This story comes from Clan Destine Press’s 1 June writing prompt.
‘It’s not really umber, is it?’
Didi, pressed closed to Galatea’s side, ceased peering at the sea to blink her bemusement at her new companion.
‘The umber ella. It’s not umber. Perhaps like raw umber, but more like bone. And white, of course.’ Galatea’s dark eyes were open wide as she considered the pretty damask canopy over her head. The sunlight streamed through the thinner white fabric of the pattern, dappling Galatea’s milk-white skin prettily.
Alabaster skin, thought Didi, and an hysterical giggle bubbled up. She almost asked how Galatea knew what to call damask fabric, since the Middle Eastern weavers who first created it came long after Galatea’s time, but honestly, that was the very least of the questions that arose from Galatea’s presence.
Didi decided to stick to the basics. ‘It’s not an umber ella. It’s an umbrella, or more exactly, a parasol.’ The Greeks had parasols 4000 years ago. It should be a no-brainer. ‘Parasols are for the sun, umbrellas for the rain.’
Galatea absorbed this clarification about the not-umber, bone-and-white coloured parasol. She flicked at the little strip of cloth that wound about the body of it when closed.
‘I don’t like this piece,’ she said. ‘You should cut it off.’
Didi side-eyed the fastener, then Galatea, then looked back out to the horizon.
‘Why don’t you like it?’
‘It looks like the bindings that held me prisoner beneath the sea.’
‘It only binds the parasol so it doesn’t flop around the place when it’s closed. It’s useful.’
Galatea scowled. ‘Polyphemus found it useful in his jealousy to bind and keep me, so that I may only partially live and not breathe and watch the world from underneath the waves.’
‘Well, Polyphemus was a creeper and he’s not here, and you are, so sucks to be him and you win, so do you think we can decide what we’re going to do now?’
‘I know you’re a nymph and marble statue and a myth come to life, so maybe you’ve had some experience with this shit, but it’s all new to me. I’m just a cannery worker and I’m not even that any more since they closed the factory. All those goddamned men in charge pushing the fish stocks to nothing, foreclosing on the mortgages, setting us all up to fail. I’m unemployed, I’m homeless, and I’m desperate. All I’ve got in the world is my car, my clothes, this bloody parasol because it belonged to my gran, and fuck-all skills. I’m nobody.’ The weight of all her losses pressed Didi down, made her shrink, made her small. She remembered the disdain of the bank manager refusing to negotiate a new payment plan; not a shred of pity or kindness in him.
Galatea gazed at Didi as though she were mad. ‘You rescued me.’
‘I found you.’
‘You unbound me. Thank you.’
‘You’re very welcome,’ Didi replied. ‘But I still don’t know what to do next.’
The nymph who had been a statue who had been bound and trapped and hidden in the ocean depths until time, tide, erosion and seismic activity had washed her ashore at Didi’s feet – this Galatea of myth and unexpected reality bent to kiss Didi’s cheek.
Galatea slipped her soft, slender, white fingers between Didi’s brown ones. ‘Let us hold hands,’ she said, ‘and be friends.’
Didi looked at their entwined fingers and squeezed. Galatea’s hand was warm and small in hers. ‘I’d like that.’
Galatea’s beautiful face broke into a smile that was wholly human. No longer marble, flushed pale pink now with the sea air, one of her canine teeth a little crooked. She was lovely. Lovelier than the statue could ever be.
‘And then we shall find a purpose we can share,’ Galatea declared, ‘and never again be imprisoned or discarded by men who wish to keep all good things to themselves.’
‘Smash the patriarchy,’ muttered Didi in agreement.
Galatea’s next grin was less human and it caught at Didi’s heart, made it grow with hope and fire.
‘How do we begin?’ asked Galatea eagerly.
‘Do you mind if we take your bindings with us?’ Didi asked.
‘You mean to use them on our enemies? Then yes!’
‘Great. Let’s visit the bank.’