Ahio’s life continued to transform into something he barely recognized. The moment it seemed that life had settled into some stable form that he could rely on, it shifted, and everything was different. It was like trying to stand up straight in an ocean current.
Even he could not stay the same. In truth, he was now four different people. When no one was watching, he was a cursed merman, gliding through the salty sea. When he returned to land, he would wash the kelp from his thick blond braids, then pull on his performance clothes. Suddenly, he was no longer Ahio the Merman, but Ahio the Amazing, the great illusionist of the Matahina Islands. After months of practice and failures, Ahio had at last managed to put together a magic show that was impressive even to the most doubtful audience members. Well, most of the time.
His relationship with Poe was much more complicated, however. Sometimes, he was nothing more than Poe’s quiet roommate, who just happened to share her house as Poe pursued her own career as an acrobat and dance instructor. She never seemed to have a steady boyfriend, but breezed through brief flings with lovers and admirers.
Ahio was the latest of those flings. It did not last long – only three weeks, as Poe was easily bored, and like a flame, always searching for the next match to burn through. Ahio knew this, but enjoyed every tender moment they spent together. She was not Puaura – he knew in his heart that nothing and no one would ever warm the cold place inside him created by Puaura’s absence. But true to her nature as a performer, Poe was exciting and fun, and briefly made him forget.
When their affair quickly ended, and the ashes cooled around them, Ahio did not feel any sense of loss. It was more like an entertaining movie had come to an end, and the house lights came back on. He and Poe were once again only roommates on friendly terms. Nothing more. Until two months later, when Poe approached him, an apprehensive look on her face. “I have some…surprising news,” Poe said. She took a deep breath. “You are going to be daddy, Ahio.”