HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Ariel opened the window and smiled as she breathed in the fresh spring air. She heard Eric turn in his sleep, and tip-toed up to the bed to give him a kiss on the cheek. She was usually the first one up in the morning, but it wouldn't be long before Eric followed her. The girl went to the dining room, where Carlotta was already setting the table.
"Good morning, Carlotta!", said the perky girl, as she helped with the plates.
"Good morning, Dear!", returned the plump housekeeper. The older woman bustled here and there; putting down the silverware and napkins, then headed for the door. "Breakfast should be ready, unless Louie's burnt the toast again."
Ariel grinned at her. "Oh, Carlotta! Louie's a good cook!" The girl could hear her reply, as the woman went towards the kitchen. "Yeah,...after we finally got him off seafood dishes! I thought we'd never make a vegetarian out of him,.."
Ariel sighed with amusement and sat down at the table. Eric came in and gave her a kiss, "Good morning, Honey."
The girl smiled up at him lovingly, "Good morning, Darling! Didn't that air smell sweet?"
Eric sat down across from her and nodded. "Yeah! The flowers are really blooming. We'll have to open all the windows today."
Carlotta came bustling back; carrying their breakfast trays and humming cheerfully. She smiled down at the girl. "Now, you let me know the date for Aquata's wedding!"
"I will", promised the girl, as she picked up her glass of fresh orange juice. About once a month, Sebastian and Flounder would visit the girl; bringing news, gossip, or just sharing their company. Occasionally, her sisters would come too; and, of course, Triton, when he wasn't too busy. There was a small stream, running into the ocean, near Eric's palace. The Prince had a rounded pool carved at one place in the stream, and placed seaweed-cushioned rock chairs into it. This pool was surrounded by a green lawn under slender trees and beautiful shrubs. Another set of beautifully carved garden chairs were placed on the lawn near the pool. It was a quiet, relaxing, peaceful place where the families could talk.
The first animal to the pool, that day, was Max. He came loping down: barking happily at Flounder and Sebastian. Sebastian didn't mind; he was used to the floppy dog now, but Flounder still hid behind one of the rock chairs. The crab chuckled down at him. "Oh Mon! Don't tell me you're still scared of dat silly ting?" He's just all hair and bark."
Flounder peeked out nervously. "Yeah! If he's got a bark, he's got a mouth, doesn't he?"
Sebastian laughed and shook his head. "Well; here comes Ariel and Eric. Dey'll keep dat monster away from you."
Max went bounding up to lick Ariel's hand. The girl patted himlovingly, then walked down to the pool. She kissed Flounder on the nose and picked Sebastian up and kissed him on the cheek. Eric sat down beside them on the grass, and Max plopped down, too.
"So tell me: What's the word with Aquata?", asked an eager Ariel.
Sebastian laughed. "Dat girl's as nervous as a crab out of his shell! And you should see your father! Oh Mon; he's been saying all his girls are gonna follow your example and he won't have none left!"
"Oh; Daddy's being silly!", giggled the girl.
"Everybody's running around, getting stuff ready for the wedding", put in Flounder. "Aquata couldn't decide whether to have the cermony at Adrian's house or the palace, but the King talked her into the palace. Now there's a zillion Merfolk putting up decorations and stuff."
"Yeah. I haven't had one hour of peace to write de wedding music", grumbled the crab. "I finish one sheet and somebody grabs it and tacks it on the wall!"
Ariel laughed and patted Sebastian's claw. "Aw! You'll get it finished! So! When's the big day?"
"Six more days and Aquata ties the knot", answered Sebastian. "Your father says his only regret is that you can't be there, but he says he understands: You've got to stay here and keep Eric straight."
Eric laughed. "Well; she certainly keeps me on my toes! I have a hard time keeping up with her!"
Ariel grinned and kissed his cheek.
Sebastian nodded. "You ain't tellin' us anyting! Better get used to it!"
Eric took Ariel's hand in his. "Oh,...I rather like it, myself."
Flounder giggled, "Sebastian's got a girl now, too!"
Ariel's eyes went wide. "Sebastian! You?!"
The crab cleared his throat, importantly. "Well,..You know I'm prone to turn the Ladies' eyes, anyway. Me and one cute little crab have been seeing each other a lot, lately. Actually, I can't get away from de girl."
Flounder laughed, "Yeah! Your father says he's impossible to work with now; always singing and acting silly!"
Ariel shrugged. "My! My! If Sebastian gets married, I will think I've started a trend!"
Sebastian smiled, slyly. "Well,...She is a cute little ting. And I've been thinking about settling down; now dat I don't have to run after you anymore, keeping you out of trouble."
Ariel gave him a smirk. "Aw!, What trouble did I get into?"
Sebastian turned to Eric. "Did I tell you about the time Ariel kept a killer whale in her room?"
Ariel blushed. "He was just a,,..baby!'
"Oh really?", smiled the crab and looked back at the Prince, "Do you know how big a baby killer whale gets?"
Eric shook his head and grinned, while Ariel stammered, "I,..don't think Eric wants to hear that story just now,..."
"That sounds a lot like what she did last week. I found three dozen chickens in the palace courtyard that she had saved from the village butcher!", laughed the boy.
"The poor little things were going to be killed!", whispered Ariel.
Eric patted her tiny hand. "One of the things I love about her is her kindness. I come to find, more and more, how very special she is." Ariel smiled at him, lovingly.
"What happened to the chickens?", asked Flounder.
"We took them to a farmer who raises them", answered the girl. "He said he would use them to lay unfer,..unfer,.."
"Unfertilized eggs", finished Eric for the girl.
"They'll have a happy home now", said the girl, with a smile.
Just then, a loud squawking turned all eyes upward to see an awkward seagull approaching. Scuttle landed on the grass with a loud thump, as Max barked happily at him. "Woah! Somebody's gotta move some of dem trees outta the way! A fella can hardly make a landing!"
Ariel laughed and rubbed his head, as he waddled up. "Hiya Sweetie!" He tried to bow to Eric, "Your Princeness!"
Scuttle would sometimes show-up to these gatherings (After being told by Ariel about them). Everyone was glad to see the zany bird. Scuttle leaned back and took a deep breath; almost falling over backwards, "Ah! Spring's in the air! I guess your sister's got tha' wobble-legs about now."
"Six more days!", said Ariel with a grin.
"Woah! That ain't long! Now let me see,...What was I gonna say?,... Oh yeah! Advice! I got some advice for her, next time you see her! Always fly with the wind, and look before yah land."
Ariel giggled, and Eric smiled, "That sounds like some good advice to me. We'll be sure to tell her."
"Oh,...That reminds me!", started the girl, "Grim showed me the most wonderful thing yesterday! He took some paper and pieces of,...sticks and string, and made a sailamajigger he called a kite! We took it outside and it floated in the air; just like you, Scuttle! it was so beautiful! Darling; I want you to try it with me; it's so much fun!" Eric smiled and nodded.
Scuttle brightened. "Oh yeah! I know them! Those are wobble-eyed weathersnoops. Can't fly em at night, though; they can't see where they're going."
Sebastian shook his head; then looked at the girl. "Well; your daddy wanted me to check you, to see if you're still eating right." The crab eyed the girl up and down, as she grinned at him. "I guess you look about right. Put on a few pounds; as a matter-of-fact. At least dat crazy chef is keeping you fed."
Ariel patted her hips. "I know what you mean! Not swimming all the time is making me fat! It's a lot different on land; you can feel how heavy you are: if you jump up, you come right back down!"
"Unless you're a gull, of course", noted Scuttle.
"You can lay in the grass, and the flowers are over your head, and you feel so restful there. The sun warms you and you can watch the clouds float across the sky and listen to the birds singing in the trees,..."
Eric laughed. "She wanted to climb into one the other day!"
The girl grinned and her eyes shone. "It was so much fun! Eric helped me, of course. I sat on a branch, with the leaves all around me and my legs dangling down; I felt just like a bird up there! I could look out and see the ocean stretched out forever. Eric had to help me down; I was a little scared to jump."
"Plus; A dress isn't easy to climb down in", added the Prince.
Sebastian chuckled and smiled at the couple. "I knew Ariel would catch de best man around, but I never expected him to be a Human!"
"Yeah!", added Flounder. "I never thought a Human could be nice til we met you!"
Eric looked down at the little fish and sighed. "And I never knew that there were animals who could talk, until I met all of you. I'm still amazed at Ariel's stories of Atlantica; there's so much that Humans don't know about."
"Yeah, Mon. And if Ariel's daddy has his way, Humans never will know about it. He trusts you, and dat is a lot coming from him, but I don't tink he'll ever trust the rest of your Kind."
Eric nodded. "Well; I can understand his reasoning: If my kingdom got invaded by strangers wanting to eat my subjects, I'd get a little upset too! I'm even more amazed that a little mermaid would risk her whole world for a terrible human!'
Ariel giggled. "Oh; You aren't a terrible human! You are the sweetest thing!", Ariel said; kissing his cheek.
"Well; I consider myself the lucky one; you are the sweetest girl above or below the sea."
Flounder frowned, "Aww; enough of that mushy stuff!" He dived under the water, brought up an object in his mouth, and gave it to the girl. Ariel gave it to Eric, with an eager, questioning look. Every now-and-then, Flounder would bring a Human thing, from Ariel's collection, for Eric to identify.The girl was delighted to finally learn what her treasures were really used for.
"This is a corkscrew. You take a bottle with a cork in it, see,.." Eric imitated holding a bottle, "and you stick this in the cork and turn it. Then you can pull the cork out."
Ariel grinned with delight. "A corkscrew!"
Scuttle looked at it, with a puzzled expression. "Well, I'll be! And I thought it was for scratching behind your ear!"
"Oooh,..no!", said Ariel, "it's too sharp for that!" I thought it was for picking up sea-grapes."
"I thought it was for catching little fish", laughed Flounder.
"You never can tell with Humans", noted the crab; "They have a gadget for everthing."
"I'd like to see that trident again", said Eric. "It sure had a lot of power."
"Daddy never really uses it unless he has to", commented the girl. "He's tough when he has to be, but most of the time he's really gentle and sweet."
Eric shook his head. "It must've really been something to be a daughter of the Sea-King! Your father rules most of the world; don't you feel like you married below your station?"
Ariel giggled with amusement. "That "station" stuff isn't important! I married who I love!"
Sebastian nodded. "Dat's right, Mon. Ariel never did go for dat "Princess" title, anyway. She was just another mergirl. Oh; she's got de social manners and everyting: I never seen a more polite child; but she never did care for all de pomp and such."
"Daddy taught me how to act with people. He loves me, and my sisters, but he never spoiled us. When we misbehaved, he wasn't afraid of giving us a spanking."
"I remember one time the carnival came around", noted Flounder, "and Ariel and Arista were fighting and the King beached them and they couldn't go."
"Beached?", asked Eric.
"Oh; We couldn't leave the palace", explained Ariel.
Sebastian laughed,"Then these gators showed-up and tried to steal the royal treasure! Oh Mon!; Did those girls have fun trapping those gators!"
Eric scratched his head. "You certainly had a lot of excitement in Atlantica! I've never had any trouble with gators stealing my treasure!"
"Oh,..De King's treasure was a favorite target for thieves, but de King showed dem the business-end of his trident and they went on their way", laughed the crab.
"I could have used that trident a couple of times when pirates came around here", sighed the Prince. "My folk are brave, of course, but we're really just farmers; not solders. We had a hard time fighting them off."
Sebastian smiled slyly. "I don't tink you have to worry about pirates no more. When word gets around dat you married the Sea-King's daughter; every pirate in dis hemisphere will steer clear! Dey got to use the sea, and dey don't want the sea mad at dem!"
Eric laughed. "I guess you're right! But, you know; It's funny; My folk know Ariel used to be a mermaid, but the other islands; not to mention the old world, don't believe she ever was! They say there's no such thing as mermaids!"
"Well;....the sailors know", added Sebastian.
"There was one fellow from Denmark, I think, who had heard of our marriage and wanted to know the whole story. He seemed like he knew you, Darling; he asked if you had red hair!"
Ariel shrugged with confusion. "I don't think so,... I never talked to a Human before you."
"What about that guy in the metal fish?", asked Flounder.
Ariel brightened. "Oh, yes! There was one Human who I saw! He was in a strange boat that sailed under the water, but it broke and Daddy helped him get back to the surface."
"He must have known of your courage", said Eric, with a smile. "After I told him our story, he nodded and said "That was her." He was full of praise for you: Said you saved his life."
Ariel blushed. "Well,..I guess I helped a little. But Sebastian, Flounder and Daddy helped too. And the Crab-scouts!"
Eric laughed, "Yeah; he said he was going straight home to write it down! I don't know if he meant the village inn or Denmark!"
Flounder splashed excitedly, "Wow! Do you mean we might be in a story? Wouldn't that be neat!"
"I hope he spells Sebastian right", said the crustacean.
"Well; actually, he was more interested in Ariel", continued the Prince. "He acted like he was quite taken with you."
Ariel smiled gently. "That's sweet,..."
The group fell silent for a moment; listening to the birds and breathing the sweet scent of the flowers carried on the light breeze. Ariel looked up at the gently-tossed young leaves on the trees; they were in full flower and beautiful to the girl.
Flounder laughed, "Ariel's got out of her old adventures right into a bunch of new ones! Have you seen everything yet?"
Ariel looked at her little fish friend with excitement. "Oh, no! There's so much! I haven't even begun to explore this beautiful world! I'm just starting off slow; there's so much to learn! Eric's palace is so pretty, and ful of interesting things. I've gotten to know Carlotta and Grim; They're so sweet! And Louie and Max, and Frances and Gertrude. and the village is so big and has so much to see and to do!"
"I guess de Prince hasn't seen much of you, since you've been exploring!", laughed Sebastian.
Eric smiled. "It's just the opposite! She doesn't want to go anywhere without me! She's always close to me; I don't know how I could have found such a devoted wife."
Ariel blushed and smiled, but Sebastian nodded, "Dat's de girl! She sticks by the ones she loves. You hooked de best girl in de sea."
Ariel shrugged, "Come on Sebastian,...You're embarressing me!"
The crab laughed. Flounder scratched his head; then smiled, "Oh yeah! Urchin told me to tell you, "Hey!". He's in a big blowfish ball-game this afternoon, so he couldn't come. His team has a good chance of winning the tournament this year."
"Dat boy is growing like seaweed", commented the crab. "He must be half a fin taller than you already. Your father is looking to find him a good job around de palace, but you know Urchin! He's still too busy being a kid!"
Ariel nodded. "He'll grow out of it. It won't be long before he's chasing after the girls! And you, too, Flounder!"
"Girls? Yuck!", answered the little fish.
Ariel smirked. "I'm a girl, aren't I?"
"Yeah,...but you're different. You like to do fun stuff", insisted Flounder.
"Well; You'll feel different when the right fish comes along", answered the girl, with a smile.
Scuttle nodded his head. "The wobble-legs,...I guess that oughta be the wobble-fins for Flounder!"
Sebastian smiled; then sighed. "Yeah; De King has been talking to me about Aquata's wedding. He says he'll give up the throne to her now; says it's about time dat she took over for the family.
Ariel nodded her head, "Daddy's doing the right thing; he needs to relax and take it slower from now on. Maybe, he'll do some things he's always wanted to do."
"He mentioned that he wants to visit his brother in the Mediterranean", affirmed Sebastian. "Adrian will make a strong King in his place."
"And Aquata's always been real smart", added Ariel.
"They'll make a good pair", agreed the crab.
Max jumped up happily and looked to see Grimsby and Carlotta walking down to the stream. Carlotta was carrying a tray of refreshments for them and they sat down to join the group. Everyone enjoyed the pineapple punch; Ariel helped Flounder with his cup. Carlotta gave a knowing smile to the little crab; he had given her the recipe for "Carribbean punch", and he knew it at the first sip.
Scuttle eyed his cup, doubtfully. "This stuff ain't spiked, is it? I gotta fly home, you know."
Carlotta laughed, "Of course not! Don't be silly!"
Scuttle gulped it down and grinned. "That's good stuff!",he said, as he wiped his beak.
"Of course it's good!" asserted Sebastian, "it's my recipe."
Grimbsy smiled. "I never would have imagined that seaweed and plankton could taste as good as it does, until the Princess and Sebastian proved it with their recipes."
"I think even Louie was surprised", added Carlotta.
Grim nodded, "Yes. He especially liked the plankton soup. He said it would be perfect with a little crab in it."
Sebastian grimaced in agitation. "Crazy chef! He should've gotten enough crab after I knocked him out on dat boat!"
"He still wants to meet you again," comment Grimbsy. "He says no hard feelings."
Sebastian smiled; knowingly. "Yeah Mon! I know what he wants me to meet: a pot of boiling water!"
Ariel smirked at him. "Oh, Sebastian! Maybe he really does want to be friends with you."
"He can write me", answered the crab.
Eric laughed. "I think Sebastian's right. Every time Louie mentions him, he has a funny look in his eyes and a smile that looks a little devilish."
"Oh; That's just his wooden teeth", noted Carlotta.
"Well; I think Louie wouldn't hurt you now", insisted Ariel. He knows how I feel about you."
"I tink I'll keep the palace between me and him; just the same", grumbled Sebastian. Eric and Grim laughed.
After a long, happy talk, it was finally time for the friends to say goodbye. Sebastian and Flounder promised to bring back every detail of the wedding, for Ariel.
The girl smiled down at Flounder, "Now; You let me know if Sebastian catches the garter!", she said with a wink. She gave them both a kiss, then they turned and swam for home. The girl rubbed Scuttle's head, affectionately, as he flapped his wings.
"I'll see ya soon, sweetie!", he called, as he flapped into the sky.
Since Grim and Carlotta had already left; to prepare supper, the couple were alone now; except for Max, who stood quietly by their side.
Eric looked down at his wife and saw tears in her eyes. "What's wrong, Darling?"
Ariel smiled gently. "Oh,...I was just thinking of Aquata. I remember when I was a little girl; she was like a mother to me. I'm so happy for her!"
Eric hugged the girl and she smiled lovingly at him and took his hand. Together, they returned to their new home, and lived happily ever after.