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…

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chapter 26: Reality

Saturday morning came and Tristan found himself standing in front of the mirror, staring at his reflection. He had already gotten dressed, eaten breakfast, and brushed his teeth. However, he was now facing a dilemma about his hair… He began parting it one way, then he messed it up and tried to make it spiky. He paused and stared at himself for a moment. Finally, he leaned over the sink and groaned.

“Ugh! Why does it matter what my hair is going to look like anyways?” Tristan yelled in exasperation. He thought for a minute. “But…then again…I do want to look nice, and my hair is a big part of that…” Tristan began to brush his hair back once more. “But I am just going to get into the water, which will mess it up anyways, so it’s not like it’s going to look nice for very long.” Tristan stopped brushing his hair, leaving half of it sticking up and half of it laying neatly on his head. “But Nora will notice if it doesn’t look nice to begin with. She’ll think that I don’t care! And if I don’t care about my hair, then that’s going to lead her to believe that I don’t care about anything!” Tristan began to quickly brush his hair again. He pulled on the brush a little too hard and it caught on a knot in his hair. “Ow!” Tristan exclaimed, removing the brush. He glared at his reflection, sighing deeply.

“I need help.” He said finally. He turned and left the bathroom, flipping the light off as he went. He grabbed his keys off of the small table nearby then headed out the door. He hadn’t been planning on going to work today, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

When Tristan got to the park, he walked straight to the welcome center. Once there, he told one of the girls behind the desk that he needed to find a young boy. “You mean that one that’s been following you around for the past few days?” she asked quickly.

“Um…yes…” Tristan replied slowly. The girl smiled.

“You two aren’t very sneaky, you know…” she said as she picked up a telephone. She began speaking into the telephone as Tristan laughed nervously.

“Will David Jorgensen please come to the welcome center? Tristan Motgomery is in need of your assistance.” The girl said, her voice booming from every speaker in the park. The girl put the phone down and smiled at Tristan.

“That should do it.” She said confidently.

“Thanks, Tina.” Tristan said softly. Tina just continued to smile. Tristan talked with Tina for a few minutes before David appeared. The boy dashed over to Tristan, panting.

“David! I’m so glad you’re here! I--” Tristan began, but David cut him off by holding up a finger. The boy bent over, placing his hands on his knees, breathing heavily. Tristan waited for David to catch his breath before he continued. “I thought you might not be here, but I was hoping you were, because I really need your help.” Tristan said, leading David away from Tina. Tristan waved over his shoulder at Tina, but he really didn’t want to be around the girl when he told his dilemma to David.

“Okay, what’s the problem?” David asked.

“Well… I asked Nora out on a date yesterday. After our last tour. At first she turned me down, but then I told her about all of the feelings I had felt about her and she said that she was confused by my behavior but she thought that she liked me, too, and so then she said that she would go on a date with me.” Tristan paused, taking time to breathe.

“How is that a problem?” David asked, confused.

“That part isn’t the problem. The problem is…” Tristan looked around then bent down, closer to David. He continued in a whisper. “I don’t know how I should do my hair.”

David stared at Tristan, at first with no expression in his eyes and then with a look of bewilderment. “You what?” the boy asked, practically yelling. Tristan shushed him quickly.

“I don’t know if I should make it spiky or neat or what! I mean, on the one hand, I want to look respectable, but on the other hand, it doesn’t matter because we’re going to go scuba diving anyways, so I don’t know what to do!” Tristan explained. David sighed and shook his head.

“Just do what you normally do. She likes you because you’re YOU. Don’t go changing yourself for her, or else she won’t like you anymore. And if she likes your changed self, that’s a bad thing, too. You want a girl who likes you for you, no matter how you are or what your hair is like.” David said. Tristan sighed, nodding his head.

“You’re right, you’re right… I just need to be me…” he said softly.

“Tristan, I’m always right. Whenever you have a question, just think ‘What would David do?’ and that will answer it right there.” David said, crossing his arms over his chest and smiling smugly. Tristan rolled his eyes but smiled as well. He put his hand on David’s head and messed up the boy’s hair, making David yell. Tristan laughed.

“Okay, that was all I needed. I guess I’ll go now--” Tristan began, but David cut him off.

“Wait! I’ll give you my mom’s cell phone number so that if you need to, you can call. Just tell her your Tristan from the park and she’ll know who you are.” David said, pulling a small piece of paper out of his pocket. He handed the paper to Tristan. Tristan glanced down at the paper and saw a phone number scrawled onto it. He tucked the paper into his own pocket then smiled at David.

“Thanks.” He said quietly.

“No problem. What are friends for?” David replied, beaming. Tristan chuckled then led David out of the welcome center. From there, Tristan headed to his car as David headed back towards his mother.

Tristan got into his car and started the engine, a smile still on his face. That little boy would never cease to amaze him.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chapter 25: Wishes

Nora and Tristan completed their final tour of the day, happy smiles on their faces. The air between them was much clearer, and everyone assumed it was because they had been great friends for a long time. The truth was, they had been great enemies for a short time, but no one seemed to know that.

Nora finished the tour, as usual, by directing people into the gift shop. However, on the final tour today, she decided not to follow the tourists. Instead, she stayed behind and watched the blanket octopus swim back and forth in its tank. Tristan began walking towards the gift shop but stopped when he noticed that Nora was no longer with him. He turned back and meandered over to her once again. She didn’t seem to notice him approaching; her eyes were fixed on the blanket octopus.

“So, do you still want to be a diver?” Tristan asked softly. Nora smiled a little.

“Yeah…” she replied slowly. The two of them stood there for a moment in silence.

“You’ve really never been diving before?” Tristan asked. Nora shook her head.

“I really have never been diving before.” She replied, a small smile still on her face. Tristan thought for a moment. He slowly leaned in a little closer to Nora.

“How does your weekend look?” he asked in a whisper. Nora’s eyes flashed up at him. Tristan wasn’t sure if it was the poor lighting that made him think this, but he was sure that her eyes were sparkling.

“Busy, actually.” She replied with a teasing smile. Tristan’s heart dropped.

“Oh…” he mumbled. There was a moment of silence between them again. Finally, Tristan took a deep breath. He turned to face Nora full on. “Nora, I have something I need to tell you, or a certain friend of mine is never going to get off my back about it.” Tristan said quickly. Nora turned to him, confused.

“When I first came to the park, my only intention was to gather a lot of incriminating evidence that would get the park shut down or something. I was totally against this place and…well, you, when I first met you.” Tristan paused to take a deep breath. “But, then I started to get to know you. I mean, I don’t really know you that well now, I guess, but…there’s just something about you. Something that’s different from anyone else I’ve ever met. I don’t know if it’s the passion you have for this place or just the look of determination in your eyes, but you’re definitely not like other girls I’ve met.

“At first, I just wanted to annoy you and make your life here miserable. But…then something changed… I guess it was the robbery attempt. After that, there was just something that felt different inside of me. I guess it was…” Tristan paused, glancing down at his hands. He hadn’t realized it, but Nora’s hands were now in his. “The look in your eyes after the fight. You looked so…scared…so real. I hadn’t seen you like that before, and it made me think about you differently. Instead of being some big, tough monster I had to take down, you were just…human.

“And then, when those guys tried to kill me, they mentioned your name. They said they were going to come after you, and I knew I couldn’t let that happen. What they said lit some kind of fire inside of me that made me want to kill them before they could kill you. I didn’t think about me anymore, and to be honest, that’s probably the first time something like that has happened to me. I’ve never thought about someone the same way I think about you. I get all protective and…insecure, I guess. I mean, I didn’t think that I liked you or anything, but when I saw you with that Nathaniel guy I just wanted to lean over and punch him in the nose. I…I guess I wished that you liked me as much as you liked him. But…you didn’t…so I couldn’t do anything…


“Then you met David.” Nora finished for Tristan. He looked up at her, surprised. She was smiling.

“How did you…?” Tristan asked, a confused expression on his face.

“I’m not an idiot, Tristan. I know that you two talked about me and that he’s the only reason you started being nice to me.” Nora said, still smiling.

“Well, not the only reason… He was just the thing that prompted me to be nice, I guess.” Tristan mumbled, looking down at his feet bashfully. He stood there silently for a moment, waiting for Nora to reply. She didn’t speak. Finally, Tristan glanced up at her timidly. “You think I’m a moron, don’t you?” he said. He moaned. “I knew that was dumb. I shouldn’t have said all of that. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to--” Just then, Nora put her finger up to Tristan’s lips, silencing him.

“I don’t think you’re a moron, Tristan. To tell you the truth, when I first met you, I totally hated you. You said bad things about my second home, and it made me really mad. After the robbery attempt, I thought you were being nicer. But then I took you on that tour of the park and you got all mean again, so I got defensive and decided that you didn’t like me and you never would, so I kept my distance. Then you started acting nice, and it really confused me, and I’m still confused, but…” Nora paused, looking down at her hands, which were still holding Tristan’s. “But I’m pretty sure that…that I like you too.” She said softly. She looked back up at him, and they stared at each other, neither one knowing what to do.

“I feel like we’re supposed to kiss or something…” Tristan muttered, looking away out of embarrassment. Nora threw her head back and laughed.

“How about we take it slow?” she suggested, calming down her giggles. Tristan was blushing furiously, but he nodded. “How about…this Saturday, you, me, and a diving instructor. Does that sound all right?” Nora asked.

“I thought you said you were busy this weekend…” Tristan said, a little confused. Nora smiled mischievously.

“My weekend just cleared up.” She said softly. Tristan grinned and Nora giggled a little.

“What time do you want to meet?” Tristan asked, still beaming. Nora thought for a moment.

“Two-thirty is good for me.” She replied. Tristan frowned. He thought for a moment then sighed.

“All right, two-thirty it is.” He said with a nod.

“Does that time not work for you?” Nora asked, a puzzled expression on her face. Tristan shook his head a little.

“No…it’s just that…” he paused, looking up at Nora again. “Two-thirty is a long time to wait.” He finished with a small smile. Nora laughed, squeezing Tristan’s hands tighter. He chuckled a little, feeling lighter than air.

“All right, then,” Nora began, trying not to laugh anymore. “How does your two o’clock look?” she asked, smiling. Tristan returned the smile.

“Perfect.” He replied softly. Just then, Nora slowly stood up on her tiptoes. Tristan leaned down a little, closing his eyes. The two of them were just about to meet for a kiss when the sound of small running feet caught their attention. They immediately straightened up as a little boy ran into the room to look at the blanket octopus. Nora glanced up at Tristan from the corner of her eye and giggled. Tristan smiled back. He took her hand and the two of them walked out of the gift shop together.

Tristan’s wish had come true—Nora liked him, too.

Chapter 24: Bridges

Tristan paced back and forth, thinking hard. After lunch, David had decided to go find his mom. Well, that’s what he said. Tristan knew that David was a twelve year old boy, and he knew that twelve year old boys were incredibly fond of roller coasters. David could say whatever he wanted to, but his eyes spoke the truth.

So, there Tristan was, waiting nervously for Nora to reappear. He had been smitten by other girls before, but he had never been so antsy around any of them. Nora was definitely different… Probably because she hated him. Just then, the sound of a door opening caught Tristan’s attention. He glanced up and saw Nora standing just outside the welcome center’s door, staring at him with a puzzled expression on her face.

“Um…what are you doing?” she asked slowly. Tristan thought for a moment.

“Oh, uh, just…putting a rut in the ground.” he replied with a soft chuckle. Nora didn’t seem to think his joke was funny. Tristan cleared his throat awkwardly as Nora began walking towards him. “I was just, um, waiting to--” Tristan began. Nora walked past him, not paying attention to what he was saying anymore. “Walk to the front of the zoo with you…” he finished, sounding very dejected. He followed after Nora, trying to catch up with her. Once he was next to her, he slowed down so that they were striding in sync.

The two of them walked in silence, neither one of them sure as to what they should say. Tristan was feeling nervous because of his crush, and unbeknownst to him, Nora was feeling confused because of his sudden change in behavior. They walked along, looking at everything but each other, the silence between them growing more and more awkward. Finally, the reached the front of the zoo.

“Well, I guess we’d better--” Nora began, but Tristan suddenly cut her off.

“Nora,” he said urgently. Nora looked up at him, surprised. “I, um…I bought you something.” he continued softly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pin. It was a light blue dolphin, outlined in gold. “I looked for a blanket octopus one, because I know that one is your favorite, but they didn’t have any…” he explained in a quiet voice. Nora stared at the pin in silence. “I…I hope you like it…” Tristan finished, hoping for some response. Nora just continued to stare. Tristan looked down at his feet, still holding the little dolphin pin out to Nora. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard, trying not to feel like such an idiot. A gift had been David’s idea, but Tristan had picked out the pin on his own. He wasn’t thinking it was such a good idea anymore.

Just then, Nora gently lifted the dolphin out of Tristan’s hand. Tristan looked up slowly, just in time to see Nora pin it onto her shirt. She glanced up at Tristan with a smile on her face. “It’s beautiful. Thank you.” she said softly. Tristan smiled, looking down at his feet again, a blush coming across his face.

“But…I’m confused.” Nora began, her face clouding over. “Why did you buy me something?”

“Well, I…I wanted to say…” Tristan swallowed hard, forcing himself to say the two tiny words that brought every man to his knees. “I’m sorry.” he finally blurted out. He sighed then looked up at Nora. “I’m sorry for the way I treated you. I shouldn’t have said the things I did or acted that way. I realize now that you really love this place, and I’m guessing it’s kind of like your second home or something, but I didn’t know that before, and I was just trying to cause problems for you, and I’m really, really sorry--” Tristan explained quickly. Nora reached up and placed a finger over Tristan’s lips, cutting him off. She had a smile on her face.

“Apology accepted.” she said softly, her eyes sparkling. Tristan smiled a little, seeing the change in Nora’s eyes. The two of them stared at each other before they turned and began walking towards the entrance of the zoo.

As they walked, Tristan noticed a new bounce in his step. He wondered if Nora felt the same way he did, or if she was just happy that he was being nice. Well, however she felt, Tristan was amazed that it was so easy to take down the wall that they had built up between them and replace it with a bridge.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chapter 23: Assistance

David tapped his foot impatiently against the ground, waiting outside the zoo’s gift shop. It felt like he had been standing there for three hours, when in actuality it had been no more than three minutes. Tristan walked out casually and made his way towards him.

“What took you so long?” David snapped. Tristan looked surprised.

“Um…I didn’t realize I had taken that long at all…” Tristan replied slowly.

“You are--” David glanced down at his large, electronic watch, “--three minutes late! Do you know how long three minutes is when you’re a twelve year old boy?” David asked, standing on his tiptoes to get closer to Tristan. Tristan stared at the boy like he was insane.

“Actually, no, I don’t know how long three minutes is to twelve year old boys.” he finally replied.

“It’s an eternity!” David exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air. Tristan held up his hands, trying to get the child to quiet down.

“Okay, okay, David, it’s okay. I’m here now, so you don’t need to freak out.” Tristan said calmly. David sighed.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’m sorry for blowing up at you like that…” David mumbled. “I probably shouldn’t have had that extra glass of chocolate milk…” Tristan smirked then placed a hand on David’s shoulder, turning him around and leading him away.

“So, where’s your mom?” Tristan asked as the two of them made their way towards the welcome center.

“Shopping, as usual.” David replied.

“When are you guys going to have lunch?” Tristan continued as the two of them entered into the welcome center. Tristan slipped David into the employee’s only room before David replied.

“Mom told us to just go and find lunch if we got hungry and she wasn’t out yet. So, we all split up and I figure I’ll just grab something from a vendor.” David said with a shrug.

“You could share my lunch with me.” Tristan suggested. David crinkled his nose in disgust.

“Bologna on rye? Thanks, but I’ll pass.” he said quickly. Tristan rolled his eyes. He grabbed his lunchbox from his locker then closed the locker door before turning back to David. He stared at David for a moment before asking another question.

“So, where’s your dad?” he asked softly. David’s eyes clouded over with look of sadness and he glanced down at his feet.

“He, uh…he left us a couple of years ago…” David mumbled quietly. Tristan looked at David with pity.

“Oh, I’m sorry…” he said quickly. David shrugged.

“It’s nothing you need to apologize for…” the boy’s voice faded and Tristan saw him swallow hard. After a moment, David looked up at Tristan, his eyes clear and cheery again.

“Do you wanna go have lunch now?” David asked with a smile. Tristan nodded then quickly sneaked David out the door, still amazed by the personality of this little boy.

The pair walked along the paved path, passing brightly colored tourists and various vendors as they went. David would briefly inspect the vendor’s cart as they passed it before shaking his head.

“Okay, you have to get something to eat. If you don’t buy something, I’m going to force feed you my sandwich.” Tristan finally said as they passed the fourth vendor’s cart.

“I’m really in the mood for pizza. Does anyone sell pizza around here?” David mused.

“I don’t know. That’s a question for Nora.” Tristan replied quickly.

“Speaking of Nora, how did it go?” David asked, looking up at Tristan. Tristan shrugged.

“All right, I guess…” he replied slowly.

“All right? You guess? What is the meaning of these words?” David asked sharply.

“I don’t know… She seems a little…weird around me…” Tristan said, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“Define ‘weird’.” David said dryly. Tristan sighed.

“Like…hesitant, I guess. Or, maybe 'wary' is a better word? She just seems kind of tense and worried around me, like she’s freaked out about something.”

“Perhaps your sudden change of character?” David suggested.

“Hey, you’re the one who told me to be nice.” Tristan pointed out quickly, a scowl on his face.

“I know, I know. It’s a big change for her, though. You just need to be patient. She’ll come around eventually.” David said confidently.

“Are you sure?” Tristan asked, giving David a skeptical look.

“Positive.” David said with a nod. “What did you say to her today?”

“I told her that she looked nice.” Tristan replied. “I really don’t have much else in my repertoire.”

“Well, you have to find something else. If you just say ‘you like nice’ every day, she’s just going to get annoyed with you.” David said.

“What else am I supposed to say? ‘You look hot’?”

“In this weather, even you look hot, Tristan.” David replied softly. Tristan rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t hide a small smile.

“Anyhoo, I’ll think about what else you could say to her. Maybe I’ll ask my mom about what things girls like to hear.” David said, circling back to their original topic.

“That’s actually a good idea.” Tristan said thoughtfully.

“Have I ever had a bad one?” David asked. Tristan thought for a moment before he replied.

“That extra glass of chocolate milk this morning was probably a bad idea. You said so yourself.” he replied with a nod. David smiled then lightly punched Tristan in the arm. The two of them laughed as they walked along. Suddenly, David gasped. He stared straight ahead with his mouth hanging open.

“What is it?” Tristan asked, concerned that something was wrong. David pointed ahead as a smile grew across his face.

“Pizza…” he breathed. Tristan stared at him for a minute before the boy dashed forward towards the vendor with the pizza. Tristan chuckled and shook his head before he walked over by the boy. He was glad that he had David around to help him. He was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to make amends with Nora without this little boy’s assistance.

Chapter 22: Stress

Nora sighed heavily, placing her head in her hands. Tristan had been acting even stranger than usual this morning, and she didn’t know what to make of it. He was being really polite and nice to her since he had met that David kid… She wondered if that little boy had some sort of magical powers and if he had put Tristan under a spell… To her, it was all a mystery. She wanted to ask Tristan about is sudden change in behavior, but she was worried that asking him about it would make him feel self-conscious and force him to go back to being mean. Once again, Nora sighed, wondering what she should do.

“Nora?” Tristan’s voice came from the other side of the door. “Are you okay in there?” he asked, sounding concerned. Nora had told him she needed to use the bathroom, but really she just needed a quiet place to think.

“Yeah, Tristan, I’m fine.” she said through the door. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

“You said that five minutes ago…” she heard Tristan mumble. She rolled her eyes but realized that she had been in the bathroom for a while now… No wonder he was getting worried.

Nora quickly washed her hands and face then straightened out her ponytail. She looked at herself in the mirror then frowned. She looked awful. She had huge bags under her eyes because she hadn’t slept well and then somehow she had misplaced her makeup bag, so she couldn’t even try to cover up her blemishes. Nora attempted to cover the pimple on her forehead with her bangs, but her attempt was not completely successful.

Finally, Nora turned to the door and exited the bathroom, finding Tristan waiting nearby for her. She walked over to him with her back straight and her shoulders back, trying to look confident.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Nora?” Tristan asked as he began walking beside her.

“I told you, I’m fine.” Nora replied quickly. She tried to avoid Tristan’s eyes, which was pretty easy, since she had been doing it all morning.

The two of them walking in silence for a few minutes, walking back to the front of the zoo. Their next tour was in fifteen minutes, so both of them were walking rather quickly. Tristan glanced down at Nora hesitantly, but she didn’t look up at him. He cleared his throat.

“Y-you look nice today, Nora.” Tristan said softly. Nora felt her face heat up. She knew he was lying. She had just looked at herself two minutes ago, and she did not look ‘nice.’

“Yeah right…” she mumbled, looking away from Tristan so that he wouldn’t see her blush.

“No, really. You look nice.” Tristan insisted. Nora glanced up at him with a skeptical look.

“Nice how?” she asked quickly. Tristan thought for a moment, studying her face nervously.

“Um…well, your ponytail is perfect, and I like how your bangs are spread over your forehead. You usually have them pushed to one side.” Tristan said. Nora was surprised he had noticed that. “That shade of lipstick looks nice on you, and your makeup looks really natural.”

“I’m not wearing makeup, Tristan.” Nora said dryly.

“Oh…that would explain why it looks so natural, then…” Tristan said with a nervous laugh. Nora couldn’t help but smile a little.

“So…you really think I look nice today?” she asked, glancing up at him quickly. Tristan nodded.

“Yeah, I do.” he replied. Nora’s smile widened a little. She looked away again, trying to hide a blush. She had no idea why Tristan was being so nice, but him being nice was much less stressful than him being mean.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chapter 21: Exhaustion

I suddenly realized that I was still in the middle of a fight. The creature squeezed tighter on my arms, waking me from the stupor I had fallen into. I fought briefly with the beast, twisting this way and that, trying to get it to release my arms. My plan didn’t work, and I realized that twisting underwater was incredibly tiring. I was no longer concerned about using up my oxygen tank, since I apparently didn’t need it, but I was worried about how tired I was getting. I hadn’t slept in at least twenty hours, and my body wasn’t built for strenuous activity when I was tired.

Just then, I came up with another plan. The creature, for whatever reason, was trying to kill me. So, if I died, it should leave me alone…in theory. However, I did not plan on dying. Hopefully, if I just pretended, it would be enough to fool the monster.

I wound down my fighting, slowing down my movements, and I held my breath. Maybe it hadn’t noticed that I could breathe underwater yet… Soon, I was floating, completely limp and only suspended by the creature’s hands. I tilted my head down towards my chest and closed my eyes. I opened my mouth, letting air out and creating bubbles in the process. The creature held me there for a moment, moving its legs only slightly to keep itself in place. Just then, I felt its hands release my arms. I tried not to move from the surprise as I floated towards the coral reef beneath us. Once I reached the coral, I layed there quietly, trying hard not to move or breathe deeply. I kept my eyes closed, but I felt the water moving around me, which led me to believe that the monster was coming to inspect its prey.

I felt large hands rolling me over, and I quickly stopped breathing. I could practically feel the creature looking me over. It was as if its eyes were burning a hole through me, making sure that I was dead.

I had a slight moment of panic as I wondered if the creature really could burn things with its eyes, but then I remembered that I was underwater, and it was fairly difficult to start a fire down here.

Just then, I felt the water move around me once more. I waited for a moment then opened my eyes a sliver and saw the creature swimming away. I watched it go before I sighed heavily and sat up. I quickly grabbed my oxygen tank and re-entered my lair, keeping a sharp eye out for the creature. Once I was inside and had changed out of my diving gear, I flopped onto the chair in front of the window. I stared out at the dark water for a moment before I reached over and pushed a small button, closing the window. I had had enough excitement for today, and I most certainly didn’t need that creature coming back and peering through my window. I still had no idea what that thing was… It was either a strange mutant that had escaped from an illegal testing facility, a new species of sea monster, or a human that…really, really hated me… I pondered these things for a while, trying to decide which answer was the most likely. I finally decided on the last possibility, because most mutants don’t survive very long and I had only ever seen sea monsters like that in old horror movies. However, even though that shed some light on one question, it left many, many more to be asked. Why would another human attack me? Who knows me and hates me enough to try to kill me? Why would someone dress up like a sea monster? Where was their oxygen tank located? Was it a man or a woman? I thought and thought but couldn’t come up with an answer to any of these questions, either.

Finally, I sighed and rubbed my face with my hands. I was exhausted, and I needed rest. I stood up and walked to another part of my cavern then pulled a bed out from the wall. I flopped onto it, resting one arm against my forehead. I glanced over at my tank of angelfish and smiled. “Good night, my sweets…” I whispered with a small smile. The angelfish all came to one side of the tank and stared at me, sleepy smiles in their eyes. I turned away from them and closed my eyes, hoping I would be able to sleep tonight…

Chapter 20: Clues

I was sitting in front of the computer screen, staring at it intensely. I scrolled past a plethora of pictures but didn’t find what I was looking for. I sighed and leaned back, wiping my forehead with my hand. It was well over eighty degrees Fahrenheit in this cavern, and I had no idea why. I had been looking up instructions on how to fix thermostats, but nothing seemed to be what I was looking for. Through the course of my research, my mind had drifted to the strange creature I had seen the last time I was out in the water. I had begun looking for pictures of the creature online, but I had found nothing that even vaguely resembled it.

It was then that an idea hit me. I’d go out once more to see if the monster would appear again. I quickly donned my diving gear and made my way to the metal tunnel, waving goodbye to my angelfish as I went. I was outside my cavern in a matter of minutes, drifting quietly in the water.

I swam around for a few minutes, keeping my eyes peeled for the strange beast. A bit of coral caught my eye and I peered down at it, thinking it was damaged. It looked as though someone had broken part of it off…

Just then, a shadow loomed over me. I spun around in the water, just to see the creature’s large eyes staring down at me. I opened my mouth in shock and blew out bubbles. We stayed there for a moment, staring at each other, before the creature darted past me, floating a few feet away. I swam upwards a bit and stared at it, a little afraid of what it would do next. I swallowed hard and waved.

Hello, I said softly. The creature stared at me, not blinking. I…I don’t want to hurt you. I continued, trying to make myself sound fearless. Again, the monster just stared. I sighed as much as one can sigh while breathing through an oxygen tank, wishing it would communicate with me.

Suddenly, the creature darted towards me, ramming me in the stomach with its hard head. I shot backwards with it, letting out a bubbled “oof” as I went. I managed to swim up above the beast and I looked down at it. I could see no expression in its eyes or on its face, but it was obviously mad. The creature shot upwards at me and I narrowly escaped a collision with it. I didn’t want to fight this thing, but it looked like I wasn’t going to have a choice. So, I took a fighting stance and got ready to dodge or punch anything that came near me.

The monster flashed forward, swimming faster than most things I had seen in the water. I shot up towards the surface of the water and the creature missed me again. We carried on like this for a few minutes and I realized I was growing more and more tired, while the beast didn’t seem to loose any energy at all. I was sure that with all of the heavy breathing I was doing my oxygen tank would run out at any minute…

Just then, I got an idea. All I had to do was get back into my lair and the creature would go away. I glanced down towards the entrance of the cavern and realized it was directly beneath the creature. Apparently my plan was more easily said than done… I had to try, though. I didn’t know how much oxygen was left in my tank, and once it was gone, I was gone, too.

I scowled at the creature and shot forward through the water, angling myself downwards a little. I swam as fast as I could, but the monster was faster. He bolted downwards and grabbed my shoulders just as I went past him. I kicked and chopped with my arms, but the creature didn’t let go. Just then, I felt a weight lift off of my back. The mouthpiece to my oxygen tank slipped out of my mouth. My eyes went wide as I glanced down and saw the tank floating to the bottom of the sea. It wasn’t far down; I could still get to it. But the creature was holding me tightly, refusing to let go. I held my breath, but I didn’t even have a lungful of air in my body. I had become very good at holding my breath for extended periods of time, but that meant, at most, two minutes with a deep breath of air. I didn’t have a deep breath; I didn’t have two minutes.

I kicked, but with my flippers it didn’t do much. I tried to punch, or just move my arms, but the creature was holding them tight to my sides. It was as if this thing wanted me to die… But why? What was it and why was it after me? Was it just a nighttime predator? Was it just its instinct to kill?

I pondered these questions and so many more as my vision began to go black. I saw spots and knew that as soon as I opened my mouth I would swallow water and die. However, even with this knowledge, I could not fight against what my body wanted. I opened my mouth and sucked in water, wishing it was air. I felt the water rush through my body, and I gulped in more. I knew that in a matter of moments my life would be gone… There was so much I had yet to do, so many things I had wanted to accomplish! I gasped when I realized that I would never be able to get the blanket octopus out of that zoo… I would never see her in her natural habitat again…

Just then, I realized I wasn’t dead. I looked around and found that I was, indeed, still under the water. My brow creased in confusion. I realized at that moment that I had gasped just a few seconds before. How had that not killed me? Humans can’t inhale water…

Suddenly, a light bulb went on in my head. I took a deep breath through my nose and was stung by the salt water, but I felt like I had just taken a deep breath of air. I began taking in water through my mouth and realized that it, too, felt like deep breaths of air. I smiled as I realized the most amazing thing I had ever discovered.

I could breathe under water.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chapter 19: Reconciliation

David walked with Tristan back to the employee’s lounge. “Are you sure your mom isn’t going to worry about you?” Tristan asked.

“Nah,” David said with a shrug. “Like I said, she can shop for hours. And I kind of have this habit of wandering off… She’s learned not to worry about me.” David finished. Tristan laughed a little. He was starting to like this kid.

The two of them came to the door of the employee’s only lounge and Tristan frowned. He glanced down at David, and David glanced up at him. Tristan quickly looked around to see if anyone was watching before he opened the door and pushed David into the room. David stumbled forward as Tristan rushed in after him. Tristan closed the door as softly and quickly as he could.

“Um, you realize this is the employee’s only lounge, right?” Tristan spun around as he heard Nora speak. She was pointing down at David with a puzzled expression on her face. Tristan hurried over to David and stood behind the boy, placing his hands on David’s shoulders.

“Nora, this is my new friend David. He’s, um…lost.” Tristan said. David nodded convincingly. Nora gave the two of them a skeptical look. “I saw him sitting on a bench…crying. Yeah, he was crying.” Tristan said, making his story up as he went along. David looked up at Tristan, looking offended and confused. Tristan squeezed his shoulders and gave him a look, silently telling him to go with it. David quickly got the hint and turned around to face Nora. He began to sniffle and wipe at his eyes. Nora sighed and folded her arms over her chest, giving Tristan an exasperated look. “So, I asked him what was wrong and he said he had gotten separated from his mom, and I decided to bring him here to…ask you what was the best thing to do…I guess…” Tristan mumbled the last part more to himself. David let out a little sob and Nora rolled her eyes.

“Okay, what’s really going on?” she asked, giving Tristan a light glare.

“What do you mean? That was a true story…” Tristan replied slowly, not looking Nora in the eyes. Nora sighed heavily.

“Okay, fine, if that’s what you want to tell me then that’s what I’ll believe. For now.” Nora said, throwing her hands up in the air. Tristan smiled. “However, we have more tours today, so we’re going to have to contact the front desk about a lost boy--”

“No!” David suddenly exclaimed. Nora shot him a confused expression. “I mean… I wanna go on a tour…” he said softly. He remembered to sniffle a little as he looked up at Nora with pleading eyes. Nora stared at him for a moment before she moaned in defeat.

“Fine! He can come!” Nora said, sounding exasperated. She stomped past the two boys and went out the door, slamming it behind her. David pulled his fist down towards his hip and whispered the word “yes.” Tristan smiled and raised his hand up for a hi-five. David jumped up to reach Tristan’s hand and slapped his hand hard. The two boys turned and walked out of the room together, trying to be sneaky as they ran after Nora.

Nora led the two boys to the front of the zoo where a crowd was already gathering for the tour. They waited for about ten minutes before beginning the tour, just to make sure everyone was there who had signed up. Once Nora thought that most of the people were there, she began the tour.

“You guys do this every day?” David whispered to Tristan. The group had stopped in front of one of the fish tanks, and Nora had decided to stand a few feet away
from Tristan and David. Because of this, David thought it was perfectly fine to talk to Tristan about her.

“Yep.” Tristan replied, looking at all of the tourists.

“Wow. It must get really boring really fast.” David said quickly. Tristan shrugged.

“Not really. It’s a different group every time we do it, so it’s not that bad.”

“Huh… I guess that makes sense… Do you ever get to talk, though?” David glanced up at Tristan, squinting a bit.

“Sometimes…” Tristan replied slowly. “Well, I only got to talk for the morning tours one day… Then I got Nora all mad again and she hasn’t let me speak since. I think she’s afraid I’ll say something bad.” Tristan glanced down at David, who sighed and rolled his eyes.

“No duh! She has a brain, she knows your agenda, and you haven’t done a whole lot to gain her trust. You’ve bashed the park every time you’ve opened your mouth and you expect her to let you talk to a group of customers?” David said incredulously. Tristan recoiled in shock.

“Hey! I thought you were on my side!” he exclaimed, slightly offended.

“I am, but to help you, I have to hurt you.” David replied with a nod. Tristan stared at him for a moment, a baffled expression on his face.

“That doesn’t make any sense.” he said slowly. David patted his arm.

“It will in time, young grasshopper.” the boy said softly. Tristan continued to stare at him like he was crazy.

“As I was saying, you need to regain her trust.” David continued, coming back to his main point. “You need to keep your mouth shut when it comes to bad things about the park. You need to start saying good things about the park. Most importantly, though, you need to apologize to Nora.” David checked off the items while counting on his fingers how many there were.

“What? Apologize?” Tristan exclaimed loudly. A few of the guests in the near vicinity glanced over at him in confusion. Nora, however, didn’t seem to notice his sudden outburst.

“Yep. It’s the only way to go.” David said, crossing his arms over his chest and nodding with authority. Tristan sighed.

“Why? I mean, can’t I just buy her flowers or something?” he whined.

“If you write ‘I’m sorry for being a jerk’ on the card that goes with them.” David replied quickly. Tristan sent him a light glare. “I know that ‘sorry’ is the hardest word, but it’s the only word that will make your problems with her go away.” David said, placing a caring hand on Tristan’s arm again. “It’s the only thing that will break down the barrier she’s built against you. You have to remove the barrier before you can build a bridge.”

Tristan sighed. He knew that the kid was right, but he didn’t want to admit it. He put his hand over his face and squeezed his eyes shut, hoping he would open them again and have the problem magically fixed for him. However, when he opened his eyes, David was still looking up at him knowingly and Nora was still ignoring him.

“You’ve gotta do it, Tristan.” David implored him.

“Can’t I just tell myself to stop liking her?” Tristan asked, staring at Nora sadly.

“No! You can’t deny true love! Don’t you know that you can die from a broken heart?” David hissed.

“Maybe I can just quit, move away, and forget about her… Find a girl that doesn’t hate me…” Tristan mused to himself. David smacked his arm.

“Ow!” Tristan exclaimed, rubbing his arm and glaring down at David.

“I will not tolerate that attitude, mister!” David growled, wagging a finger at Tristan. “You like her, and you are not going to roll over in defeat just because you have to apologize to her. Real men don’t do that! Real men go after what they want!” David cried, his voice getting louder. Tristan shushed him as people began to stare at them. David sighed and began speaking quietly. “Tristan, you’re like a dog--”

“Gee, thanks…” Tristan muttered, rolling his eyes.

“And Nora is like the bone that is buried in some other dog’s yard. You have to fight against that other dog to get to the bone. Unfortunately, the other dog is inside your own mind. It’s that little voice that’s telling you to not apologize. You have to fight that little voice to get what you want. It won’t be easy, but I know you can do it. You might have to work up to it. Start with just saying nice things to Nora and not saying bad things about the park. Maybe drop in a nice word or two about the park, too. Then you can work up to apologizing.” David explained. Tristan listened closely, amazed at the pearls of wisdom this boy carried. He nodded slowly, understanding what the boy was saying.

Nora began moving the group to the next part of the zoo, catching both of the boys’ attention. “Come on,” David said, turning towards the group. “We have to get up to the front so that you can start making friends with Nora.” he finished, taking Tristan’s hand a pulling him along. Tristan sighed and followed him.

And now began the process of reconciliation… Tristan was not looking forward to it.

Chapter 18: Disillusionment

Nora and Tristan walked back to the employee’s lounge at the same pace. Tristan refused to be left behind, even though Nora didn’t seem to want to associate with him at the moment. He had a few questions on his mind, and he had to ask them now, or he would lose his courage and never ask about them again.

“So, you really like that Nathaniel guy, huh?” Tristan asked casually, not looking at Nora. She glanced over at him quickly, a surprised expression on his face.

“What are you talking about?” Nora asked sharply, looking away from Tristan.

“It just seemed like you like him.” Tristan replied with a shrug. Nora shot him a glare.

“He’s just a good friend.” she said, trying not to sound too defensive. Tristan scoffed.

“Yeah, a friend you make googly eyes at…” he muttered, putting his hands in his pockets. Nora sighed heavily while rolling her eyes.

“Look, he’s just a good friend. I like him, he likes me. No big deal.” she said, hoping to brush the matter aside.

“No big deal? I thought for a minute that you were going to kiss him right then and there.” Tristan grumbled. Nora glared at him again.

“Well, it’s not like I have any better choices.” she shot back quickly.

“Oh, ouch, that really hurt.” Tristan said dryly. On the inside, though, he did feel a pang of…something… Some emotion he couldn’t place… Nora sighed once more.

“You know, I really wish life was like the movies. In the movies, the girl goes wandering off and runs into a handsome boy, then the two of them fall in love and live happily ever after. In real life, the girl goes wandering off and runs into a big-mouthed boy who becomes her worst enemy and makes her life miserable.” Nora growled, glaring up at Tristan as she finished speaking. Tristan looked straight ahead. He wasn’t showing any emotion. In fact, Nora wasn’t sure if he had even heard her.

“Ugh! You’re so aggravating!” Nora exclaimed, stomping ahead of Tristan. Tristan slowed to a stop, watching her leave. Her fists were clenching and unclenching at her sides as she stormed away. He sighed then turned to the nearest bench and sat down. He placed his face in his hands and rested his elbows on his knees.

“What am I going to do?” he mumbled to himself. He was finding it harder and harder to be angry at her, even when she was furious at him. Instead, he was feeling…sorry for her…sorry that he had made her so angry…

“Girl problems?” a voice suddenly caught Tristan’s attention. He looked up and saw a young boy, probably no older than twelve, standing near him. Tristan stared at him for a moment, not sure how to respond.

“Um…kind of…” he said slowly. The boy nodded understandingly. He sat down next to Tristan and looked at him with the kind of emotion only a child can have towards a perfect stranger.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” the kid asked softly. Tristan stared at him, confused.

“Do I know you?” Tristan finally asked. The boy thought for a minute.

“I don’t think so.” he said quickly. Tristan recoiled in shock. The boy stuck his hand out to Tristan. “I’m David.” the boy said, waiting for Tristan to shake his hand. Tristan slowly reached out and shook the boys hand.

“I’m Tristan.” he replied, still a little puzzled as to why the boy was acting so friendly.

“Well, Tristan, it’s nice to meet you.” David said politely. “Now, would you like to talk to me about your girl problems? I’ve got all the time in the world. Mom walked into the gift shop, and she’s been known to stay there for hours.” David explained. He leaned a little closer to Tristan and whispered. “It makes for a pretty lousy vacation sometimes.” Tristan cracked a grin as David sat up straight again. Tristan took a deep breath and decided that there was no harm in telling this boy about what was bothering him. Besides, it might to him a bit of good to get his feelings off of his chest.

So, Tristan told David of his first encounter with Nora, about the attempted robbery, and about how Nora was being nice to him then suddenly got very angry with him. “No wonder she got angry! You’re totally dissing her favorite place in the world!” David exclaimed before Tristan had even finished his story. “She obviously has a back story that would be worth hearing. I’m sure it would shed some light on this situation. But we don’t have a back story, so we kind of have to do some guess work. I’m going to guess that family life isn’t so great and that she doesn’t have a lot of friends, she’s a bit of a loner, but she’s got a good heart…” David went on and on with his analysis of Nora. Tristan sat and listened, amazed by the young boy. Finally, Tristan was allowed to finish his story. Once Tristan had finished, David clicked his tongue and shook his head in disapproval.

“Tristan, Tristan, Tristan…” David said slowly. He sighed then looked up at Tristan again. “You, my friend, have been bit…by the love bug.” Tristan stared at David, shocked by what the boy had said. However, he thought about it a little longer and realized that he shouldn’t have been surprised at all. He had known for a while that he liked Nora, he had just refused to admit it to himself.

Tristan marveled at how right Nora was; life wasn’t like the movies. What character in a movie needs a twelve year old boy to tell him that he’s fallen head over heels for a girl who hates him?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chapter 17: Tricks

The light shone down on the sunny afternoon, illuminating the park and adding a cheery tone to everything. However, a little black rain cloud seemed to be following after Tristan and Nora. While they were being a bit more cordial with each other after their conversation in the locker room, there was still a good deal of tension between them, and it was visible.

Nora was walking a good three feet ahead of Tristan, who was kicking rocks as he slouched behind her. When they reached an empty table to eat their lunch at, they practically sat on opposite ends of the table. Neither one of them spoke as they opened their lunchboxes and began eating.

“Hey, Nora!” Nora glanced over her shoulder and saw someone waving at her. It was a man about her age with dark blond hair that reached down to his chin. Nora recognized him as one of her co-workers and waved back.

“Hi, Nathaniel!” Nora called with a smile, instantly seeming happier. Tristan felt something burn inside his chest and he turned to look at the approaching man. Nathaniel walked over and sat down next to Nora, a wide grin on his face. He hardly glanced at Tristan.

“Nora! It seems like I haven’t seen you in ages!” Nathaniel exclaimed. Nora nodded.

“I know! I’ve missed talking with you.” she said with a smile. Tristan glared at the two of them as he picked up his sandwich and tore off a bite of it.

“Same here. But I guess that’s what we get for working on opposite ends of the park, huh?” Nathaniel said with a small laugh. Nora giggled and Tristan thought he might gag. He forced himself to swallow before he put his sandwich down. Just then, Nathaniel glanced up.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. Who’s your friend, Nora?” Nathaniel asked politely.

“This is Tristan. And he’s not my friend.” Nora muttered, sending Tristan a glare. Tristan faked a smile and waved a little in greeting. Nathaniel looked at him, a little confused, then smiled in return. He then turned to Nora, the same confused expression on his face. “Long story. Don’t ask.” Nora mumbled, still glaring at Tristan. Tristan sighed and rolled his eyes, looking away from the two of them.

“So, how have you been? I heard about your daring robbery rescue, or whatever you wanna call it.” Nathaniel said, making small talk with Nora. Tristan tuned the two of them out, trying to focus on something else. Nora was probably the most aggravating and confusing person Tristan had ever met, and yet…seeing her with this guy made him feel all…weird inside… He couldn’t quite explain it, but it made him angry to think about this guy being friends with Nora, to think about her liking Nathaniel more than she liked him.

Just then, a light bulb lit up inside Tristan’s head. He realized that he was jealous.

This is so stupid… Tristan thought, shaking his head. I don’t even like her. Why in the world would I be jealous? Tristan put his head in his hands, resting his elbows on the table. He closed his eyes and repeated over and over to himself that he didn’t like Nora. He listed everything about her that made him angry or annoyed, and he tried to convince himself that she was the ugliest girl he had ever seen. However, he realized that his list of aggravating things about Nora wasn’t very long, and she most certainly was not the ugliest girl he had ever seen. But I don’t like her! he exclaimed inside his head.

“No, no, no, no, no…” he muttered to himself.

“Um…Tristan?” Tristan glanced up when he heard Nora’s voice. Nora and Nathaniel were both staring at him with puzzled expressions on their faces. “Are you okay?” Nora asked slowly. Tristan swallowed hard, not sure how to respond.

“Uh, yeah… Yeah, I’m fine. Just…a stomach ache, that’s all…” he lied, hoping they would believe him.

“Okay…do you need to go home?” Nora continued, looking a little concerned.

“No, no… I’ll be fine…” Tristan replied, looking away.

“Okay, if you say so…” Nora said with a shrug. She turned back to her conversation with Nathaniel and Tristan sighed heavily.

Why was his heart playing tricks on his head?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chapter 16: Distractions

Time seemed to be moving slower for Tristan today than it had any other day of his life. He had gotten to work on time (a little early, actually), but Nora had not been impressed. She had hardly even noticed him, so it seemed. She told him to get everything ready then meet her out in front of the zoo. From there, they had given their tours as usual, but Nora hadn’t let Tristan say a word. In fact, she had ignored Tristan for most of the tour. Each time he had tried to open his mouth, Nora had cut him off or sent him a sharp glare. Needless to say, Tristan had not liked that one bit.

“Is there any particular reason you’re being so rude to me today?” Tristan asked as he and Nora grabbed their lunchboxes out of their lockers.

“What do you think?” Nora asked icily. She slammed the locker door closed and turned towards the door of the employee’s lounge.

“Wait! Don’t just walk away from me! Communication is key to a relationship!” Tristan blurted out, not realizing what he was saying. Nora glanced back at him, a confused expression on her face.

“We’re not in a relationship.” Nora said quickly, a glare on her face. Tristan stared at her for a moment, a little puzzled by what he had said as well.

“Um…I didn’t mean, like…a relationship in that sense… More like a friendship…” Tristan said slowly. Nora sighed, her shoulders dropping.

“We can’t be friends if you keep bashing something I’m passionate about.” she said softly. Her eyes had suddenly changed. She didn’t look furious anymore; she just looked hurt. Tristan swallowed hard. He wasn’t sure what to say next.

“Well, it’s just that… I think that sea-life belongs in the sea…” he said, trying to choose his words carefully.

“But sometimes these animals are taken out of the sea for a reason.” Nora replied gently. Tristan looked at her with a questioning expression on his face. Nora sighed and began explaining.

“A lot of the animals here have actually been saved because of this park. We have a program that rescues animals whose habitats have been endangered by oil spills or pollution, and most of the animals are kept here instead of put back into those dangerous habitats. We also take in animals that have been injured in fishing accidents. Sometimes, when fishermen put down nets, they catch swordfish, turtles, dolphins, and we actually have a whale that was trapped in a net as a baby. Instead of the fishermen putting the injured animals back into the water or just killing them outright, we’ll send a team out to pick up the animal and bring it back here until it heals. We’ve had scuba divers bring in animals from the reefs nearby, and most of the animals that have been brought to us would have died without our help. The blanket octopus is a great example of that.” Nora finished softly, but her eyes were alight with a fire Tristan hadn’t seen before. It wasn’t anger, but it wasn’t some sort of happiness, either… It was more like passion. Nora really was passionate about her job.

“Really? The blanket octopus was brought in by someone?” Tristan asked, walking towards Nora. Nora nodded.

“Yep. A few years ago someone brought in this tiny little octopus that was missing a leg. We kept the octopus in a tank, discovered what it needed to live happily, and took care of it here. It’s been thriving ever since.” A small smile came to Nora’s lips as she spoke. Tristan couldn’t help but smile a little as well.

“So, you don’t just take animals out of their natural habitats without good reason?” he asked, just for clarification.

“Nope. If the animals aren’t brought in because they’re injured, then they’ve been born and raised here.” Nora replied quickly.

“Oh…so, they’re not all animals that have been injured…” Tristan said softly.

“No, but would you really want them to be?” Nora asked, giving Tristan a pointed look.

“Well, no, but I just thought, after that speech, that all of the animals had been brought in because they were injured.”

“You’d be surprised as to the number of eggs one fish can lay. Usually there are too many baby fish to keep here, so we release some of them back into the wild once they’re old enough.” Nora said quickly.

“But the ones that were brought in because they were injured stay here for the rest of their lives?” Tristan asked. Nora nodded.

“Yes, but sometimes they have to stay here, or else they’ll die.” Nora replied. Tristan thought for a moment.

“What about the blanket octopus? Does it need to stay here to survive?” Tristan asked quickly.

“The blanket octopus is healthy enough to, in theory, survive in the wild. However, because it’s been raised here since it was a baby, just dropping it into the sea would be quite a shock to it. It would have to be introduced to life in the sea very slowly to make a good transition.” Nora explained. Tristan was silent for a minute, thinking about everything Nora had said.

“Hm… Interesting…” he murmured.

“Do you understand a little more where I’m coming from now?” Nora asked hesitantly. Tristan glanced down at her.

“Yeah, a little bit.” he replied softly. Nora smiled slightly.

“Good. Now, let’s go have lunch.” she said, turning and walking away. Tristan followed after her, everything she had said playing through his mind.

After hearing all of that, it was going to be incredibly difficult to protest the park…