Inspired by a trip to SeaWorld and my love of Encantados.
The entirety of Dolores Milagros’ life was spent wishing she were somebody else. Unfortunately, life was not a fairytale and there were no genies, eager to free her from the confines of adulthood, and no wizards looking to send her home. However, today she was given a brief reprieve. Her stepmother had company over and wanted everyone out of the house. So, Dolores was tossed a handful of bills and told to make scarce.
If it were just her, she would spend the day at the library. With Alondra and Hortensia, that was not an option. They were well-behaved girls and could be placated with a computer screen. It was their mother that was the problem. Dolores resembled her father too much to please the woman. Her stepmother had once accused Dolores of hoarding savings. Savings Dolores had put away for tuition. There was no telling what her stepmother would say if Dolores kept any of the woman’s actual money. She had to spend it somewhere and it had to be good enough for stepmother’s perfect children.
The heat was only permeated by the humidity. In her weakened state, Dolores agreed to take her sisters to celebrate Waterworld’s fiftieth anniversary. Aside from the typical mermaids and krakens, the park promised brand new attractions to commemorate the momentous event. As they entered, Dolores had a brochure thrust at her. She took it with chagrin. She felt simultaneously too old and too young to be here.
The girls rushed past the axolotls to the raspas. Dolores sighed. It was a bit sad. Over the years, the original attractions had been pushed towards the front. It was a vain hope to garner interest. The dolphins and the manta rays just did not interest kids anymore. Dolores held a soft spot for the section. Her dad loved had taken her there for her first birthday. The picture was still on her desk at home, though the original frame had been lost to one of her stepmother’s rants.
Dolores caught up to her sisters. She conversed with the vendor as she paid for the raspas. Dolores was decent at small talk from her years of working customer service. However, it never stopped feeling like an obligation.
“I haven’t been here in years. I have no idea what we should see,” she said.
“I recommend the encantado. It arrived a few years ago and is quite a sight to see,” the vendor said.
“Encantado?” She tried to remember that from her biology class. It sounded vaguely familiar, but she was drawing a blank.
“Dolphin folk. They are usually found in the Amazon.”
The vendor launched into a story about how their mother would warn them to stay away from the river at night. Much like sirens, they were capable of enchanting people, in hopes of taking them back to the Encante. The children listened to the vendor, enraptured. Dolores started looking through the map. The Encantado was at the very back. Dolores opened her mouth to suggest something else. Something with less of a trek.
“He is the only one in the state. They have been looking for others to keep him company, but so far, it’s just him.”
Dolores looked at her sisters’ sparkling eyes. She sighed. Great.
The sisters made it to the encantado’s exhibit. No one suffered from heatstroke, but it was a close call. The girls joined a tour group just as the guide finished their warning about not feeding the encantado. There was a tank of water and a place for the trainers to stand. No rocks. No vines. Nothing that made Dolores think even remotely of the Amazon.
“And here he comes!”
Dolores turned her head. She stopped breathing. He was prettier than any mermaid could ever hope to be. She had expected an encantado to be bald, like a dolphin, but he wasn’t. She couldn’t see his blowhole, but she knew it had to be among the curly mass of hair. His tail swayed back and forth. Dolores couldn’t help but stare. Most dolphins were gray, but his tail had a pink hue. Her hands opened and closed. Would his tail feel as smooth as it looked?
She was pulled away from her invasive thoughts by her little sister.
“Aren’t encantados supposed to look like dolphins in the water?” Alondra asked.
The guide nodded.
“In the wild, that is true. However, because Mariano is close to the surface, he retains a partial human form. The deeper they are in the water, the more dolphin-like they become,” they said. “Don’t worry, it is not a sign of bad health.”
“Is he ever in human form?” Hortensia asked.
“Not really. Most encantados don’t leave the water unless they are searching for a mate.”
“A mate?” asked Hortensia.
“It’s like a spouse,” the guide said.
Dolores looked back at Mariano. His eyes met hers and she stiffened. It was as if he knew they were talking about him. Dolores flushed slightly. She swore the encantado raised an eyebrow. Dolores hoped she wasn’t blushing.
“Of course, Mariano didn’t have a mate and as he now lives in captivity, it is unlikely he ever will. But don’t worry; he lives a fulfilling life. We are learning so much about his species from him and he doesn’t have to worry about predators.”
The guide continued walking, thereby preventing any more questions about Mariano. Her sisters were quickly distracted. They were excited to see the Loch Ness Monster V’s new baby.
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