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…

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