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The Mermaid Lifeguard

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It gets tiring, after a while, dealing with Skeeter. He's a good man, and Jill is sure he's the right man for someone, but he's talking about building a motel like his father's and moving all his family into it, which Jill approves of wholeheartedly, really, if that's what he wants to do, God knows he has enough experience.

Jill just doesn't want to be there through it all, stick with him through it. Much as she loves the kids and as Wendy's her best friend—and her boss, let's not forget Wendy's Jill's boss—she doesn't feel able to put up with Skeeter for much longer, and she's sure everyone involved would rather a sad and well-timed break-up than a truly painful divorce.

Wendy won't have to let the kids indulge in junk food for months to keep their uncle company, for one.

Surprisingly, instead of lazing around in his boxers and Wendy having to check in every other day to make sure he hasn't drowned in his own stink, Skeeter puts his all into the motel. Jill has to admit it turns out pretty well, after all, even better than she expected.

It also causes Wendy to call Jill after dinner so often that Jill ends up just staying there for most of the afternoon, going back once the kids are asleep.

Because, see, Jill takes on the duty of telling them their bedtime stories.

 

*

 

Jill is closely acquainted with children's books. She spends an important portion of her day in a room full of them: shelves full of them, desks full of them, floor full of them. She reads them and she cleans them and she hands them over to the kids. She tells them what the books are about, and how long they are, and mentions and highlights the things in them that might appeal to them in particular. She picks them up and puts them back on the shelf.

For all that, Jill is not particularly creative, so she rips all these books off for the sake of Bobbi and Patrick.

"All right," she says, nodding in concentration. The kids look up expectantly. "All right. Once upon a time, there was a young girl—"

"Named Bobbi?" Bobbi asks. Kids are really easy sometimes.

"Named Bobbirella, who lost her—" Jill stops, because real life Bobbi lost her dad, sort of, and maybe that wasn't the best choice of tale ever. "Bobbirella," she begins again, "who moved away to college."

The kids frown.

"Indeed. Her m—a friend of her mother's, see, had a hotel in the city where Bobbirella was going to study, and this friend, called—"

"Mickey!" Patrick suggests.

Jill chuckles and shakes her head. "Mickey. Mickey graciously allowed Bobbirella to stay at his hotel. But Mickey was just the owner: the hotel was run by an evil, evil woman with two evil, evil daughters."

"Like Violet!" Bobbi says.

"Violet's evil?" Jill asks.

Bobbi frowns in thought. "I guess not."

Patrick lights up. "I know who the evil stepm—I mean, hotel runner could be!"

"Just say the word, Patrick."

"Aspen," he states.

Jill nods in recognition. "All right, Aspen ran the hotel. And of course, as soon as Bobbirella's mother turned away, Aspen decided that Bobbirella must do something to earn her room and board."

So goes on the story of Bobbirella, who had to clean toilets and wait tables and sweep the lobby and carry room service trays and fix old men's televisions.

Eventually they get to Jill the Godmother, and to the castle, and to Jill being around, watching over Bobbirella.

"Jill the Godmother should fall in love too," Bobbi says with a sigh.

"I don't think it works like that," Jill says. "Plus, I dare you to find one available man for her."

"The king!" Bobbi says.

"Too old."

"Mr. Wilkinson from second grade," Patrick says.

"Happily married," Jill says. "And definitely not Jill the Godmother's type. She needs someone a little more. . .alive."

"Brad Pitt," Bobbi says.

"Couldn't deal with all the pressure from the media," Jill says, and adds, seeing as she's speaking to now very confused kids, "and way too famous."

So they let it go.

Eventually the story ends with Jill standing in a corner of the hotel restaurant, working her magic on the feet of clumsy boys.

"And Bobbirella and Mickey lived happily ever after," she ends.

"Ew," Bobbi says, grimacing.

"It's not you, stupid, it's Bobbirella," Patrick says, and Bobbi hurls a pillow at him.

 

*

 

"So there was once a pharaoh—" Jill starts.

"Finally a good role for me," Patrick says proudly, and Jill wonders where he's heard that.

"Exactly," she says, just as Bobbi's saying, "Big head."

Patrick hurls a pillow at Bobbi.

"Don't be childish," Jill says.

"Why not?" Patrick says. "This is the only time of our lives where society empathizes with us if we are."

"I think you mean sympathize," Jill says, ever the teacher, and then, "Have you been talking to Skeeter?"

Bobbi shrugs.

"Anyway," Jill continues, "Patrickammon the First ruled over Egypt, and. . ."

 

*

 

"I think Jill needs a happy ending," Bobbi says.

"Why?" Jill asks. "Jill is happy to help Bobbirella and Patrickammon in their adventures."

Bobbi ponders this, clutching the end of her comforter. "She needs a happy ending."

"Yeah," Patrick agrees.

"So which Jill are we talking about here?" Jill asks. "Jill the Godmother? Jillian the Mermaid?"

"Mermaid teacher," Patrick corrects.

"I never got the whole of that," Jill points out. "Like, I teach mermaids, or. . .?"

Bobbi laughs and shakes her head. "No, you're a teacher who's also a mermaid."

"Ah," Jill says. "So we're giving Jillian the Mermaid a happy ending, then."

"Yes," Bobbi says.

Jill chuckles. "Okay. Jillian lived in the deep blue sea, with her friends Flounder," she gestures towards Patrick, "and Sebastian," she gestures to Bobbi.

"Why do I have to be the cranky crab?"

"Because your name shares two letters with him," Jill explains. "And you're smart."

Bobbi smiles.

"One fateful day," Jill continues, "Jillian stumbled across a ship wreckage."

And the story goes on until Jill gets to the part where the mermaid meets Prince Eric.

"He's drowning," Patrick says thoughtfully, "who do we know that can't swim?"

"Violet," Bobbi suggests. Jill raises an eyebrow.

"Violet can't swim?" Patrick asks.

"I don't know," Bobbi says. "It would be realistic." Jill raises her other eyebrow.

"But Violet's a girl," Patrick generously points out.

"But mom said Jill used to date Miss Gomez," Bobbi says.

"Wait," says Jill, "your mom told you that?"

The kids ignore her.

"Definitely Violet," Bobbi says, and then they're telling the story themselves.

 

*

 

Jill goes with Wendy and the kids to visit the motel when it's built, just missing all the furniture and half the basic installations. There's a pool and the kids point at it and talk to each other in hushed tones until Skeeter comes up from behind them and sweeps them off their feet.

See, that's the kind of thing Jill couldn't put up with. Dealing with something like that daily is pretty strenuous.

They have lunch on the roof, and Mickey, Violet and Mr. Nottingham join them halfway through.

"I think I'm gonna have a swim," Violet says when they're done, following up an announcement that she's not dating Mickey anymore, and Jill's eyes go wide.

This is what Skeeter was talking about.

"You're gonna drown," Jill blurts out.

"What?" asks Violet.

"The kids, they were telling this—" Jill starts, and realises how stupid it sounds. "You shouldn't go. It's not undergone all the proper testing, that water," she says. "Plus, there's no lifeguard. You need a lifeguard."

"To swim in a pool?" Violet asks incredulously, and then Skeeter and Wendy are sharing glances like they can communicate through their mind, which is honestly freaky, and Skeeter's kicking Mickey on the shin.

"You should go with her," Mickey says to Jill. "To make sure she's all right."

"Yeah, you should definitely come with," Violet says excitedly. "Not because I need saving," she adds, glaring at Mickey, "but 'cause it'll be good fun."

Still, Jill gets distracted for a moment, keeping the towel around herself while she changes into a green bathing suit that has 'Marty's Motel' plastered all over it—thank goodness she's the first one to wear them—and when she looks back, Violet's splashing water all over and Jill has to jump in to get her.

Ridiculously enough, the first thing Violet does after coughing, still in the pool, still within Jill's arms, is say, "My heroine," and promptly proceed to kiss her, just like in the tale.

Ridiculously enough, the second thing is squirt water through her nose onto Jill's face.

"What did just happen?" Violet says, once she's safe on the only deck chair Skeeter's bought so far.

"You almost drowned," Mickey supplies. There's a circle surrounding Violet's deck chair, though she's fine, seriously, it was supposed to happen.

"This was your doing?" Skeeter says—squeals, actually—to the kids.

The kids have the indecency to look accomplished with themselves.

"Nice," Skeeter says, and Jill wonders when the hell Skeeter got over their break-up.

"Shut up," Jill tells him, shaking her head, and standing up to change into her normal clothes.

Violet, though, clutches her hand, and there's a stupid spark between them, like the first time their gaze locked at the hotel. It's not normal. "Wait," she says. "We're in a fairytale?"

"Sort of," says Jill. "It's a long story."

"Is it?" asks Violet. "If it is, I don't really want it cut this short."

Which is a ridiculous thing to say, but Violet is completely serious, and Jill has to laugh.

"I don't really know what happens next," Jill says.

"Ah, we'll take care of that," Skeeter says, looking at the kids.

"Don't you dare," says Jill.

"But look how cute you guys look together," Skeeter says. Violet nods sweetly, and Jill blushes for a second.

"If you work yourself in, I will kill you," says Jill.

"Jill, come on, they're bedtime stories," Skeeter says. "They have to be Wendy-approved."

Wendy smacks him on the head.

"Seriously, don't," adds Jill.

But the kids are already plotting.