“Jesus Christ, Anna, get your nose out of the book, we’re about to go snorkeling!”
I responded how I normally did to my sister- I raised my middle finger without tearing my eyes from the pages. I heard Rose gasp before she ran back to mom, whining about how I flipped her the bird and was being antisocial again.
Hey. My family dragged me away from my weekend of reading in my room where it was quiet and peaceful. My plans hadn’t changed even if the location had. On the ocean. Where my brother and his girlfriend were constantly making out below deck and you couldn’t get my older sister out of the water for more than ten minutes.
I heard my dad’s stride approach me before a pair of large hands covered my eyes. “Anna, did you flip off your sister again?” He asked.
I struggled free and set down the book, putting a bookmark in place. “There’s no photographic evidence,” I said before turning in my seat to look at him. “Are you seriously going to force me to snorkel?”
“Noooooo… but I’ll take you to a bookstore once we’re back home if you do.”
The cruelest of bribery. I chewed my bottom lip as I contemplated it before I said, “And we name the boat ‘The Midlife Crisis’?”
I got a gentle smack on the back of the head for that.
“Worth a shot.”
I got into my swimsuit and stood awkwardly near the edge, crossing my arms over my chest. Rose bounced over, grinning like a Cheshire cat. “Yippee! You’re gonna love it sis. It’s SO gorgeous out here!” She trilled before she jumped in. The water was practically her second home.
On the other hand, I totally believe if God meant us to swim, he would’ve given us fins. And that says something considering I’m an atheist.
I took a deep breath before I dived in after her.
The water wasn’t too cold at least, Rose was already swimming off watching the coral below. I floated in place for a while, not moving an inch.
“Anna! You drowning?”
I shot a thumbs up above the water before I started paddling my feet. Rose was so graceful in the water, each movement smooth and calculated. The fish got close to her, unafraid of her because she was unafraid of them.
I screamed when a smaller fish darted closer to me. It darted off and hid. Yeah. I’m a little scared of fish. Just a little.
I was beginning to wonder when was the appropriate time to return to the boat when at the corner of my eye I caught a dark shape floating. A human dark shape floating.
I popped my head up, my heart pounding in my chest. Had something happened to Rose? I ripped off the goggles and started paddling to the body.
Closer I got confirmed it wasn’t Rose. It was a man. Too tanned to be my pasty white dad or sunburned brother, but they weren’t moving. Frantically, I paddled faster, screaming for Rose or my dad for help. I reached him and turned him over.
He wasn’t rotting. He was still warm to the touch. Also, bad time to notice, but he was really hot. And naked.
Rose popped up next to me, her eyes bulging from her skull. “Holy shit! Is he dead?!”
“I don’t think so, come on, I can’t drag him back to the boat myself!” I grunted as I attempted to do so, only succeeding in pushing my head below the water.
Thankfully Rose had been a lifeguard for the past two summers running. She knew how to do this. We dragged the unconscious man up to the ship, yelling for dad to help. Both him and my mom grabbed a hold of the guy and pulled him onto the deck. By the time I got my flippers kicked off and I climbed onboard Rose was already performing CPR.
I shook my head as Leo finally joined us above deck, his girlfriend Claire discreetly adjusting her bikini top behind him. He was so dead. The success rate of CPR was way lower than the movies and the TV shows would have you believe. Ick. I checked out a dead guy.
Water spurted from the guy’s mouth and he sat up in a shot. I screamed and nearly toppled overboard as I scrambled backward. The man gasped, his eyes wide as he rested a hand on his chest. His eyes darted from person to person. Rose sighed with relief. “Welcome back to the living,” She said, patting his shoulder.
This is when we all consecutively noticed how very naked he was. My mom quickly tossed him a towel to cover his ‘decency’ and my dad got him to a chair to sit down. He seemed very out of it, not surprised given he was probably just about to head into that good old white light before we fished him out of the ocean.
“Sis, get the first aid kit. And maybe dad’s spare trunks,” Rose said as she sat with him.
Of course I was reduced to running girl. Not like I found him or anything. By the time I returned to deck, he seemed more focused and was talking coherently. His bright green eyes focused on me as I walked up, holding out the swim trunks. I felt my face grow a bit warm and I cleared my throat. “So, did you see a white light or anything?” I asked.
Rose groaned and face palmed. “That’s my sister Anna, she’s the one who found you. She doesn’t know how to talk like a normal person,” She said.
The man chuckled and took the swim trunks, resting them on his lap. Damn, he had great thighs. Focus on his face. On. His. Face. “Eh, I can’t remember if I did or not. Thank you, Anna. I don’t know how much longer I would’ve lasted out there,” He said. Damn, his voice was sexier than his ripped bod.
I cleared my throat a few times and shrugged. “I mean, I’m not gonna leave you for the sharks. What’s your name?”
“Christopher. My name is Christopher.”
Despite nearly drowning, Christopher seemed to show no ill effects, only taking an Advil for the headache he had. And my whole family immediately fell in love with him. Particularly Rose.
“Here’s dinner,” My dad said as he plopped the steaks in front of us. Christopher seemed uninterested in dinner. Same with Rose. They were… very interested in each other, their eyes not breaking contact and their hands clutched together.
Mom pressed her lips together. “Chris? Rose? Are you hungry?” She asked, not so subtly hinting for them to break it up.
“Oh! Right!” Rose blushed and filled her plate while Chris raised a hand.
“I’ll pass. I’m not too hungry.”
Claire wrinkled her nose. “What were you doing out there anyway?” She asked.
Chris paused for a moment. “Oh, why I was out in the water?” He laughed and rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s embarrassing. I was on a boat with my friends last night, we were partying, and I guess I slipped. Ocean was rocking pretty roughly last night, I hit my head on the way down. I don’t know how I made it as long as I did,” He said.
“And you were walking around naked-” I cut off as Rose kicked my ankle.
Chris shrugged. “It was warm,” was his excuse. Rose giggled and set her head on his shoulder. Lucky her.
I focused on my steak dinner and let Chris continue chatting it up with my family. After I cleaned my plate I walked below deck, deciding now was the time to finish my book.
Claire poked her head from her room and gestured me in. Confused, I walked in. Claire was the same age as my little brother, sixteen, so there wasn’t much of a gap between us but she hardly seemed interested in talking to me. For a few seconds, Claire listened at the door before she sat on the bed.
“I think Christopher is full of shit.”
I nearly choked on my spit with how bluntly she delivered that. I pounded my chest before I sat down next to her. “What do you mean, full of shit?” I asked.
Claire rolled her eyes. “Please. He said he fell overboard last night. You didn’t find him until midafternoon. Yet his skin wasn’t wrinkled? Heck, he was still alive after being out there so long? And the ocean was hardly bad last night. I’m just saying it’s weird. Also. He was walking around naked last night. How convenient.”
Huh. I shifted my weight on the bed and frowned. “That’s… that’s a bit weird, yeah.” I heard a burst of laughter above deck, Christopher probably cracked another joke. “I don’t think he’s bad though. I mean, he’s been nice. Maybe he’s just embarrassed?”
Claire pursed her lips. “That’s what worries me even more. If he was out to sea last night with his friends, why the fuck hasn’t he asked for one of our cellphones to call them and tell them he’s okay? Why haven’t we heard on the radio that someone went overboard last night?”
I couldn’t sleep that night. Christopher was sleeping on the top deck, dad was promising to take us all back to land tomorrow so we could reunite Christopher with his friends. Christopher laughed and said he’d kick their asses for not realizing he was gone.
Why did Claire have to make me all paranoid though?
I counted the waves splashing against my window. Maybe it would work like counting sheep and I’d be okay. One wave… two waves… three waves… a giant fucking splash…
Did Christopher fall overboard again? I kicked off the blankets and quick walked to the deck, my heart bouncing into my throat.
Rose was out there in her Hello Kitty pajamas, looking overboard. Her lips were in a perfect ‘o’ as she stared into the water. “How… I don’t understand, Christopher…” She said.
I heard Christopher’s voice, more melodic and soothing than ever. “Come with me, Rose. I can show you the reef in ways you’ve never imagined. You won’t have to leave the water again. And your chains with be of the beautiful silver and pearls.”
I was almost onto the deck myself when someone yanked my arm back below deck.
It was Claire, who’d gone white. “Cover your ears! Now!” She hissed, pointing to her own earplugs. I reached up, dazed, clapping my hands over my ears.
It was like a switch. What the fuck.
Claire dragged me further below deck, out of earshot of Christopher. “There’s more of them. Men, woman. I saw them swimming by the window,” She said, pulling out one earplug. “They’re all telling us to come overboard. I had to tie Leo to the bed with his t-shirt, he’s uber pissed.”
“What the actual shit is going on, Claire?!” I asked, glancing back up the stairs. I could still hear Christopher’s voice, not the words, just the tone.
Claire shook her head. She had no idea.
Oh no. Rose.
I pulled Claire’s earplugs from her and ran back above deck.
My parents were already up there, staring into the water. Rose was standing on the edge of the boat, completely naked except for the necklace I gave her last year. I could hear Christopher’s voice, with many others, talking to all of them.
I screamed Rose’s name at the top of my lungs. Rose jerked and turned around, seemingly trying to focus on my voice. “Rose! Get down from there! Please!” I screamed again, starting to run to her to pull her down.
My dad clubbed me over the head before I got too close. I hit the ground, my skull exploding in pain. I heard one splash. Two splashes. One of the earplugs rolled out of my ear. I heard Christopher again.
“Jump, Rose! Jump!”
I blacked out.
The next morning, when the sun started warming my face, I woke up, my head aching and Rose nowhere in sight. Neither was Christopher. I walked to the bench where he’d slept the night previous, the borrowed swim trunks were neatly folded on the seat.
I heard a splash and turned my head.
A scarlet, scaly tail slapped above the water, before a familiar head poked up. Christopher grinned up at me, gesturing for me to come closer.
I threw the swim trunks at his head before I ran below deck, screaming for my family.
Mom and dad were gone. Leo was gone. Claire was also gone. I was the only one left onboard. I walked back on deck. Christopher was already gone, along with his swim trunks.
I sunk to the ground, wrapping my arms around myself as I sobbed.
I was all alone. The only one not convinced to jump overboard.