Rhodos by Elizabeth Rodriguez

Love and fate are two very funny concepts. As powerful as they are, it’s never the same for everyone. I would know. My mother died giving birth to me, leaving the one person who probably loves her more than everyone behind. My father didn’t love me like he loved my mom. Since I was little I overheard a conversation he had with my grandmother. It was clear to me then that he blamed me for what happened to my mom. It was unfair, but I didn’t resent him. When I was eight years old, my father and I moved closer to the ocean. He was a marine biologist, and a bioengineer, so he wanted to be closer to his “domain” is what he told me. I hated it so much. I have thalassophobia, the fear of the ocean or big bodies of water. So being closer to the sea was the worst thing ever. One night I went out on a walk a good distance away from where the water met the sand. It was a cool night, the moon was full and the stars twinkled beautifully. I found a rock and sat there. 

“Mother. How are you? I hope you’re doing well. Papa is doing okay, in case you were wondering.” I sat in silence. A wave of sadness just overwhelmed me and I bursted into tears. “I feel so alone.” I heard a wave crash onto the shore in the distance. However, when I turned to look there was a kid. I walked slowly towards them, taking note of the fact that it was night and I was too close to the water. When I was close enough I saw a boy, a boy whose lower body was that of a fish. My eyes were immediately drawn to the sight of red on the boy’s bare back. He was bleeding. I don’t know how or why, but I mustered the strength to carry him back to the lab.

“Papa! Papa! Help!” he ran to me and froze at the sight of this boy. My dad called for a few more scientists and they took him, while my nurse took me to my room. I didn’t see the boy until later that week. My nurse walked me to the lab where they had given the boy his own tank. He had needles inserted into his arms, and bandages all over his. I finally got a closer look at this boy. He had fair skin with a lot of beautiful green and blue scales which matched his long white hair. He turned to me and smiled.

“I’m Kai.” 

“I-I’m Rhodos.”

 

Ten years later and Kai was still in that awful lab. My father got a tank big enough for him. But, he never really did care for Kai, he just saw him as another specimen. I understand, Kai is a merman, which we never would have truly believed. He spoke to me through the glass, telling me stories of his childhood,

“Those days were stolen from me too quickly, Rhodos… from the both of us.” He was right. I have cystic fibrosis, a life threatening disease that affects my lungs and digestive system. When I was younger I walked around with a device covering my nose which helped me breathe. Thus, the nurse from earlier.

“I know, Kai. And I’m sorry for ever bringing you here…” he looked at me with sad eyes. He placed his hand on the glass. 

“Don’t be sorry. I would’ve never met you, or grown with you, or fallen for you if it wasn’t for that fateful night. That day I consider it a blessing, and I will until the day I become foam, washed up onto the land, leaving this world for good.” I placed my hand right where his was, resting my forehead on the glass. He placed his next to mine. 

“Thank you Kai, but I promise… I’ll get you out of here.”

A few days later I walked into the lab. I was holding a glass bowl with some snacks I wanted Kai to try. 

“Kai, I got you the…” my heart stopped. I dropped the glass bowl and covered my mouth at what I saw. The water in the tank was filling up with blood. Kai’s body floated lifelessly. What happened? I had no time to freak out, I looked around and found a big screw driver. I started stabbing the glass with the sharp end. When it finally went through the glass broke, Kai floated down with the water, he coughed up blood. I held him in my lap, shaking him. He wouldn’t respond. I saw another, smaller, but pretty big tank full of clean water. Once again, with the strength I wasn’t aware I had, I dragged him and helped him into the tank. I found bandages in the cabinet closest to me. I cleaned the wounds and wrapped them. He had puncture wounds and cuts all over his arms, and one huge gash going across his torso. Once he was cleaned he was still unconscious, so I shook him, crying, “Kai! Kai please wake up!” I guess my cries were heard from across the lab since my dad bursted through the doors with a team of scientists. They all stood in shock staring at the bloody water all over the floor and the sight of Kai’s body and me having a mental breakdown. One of the scientists took me and led me back to my bedroom, leaving another 3 scientists and my dad alone with Kai. 

Hours had passed by when my dad finally came back home. He stood at the door, and I foolishly walked up to him, “Dad! Dad how’s Kai, is he okay-” my cheek suddenly stung. My eyes grew wide and I looked at him. My hand cupped my cheek, which was now throbbing because of the pain. “What were you doing in the lab?” He asked in a quiet but serious tone. “What?” I was surprised by the question. “What were we doing in the lab?!” he was screaming. “I’m always in the lab and you know it. Why am I suddenly not allowed in there?” I asked slowly, raising my voice with each word that came out of my mouth. Something deep inside me started to boil. “You destroyed a thousand dollar tank. With a damn screwdriver. And for what?” I scoffed. “FOR WHAT?” he repeated.  I walked closer to my dad, my footsteps were heavy, “For the one person, who has ever actually cared for me.” he went silent. “The ONE person that doesn’t put me aside, the ONE DAMN PERSON THAT YOU… that you haven’t taken away from me.” I was breathing so hard, my heart was pounding against my chest. “I have never…” he started, “Oh please! Auntie Carmen and Grandma were the ones that raised me! You moved me far away from them. I lost all of my friends back in Washington, and you don’t let me make friends here! You’ve isolated me for the longest time, you’ve rejected, neglected, and disregarded me my whole life!” He stares at me with a blank expression. “Do you have any idea what I’ve done for you? Everything I gave up JUST to raise YOU?” I take a step back. “I lost the one person I loved more than anything in this universe. And I lost her, because of you.” I took a sharp breath, he was blaming me for my mother’s death. “I didn’t ask to be born!” I protested. “And I didn’t ask for an ungrateful daughter! Heck, I didn’t even want children! Then you…” He puts his hands on his face, “Sometimes I wish your mother was the one that survived that day…” My body became heavy. My breathing became shallow, my vision became blurred from the tears. The room went silent. My sobs broke through like a warm knife cutting through butter.. “You think I don’t feel the same?” I watched as his hands fell from his face, he looked up at me, his once stoic expression now one full of guilt. “Rhodos… I…” he tried. I smiled at the ground “I love you too dad.” With that I left the room, slamming my bedroom door. I leaned my back against the door and slid down to the floor. I remember waking up at around midnight, still on the floor. I got up and sat at my desk. I started to write a letter to my father. I was leaving, and I wasn’t planning on ever coming back. I packed money, a few outfits, and all of my personal stuff, including a necklace, the one gift my father has ever given me. I left my keys on the desk and layed down on my bed for the last time.

“Are you sure about this, Rhodos?” Kai asked, somewhat scared of what the near future, rightfully so. “Absolutely, I’m done. If he doesn’t want me around, fine. But I’m taking you with me,” Kai looks at me like I’m crazy, and thinking back I was. I was acting out of anger, which you should never do. “Know it seems odd, but like this we can both be free. Free from this awful place.” Kai was already inside the truck in his tank. I had taken a pick up truck from the lab, and with whatever strength I had left, I moved the tank and then helped Kai in. Luckily, the lab gives Kai access to the ocean, even if it was a small piece. 

“Rhodos…” I looked at him, I was in the trunk making sure that nothing would potentially break the tank. He reached out to me and gently placed his hand on my cheek. I walked closer and placed my forehand against his. 

“I know, I know… I’m scared too,” I look up at him cupping his face,”but maybe, we could finally live the life we’ve always wanted. I’ll find a small cabin near the beach, and you could always come to visit me.” I thought back to when we were children, talking about our future, the future we could never have.

“I love you, Rhodos… I really hope you’re right…” he gave me a weak smile, and I reciprocated. I got off the trunk and walked to the car door.

“Me too…” I said to myself as I got into the truck. As I drove off, I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings, and I really should have.

On the highway, the ride started out smoothly. The road was empty and it was about two in the morning, so it was still dark out. I was thinking about anything that could go wrong. I heard a gunshot. It came from right behind my truck. I looked in my mirror and to my horror, it was my dad driving a similar truck with a passenger. This person had a gun, and a big one at that. 

“Hold on!” I yell out to Kai. I remember, I heavily pushed on the gas and we went. This exchange went on and on. The glass in front of me had two bullet holes and was cracking quickly. My dad caught up and came up to me. He stared at me in shock. He was certainly not expecting me to be the driver. The passenger aimed the gun at me and I broke really hard. I could hear Kai whimper and groan. I waited until they stopped. Once they did I pressed on the break so hard I could hear my tires burn. The highway was full of twisted roads, and some were wet. But no matter how fast I went, my dad stayed on my tail, I couldn’t lose him. I don’t exactly remember what happened afterwards, all I remember is that I lost control of the truck. We were gonna slam against the mountain next to us. All I could think about was Kai. 

“They’re gonna take him away from me. They’re gonna take him away from me!” I turned the steering wheel all the way to my right. We were on a cliff, the ocean right beneath. During the fall my life flashed before my eyes. Everything went blank. I felt cold and heavy. I couldn’t breathe. I felt Kai wrap his arms around me.

“Rhodos! Rhodos!” I  believe he was swimming upwards. What finally brought me back was a flash of light. Kai and I were pushed away by some type of force. I finally inhaled. I was breathing… underwater. I started to panic when it hit me that I was in the ocean. Kai probably noticed because he grabbed me and swam up. I took a deep breath when we made it. I was still shocked.

“Rhodos! You’re in the ocean!” he said excitedly. I was, I was in the one thing I feared most. But I wasn’t afraid. I was happy. I pulled Kai into a tight hug,

“I am! I am! Thank you, Kai!” he wrapped his arms around me, this was the closest the two of us had ever been. There was no glass in between us anymore. I felt the happiest I had ever felt, my chest felt as if the boulders I carried were washed away in the sea. We were finally liberated from our living hell. We could finally be happy and together.

“Take aim.” That feeling of happiness was quickly gone. There he was. My father standing over us, and that man aiming a harpoon right at Kai. 

“Dive. Dive, dive, dive!” I yelled at Kai. He held me against his chest and swam downwards. I heard the harpoon enter the water. Even though it was moving fast, I watched it slowly come towards Kai. I started to think to myself,

“If it hits Kai, it could hit me too… but Kai could have it worse. He has his whole life ahead of him… I don’t wanna take it away from him. He deserves to be back home… I on the other hand… I’ll finally be with…”

“Rhodos…” I opened my eyes and reacted. The woman’s voice gave me strength for the last time. I twisted my body and pushed Kai away from me, and the harpoon. I saw blood in less than a second. A sharp pain took over my entire lower right area of my torso. It hit. I looked down and I could see a huge portion of the harpoon coming out of my body. If it would’ve hit us, I wouldn’t have been hurt, this harpoon was specifically for killing Kai. Right before the shooter started pulling at the wire, Kai cut it with his tail. He came to me and cried,

“WHY?” his hands trembled, gasped at the sight of the harpoon. He grabbed me,

“Let me take you back home! You can be saved.” I reached out and shook my head.

“There’s no point…just stay here with me.” He nodded and placed me gently on the sea bed. I looked around, it was beautiful. The sunlight reflected off the surface of the water, all the small and big fish gracefully dancing around. I looked up at Kai who was hovering over me. His tears became drops in the ocean. 

“Kai,” I reached out to him, he gently grabbed my hand and held it against his cheek,

“Yes, yes Rhodos?” 

“You have a beautiful home. Take care of it…” I felt the pain of the harpoon spread to my legs. It was my time, and I was ready.

“I wanted to share it with you… show you the beauty that I was born in,” he cried, I started crying too.

“You still can…” I said weakly, “I will be with you forever… so I need you to promise me something.” He nodded,

“Anything,” 

“Don’t stop. Keep living. Love isn’t fair sometimes, but it’s always gonna stay with you. My love for you is as deep as your home… I may not be able to stay, but my love will. Pass it on, if you truly love me, keep your memories of me,” He was crying harder. I gasped weakly, his tears were glowing, small bubbles encased my body for a few seconds. I closed my eyes. I look over at my hand. There was a small piece of coral, growing out of my hand. 

“Would you look at that,” I let out a weak giggle, “How cute…” I looked up at Kai, I reached my other hand out and pulled him down to me. We shared our first kiss. Our last one. My last one. I smiled and closed my eyes. I was gone. 

Kai stayed over Rhodos’s body. It was slowly merging with the coral reef nearby. He stayed until there was nothing left. All that remained was an envelope which read “Dad.” Kai thought back to when he was a child and what his mother said to him before his disappearance. 

“You will gain your power the day you give up on something or someone you love.” He kissed the floor where Rhodos once was and whispered a sweet and loving,

“Thank you.” Kai took the letter in his hand, and rose to the surface. The ocean raised with his body, holding him up. He came face to face with his kidnapper for the last time. The doctor dropped to his knees. She was gone, his only daughter, the daughter who’s birth he cursed right in front of her. Kai handed the doctor the letter and left, back down to the depth of the sea. The doctor read the letter and cried himself to sleep for weeks at a time. He became severely depressed after Rhodos’s funeral. His sister and his mother took him in. He closed the lab, and gave up his title, he was truly alone. All because of the love the Rhodos thought he never had for her. He had finally learned, and was ready to throw in the towel.

Several years later, the once doctor, was walking on the beach, the same beach that now holds his daughter’s soul. He smiled and threw a letter in a bottle into the ocean. His nurse walked him back to the car and took him back to the rehabilitation center where he stayed for many years and planned on staying for the rest of his life. As he sat down next to a window he pulled out a photo of Rhodos and one of his dead wife. He smiled and looked out toward the ocean. The bottle was grabbed by a little girl, who’s lower body was that of a fish. She sat on a rock above the surface and read the letter, which was now one of several she had read. They appeared to be by the same person. Someone she must know since the letters were all addressed to her, to Rhodos. She took the letter and swam down to a beautiful kingdom under the ocean. She put the letter in the box where she hid and stored all the letters she had found since she was five, she was now 15. She heard her father call out to her, so she swam to him. She saw her mother and father sitting on their thrones. The butler brought in a letter addressed to King Kai and Queen Guenieve. 

“I guess I’ll take you next time,” said Kai. 

“Take me where father?” Kai looked at his wife and she smiled and winked, he said, 

“To the place where you were born, my love.” He placed a gentle kiss on his daughter’s forehead, took his wife’s hand and kissed it, swimming away to whatever duties he had to accomplish, as King of the Sea.