He could hear the ocean in his ears and he could see the waves when he closed his eyes.
Frank jammed his cold fingers into his coat pockets. They were numb in the wind. His jacket was thin. But it helped.
There wasn’t anyone in the parking lot. The taxi had dropped him off at the entrance, so he had to walk across the entire length. He stared across the blacktop; the bar was open.
He stepped lightly over the concrete, his breath fogging the way ahead of him.
There were people in there, and that’s all he needed.
Frank’s glass was cool in his fingers. He twisted it around idly, the ring on his left hand clinking against it quietly as he looked past the bartender to the bottles stacked neatly on the shelf. Perfectly sorted and dust-free.
Frank tapped the counter and suddenly felt homesick.
Not for the tiny apartment downtown with its stained bathtubs and broken light bulbs. Not for his orange, striped tabby, Gertrude. He didn’t even feel the homesick toward his kitchen. The kitchen he’d spent six years getting up at midnight to eat potato chips at the one-person sized table with a broken leg.
He felt homesick for the ocean. He could hear it in his ears and he could see the waves when he closed his eyes. It didn’t even help when he rented the whole public swimming pool for an hour or two and just swam, flipping his tail in the blue-green of the water. He felt wrong on land, just as Gerard had warned him he would. But he couldn’t go back, because he knew he’d stay. And he just couldn’t.
And Gerard. His best childhood friend, his playmate through all the adventures they’d shared for almost seventeen years, and his lover, even if only for the last two. Gerard stuck by him even when Frank was ridiculed by the community for having red tinted fins instead of green; it was a dishonour to the family.
Frank had spent only a few more years with the man after his first encounter with the human world. He couldn’t just keep his curiosity bottled up like that; it wasn’t how he lived.
Learning to speak wasn’t difficult. But learning how society worked was another story. It wasn’t divided into class by family lines, and the cities weren’t all ruled by monarchies.
Now twenty-three, Frank sat in the place he’d first even seen a human. They looked so much like him. When his fins were gone, anyways.
Frank closed his eyes, sighing. The bartender asked if he was alright, and he just nodded.
He needed to get back.