right? I shook the thought away as Ben leaned in closer to me. I could feel his steady breath again.
He chuckled, the mood lifting instantly. "Yes. I am thirteen now. I was born almost thirteen years ago, give or take a few months. And I will continue aging regularly." I sighed. What an unnessecary relief! I tried to get off of the rough, emotional subject.
"Tell me more about your "talents"." I said the word sarcastically and he laughed, but answered my request.
"Most everyone has Hypnotizing, like I do. We need it to catch our food." My face distorted. Their food? Do they eat humans? I thought, disgusted, and I leaned away from the boy sitting across from me. He seemed to understand what I was thinking.
"No! No, not like that. Wow, you misunderstand a lot of things," he added, shaking his head. "No, Waterpeople eat fish." I waited for more.
"Fish?" I repeated. "That's all you eat, is fish?"
"Yes, raw." He seemed to enjoy the way my nose curled up.
"Isn't that kinda, well, hypocritical?" Fish eating fish seemed to be odd to me, and a bit wrong. He moaned and rolled his eyes.
"Jenn, I am not a fish." He separated each word as if he was talking to a first-grader. A very confused first-grader. "I don't have a tail or gills. I do have scales, but that is so I can swim faster. And if you haven't noticed, I don't have any hair besides on my head." As he mentioned it, my eyes flickered to his light brown hair. Changed again, huh? I muttered to myself.
Right then he hoisted his leg up on the footrest between the two of us so I could see his leg beneath his green khaki shorts. It was smooth as if he had just shaved. He let his leg fall and pulled back the arm of his long-sleeved t-shirt. It also was clear of any hair.
"Hmm," I mused. But one thing was still bothering me. I looked at my feet and mumbled, "So you said you have scales?" I couldn't look him in the eye. To think about Ben covered with green, slimy fish scales was something I couldn't comprehend. Neither of us said anything. Suddenly I felt a bump next to me and my head snapped up. Ben was sitting next to me, watching me observe my feet.
"Do you want me to show you?" I was startled my the sound of excitement in his voice. He was smiling, already expecting my answer obviously. He took my hand in his. It was warm, just about the same temperature as mine. He lifted me up onto my with with surprising strength then towed me out the door.