Over the next couple of days, things settled into a bit of a routine. I’d wake up with pain in my legs and try to keep from disturbing Oliana and Pania. I suppose I was lucky. Pania was a massage therapist at the nearby resort, and Oliana was in housekeeping. Pania had been doing everything she could to help ease my discomfort. Still, every morning I felt like I had my tail, and it was splitting me in half to give me legs. I’d never experienced that sensation before, and it concerned me, but I couldn’t tell them that. Between only drinking seawater and what I said in my sleep, Pania was already beginning to suspect I was more than I seemed.
She brought the muttering in my sleep to my attention this morning. “Trite, you were babbling again last night.” Aching, I looked at her as I sat up slowly. I looked down at my legs, bruised and battered from making it over the reefs. I must have shifted because the splotches were in curious patterns. I had unconsciously fought the shift as long as possible to make it over the reefs in one piece.
I looked back at Pania and swung my legs off the couch. “What was I saying?”
“You were calling out for someone named Nisos. You were begging for him to come get you.” I blushed furiously, burying my face in my hands. I couldn’t believe it. No, I could. Since I spoke to Luis the other day, I’d been hoping Dion would arrive and take me home, but he hadn’t. I knew he was busy, and that was alright. I guess inner me wanted to finish the conversation we’d been having before I left. “Who is Nisos?” Pania asked as her thumb worked into my calf.
I winced, looking down with a sigh. “Someone I knew before I left on my trip. I was trying to reach him when I borrowed your phone, but his assistant answered. I hoped he would get the message by now and would be on his way—or someone would.” I felt a lurch in my heart when I remembered the night after I’d asked Hekate for assistance and what Dion had told me.
“I love you, too…” His words had been reverberating in my head for days now, and I couldn’t shake them.
“These things take time, Trite. It’s not so easy to get here, even if you have money to drop.” I smiled, nodding as Pania finished up and helped me stand. Walking was getting better, and I could manage a few meters on my own. We made our way to the beach, and Pania sat me down in a chair near the shore. With the ocean being right there, it was the most calming place for me. I felt attuned, and as though I would heal faster. I thought I would heal better in the water, but never-the-less this was good. Pania squeezed my shoulder gently. Then she and Oliana left for work.
The morning passed as it normally did, with me sleeping in the sun, relaxing under his rays, hoping the darkening of my skin would help to hide the bruises. It was around mid-day that I saw a shimmer in the sand. I got up, making my way closer. I fell to the beach, wincing again, and picked up the shimmering creature.
“Oh no, you poor baby!” In my hands lay a small albino axolotl. “You’re very far from home, aren’t you?” I drew the salt-water from his lungs, the poor creature spitting up the remainder on its own. It was a good sign that I had some control back. “Youch!” The axolotl bit me, and I dropped him back to the sand, but he didn’t run away.
“You…How did you save me?” he asked me as I smiled down at him.
“I removed the seawater from your lungs. You are a freshwater creature, and the ocean was killing you,” I replied, speaking his language. “Why did you bite me?”
“I thought you were going to eat me,” he replied. I looked at the poor thing, shocked.
“No, little one. I don’t make a habit of eating seafood. Plus, you are far too cute. I placed my hand down on the sand, and the little axolotl climbed into it. “May I ask what you’re doing here? You’re an awful long way from your homeland.”
“I was onboard a houseboat, and we got caught in a large storm. The ship went down, my tank shattered, and I was free.” My mouth fell open, and I held the axolotl to my heart.
“I am sorry, little one, that was my fault,” I told him softly.
“How could it be your fault, dear lady? Also, how do you converse with me?” he asked curiously.
I sighed. “I am Amphitrite.” My reply was simple. He would either know of me or not.
“The Sea Lady?” I nodded. “My kind worshipped your husband.” I sputtered and waved it off. “What will become of me, Sea Lady?”
I shook my head. “I do not know, little one. You can’t go back into the ocean, but you made it this far. You’re on land and breathing. How is that possible?”
“My entire family is able to breathe on land. I did not know that axolotl could not.” This was intriguing. I would look into it later.
“Little one, would you like to stay with me? I can keep you safe, give you food, and you will be more than welcome with me.”
The little axolotl looked at me, and I swear he smiled. “I would like that, Sea Lady. Will you give me a name? The other humans did not give me one.”
“Of course!” I smiled brightly, thinking about it for a minute. “How about Mano? It means shark on these islands, and well, you did bite me when we first met.”
“Mano sounds good, Sea Lady. Would you like me to call you Amphitrite or Sea Lady?” Mano asked politely.
I nodded as he crawled to my shoulder. I made my way back to the chair before deciding to try my luck and walk the beach a bit. “Trite, Trix, Amph, whichever you like best, Mano, is ok with me.”
“I’ll stick with Sea Lady. It is polite, and I like it.” I rubbed my finger under his chin, and Mano burbled happily. We walked on the beach for a while. I was feeling stronger with each step. Perhaps it was Mano, perhaps it was the daily massages from Pania, or maybe it was the relaxation. Something was finally starting to click, and I took it as a win.
We made our way towards the resort, and I saw just how much damage had been done. Pania and Oliana had lied. They said everything was fine. I began to shake with anger for letting this happen, but then I felt one of Mano’s little hands on my neck, and I calmed. “Thank you, Mano,” I whispered.
“Of course, Sea Lady. We can not have another storm here,” he said calmly, and I nodded.
“No, absolutely not.” My reply was short and sweet as Mano removed his hand. I felt calm still. This bond was nice, something I had been missing. I looked around for either of the two ladies and found Oliana clearing debris.
“Trite! What are you doing here?!” she exclaimed loudly. People began staring at me and, worse, at Mano. “And what is that?” she asked, pointing at Mano.
“This is Mano. He’s an axolotl and very far from home. I found him on the beach this morning, almost dead. So I saved him. I want to help Oliana. Why didn’t you tell me what was going on?” I asked softly. Oliana sighed.
“Every time the storm was brought up, you would retreat into yourself,” she paused for a moment, “so we couldn’t tell you how much damage had been done.”
I was very glad there was a chair behind me because if not, my ass would have hit the ground. “It is my fault,” I muttered. Oliana just looked at me.
“No child, you cannot control the seas.” I looked up at her, shifting my eyes from the sparkling blue they normally were to a dark storm blue. “Or maybe you can.”
She knelt before me and placed a hand on my knee as I told her everything. Her face went slack, but she nodded along. “I’m so sorry. I never meant to cause all this.” I waved around me. “But I swear, as soon as I can, I will return with money and people to help you rebuild. You and Pania have been amazing to me these last few days. I don’t know why I’m taking so long to heal, but I can’t go home until I do. I don’t have the strength to shift or teleport or any of it.” I hung my head in shame. “I understand if you don’t want me to return with you, but I do swear I will repay you for everything you’ve done once I get back to Nymphaeum.”
“Wait, you work at Nymphaeum?” Oliana asked.
“No, I own it. It’s my resort,” I answered, too tired to keep anything hidden anymore.
Oliana’s eyes bugged out at me as she sat down on the floor. “You give away most of your profits, don’t you? To ocean conservation charities, research groups, and stuff?”
I nodded. “And hurricane relief as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a check coming here from the board. That reminds me, I haven’t told Mathieu I am here!” I smacked my head, so hard Mano almost fell off my shoulder. “Sorry, little guy.”
“May I borrow a phone again?” Oliana nodded, dumbfounded by the turn of events, and passed me her phone. I stopped my fingers from dialing Dion’s number again and instead called my phone. “Lady Amphitrite’s phone, Lord Dionysos, I have no other information for you.”
“Mathieu! It’s me. It’s Amph!”
“Oh, thank the gods, Amph! We were terrified here. What happened?”
I could hear the worry in his voice. “I’ll give you the break down later. I’m at a small resort near the village of Inarajan on the island of Guam. Can you please make sure whatever assets we have for hurricane relief make it over here? They have been wonderful to me these last couple of days.”
“Of course. But wait, a couple of days? You’ve been gone almost a week and a half.”
“I know. I will tell you the rest when I get home. But,” I paused, hesitant on what to say next.
“I don’t know when that will be. I can barely walk, and I don’t have the strength to get myself home the old-fashioned way. Just make sure we are doing everything we can for hurricane relief. I don’t care if I need to pull from every single one of my caches to do it, Mathieu. This storm was me, and I will help where I can.”
“I understand. It will be done. And if Lord Dionysos calls back?”
I sighed. “I called Luis the other day. He should know where I am. When was the last time he called?”
“A couple of days ago. I thought it odd, but then again, he’s an odd one.”
I let out a soft giggle. “Oh, Mathieu, you have no idea. If Nisos calls back, or if Luis does, tell them where I am and what’s going on.”
“Should I send someone to fetch you?” The tension in his voice was palpable.
“No, just tell Dion, Luis, or Alessa if she happens to call. I’ll let you know when I’m on my way home, however that ends up happening.”
“Yes, Lady Amphitrite. I’m very glad you’re safe.”
I could hear the tears in his voice. I smiled. “I am too, Mathieu. I am too. Goodbye, my friend, I’ll see you soon.”
I gave the phone back to Oliana and sighed. “Again, please let me know what the charges come to, and I’ll cover them. You and Pania have been more than good to me. I am so sorry. I’ll find somewhere else to stay.”
Oliana stood suddenly and helped me stand. “Nonsense, you will stay with us still. Now that you can walk better, you can start to help.”
I laughed and felt Mano’s head on my neck. “I have wanted to do nothing else. Put me to work, such as I am able, Oliana. I’ll not shy away from it.”
“Tomorrow. Today you go home and rest. I think this has been trying for you and your friend. We’ll get started tomorrow.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I replied as she shooed me away. Mano and I walked along the beach slowly. I dipped my toes in the surf and started to feel my strength return bit by tiny bit.