Once upon a time, in a small town in the country, there was a little girl who was very lonely. She wasn't old enough to go to school, she didn't have any brothers or sisters, and there weren't any kids her age that lived near them. She spent her time trying to keep herself busy with whatever it was she could find to do in the house or in the yard. But she was always getting into trouble. If her mother told her not to go in the barn, she would go into the barn. If her mother told her not to swim in the pond, she would go swim in the pond. If her mother told her not to go outside and get all muddy, she would go outside and splash into the biggest mud puddle she could find. After a while, her mother got very frustrated with her. "Why don't you find some friends to play with?" the girl's mother said.
"But I don't have any friends, Mommy!" the little girl whined.
"Well why don't you make one up?" her mother suggested.
The little girl pouted, "I don't want a made up friend! I want a real one!"
"Well, what if I bought you a pet to play with?" her mother asked hopefully.
The little girl's face lit up brightly as she started to jump up and down in excitement. "Yes! Yes, Mommy yes! Can I have a puppy? Please?" the girl begged.
"Well, a puppy is a lot of responsibility. If I get you a pet to play with, you'll have to take care of him all by yourself. How about we start off with something small?" her mother asked. "Like a fish."
The little girl was more than happy with a fish. The next morning, the little girl and her mother walked to the pet store down the road. There were all kinds of fish there. The little girl couldn't pick which fish she wanted! She looked at all the fish in the store. Then when she finished looking at every single fish, she looked at each one again. "Hurry up and pick one," her mother said.
The little girl turned to a store clerk and asked, "Do you have any more fish?"
"Well, we do have a few more," the store clerk said. "These fish have to be kept in their own bowls because they'll fight with the other fish." The store clerk showed the little girl to a clear, round bowl sitting on a high counter with a single fish in it. "I guess we only have one left," the store clerk said, scratching the back of his head.
"That fish is all alone," the little girl said, "It must be lonely like me." The fish was yellow with a little light blue on its fins. And its fins trailed behind it like it was wearing a long dress that was blowing in the wind. It was the most beautiful thing the little girl had ever seen! She gladly took the fish home along with a shiny clear bowl, and some marbles and fake sea-weed to put in it.
"Now make sure you take good care of that fish. And make sure it stays in its bowl with plenty of water," her mother told her on their way back home.
"Oh I will, Mommy!" the little girl promised. The little girl loved her new fish. She played with it all day, and when it was time to go to bed, the little girl read the fish a bedtime story. She talked to her fish when she was upset and she took the fish's bowl with her almost everywhere she went.
But one day when it was raining, the little girl took the fish's bowl outside with her to play in the mud. But when she went outside, the bowl got all slippery from the rain and it slipped out of her hands! The little girl almost cried. But she didn't have time to cry. She had to think fast if she was gonna save her fish. So she ran back inside the house and grabbed the first thing that she could find from the dish drainer: her mother's teapot. She filled it with water and ran back outside to get her fish.
She put the fish into the teapot and made sure it was OK. Then she started to clean up the mess she had made. Right as she finished cleaning, her mother called for her. "Come inside, I don't want you to get all muddy," her mother yelled.
"Yes, Mommy," the little girl yelled back. She quickly picked up her mother's best teapot and sneaked back into the kitchen. She didn't want her mother to know that she had broken her fish's bowl, because she didn't want her mother to think she couldn't take care of a pet. She set the teapot on the counter-top next to the dish drainer while she searched for something better to put her fish in. But her mother heard her rustling through the dieshes in the kitchen, and went in to see what she was doing.
"What are you looking for?" her mother asked.
"Um," the little girl started as she turned around to face her mother, "I was looking for another bowl to put my fish in, because the one it's in now is getting too small."
"Oh, I'm sure it's fine," her mother assured her, "Now go upstairs and wash up for dinner."
The little girl went up to her room, leaving her fish behind. The little girl sat in her room thinking about her poor fish, all alone in the dark teapot. "I hope it's OK," she said sadly to herself.
"Dinner's ready!" the little girl finally heard her mother call.
She ran downstairs and stood in the doorway of the kitchen as she stared in horror at the teapot that sat on the burning stove-top. She screamed in terror. "What did you do with my fish?" the little girl yelled.
"What do you mean?" her mother asked in confusion.
"My fish was in that teapot!" she shrieked as she started to cry.
"I needed the teapot to cook, and there was some old water in it so I just dumped it out the window into the pond," her mother explained.
The little girl ran outside frantically to look for her fish. She stared into the murky water and splashed Lilly-pads and dead leaves out of her way. There were too many bushes and plants around the edge of the pond so it was hard to get too close to the water. Then, on the other side of the small pond, she saw something splash in the water. She ran over to where she had seen the splash, but she couldn't find her fish. Feeling defeated, the little girl slumped back into the house.
"Did you find your fish?" her mother questioned hopefully.
"No," the little girl said quietly.
"Well, maybe if you look tomorrow you can find it," her mother said, trying to cheer her daughter up. So then the next morning as soon as the little girl opened her eyes, she ran down to the pond to search for her missing fish, but still couldn't find it. Then she checked after lunch, but still couldn't find it. Then she checked after dinner, but still couldn't find it. That night, the little girl was exhausted when it was time for bed. She fell asleep as soon as her mother tucked her into bed, and she dreamed of her beloved fish.
The next morning at the break of dawn, the little girl swung her feet out of bed and ran back down to the pond again. She rustled through all the leaves of the bushes surrounding the pond as she made her way to the murky water. She looked into the pond, but she still couldn't see her fish. She just sat there and stared at the pond for a long time, hoping that her fish would show up. But after a while, she thought she would never see her fish again, and she started to cry as she saw a tear drop fall into the water. The little girl buried her face into her hands and started to sob. She sat there and cried until she felt like she had run out of tears, but when she lifted her hands from her face and looked back into the water, she saw a bright yellow and blue fin touch the top of the water.
The little girl couldn't believe it. It was her fish's tail, but it was bigger! A lot bigger! Then she stared in shock as a small girl, not much bigger than the little girl herself, nervously poked her head up from the water and started to swim towards her. "Don't cry," said the girl very quietly as she reached out to wipe away a tear from the little girl's cheek.
"Who are you?" the little girl questioned.
"Why, I'm your fish," said the girl as a big bright yellow and blue tail-fin popped out from the water between her and the little girl.
The little girl gasped in amazement as she reached out to touch the girl's fin. "You're a mermaid!"