Armin always believed in magical beings ever since grandpa had read The Little Mermaid to him. His grandpa had always told him, “Even if people don’t believe it, doesn’t mean they’re not there.”
For Armin’s sixth birthday he was finally taken to the ocean. Even for such a small child, he found the ocean to the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. The waves constantly crashing against one another, the way the sand fell onto the earth rolling in with the tide, but especially the animals that would pop up only to go back beneath the surface once again to hide from the world.
“Don’t wander too far, you hear me Armin?”
The cute button nose blonde giggled, “I won’t! I promise!”
Barreling down the shoreline and scaring off a few of the local birds, small pail and shovel in hand, Armin picked a spot not too far from where he’d be seen. He always wanted to build a sandcastle. Not a big one, one big enough for the crabs to get into when the tide got too high.
This was the best birthday he had ever had, even better than when he got to go to camping with Mikasa and Eren.
Once the castle was about two stories, he decided it would need decorations, chairs, and a table for the little crabs to relax with. Walking a little further down to where a pile of rocks sat, once again, pail in hand, he picked a few he thought would be just perfect for the castle.
That’s when he saw the boy. He was peeking from behind one of the bigger rocks going towards the side of the island.
“Hi! Would you like to help me build a sandcastle for the crabs?!”
The boy leaned a little farther over and shouted. “They have houses already.”
“They do?!” Taking a few steps more towards the boy to ask him how he knew such a thing, the other boy suddenly vanished. “Wait!” Just like that he vanished...into the ocean.
His grandpa told him maybe it was another person visiting the island.
The last day there they went down on the shoreline one last time.
Armin had hoped maybe the other boy was still there, and they’d get to play, and he would ask him more about the crabs.
“Armin, stay in away from the water there’s supposed to be a storm today.”
“Okay, grandpa.” He was sad they were leaving today. He liked the ocean.
Picking a spot a bit closer to the rocks this time, he did what he’d previously done before. This time he got around to making not one, but two sandcastles. Staring out into the distance he wondered what was out there. It seemed so big. How much water was there? Grandpa had told him it wasn’t safe to go in by himself and since arriving he hadn’t really gotten to be in the ocean.
Feeling a tiny bit brave, even though grandpa said not to, he snuck toward the water to see what it felt like. If grandpa didn’t see him, he would never know, and he could keep it a secret between himself and the ocean.
Gently sticking one toe into the edge of the water and peeking to see if grandpa was looking, he quickly took it back out. It was much colder than he thought it’d be. Taking a full step with one foot, he planted it and watched as the water rose over his foot. He giggled and with a bit more courage stuck the other foot in.
Although he was enjoying it, he wasn’t use to the way the sand moved beneath his feet coming in with the waves. In one second he lost his balance and landed straight on his back. It all happened so quickly he didn’t even have time to scream. Before he knew it he was completely under the current and being dragged further out. He tried his hardest to swim, but he couldn’t fight the sea.
Suddenly, he felt arms around him. He was suddenly back above water and gasping for air. The boy. Armin couldn’t say thank you for coughing what water he got in his lungs out.
The boy accompanied him back to the shore, on account of the waves were still rolling in strong.
“Are you trying to get killed?!"
“I just wanted to feel the ocean.” Armin sputtered.
“Feel it when you can swim. You could have drowned you know?”
Finally, Armin got two feet back on land as the other stayed in the water, “You’re still in the water.”
“Yeah. Well, my dad made sure I was a strong swimmer.”
Sticking his hand out, “I’m Armin by the way.”
“Uh, I’m… Jean.” Jean made no movement to shake his hand.
“You’re supposed to shake peoples hand y’know?”
“We don’t exactly shake hands where I’m from.” He lowered himself a little lower into the water almost hiding his face.
Armin sat down, “Where are you from?”
“You’ve probably never heard of it. There aren’t a lot of us and all my family like to keep quiet.”
“I can keep a secret!” Armin scooted a tiny bit closer waiting for an answer.
Jean chuckled, “You’re really weird. I like you though, you’re the first person to ever talk to me.”
“I like you too, thank you for saving me. Grandpa’s gonna kill me for getting my clothes wet.”
As if on cue, “ Armin?! Armin, where are you?! ”
“Well I gotta go my grandpa is loo--” Soon as he turned around Jean was gone.
Jumping over the rocks and back around to his original spot he ran over to show he was alright.
“My boy, what happened? You didn’t go into the water by yourself did you?”
“No. I had a friend with me.” Armin looked up with big eyes at his grandpa and something about them and the truth they held, made him believe him.
“Well, next time how about you tell me before you do. The ocean is very dangerous, I don’t want you getting hurt. You look tired, son.”
“I am. Is it time to go home now?”
Picking the tired little boy up, and he headed back up the trail, and the Arlerts made their way back home.