For thousands of years, divers risked their lives for repeated dives of more than a hundred feet to gather tonnes of bivalves in hopes of getting a handful of quality pearls. They would grease their bodies to conserve heat. They would weigh themselves down with rocks to save swimming to the bottom. They would use tortoise shells to clam their noses shut and stick grease swabs of cotton in their ears to keep from popping.
Writing for fiction war is kind of like that. Only more grueling. I dove deep to write two romance pieces. I’ll share one of them with you below.
The prompt was “Next In Line”. I searched the internet for inspiration. Seems like there is a disproportionate amount of songs written about this topic, but Conway Twitty’s is the one that struck me – watching the girl of your dreams peel the label from the bottle of booze she won’t put down because she misses the man of her dreams, and all you want to be is the next in line.
I’m not Conway Twitty – nor would I want to be. So, I wrote a pair of stories about a guy named “Buddy”. This is the one I didn’t submit. Wish me luck on the other one.
“Next,” the customs officer said, holding her arm high so the person next in line could see.
Buddy held out his passport for it to be stamped, along with his declaration.
“You aren’t bringing back and tobacco, alcohol or gifts?”
“You were gone for three months.”
“On a visa.”
“But you’re not bringing anything back. For anyone.”
“What was the nature of your visit?”
“Work study. I was looking for something.”
“Did you find it?”
“Yeah. I think so.”
She alternated from looking at him to checking her computer screen.
“Did you check any bags?”
“This is it,” He said and held up his backpack.
She leaned in when he showed it to her then recoiled. “Um, you might want to take a shower when you get home.”
Buddy didn’t understand.
“I got a pretty good whiff of you when you,” and she imitated his movement. “I wouldn’t want to sit next to you on the plane.”
“Hmm. Really? I hadn’t noticed.”
Buddy remembered standing the doorway, looking at his empty apartment. What furniture and books he had were now a youth hostel around the corner. The night before, he had slept on his bedroll, under the window, having fallen asleep after watching the moon rise.
As an afterthought he had grabbed at the rope ladder next to him, nimbly clambering up to the tiny loft overtop the front door, ignoring the sharp bite of pain. It didn’t take long to scan the bare, three by three area to make sure nothing was left behind. He remembered his first night, afraid of falling to his death if he rolled over. It didn’t take long to get used to it.
He came down and the pain returned but it wasn’t the rope ladder. The key to the apartment was biting into his hand.
Twirling the key around his finger, Buddy walked down to hall to the superintendent’s office – he was told to return it before leaving.
Buddy walked out of the bar, backpack over one shoulder, hand hooked behind its strap, and didn’t look back, a sad smile on his face. No one could hear the squeaky hinges of the old fashioned butterfly over the sounds of the party.
A woman with long, curly brown hair, dressed in a sheer, ankle length sundress caught up with him before he got to the end of the cobblestone street.
“Peter, where are you going?”
Buddy stopped and turned around. She hugged him hard.
“It’s going to take some getting used to,” Buddy said. “Not being called Peter anymore.” Peter was his father’s name.
They walked for a while, not paying attention to where they were going. The girl alternated between resting her head on his shoulder and holding it high.
“I didn’t think that you would leave.”
“I almost talked myself into staying.”
“Your friends are still here.”
Buddy nodded. “Yup. We’ve already said goodbye.”
“They aren’t going with you to the airport?”
“Did you ask them to?’
“No. I was afraid they would accept.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It would only make it harder to say goodbye.”
“I still don’t understand,” she said.
Peter watched his feet, concentrating on putting one in front of the other.
“I came all this way looking for a girl,” he said.
He smiled. “Another girl. I thought it would be exciting.”
He remembered sitting with his Dad at the coffee shop counter, telling him that if she was the one, he couldn’t let her get away.
“I thought it would change me. I thought I needed to change. I came looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with.”
“Did you find it, Peter? Tell me. You owe me that much.”
Buddy looked up and smiled when he saw the beach, sand dunes piled high.
“We’re here,” he said and began to undress.
“Peter, you’re crazy!”
“No. I’m going for a swim. Care to join me?”
He broke into a run then dove into the surf.
The water washed the shore like a meditation, his arms pin wheeling, against the full moon, marking time. She watched his lithe, muscled body knife through the water. He stopped and stood up, a silhouette against the sky. She couldn’t see the devilish smile on his face but he hoped she felt it.
She slipped off her dress, here fear falling away with it. Her pale skin captured to silver light of the moon, making her seem a sculpture of a goddess.
She tip toed in and he savored the sight of the tight muscles in her calves. A soft shudder went through her body before leaping into the water. Pleasure coursed through Buddy as he swam to him.
She broke the surface of the water just in front of him and they didn’t speak or touch. Peter. The night air bit his skin when he reached out, then suddenly made it warm. He caressed her cheek, and she bent to it. Bringing his hand to her other cheek, Peter pulled her lips to his.
Their bodies moved with the tide as the moon and stars bore witness.