The first time Julian ever saw the sea-man was on the day the fleet left him behind. He'd run out to the end of the docks, already knowing he was far too late, and stood there, fists clenching and unclenching. He had struggled not to spill a single tear as he watched the sails billow full and carry the fishing fleet away like a flock of gulls.
He'd turned listlessly to begin the shameful walk back into the village when some strange bit of movement had caught at the corner of his eye, and he'd turned toward the stone breakwater to see a shirtless man wading casually through the water. Wading where the sea floor was at least twenty feet down. Julian had raised a hand to shield his eyes, and just as the man's motions had drawn his attention, Julian's gesture made the man turn toward him. The man, unfamiliar, stilled for a moment before diving beneath the gentle waves.
For a moment, Julian had stood entranced, thinking that he must be swimming toward the dock, but the sun had glinted off of the clear, unbroken stretch of sea for too long, and Julian had realized with a chill that he'd witnessed a visitation from something... unnatural.
Nonetheless, the creature had been beautiful, the sun glistening wetly across the type of muscles that Julian would never know on his own body. And though Julian had known that he should return to his home and begin to plan his strategy to prove himself, it had been an hour or more of hopeful waiting before he'd been able to pry himself away from the harbor.
The next day, he was up early to mend the tears in his father's second net, hoping to earn his way back onto his father's ship. It wasn't his fault he was spindly or that no amount of work seemed to build up his frame, but there were other skills he could exercise, and he was talented at finding the places where the fish were thick in the water. He was blamed, nevertheless, for his inability to haul his fair share of the nets. Or to drag his brother Paul back aboard during the frantic tossing of a midsummer storm.
-- from "A Bargain" by D.K. Jernigan