Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Revised Chapters One to Three

I'm more nervous about posting today than I was the very first post when I showed you my messy rough drafts. I think it's because I'm not sure these chapters are "done." (Nothing is ever DONE!) What I really need to do is work through to the end and then come back through again, testing, polishing and checking. But if I do that, you'll have to wait too long to get to read them. You've already waited long enough while I let the draft cool off.

I'm not sure how many of you want to follow the revision. You know what happens now, and I don't think the story will essentially change. I'm just fixing the messes, tightening here and there, titling chapters and poems, filling in Michael's dive log headings, and weaving Leesie's ring into the narrative from the beginning. I will edit back through it again, at least two more times before it's ready to print. But I promised I'd post the revision, so here it is. I will try to add revision lessons to these posts--based on the changes I've made.

I've missed hearing your feedback every day. It would be cool to find a publisher that let me write all my books here. You are the best critiquers and even better cheerleaders. I don't think that's in the cards, but I do plan to keep the blog going as place to share news, announcements, chapters from new books, and celebrate releases. I hope there are many, many more releases ahead. My agent is working hard to find a home for MY ONLY LOVE. I hope you'll all want to read that, too. The opening chapters are on my website. 

Here's the revision . . .

(Taken by Storm Book #3)
by Angela Morrison

Michael pushes the wheelchair
down the chilly jet-way.
SEA-TAC pre-dawn,
no midnight escape flights
from the Spokane airport.
He drove all night to make this
6:00 AM AA flight to Chicago,
while I rode cozy, wrapped
in a hospital blanket,
a gift from my nurses—
who all had a crush on him—
my seat tipped back,
my broken hand elevated
on a pile of pillows
to reduce swelling,
more pillows to keep my feet up,
my right arm in a sling
with a complex web of bandages
doing figure eights around my body—
collarbone stabilization.

I slept when the drugs
kicked in. First time
without dreams.

He greeted me with a yawn stifled
into a smile, when I
opened my eyes to discover
we’d roamed to the other side of the state—
bays and islands, seashells and tides,
gulls in the distance like the ones we fed
at Grand Coulee dam
the first time we talked
back when I was lonely but not alone.

“You okay?” He touched my arm.
“I’m fine,” I lied despite the pain,
 as desolation lapped like waves
against my heart.
Alone. Lost. Forever fallen.
My eyes sought his.
At least, I won’t be lonely—
not with his ring sparkling
on my finger. My glance
slid down his face and arms,
dropped to my hand, searching
for that reassuring gemstone.
My fingers were purple, puffy,

He patted his jeans’ pocket. “It fell
off. I’ve got it safe.”

He pulled over for gas,
slipped the ring on the chain
he used to wear,
fastened it around my neck,
and gave me more pills.
“The nurses said not
to let the pain get out of hand.”
I wanted to protest.
I needed this hurt,
something real to suffer,
not like the ache in my spirit,
the divine hole that will never heal.
But I swallowed for him—
for his fingers touching my lips
as he placed capsules on my tongue,
for his hands holding up my water bottle,
for the kiss I demanded as reward.

Now, he lifts me from the wheelchair,
settles me in cushy first class,
front row, window seat.
He sinks beside me, lightly
touches my garish  fingers sticking
out of my cast, closes
his eyes. “Just give me a minute.”
I stroke his hand with my fingertips.
“I love you.”
His mouth corners turn up
as he drifts away.

I analyze the minute contractions
of his nose when he inhales.
His chest lifts, fills, falls
as the air silently escapes.
I close my eyes and trace the vision
cementing it in my mind,
in case he evaporates

I catch my reflection deep
in the pre-dawn dark window
beside me, ignore the black eyes,
the scarf the doesn’t camouflage
my shaved, wounded scalp,
focus on the ugly white
gauze holding my nose in place,
wince when I try to use it,
force air in through my mouth,
slow and steady,
like Michael taught me.
“Max the 02,” I imagine he says.
“It’s good for your head.”
The surgeon said I’ll snore.
Poor, Michael. I’m such a freak.
The doc also told me to breathe deep.
Pneumonia attacks in hurt rib
territory. A sharp twinge, dulled
but still there, accompanies
every breath. In. Out.
Deeper. Deeper.

Michael is out the whole flight.
An attendant reaches across him
to hand me a soda that I can’t hold.
“Wish I could sleep like that.”
I direct her to set the cup on my armrest
table thing that blocks my knee from
touching his. “Shhh. He deserves it.”
Every minute.
Three hours I watch.
It isn’t enough.

He wakes when we land.
“You surviving?”
I nod. “You?”
“I’m great.” He smiles,
but it’s thin.

How can I say I love him?
I high-jacked his life.
Kidnapped his destiny.
He says all he wants is me.
What if he’s lying?
What if I’m not enough?
What if he gets sick of being
my hero?

What if he can’t love me
like this?

I force a smile. “Where to next?”
“Your condo?”
He shakes his head. “Too easy.
That’s the first place they’ll look.”
“Didn’t know you were that into
this evil mastermind gig.”
He doesn’t laugh. “We can go
there if you want.
Gram would fly out—
stay with us awhile.”

My heart pounds.
“She’d tell my dad.”
“Yeah. He could come, too.”
He combs his fingers through what’s
left of my hair. “Just like old times.”

I close my eyes—thankful
that my face is masked—so
he can’t see what I
desperately desire.
He sees anyway. “I can
take you home, babe”—
his whisper holds hope—
“just say the word.”

I inhale again and the pain
from my ribs
knifes to my heart.
“I can’t
go home

He shakes his head.
“When you’re ready,
I’ll take you.” He imprints
the promise on my mouth
with his lips.

“I’m ready for you.”
My kiss says it better.
“Only you.”

O’Hare is packed. He says
it’s always like this. But—
he’s got a shiny white cart
waiting that whisks us like
magic through the masses.

I get to board our plane first.
We don’t bother with a wheelchair.
I start to hobble through the gate,
but Michael sweeps me in his arms

“The doctor said I should walk.”
“Walk tomorrow.”
His breathe tickles my ear.
“Aren’t you tired of this?”
I let him into my eyes
where all my fears hide.
He cradles me close. “I’ll
never get tired
of this.”

Dive Buddy: Leesie
Date: 04/27
Dive #: first night
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site: Summer Breeze Resort
Weather Condition: clear skies, full moon
Water Condition: choppy
Depth: way, way, way over my head
Visibility: I can’t see anything but her
Water Temp: steamy out
Bottom Time: all night long

The hotel doesn’t have wheelchairs like the airport. I follow the porter to Leesie’s room carrying her in my arms. It’s steamy in Cayman so we stripped off our matching Bonnie and Clyde get-away jackets waiting in line at emigration. Leather and the tropics don’t mix. I stuffed them in one of Leesie’s duffel bags when we claimed them. All I’ve got is my backpack.
As I walk down the hall, my feet sinking into the plush carpet, I’m hyper-aware of Leesie’s wounded head pressed against my shoulder, her breath on my neck. Holding her turns me on, and there’s nothing I can do to stop that. Half her head is shaven, and there’s forty-two stitches running down into her forehead. The bruising around her eyes is less purple tonight. Her lip is gashed and swollen. She’s banged up, swollen, bruised, wrapped up and plastered, but she’s still Leesie. I still love her. Touching her still makes me want her. “Hang in there, babe,” I whisper into her ear. “We’re almost there.”
“Hurry.” She wouldn’t use the john at the airport. “I’m going to explode.”
Me, too, babe. Me, too.
The porter opens the door, and I follow him inside the hotel room. I take Leesie right into the bathroom and set her down. I whisper so the guy can’t hear us. “Can you manage?”
“Not the snap.”  Her eyes find mine, and we step further into the new reality we find ourselves in.
I  shake my head and drop my eyes. Careful not to touch anything but her pants, I unfasten her jeans and shut the door.
I get the porter to unlock the connecting door to my room, dump my backpack in there, press ten bucks in the guy’s hand, and usher him out. I pull Leesie’s pain pills out of my pocket, take four out and place them beside a bottle of water on the nightstand next to the bed closest to the bathroom.
Leesie hobbles out of the bathroom on her own steam. “I’ve never had to go that bad in my life.” Her jeans are pulled up but undone.
I force myself not to stare at the white underwear triangle between the open zipper teeth. “Let me help.” I steer clear of her zipper, but scoop her up for the thousandth time since we signed her out of that hospital room in Kellogg, Idaho. I push the pillows off so she can lie flat and lay her down on the bed—have to stop myself from kissing her neck.
I haven’t slept for more than an hour or two at a time for the past  five days. And we’re alone in a hotel room for the first time. I’ve got zero self-control left. I move to the bottom of the bed and go to work relieving her of  the ugly blue Velcroed boots that cover her wrapped up sprained ankles. 
Leesie yawns and stretches her legs. “Are you sure we want this bed? You can’t see the TV very well from here.”
I pull off the first boot. “I’ll move you. Just let me finish.”
“It doesn’t matter.” She swallows. The bottom half of her cheeks and her pale, lovely neck turn pink. “If this is where you want to sleep—”
“Leese.”  It kills me to say this. “My bed is in the room next door.”
The heightened color drains out of her face. “I need you here.” Her eyes fill with terror. “You’re not going to leave me are you?”
I slip off the other boot. “This isn’t the hospital with nurses and aids coming in and out all night. That door is locked. We’re alone.” I stare down at her bandaged ankles and can’t stop myself touching both her feet, caressing them. “I don’t trust myself.” I bend down and kiss her big toe.
“I’m yours now, Michael.” Her broken left hand reaches for me. “Whatever you want.”
I take her hand and kneel down by the bed. “I’m not going to hurt you more.”
“I’ll be okay.” Her grip on my hand gets tight. I know she’s lying. Scared. Of me. “Just,” her voice drops so low I can barely hear her, “don’t put any pressure on my upper body.”
My mind instinctively flies to solving that problem. Freak. What a creep. It takes all the self-control I thought I didn’t have to let go of her hand, stand up, and back away from her bed. “I promised your dad—”
“You called my dad?” She scowls, but I hear longing in her voice.
My eyes shift to the phone on the nightstand. “Let me, Leesie. Please.”
“No—that’s over.” She sets her jaw and struggles to keep the tears at bay. “They don’t exist. Anything you said to him doesn’t matter.” She takes a deep breath. Her eyes lift to mine. “You’re all I am now.”
“You’re wrong, babe.” I’m hearing what I thought I always wanted her to say, and it’s torture. “Don’t be crazy like this.” Her whole life has been about being a Mormon. There’s no way I can replace that—ruin it. “It does matter.”
No sex unless we’re married, Leese. Those are your rules. I remember my conversation at Thanksgiving with her dad.  Almost isn’t good enough for him. Isn’t good enough for my Leesie. “I’m keeping that promise.”
Tears flow down her face. She says God won’t forgive her for what happened to Phil. Thinks she should suffer—die. If there is a God, I don’t think he’d want that. I don’t know if she’s screwed things up or Mormonism is really that crazed. She hasn’t told me what went on in the cab of that pickup truck. It’s destroying her, though. Whatever it was.
I soften my voice. “You lost Phil. That’s awful, but everything else is still there.”
She wipes her tears with her broken left hand. “I disgust you now.” Her hand comes to rest on her chest wear her engagement ring hangs from my old chain so she won’t lose it.
“I want you so badly, babe, that I got to get out of here.” I take another step back. “Take your pills. Sleep.”
“You can’t go.” She needs help getting undressed, help taking her pills, help getting under the covers.
“I wish I had the strength to stay and take care of you.” My eyes sting, and I have to swallow hard. “But I’m a guy, and I love you.” A sob chokes me a moment. “If I touch you one more time tonight—”
I bolt through the door, slam it shut, lock it. Press my ear to the wood.
“Michael.” She calls me. “Michael, Michael, Michael.”




I wear out my voice calling
him to come back, wear out
my heart, wear out
my desolation.
“Take your pills, Leese.”
His voice through the door triggers
rebellion. Those stupid pills—
his solution for everything.
Drug her up so I won’t
have to deal with her,
hear her, touch her, kiss her,
love her.

“Take your pills, babe. The nurses

I sweep them off the nightstand.
The tiny capsules mock me
from the carpet, glowing
in the light he left on
in my room.
I pick up the bottle of water,
grind it open with my teeth,
spit out the lid, drink,
it runs down my neck, slam
the bottle down, close
my eyes against the light.

I invite the pain to be my comfort,
seek solace in suffering. If Michael
won’t fill my nights, guide me
into another realm, I’ll linger here
just as he left me, encourage my wounds
to be my companion. My head, hand, ribs,
clavicle, ankles, and heart
seethe, stew, seer.

I breathe deep, deep, deep.
Pain mounts and rolls as the clock
on the nightstand flicks past number
after number, until hurt is all I know.
I’m lost in its waves, oblivious
to anything but it’s pulsing embrace.

I don’t need you Michael,
I want to scream.
You and your pills just
get in the way of what’s
most important.
My pain.
I manage to get his chain
with the ring over my head
and fling it at the door
to his stupid connecting room.

All is silent on the other
side of the door.
I hush my moans, writhe
in silence. I don’t want
him in here forcing
those pills down my throat.
I clutch this exquisite ache,
discover a white hot ball
of anger festering deep
in my gut, coax it to bloom
and engulf my guilt,
my sorrow, my shame.
I point it at
my dad, for being too kind, too good,
my mom, for her funeral schemes,
Phil for attacking me over Michael,
and dying, the jerk, how could he do that?
Michael, you too, for refusing to take
what you use to beg for.

And God for letting it all happen.
I thought you loved me?
I thought I was your daughter?
How could you?
A familiar comfort tries to slip
into my heart.
I block it—wall it away—
revel in my pain, my rage.
I don’t deserve that touch.
Can bear the comfort
I know is lost.

I killed my brother.
And that is the biggest
pain of all.

Dive Buddy: Leesie
Date: 04/28
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site: Summer Breeze Resort
Weather Condition: sunny
Water Condition: flat calm
Depth: 20’  
Visibility: can’t tell, no mask
Water Temp: 82
Bottom Time: 5 minutes total

            I wake up to Leesie moaning. I’m lying on the floor in front of the connecting door, drooling on the carpet. Gross. I get to my feet and press my ear to the door. She should still be knocked out. Could she make that noise in her sleep? It’s the saddest sound I’ve ever heard.
            “Leese,” I call quietly in case she’s asleep. “Did you take your pills?”
            The moans cease.
“Leese. Babe.”
No answer.
            The nurses told me to give her a “sedating dose” to get her through the night. “They are right there, babe—on the nightstand.”
            Still no answer. I wait and wait. Maybe she went back to sleep. Or she’s stifling her suffering, gritting her teeth so I can’t hear, fighting back the agony.
            “Leese. Answer me.”
            Then a muffled moans meets my ears.
I grab the door handle, turn it, start to push it open, but something stops me cold.
I’m just going to give her the pills.
I won’t stay. I won’t touch her.
I can do this. Trust me.
You can’t.
So I have to leave her like that all night?
In pain?
I want to move, but I can’t. I’m glued to the door listening to her moans mount louder and louder until Isadore sweeps down on me, and I’m lost to wind and waves. My mom’s screams mingle with Leesie’s cries—freak it seems like hours.
Gray dawn light fills my hotel room when Isadore releases me. Whatever stopped me earlier is gone. The door opens easily. I walk through, try not to look at Leesie writhing on the bed, try not to hear her moan. I find her pills on the floor. Freak, she chucked them. Get four fresh ones out of the brown prescription bottle. Sit on her bed and slip my arm behind her back to raise her up. Put the drugs in her mouth. Pour water into the mix. She tips her head back and swallows. Falls against me.
I settle her down on the bed, grab pillows to prop up her hand and feet, slide onto my knees beside her, cradle her hot, sweaty, broken hand in both of mine. “Freak, Leesie, I’m sorry. I had to get out of here last night. I couldn’t live with myself if the first thing I did when I got you alone was like rape you.”
She closes her eyes and considers my confession. “It wouldn’t,” she manages to whisper, “have been rape.” Her eyelids lift, and she drills me. Freak, she’s angry.
I bow my head over her hand. “You’re hurt—not thinking straight. It would have felt like rape.”
“That’s what”—she pauses to gather each word out of the pain haze that  quakes her body—“I need”—her hand breaks away from mine—“now.”
I raise my head and try to find a way in through her eyes. “No, it’s not. You need that good old Leesie magic you poured all over me. Remember?”
Her eyes retreat. “That’s over.” She inhales and exhales, gathers another phrase. “It’s—gone.”
“No, it’s not Leese.” I take back her hand, clasp it in mine. “It’s here. Protecting you—from me. It kept me on the other side of the door.”
“You wanted to come in?”
“All night babe.” My voice gets husky. “I wanted to be with you. Really with you.” I loose her hand and hide my face in the bedding.
With an obvious effort, she strokes my head. “That’s what I want.” Her voice catches. “Love me your way.”
I raise my head, sit back on my heels. “This isn’t about love.” I don’t want to continue but I can’t stop. “You want to sleep with me to prove that you’re lost, a sinner—mound up the guilt. Add to the pain. I’m not helping you with that.”
She clenches her fist and pounds the bed. “You don’t understand.”
“Yes. I do. More than you know.” I sit on the bed, clasp her face between my hands so she can’t look away. “I refuse to be that guy.”
“You won’t love me?” She reaches to kiss me, but I pull back.
“I won’t destroy you. If that’s what you want find somebody else.” I let go of her face, but I don’t move away.
She closes here eyes. Won’t look at me. Won’t open them. Won’t talk. I watch her face go slack as the drugs get into her system. Listen to her breath steady.
Freak, where’s her ring? Not around her neck like when I left her. I search her covers, check the nightstand, the floor by the bed, under it. Nothing. Widen the grid. Find it in front of my door smashed into the plush carpet. I must have stepped right on it coming  in here. How did it get from her neck to here? I put it safe around my own neck.
My stomach rumbles. I’m starving.
I check my pocket to be sure I have a room key, tiptoe to the door that leads out into the hall, ease it open, and close it safe behind me. I double check to make sure it’s locked.
I notice myself in the elevator mirror. Freak. I rub the drool off my chin and finger comb my hair. It’s greasy. I stink. My mouth tastes sour. A shower sounds so good. A long hot one. By myself. Leesie needs to get cleaned up to. How the freak am I going to manage that one?
I stop at the front desk. “Is there somewhere close I can get some food?”
“Room service?”
I shake my head.
“We’ve got two restaurants. They open in”—she checks her watch—“two hours.”
My watch reads 5:15 AM. Great. “What about a drug store or 7-11?”
“Two blocks down. Turn right when you leave the hotel. Go out the front entrance.”
“Great, thanks.” I muster up a smile.
She seems to appreciate it.
“I need a nurse. Do you know where I can get a nurse?”
She gives me a weird look. “I’m not sure what you mean, sir.”
“A nurse.” I frown. “Like from a hospital.”
She glances over at her computer monitor. “We’ve got a doctor on call. Would you like us to page him?”
“No. We don’t need a doctor.” A doctor wouldn’t take Leese to the bathroom or get her cleaned up and dressed. “I need a nurse.”
A second girl at the desk butts in. “You can check with the rehab center across the street. It’s a couple blocks past the convenience store.”
“Rehab center?” My brows scrunch together. “You mean like for drug addicts?”
“No.” She shakes her head, leaves her stool, and walks over to her colleague. “My uncle went there after he had back surgery. He was ready to leave the hospital but not to go home. They make them do physio. A bunch of doctors and therapists work there. And nurses. I’m sure there are nurses. They taught him to get dressed and made him exercise. Stuff like that.”
The confused knot in my guts begins to unravel. “And the nurses are nice?”
She nods her head. “My uncle liked them. My aunt not so much. My mom got an earful every time she called.”
She giggles. “Something about sponge baths.”
“She got jealous?”
“Acted like that.” She shrugs. “My mom said she was scared out of her mind.”
I can relate. “Thanks. I’ll check it out.” I turn to leave. “Which way again?”
They both motion with their thumbs sticking out. “Right.”
I grin. “Thanks.”

It’s fresh dawn cool outside. Not muggy hot like last night when the cab dropped us off. The air smells like ocean. Two blocks and I’d be there. The edge of the water. There’s got to be a beach. If I run, I could be there in minutes—seconds.   Saltwater, soothing, cool. I won’t stay in for long.
I do run.
Stalk through an ocean front condo resort like I own it. Strip down to my boxers on the beach. Race into the foam of a retreating wave. Slide onto my belly when it gets knee deep. Stretch my arms forward and pull them back. Kick. Submerge. Freak it feels so good.
I swim out until I find a clump of coral in this sandy desert, take a deep breath, another and another—swim down to the coral, wishing for a mask. Two tiny fish dart in and out of the holes in the stony coral. Ignore me. I surface, lie on my back as the sun rises.
I love Cayman. I haven’t been here since my parents died. I can’t wait to dive. I never thought I’d be tough enough to come back here alone. But it feels right to be here now. Leesie can do her open water dives. Finish her cert with me training her.
I wonder how long until she can dive. Broken collar bone. Cracked ribs. The cast on her hand. I hope they say it’d be good therapy. We’ll get snorkels and fins—wrap her cast in plastic. I’ll bring her down here every day as soon as they take that thing off her nose.
They. Who is they? I got to get back to figuring that out.
I swim twenty feet down to the ocean floor again, wave good-bye to the fish, drag myself free of the water, let it swirl around my feet while I put my dry clothes on my wet body.
I retreat to the hotel and turn left since I’m coming from the opposite direction, find the snack place, slam three power bars, and a quart of juice. Grab some for Leesie and head up the street searching for that rehab place.
It’s right where they said it was. A low sturdy building between two high-rise hotels.
I try the door. It’s open. How long have I been gone? Oh, crap. It’s past 7 AM. I don’t want Leese to wake up alone again.
A woman at a huge mahogany desk sitting in the middle of the entry way stands up. “Can I help you?”
“I hope so.” I make such a mess of describing Leesie and me and what we’re doing here that any sane person would have called the cops.
She doesn’t bat an eye—just launches into fees and services and expectations.
“Can I bring her in this morning? Right away?”
“Of course.”




Michael steers a wheelchair
into my room, waking me.
He pours pills down my throat.
“Come on, babe. We’re going
for a walk.”
I’m not talking to him
ever again. He’s wrong.
I’m right. And he’s going be sorry.

He picks me up, plops me
in the chair. Laughs when I scowl.
“How do you like your chariot?”
He puts the chain with my ring
back around my neck,
ties my headscarf do-rag style,
straps on my stupid footgear.
I raise my eyebrows.
“In case you want to wade.”
He pulls a bottle of OJ out
of a grocery bag swinging from
his wrist and hands it to me,
kisses me when he bends to twist
the top off. “Forgive me?”

He’s so cute excited.
I can’t hate him when
he’s like this. The Ice Queen
relents. “Do I have a choice?”
“No.” He kisses me again.
“You’re stuck.”
My eyes swim. “No, Michael.
You’re stuck. I’m sorry I did this to you.”
He gets down on his knees and
lays his head in my lap.
“I don’t ever, ever, ever
want to hear you say that again.”

I can’t answer or I’ll cry.
I stroke the top of his tangled head.
It’s damp. “What’ve you been up to?”
“I just got out of the ocean.”
“Saltwater therapy?”
“Yeah. It’s the best.”
“Earth to Michael—I can’t
go in the water.”
“But you can get close.”
His smile—so big and beautiful—
coaxes the corners of my mouth to
ease up for a moment.

His head tilts toward the bathroom.
“Do you need to go?”
I shake my head and sip my juice.
“You got up by yourself?”
“That must have hurt.”
I look away from his pity.
“Freak, I got to use the john.”
He dumps granola bars
in my lap. “I’ll be right back.”

He disappears into his room.
I drink all the juice, eat both bars,
listen to the sink, then the shower.
He returns scrubbed, shaved,
and glowing, garbed in garish
purple and lime green swim-shorts
and an “I love Cayman” T.
My jeans feel cemented
to my body. “No fair.”
“Jealous of my snazzy outfit?”
“Your clean hair.”
“We’ll take care of yours after
the walk—I promise.”
“You’re going to undress me?”
“Shh. It’s a surprise.”

The beach is glorious.
Caribbean blue water,
even brighter than I remember
from the Keys. The wheelchair
gets bogged down in the deep,
dry sand. Michael powers
through it to firm damp beach,
pushes me right up to the surf’s
edge—a tiny wavelet swirls
around the wheels,
the sun catches the diamond
hanging from my neck.

He tips back the chair
on its two big wheels,
ignores my squeals
and pushes me into the water.
The turquoise sea rushing in and out
uncovers a childish delight—simple,
pure, a bit tarnished and battered—but
I can feel. He keeps me out there
until his arms can’t hold the chair
up anymore.

Then those arms, moist with sweat
and ocean spray, free me from
confinement. We lie 
on the damp sand, me
on my back gazing up at the flawless
blue sky. Michael on his side
staring at my face.
He leans over and sucks ever
so gently on my unblemished
lower lip. He stops too soon.
“Is my breath gross?”
“Yeah. You’re a mess. Sandy
now, too.”
“What are you going to do
about that? Dunk me in the ocean?”
“If that’s what you want.” He scoops me
up and runs towards the water.
“Stop it, Michael.” I pound on
him with my cast.
He pulls up short.
“How about nurses?”
“I found you nurses.”
“You’re sticking me back
in a hospital? No way.”
“No hospital—I promise.”

He takes me to a short cement building
set down in a tropical garden—hot pink
bougainvillea spill from pots,
palms, high and low, fan out in all
directions, orange and yellow
flowers carpet the ground.
Inside—cool, clean elegance,
marble floors, wood-paneled walls,
paintings of ocean sunrises.

My room’s a plush prison—
white bed draped with gauzy netting
looks resort brochure not hospital bill.
“You’re leaving me here?”
“Nurses, babe. They can take
care of you. I can’t.”
“You didn’t even try.”
“You need physio and wound care,
pain management. I can’t do that.”
“How long?”
“At least stay long enough
to get cleaned up.”
He picks me up from my chair,
sniffs in my direction. “You stink.”
“Now that’s romantic.”

He lays me on the bed.
I sink into a world of soft
feather luxury.
He leans over me with
encouragement leaking
from the corners of his grin.
“They’ve got a therapeutic
whirlpool you can soak in
all morning. Wouldn’t that feel nice?”
He’s starting to convince me.
“What are you going to do?”
He blushes under his tan.
“Oh, my gosh—
you’re going
He bends low to give
me an enormous kiss.
“As if I could stop you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Get out of here.”

The smile that slips onto my face
as I watch him leave me
knows only him, only here,
only this moment.
Today, it’s enough.


Dive Buddy:            guiding
Date:  04/28
Dive #: 1 starting over lost count before
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site: Fish Eye Fantasy
Weather Condition: sunny
Water Condition: slight chop
Depth: 87 ft.
Visibility: 80 ft.
Water Temp: 82
Bottom Time: 42 min.

I wish I could go out to the East End—best diving on the island. North is good, too. Lots of eagle rays up there. But those guys will be long gone by now.  I’m close to Seven Mile Beach here. Lame dives by Cayman standards. Excellent compared to Thailand.
I borrow the center’s phone and call a guy we used to charter. Great. He’s got a boat going out at 10 AM.
“It’s a private charter, though.” He sounds like he’s trying to get rid of me. “Tough luck.”
“Wait.” I offer something no dive captain can resist. “Look, I’ll haul tanks, guide, set up all the gear. Whatever it takes. It’ll be the easiest day you ever spent on the water.”
“I don’t know, dude.”
I pull out my secret weapon. “Are there females in the party?”
He pauses—checking the list most likely. “Four.”
“Bring me along and they’ll be back.”
He laughs. “You can guarantee that?”
I’m so glad Leesie can’t hear this. “Just stating the facts.”
“This is Michael Walden?”
“Okay. You’re in. Remember the dock we pick up at?”
“I’d do anything for you dad. He was the best.”
My eyes smart, but I manage to thank the guy without blubbering. “I’ll need gear, too.”

The dive isn’t spectacular. The women are annoying, but still it feels fantastic to be breathing through a reg, finning over coral beds, relaxing in my native element where I don’t have to talk or think. Just be.
After, I swing by the hotel and pick up my laptop on my way to see Leesie. She’s not in her room when I get there, so I lounge on her bed, email Claude to ship me my junk—especially the stuff I bought for Leesie, silk skirts and there’s a necklace I hope she likes. It’ll have to come by air or we’ll never get it. If Claude wasn’t such a jerk, I’d send him a ticket and have him bring it out here. But Claude is—Claude. No thanks.
I sign into ChatSpot, notice Kimbo69 is online, and decide it’s time to bring in reinforcements.


liv2div says: hey, Kim…it’s Michael.
Kimbo69 says: Leesie’s Michael? Didn’t know we were friends. I’m so not talking to you.
liv2div says: I need your help.
Kimbo69 says: No way. Leesie’s my best friend…you broke her heart, ground it into minced meat, and fed it to the sharks. Go back to your pretty prostitute—or buy a new one. Stay away from Leesie…you messed up her life enough. I know the whole no-sex thing must be tough on you, but that’s no excuse—you promised, her. She hasn’t been online. What have you done to her?
liv2div says: you haven’t heard?
Kimbo69 says: Don’t tell me you’re back together.
liv2div says: Leesie crashed her pickup driving home from BYU
Kimbo69 says: Crashed??? Leesie????
liv2div says: yeah, last Thursday
Kimbo69 says: I don’t believe you!
liv2div says:  why would I make this up?
Kimbo69 says: Why don’t I know about it?
liv2div says: her parents haven’t called you?
Kimbo69 says: I don’t think they have my number. You’re serious?
liv2div says: I don’t joke much anymore, Kim…haven’t had much to laugh about for a long time
Kimbo69 says: I used to feel sorry for you but not after what you pulled in Thailand. If this is some kind of trick to get me to help you get back with her, it’s not going to work.
liv2div says: freak, Kim…don’t you care what happened to Leesie?
Kimbo69 says: She banged up her truck. Big deal…craa-aap!! She must have been hurt or she would have been online. We were supposed to chat. Oh, crap. She’s dead. Crap!!!! Why didn’t you say that?
 liv2div says: calm down…she’s not dead…lots of broken stuff…it’s rough
Kimbo69 says: Don’t you dare tell me to calm down!!!! How bad is it?!? What’s broken? Is she like paralyzed? Oh my gosh!!!!!!
liv2div says: the pickup’s totaled
Kimbo69 says: I don’t care about the damn pickup! She’s dying, isn’t she? What hospital is she in? I need to come see her. Don’t let her die!!!
liv2div says: listen a minute…stop jumping in before I can type out what’s happening…she’ll be okay
Kimbo69 says: Okay? Like paralyzed in a wheelchair the rest of her life or totally fine?
liv2div says: physically she should recover…totally…she’s got a stitched up head…they shaved off half her hair…her hand flew into her nose when the air bag blew so they are both busted…her collarbone snapped, ribs cracked, sprained ankles…she’s in a ton of pain
Kimbo69 says: Tell me the hospital she’s in. I’m coming right now. To hell with my classes!! When did this happen? Crap, why didn’t you tell me before? You suck, you know!!! You really, really suck!!!!
liv2div says: hang on a minute…you can’t visit her
Kimbo69 says: Like hell, I can’t. Leesie and I are soul-mates. You don’t have a clue what that means. I’m coming!
liv2div says: hang on, Kim…I need to tell you the worst part
Kimbo69 says: It gets worse? You suck at breaking it gently. What are you hiding? What’s really happened to her?
liv2div says: I’ve been trying to tell you…Phil was with her…you know, her brother…he didn’t make it
Kimbo69 says: Phil’s dead? Really? Dead? That’s horrible. Awful. Oh, my poor girl. She’s taking it bad?
liv2div says: really bad…I thought if anyone could deal with something like this it was her, but she blames herself…won’t tell anyone what happened…not even me
Kimbo69 says: I’ll come visit today. Where is she?
liv2div says: she so messed up…she thinks God won’t forgive her…she’s turned her back on her family and all her Mormon stuff
Kimbo69 says: Leave it to me. I’ll talk to her.
liv2div says: Leesie’s broken up more inside than out…her wounds will heal…I don’t know about the soul part
Kimbo69 says: I told her once I wanted her down here groveling in the dirt with the rest of us mortals…but no, not her…you can’t let her go under, Michael! DO YOU HEAR ME?
liv2div says: I need some help, Kim…I think she’ll listen to you
Kimbo69 says: Of course she will. Get her right now!!! Tell her it’s me.
liv2div says: she’s not here right now
Kimbo69 says: when will she be back?
liv2div says: the nurses have her…I don’t know
Kimbo69 says: I have to go  to a stupid class that I’ve blown off too many times. I’ll head out after that. We’ll have a long, long girl talk.
liv2div says: she can’t really type
Kimbo69 says: Face to face, numbskull. What hospital is she in?
liv2div says: they released her Sunday night…she couldn’t bear going home…so we ran away together
Kimbo69 says: You kidnapped her?
liv2div says: rescued her…she’s nineteen…we can do what we want
Kimbo69 says: You total creep! How could you be so selfish at a time like this?
liv2div says: she was desperate, begged me…freak, it broke my heart to see her so pathetic
Kimbo69 says: That’s no excuse for doing something so stupid.
liv2div says: I tried to talk her out of it…still trying…she won’t even let me call her parents
Kimbo69 says: You stole her from the hospital with all those injuries?
liv2div says: her mom wanted to take her home…look after her there…Leesie’s so eaten up with guilt…she can’t stand to be near her mom…it’s sad, wrong…but I’m here…I’m taking care of her…better than her parents could
Kimbo69 says: I’m sure you are. You disgust me—taking advantage of my best friend when she’s like this!!!
liv2div says: Leesie never told me you were vicious…and for the record I’m NOT taking advantage of her
Kimbo69 says: How did you even get back in the picture? What happened to your concubine?
liv2div says: don’t call her that…I helped Suki get out of a bad scene…that’s it…I never touched her
Kimbo69 says: Right. You got Leesie to believe that?
liv2div says: she believed it enough to send that missionary dude packing
Kimbo69 says: Jaron? Crap. I was rooting for him. Not you. Not you. Not you.
liv2div says: whatever, Kim…hate me all you want…will you talk to Leesie?
Kimbo69 says: where are you guys…can I phone her?
liv2div says: Leesie won’t let me tell anyone
Kimbo69 says: Thailand?
liv2div says: of course not…I’ll let her tell you…I think chatting would be safest…she’ll go for that…I’ll have to do the typing until they take the cast of her left hand and let her use her right arm again
Kimbo69 says: What happened to her arm?
liv2div says: It’s in a sling and strapped down because of her collarbone. The arm’s okay.
Kimbo69 says: It’ll be weird knowing you’re eavesdropping.
liv2div says: you’ll never know I’m there…then you’ll do it?
Kimbo69 says: Of course, I’ll do it. Don’t be stupid.
liv2div says: just don’t get too gross, okay?
Kimbo69 says: Me? Never.

1 comment:

  1. I'm loving it - just like I loved "Taken by Storm" and "Unbroken Connection". What wonderful books of desire and virtue. Perfect reads for teens (and their mom's - like me).