I don’t know how to swim.
If you knew that I grew up on a tropical island, this would be even more surprising.
You see, I almost drowned when I was a child, and the memory of it was seared into my brain: overwhelming panic, an acute, painful longing for air, a desperate reaching for anything that could save me. Even the rescue left me weak, as the adrenalin drained from my body. I never wanted to feel that way again.
So even though I loved the sea, I loved it in a safe way: peering into the tidal pools, wading in the shallows, looking for shells on the shore. I stayed away from the depths.
Until that summer.
He took me there, to the island where he grew up. And despite my caution, I could feel myself being drawn closer to him. For the nth time, I wondered when I would stop being afraid of what I wanted.
The gorgeous beach in that sleepy little town reminded me of home. His childhood friends were there, too, enjoying the sugar-fine sand, the crashing waves, and a sky so blue you wouldn’t believe it. Tired from the beach games, I lay on the shore by the waterline, eyes closed, feeling the sunlight on my lids, letting the waves caress my body, letting my hand float a little bit closer to where his upturned palm waited. Closer.
The world moved around us.
Shouts of “Hey, you two!” and “Come on!” intruded upon the sleepy rhythm of the waves. We sat up to see the sky no longer blue, but an equally unbelievable shade of radiant orange. The whole universe was a temptation to fall in love.
His friends were laughing and calling to us, beckoning as they made their way to the nearby cliff. It was their favorite jump-off point, he told me, with the water below just deep enough for the 20-foot dive. We hurried to catch up.
When we got there, we were greeted by the most stunning vista imaginable. A golden, glowing sun hung just above the horizon, so extravagantly glorious that my heart literally skipped a beat. Seriously, the universe was out doing itself. The group’s high spirits kicked up a notch.
Kevin went first, inexplicably yelling “Happy birthday!” as he jumped. (His birthday was in December.)
Larissa was more graceful, her flawless dive silhouetted against the dazzling sun for one captivating moment.
Javier and Elena jumped together, holding hands and laughing, then sputtering as they splashed into the darkening water.
We were the only ones left. He stepped onto the edge, grinned, and said, “You have to do this, too.” Then he dived.
“What? No! Wait—” But I was talking to empty space. Gingerly, I stepped closer to the edge and looked down. They seemed impossibly far away, treading the waves.
“David, I can’t swim!” I called down, wondering if he’d forgotten.
“I’m right here,” he shouted back. “I’ll get you as soon as you hit the water.”
My heart was pounding too hard to reply to that. Swimming in deep water was one thing, falling into it from a height of twenty feet was an entirely different level of dread.
The others were also shouting encouragement, but his was the only voice that made it past the buzzing in my ears.
“Abby? Come on, before it gets dark. I don’t want you to miss this.”
“I can’t!” My knees had started shaking. The shimmering edge of the sun touched its reflection in sea.
” You’re safe; I promise. Abby, I promise.”
I stood there, a breathtaking sunset before me, an incredible man waiting in the water below, and twenty feet of fear and empty air in between. A lifetime of cowardice suddenly seemed awfully exhausting.
I tried to call out a warning, but my throat was too tight. I simply jumped.
Just because he promised.
Before I knew it, I plunged into the water, nothing but the deep unknown under my feet. Then I was pulled into his arms.
“You’re okay,” he said. “You’re okay.” I will remember that smile for the rest of my life.
Sheer exhilaration made me laugh. “Let’s do it again!”
The brilliant beyond brilliant writers at Indie Ink have come up with the Indie Ink Writing Challenge, which I’m joining for the first time. This week, the lovely Jen O. gave me my prompt: A moment of living dangerously. Just a moment. As prompts go, it was perfect for making me write about something I never would have thought of myself. Thanks, Jen!