#10 in the story serial Don't Kill Me I'm in Love
by Paul Beckman
Rutger entered the quarry in his Land Rover and hugged the wall bouncing his way down towards the level waterfront area. There was no guard rail but he was a practiced hand at this while Sonia and Ellen, on their first quarry trip, hugged each other in the back seat and only occasionally peeked out the SUV windows.
“If we can get through this ride, we’ll have no trouble with our “open water” test,” said Ellen.
“I’m not so sure,” Sonia said. “I still have a bad case of nerves since my last dive five years ago. The pool was a piece of cake but the quarry is bottomless for all we know and I probably should have gone to St. Thomas to get certified.”
“You have to confront your fears,” Ellen said. “At least you have hundreds of hours of diving behind you. I have none.”
“It doesn’t feel that way to me,” Sonia said, sitting up straight, looking out the window. “Look, Ellen, there’s the beach area we’ll be entering from. It’s almost like we’re on a plane circling and descending to land on a small island runway.”
Ellen took Sonia’s hand and squeezed. The rough granite walls off to the right and the smooth, pinkish walls off to the left were both enthralling and scary.
“I know my mother and father are watching me today,” Sonia said.
“Here’s a big bump coming, girls,” Rutger warned and sure enough their vehicle left the ground for a few seconds that had both Sonia and Ellen bounce out of their seats.
“Yikes, Rutger. Maybe you should slow this baby down a bit,” Sonia said.
“That’s what everyone tells me but it’s all nice and smooth from here on in.”
“You know, my mother and father took their open water here years ago,” Sonia said, sniffing off tears. The road took them behind a large granite outcropping, cutting off their views of the quarry briefly but not before something caught her eye.
“Their story is so romantic,” Ellen said, instantly regretting it.
“Yeah, so romantic it made me an orphan,” Sonia said. “Mom was going to die and I still could’ve had a father but he chose to dive down with her to over a hundred feet knowing that neither would have the oxygen to get back. He couldn’t imagine life without her, he told me in his letter. Let’s get back to the present. We have to keep our minds on getting through this.”
Sun peeked through the granite above and sparkled at the water’s edge. “We’re dive buddies and have to keep our minds clear to watch out for each other,” Sonia reminded Ellen. “I’m looking forward to our celebratory dinner and wine tonight.”
“Dive buddies is right,” Rutger said. “It’s the major key to safe diving.” He pulled the Range Rover into a spot about ten feet from the water. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
By the time the two got out of the jeep Rutger had the back open and had unloaded three tanks and told them to get the rest of their gear. Sonia hopped in and passed out their wetsuits, weight belts, regulators and mesh bags with flippers and masks.
“The quarry looks so big from down here,” Ellen said.
“It’s no ocean,” Sonia replied.
Rutger was suited up in no time in his wet suit and buckling his weight belt. “We have a beautiful morning for this so let’s not waste any time.” They both stood in front of Rutger in their wet suits and he said, “Sonia, Ellen, tell me the procedures, but first are you both still sure you’re comfortable doing this at the same time?”
They nodded their affirmation and Sonia began, “First we have to float or tread water for ten minutes and then swim for three hundred yards with our snorkel, mask and fins. Then we come back for our oxygen tanks and gear up checking each other out as we go.”
Rutger stopped her and said, “The blue buoy is a hundred and fifty yards and remember, this is not a race; you’ll need your energy so pace yourselves. Get going now.”
Wearing their mask and snorkels, Sonia and Ellen ran down to the water, flippers in their hands. Wading out to waist high water, they leaned back and put the flippers on their feet and turned to Rutger, watching for the hand signal to begin floating or treading.
Sonia and Ellen were out of the water in no time.
They helped each other on with their tanks, buckled them, added their weight belts and adjusted their straps, and made sure the extra mouthpiece (the octopus) was snapped into position on their right side. Sonia turned on Ellen’s air and checked the gauge to make sure there was three thousand pounds of air and then Ellen checked Sonia’s tank. Sonia watched as Ellen tested her regulator and octopus, pulled on her straps to test them, and checked the weights, and then turned to Ellen to receive the same checkup.
They followed Rutger onto the pier. “Let’s hear it,” Rutger said. Sonia and Ellen alternated:
“Mask off underwater and put it back on and clear the water.”
“Take our mouthpiece out and put it back in and clear the water out.”
“Begin dive and clear ears as we go deeper.”
“Make the sign for “out of air” and wait while our buddy swims over and takes the octopus and begins breathing. Then after the A-OK sign we slowly rise to the surface monitoring our time and depth.”
“Good,” Rutger said. “Now in you go.”
Sonia first, holding her mask into her face, took a giant step off the pier, into the water. Ellen and Rutger followed.
“You girls were amazing,” Rutger said. “Take off your tanks and get fresh ones from the Rover while I fill out the paperwork.”
Sonia and Ellen helped each other off with their tanks, checked the air was off and removed the regulators. Ellen passed down two fresh tanks to Sonia and they attached their regulators and proceeded through each check of the other with genuine concern and pride. Sonia began hand signals. She made a slicing motion across her throat and Ellen said, “Out of air.” Next Ellen did a thumbs up which did not mean okay but did mean to surface immediately. Ellen got that right also and the arm wave for help and then Rutger came over and showed them their diver’s certificate, all signed and dated.
The three walked back onto the pier and Sonia once again jumped in first with Ellen following right behind. Rutger jumped in and gave them some space while never letting them out of his sight.
Sonia dove down to forty feet and headed off across the quarry. There were no fish to look at so she swam on. When she reached the other side of the quarry she saw floating above her, just a short distance away, a brightly-colored cloth. She swam up and grabbed hold of it thinking she might keep this bit of treasure as a memento. Even though it was wet, it felt silky smooth in her hand. And it was attached to something. Holding on, she dove down and through the murk saw it was floating out from a pickup truck.
She kicked closer. Looking into the cab, she saw a naked woman. Kicking closer again, she saw the silk hooked around the woman’s hand.
The story follows on from The Forgiveness Stage - #9
This story continues with _____________________ - #11
published 8 January 2016