"You want a clam?" said Pearl. She offered an open one over
him on one of her tentacles. It was the short tentacle, but
you didn't look closely, you couldn't really tell.
"No thanks," said Nemo. He wrinkled his nose. "It
"Just try it for me," said Pearl. Boys didn't know what was good for
them. She held her tentacle still and waiting.
Nemo took a nibble. It wasn't half-bad, really. He
it off, eating out of her hand, so to speak. He kinda liked that
part. Maybe he liked it better than the clam.
"See! I told you!" Pearl swished in triumph. "Want
one?" She worked a tentacle into the sand and dug out another
clam--a jewel box clam this time.
"Let me open that," said Nemo. "I'm too big to let someone else open my
food." To let a girl open my food, is what he meant.
Pearl looked skeptical. "I dunno. I don't think
that you have the beak for it."
"You're just saying that because of my lucky fin." It came
sounding harsher than he'd meant. Nemo snatched the clam away
from her and wrestled with it between scales and fin. No
was going to show him up in front of a girl.
The clam snapped and flipped and clamped him on the nose. "Ow!" Nemo
screamed more in shock than in pain. The clam flipped off his nose and
disappeared into the sand while Pearl giggled until she inked.
Nemo rubbed his nose, the sting lessened considerably by her
smile. It was aimed straight at him and it was
He'd give up a dozen noses for that.
Just as quickly, the smile vanished. "What are you staring
Pearl looked down. "Uh-oh, I inked again." She
cloudy shade of red and balled her tentacles in against her.
"You look beautiful when you ink," said Nemo.
"Really?" Her skin started to pale to that nameless shade of iridescent
"Uh huh. I think that girls who ink are awesome."
"You're just saying that." Pearl tried not to sound so pleased, but her
blasted skin tone gave her away again.
Nemo swam over. "No; it's true. I think you're
Pearl took his lucky fin. "Thanks. I like you
too." She thought about kissing him, but didn't.
"I don't want you to die." Nemo just blurted it out.
"Huh? Now where did that come from?" Pearl's skin started to
mottle. Mollusk or vertebrate, boys never made any sense.
"Mr. Ray said that when girl octopuses fall in love, they have babies
"That's a funny way to put it," said Pearl.
"So, what really happens then?"
"When we fall in love, we make thousands more babies, and after they
are born and free, we're done and we can die."
"That's what I said!" Nemo still sputtered sometimes when he
"I dunno," Pearl picked at her tentacles. "It didn't sound
the same when you said it."
"I love you, but I don't want you to die," said Nemo. The
pressure in his gills pounded harder as his distress
He swam in agitated little spurts in a way that had a striking
resemblance to the habits of another very similar looking
clownfish---although he would never admit it.
"Don't be silly," Pearl said. "You and I can't make
You're a fish. I can only make babies with another octopus."
Nemo stopped. He hadn't thought of that. "Then,
okay? I can love you?" Nemo's lucky fin twitched a
"Mmmhmm," said Pearl. "I'd like that--I think."
"Good." Nemo exhaled the breath of water he had been holding.
"Because I want to marry you, Pearl."
Pearl laughed so hard she inked again. "I just told you, I
can't marry you; you're a fish!"
"But--" Nemo struggled for comprehension. His ears
worse than they had when he was stuck in the filter and his breath came
just as hard.
"I want my babies, Nemo. I want thousands--hundreds of
We're all going to die, but I want my babies to live. Just
your mom wanted you. I'm going to marry an octopus."
"But you can't! He can't love you if he would let you die
like that! I would never do that to you, Pearl!"
Pearl rubbed her underside. "I want my babies, Nemo. It's
I've always wanted. I'm just trying to grow up and be big and
strong enough to raise my eggs properly like my mom did for me."
Nemo looked away.
"You do want me to be happy, don't you?"
More specifically, Nemo wanted her to be happy with him.
"Yeah. I guess. Yeah."
Pearl dug in the sand. She tried a peace offering.
want another clam?" It was the very same one as last time.
Apparently this was not going to be his day either.
Nemo shook his tail.
Pearl tossed the clam aside. It scrambled back into the sand
thanking its lucky stars. Pearl watched him for a
Fish! Who knew what to do with them? But he was
And sweet. And he liked the way she inked. She
to him. "My dad says I can't date until I'm at least
Maybe you could be my boyfriend until then, okay?"
If Sydney had taught Nemo nothing else, it had taught him to be
grateful. "Okay," he said. She shook his lucky fin.
Marlin came home that night to find Nemo already lying on the anemone
floor. It wasn't even dusk. That was odd for
That boy was usually into everything.
Nemo opened one not-sleepy eye and beckoned Marlin closer.
"Dad, would you tell me about mom?"