Once Upon a Night

Once Upon a Night

Dedication: For Isabel Gordon. March 19, 1916 to Feb 10, 2015.

This was written for Isabel Gordon for her 96th birthday. 


Once upon a time, there was a young girl who lived in a beautiful house just down the road from the water.  Her name was Isabel and she loved to walk with her dog down to the water inlet that brought the ocean right to her.  All year she waited for the weather to be warm enough for swimming because she felt happiest when she was in the water. 

The month of March was a special month for her because it meant her birthday on the 19th and the beginning of Spring!  Finally the weather turned sunnier and warmer.  She watched as the crocuses and daffodils bloomed and knew it meant it was time for her birthday party! With balloons and colorful streamers decorating the house, all her friends arrived to share the wonderful afternoon with her.    They played outside, running, jumping, singing and laughing.   Then it was time for cake and ice cream! They sang happy birthday and she blew out the candles.  No one knew that her wish was something unique; she wished to be a mermaid! She knew it couldn’t happen but she wished for it anyway.  “Hey, a girl can dream,” she thought to herself.        

As soon as the weather warmed up enough, every day after school, Isabel and her friends would meet down at the beach for a swim.  She’d run home quick as should could, quickly change into her bathing suit and run out the door again.  The only time she slowed down was to grab a handful of homemade almond cookies.  Then off she’d go, towel over her shoulder, down to the beach. 

Usually when she arrived Rita and Malcolm would already be there.  Lu and the other girls arrived soon after.  She’d throw off her blue coverall and run jumping into the water. OK, so not run because the beach was full of sharp rocks! In the water, they would spend hours swimming and laughing.  They just hung out in the water relaxing.  Isabel loved to lay her body back into the water and feel herself floating as the waves gently rocked her body.  It was so soothing.  She knew the water was where she belonged. 

At dinner time, the gang would head back home.  Each night after dinner and homework, Isabel would fall into bed tired from a day of school and swimming.   


One night as Isabel lay in bed, she thought she felt a strange tingling sensation in her toes.  She didn’t have time to give it much thought before she fell asleep…

“uhmm, hmm” Isabel began to stir awake.  With her eyes still closed, she stretched her arms out and yawned.  Opening her eyes, she did a double take.  On top of her was a blanket of seaweed! It felt surprisingly soft.  And her pillow was a starfish!  She looked around astonished that she seemed to be awaking in an underwater cave lit only by the sunlight that was filtering down through the water.  She pulled away the seaweed bedspread and went to get up but stopped as she looked down to find her legs replaced by a beautiful aqua green blue mermaid tail!  There she was, confused and delighted all at the same time. 

“Well,” she said, “I guess I might as well learn how to work these!”

 Just as she spoke a little seahorse came swimming up to her. 

“Isabel, Isabel, thank goodness you’re awake,” he said.  “There is a boat! There is a boat!  Let’s swim to the surface and check it out! Come on, Come on!”  

 Isabel, still in shock at her surroundings and new mermaid tail, was taken by surprised by this little seahorse who knew her name! 

“I’m sorry little friend but I don’t know how I got here or who you are,” she replied.

The little seahorse smiled and said, “You’re so silly.  Did you have one of those dreams again where you have legs and live in that little house with the dog?  Goodness, you must have been deep asleep!  I’m Eko, you’re best friend.  Ok, now let’s get your coral crown and get swimming!” 

Isabel noticed on her nightstand laying there was a beautiful princess crown, she reached for it and placed it on her head.  Eko was right, it did fit! 

“Well, I guess I could wear it for a little while,” Isabel said. 

Eko, already halfway out of the cave already, turned, “come on sleepy head we have a boat to explore!”   

Isabel quickly followed.  Somehow swimming with this mermaid tail came naturally!  Off she went, gliding through the water as if she always had.  For a little creature, Eko sure did swim fast so Isabel had to swim quickly to catch up to him.  Just as she did, she saw the bottom of a metal boat floating just above.  One moment Eko’s head was above the water checking out the boat and the next he had popped below the surface again to describe to Isabel what he had seen. 

“There’s a young man and a dog!   The young man looks rather tall and thin but strong.  He has brown hair and is wearing a dark blue baseball hat.  I don’t think we’ve ever seen him before.  I wonder where he came from!” said Eko.   

Isabel, decided to see this man for herself, so she nervously swam to the surface and lifted her head up into the sunshine.  Her eyes quickly adjusted from the darkness of the water to the brightness of the sky.  And when they did, they saw the most handsome young man. 

“Go on, talk to him,” encouraged Eko.  “He looks nice and friendly!  Talk to him!”  So, Isabel swam up to the side of the boat and rested her arms on its edge.  The dog quickly came over and, to her surprise, licked her face! 

“Hey boy, don’t be kissing every pretty girl you see,” said the handsome young man on the boat.

“Hi there!  Where did you come from?” He asked Isabel as he turned to her. 

Isabel blushed and nearly slipped back into the water but Eko was at her side prodding her to talk. 

“Hi, I swim around here a lot,” she said simply. 

“I haven’t seen you around here before.  What’s your name?”  “I’m Richard and I just moved to the Thimble Islands to help my grandfather rebuild his home. Which of the islands do you live on?” 

“I live close by,” is all Isabel could think to say at the moment. 

“Well, my dog and I were just out for a paddle, thought it would be nice to have lunch on the water,” he said.  “Would you like to climb into the boat and have a picnic with me?  It’s rather simple, just sandwiches and fruit but I would be happy to have company.” 

Isabel blushed again.  This handsome young man was asking HER to have lunch with him!  Isabel looked down at Eko for help. 

What should she say?  She couldn’t say, ‘I have a mermaid tail so I have to stay in the water!’  Thankfully Eko pointed to a nearby outcropping of rocks. 

“How about we have a picnic over on those rocks?” She said to Richard.  “I’ll swim and you paddle.  I’ll meet you over there.” 

And off she swam before he could even answer.  He paddled hard and caught up to her just as she reached the outcropping of rocks.  With a rope tied to the stern, he jumped out of the boat onto one of the flatter rocks and secured it around a sturdy rock.  He grabbed the picnic basket he had packed and laid it out on the flat rock. 

The dog scampered out of the boat and climbed up to the highest peak of rock.  There, finding a nice sunny spot, the dog laid down and closed his eyes.  “Nothing like a little nap in the sun,” thought the dog and off he fell asleep. 

On the rocks below, Richard and Isabel had a lovely lunch while getting to know each other.  Eko stayed hidden but listened intently.  She smiled as she heard Richard and Isabel connecting in a very special way.  She knew this was the one for Isabel. 

After finishing lunch, Richard jumped off the rocks into the water for a swim.  He hadn’t realized that the whole time they were eating and talking, Isabel had been under water from the waist down.  He had been so enamored with her that he simply hadn’t noticed that she hadn’t sat up on the rocks like he had.  As they splashed and swam in the water, he was impressed at her strong swimming abilities. 

They laughed that no matter how many times he tried, Richard couldn’t beat her in a race from one set of rocks to another.  They were having such a good time that they didn’t notice how late it had gotten until the sun began to set behind the horizon. 

From the water, they watched the sun set.  Richard said, “Well, I better be getting back to my grandfather’s island before it gets dark.  I had so much fun with you today, can we meet again tomorrow?”

 Isabel hesitated.  She didn’t know what to say.  How would she explain her mermaid tail?  How would she be able to live with him on his grandfather’s island?  She didn’t know but she knew she wanted to see him again, so against better judgment, she said, “Yes, I’d love to.  How about I meet you at these rocks again tomorrow at noon.” 

“I’d like that,” replied Richard.  He whistled for his dog who jumped into the boat with the rope in his mouth and off he went paddling his way back to the island. 

Isabel watched as he disappeared into the sunset and then she dipped below the surface and followed Eko back to the cave. 


She was so tired from the day of swimming that she snacked on a few almond cookies and then laid down on her bed. 

As she closed her eyes, she said, “I wish I had legs.”

 Eko cuddled up next to her on the starfish pillow and whispered,

“Someday, maybe someday.”  And they both fell asleep dreaming of the day that had been and the day that was to come.             


The end.

or maybe the beginning.

Come what may.


Discussion Questions:

If you could be any magical creature, which would you be? a mermaid or a dragon or a unicorn or a superhero?