The Deep End: Part Three
Two hours after the Pool Incident (the P.I. as I’d mentally labelled it), I sat in the waiting room of the only doctor’s office on our island. I scuffed my shoe on the rug as I waited for my turn.
When I’d arrived home, I went straight to the bathroom without another word to my parents. I peeled myself out of my cold wet clothes and dropped them on the floor and stepped into the shower. The scalding water blasted away the smell of chlorine from my skin and hair. I stood under the water long after I had finished washing, hoping that the steam and coconut shampoo might somehow wash away my embarrassment.
When I opened my bathroom door, my mother was waiting for me on the other side. I jumped.
“You scared me, Ma,” I said.
“I called the doctor’s office and got you an appointment for 3:15 this afternoon,” she said.
“That wasn’t necessary, Ma,” I said quickly. “I feel fine.”
“The paramedics told you to go to the doctor,” she said. “You lost consciousness, you’re going.”
I pressed my lips together so that I wouldn’t argue further. I closed my eyes and nodded.
“Get dressed,” she said. “I’ll drive you.”
I managed to convince my mother that I could drive the two miles to the clinic by myself.
She protested, but our arguing roused my father from his afternoon nap and he sided with me.
“She’s twenty one, Mariana,” he said gently. “If she says she’s okay, she can go by herself.”
My mother glared at the two of us and announced that she was going for a walk. My dad handed me the keys to his car.
The door of the waiting room swung open and a nurse in pink scrubs stepped out. “Lily Garcia?” she called to the room at large.
I stood up.
The nurse nodded. “Doctor LaWren will see you now.”
I followed the nurse, who directed me to the scale and copied down my weight and then led me to a private room and took my vitals. She recorded my retelling of the events at the pool and looked up when I said I’d lost consciousness. She didn’t say anything, just pushed her glasses higher on her nose and finished typing her report into her tablet. Was she trying to suppress a smile? It was hard to say.
“Okay,” she said when she was finished. “The doctor will be right in.”
I looked around the room. The walls were painted pale pink and there were posters of the human nervous system in wood frames on the walls. There was a sink and cabinet in the far corner of the room, next to a bio-hazard waste receptacle and an examination bench covered with white paper. I sat in the chair next to it and the skin of my legs stuck to the green vinyl cover.
A soft knock on the door, the click of the doorknob, and Doctor LaWren walked in, carrying his own tablet. He looked up and smiled at me.
“Lily,” he said. “It’s so good to see you, though next time let’s make it under better circumstances.”
“Hi, Doctor LaWren,” I mumbled. He looked like an older version of Mark. The same broad shoulders, the same smile, same eyes, but his hair was shorter, darker, and speckled with gray.
“Well, let’s make sure you’re okay,” he said.
Doctor LaWren performed his exam quickly, referencing his tablet for my vitals and asking me a few more questions. How long had I been unconscious? Had I had enough water today? Had I experienced any other symptoms?
“I think you’re fine,” Doctor LaWren said. “If this happens again, come back and we’ll run some more tests.”
“Okay.” I stood and walked through the door that Doctor LaWren held open for me.
We walked back out to the front together and up to the front office to check out.
“Penelope will take care of you from here,” he said, indicating the young woman in scrubs behind the desk.
As he turned to go I bit my lip, then called after him.
“Doctor LaWren, wait.” He stopped and turned. I could feel my cheeks redden. “Please tell Mark thank you. He-- he saved my life today.”
Doctor LaWren gave me a small smile and nodded.
I paid the fee and headed back out toward the parking lot. I was almost at my dad’s car when a hand gripped my arm and spun me around. I stumbled and came face to face with a petite woman with long dark hair in her early thirties. She was slightly shorter than I was, with thin, delicate features. Her pregnant belly filled the space between us.
“Hello, my name is Lucinda Hamilton,” she said in a clipped business-like tone. “Pearl Beach Daily News.”
“Uh, hi,” I said.
“Did I hear you say correctly,” she continued, “that Doctor LaWren’s son saved your life today?”
“Yes,” I said slowly. I didn’t like where this was heading. A reporter? How could my luck get any worse today?
“Fascinating,” she said. She nodded her head, but it wasn’t in agreement to anything I could have said. It was more like she was agreeing with herself. “We have recently launched a new column titled Pearls in the Sand to highlight some of the positive things that the people of Pearl Beach are doing. Maybe you’ve heard of it?”
“Nope,” I said.
Lucinda looked a little crestfallen, but she quickly recovered. “Anyway, I would like to interview on your experience. Tell the story of exactly how Doctor LaWren’s son saved your life. I think it would be a perfect feature for our new column.”
The blood drained from my face. “Oh, no,” I said. “Uh-- I mean, I’m flattered by your interest, but I’d prefer if we didn’t, um, do that.”
Lucinda stared at me and I began to fidget under her gaze. Was this some kind of journalist tactic? I felt like she was reading my soul. Eventually I said, “Well, I need to go. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Lucinda shook her head. “I was just thinking, this isn’t just your story, is it? Doctor LaWren’s son should have the opportunity to decide whether or not he wants to tell his side of the story. And who knows? Maybe he’ll decide that our small column isn’t good enough. He may want us to publish it on our News page, which gets a lot more readers. W can keep you anonymous if that's what you really want, but i…” she trailed off. She looked at me.
Don’t do this Garcia, I told myself. You’re going to regret it. But she had a point… Mark might like the idea of being the hero and (knowing how much of a people person he is) why wouldn’t he want as many people to know as possible? There was nothing embarrassing for him on his side of the story. He was actually pretty heroic today.
Lucinda was still looking at me, her hands folded under her round belly.
I sighed. “Fine.”
Lucinda grinned triumphantly. She took down my contact information and told me that she would be in touch in the next day or so.
She looked down at her watch and frowned. “I’m going to be late for my appointment,” she said as she turned back toward the clinic. “It was very nice meeting you. I’ll be in touch.” She hurried inside.
I climbed into the car and turned it on, cranking the air conditioning. I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the headrest. What had I just gotten myself into?
Megan thought it was hilarious. She laughed. She cackled. She wheezed. When she had finally calmed down enough to breathe she looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, Lily, I’m not laughing about what happened yesterday. It’s just so funny that you’re going to be in the paper and you’re spending more time with Mark and you seem so unhappy about everything.”
We sat in her room on her bed among her old stuffed animals. High school trophies for volleyball and ribbons from our high school debate team littered her bookshelves. Her room in her college apartment was much sleeker, but here I could see all the pieces of my friend that she’d found of herself along the way. The morning sun slanted through her window blinds.
I glanced at her clock. We were waiting to meet Lucinda Hamilton at the pool at ten o’clock. We still had a half hour before we had to leave.
“This just isn’t how I pictured it happening,” I said. “I hoped that Mark would notice me, and we’d fall in love and do the whole happily ever after thing.” I wrinkled my nose. “I didn’t realize that I’d end up being the damsel.”
Megan smiled. “Everyone needs help sometimes,” she said. “Don’t assign yourself to a stereotype over one incident. You are a much more complicated person than that.”
Megan stood up and grabbed her hairbrush. “Here, let me help you with your hair.”
Thirty minutes later we descended the stairs and Megan called goodbye to her mom. We climbed into her car and drove to the pool. My stomach was performing very uncomfortable squirming, flipping motions. My knees felt tingly at the thought of seeing Mark again, of talking with him, of thanking him.
“We’re early,” Megan said when she pulled into the parking lot. There were only a few other cars parked in front of the facility, but there was no sign of Lucinda Hamilton.
I but my lip and climbed out of the car. Another car pulled into the spot next to me.
“Hi, Lily,” Jake said as he opened the door.
“Jake, what are you doing here?” I asked.
Jake raised an eyebrow and pulled his swim bag out of the back seat.
I blushed. “Oh, right. I knew that.”
“But what are you doing here?” Jake asked. “I figured after yesterday, that you would want to stay away from water for a while.”
“Lily is going to be famous,” Megan said. “A reporter wants to interview her on what happened yesterday.”
Jake’s eyebrows rose and a smile touched his lips. “Really.”
“Really,” I said, much less enthused. Lucinda’s car pulled into the parking lot and she waved at me.
“Well, Rabbit,” Jake said. “Go get famous.”
Look for Part Four, which will be available Tuesday, April 16th 2019