I love Valentine’s Day, yet I’ve never written a Valentine’s Day love scene. Well, unless you count the one in Mel Goes To Hell, which starts out much like most of my Valentine’s Days since I turned nineteen. There are chocolates. There are flowers. There is a wonderful dinner, usually with Japanese food.
Ah, but the chocolates are special. You see, when I was nineteen, I visited Japan in early February, when all the stores there are offering free samples of their chocolates, “Fresh from New York!” to all comers, trying to entice you to buy them for your Valentines. Yes, multiple Valentines. I had it explained to me by a Japanese friend – on Valentine’s Day, Japanese women give chocolates to all the men in their lives. Not just the one they love, but their bosses, their colleagues, their families…and the men respond with gifts on the 14th March, which is called “Knickers Giving Day.” You think I’m kidding, don’t you? Honestly, you can Google these things…and the lingerie shops in Japan are magnificent.
I arrived back in Australia on the 12th February (2002, if you’re trying to work out my age). I bought chocolates and little silk roses for all my friends and workmates. Male and female, because I couldn’t see the point in discriminating and it felt weird, being a single girl giving all my much older, male colleagues Valentines gifts. Everyone got a little bundle of chocolate, tied up by a little wire-and-silk flower. Including my husband-to-be, though I didn’t know that yet, because we were just friends then. Some people said that it was the only thing they’d get for Valentine’s Day, as their spouse didn’t believe in such things, if they remembered the day at all. What a way to inspire a nineteen-year-old that there is such a thing as marital happiness!
I’ve done my little chocolate gift distribution thing at work and among my friends every Valentine’s Day since. Fortunately, I’ve never received underwear in return from anyone who doesn’t get to see my underwear normally, anyway. And my husband has never forgotten Valentine’s Day, because he knows how much it means to me.
I can’t wait to share Mel’s Valentine’s Day with you – oh, and Lucifer’s, too – but as Mel Goes To Hell isn’t published yet, I thought I’d give you a taste of how a couple of mermaids celebrate Valentine’s Day…in a complete short story. It isn’t coastal romance without Cuddles the shark, right?
Crocodiles and Children
“The Dark Star returns! The Dark Star!”
The spinner dolphins carried the message and I heard my sisters take it up, too, but I knew Council business would occupy her for some time until the Dark Star returned to me.
It was February and late in the monsoon season, but the elements had a way of reminding us that late did not mean the end. A cyclone approached and my watch had become more challenging, for there were accounts of a crocodile which had become caught up in the storm. The poor reptile was hungry, angry and far from home, posing a danger to the children that they paid no heed to. I redoubled my vigilance as I ached to see my Dark Star.
I flicked my tail at a tickling touch, swimming faster to vent my frustration. She was mine, of course, but she had so many other demands on her time. I heard an unfamiliar sound and saw a tail the like of which I had not seen since I was last on land.
I sang to the swimming lizard, who was smaller than accounts had said. It didn’t do to believe dolphin tales – the crocodile was no longer than my body and far thinner, for he was half-starved. I took him by the tail and pulled him ashore to the lagoon island.
He took a snap at me but I sang louder, calming the angry little crocodile. I grasped him around the middle and carried him to the middle of the island. He wiggled off among the palm trees, birds flying up in alarm to mark his passage. The noise was an ear-splitting screeching chorus that made me glad to sink beneath the surface once more. I headed back to the reefs where the children would soon sleep.
“She is here and she summons you to the shallows by Pulu Beras,” Joy said quietly.
She did not need to say who. Only the Dark Star would summon me and I was happy to answer her summons.
“I will go,” I replied. “Can you spread the word that the little crocodile has found a home on North Keeling?”
She spun through the water, true to her name. “You caught him? No other watcher has even seen him!”
I smiled. “Of course I did. Now the smaller children will be safe, but you and your sisters should not bait him. He was starved and he may not survive long, even on land.”
She giggled. “Blythe will take us all to find him tomorrow. On your return, he will be our pet.”
I kissed my daughter, my heart lifting at the thought that I might be gone long enough for the girls to tame another pet. “Give him a kind name. Cuddles the shark did not like being squeezed half to death.”
She giggled again and waved as I turned my tail, leaping high across the water to speed my way to my Star.
The moon was full, so the water was surprisingly light in the shallows. I flew higher than the flying fish and my heart flew higher still.
I heard her approach, for I am not a watcher for nothing, but the thrill of her hands on me wasn’t lessened by the lack of surprise.
I flicked my tail flukes so she let go of them, twisting to face her as I hoped for a kiss. I had missed her so much in the months she’d been on land. My sweet Star did not disappoint me.
“Thank you,” I told her. “I have missed you so much!”
She giggled, sounding no older than Joy. “I have missed you, too, but we have both been busy. You with your crocodile and me with the humans on land. Have you saved us from the beast yet?”
“He was only little and he’s on North Keeling. Our girls are determined to turn him into their pet,” I replied dismissively. I looked at her with longing. “Do the Council need you immediately, or do you have time to tell me about your adventures while you have been away?”
She smiled. “The Council has been briefed, but I am not needed further until Sirena calls the Council together in two weeks. We have both earned the time off and I have a gift for you. Two, in fact.” Her smile grew broader.
“Please, tell me what kept you so long!” I begged, drinking in the sight of her in the moonlight. Prettier than the stars in the sky, she’d grown plumper in her time on land. Her fondness for human foods made me uneasy, for I did not want her to leave me for so long again.
“Your gifts, of course,” she replied.
Mystified, I waited for her to elaborate.
Her laughter tinkled like coral shingle beneath feet. “You remember that engineering student I liked on land, when we first visited my grandmother…”
I nodded once. I did not like the human she spoke of.
“I found him again, in that Little Creatures pub. We fell to drinking, then talking, before…”
“He kept you from me?” I interrupted, angry. I thought of some horrible things I would like to do with the human. How dare he…
Her hand on my shoulder was soothing. “No, dearest, he did not. But I remembered how sad you were to discover that our girls are growing up, that one will leave us soon to take up her role in the Atlantic.”
I said nothing. Above the water, my eyes would have held tears, but beneath the surface they were dry.
“I thought how much you would like another child, so…”
“You brought the human here?” I broke in, aghast. I did not like the human, nor his brother, no matter how much they had done for me. I could not bring myself to touch another human, even for the prize of another darling child. I would drown the man first.
She laughed so hard she threw her head back, her breast shaking with mirth. “No, dearest. I spent my time with him on land in his home, drinking beer, eating pizza and the like.”
“He made you so round?” I fumed, laying another crime at the feet of the man I hated. The bastard gave her a beer belly while he kept us apart!
Her voice was soft as she took my hand. “Eventually, dearest. I wanted to be sure.” She placed my hand on her round belly. “Twin girls. I waited for Apalala and the dolphins to check, before I told you.”
My heart flew once more. “A child? Two! They will call you the fertile star, not the dark one.”
“Not yet,” she said quietly. “First, I must give you my other gift.” She pulled me through the water to land, where she shifted her tail to free her feet. She walked up the sand to a small foam box. She lifted it and held it out to me. “I managed to get some frozen raspberries from the store on Home Island and I’ve packed them in ice. Happy Valentine’s Day, dearest.”
I smiled. My sweet Star knew me well.
Yes, I’ve masked the names of the characters, as technically this little story takes place after the end of Ocean’s Infiltrator, so I didn’t want to give any spoilers to those who haven’t read the book.
Now, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t give you this as a YouTube video…with me narrating, so here you go:
And…it wouldn’t be a Coastal Romance Blog Hop without an awesome giveaway and plenty of other amazing authors for you to check out, here: