You all might have watched the Disney movie “The Little Mermaid” and known that the ending was a happy one. This story presents to you an alternate, a little heartbreaking ending which represents just what someone might do for the person they love. It’s been years since Ariel, daughter of the king of Atlantica, fell in love with a human prince and gave up her mermaid tail to be with her one true love forever. The way to true love was brutal, with a Sea Witch’s wickedness and other difficulties to cross. Eventually, they were both reunited and now lived in the Royal Palace in the human world. Let’s see what happens in the human world.

***

Ariel sat at the windowsill of her huma- of her prince’s room looking out at the ocean longingly. The sun was out that day, the light rippling along the surface of the ocean, whose waves were flowing lovingly, as if caressing the sand of the Royal Beach. The ocean itself seemed to be basking in the glowing sunlight, leisurely and charmingly, tempting Ariel to go out, shed her mortality and swim swim swim. This longing began in the deep of her heart, spread along her torso and tickled her toes. Toes. Even after being human for this long, she still couldn’t grasp the fact that she now had legs- legs instead of a tail, which she loved with her heart and soul, and now missed terribly. She loved Eric but she missed the seas, the open vicinity of an ocean and swimming without a care in the world. This feeling just used to be something strange at the back of her mind before, but now she couldn’t ignore the twinge she felt in her chest every time she so much so as thought about the ocean. It was physically hard to overlook this sense of wrongness being human gave her. She sighed.

Two hands came up from behind her, wrapping themselves around her and a chin rested itself comfortably on her shoulder. Ariel wasn’t alarmed; she knew the feel of Eric’s arms like the back of her hand. “Hey”, he murmured softly. She leaned into him and whispered, “Hey”. Together, they silently watched the playful ocean, all the while Ariel wondered if he could sense her despair. The pain had become unbearable and she almost wept at the fact that even though she had the most loving husband in the world, she couldn’t help being selfish and wanting that freedom again. Anything to free her from this rotten feeling growing inside her. But then Eric came around her and smiled and she suppressed all those feelings and asked about his day. She felt her love strong for him at the moment and that was all that mattered.

***

Something was off. Eric could feel it- feel the way Ariel’s eyes glazed over when he was talking. She wasn’t listening and wasn’t saying anything, which was unusual for the girl who was always a little ball of sunshine, one of the many things he admired about her. Eric stopped talking and Ariel blinked. “Why did you stop? Go on,” she said.

“Were you even listening?” he asked with a small smile, his words gentle, not accusing. Ariel blushed. Eric chuckled and raised his hand to cup her cheek, to tell her it was fine and that she should rest. But as his skin came into contact with her, he lost all the words because Ariel’s skin was burning hot and she seemed oblivious to this.

“Wha-,” he began but then stopped, getting up and checking her neck, her pulse. Hot. Eric swore.

“What happened,” Ariel asked, eyebrows furrowed.

“You are burning up. I-I think it’s fever. I’m calling a doctor,” with this, he scooped her in his arms and placed her gently on the bed, putting the covers around her. Ariel looked confused but didn’t say anything. She couldn’t feel anything. Eric called up the maid and asked her to fetch the doctor. Eric’s eyes were panicked and he was pacing around the room.

“Eric,” Ariel called softly, she could now feel something unpleasant; her stomach was churning. He didn’t hear. “Eric,” she called out a little loudly. He didn’t hear. “Eric!” Eric stopped and whirled around. “Yes! I’m sorry. Do you need something, love?” he asked. “I think I’m going to vomit,” she said. He hurried to her side and took her to the bathroom. Ariel heaved and then heaved again. She clutched the toilet seat and heaved again while Eric held her hair back. She slumped on the wall beside and her head lolled to the side in exhaustion. Eric flushed the toilet and took her out again. The doctor had arrived and after inspecting, he still couldn’t find the root of the problem. She hadn’t eaten anything allergic and had done nothing which could lead her to being as sick as she was. Eventually, the doctor gave Eric some tonic to give Ariel and asked him to take her out. Fresh air might help, he’d said, bowed down to the waist and left. So Eric gave her a spoonful of tonic and decided to take her to the beach.

**

The floor swayed. Or maybe it was just how sick she was that blurred her vision. Ariel gripped Eric’s arm and proceeded to go out. She thought she’d faint by the time they reached at the bottom of the palace stairs but convinced herself to hold on a little longer. The moment they crossed the threshold of the back doors of the palace, she felt the beach air hit her face. She already felt better.

Eric could feel the change in her. The way blood rushed to her pale face, tinting her face red. The way her red hair flowed around her, the curls looking wild, untamed, and alive. Eric, for a fleeting moment, had a thought come to him that Ariel looked more in place on this beach, the air playing with her wild curls than in the hallways of the Palace. And as he felt life returning into her, saw her playing with the waves without a care in the world, he wondered if he should let her go and be herself. The thought burned in his chest.

Ariel had never felt more alive. As soon as her fingers touched the water, the ocean seemed to rumble beneath her hands, as if pleased by her presence. She was, after all, the daughter of Triton, the King of Atlantica. She jumped and squealed and just let herself do whatever her heart desired. She ran across the length of the beach and felt Eric’s eyes upon her. She went back to Eric and looked up at him, her face radiant, the freckles on her cheeks more visible because of the rose tint on them. Eric looked at her and smiled sadly. Ariel was confused and asked, “Why are you sad? Come on, look around! It’s so beautiful.” She tugged at his hand but he pulled her back to him and wrapped his arms around her. She closed her eyes and felt content. For a moment, she had everything she wanted. Then Eric murmured something. He kept saying it again and again but she couldn’t understand anything. His shoulders started shaking and his voice started wavering. It was then that Ariel understood what he was saying. Just two words. I’m sorry. But she couldn’t fathom why he’d be sorry for anything. She pulled back and saw that his eyes were moist. She felt his sadness within her and asked him what happened. He shook his head and pulled her back into his arms. And she could do nothing but hold him as he cried mumbling the same words over and over again.

***

When he calmed down, they were sitting on the sand, Ariel watching him with concern. Sweet, sweet Ariel. He took a deep breath, needing all the strength in the world for what he was about to do. He cupped her cheeks with both hands and asked, “Ariel, my love, do you miss your home?” It seemed Ariel knew which home he was talking about, if her blush and lowered lashes were any indication.

“Hey,” he said softly, “Look at me.” She did. “There’s nothing wrong with that,” he willed his voice to stay stable, “I know you miss everything.” Tears welled in Ariel’s eyes at that. She opened her mouth to say something but Eric shushed her. “If you want to go back, just know that you’re free to. It’s your life, it’s your wish. I wouldn’t stop you, if that’s what you want.” Ariel now started sobbing. He wanted to stay strong for her, but when she collapsed against him, her sobs reverberated in his chest and his eyes were moist again.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry Eric,” she couldn’t stop crying. He held her more tightly until she too, had cried however much she wanted. They stayed like that for a while- her head on his chest, his arms around her. Ariel wished she could stay like this forever but knew what had to be done.

So they both walked to the ocean, the waves receding to let the king now of her daughter’s return, and faced each other for the last time. “I’ll never forget you, my prince,” Ariel said and leaned in to feel his warmth once again. They stayed like that until the ocean grumbled to the arrival of King Triton. Ariel kissed Eric on the cheek and whispered, “I love you. I always will.” Eric felt his throat tighten but he knew he had to say this back, even if it killed him to let her go, he knew he would regret it if he didn’t say anything. So he said with tears in his eyes, “I love you. Farewell, my love.” Ariel turned to her father and took his outstretched hand. As they went deeper into the ocean, Ariel felt herself turning back to her mermaid self. Her human legs disappeared and her tail returned and she looked back, just once, and smiled at her beloved prince. She vowed to herself to never forget him and went deeper into the ocean, feeling at home again.

Her red hair, like fire upon the water, were the last thing Eric saw before they went under. It felt like his chest was hollowed out. He knew he had to do it, for the sake of Ariel and her happiness but it didn’t hurt any less to watch her go. He vowed to remember her till he obliterated. He knew he had to go on with his life but just for a few moments, he’d let himself grieve and then go back to his duties. He’d carry on in hopes that he might, someday, meet his mermaid beloved again.

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