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She couldn’t figure it out no matter how many times she turned it around. When I first chanced upon her in her exploration, I almost told her what the box like thing in her hands was, but the longer I stuck around, the happier I was that I didn’t. It was the first time in weeks since I switched out the short bed chains for longer ones. She couldn’t get to the second floor, or to the door for that matter, but she did have room to explore.

She raised the camera above her head and continued investigating. Her fingers touched each of the buttons but they never lingered for long. She didn’t try to push them either, not at first. She looked almost tranquil. It was a far cry from the sullen woman she was a few days ago. When I switched the chains, I thought she’d immediately jump for the chance to see more than the confines of her room. I expected, at the least, for her to bolt for the door or maybe try to sneak around when she thought I wasn’t home. Instead, she stayed curled up in her room, staring longingly out the window.

Cordiia never cried but I’m no fool. I may be stupid for thinking I can claim a mermaid as mine but I’m not blind. I saw how she angled herself, even in her sleep, so she could always see that window. It didn’t matter how dirty it was or what the weather was, it was all that mattered. That damn window. In the end, I caved. So I cleaned the stupid glass, thinking she’d be endeared to me, but even then she ignored me. I tried suggesting a pet bird but that ended with her starving herself for a week. Same thing happened when I brought home a fish I caught from the ocean.

I watched her mouth form a small O and her eyes widened in wonder. In all my thinking, I missed when she figured out which one of the buttons turned the camera on. She brought it closer to face then held it away again. All I saw was the blue Settings screen but it was enough to fascinate her. Her chains rattled as she sunk to the floor and with the cutest pout, she started pressing every button.

By the fifth time she accidentally turned the camera off, I knocked on the wall. The only harm that could have happened was she’d stop playing. “Would you like to learn?” So long as I kept her interest however, she wouldn’t close up.

She eyed me warily. It was something I had become almost fond of. It was a mix of fear and curiosity. Once upon a time it was pure hatred but that was easier to chase off than the wall she put up.

“I won’t trick you.” I spoke low and carefully.

Her eyes narrowed but there was more to it this time. Was it possible she didn’t completely mistrust me anymore?

She looked down at the camera.

My shoulders tensed.

And then she held it out to me.

I felt myself get heavy as I smiled. My hand brushed briefly over hers and, for the first time, she didn’t flinch or frown. I took the rare acceptance and dared to sit next to her. Our elbows would lightly knock whenever she leaned over to see what buttons I pressed to change the filter or lighting and when I leaned over to switch her finger to the shutter button, there was no resistance.

It had been six months since I took her home and finally, finally, I saw the smile that captured me all those years ago. Perhaps Cordiia could be won over. Perhaps there was hope.