This is based off a story that I am writing called Avarice. Hopefully it will be published someday. As for the oneshot, enjoy!

The Sketch
By Samantha Flores

Gabriel's feet sank into the sand as he walked along the beach. The sunlight ran warm hands up his back and into his sandy hair. The sound of the ocean felt like inspiration and he looked out onto the water. The black sketchbook in his hand was calling him.

He continued to walk when he saw the back of a woman ahead. She was sitting on a rock in shallow water. The waves rushed to meet her and crashed against the rock. Long, brown curls fell down her back. She ran her hands through it and picked it up slightly, revealing her bare back. The woman's skin was ivory, untouched by the sun's kiss, and her pearl nails sparkled against the light as they fell through her hair.

Gabriel felt himself walking towards her. He stopped when the ocean lapped at his heels and opened his sketchbook. A gust of wind almost knocked the book out of his hand and the rustle of paper caused the woman to look over her shoulder.

Gabriel froze. It was improper for him to be there. He should have announced himself, told the lady of his presence so she could cover herself, but it was too late. Her hazel eyes stared into him. He had been caught.

Gabriel felt the need to say something. "Um...I-I'm terribly sorry, my lady..." He felt his face flush and it made him feel like the fool he knew he was. He quickly lowered his gaze to the sand. "I just happened to be walking by-"

"It's all right." The woman said but Gabriel dare not look at her. "Is that a sketchbook?"

"Yes, my lady." Caught again.

"Were you about to take my portrait?"

Gabriel wasn't sure if she was angry or not. But he had already been caught, why hold anything back? "Yes..."

A pause followed and Gabriel was about to take a step back when he heard her say, "Well I can assure you that I do not resemble sand. Give me a minute."

A splash erupted and Gabriel looked up to see the woman vanished. He saw something shimmer beneath the waves and the woman beached herself next to him.

Gabriel felt his eyes widen. Curled behind her was a long, silver scaled tail. The sunlight caught the scales and reflected them against Gabriel's face. The light was blinding and yet beautiful.

"You're..." He started to say.

"Yes," The woman said with a smile. "I am." She raised an eyebrow. "What about my portrait?"

Gabriel had to force himself to look into her eyes and not her tail. He realized they weren't hazel at all but a medley of different colors. It was as if she had captured a rainbow in her irises. He thought it would be best if he stopped talking, lest he scare her away, and sat on the sand away from the water's touch. He opened his sketchbook wordlessly and took out a piece of charcoal.

The mermaid arched her back. Her silver tail curled inward and grazed the middle of her spine. Brown curls fell over her chest and the sunlight flickered off the few scales that trickled from her waist up the sides of her torso.

Gabriel found himself smiling. He realized that, as most women did, she loved the attention. It made her seem less of a creature, more approachable, and he found himself talking once more.

"What's your name?" He asked.

She rested her chin inside of her palm and smiled again. "What do you want it to be?"

Gabriel could only think of one. "Emily is a beautiful name."

"Then I shall be Emily."

The drawing went slow. Every other moment Gabriel would look over his shoulder to see if anyone was coming. Each time he looked up from his sketchbook at Emily she would stare at him with a searching look. As if she could see into his heart and knew all of his secrets.

"I've never had my likeness drawn before." She said after some time.

Gabriel could have laughed. "Not many artists where your from?"

Emily rolled on her back and stretched her arms. She buried her hands under the sand. "None actually. Strange really, you would have thought someone would have tried by now."

"They're probably too busy...Sinking ships and all." Gabriel's hand stopped at the bottom of a thick line. He probably shouldn't become to comfortable with a mermaid...

Emily laughed. It was a sparkling sound made of droplets of water and crystalized joy. Gabriel looked at her as she laughed while laying against the sand. Her scales glittered against her body. They trailed from her tail, up the sides of her torso, to spread over her chest and fleck towards her collarbone. Against her pale skin, her scales shimmered brilliantly. When she laughed, they seemed to laugh too.

"Sinking ships really is an art form, you know." She turned to look at him. Small bits of sand kissed her cheek and hugged the curve of her soft chin. "It takes more than a pretty face. You cannot simply show up and expect the ship to crumble."

Gabriel felt transfixed in her multicolored gaze. He recovered a grin and some wit within the haze he found himself in. "I'm sure a few can."

Emily looked surprised for a moment and then rolled back onto her stomach and winked at him. "Well we can't all be as handsome as you are."

"It really is a curse." Gabriel shrugged and went back to his sketch.

There was a moment of silence and then Emily spoke. "No...A curse is to live a life stealing hearts from those in love. Taking what isn't yours so you can survive and never being able to have what you take. That's a true curse."

Gabriel looked at Emily and saw she had turned around to sit upright. Her tail was curled towards her and her hands were wrapped around it like a child holding their knees. Her hair had fallen over her shoulder and all Gabriel could see was an eye. It was downcast, looking at the ocean reaching for her with a deep regret, a sorrow that Gabriel could never relate to.

"We're cursed. To live, mermaids have to steal the hearts of men in love and devour the liquid inside of their hearts." She ran a hand down the side of her tail. "To show allegiance to our kind we break the empty hearts we have taken and put the shards in between our scales."

"I heard tales..." Gabriel said softly. "But I never knew..."

She gave a short, hollow laugh. "Of course you didn't." She looked at the back of her hand. Against her pale skin were three black marks between her knuckles. "You also didn't know that, as a mermaid, there is only one way for us to be killed." Emily touched the marks. "By taking that which we cannot have, by falling in love." She pulled her hand into her chest and held it there like a treasure.

"Every mermaid has one human. That human has a specific pattern on the tips of their fingers and that pattern matches the one we have on the back of our hands." She intertwined her hands and pressed her fingers against the black marks. "If they match, we change into a human. But when we do, our scales recede into our flesh, which means the shards of shattered hearts do as well. No one has ever survived the transformation. Not one of us has lived to be loved."

Gabriel started intently at Emily. "If you know this, then why do you put the pieces in your tail?"

The water softly kissed the tip of Emily's fin. She lightly flicked her tail to make a small splash. "In the beginning there were three of us. Sisters, once muses we were cast into the ocean, stripped of our wings, and given tails instead. The oldest saved a prince from a shipwreck and fell in love with him. He turned her into a human and promised to marry her. One night she found him sleeping next to another woman. She took a knife and raised it but could not kill him. Instead, she ran to the ocean, to her sister's calls, and overcome by sorrow she melted into sea foam."

Emily reached out as the water came to her and cupped a small amount in her hand. "Every time the ocean climbs up the beach, there is a small film of white that comes with it. It's her tears. She'll never stop crying."

The tears fell down her face slowly. Gabriel set his sketch onto the sand and sat next to her. He placed a hand on her back, it was cool to his touch.

"Why are you telling me this?" He asked.

The mermaid wiped away her tears, looked at him, and smiled. "Maybe I'd like to be your Emily." She touched his face and leaned into him. "If only for a moment..."

Her kiss tasted like seawater. Her lips were soft against his. Gabriel ran his hand up her hair and he pulled her closer. He wanted to take her pain away, wanted to fill her with the feeling that had been building inside his chest since the moment he saw her. He wanted to tell her what it was like, let her experience it for herself.

Gabriel wanted to tell her he loved her.

The ocean abruptly splashed against them and it pulled Emily with it. Gabriel grabbed her by her waist and pressed her against him. Her scales slightly cut into his shirt. Emily wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

Without thinking, he reached behind himself and grabbed her hand. She tensed and her scales cut through his shirt and bit into his skin. He didn't break their gaze as he placed his fingers in between hers and squeezed her hand.

Gabriel didn't have the words to say what he needed her to feel. He didn't know how. So he kissed her instead. He held her hand tightly and kissed her.

Emily tensed again and this time she cried out. Gabriel pulled away from their kiss and saw her scales shine brighter than before. A thin line ran in the middle of her tail, almost as if it were separating.

Emily continued to cry out in pain. Pinpricks of blood started to appear like freckles over her legs. The silver scales slowly sank into her skin and Emily ripped her hand out of his.

The transformation stopped. Her scales returned and the line in her tail had disappeared. She stared at Gabriel incredulously and her breathing was heavy.

"Emily..." Gabriel started to shake his head. "I didn't think-"

The ocean rose once more and it swallowed her. Gabriel stood up and ran into the water calling out her name. "Emily, Emily!" He went out farther, until the water was wrapped around his torso and called out louder, "Emily!"

The waves slammed into him repeatedly as if punishing him for what he did. They didn't stop until he was thrown under the water. Gabriel spun and the back of his head collided with the ground.

He felt a pair of slender arms curl around him and pull him onto the shore. He was laid on his back and Gabriel looked into the colorful eyes of his rescuer. He felt her lips gently touch his and he whispered, "Wait," as they let go.

By the time Gabriel woke up the sun was beginning to set. The sky had taken on the beautiful color of Emily's eyes. He sat up, held the back of his head, and looked at the picture by his side.

It was a portrait of a smiling mermaid, her curls messily falling over her shoulder, laying on her torso in the sand. Her tail curled behind her and her eyes sparkling with laughter.

Every year, on that same day, Gabriel would draw a picture of the mermaid he met, include a note for her, place it in a glass bottle, and throw it into the ocean where he last saw her.

And every year, on that same day, Emily would look to the surface for a glass bottle, and read the contents on the rock where she first saw the artist that sent it.

It always ended with, I still love you.