The morning’s springboard diving was done and it was time for the platform diving to begin. Gracie slid next to him as Willow and Tiana both stood with their heads bowed, listening to Camille talk them through their next set of 10M platform dives.
“T is doing a tuck two and a half forward with a full twist first, and Willow is doing a reverse double and a half twist with a tuck into one full somersault,” Gracie explained.
He put his arm around her shoulder, “Thank you.”
Gracie looked at him confused, “For what?”
“For giving me a chance, for letting me be your dad, even if my mistakes mean I’m starting late,” Kyle meant every word, every moment he spent with Gracie and Willow was a moment he felt like his life was almost perfect.
“Aww, you’re just saying that because we haven’t properly annoyed you yet,” She winked.
He laughed, “I’ll take having annoying daughters over none any day.”
They watched the divers begin. Tiana was first to dive, punching a hole in the water and sucking the splash under with her. Willow was third to dive. A slight over extension out of tuck created a splash and Gracie’s breath hissed out, “Ohhh, sis is going to be pissed.”
“What are the numbers they are calling out?” Kyle asked, genuinely curious about the sport his daughter and niece loved.
Gracie frowned for a moment, “Mom never explained the numbering system to you?”
Kyle shook his head, “We never talked about the dives that way.”
“Okay, for judging, a diver and their coach build a dive. You know how there’s six kinds of dives that go into four kinds of positions, these are combined to into five categories which describe the ‘flight’ of the dive. The dive numbers have three or four digits followed by a letter that signifies the positions. The first number tells the judges and other divers if it is a Forward, Back, Reverse, Twisting, or Armstand. The second number is starting position of the dive and it is always 1 for Straight, or zero for Free, Tuck, or Pike. The third number tells how many half-somersaults in involved. Four digit dives are always twisting dives and that place counts each of the half twist. Willow’s dive was a 3025C. But she over-cleared her tuck and was off vertical.” Gracie blinked at him like she thought is was obvious, but she might as well have just told him how to find Atlantis.
“Why do they measure the in half somersaults and half twist?” He tried to ask an intelligent question but he knew he was going to have to google it all later.
“Because the starting positions require at least half a somersault. And the twisting dives count the half turns to determine if the dive faces the same or opposite direction of the starting position. Really, mom didn’t explain it to you?” Gracie asked again wonder exactly what her parents had talked about when they dated.
“No, not really. I mean I vaguely remember her talking about the difficulty of certain dives but mostly she talked about how she fell through the air toward the water. After dinner, the day we met, I made her show me what she was talking about. She climbed up the 7M platform at the resort and jumped over and over. First she showed me simple dives then more complicated combinations. I spent hours watching her flipping and twisting through the air as fast a hummingbird, it was beautiful. Like being able to watch a single raindrop fall or a leaf in autumn dancing its way to the ground.” His voice was low and sentimental as his nostalgia stole his attention, and his heart ached over the memory that was so treasured and yet had become tainted by what happened only two months later.
“Awww, that’s so romantic,” Gracie giggled, “Did you ever tell her that?”
“I never had the chance, kiddo,” Kyle admitted regretfully.
“You should. Girls eat that up.”
“Not your mom, she never cared about things like that,′ Kyle remembered how determined Camille was to not be a hopeless romantic like Mina. How she had scoffed at Mina’s love of romance novels and how silly she thought Kent and Mina were together.
Gracie rolled her eyes, “I’ll tell you a secret, dad. Mom is the biggest closet romantic of them all. SHe’s so far in the closet, you’d find Narnia first, but she wants it so bad she can taste it. I think she’d cut off her own tattoo before she would admit it. Ice Cold Coach Wally is a myth and I’ll help you melt it.” She bumped his shoulder with hers, “I got your back, dad.”
“And what do you get ,Gracie?” Kyle asked, suddenly feeling enormous anxiety at the pressure she was placing on him to succeed in winning Camille back.
Gracie shrugged, “Isn’t it obvious? I get the family I always dreamed of and I get to see mom really happy. Oh, and a baby brother.” A loud horn sounded, Gracie clapped, “Yeah, round two. T’s up next.”
Watching the diving and the Blue Wings girls holding 2 of the top 5 spots all afternoon, he couldn’t keep the grin off his face. As he thought about breakfast, he decided Willow was right, his girls weren’t bad, they were bad-ass. After every one of Willow or Tiana’s dives, their little group cheered louder than groups four or five times their size. He was amazed and proud of all the teens and their dedication to each other and their sport. By 4PM, Tiana had second place and Willow had third. Kyle thought his heart would burst as Camille flashed him a wink from where the coaches stood with their athletes. This was one of the best days of his life.
The final day of competition began with a headache for Kyle, a headache named Sophia Vardi. He would have to talk to his lawyers to see if there was anymore he could do to keep her out of his life. He pushed aside thoughts of the annoying woman to enjoy watching Gracie and Willow diving.
Last night, he had taken just them out for an early dinner, they talked about things they like beyond diving and he told them about all the beautiful places he had build resorts, places he wanted to take them. They planned a vacation together and plotted against Camille in a light hearted way. As he had laid alone in bed, he decided only one thing could make today better, would be falling asleep next to Camille. But this morning, he discovered his stalker had other plans for his happiness.
Kyle sat with the rest of the Blue Wings watching the women’s synchronized diving. Gracefully, the pairs of divers fell toward the water, trying to be mirror images of each other. Some, like Gracie and Willow showed what excellent mimics they were; others were less connected. He was filled with pride and amazement as he watched Camille talking to the girls. She had only looked in his direction once, since noticing him sitting next to Jorge Jr and Tiana. She had given him a flash of a smile then the intense mask she wore when coaching and competing had hidden her emotions.
It had been a long day as Kyle watched Gracie and Willow climb the stairs to the 10M platform for their last dive, he again noticed Willow was favoring the leg that had been impaled by the tree branch. He watched them preparing to go up into their armstand, Willow’s lips moved unheard over the noisy venue. Gracie nodded. Both their faces were emotionless with concentration. They balanced for what seemed like forever then, as they went to fall, Willow’s leg spasmed and she cried out. She collapsed awkwardly, falling hard on the edge of the platform.
Kyle was on his feet as Willow fell toward the water like a ragdoll with Gracie ceasing her twisting to watch her sister. Gracie punched the water as Willow crashed into the surface. A plume of red swirled into the blue water around Willow as she sunk lifeless. Chaos echoed as gasps and shouts of shock exploded in the enclosed space. Camille was in the water before Gracie surfaced with Willow in tow. Blood coloring the water around them, as together mother and daughter pulled the unconscious daughter to the side. Paramedics were already waiting. It was then Kyle realized he was holding a stunned and weeping Tiana. Instead of releasing her, he just dragged her with him to the side of the pool.
“That’s my daughter,” he roared at the security person who tried to stop him. Gracie rushed to him as they hoisted the carryboard holding her sister.
“Dad,” She cried and all Kyle could do was hug her, not caring that his clothes were getting wet.
Camille looked completely calm as she mouthed to him, “I’m going with her.”
He could only nod stupidly, wishing he was as collected. Before following the paramedics carrying Willow out, she pointed at Kyle.
A tall man approached him and the girls, “They are taking her to the Emergency Room at Our Lady of the Sea. She took a pretty hard knock, we think she’ll be okay but it depends on what the doctor says.”
“Thank you,” was all he could get out for the moment.
Tiana straightened up bravely, “ I’ll help Gracie get their things.”
Sheridan waved to them, and mouthed “The car is waiting”. Jorge Sr, the other chaperons, and his security team were herding the kids out as the PA announced a brief delay.
While waiting for Tiana and Gracie, Kyle looked up at the total scores from round 4, Wallace and Wallace were in second place. Their last dive would be a scratch, they had no hope of remaining in medal contention and he didn’t care. All the pride he felt a few moments ago at what the girls were accomplishing meant nothing. Gracie plowed back into him, clinging desperately as Tiana held their bag. In the car on the way to the hospital, Kyle Hightower did something he hadn’t done in 15 years, not since the day of his middle brother’s death. He prayed.
In the ER waiting room, Kyle brooded on the events of this morning instead of dwelling on the fear that Willow had almost died today. It was better to think about the annoying thing than the unbearable one.
Kyle had come back from an early meeting with the manager of the resort to find Sophia in his room, in his shower. She had barely wrapped herself in a towel when a knock had brought room service into the room followed by Camille. Her face had gone completely blank except for that practiced smile she used for the media.
As Sophia tried to play at being the embarrassed lover caught in a towel. Camille had acted like she couldn’t care less and before he could even protest, she had handed him the wrapped silverware off the room service tray with a smile that didn’t hid the hurt in her eyes.
“Having breakfast twice? Here’s a fork for you. Maybe your fiancé can provide the girls with a baby brother. I just stopped by to say we’re loading the shuttle in 10.”
“Camille, wait. I didn’t know she...”
“Its fine, Kyle,” she lied and he knew it wasn’t, because even though her voice was level and her face almost expressionless, her eyes... Her eyes always told him what she was really feeling. “Just don’t be late. The girls are excited to have you here. “She turned back to Sophia for a moment.” Ms Varda, have a nice morning.” Then Camille followed the shocked hotel staffer out, leaving Kyle’s suite door open.
Sophia had looked surprised, when he turned on her, “SO. HELP. ME. Sophia! If I wasn’t leaving right now to go watch MY girls dive, I would have you arrested. And tell them to throw away the key.”
“You don’t mean that, Kyle. I mean didn’t you see. She didn’t even care that I was in your room, if she cared about you at all she would have gotten angry or something,” Sophia insisted.
Kyle rolled his eyes, “Sophia, not every woman in the world is so insecure she needs to throw a public tantrum every time another looks at the man she cares about. Some actually behave like adults, not teenagers.” He turned to leave but stopped in the door. “You know what I take that back. The teenagers I know are more mature than you will ever be. Now get out of my life.”
He had slammed the door before she finished and heard a something shatter against it, then he had called Benton to have Sophia escorted off the property and barred from all Blue Water Resorts. As he hurried to catch Camille, he felt ready to rage. Sophia always showed up at the worst possible time and he was worried Camille’s walls had gone back up.
Camille wasn’t in the suite she was sharing with the girls. He went down to the bus and she showed up after him with Gracie and Willow. Calm and serene, the same aloof attitude she had at the Olympics. Willow and Gracie were listening to music from the same device, heads bobbing in sequence. They were tapping in time and moving their hands, as if going through the motions of their dives. They sat side by side and no one spoke to them.
Will gave him a thumbs up, “They had that same vibe when we won state.”
Kyle deliberately moved to sit next to Camille, when the shuttle started moving he leaned into her. “About this morning, I was at a management meeting and came back to find Sophia in my shower. I don’t know how she got into my room. I’m sorry it upset you.”
Camille clenched her fist so hard her knuckles cracked, then she breathed out slowly, fanning her fingers. Her voice was oddly calm, “Kyle, I can’t do this today. I have to be completely focused for the girls. If you say a grown woman snuck into your penthouse suite to take a shower while you were out, then that is what happened.”
“My ex-fiancé, that I have multiple restraining orders against, did exactly that. She broke up with her most recent millionaire sugar daddy and tracked me down. This is the 8th or 9th time in 10 years. I swear Camille, there is nothing...” He stopped talking when she put her finger on his lips.
“Can you hold that thought until after this afternoon?” She had begged in a low voice. Her eyes looked conflicted. “Kyle, I know how she got into your room. The Bellhop that brought the breakfast tray was ordered to take her up by the concierge. He told me in the elevator, when he saw how upset I was, and apologized. I’m not mad at you, I just... I just don’t like feeling out of control. I don’t like being vulnerable, emotional. I... I can’t talk about this right now, I have my job to do today. Gracie and Willow need me.”
He had been so proud watching them dive, watching them beating eighteen of the other nineteen teams of older more experienced synchronized divers. They were the only freshmen in the final round. Now they were at they were at the hospital because Willow had hurt herself doing a dive she practiced every day. After two hours he had told Sheridan to take Tiana back to the resort and come back. His emotions had been on a roller coaster today and he felt exhausted.
Gracie sniffed beside him and he asked, “Gracie, honey. What did Willow say before you went into your armstands?”
“She said her leg felt tight, achy, and she was glad it was our last dive. She was afraid she was going to cramp. She had a really bad charlie horse last night, but she didn’t tell mom because she was sure we could make it through today. I should have told mom. Mom wouldn’t have let her dive if she was cramping. It’s my fault she fell and cut her shoulder,” Gracie began crying into his shoulder
“It’s okay Gracie, you couldn’t have known she would cramp while you were up on the platform,” Camille’s voice had them both looking up. She looked wrung out as Gracie bolted upright and almost jumped into her arms.
Gracie was holding onto her mother like a lifeline, her greatest fear was to lose Willow the way her mom had lost her sister. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, mom.”
“Can we take her back to the hotel?” Kyle asked worriedly.
“No. The doctor wants to keep Willow overnight, to monitor her breathing because she inhaled some water. She has a mild concussion, got eight stitches, and has whiplash from hitting the water sideways. But she will recover just fine. You did a good job realizing she was in trouble mid-dive and following her into the water. You should be very proud of yourself, Gracie, not many divers could stop their dive mid-air like that.” Camille looked down at her daughter with love and pride.
“Can I see her?” Gracie begged, terror still visible in the eyes that were exactly the color of her father’s.
“Yes, she’s upstairs, but then you need to go back to our suite and get some rest. Kyle, can you stay with them tonight?” Camille asked as she led them to the elevators.
“Of course. Martha said you and Willow might need an overnight bag and sent one back with Sheridan.” Her hand brushed his as she reached for the bag, and he saw her falter for a moment, “Why don’t you let me carry this?”
Camille nodded, “Thank you.”