Waters Fall: The Anatomy of an Affair
Nora’s bones ached in the frigid water, and her lungs thrummed in desperation for oxygen, but she resisted the urge to push to the surface. She tipped her head back and gazed up at the warped glow above her, the sunlight flaunting its promise of warmth. The water roared as it flung itself over the stacked boulders of the falls and into the pool where she was submerged; the cacophony surrounded her, shutting out all sounds from above. The kids would be calling for her by now, and if she stayed under much longer, Jake would come after her. She’d long ago breathed out the last of her air so she could sink to the rocky bed of the pool. Her long dark hair drifted up around her head, reminding her of mermaid stories, and her arms floated out to her sides of their own volition. If she could just keep from kicking her legs, she might be able to stay there…longer.
It had started out as a game of ‘who can hold their breath the longest,’ and Nora knew she’d win, hands down, even against Jake. A choir girl—first school, then church—her lung capacity was in tip-top condition because she worked to keep it that way. On the third round, though, something tripped inside her head, like a live wire sending a string of sparks skittering across her thoughts, and she was suddenly and acutely aware of the thrill of this watery cocoon, of being out of breath, of the cold, and of the churning chaos just a few feet away from where she waited in a strange state of suspended animation.
They’d stumbled across the huge pool with its waterfall a few years ago while on their annual family camping trip to Kennedy Meadows in the Northern Sierras. It was a bit of a hike up from their actual campsite, and some distance down a tributary of the main river, but they made the trek almost daily during their week-long stay. They usually had the place to themselves because the falls made it less than ideal for the hardcore fishing fanatics, and the hike made it less than ideal for waders and sunbathers.
They called it Anderson Hollow, and there was never anyone around to challenge their claim to it.
The banks along the west side of the stream were cut away where the water ran swift and deep, but on the east side it was sandy and wide, and they picnicked in the shade or napped in the sun after swimming in the chilled mountain water. The kids collected pretty stones, quartz crystals, and shiny bits of pyrite they were certain was gold.
“The California Gold Rush did happen in California, Mom,” Felix reminded her with wide, hopeful eyes. Leslie gathered wildflowers and seedpods to make peace offerings to the local water sprites, and they both learned to weave tall reeds together to form little rafts for boat races.
“This way, if we lose one down the stream, we’re not littering.” Leslie had participated in an Earth Day Campaign at her school and won a contest for her artwork depicting children putting flowers in the tailpipes of black cloud emitting vehicles. For a while, she’d driven everyone crazy with her activist behavior, but her fervor waned over time to “healthy awareness,” much to the relief of her family and friends.
Today was the first time Nora had ever intentionally opened her eyes under the water here without her goggles on. The torrent from the falls kept the pool stirred up and cloudy, and she’d always been afraid of debris blinding her.
But the swirling specks of silt and sand, glittering and pale, added to the otherworld sensation that held her in its grip. What would happen if she just opened her mouth and drew the fairy dust water into her lungs?
Suddenly the very thought of breathing had her clamoring for the surface, bursting up out of the water with a great gulp that left her coughing and gasping. She looked up to find she’d drifted to the far side of the waterhole where there was no easy place to climb out. Across from her, Leslie scrambled from the top of large boulder where she’d obviously been perched to try to locate Nora, and Felix, tears of panic streaming down his face, stood ankle deep at the edge the pool, helpless in his youth. Jake, treading water out where she’d first gone under, couldn’t seem to make up his mind whether to come to her aid or go back to comfort the kids.
Nora waved him free, and he grimaced at her before making his way to Felix. She read both fear and condemnation in his eyes, but she was too busy trying to catch her breath to let it irritate her. She was trembling a little, and her side felt like it wanted to cramp; she wasn’t sure if it was from the cold or the depletion of oxygen. She’d have some explaining to do, and she sighed in frustration, knowing nothing she could say would make sense to them. At least not to Jake.
The kids would probably accept that she’d been swept under by the rushing water, even if they didn’t like it, because they’d never ventured too close to the falls for fear of just that.
Jake, however, wasn’t going to be so easy to appease. He stood with his arm around Felix, his other hand up to shield his eyes from the glint of the sun off the water as he watched her, waiting for her to come back to them.
She felt a sudden urge to sink back under the water again.
~ ~ ~
Have you ever felt like drowning?
Do you sometimes feel like if you go under one more time, you just may not come back to the surface?
New Release this May 2014! Stay tuned!