On Saturday, Katherine and Allen went shopping for a wedding dress and suit for the wedding. The suit was the easy part—Katherine had a harder time deciding what dress she liked. She narrowed her choices down to two or three, and then decided to get her mom’s opinion. Her mom was already planning to visit for a week at the beginning of May to help with the wedding preparations and to meet Allen.
Sunday it was back to work for Katherine. It was different to be there on a weekend. No one was in the office, so she had lots of quiet time to plan new healgel additives and applications. When 9:30 AM rolled around, she went to the pool. A man met her when she entered.
“Hello. You must be Katherine.” He said, sticking out his hand.
“Yes, that’s me.”
“I’m Jonas Fulton, Audra’s business associate. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Only good things, I hope.”
“Definitely. Audra has been very complimentary. I’ve even seen you on TV. You were very brave to survive being kidnapped like that.”
“Thank you. If you could give me just a minute, I’ll go get changed.”
“Before you go, you may want to come look at the pool.”
Audra followed him to the side of the pool. Not far from the crane was a cylinder of acrylic placed vertically in the pool. The walls of the cylinder came up above the water about a foot, except for one section where the wall had been cut down, rounded, and smoothed like the mermaid entrance to the aquarium. The cylinder sat next to the wall of the pool and water poured from a spout on the wall into the cylinder. There must have been a drain in the bottom because the water level in the cylinder wasn’t rising.
“We still have the extruder we used to make the tubes through the aquarium, and Audra came up with an idea to overcome the bathroom problem. She’s waiting in the locker room because she wanted to be here and help you test it out.”
Katherine went into the locker room and found Audra inside. She was wearing a green bikini top and a pair of panties, and she was pulling a mermaid tail out of a locker. Katherine was a bit surprised to see her with a mermaid tail, though she knew Audra had been feeding the fish on the weekends for the last few weeks.
“I met Jonas outside, and he said you had a solution to the bathroom issue?”
“I think so. Come here and look at my tail.”
Katherine approached at looked inside Audra’s tail. There was a long, thin tube inside that was attached to the tail just above the knees. On the other end of the tube was a flexible cup.
“This tube is glued into a hole in my tail. With a little bit of healgel, I can adhere the cup to my urethra, and when I need to pee it will come out the tail, just like a fish. The cylinder in the pool is a place where we can go when we need to use the bathroom. The water is kept separate from the aquarium water, and runs down through a filter to the sewer.”
“That sounds like a promising idea. Have you tried it out yet?”
“No, we just got everything installed yesterday. I had a tube put in your tail as well. Since we won’t be able to wear our swimsuit bottoms with this arrangement, I figured we didn’t want Jonas helping with our tails today. This way we can help each other.”
“How did you install the big tube in the pool? It is way too big to fit through the doors.”
“A section of the roof comes off. We lowered it in with a crane.”
“Yes, we noticed the crane on Friday. Why do we still have construction going on behind the pool building? I thought the aquarium was almost done.”
“I have plans for an expansion. There will be some outdoor pools and a connection to the bay. I have an idea for something that has never been done before, but I want to keep the exact details a secret.”
Katherine got her tail out of her locker and noted the tube inside. She and Audra both sat on a bench next to each other and worked their tails up their legs. When the tails were most of the way on, they attached the tubes, then helped each other pull the tails up the rest of the way. When they were done, they called for Jonas, who brought a wheelchair into the locker room and took each woman in turn out to the pool. Audra immediately swam to the tube and slipped over the entryway.
“I’ve been saving up so I could test my idea.” She said.
Katherine felt a little strange watching her boss go to the bathroom, but with the strong current in the tube, there was nothing to see. After a couple of minutes, Audra swam back to the entryway and flipped out of the tube.
“Did everything work all right?” Katherine asked.
“Just perfectly. Jonas, you can take the water sample now!”
Jonas lowered a small cup on a string down into the water in the tube. He sealed the top of the cup and then walked toward the aquarium. Audra went with Katherine and helped her with the feeding. When they were done, Katherine was ready to try out the new bathroom area. At first, she was a little hesitant to go, but she had peed in the bathtub once or twice with no ill effects, and she figured a ten foot diameter tube with constantly circulating water was sanitary enough. When she was done, Jonas took another water sample. Then he lifted Audra out of the pool.
“Do you want to get out now as well?” Audra asked.
“Yes. I have some things I can work on in my office.”
“All right. Can you help Lacy with her tail when she comes?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Good. Now can you help me take off my tail? I have plans for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.”
“Sure, I can help.”
Jonas lifted Katherine out of the pool and she followed Audra into the locker room in her wheelchair. After helping Audra take her tail off, she wheeled her way down to her office to work. At about 11:30, she went back to the pool to meet Lacy.
“You missed out on some really cool stuff yesterday.” Said Lacy when Katherine arrived.
“They lifted a big chunk of the roof off with a crane, and then lowered the potty tube down through the hole. I hung out in the pool and watched the whole thing.”
“That does sound like it would have been rather interesting. Potty tube? Is that what we’re calling it?”
“Well, it fits, doesn’t it?”
“I guess so.”
“There were several construction guys working on the new plumbing and stuff. They made some crude jokes, but Jonas made them cut it out.”
“Always happy to be of service.” Chimed in Jonas, who had just entered the room.
Lacy and Katherine went into the locker room and Katherine helped Lacy with her tail. Then Katherine went back to her office while Lacy got into the water and fed some fish. The cafeteria wasn’t open on a weekend, so Katherine had a sandwich and an apple that she had brought from home. Her office seemed very quiet without the hustle and bustle of other people working around her. It was nice to be able to concentrate on her work without interruptions, but a little scary to be in an empty building all alone. So Katherine was happy to hear Lacy rolling to a stop in front of her door.
“How do you like being here on a weekend?” Lacy asked.
“It’s a little lonely here all alone. How do you like the potty tube?”
“It’s great. I hate to admit it, but I peed in the pool one or two times before. It’s kind of tough getting around in a wheelchair though.”
“I know what you mean. My arms get sore from rolling it around. But it beats trying to pull my tail on and off twice in one day.”
“I agree. When I started this job, I thought how romantic it was to be a mermaid, but I didn’t realize how much work it would be.”
They chatted a few minutes longer, then Lacy left to do some work in her office. While Katherine’s non-mermaid portion of the job was working for Burns Pharmaceuticals, Renna and Lacy were more concentrated on the aquarium. Renna was a veterinarian who made sure the animals in the aquarium stayed healthy, and Lacy was involved in marketing. Before long, it was time for Katherine to take her second turn feeding fish. While waiting for Lacy to help her out of her tail afterward, Katherine found out a little more about Jonas.
“So Jonas, lifting us into and out of the pool doesn’t take much of your time. What do you do with the rest of it?”
“I help Audra with her strategic planning. The current aquarium is just a start, and I’m working on ideas for our next expansion.”
“Ooh, that sounds interesting. What kind of expansion?”
“I’m sorry, but that’s a secret right now. We’ll tell you when the time is right.”
Lacy came and helped Katherine out of her tail, then Katherine worked a while longer until it was time to help Lacy change.
Maria started working on Monday, so each of the other mermaids started spending some extra time in the pool with her to help her learn to swim with a monofin and hold her breath as long as possible. The remaining days of April were busy with training, wedding preparations, and getting ready for the aquarium’s grand opening. When the last Friday in April arrived, Katherine drove her little car to the airport in the morning, excited to see her mom again after several months on her own. She waited near the exit, and when she saw the tall blonde woman with a little bit of gray in her hair, Katherine ran to gather her up in a big hug. After a few moments, they separated and Katherine grabbed the handle of her mom’s carry-on.
“How was your flight?” She asked.
“Not bad. I had a good book to read. How are the wedding preparations going?”
“I think we have most everything lined up. I do want your opinion on my wedding dress. Do you feel up to stopping at the dress shop on the way to my apartment?”
“Oh, I’m always up to looking at wedding dresses with my daughter. Let’s do that. How is your job working out?”
“I really like it. I always loved swimming, but thought my job would end up being in an office all day. With this job I get to swim a couple of hours a day, while still using my biomedical training.”
“I’m really eager to see this mermaid tail of yours. Will I have a chance to see you in it?”
“Yes. I have a ticket for you to come to the grand opening on Sunday. I will be swimming in the aquarium a couple of times, and I will come out to meet and greet people in between.”
“That sounds like fun. How about Allen? Is his job going well?”
“Oh, yes. He loves it. He is learning a lot of new things and he has a great group of people to work with.”
“That sounds wonderful.”
They picked up Janice’s luggage and then drove to the dress store. Katherine modeled each of the three dresses she was considering, and her mom liked the same one she had been leaning towards. It had what they called a trumpet-style skirt which fit her hips closely and then flared out at the bottom, with a satin panel across the abdomen and a lacy bodice on top. Once they made their decision, the clerk took careful measurements and made a list of minor alterations, then Katherine made a down payment and put in her order for the dress. When they were done, they went to Katherine’s apartment and settled in. Katherine only had one bed, but she had bought an air mattress a few days earlier and made it up in the living room.
“I’m sorry I don’t have a bedroom for you.”
“I understand. You’re just starting out and can’t afford a bigger place yet. This mattress seems comfortable enough.”
“If you can’t sleep on it, you can have my bed and I’ll sleep out here.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t think of it. This is your place now. I’m so proud that you have grown up to be a strong, independent woman.”
“Thanks, Mom. Are you hungry? I have some stuff ready in the fridge to cook for dinner.”
“That would be very nice. The bag of peanuts on the plane was a long time ago.”
Janice came into the kitchen and chatted while Katherine put some chicken into the pan to cook. They went over the wedding plans and caught each other up on all the events of the last few months. Although she had told the story dozens of times now, it felt like a load was released from Katherine’s shoulders when she shared her story about the kidnapping. They ate the chicken and some salad, then talked long into the night. On Saturday, Allen came over and they all went out for lunch. Janice had been pleased with Allen since she met him after his first few dates with her daughter, and now that they were engaged, she suggested he could call her “Mom.” Within a few sentences, the title felt comfortable in Allen’s mouth, something he had never thought would happen after his parent’s tragic death a few year’s previous. Katherine had a ticket to the grand opening for Allen as well, so they arranged for him to pick up Janice in the morning and bring her to the aquarium. Katherine would be going over earlier to get ready. For the opening week, the mermaids would be swimming in teams, and in between feeding times, they would be rolling through the aquarium in their wheelchairs, visiting with the customers and handing out little plushy mermaid dolls to the children. Maria’s tail was due on Monday, so she would be joining them once she was equipped.