Her husband watches, her prince, dear and gentle Eric. He will be a king of men and she is the daughter of the sea, a child of tempest and depths. He watches as she goes to the beach every morning, wades up to her knees, lets her hair down and sings. Her song is not for human ears and she knows he does not understand.
Her sisters hear and come, powerful tails giving them speed through the water no man could attain. Together, voices twining around each other, they sing the song of the ocean, daughters of the sea, princesses of the most potent kingdom in the world.
Once their song ends, as the sun rises, her sisters ask her to come back. She longs to—she misses them, and their father, her friends and the adventures found beneath the waves.
But Eric waits patiently in the castle, her sweet and gentle husband. She knows now that she does not love him, not yet. The lust and infatuation have faded to a deep friendship. She could grow to love him.
Always, she tells her sisters no. They clasp her hands, run fingers through her tangled and salty hair, and tell her the sea is immortal.
Your human will die, her sisters murmur. And you will live on, as long as the sea.
As they swim away, leaving her in the shallows, longing to follow, she whispers, I will come home one day.
She is the youngest daughter of the ocean, beloved, favored above all others. She is wife of a kind and gentle man. But the tempests roar in her blood and eventually the call will be too strong. She'll leave Eric; she'll leave the courtiers who watch with cold, judging eyes; she'll leave the land with all its marvels and wonders—she'll return to the sea.
Eric watches as she walks out of the waves; they lap at her feet, splashing her sodden night-clothes. Her hair is long and tangled, soaked with salt, fire-bright as the sun shines down on her.
She will miss the warmth of the sun, when she goes home.
He does not understand, she knows. He remembers their battle with the sea witch; he remembers her tail and how she walked out of the sea on strong human legs. But he is only a man and he cannot hear the call, and one day she will go back to the ocean and swim to the depths.
Her sisters wait for her, and their father, and the immortal, endless sea.