The little lion cub had a mane of golden hair that framed its tiny heart-shaped face like a flowing crown of leaping flames. The lion known as Ray, was fierce and curious and silly. A funny combination of things that met much like two seas colliding: uproariously, beautifully, magically.
Ray lived in a yellow desert, arid and quiet and dry. The funny thing about deserts is they sometimes end unexpectedly. In the case of the lion, this desert nudged itself right up against the sea and so, it truly did end quite abruptly.
The tide pulled the lapping waters back each day much like a blanket reveals rumpled sheets and dreams: full of little crevasses for sand and other surprises to hide. Although the lion did not wonder why the sea played these funny games, our fearsome feline certainly delighted in the change it brought.
For where the salt water would curl and pound and spray, rocks would be revealed, deliciously opening a path for Ray to walk right out to the edge and peer down to the ocean floor.
As with most any cat you’ll ever meet, Ray found water to be quite loathsome. In fact, it’s said that the more fierce the feline, the more fretful they are of getting wet. (Why that is, we’ll not pretend to know, but it certainly plays an important part in our story!)
And so, our sunny little lion cub could find no friends to journey out onto the sea rocks even though there were endless treats to be had:
Squishy, watery sea anemones all covered in bits of shell and sand but tasty all the same.
Spikey, painful, slow and delectable sea urchins; inky purple and ready for attack, but hiding irresistible little orange bellies that were all quite worth the pain.
All sorts of shells, of course. Full of all sorts of muscly little snacks, if one were patient enough to pry them open!
And, oh! What’s this something new just out of Ray’s reach? Stars? No, stars they couldn’t be. Red, indigo, tangerine and pink? Certainly there must be something wrong for stars were found in the night sky, Ray knew. Definitely, never in the sea. As our brave little lion stood, flummoxed, head pivoting this way and that, golden mane tossing about in the breeze, the most curious little laugh seemed to have floated up with the salty spray of the sea.
And curious was the girl known as Nova on the other end of that velvety giggle. For, where Ray was fire and light, Nova was all liquid, sparkling, fluid and free. Her long, brown hair caught the light the sun cast down to the sea and gently coiled around her quizzical eyes as she watched Ray watching the sea stars.
Nova delighted in the playground just beneath the shoreline that Ray found so interesting for it was her home and always had been. Everything from the salt on her skin and the sun in her eyes; the rush of the waves and pace of the tides set her absolutely free. Yet, she couldn’t resist peeking out each afternoon to catch a glimpse of Ray, wandering the edge of the tide pools and struggling with the tasty treats she plucked from the water. And, Nova too, loved to snack on what hid inside the shells (especially the tiny black mussels).
Ray startled and gave a little snarl once Nova swam into view. While our lion cub was fierce and quick, she found herself on funny footing way out at the sea’s edge with this strange little sea creature. Nova had been watching Ray for some time and had seen the way the stars lit up the little cub’s curiosity and so she offered up one in the brightest hue to give a closer view.
Ray was entranced. She had long looked to the stars in the sky at night to light her path, but what of these soft and colorful creatures, lying just beneath the water? Had they fallen all this way from the sky? Wishing to soothe her befuddlement, Nova continued to pluck star after star from the waters for Ray to consider.
Very soon, the lion and the mermaid found themselves talking and laughing and laughing and talking just like old friends do, until the sun sank down into the horizon and the tides crept back to the sandy shore. Almost, and as if all at once, Ray found herself trapped in the tossing waters, perched on the rock where she’d first met Nova just a few hours before, dark water swirling all around and lapping at her paws.
Scared and unsure, the mermaid cheered the lion with the long-secret story of the sea stars and how they came to light the night sky. And so, with her magic, Nova tossed Ray’s favorite stars up from the sea right into the velvety blue above to light the night for them both.
Eased by the soft light they’d arranged, Ray sunk into sleep and awakened right there where she was when she’d first heard that magical laughter. The waters had retreated once again, only this time, Nova was there, too, waiting patiently and smiling her knowing smile. The two never had to promise for they knew they’d see each other every day thereafter when the tides melted back and opened the path to the sea.
And that is the story of the lion and the mermaid and how the sea stars found the night.