Friday, August 19, 2011

Chapter 33: Waiting

After Nora was settled into another hospital room, the doctor left her and Tristan alone. Nora was sitting in a hospital bed and Tristan was standing near the door awkwardly. The two of them stared at each other for a few minutes, neither one with anything to say. Tristan rubbed the back of his neck and looked away from Nora before he finally spoke.

“So…I guess I’ll just go, then…” Tristan said slowly.

“No!” Nora exclaimed, reaching a hand out towards him. Tristan stared at her, a baffled expression on his face. Nora slowly pulled her hand back and smiled sheepishly.

“I mean…um… Don’t go. I…I don’t like hospitals. I don’t want to be alone.” she said softly. Tristan stood there for a moment longer, still not sure as to what he should say. He fiddled his fingers before he spoke again.

“Okay…I guess I’ll just stay, then…” he said with a shrug. Nora smiled a little. There was another pause between them. Nora pointed to the chair beside the bed.

“If you’re going to stay, you might as well sit down.” she said politely. Tristan chuckled.

“No, thanks. I’ve sat on hospital chairs long enough to make my…uh, rear…go numb. I think I’ll stand for a while.” he said with a soft smile. Nora let out a small laugh.

“So, what did it feel like inside the chamber?” Tristan asked suddenly. Nora’s expression darkened and she turned away.

“Cold…lonely…cramped…” she replied softly. Tristan watched her as her frown grew larger. “Scary.” she added in a voice just above a whisper. He saw tears gathering in her eyes and he wondered what he should do. He took a step forward then hesitated. He slowly reached out his hand towards Nora, but stopped when she suddenly looked over at him. Her eyes had cleared and she looked happy again.

“But I’m not in there anymore, so it doesn’t matter.” she said quickly. Tristan stared at her for a moment, confused.

“Um, yeah, right…” he said slowly, lowering his hand and letting it dangle at his side.

“What do you think of that doctor?” Nora asked softly, a little smile on her face. Tristan scoffed and rolled his eyes.

“Well, the guy is totally impersonal, and he’s arrogant and impatient…” Tristan’s list of complaints went on and on, and Nora listened patiently, just happy to have something to talk about.

A few hours later, Nora was cleared to leave the hospital. The doctor determined that Nora had fully healed and that the decompression sickness would not return. Nora and Tristan walked out of the hospital hand in hand, both of them very relieved to have the experience behind them.

“So, where do you want to go?” Tristan asked Nora as they walked to his car.

“Well, I don’t really want to go back to the marina, but I kind of have to…” Nora replied.

“What? Why?” Tristan asked, surprised. Nora looked up at him and raised an eyebrow in an incredulous manner. Tristan noticed a light smile on her face.

“I left my car there, goofball.” she said quickly.

“Oooooh, right…” Tristan said slowly. Nora laughed and rolled her eyes, shaking her head. They reached Tristan’s car and the two of them climbed in.

“Do you want to go grab some lunch or something before we go back to the marina?” Tristan asked as he started the car.

“Um, more like dinner.” Nora said. “In case you haven’t noticed, Tristan, the sun is setting.” Tristan looked out the windshield and studied the sky intently.

“Oh…yeah…it is.” he said softly. Nora laughed. “So, do you want to go get dinner, then?” Tristan asked, smiling at Nora. Nora returned his smile.

“I’d love to.” she said.

“Okay, but I’ll warn you now, we’re going some place cheap and casual. I don’t have a lot of money, I’m currently wearing my nicest clothes, and I most definitely do not want to wait in a line to get seated. I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.” Tristan said quickly. Nora threw her head back and laughed.

“Sounds good to me, Tristan.” she said between laughs. “Sounds good to me.” And with that, Tristan pulled out of the parking lot and drove off to find some place cheap and casual. He hoped that dinner would go over better than the scuba diving had.

Chapter 32: Panic

Nora’s mind flashed through a series of images. She saw her arms flailing above her, bubbles floating to the surface. She saw her legs below her, a chain tied around her left ankle… Her hands clawed at the chain, trying to loosen it, trying to save herself from certain death.

The images flashed faster and faster, as if playing on a loop inside her brain, but each time the surrounding water got darker and darker. Finally, they were all black. Nora breathed harder and faster, turning her head this way and that. Suddenly, her eyes opened. She looked around frantically, panting hard. She felt cold sweat on her forehead. The sight that she saw didn’t help ease her fears.

She looked around and saw that she was laying inside a long glass cylinder. For a brief moment, she felt like an animal, trapped in a cage--or worse… She felt like a fish stuck in an aquarium. She once again saw the water rising up around her, felt her chest tightening. She reached up and placed a hand on the glass, trying to determine if it was really there or if it was a figment of her panicked imagination. Her breathing once again came in faster and faster puffs.

Just then, Nora heard someone faintly calling her name. She looked around, trying to see who was calling to her. She heard a loud banging sound and flinched. She turned her head and saw Tristan, sitting on a chair just outside the cylinder. Nora stared at him with wide, frightened eyes. He was looking at her with the same worried expression on his face. Nora put her hand up on the glass and he placed his over hers.

“Are you okay?” Tristan asked. Nora could only faintly hear his voice. It sounded as if he was a mile away. Nora nodded but couldn’t bring herself to speak. She was afraid of how she would sound inside this chamber.

“Do you remember what happened?” Tristan continued. Nora thought for a moment then nodded. She was at the hospital because of the diving incident… Her memory was a bit blurry because she had been fighting the desire to faint, but she vaguely remembered why she was in the cylinder.

Nora sighed deeply and looked away from Tristan. She began breathing normally again and her fear slowly slipped away. She placed her hands in her lap and sat there for a few moments, hunched over in the chamber. She tried straightening her back but realized that she was too tall for that. She sighed again then decided to lay down. Unfortunately, whatever she was laying on was not very comfortable, and all she could do to take her mind off of her uncomfortableness was count the ceiling tiles. Tristan talked for a while, but Nora could only hear bits and pieces of what he was saying. After a while, he looked away sadly and just sat there beside her.

Finally, the doctor came into the room. He immediately walked over to the chamber and stared down at Nora. He pushed some buttons on the outside of the chamber while Tristan and Nora watched him intently. Just then, the end of the cylinder by Nora’s head opened with a sound that was like a seal being removed. The doctor helped Nora out of the chamber, but he neglected to help steady her once she was on her feet. Nora held onto the outside of the chamber while blood rushed up to her head.

“Well, she seems to be doing all right,” the doctor began as he walked over to Tristan. The doctor was looking down at a clipboard as he spoke. “We’ll keep her in a room for a few hours, possibly overnight, to make sure that she’s fine. Some symptoms of decompression sickness can be late in setting in, and we just want to be certain that she’s completely healthy again, so her time of departure is…up in the air.” the doctor finished with a shrug. Tristan stood up and looked between the doctor and Nora.

“So…” Tristan began, not really knowing what to say.

“Can I change back into my clothes?” Nora asked, still holding onto the chamber for support. The doctor sighed then turned to her. He thought for a moment, a frown on his face.

“We usually ask patients to stay in their hospital gowns, but I don’t expect you to be needing any more treatment, so I suppose if you would feel more comfortable in your own clothes that would be fine.” the doctor said, still frowning. Nora smiled a little.

“Great. Now, if you’ll both just skedaddle, I’ll change and we can talk more after that. Okay? Okay.” Nora said, motioning for both of the men to leave. Tristan immediately complied but the doctor paused, evidently puzzled by Nora’s behavior.

“It’ll be better if you just do what she says.” Tristan whispered loudly from outside the room. Nora nodded.

“He speaks the truth.” she said simply. The doctor still looked confused as Tristan grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the room. Tristan swung the door shut then looked at the doctor.

“So… How’s your day going?” Tristan asked awkwardly. The doctor did not respond. He just continued to look confused.

“I’ve never had a patient that was so modest…” the doctor said softly. Tristan gave him a puzzled look.

“What?” he asked, baffled.

“When she changed into the hospital gown, she made me look away. Now that she’s changing out of it, I have to leave the room. I can understand making you leave the room, but I’m the doctor…” he continued, more to himself than to Tristan. Tristan scoffed.

“Just because you’re a doctor doesn’t make you special.” he blurted out, crossing his arms over his chest. The doctor glanced up at him, apparently wondering if Tristan was crazy. Tristan glanced down at the man awkwardly.

“Let’s forget this conversation ever happened.” the doctor said softly.

“Deal.” Tristan replied quickly. The two quickly shook hands then turned away from each other, acting as if nothing had happened between the two of them. Their act was not completely convincing.

Chapter 31: Life

The doctor came in a few minutes later. He took one look at Nora then motioned for her and Tristan to follow him. Tristan helped Nora stand up and they began to slowly walk out of the room. The doctor walked ahead of them at a much faster pace, his white coat trailing behind him. He led the couple around corners and down hallways, and there were a few moments where Tristan was sure that the doctor had purposely left them in the middle of a corridor.

Finally, they reached another room, one that Tristan was sure was on the opposite side of the hospital. There was a large cylinder, tipped over on its side and standing up on four legs, in the middle of the room. The ends of the cylinder were made out of what appeared to be metal, but the majority of the body of the cylinder was either plastic or glass. Tristan couldn’t tell which from his position. There were quite a few buttons, knobs, and wires poking out from the cylinder.

“This is called a hyperbaric chamber. We use it on patients--divers, mostly--who suffer from decompression sickness, or ‘the bends’.” The doctor explained, walking over to the chamber. He began pushing a few buttons on it, apparently turning it on. Tristan stood there, watching him, with Nora leaning on his arm. The doctor looked up at them, remembering they were there. “Oh, she’s going to need to change into a hospital gown.” the doctor said casually. Tristan’s eyes widened and he glanced over at Nora. She shot him a glare.

“I can do that myself, moron.” she muttered, standing up straight.

“I’ll just…um…wait outside…” Tristan said. He slowly made his way out of the room while Nora staggered over to the doctor.

Tristan found a chair out in the hallway and decided to sit there until the doctor came back out. Tristan bided his time by counting things, such as the tiles on the floor or the bricks on the wall in front of him; smiling at everyone who passed him, patient or doctor; and, eventually, pacing up and down the hallway. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the doctor emerged. He walked over to Tristan briskly and didn’t wait for a greeting before he began speaking.

“You’re friend,” he paused to look down at his clipboard, “Nora, will be staying in the hyperbaric chamber for a few hours. She will be checked on periodically to ensure that nothing is going wrong, and if you like you can be in the room with her. She will not be able to communicate with you, though, so I imagine it would be a rather uneventful wait. However--”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Tristan interrupted the doctor’s businesslike speech. “We have to go back a step. Why is she in there in the first place?” Tristan asked.

“Well, I was going to come and ask you what happened that caused her to come to the surface of the water so quickly. She obviously was not following the proper diving procedures.” the doctor said in reply.

“That doesn’t answer my question. Why does Nora have to be in that hyper-whatever-chamber-thingy?” Tristan asked, a little more forcefully this time. The doctor sighed.

“Decompression sickness is the most common illness we see in divers. It occurs when the body is exposed too quickly to a low pressurized area after being in a high pressurized area. As you dive into a higher pressurized area in conjunction with breathing the nitrogen-oxygen mixture in an oxygen tank, your body absorbs the nitrogen in order to keep the pressure in your body stabilized with that outside of your body. However, the body cannot metabolize the nitrogen, so it takes a while for the nitrogen to go away. If you do not give the nitrogen time to leave the body before going to a low pressurized area, nitrogen bubbles will form in the blood stream or body tissues. To fix this, divers are put into a hyperbaric chamber which helps remove the nitrogen bubbles by putting the patient into a completely oxygen environment with a higher pressure level.” the doctor explained quickly. Tristan didn’t understand half of what the doctor had said, because most of the language he used was completely foreign to him. So, Tristan stared at the doctor blankly for a moment, trying to process that which he did not understand.

“Okay… So, is she going to be okay?” Tristan asked finally.

“Yes, she’ll be fine. She’s one of the more mild cases we’ve seen.” the doctor replied, an disinterested frown on his face.

“Mild? She looked like she was about to pass out!” Tristan exclaimed.

“Yes, a common symptom for decompression sickness.” the doctor said matter-of-factly. Tristan stared at him for a moment, amazed and annoyed by this man at the same time. He was acting as if Nora’s near-death experience meant nothing to anyone. Finally, Tristan sighed.

“Okay… But you’re sure that she’s going to be all right?” Tristan asked once more, a worried look still in his eyes. The doctor sighed then nodded.

“Yes, I’m positive.” he replied quickly. Tristan stood there for a minute before he nodded.

“Okay, then I guess I’ll just go in and see her, then…” he said softly, walking towards the door. The doctor began walking away but quickly stopped after a few steps.

“Oh, by the way,” the doctor began as Tristan opened the door. “It’s completely all right for her to get a bit of rest. She’s been through a lot, and the possibility of dry drowning at this point in time is very slim.” he finished. Tristan nodded again. The doctor turned briskly and walked away, moving once more at his fast pace. Tristan took a deep breath then walked into the room with the hyperbaric chamber. He walked over to it and saw Nora laying in it, her eyes closed peacefully. Tristan sat down in a chair nearby and rested his chin on his hands. He stared at Nora with eyes that were full of pity. Their first date had turned into a nightmare…

“At least she’s still alive…” Tristan whispered to himself, trying to look on the positive side of the situation. Oddly enough, having to say something like that about a first date made the positive side seem more negative…

Chapter 30: Ends

The boat stopped at the dock and Tristan immediately stood up. “Can you stand up, Nora?” he asked, looking down at the girl. She nodded, her eyes half closed. She began standing up and tipped backwards, threatening to fall off of the boat. Tristan quickly caught her, helping her to balance. He and Ron helped Nora out of the boat and onto the dock.

“Should we take her to the hospital?” Tristan asked Ron as they walked slowly back to his little shop. Ron sighed.

“Probably. Let’s let her get this diving gear off first, though.” Ron replied softly. Nora’s oxygen tank was already off of her back, and her flippers and mask had been removed as well. She had slipped her wetsuit on over a t-shirt and shorts, so it didn’t take long for her to take it off. However, it would have taken an even shorter amount of time if Tristan didn’t have to steady her every two minutes.

Finally, Nora and Tristan were walking out of the shop, Ron following closely behind in case they needed any assistance. The two men helped Nora into Tristan’s car before Tristan walked around to the driver’s seat.

“Are you sure you’ll be all right? You don’t want me to come with you?” Ron asked, sounding concerned. Tristan shook his head.

“We’ll be fine. I’ll take her to the hospital and have them look her over and…” Tristan paused, thinking about what would come next. “Well, I guess we’ll go from there.” he said with a small smile. Ron nodded.

“If you need anything, help or information, just give me a call. You’ve got the number, right?” Ron said. Tristan nodded as he got into his car. Ron bent down so that he could see Nora. Her window was rolled down. “Nora?” Ron began gently. Nora’s sleepy eyes turned to him. “Don’t fall asleep, okay? Stay awake for as long as you can. At least until you get to the hospital.” he finished. Nora nodded weakly. Ron sighed heavily then glanced up at Tristan.

“I’ll call you with an update.” Tristan said as he turned the car on.

“Thanks. I’ve never had anything like this happen… The first lesson is always the easiest… I just can’t explain this one… I feel awful though, I really do.” Ron said sincerely.

“It wasn’t your fault, Ron. It was a freak accident or…well, I don’t know what else it could be, but none of it was your fault.” Tristan reassured him. Ron sighed again.

“Thanks, Tristan.” he said softly. “I’ll try to figure out whatever it was that grabbed her. I’ll call up a few of my friends and get their help, too. Maybe I’ll check with the police or something… See if they’ve got any information that would be helpful…” Ron said, mostly to himself, as he stood up. Tristan slowly backed the car out of the parking space while Ron watched them. Tristan knew that the man was concerned; it was evident in his expression. Ron waved a sorry goodbye as Tristan pulled out of the parking lot.

The drive to the hospital was only a few minutes long. Tristan helped Nora walk into the hospital and the two of them went straight to the emergency room. Tristan told the nurse behind the counter what had happened and she told him to have a seat and wait. He walked back over to Nora and sat down, twidling his thumbs nervously.

“Tristan?” Nora mumbled.

“Yes, Nora?” Tristan said, glancing over at her. Nora slowly reached out her hand and placed it over Tristan’s hands.

“Don’t act so nervous. You’re making me antsy.” she said softly. Tristan smiled a little then nodded. He and Nora sat there for a few minutes, not speaking to one another. Tristan was silent because he was too busy trying not to look worried, even though he was, and Nora kept quiet because speaking seemed to be incredibly hard to her for some reason.

Finally, a nurse called out Nora’s name. Tristan helped Nora stand up and slowly led her over to the nurse. The nurse led them through a door and down a hallway, into small room. “The doctor will be right with you,” the nurse said before she turned and walked out, closing the door behind her. Tristan sighed heavily, rubbing the top of Nora’s hand with his thumb. Nora rested her head on Tristan’s shoulder. Tristan closed his eyes then rotated his shoulder, pushing Nora away from him. He looked over at her sadly and shook his head.

“You can’t go to sleep.” he said softly.

“But I’m so tired…” Nora mumbled, her eyes drooping. Tristan shook his head again.

“You’ve got to stay awake, Nora.” he said, sounding a bit more firm this time. Nora didn’t respond. “Nora, stay awake.” Tristan said sternly, his eyebrows coming together to form a scowl. Nora still did not reply. “Nora,” Tristan said, panic mounting in his voice. He reached up and poked her cheek. Nora’s face contorted into a grimace. Tristan frowned. “Nora, open your eyes.” he said, sounding stern again. Nora sighed then opened her eyes halfway. She stared at Tristan for a moment, looking directly into his stern expression. Slowly, though, his stern expression melted away and was replaced by a worried one.

“You scared me.” Tristan said softly. Nora looked down, a little embarrassed.

“I didn’t mean to… It’s just so hard… I’m so tired…” she mumbled.

“I know, but you can’t go to sleep. You have to see a doctor.” Tristan continued earnestly. Nora sighed then nodded slowly.

“Okay…I’ll stay awake…” she muttered. Tristan smiled a little.

“Thank you.” he said softly.

“For what?” Nora asked.

“For not dying.” Tristan replied. Nora was silent for a moment.

“You’re welcome.” she said finally. Tristan chuckled, not having expected that response. However, he was truly thankful that she was in a hospital room with him instead of on the bottom of the ocean floor with whatever it was that had tried to kill her…

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chapter 29: Grace

Nora was fighting with all of her might, trying to free herself from the hands that held her ankles. She kicked but felt nothing but water. She looked down and didn’t see anything. However, she felt something, and this something was not something she could fight against.

Nora turned her thoughts to finding the mouthpiece to her oxygen tank. Her body might not survive the depths of the water because of the pressure, but at least if she had oxygen, she had a chance of surviving. She waved her arms around behind her, trying to find the mouthpiece, but she had little success. Just then, Nora looked up and saw Tristan swimming down towards her at lightning pace.

“Tristan!” she said happily. However, all that came out was bubbles, and Nora quickly realized that that had just used up a lot of the oxygen left in her lungs. She reached over her shoulders again, feeling around for the mouthpiece as Tristan came closer. She finally found it and stuck it in her mouth as fast as she could, sucking in a deep breath of air. She inhaled some of the water that had collected in her mouthpiece and choked a little. She kicked her legs some more, trying to make contact with whatever it was that had her.

Nora stared down into the water beneath her, trying to see what was holding onto her leg. All she saw was a hand…a webbed hand… The arm led down into a swirling mass of bubbles that Nora couldn’t see through. She inhaled deeply, trying to stay calm, but the mounting pressure on her chest and abdomen was making her worry.

Nora glanced up again and saw that Tristan was directly over top of her, reaching his hands down to grab her. She raised her hands up to him and reached his fingertips. Tristan sped up slightly and the two clasped their hands together tightly. As soon as Tristan had Nora’s hands, he stopped swimming downward. He turned his body around and began swimming up, pulling at Nora’s hands. Nora felt the speed in their decent decrease, but they continued going downward. Nora kicked as hard as she could with both of her legs, trying to free herself and help Tristan at the same time. She felt the grip on her ankle tighten.

Just then, Nora realized it was getting harder and harder to take in a full breath. She could literally feel the water pressing in on her body, her chest and head especially. She knew that if she wanted to survive, she had to fight harder.

A scowl came over Nora’s face as she tightened her grip on Tristan’s hands.
Suddenly, she pulled her knees up to her chest at a surprising speed. She then kicked her free leg out, hoping to kick whatever it was that was holding on to her other leg. Much to her amazement, her foot actually hit something hard. She felt the grip around her right ankle loosen. She pulled her knees up again then kicked her left leg down and, once again, she made contact. She pulled her knees up one last time and felt the hand around her ankle release. She shot upwards, Tristan right behind her.

Unfortunately, the thing that had grabbed her was right behind them as well. A brief memory of what Ron had told them about going up through the water too fast crossed into Nora’s mind, but she decided that she would have a higher chance of surviving by swimming quickly. She pushed onward, making sure that Tristan was still at her side. She glanced up again and saw the light shining down through the water. She saw Ron, floating near the boat. She started to smile, but the world started getting darker… Nora was puzzled by the sudden change in lighting. She then started to feel woozy, and she felt warm water in her mask…

Nora felt her legs slowing down. She willed for her body to keep going, but her body had decided to stop. Just when Nora thought she was going to start sinking down again, Tristan shot past her and grabbed her under the arms, pulling her up to the surface. She felt the air surround her and she heard Tristan’s voice calling to Ron, but she still felt like she was under the water, listening to them speak above the surface. After a moment, she felt two more arms lift her onto the boat, gently laying her down on the floor. Through bleary eyes, she saw Ron gently remove her mask. She felt the warm water that had been captured inside of it trickle down her face.

“Nora! Nora, are you all right?” Tristan asked, crawling into the boat. Nora moaned.

“Just take a few deep breaths, you’ll be all right…” Ron said softly, looking around for something. He pulled out a small metal box and began looking through it. He took a few tissues from the box and held them underneath Nora’s nose.

“Wha’ ‘appened…?” Nora asked, trying not to pass out.

“Your body couldn’t hold up to the pressure. It’s just a bloody nose. You’ll be fine.” Ron replied gently. Nora turned her head to look at her mask and saw that there was still some blood pooled in the bottom of it. Nora then realized that what she had thought was warm water was really her own blood. The thought made her gag.

“Is she going to be okay?” Tristan asked frantically as he knelt down next to Nora. Ron nodded, still dabbing at Nora’s bloody nose.

“She’ll be fine, but we should probably go back to shore and look her over there.” Ron replied. He glanced up at Tristan, looking for a response. Tristan glanced up, startled.

“Oh, yeah, definitely.” Tristan nodded his head furiously before he looked back down at Nora. Nora stared up at him, still fighting the urge to pass out.

“Okay, you look after her and make sure that she does not fall asleep. That is very important. She might have inhaled some water and we wouldn’t want any dry drowning going on…” Ron said as he stood up and walked over to start the boat. Tristan sighed.

“Did you hear that, Nora? Don’t fall asleep.” He repeated, a little more softly. Nora nodded slowly and reached for the tissue. She held it to her nose again. Ron started the boat and began steering it towards the shore.

“You didn’t happen to see what grabbed her, did you?” Ron asked Tristan.

“No, I didn’t.” Tristan replied. He glanced back at the water and only saw the waves.

“Well, I guess we’re going to need to send out a search party or something… Whoever or whatever it was is going to be very bad for business.” Ron said seriously. Tristan looked down at Nora again. He opened his mouth to ask her if she had seen what had grabbed her, but before he could speak, she shook her head.

“I didn’ see a thing…” she said softly. Tristan nodded.

“That’s okay. I’m just glad you’re safe.” He replied. The two of them sat quietly for a moment, Nora dabbing at her bloody nose and Tristan just staring down at her with a worried look on his face.

“Tristan?” Nora said after a moment.

“Yeah?” Tristan replied.

“I don’t think I wanna go diving for a while…” Nora mumbled. Tristan smiled pitifully.

“I completely understand.” He said quietly. Nora managed to smile, but not because she was feeling better. She just wanted Tristan to get a happy look in his eyes again.

She wondered if he realized that this was the second time he had saved her life.

Chapter 28: Jolts

“All right,” Ron began as he put on his mask. Nora and Tristan had already donned their equipment and Ron had just finished giving them their safety instructions. “We’re not going to be going down very far today because it’s your first lesson. You want your body to gradually adjust to the change in pressure. The farther down you go, the more pressure is on your body. Our bodies are accustomed to the pressure of the air at and around sea level. That’s why, when we go up on mountains or way down in valleys, our bodies don’t run as well as they normally do. Because of this, you’ve got to be very careful to not go down into the water too quickly or come up too quickly. A quick change in pressure and everything in your body goes haywire. You just want to take it nice and slow.” Ron finished explaining and Nora looked up at Tristan. He could tell that her worry was mounting.

“You two ready to go in?” Ron asked. Tristan nodded then glanced down at Nora again. She nodded slowly and took a deep breath. “Great! Now, just follow my lead.” Ron said. He sat down on the side of the boat, his back to the water. Nora and Tristan did the same. Ron placed the mouthpiece to his oxygen tank into his mouth and adjusted his mask. Nora and Tristan imitated his moves. Then, very suddenly, Ron leaned back and fell into the water. Nora’s eyes went wide as she watched him go under. He quickly popped back up and smiled at the two of them.

“Just lean back! Once you’re under the water, you do a little flip and come back up. It’s not hard at all!” Ron called up to the two of them. Nora looked over at Tristan. He smiled encouragingly, took a deep breath, then leaned back and fell into the water. Out of instinct, he closed his eyes on the way down, but he quickly opened them once he was under the water. He swam back up to the surface and popped his head out.

“Come on, Nora! The water’s fine!” he called up. He saw Nora’s fists clenching and unclenching. Suddenly, she tipped backwards and fell into the water, her eyes squeezed shut. Tristan smiled and watched her flip over under the water. He saw her open her eyes slowly. She looked around for a moment, her eyes wide, before she swam back up.>r> “It’s amazing under there!” Nora exclaimed, removing her mouthpiece. Tristan and Ron smiled.

“Gorgeous, isn’t it?” Ron said, also removing his mouthpiece. “Well, let’s start diving!” he said, putting his mouthpiece back in. “All right, so you two are going to follow my lead and go down just as far as I do. You don’t have to be at the exact same depth as me, but you don’t want to go too far down because--” All of a sudden, Ron was cut off by Nora’s scream. He and Tristan both turned to look at her just in time to see her hands go under the water.

“Nora!” Tristan yelled, staring down into the water. He saw her disappear beneath the dark depths. Something was dragging her down.

“What in the world--” Ron began, but Tristan cut him off.

“Something grabbed her! Something’s pulling her down!” Tristan yelled, putting his mouthpiece in.

“Well, did you--” Ron began again. Just then, Tristan dove under the water. Ron gasped.

“Wait!” Ron screamed, staring down at Tristan. “You haven’t been properly certified!” However, Tristan couldn’t hear Ron anymore, nor did he care about what Ron had to say. He only cared about saving Nora.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Chapter 27: Sprouts

Tristan arrived at the diving instructor’s shack twenty minutes early. The little building was located right on the edge of a marina. Most of the people who frequented the marina were rich tourists and locals. Because of this rich atmosphere, Tristan looked oddly out of place with his common demeanor.

Tristan walked into the shack and spoke to the instructor, Ron, for a while before he rented some equipment for himself and Nora. Tristan had taken lessons before, so he remembered what to get and how to get it. He waited impatiently for the next few minutes. Then, he began to pace. Then, he walked around outside the shack, waiting nervously for Nora.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Nora’s car appeared in the driveway of the marina. Tristan tried not to look too excited as he ducked back into the building. He took a few deep breaths, checked his hair in the glass window, then turned around, pretending to look at a diving mask with great interest. The little bell above the door of the shop rang and Nora entered, breathing heavily. She walked over to Tristan to see what he was looking at.

“Oh, hi,” Tristan said, smiling casually.

“Hey,” Nora began as she returned his smile. “So, is that a good mask?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah, it’s great--”

“You figured that out in the five seconds you were looking at it?” Nora asked, glancing up at Tristan slyly. Tristan blushed.

“Well…it’s…it’s all in the brand name, you know…” Tristan mumbled. Nora giggled. Just then, Ron walked over to the two of them and clapped his hands down on their shoulders.

“You must be Nora! Pleased to meet you!” Ron exclaimed, reaching out a hand to Nora. Nora was surprised to hear that he spoke with an Australian accent. She shook his hand and smiled pleasantly. “Tristan here has told me a lot about you!”

“All good, I hope.” Nora said with a small laugh. Ron stopped shaking her hand and a light frown came over his face.

“Actually, no. But it’s all worked out for good, eh?” he said, chuckling. Nora laughed nervously, not accustomed to such an exuberant person. She supposed that he had to be this way to keep people coming back to his shop.

“Yeah, I guess it has…” Nora said softly. Ron, Nora, and Tristan all stood there silently for a moment, staring at each other awkwardly. Just then, Ron clapped his hands loudly. Nora and Tristan jumped.

“Well! Let’s get started! Shall we?” Ron said, turning around and heading out the door. Nora and Tristan lingered behind for a moment.

“He’s a seasoned instructor, right?” Nora asked nervously. Tristan nodded.

“I’ve been told he’s good.” He replied softly. Nora thought for a moment.

“The people who told you this were sober, right?” she asked, looking up at him. Tristan laughed. He took Nora’s hand and the two of them followed after Ron.

Ron led the two of them out to a boat which was nice, but definitely not as high-end as most of the other boats in the marina. The three of them crawled out into the boat and Ron started the engine.

“All right, we’re going to go out and get close to the reefs. Best place to learn how to dive is out there. Well, really, any place with deep water is a good place to learn to dive, but the reefs are one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, so we like to take people out there. It’s good for business.” Ron explained over the roar of the engine. Nora and Tristan glanced up at each other with bewildered expressions on their faces.

“How long will it take to get there?” Tristan asked, leaning forward towards Ron.

“Oh, not more than half an hour, I’d say.” Ron replied. “Sometimes when the weather’s choppy it takes longer, but today is a perfect day for being out on the water. The breeze is light and the waves are small—huh…I guess it’s not such a great day to be out here in a sail boat!” Ron laughed again and Tristan chuckled. He glanced back at Nora, who laughed awkwardly. Tristan sat down next to her again and raised an eyebrow.

“Are you okay?” Tristan asked, speaking as softly as he could while still being heard over the engine of the boat.

“Yeah…it’s just that the casual attitude of this guy is kind of freaking me out. I mean, I’m a little nervous about this whole thing, and he’s acting kind of…” Nora paused and glanced up at Ron to see if he was paying attention to them. He wasn’t. “Unprofessional.” Nora finished in a voice that Tristan could barely hear. His eyes flashed over to Ron, who seemed to be bouncing to the beat of the music in his head. Tristan turned back to Nora and nodded a little.

“He’s throwing me off a little, too. But I’ve gone diving before, so I’ll help you out if he doesn’t. You’ve got nothing to worry about.” Tristan said, smiling. Nora sighed, still looking a little worried. Tristan took her hand gently but remained silent. He had a feeling that he couldn’t say anything else that would cheer her up or ease her fears. She just needed him to be there for her.

The three of them road in silence for a while. Ron bounced to the beat of his own drum while Nora and Tristan sat in the back, neither of them really thinking about anything in particular. Their thoughts drifted to and fro, going where the current willed them to go. Tristan didn’t let go of Nora’s hand, and she didn’t make any motion to pull it away. They sat there, completely content with just being with each other.

Finally, Ron turned to them. “We’re almost there!” he called over the sound of the engine and the wind in their ears. “I’m gonna slow her down so that it’s not such an abrupt stop when we get there!” he said.

“Okay!” Tristan blurted out the only response that came to mind for a comment like that. Nora took a deep breath, clenching and unclenching her free hand. Tristan gave her an encouraging smile and she attempted to smile back. He could see she was nervous, though.

“It’s going to be fine…” Tristan said softly. Nora nodded but didn’t look him in the eyes. The boat slowly came to a stop and Ron turned off the engine. He stood up and turned around to face the couple.

“All right! Are you two ready to dive?” he asked, beaming. Tristan glanced over at Nora. This was where the hard part began.

“Are you ready?” Tristan asked gently. Nora swallowed hard and nodded, forcing herself not to look at the water.

“You said you’ve gone diving before, right?” she asked, looking over at him worriedly. Tristan nodded. Nora took a deep breath and squared up her shoulders. “Then I’m ready.” She said, sounding much more confident than she was. Ron smiled wide and rubbed his hands together.

“Then let’s get this party started!” he exclaimed happily. Ron turned around and Tristan smiled at Nora again.

“You’re going to do great.” Tristan said softly.

“If you say so…” Nora muttered, standing up. Tristan stood up with her, not letting go of her hand. He knew she needed him for moral support, but he didn’t realize how much she needed him until later…