How he knew exactly how to wind her up was a mystery. Her wealthy family and her childhood were something Laura was a little embarrassed over; any reminder of that made her feel a fake. His ‘little rich girl’ comment sent her out into her afternoon lessons with anger still simmering below the surface. But she was determined that she’d have this out with him once and for all later. If he was going to be living here, helping her, then it wasn’t fair to turn her world into a warzone. As much as they thought scared her, she just had to get through the rest of the day.
The lessons passed without event, she could do it in her sleep really, and the patrons were ecstatic, all booking more lessons over the coming days. After the final person had left, Laura dropped onto the sand and started to clean and wax the boards that had been used, then she had to store the life rafts they had available when they were on the beach. There was a local lifeguard station up on the headland, but the beach itself wasn’t fully manned after four pm, so part of the procedure for lessons was to be prepared for sea rescue.
Stacking the boards in the shop storage room, she was making her way back to the life preserves when she heard Adam call out to her.
“Do you need a hand? They look heavy?”
Without looking back Laura shrugged, “I can manage, I usually do.”
The life saving equipment wasn’t heavy, that wasn’t a lie, but the steel box it all fitted in to was rather cumbersome, it had wheels that you could tip it on to drag across the patio to the shop, but they didn’t work on wet sand.
Adam was sat on the patio watching her struggle, waiting for her to ask for help, when he saw her head snap up. Following her eyes, he spotted three people dancing and waving near the sea’s edge. Only this wasn’t a disco competition. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Laura reach for one of the small buoyancy aids and sprint toward the water, but he was halfway towards her at that point.
Laura could see a head bobbing under the waves, roughly sixty metres from the shore. A woman and two teenagers were screeching in the shallows, the woman, presumably the mother of the children was trying to restrain the boys who seemed desperate to enter the waves.
“It’s my husband...” She wailed, “He’s struggling!”
Laura nodded, “call 999, and ask for the coastguard at Rhys Point.” Glancing over her shoulder she spotted Adam sprinting towards them. “This guy will help you!”
With that she ran into the water diving beneath the first breaking waves. He was a lot further out than he appeared, and once she was out of her depth she literally lost sight of the man’s head. After another dozen strokes she presumed she was level with where she’d last seen him. So she dived under the water, knowing the life preserver would float and alert people to her location.
The tide was turning and the water was anything but clear, thick with swirling sand the visibility was nonexistent. Remembering all the discussions she had with various lifeguards on the numerous sea rescue update courses she’d been on, she was methodical, diving in a pattern trying to judge how the tide would move the man. Time was against them, but keeping her head was essential, she had to override the tension of her racing heart, the pain on her air deprived lungs, all she could think of was making repeated trips from the surface to the floor.
Laura could hear splashes somewhere near, but she didn’t waste time looking at anything else. On her fifth dive she felt something, she didn’t know what, but it evaded her, so she came to the surface, gasped as big a breath into her lungs as she could, then dived again. This time she was luckier, she felt fabric, grabbing with both hands, she pushed hard with both feet from the sea bed, and dragged whatever it was up with her.
It was heavy and her lungs were screaming, she hadn’t taken in enough oxygen and pulling this heavy weight was making it hard to reach the surface, to get another breath. When she finally emerged and gulped frantically, she could barely pull the man up with her. It was then that two arms, reached around her and pulled at the body that she‘d managed to tow from the depths.
Exhaustion washed over her as she watched Adam pull the body of the missing man out of the water.
“Can you make it back? I’m not losing you!”
She nodded, but had to hang onto the buoyancy aid as she kicked herself back to shore. She watched Adam ahead of her, dragging the lifeless man behind him, just as a lifeguard quad bike came bouncing over the sand. Fighting the weakness that threatened to drag her under the water, she watched from a distance as the man was rolled onto his back. Adam initiated CPR, but then the lifeguards were there, and weren’t as tired as him, so they took over.
I saved him! She smiled to herself.
Adam jumped to his feet as the two men sprung off the all terrain buggy and pulled out various pieces of medical equipment. Hopeful that the distraught family in front of them didn’t lose their father and husband, Laura had reached him seconds after he disappeared under the water, she’d given him the best chance that she could have.
Turning to smile at Laura, congratulate her, apologise, he froze. She wasn’t on the sand beside him, glancing into the sea, he spotted the red float quite a way out, then he saw her clinging to it, exhausted, her eyes half closed. Sprinting back in to the water, his heart racing, fear engulfing every inch of his body, he called her name repeatedly, desperate for her to stay above the water. If she slipped, if she gave up...
It felt like an hour until he reached her, but it was probably a few seconds, and as he grabbed her arm, he felt her limp and almost unresponsive. The rescue had exhausted her, she was a strong swimmer, he knew that, but he tried to work out how long she was searching for the man, it was too much for her.
“Come on Laura, don’t do this!” He shouted as he tried to shake her, rewarded with a groan, that was good enough, he started to drag her to shore, exactly the same way he had a few moments earlier with the man they’d rescued.
By now quite a crowd had gathered on the beach, and an ambulance had sped over the sand. As he reached the shallow water, he managed to stand and scoop her slim, floppy body into his arms and stagger a few steps. Someone approached, one of the lifeguards and tried to take her from him, ease his load, but he fought him off, continuing to stagger onto the sand, before laying her down gently at his feet.
Squatting beside her he felt her throat, she had a strong pulse, her chest was rising and falling. She was just exhausted! He couldn’t describe the relief, the euphoria that washed over him. Taking her in his arms, he propped her up, waving off the lifeguard, and started to talk to her.
Laura had never felt so tired, but since things had gone dark she’d finally relaxed. Her mind for a moment was vacant, unoccupied. Then a voice broke through her silence.
“Come on Laura.”
There was a desperation that belied the casual nature of the words.
“You’ve got to wake up in the next few seconds or these ambulance folks are going to drag you off to hospital. Don’t think you’ll like that.”
Then she felt lips touch her forehead.
Suddenly everything came rushing back to her, the rescue, Adam helping her, then the fatigue...the water.
With a gasp she opened her eyes, she’d almost succumbed to the water, she could have...The eyes that met hers were calm, reassuring. Adam. He smiled.
“Thank God for that! You ok?”
Laura took a moment to take in the situation, she was in Adam’s arms, he was staring at her with relief on his face. Pulling herself to sitting, she ignored the light headed sensation that buzzed through her brain, and braced her arms either side of her thighs on the cool sand.
“Laura? You ok?” Adam scooted around onto his knees in front of her, “do you need a doctor?”
She smiled, the first genuine smile he’d seen on her face, “you saved me!”
He laughed, “you were almost to shore, the reality is you rescued that man there...” he gestured backwards with his head, and when she looked past him, she saw that the man had been attached to various drips and machines and was being transferred onto a stretcher.
He shrugged, “sure looks that way, all thanks to you.”
Laura shook her head, “no, if you hadn’t taken him from me...”
Taking her hand Adam smiled, “I’d not have got there quick enough, if you hadn’t located him, he’d be gone. I was too late. This is all you.”
A paramedic came and squatted beside them, “we have to check you out Miss, that’s out job.”
Nodding she cooperated with the medical team for a few minutes.
“I’d really rather see you kept in for observation Laura.” The paramedic offered.
She shook her head, “I can’t go to hospital.”
“She’ll be observed and accompanied. I promise.” Adam reassured the man, “she doesn’t live alone, and we won’t let her out of our sight!” Whilst he was a bit reluctant to leave her, the man they’d rescued was obviously demanding a lot of attention, so he withdrew to travel in the ambulance.
Relieved Laura closed her eyes and leaned back against the hard wall of Adam’s body, and his arm’s instinctively wrapped around her.
“You up for walking back to the cafe? Or shall I carry you?”
Laura sighed, “I can make it.”
He helped her back up the sand, dozens of people patted her on the back, congratulating her on her bravery, and Adam beamed proudly as he ensured she could walk safely to the cafe. Inside Ben and Alana rushed over. They’d seen the action from the cafe, but had been unable to leave as the place had been full.
Adam smiled at them, “she’s a hero, but needs to chill out, is it ok if I take her up?”
They both nodded enthusiastically, and Laura felt amusement from her bewildered state at the fact that Adam was controlling her life, and for once she wasn’t shouting at him. Upstairs he pushed her into an armchair.
“Are you cold?” squatting in front of her he studied her with concern. She was still wearing the shorts and vest she’d worn all day, and they were still damp from the sea. Suddenly she realised she was cold. And wet.
Nodding she climbed to her feet, “I’ll just get changed.”
“Will you manage?”
She laughed, “I don’t need you helping me!”
Groaning he rolled his eyes, “I was about to suggest I get Alana to help you?”
“I’ll manage,” she nodded towards the kitchen, “I could murder a coffee though.”
As she left the room, Adam chuckled; finally he knew she was going to be ok. He hadn’t finished filling the coffee machine when Ben appeared carrying a pot of homemade soup.
“Alana wanted to warm you both up...and you’re as cold and wet as Laura.” He shook his head, “thanks so much for helping her today. We were both so worried.”
Adam smiled, “it was instinctive from her, she was gone before I even realised...amazing. He’d have died without her. Has anyone heard how the man is?”
Ben shook his head, “not yet, but it has been on local radio...” He dived into his bedroom then emerged with some fleecy joggers, a sweater and some towels, “here, dry off, have a shower if you like. Alana is closing up downstairs, then we’ll order a Chinese or something.”
Adam hadn’t realised how cold he was until the hot water hit his body. Shock he told himself, seeing Laura almost sinking had scared him beyond belief. He needed heat, food and alcohol, then he might feel his poor heart calming, as it wasn’t recovering yet!
Laura felt weak, tired, but at least she was safe. And warm. She’d managed to shower really quickly, and now in her winter pjs with a thick fleece over the top, she was starting to feel better. In the kitchen the aroma of both coffee and the soup was enticing, so she filled a mug and headed for the lounge. Curled up on the sofa, she flicked on the TV, the news told of financial crises in Europe, the red carpet launch of Brad Pitt’s new film, and England’s latest cricket result. The world was still turning, despite her near death life saving experience.