Sea Dreams

by Sharon Walling

Sea Dreams

Lila, at nine was the younger of two sisters.  She laughed easily and had a heart bigger than her years. She played piano and sang and did both very well, thank you very much.  She was a good student, because school was not only a favorite pastime, it was an escape.But when she wasn’t in school, or doing chores, she had secret that she told no one, not even her mom and dad. It was that she as a mermaid.

At night, after she forced her dinner down, she’d excuse herself, hurry to her bedroom, shut the door and suddenly be transported to a watery wonderland where she could swim and float and be a mermaid.

It was only when she was a mermaid that she was beautiful. In the ‘dry’ world she was the talented one and her sister was the pretty one. When Lila looked in the mirror she only saw that she had ashy blonde hair and freckles. But she never noticed that her green eyes could rival Brazilian emeralds.

When Lila turned eleven, her sister turned thirteen and got breasts.  Lila was so flat and skinny, that all of her clothes bagged, while her sister’s clothes looked like they had been stitched to her curves. Boys looked at her and Lila was jealous. So she gave up being a mermaid, and became Marilyn Monroe. Under the covers at night, she’d close her eyes hard, and she would see herself with lovely breasts and silky undergarments, and the cutest boy in her class would be rescuing her from some great danger. Or, maybe he’d just accidently see her in her sexy, chartreuse, lace-trimmed slip. And fall immediately in love with her. Her dreams told her she was mermaid-pretty and had Marilyn Monroe breasts.

Then Lila followed her sister to high school. Her sister was popular there. Who wouldn’t be with big breasts and eyeliner? But their mom said Lila wasn’t allowed to wear makeup yet. Lila believed she was uglier in high school than ever. Only the redheaded boy liked her. Jack Kenney: bad skin, glasses, plaid pants and teeth so far apart that they didn’t know each other.

The richest girl in the school, Jennie Lou, was in Lila’s English class. Jennie Lou was beautiful and wore expensive clothes. Jennie’s pale blonde hair was never out of place, and she never had a pimple. She also had breasts. Jennie Lou didn’t wear bobby socks and poodle skirts─ she wore slim hugging skirts with matching sweaters, and tiny black patent flats with little bows. Her purse matched her shoes. The ribbon in her hair was made out of the same material as her skirt. Lila decided to become like Jennie Lou. She tried to make friends with her, but that was like trying to move Appalachia to Rodeo drive. Jennie Lou was a cheerleader.  Athletes and cheerleaders ran for school office. The shy and ugly kids joined the choir.

So, Lila became an alto.

But, a miracle occurred when Lila was seventeen. During that summer she grew breasts. In just three months, she went from a set of nipples to a C cup. In her senior year, she became popular with the boys. She went to dances with the hopeful adolescents, dyed her hair deep red, and only wore her glasses in the classroom. Nonetheless, Lila was a good girl, a virgin. She never had a steady boyfriend. The beautiful girls were still cheerleaders, the ugly ducklings still in the choir, and now semi-beautiful girls took modern dance.

For the spring talent fest, Lila choreographed Sea Dreams, a dance with five mermaids. She made the costumes with the fish tails covered in green glitter.  Everyone clapped. Some people told Lila what beautiful legs she had. She felt pretty.

After graduating, Lila got a job with a finance company, met a guy. He told her she was beautiful, even with her glasses on. Most of the time he was nice, but sometimes he would make fun of her, because this was the sixties, and the sixties it was believed that you tease the people you like.

They got married. It was a small wedding. As she approached the altar, deserving of the white dress she wore, (because in the sixties, they believed that white was only for virgins) she wondered if like her mermaid dreams, she was only pretending to be a bride.

Lila and her new husband moved away from her family. And in that new place, she worked to become the perfect wife.

But after a few years, her husband quit saying “I love you,” and “you’re beautiful.”  She had a baby and he called her fat.  It was when they went to dinner for their anniversary, and he seemed too friendly with the cocktail waitress, (who wore eyeliner) that she figured it out: He was seeing someone.

On a Monday while he was at work, Lila bleached her hair platinum blonde and bought a leather halter top with the front cut in deep V. It was the first time she showed her cleavage outside the bedroom. When her husband saw her he said ‘Wow!  You should have done this a long time ago.”  Then she really felt like Marilyn Monroe, ready for romance and raw sex.

He ran his fingers through her hair and said, “I want you to file for divorce as soon as possible. I’m leaving.”

After that, Lila began to hate her body. Her boss would stand close enough to nudge his arm against her chest. She would find notes written between the men in the office commenting on her big breasts.

Marilyn Monroe died that year and Lila understood why.

Once again, she just wanted to be a mermaid.

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