If she can find the strength to leave the only life she knows, Lena will discover the truth. And she will find a new world, one that will cleanse her of the memories of false love and abuse.
One that will finally lead her home.
Title: The Water Is Sweeter (A Falling in Deep Collection Novella)
Author: Eli Constant
Published: July 28, 2015
It is when the pinks are fading, melting into stoic dark blue, that I realize the time—realize that Truman will be at home waiting on me and wondering where I am. Subconsciously, I’ve kept my left hand in my pocket most of the time that I’ve been with Connor. It’s only now that I let the dying light sparkle against the engagement ring on my finger.
It catches Connor’s eye and I can see that he’s confused.
Sadness fills me.
“I have to go,” I murmur, averting my eyes.
Connor’s hand reaches out and sets gently against my left forearm. “Life is always going to be too short, Lena. All we can do is find our own little pieces of happiness.”
I can’t look at his face, because what he says stings my heart. I think of his brother. I think of death. I think, not for the first time, that dying would be preferable to leaving Truman. To leaving the family I’ve craved for so long. I don’t want to be an orphan again.
“Today has been really nice, Connor. I can’t believe I’ve been coming to your shop for over a year and we’ve never really talked.”
“No. We really haven’t.” I look at him now.
“Well… we have now, and I hope we can talk again.”
“Truman asked me to marry him.” I drop the truth on the bench between us and the weight of it causes the metal to bow downward. I am sad to realize that the foot of space is back, that we have moved away from each other again.
“I sort of figured that. Ring’s a dead giveaway.”
“I wasn’t trying to lead you on.”
“I know that.”
“Why did you sit here with me all day?”
“Why did you sit here with me all day?” He repeats my question back at me.
I only have one answer, and it is not one that I’ll voice. Because I haven’t found my little piece of happiness yet.
Standing up, I brush my pant legs, trying to smooth out some of the wrinkles from sitting too long. “Thank you again for the coffee.” I try to smile, but I can’t manage one this time.
Connor says nothing. His hair is fully out of the ponytail now; dark, shiny strands dance around his face playfully and streaks of bronze-brown come alive and highlight the few strands of silver. His lips part, as if he has thought of the perfect goodbye. But then his mouth closes and I feel a twisting in my heart.
“Bye.” The word is a whisper that floats behind me as I walk away, a tiny grain of sand carried on a wave that may not return to shore.
What is your favorite mermaid story or myth?
It’s funny; I mean, I grew up with the traditional Hans Christian Anderson version of the Little Mermaid and it always made me sad. Each sister before the littlest mermaid waited patiently until she was old enough to experience the world above the water. They each came back with beautiful stories, but they always came back. They returned to their home after witnessing wonderful things. The littlest mermaid was impatient, as we all are- wanting to grow up and then once we have grown up, wanting to return to the novelty of youth- and when her time comes, she’s built this amazing vision in her head of what the dry world is like.
And then she saves a prince. And she is willing to give up everything to be with him, because if he loves her enough, more than anything else in the world, she gains a soul. So she abandons her mermaid’s tail and her long life span, even though she is warned that it will bring her nothing but sadness.
But I always thought that the sea was the little mermaid’s soul. And she gave that up, devoted every ounce of her being to winning the Prince’s hand, who would never love her.
And then she’s faced with killing her Prince or dying.
She chooses death, but finds life again in the sky.
How f***ing depressing is that?
So, I hate the traditional Little Mermaid. But, wait, I was supposed to say what was my favorite mermaid story or myth?
Well, I sort of liked J.K. Rowling’s interpretation of mermaids. Yeah, they were cool. Of course, I did ascribe to the happier version of a mermaid in The Water is Sweeter to balance out Lena’s suicidal mindset.
What was the inspiration for your mermaid novella?
I’ve been a certified diver since the age of 14 (thanks, Dad!) and I always found that being in the water diving helped me separate myself from things that were going wrong in my life. I took that concept and I expanded on it, which makes The Water is Sweeter a deeply personal piece. At its core, it’s about an orphaned woman who realizes her fiancé is abusive, but she desperately clings to the idea of family. When she tries to kill herself, she finds that she’s plunged into an alter-reality beneath the waves.
Cast your characters. If your novella was made into a movie, who would play your main characters?
An actress playing Lena would 1) have to look great with maroon hair and 2) be adept at playing ‘beautifully broken’. I think my top pick would be Rose Leslie. She has a fierce strength, but is wonderful at deep emotion. For Truman, I’d want someone who could play the pretentious, entitled asshole, but also being devilishly sexy. Maybe Tom Hiddleston. For Vera, I’d definitely want Alfre Woodard; she’s amazing.
What was most challenging thing writing about mermaids?
I wanted the details to feel real, to force my readers to plunge into the water and experience what Lena was experiencing. I didn’t want to be too over-the-top with shimmering green tails and other Disney-esque details. I wanted balance. That was difficult as I’ve been so inundated with the happier version of mermaids. The hardest thing though was getting into the mind of a woman who truly feels that suicide might be preferable to living. It’s a dark place. I’ve been there and it jolts the psyche.
Ursula or Ariel?
Ursula, hands down. I loved the most recent season of Once Upon a Time. Villains need to win every now and then. And Ursula was so wonderfully conniving in the Disney movie (she was less so in the original HCA story, actually warning the littlest mermaid of what trading in her tail would bring).
What else should we know about your novella?
It has a lot of ugliness in it- flashbacks to an abusive foster home, the reality of psychological/verbal abuse in a relationship. If you’re going to read it, be ready to read all of it, not just the happy bits under the sea.
About the Author
Eli is the author of Dead Trees, Dead Trees 2, Mastic, DRAG.N, and Z Children: Awakening. She is a contributing author to Let’s Scare Cancer to Death, State of Horror: New Jersey, State of Horror: Illinois, and Fading Hope. Her books are available in eBook, paperback, and audio formats.