MONDAY: Called to the Water


Copyright is held by the author.

MOANA KAI Kelly was named after the sea twice. Karaoke night therefore seemed to demand a sea song. A Disney song was a little too on the nose, so she had chosen “Come Sail Away”. The song was older than most everyone in the crowd tonight, and yet had enough pop culture relevance that she could both ham it up a bit, and encourage the tipsy crowd to help her with the chorus. She’d gone for a swim in the river earlier, flexed her fins a bit, so she still felt a bit of mermaid power tingling in her.

She bowed after her performance, handed the mic back to the emcee, and then went to the bar for the free drink promised to everyone who sang. It was the house wine which was, well, it was passable. Moana tipped the bartender and sipped slowly.

“Mind if I sit here?” a gentleman asked.

Moana smiled and gestured for him to go ahead. He was already sliding into the seat.

“Can I buy you a drink?” he asked. “That song was great.”

“Sure,” Moana said. The bartender brought her the dark rum he knew she liked and something for the man.

“I’m Eric,” he said.

“I’m Moana,” she said. She waited, since the name had been used by a movie character most people joked about her name now. It was annoying even if it did mean they had gotten better at pronouncing it correctly. But he smiled and asked her how long she had been singing.

She smiled as they chatted, and then later as they went back to his place. Songs about the sea brought good things to her.


A year later, Eric said they should have a special dinner. Moana was excited. She had booked a pool time before dinner. Eric had worried about her swimming in the river. As a water creature she was more attuned to pollution and other disturbances, and so knew it was fine, but his worry was cute.

So when he had found a rooftop pool she could book private sessions at, she had agreed to swim there. Mostly. He didn’t need to know everything after all. Not yet at least.

But fin time made her feel better, more powerful, and that seemed like the way to go into this special evening.

She wore a green dress. Eric liked to tell her that her brown eyes had green flecks, and so her weaning green seemed to please him, and she liked it too.

After dessert at the riverside restaurant, they went back to his place, and made love on the living room carpet.

He returned from disposing of the condom, already in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He sat down on the couch and handed Moana her clothes.

“So, Moana,” he said.

“Eric,” she said. She was still feeling sparkles of power and sex swirling through her. But something about Eric’s stance seemed to spell a change in mood.

“We’ve been hanging out almost a year,” he said.

It was exactly a year, but that seemed like a nitpicky thing to point out at the moment, and she didn’t want to interrupt whatever he was going to say next, so she just nodded.

“You’re a great girl, but sometimes you’re a little . . . I think we want different things in life, so it’s probably time for us to pursue other options,” Eric said.

Moana sat up straighter. She played the words back in her head. “Is that corporate speak for you are breaking up with me?”

He glanced around the living room, as if worried. He should be worried. Not because she was going to cause a scene, well, probably not, but she was going to make him say it, not just pretend it was a mutual decision.

“Moana, no need to get emotional,” Eric said. “We just want different things.”

Moana narrowed her eyes. “So you are dumping me, but I am not supposed to have emotions.” Part of her wanted to ask what different things they supposedly wanted. Especially since he saved this announcement for after they had sex.

She had a growing suspicion that we want different things, meant Eric wanted to fuck someone else. It was insulting to pretend this was mutual when he hadn’t consulted her. It was insulting that he thought he could leave her. Humans were big on free will, but they seemed to squander it on the most ridiculous things.  

There was a clatter in the kitchen as Eric’s fridge spat out a few ice cubes. Moana took a deep breath, and told the water she was OK. She was emotional alright, but she was also very, very, patient. She put on her clothes and gathered her things.

“Babe, make sure you have all your stuff when you go. I’ll call a car for you. It’s the least I can do” Eric said.

She let him order the ride for her. It was the least he could do.

Moana asked the driver if he minded stopping for them to grab some food, instead of straight home. Anger always made her hungry. When she told the driver she’d been dumped and the boyfriend was paying for the ride, he had offered to take her past all the monuments downtown too. She accepted. It was silly, the stone buildings were mostly to honor dudes who barely remembered people like Moana existed in the US, but they were very pretty all lit up, and the sight soothed her.


Moana Kai Kelly was named after the sea twice. So, she felt standing on the beach and staring out at the water was kind of a requirement, and not the daydreaming her brother Mauna always claimed it was. Beach was maybe an exaggeration for this stretch of land that overlooked the Washington Channel, but the water flowed towards the sea, and that seemed enough.

“You can’t see them from here,” Mauna said. He was named after the mountains, so he didn’t get it.

She made a face, but didn’t look at him. She wanted to say she wasn’t looking towards the marina, but well, they both knew that was a lie. Moana’s boyfriend Eric was getting married today at the marina, in an elaborate ceremony on the dock.

Sure, technically you could argue he wasn’t her boyfriend what with him marrying someone else and all. But Moana knew the taste of his lips, the feel of his body, had watched him puke his guts after drinking too much rum, and had found him a great soccer team to join after work.

He in turn had brought her soup when she had what turned out to be not-Covid, brought her books and allergy meds when it turned out the soccer field they played at had all the very best pollen.

But somehow, three months ago, when Eric said they needed to discuss the future, he meant a future where they went their separate ways.

Eric had said “You’re a great girl, Moana, but sometimes you’re just a little . . .”

Moana had tried not to obsess about what followed the little in Eric’s aborted sentence. Was she a little much? A little too good at swimming? A little not named Emily?

Because Emily was the name of his future apparently. They had announced their engagement a week after he had talked to Moana. Mauna had taken her phone and blocked and deleted every trace of Eric, in her contacts, on her socials, so she couldn’t see.

And today Mauna had shown up at her apartment and said they were hanging out. As if they had planned it. But Moana needed to be here next to the water. It was basically her namesake after all.

Mauna hadn’t blocked Emily on Moana’s phone. Possibly he assumed Moana had known better than to officially follow her. But between wedding websites, and OK a fake account following both Eric and Emily, Moana knew many things.

Eric and Emily had met through a soccer friend, had had a whirlwind romance, and in that spirit were getting married at the marina, to symbolize the journeys they were going to take together. The soccer friend was officiating.

Eric had gasped in horror when Moana had told him she had swum multiple times in the channel. The water in the channel was dark enough that if she wore the right suit, she could tail up without anyone knowing. Sure the DC area had a lot of lawyers and scientists, but Moana knew how to choose her moments.

Eric had insisted she stop, claiming that it was too dangerous with who knows what in that water. But apparently it was fine to stage one’s wedding on a dock on the water.

“Come on,” Mauna yelled. He was already back by the car.

Moana rolled her eyes. Last night she had gone to the pool. She had flexed her tail and then filled the power and confidence after some fin and tail time, she had gone out to a bar. Moana had found a dude who took her back to his place and they had proceeded to make each other forget the whole world for a few hours. And then leaning over him, as she scooped up his clothes, she sang a song. It was an old song, about the sea, a song about power. Even though it didn’t work like that, Moana had almost been able to see the power growing, moving towards her. The dude fell into a deep sleep and she thanked him with a kiss he wouldn’t remember and walked home, feeling powerful even with two legs.

And now, even though Mauna was right that she could only see a hint of the marina, it was enough. She hummed a little, not wanting Mauna to come back and check on her. The water moved, she spoke to the catfish and the carp, warning them of her plans. The clouds shifted from the puffy picturesque things, to more serious grey. And she turned back to the car, thanking the water for its assistance.

She slid into the passenger seat of Mauna’s car and he drove away.

“I was going to suggest we find somewhere nice to eat outside, but it doesn’t look like the weather’s going to cooperate.” Mauna flicked on his wipers as rain hit the windshield.

“I think it’s just a flash storm,” Moana said sweetly.

“Mm-hmm,” Mauna said. “Everyone at the marina going to be OK?”

“Of course,” Moana said. “A little fall of rain, a big wave or two, someone might get wet, that’s all.”

“Hope they all have waterproof phone cases,” Mauna said.

“Oh yes,” Moana said. “It would be such a shame if there were no pictures of today.”

They grabbed a pizza and then went to a park near Mauna’s place to eat it at the picnic table.

He checked his phone. “Someone got a real cool picture of the rainbow after.”

“Oh it’s gorgeous,” Moana said. She could still feel the shimmers of power. She had wiped the memory of the guy last night, but had saved his info in her own phone. Maybe she would find him again tonight and see if things went the same way. She wouldn’t need to borrow his power this time. Or maybe she’d find someone new. So many choices.

Eric and Emily could go live their lives and she was going to get on with hers too. But the fish knew to look out for him now. So maybe next time he showed up at the marina it would end differently. Especially if they told the seagulls.

A seagull cawed nearby and Moana smiled.


Image of Tara Kennedy, wearing glasses and dangling earrings, against wallpaper with blue, stylized snowflakes on it.

Tara Kennedy is a lifelong Washingtonian of Hawaiian, Chinese, and European descent. She wrangles data by day and writes in her spare time. In addition to short stories, she also enjoys writing romance.

1 comment
  1. I liked the gentle style. I also liked the sense of normality. Special emotional beings surviving amongst the humanity’s chaos, but also finding some fun. Neat.

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