The Worth of Hair

“Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.” Kika held up the knife the stranger had given her up to the light.  “There’s this mermaid, right? Can’t be more than fifteen, maybe even younger. One day she sees some bloke chilling by the ocean and what do you know the idiot falls in. She saves him, she leaves before he wakes up, but she’s already fallen in love. Somehow. Never understood that part.”

The stranger said nothing. Kika continued, silently admiring the skill that went into the short blade. “Anyway, the mermaid is head over tails for this guy. No idea who he is, what his deal is, but she’s already in love. Feh. Can’t blame her too much. I remember being her age. Love happened hard and fast back then. Love was everything. There was this guy back in my village named Hugin that…well. That’s a different story. Not the one you’re probably interested in.

So this mermaid, this sweet little thing decides to go take matters into her own hands. She swims to the very bottom of the ocean and meets with The Sea Witch. A creature so powerful you gotta say every part of her title with capital letters. She, The Sea Witch, makes a deal with the mermaid. In exchange for the mermaid’s voice she’ll turn her into a human.”

“Where are you going with this?” The stranger finally said, her voice raw. “You’re wasting my time.”

“Fine, I’ll skip a bit. Bloke was a prince, prince was already getting married, and just as the mermaid is about to jump back into the ocean and end it all her sisters show up with a way for her to come home. Do you know what they had?” Kika paused, knowing that the stranger wouldn’t answer. “A knife. They gave their hair to The Sea Witch and got a knife in return. The story goes on from there but honestly that’s where I lose interested. Me, I always wanted to know more about that knife. A knife made by The Sea Witch would be a powerful object. One made from the tears of the mermaid’s sisters, sharp enough that a teenage girl could kill with only the flick of her wrist. I’d love to see a knife like that with my own two eyes.”

Kika let a heavy silence fall between them as she ran a finger down the carvings on the knife’s hilt. It truly was a beautiful piece. The only flaw was the obvious bent tip at the top of the blade. The stranger was still staring at her. The stranger didn’t seem to be aware of how often one should blink. “So where did you get this knife, stranger?”

The stranger wobbled. She couldn’t have been older than fifteen. “It’s mine. I paid for it. It’s mine. Can you fix it?”

Kika nodded. “I ain’t The Knife Maker for nothing. Give me until sunset and I’ll have it as right as rain. I gotta ask though, how did you bend the blade like that?”

The stranger remembered to blink. “It fell into the ocean. Hit a rock. Are you sure it’ll be ready by tonight?”

“Sure will. Gotta close up shop in time for the big wedding celebration tonight.” Kika watched the stranger hobble towards the window. The streets were already filled with party goers, booze and music flowing freely between the dancing masses. “Ain’t every day that a prince gets married.”

She watched the stranger in silence as the stranger watched the crowds out the window. Couldn’t have been older than fourteen. It was hard to put an exact age on the stranger with that boyish haircut of hers. The stranger turned to face her. “How does the story end?”

Kika licked her lips. “I think you already know.”

For the first time since she arrived the stranger smiled. “Sunset. I will be back at sunset. Just in time for the celebration.” With those words the stranger limped out of the shop, legs too stiff to walk properly.

Kika wondered if she should stop her. Warn someone. Warn the prince and his bride-to-be at least. But she remembered what it was like to be that age. Love was everything.

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