The Deep End: Part Four
If you haven't yet, make sure to read parts one, two, and three of The Deep End to catch up on the story!
Lucinda set herself up at one of the picnic tables near the pool. The blue and yellow umbrella fluttered in the slight breeze. She had brought a photographer with her-- a man in his early forties, pale, with a long nose and a hairline that was retreating toward the crown of his head. He nodded at me when I walked up, but barely looked at me, too busy fiddling with the settings on his camera.
“Thank you for meeting us, Lily,” Lucinda said, her smile was all teeth.
I sat down on the bench across from her. I felt knots in my stomach as the scent of chlorine invaded my nose. It was just nerves, I told myself. I could feel sweat pool uncomfortably in the creases of my folded knees. My hair clung to my neck. I felt itchy.
I glanced around half nervously, half excitedly.
“Mark LaWren will be joining us in a few minutes,” Lucinda said, as if she read my thoughts. “In the meantime, let’s talk about what happened yesterday.”
“What exactly do you want to know?” I asked.
“You can tell us what happened from your point of view,” she suggested. “How you felt as you were in the water. What you thought. How you ended up there in the first place. We will, of course, also get Mark LaWren’s take of the situation as well.”
I looked toward the pool, but Mark wasn’t there. Megan sat in one of the lounge chairs with a book to tan while she waited for me. Jake walked over to her, now clad in his swim gear. He said something and she laughed. I watched Jake set his things down next to a lane. He stretched his arms and neck and looked over at me. He gave me an encouraging smile and a thumbs up.
I turned back toward Lucinda and explained what happened. I told her how I wanted to conquer my fear. I told her about the cramp, my shirt coming up over my face, and the terror I felt as I sank. I told her about waking up with Mark LaWren leaning over me and how grateful I was for what he did.
Lucinda slid her recorder closer to me from across the table, nodding as I spoke, a glint in her eye.
“Hey, sorry I’m late,” said a silky baritone voice behind me.
My insides tumbled over each other as Mark sat on the bench next to me. I felt the heat of a blush on my face and neck. I turned to face him. I could smell the wonderful scents of his shampoo under the tropical scented sunblock.
“Hi,” I said, and my voice came out all soft and breathy.
“Hey, Lily.” He smiled and I thought I might melt into a puddle in front of everyone. He said my name! It sounded so beautiful on his lips. My heart pounded and I had the urge to take his hand and interlace his fingers with mine.
“Mark, it is good to see you,” Lucinda said. “My name is Lucinda Hamilton. We spoke on the phone yesterday.”
I clasped my hands tightly in my lap.
Mark was still looking at me when he answered her. “Yeah, it’s good to meet you.” A small smile touched his lips. Could he read my feelings on my face? To be honest, I had no idea what my expression was as I continued to meet his gaze. Did I look startled? Alarmed? Cool and composed?
“We have just heard Lily’s side of the events that occurred yesterday,” Lucinda continued. “Would you please tell us your story?”
Mark finally broke his gaze and turned toward Lucinda. “Sure. I was on duty, watching over the pool. Lily was here with her friends and they decided to swim to the other end. The other girls didn’t have a problem with it, but Lily got a cramp, just about there.” He pointed to a spot on the pool. “We’re trained for this sort of thing, so I knew right away that she was in trouble. I enacted our emergency rescue plan and performed the rescue.”
“Could you tell us more about the emergency rescue plan?” Lucinda prompted. “How exactly did you perform the rescue.”
Mark nodded, like he was expecting these questions. He probably had expected them. He’s so smart. I sighed and leaned my elbow on the table and rested my chin in my hand.
“Yeah,” Mark said. “So she was still near the surface so I jumped in with my tube and grabbed her like this.” He does a scooping motion with his arms and leans back. “So she was floating face down, right? She’d passed out so I knew I had to hurry. I swam us back to the shallow end where Sanders was waiting with the backboard. We got her strapped into it and pulled her out. I leaned over her to check for her pulse and breathing. That’s when she woke up.”
Hearing it from Mark’s perspective, the whole thing sounded so exciting, not embarrassing or terrifying. He was a hero. A real hero.
I suddenly felt the seriousness of the situation sink in. If he hadn’t acted I wouldn’t be alive.
Without thinking, I reached over and took his hand. He was still talking, and stopped abruptly when he felt my hand slide over his. I curled my fingers into his palm and squeezed. My thoughts were mysteriously silent and everything around us faded away. It was as if we were the only two people in the universe. Cliche, I know.
Mark gave me a puzzled look, but he didn’t pull his hand away. He turned back to Lucinda. “And, yeah, that’s what happened.”
Reality came back as if someone had turned up the light and volume to maximum. I squinted against the sun as I looked over the glittering water. A few families played in the water with their small children. The kids bobbed up and down in their life jackets as they dog paddled furiously.
“Well, how about a picture?” Lucinda said. “This is an amazing story, we should give it the image it deserves.”
Mark smiled and I felt like I was going to melt again. “Okay.” He stood and held his hand out to me. I hesitated only for a second before gripping it. He pulled me to my feet and walked toward the pool. “How about here,” he suggested. “The light is good from this angle.”
“Perfect,” Lucinda said. “Frank, what do you think?”
The cameraman shrugged. “Looks fine,” he grunted. Frank looked at me. “Go stand by the boy.”
I walked slowly toward Mark. He put his arm around my waist. I stiffened and looked at him. He looked down at me, with a small, knowing smile. I blushed.
“Okay, stand a little closer together,” Frank said as he peered at us through his camera.
I stepped to my right so that my body was flush with his. My heart pounded.
Frank snapped a few photos and stood to click through them. He nodded at Lucinda. “Got it,” he said.
"Thank you for speaking with us," Lucinda said with a grin. "I believe we are finished. Frank and I are just going to take a look around before we leave."
Mark nodded and made his way toward the exit. But I didn't want it to be over. I didn't want to go back to the girl who was invisible to him. He'd seen me. Really seen me and I knew what I had to do.
I took a few hurried steps in his direction. "Mark, wait!"
He paused and turned around.
My mouth worked silently for a minute. I had shouted much louder than I had intended and now everyone was looking curiously at me, including Lucinda and Frank. "Thank you for saving my life," I said. "I- I mean I want to thank you, for saving my life. Maybe over coffee? O-or dinner?"
Mark stared at me for what seemed like a very long time, but it was probably only a couple excruciating seconds before he shrugged. "Yeah, alright. Tomorrow evening?"
My legs very nearly gave out from under me as the all the adrenaline in my system suddenly vanished. "Tomorrow," I breathed.
I didn't care that everyone had heard me ask him out, I didn't care that Lucinda would probably include this in her article. I didn't care that Megan and Jake had just exchanged strange looks.
I had a date with Mark LaWren!
Look for The Deep End: Part Five, available Tuesday April 30th 2019!