To start at the beginning, use this link: Link to Chapter 1
Janice got the phone call from Dave at about 4:00 A.M. Even though he woke her up, she was happy when he told her they had found all of the mermaids and they were on their way back with them. As soon as she hung up, Janice called Katherine and woke her up to tell her the good news. So Katherine was quite cheerful as she got ready to feed the fish that morning. She swam back and forth in the practice pool, waiting for Jane to come and help. Her mood changed as she waited and waited for Jane’s arrival. Finally, at fifteen after ten, she had Paul lift her out of the pool and help her into a wheelchair so that she could prep the food. She had helped Fernando once or twice, so she knew where the buckets were kept and where he kept the list of foods to be prepped for each feeding. It was a little bit difficult to open the door to the walk-in freezer where the frozen fish were stored, but she managed after a short struggle. She collected the fish for the noon feeding and set them aside in buckets to thaw, then she went to the refrigerator where the frozen fish for the 10:00 feeding had been slowly thawing overnight. She loaded her buckets and asked Paul to help her carry them to the walkway above the tube connecting to the aquarium. Rather than travel back to the practice pool for Paul to lower her into the water, Katherine asked him to just help her out of the wheelchair and set her down on the side of the aquarium pool. Then she slipped directly into the water and started the feeding.
When Katherine was finished, she called Jacob.
“Hello Katherine. What do you need?”
“Jane didn’t show up this morning.”
“Not at all?”
“I had to do the feeding by myself. If we’re going to re-open on Friday, we need employees we can count on.”
“You think I should fire her?”
“Yes. I think she’s dealing with a substance abuse problem. She needs to get help, and meanwhile we have a job to do.”
“All right. I’ll handle it. Go ahead and make a new schedule without her in it. Should I start looking for a new person to hire?”
“No, I don’t think you will need to. We should have several mermaids available in a few days.”
“Oh, did you get some good news?”
“Yes I did. My husband and the other mermaids have been rescued and they are on their way to Houston.”
“And you think they’ll want to come back here after all they’ve experienced?”
“I think they won’t have much choice. But we’ll see what the doctors say.”
“Well, make up your schedule and once they arrive we’ll work them in.”
Katherine called Liz, who was scheduled for the afternoon shift, and asked her if she could help with the noon feeding. She agreed, and the rest of the day went much better. Janice called in the afternoon and suggested they go out to dinner to celebrate.
“I don’t know.” Katherine told her. “It’s such a pain to lug a wheelchair around and get it into and out of the car.”
“Well, I do at least half of the work. You need to get out and socialize a little.”
“I guess so. You’ve been so nice to put a swimsuit on every evening and come visit me. I guess it’s my turn to come out and visit you.”
“Good. I’ll pick you up at five.”
Katherine had a nice blouse in the locker room, so she put it on after the last feeding. Liz grabbed the handles of the wheelchair when she was done and started pushing her down the hall to the elevator.
“You don’t have to do that.” Katherine said. “I can roll this thing myself.”
“I know. But I was heading this way anyway, and I might as well help.” Liz answered. “Where are you going?”
“My mom is meeting me and we were going to go out to eat.”
“Won’t you get a lot of questions about the tail?”
“Yes, but I’m used to it.”
“Have a nice dinner then.”
By this time they had reached the lobby and Janice was waiting there for her. Katherine introduced her to Liz and then they all went out to the car. Liz even helped Katherine slide into the car from the wheelchair. She was a very thoughtful young woman. Janice started driving and Katherine asked her where they were going.
“Well, first we are going back to the apartment.”
“Did you forget something?”
“You did. The blouse is nice, but your hair is still wet and you haven’t put on any makeup.”
“I guess I’ve gotten out of the habit since I spend most of my time in the water now.”
“Well, I feel like going someplace special tonight. So we need to look the part.”
They went into the apartment and Katherine dried her hair while Janice changed and put on some makeup. Then Janice went into a different room for a minute and came back holding a long blue gown.
“I went shopping today and bought you a little surprise.” She said.
“Really? That dress looks very nice. But will it fit over my tail?”
“I think so. It has a long back zipper and we should be able to pull it over your head. I thought if we had a long gown that covered your tail we would have fewer people interrupting us with questions.”
“Let’s try it on then.”
Katherine pulled off her blouse and Janice helped her pull the dress on. She had to lean forward in her wheelchair and bunch it up behind her, then lift her bottom off the chair and slide the skirt down in place. Janice helped her zip it up, and it fit her figure very snugly, accentuating her curves from the waist up. Below the waist it had a fuller skirt that did indeed cover her tail nicely, though a few inches of fluke poked out from the bottom. Katherine found that if she bent her legs up inside the skirt, she could pull the fluke out of sight beneath the fabric.
“This is very nice.” Katherine told her. “It will be nice to look like a regular woman again, even if it is a regular woman in a wheelchair.”
They went to the same restaurant where Allen had proposed and they had a very nice dinner. The dress did its work and no one came to ask Katherine about her tail, even though the fluke poked out from time to time. When they were done it was late and Katherine decided to stay the night in the apartment instead of heading back to the aquarium.