“Do I have to take a bath?” Lydia clutched her stuffed teddy close to her chest.
Her mother tested the feel of the bathwater and shut off the faucet. “Of course. Tomorrow’s a big day. You can’t be stinky.” She tweaked Lydia on her nose.
Lydia refused to smile. “But Mommy, what about the drain? What if I fall in?”
“You won’t.” Her mother ruffled her hair and walked to the door. “You’re a big girl. You’ll be just fine.”
The door shut. Lydia stood in the middle of the chilled room, the walls pressing against her every thought.
She licked her lips, set her teddy on the sink. There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll be just fine. She slipped out of her clothes and hopped into the warm water, immediately scooting to the far side of the tub.
The water settled. Her breathing slowed. She closed her eyes. There’s nothing in the drain. There’s nothing in the drain.
Water splashed and a head popped above the surface. Lydia’s eyes flew open.
An azure gaze held hers, contrasted by pasty skin and dark hair slicked back. The girl wasn’t much older than Lydia.
And this wasn’t her first visit.
“Are you ready, Lydia?” The girl’s voice had a buzz to it, like it wasn’t entirely audible, even though Lydia could hear her plain as day.
“I don’t wanna go.” Lydia glanced at her teddy who sat too far away.
A pink tail flipped to the surface of the tub, then disappeared below once more. “It won’t hurt.” The girl slithered a foot closer. “I promise. We’ll have lots of fun.”
“But—” Lydia gulped, the words stuck in her throat.
“Pretty please?” the mermaid cooed. She held out a scaled hand, her nails razor sharp. Her smile lacked the kindness of Lydia’s mommy.
Lydia took a deep breath. I’m a big girl. Another swallow and she reached out and took the mermaid’s hand.
The two figures slipped through the drain of the bathtub with a flash. Teddy gently fell to the floor.
©Laura L. Zimmerman 2019