“No, you can’t have my doll,” shouted Lily Henderson. She just knew she was going to cry, and she was too big a girl to cry in front of other people.
Lily, moments before, had been most impressed with her new friend. She had never met anyone with a lovely purpley-silver tail before. And Shirra had the most beautiful jewellery, made of shells and coral and smooth, creamy beads.
Shirra, on the other hand, was utterly taken by Lily’s doll. She told Lily that no one had anything like it in her town.
Lily found that hard to believe…her doll was nothing special. Yes, it had its own bottle and two sets of clothes, but there were dolls that could walk and speak and eat and poo their pants. The only thing really special about her doll was that Lily loved it with all her heart.
The two little girls had spent a beautiful hour playing mothers in the rock pool. Lily’s mummy was sketching, sitting on the rocks just a little above the tiny pool where the girls were. She kept half an eye on her daughter, but could see she was perfectly safe with Shirra. The two children were just out of reach of the turning tide, and the rock pool was shallow…though it did hide the girls from the hips down.
But now, Shirra wanted Lily’s baby. “Please, please, please let me have it,” she sobbed, “I have to go now. I can hear my mother calling me. I’ll never get to see you or your wonderful doll again.”
Lily listened carefully, but couldn’t hear anyone calling. All she could hear was the mournful note of a horn in the far distance. She suspected Shirra was lying, so as to steal the precious toy. “No! You can’t have her!” pouted Lily, and then a happy thought struck her, “Look, I’ll go ask my mummy if we can come back tomorrow. We can play again.”
“No. You can’t see it. My mummy is going to be very mad when she knows I’ve been playing with you. She won’t let me come back.”
“Oh. I do so see,” said Lily, “You’ve come down to the water by yourself. That is naughty. You should never go near water by yourself. You might drown.”
Shirra tried to smile through her tears. “It’s kind of like that. Please Lily, let me keep the doll. I’ll swap you all my necklaces.” She pulled off several of the long, gleaming strands of pretty beads, and held them out to her friend. “Here, you can have all of them.”
Lily looked at the necklaces. They were enticing. The beads were gold, white, cream, silver, grey, and blue…with hints of the shining rainbow in their sheen. Even so, she really loved her doll.
Then, she looked up into Shirra’s eyes. She was too little to understand all the emotions she saw, but she could understand the yearning and the sadness. Her tender heart melted.
“Here,” she muttered quickly, before she could regret her generous impulse, “You can have my dolly. You don’t have to give me your stuff.”
“Oh no, oh no, you take them!” came the joyous reply. Shirra clutched the little plastic baby to her chest, hugging and caressing it. “Oh Lily, I will never forget you. I will look after this as if it was the rarest treasure. Look, I really have to go. Thank you. Thank you.”
Shirra slithered over the side of the pool, and snaked down the sand to the water. With a flip of her tail, she was into the waves. She glanced back at Lily, smiled, and then dived deep into the water.
For a moment, Lily wondered if she should call for her mother. After all, little girls weren’t supposed to go into the water by themselves. But, somehow, she sensed that Shirra was okay, that she wouldn’t drown.
After all, she could swim like a fish.