Love Unlike Us

by Beata Garrett

Edited by Ashley Deng

When my father returned from work one day, he brought a bag of mermaid tears sewn into his sleeve so no one could steal it. He told my sister and I to collect the caught fish from the river and went to our backyard, but we ignored his order and stared at him as he planted the tears in our pond. The gentle motions of his hands wrapping each luminescent bead in a bed of seaweed and river moss made us sigh with envy. He walked back and forth every day to make sure the water was salted, carrying it in the one basket we used for drinking water. We went thirsty but the tears grew bigger, and father continued to carry more for his new children.

By the time they were born, he had taken to watching them for hours and guarded them more viciously than he had guarded my mother when she was pregnant with my sister. I heard his laughter, the first sound he had made in a while, and ran out. He was coming back to us! He must’ve realized how careless he had been with his own blood; he would cry at our feet and take us to get candied hawthorns or the mango one of the river vendors sold. Their sweetness already lay on my tongue but dissipated when he turned to me.

“Look at them. Come meet your new sisters.”

Drawn in against my will by curiosity, I saw them for the first time. Each one was no bigger than my pinky finger, and I remembered when my sister had been born. She had been devastatingly small and had so easily melted my heart. When I had given her my finger, she clutched onto it as if it would protect her from all the harm she would ever experience. These specks playfully wrapping themselves in seaweed and pushing curiously against the borders of our pond were not at all like my shy sister. Yet each one incited the same feeling she had when I looked at her and realized that my life was not only mine anymore.

Father smiled and took my hand gently. His hands were callused, but his tenderness in lowering me into the water burned the back of my eyes. He had never hugged his children, and the more time he spent with his new ones had made the tiny demonstrations of his love fade slowly from my mind. Now they rushed back, refilling me with a sense of peace. 

The water was so cold that my hand began throbbing, but I couldn’t remove it. Not when they were swimming through my fingers and brushing against skin so fervently. It was as if they were saying hello, as if they had made my hand into their home like those fish do in coral. I looked at father and he nodded. This was what it had all been for, and I almost forgave him fully in that moment. 

We both called out for my sister. Like me, she ran into the yard looking to be loved again. They would grow bigger and we would release them one day into their true home, back to the mother that cried them out, that terrifying expanse that we barely dipped our toes in. Some would overturn our ships and snatch the cormorants we used to fish, dragging them to the impenetrable depths to be consumed and discarded as bones on their floor. Others would push our ships through storms and send love letters of pearls and trembling jellyfish, a local delicacy, to our shores. Still, others would see us as no more than something to swim around or as loud disturbances to be ignored. 

I wanted to be loved by each one of my new siblings but knew I could be forgotten by each one. But father hadn’t brought them so we could be loved or because we were lonely. He brought them for my sister and I so we could learn to love something that wasn’t us.

© Copyright Beata Garrett

Beata Garrett (She/They) is a Chinese American writer based in NYC. They love horror movies, video games, RPGs, and fantasy. You can find them on Twitter @XiaBeata and their writing at

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