We make love for the last time with the balcony doors wide open, not caring if the entire hotel hears us. Afterwards, a coconut-scented breeze caresses us as we lay entwined, looking into each other’s eyes. Perfectly happy, perfectly content for those few shared moments. Yet it’s inevitable that at some point we’ll get dressed and leave the room, and that’s when all the trouble starts.
As long as we’re alone, Paul is the perfect boyfriend. But the instant we get outside his attention is drawn to every hot girl that sashays past. In Hawaii there are a lot of hot girls, all tanned and sleek in their bikinis, all super-friendly. I try to ignore Paul’s staring and even the occasional “whoa” that slips out under his breath. I aim dagger-eyes at any slut who seems like she’s going to get too close. But there is nothing I can do when these two glamazons appear out of nowhere and invite us to join them for volleyball on the beach.
“Whoa, that sounds like fun,” Paul breathes, with a sideways glance at me. “Doesn’t that sound like fun, Liz?”
Seriously? Paul knows I hate volleyball. At the 4th of July picnic two years ago, I got dragged into a volleyball game and broke my pinky. Now I tell him, “I thought we were going to go kayaking."
“We can go kayaking anytime,” he says. “How often do we get to do this?”
Yeah, how often do we get to play volleyball with two glamazons on the beach? “Never” would be often enough for me. But Paul is already following the two girls out the lobby doors. “You do whatever you want,” I call after him. “I’m going kayaking.”
He turns and looks at me. “You sure that’s okay, Liz?”
“Whatever.” I shrug. “It’s fine.”
“Okay, cool. We can meet up later.” He actually has the nerve to look relieved as he skitters outside with his newfound friends.
By myself, I walk across the hot sand to the kayak rental place. The guy behind the counter is one of those ridiculously good-looking Hawaiians with hard muscles and an easy smile. As I sign the liability waiver, I fantasize about licking the sweat from his gleaming skin.
“You’re going out there alone?” he asks.
That isn’t a come-on, I realize with disappointment. He’s concerned for me. “You don’t have to worry,” I tell him. “I’m half Norwegian. I know how to handle a kayak.”
“That isn’t a fjord, okay?” He jerks his thumb at the vast, dreamy blue behind him. “That’s the Pacific Ocean. If you’re not careful, the currents will sweep you out to sea before you know what’s happening.”
“Got it,” I say. “I’ll be fine.”
I paddle along the shoreline past the hotel. Past the volleyball game on the beach. I see this glamazon set the ball to my boyfriend, watch as Paul dumps it into the net. What a dork. Feeling somewhat vindicated, I paddle on. The shimmering water beneath my craft teems with bright fish. It’s shallow along the shoreline, no deeper than 20 feet. The transparent water makes it seem like the sandy bottom is right beneath me.
Nearly hypnotized by this tranquil beauty, I follow the coastline as far as I can until a jagged promontory of lava threatens to curtail my journey. I don’t want to pass the hotel again, so rather than turn back I decide to paddle around it. With a skillful maneuver, I head out to sea. I won’t go far, I tell myself, just enough to get around the rocks. But the ocean feels different out here and then all of a sudden, there it is.
The change is so abrupt and so unnerving that I gasp. Instead of the clean, sandy bottom, I hang suspended above a deep blue abyss. No way of guessing how far down it goes. 100 feet? 1,000? The abyss is terrifying yet compelling at the same time. The shifting depths seem to beckon me, inviting me into the mysterious world below. I dip a hand into the water. It feels so cool. A welcome contrast to the sun beating down from above. After paddling for hours, my skin is caked with a sticky layer of sweat and sunscreen. The water is so refreshing, it is...wait a minute.
Something is down there.
Did I imagine it? I stare into the depths, my heart beating fast, and a moment later I see it again. A dark, sinuous shape moving far below. It’s big. My hands tighten on the paddle. For the shark to look that big from this distance means it must be huge. I watch it propel itself through the water with lazy, powerful movements. Prowling. It knows I am here, and it wants me.
My adrenalin kicks in. I begin to paddle, desperate to reach the safety of the shore. Terror gives me strength. My body and the kayak are one, my breathing in perfect rhythm with the paddle rising and falling through the water. Left, right! Left, right! Upper body working hard, feet braced against the rudder for steering and balance. I keep it up for what seems a long time—10 or 15 minutes at least.
But I have to face a terrible truth. I’m caught in a current. All of my efforts have brought me no closer to the beach. If anything, the shore is farther away than ever. The ocean is no longer a transcendent shade of blue, but a steely gray. A storm is coming. The sky has turned dark and the water is choppy, sending hard little waves like stinging slaps against my naked skin. The kayak seems so small, nothing but a thin skin of fiberglass between me and the water. I’ve used up the last of my strength trying to reach land. Now I can barely hold on to the paddle as I’m carried farther and farther out to sea. Worst of all, I fear that monstrous creature is still with me.
A great white shark.
My frantic mind contemplates the terrible possibilities. Can I use the paddle as a weapon? Ha! This shark is larger than the kayak. He’s biding his time—he knows I’m not going anywhere. Will I see a huge fin break the surface as he comes for me? Or will he erupt from below, capsizing me in one furious motion? The prospect of my impending doom is almost too much to bear.
Just drank the last of my water. I can’t write much longer. I’m too tired and besides, the paper is getting soaked. The rental agreement from Honomanu Kayaks. I guess that cute guy will get to keep my security deposit. Maybe it’s time to admit that I did a really dumb thing. I traded a warm bed for a cold ocean, a clueless boyfriend for a hungry shark.
Paul, if you ever get to read this, I forgive you. Pretty much.
Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe Paul has realized that I’m missing. He’s been out here searching for me all this time and he’s coming to bring me home. It could happen, right? I look behind me in wild expectation, and see not a rescue boat but a monstrous dorsal fin. With evil intent it slips beneath the waves, a submarine with teeth following in my wake.
Mom? Dad! I’m really sorry, okay? I love you.
In a moment, I will roll up this paper and stuff it inside the empty water bottle. Screw the cap on tight. With a deep breath and a whispered prayer, I will fling it as far as I can. The plastic bottle will bob and dance in the water until the current carries it out of sight.
I wonder what Fate has in store for that bottle, and for me...