I abruptly ended the phone call with a curt ‘will speak to you next week, bye’. As always, the conversation had begun with the mundane ‘oh I had a lovely cup of tea today’ and inevitably led to my weight and career aspirations. My bath was nearly full and I wiped the tears away roughly from my eyes with my towel as I often did post conversation with her. The last of my so called relaxing bubbles streamed in near the tap’s flow and it fluffed up and spread across the length of the bath. I sighed, dropped my robe and lowered myself into the hot water, wincing as I descended, my skin quickly adjusting to the temperature. Years of practice. I mulled over the words in my head; ‘Rachael Waters, you can’t work there forever’, ‘It was only supposed to support you through University’ and ‘Well you looked bigger last time I saw you’. Did she ever have anything good to say? ‘It’s nice to hear from you.’ or ‘I have missed you.’ would be a welcome change and she wonders why I don’t visit.
It wasn’t for lack of trying to change my life. I scoured the internet daily for new jobs and there was nothing. I was either too qualified or too under qualified- typical. Anything worth doing required years of extra training and money in sums I could never afford. Damn the recession, what a crap generation to be born in to, thanks Mum and Dad.
I had spent what seemed like lifetime on a diet, yo-yoing from a healthy-for-my-height weight to bordering on diabetes. My ever altering moods due to my recently doubled dose of anti-depressants affected how much food I devoured. The large chocolate bar I munched at work daily was the reason for not fastening my extra button on my pants.
I sat, as they say, swimming in my own filth, envying all the accomplished skinny people that were rubbed in my nose every day. I imagined what they were doing while I was pruning my skin. A dinner party perhaps, at the cinema or having sex. All seemed strong competition against my bath and take away for one, which would certainly make its way straight to my already ample hips. I was past the point of no return anyway so what the hell?
I looked up at a picture on the wall that I had recently acquired from a charity shop. The only shops I could afford these days. For only 50p I had captured my childhood fantasy in a 30 by 15 drawing of a mermaid. Yes I was the one who sat in a bath as a little girl in a fake mermaid tail watching it change colour from a teal to a feminine pink.
I took a deep breath and submerged my head beneath the bubbles. When I was a little girl I had always wanted to be a mermaid, for they were always beautiful and had lean physiques, well why wouldn’t they? Swimming all day had to burn off your allocated 2000 calories. No-one cared what they did for a living. That did sound much more appealing.
I imagined a vast stretch of ocean before me. My eyes widening to the sand as golden as a fair maiden’s hair all along the sea bed. Tropical fish in a miscellany of colour flitting around me as if I was one of them. Through the blanket of scales I could see mermaids and mermen, hundreds of them, interacting with one another through high pitched whale like sounds.
One of them breaks away and swims straight for me. A merman, he has kind eyes and a strong physique and holds his hand out to mine.
I look down to my hand as it travels towards his. I feel in awe at the sight of my slick, green tail, just like the one when I was a little girl. I move it with ease, it whips thorough the water like a knife through butter.
My long mane of fiery red hair flows down the length of my slender physique, covering my breasts. He smiles at me and I instantly smile back clutching his hand firmly. I nod and at that point my instinct takes over and I soar through the water into the distance with my new man. I feel completely safe with him; I know no harm will come to me. I do not know where he is taking me, I just feel the cold water rush past my cheeks. This is where I want to be, this is home. The escape of the humdrum, the release from the judgemental oppression is gone and I am free. The little girl inside me has returned and all she can do is smile.
‘BRRRRRRRRRR’, the phone vibrated on the bathroom floor. I was roused to the sight of my bathroom tiles that were in desperate need of a good grout. I snatched the phone up and shoved it to my wet ear, ‘what?’
‘I forgot to ask before, have you found romance yet?’
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means technically no. Only in my dreams.’