I raise tearful eyes to the compassionate Sea Fairy who looks at me with merciful eyes moving her sight to my hand covering the left side of my chest with thin streams of blood springing from among my shivering fingers. “You are hurt… bleeding!” She says while patting my head with comforting hands. I nod, not being able to open my mouth. The pain is too strong to endure. “What do you want, dear Mermaid?” she asks in a soft voice. I open my mouth to speak but words do not come out. I close my eyes, gasp for air and gather all the remaining strength in my weak body and say: “I do not want it any more. It beats only pain to my body. Pluck it out… drag all my veins along with it. I do not want to keep this beating, bleeding heart inside!” I say with fierce, painful voice. “If I do so, you will not be able to feel anything any more. No sight, voice, or touch will ever be felt inside you. Can you take the sacrifice?” I close my eyes for a moment, thinking of you… of the pain… of the love this heart is still beating to every cell of my aching body. “Yes!” The Sea Fairy moves gracefully to the corner of her cave to bring what she would put inside my chest in place of my heart. “It might be beautiful” she says while approaching with a luminous body in her fair hands, “yet it is not a heart. It does not beat. It does not feel”. “And it will not bleed! It will not ache!” I say with a faint voice. I look into her hand to find a beautiful pearl, craved in the shape and size of a heart. I touch it feeling its smooth, cold surface.
She looks at me in the eyes and whispers while putting the pearl heart in my hands: “Enjoy your last beat, your last tear… enjoy even your last pain, for once I cast my spell, you’ll find your dying heart in your hand, and the pearl heart inside you”. I raise my eyes to the sky; embracing the last sensation of beauty I can feel, trying to engrave in my memory the salty taste of my last tear. Will my stone heart ever remember I had a beating heart once? Will it ever understand the sacrifice I had to make; exchanging a beating, bleeding heart with a cold, lifeless one? I look at her then close my eyes. She understands the gesture and raises her hands. I hear words I cannot understand. Dizziness engulfs my exhausted mind and I lose all my senses for a moment. Then silence prevails. I open my eyes and look in my hands. I raise my eyes with utter amazement to the Sea Fairy. “You are blessed, my dear Mermaid,” She says with a smile, “you have a heart that contains so much love that even my spells could not conquer. It cannot be replaced by a stone heart, no matter how beautiful it is…no matter how hard you try”. I burst in tears feeling a strange mixture of emotions; happiness that I would still bear this love for you inside me, and sadness for the unbearable burden of having to live without you. I give her back the pearl heart in grateful silence and jump back into the cold water. I sadly swim wondering if the pain would ever cease to be … or it would always live as long as I breathe!