TITLE: Leaving Paradise
By Lesley-Anne Evans
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She woke early as usual, her restless mind prodding her awake. She gently turned her head and saw that Greg was still asleep. No sounds from the children either at this point. Good, she said, and slipped from their bed to take a quick shower.
Outside the sun was still hidden behind the hills. The resort staff was doing their usual preparations for the onslaught of guests at the pool and the beach. Chairs were straightened, and pools cleaned of various floating insects. The gardening staff busied themselves with watering the lush plantings that dotted the property. That and collecting palm fronds that had fallen onto the emerald green lawns in the night. Just another day in paradise, she thought, and smiled to herself.
What a treat it was to be here for the holidays. It was almost surreal that they were here at all, and such a contrast to last years stresses that she immediately felt grateful. Greg had surprised them all when he came home from the office in late November and announced, we’re going to Hawaii ! So, here they were, and here they would stay for almost two weeks of fun and relaxation.
She pulled on her clothes, and stepped out onto the lanai into warmth, humidity and air that was sweet in her nostrils. A well-toned woman clad in lulu lemon ran past her as she did her warmup stretches. And then she began to run....
By the time she returned, the kids and Greg were up and into their usual routine of watching TV and reading the paper. Greg looked up from the headlines and smiled at her. How was your run this morning babe, he asked. Great, she said. I saw a humpback just off Black Rock. I could watch them all day, they are just so amazing. So what's new in the world, she asked him and took off her shoes. Oh, high of 85 again today, and trade winds in the afternoon, he said. Some things never change.
So did you find a job here yet, she asked? Nope, but I’m still looking, he said.
Sarah poked her head out of the patio doors and said, I’m hungry Mom, when’s breakfast? Sarah was straight to the point like most 7 year olds. Give me five minutes hon, Laura said. Then I’ll make eggs, ok? Ok, mom. Back for the morning quota of sponge bob she went, wearing her pj’s and flip flops.
So, what’s the plan for today, Greg asked. Oh, I don’t know, maybe we should look into that pool side scuba class, she said. We may as well do something while we laze by the pool again. What do you mean, are you getting bored with laying in the sun? No, I just want to plan some things she said. The days are flying past and we should really make sure we don’t miss out on the stuff we talked about doing.
You know how I feel about the scuba, Greg scowled. I’m just not totally comfortable with the kids doing it here. I think this is an awesome opportunity for them, she said. Besides, what a blast to be able to tell their friends they were scuba diving for christmas. Greg looked up from his paper. I just want to be sure they are ready, that’s all. Ok, let’s try the pool thing, and then go from there.
Thanks, hon. she said with excitement in her voice. They are gonna love it! Yea, yea, yea, go make us some breakfast already, he said. She reached over and punched him in the arm. Make it yourself you tyrant she said. Then she jumped up and headed into the kitchen.
The condo was big. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, open living room and kitchen combined, and a beautiful patio on ground level. They couldn’t have asked for a better location with the pool and beach both within 100 yards of their place. It was a friendly resort, and so far the guests were all quite normal, nobody putting on airs. The kids had struck up some friendships with a couple of kids at the pool, so they were pretty happy. Sarah was still young, and preferred to stay with them rather than hanging out with kids. But the boys were usually occupied with football games on the lawn, marco polo in the pool, or even shuffleboard.
That was another reason she wanted to take them diving. She wanted this vacation to be a bonding time for them. It was great for them to have play time with other kids some of the time, but she wanted to spend time with them alone. And, more importantly, she wanted Greg to initiate some activities with them. He worked so hard during the year, and often didn’t have much energy left for the kids when he got home. She wanted to suggest to Greg that he play with his kids more.
If only he would come diving too. But she had been married too long now to hold out much hope of Greg ever joining into the active stuff that she loved. It nearly drove her crazy to sit still for long, but she knew that’s what recharged Greg, and so she tried to temper her activity for his sake. And she knew he tried to get outside his comfort zone some of the time too. It wasn’t as if he sat on the couch all the time, but he just didn’t enjoy the adrenaline rush of sports like she did.
They made it work for them, and they believed that together they were better than apart. Each brought balance to the other. Without Greg, she might have remained the obsessive compulsive twenty-something she had been when they first met. Greg toned her down, she revved him up.
It reminded her of the verse about two being better than one, and in their case it was very true. They had been together for 20 years, 18 years of marriage. They’d had their ups and downs too. But, they managed to work through most of the tough times, sometimes by not dealing with some stuff. Other times, they fought like cats and dogs. The truth was that most of the time they were crazy about one another. As long as they didn’t take themselves too seriously, then things went pretty well.
She called down and booked the scuba lessons with the front desk, and told the kids what the plans were. Excitement lit up their faces. They knew they were being allowed to do something that was really special. They also knew that both their parents didn’t agree on letting them go, but this only added to the feeling of adventure.
Breakfast was an inconvenience more than anything, but they gulped down the OJ and cereal and ran to put on their bathing suits in record time. Sarah was beside herself with excitement, and kept asking if it was time to go yet. She pulled out her travel brochures and looked over the pictures of fish, whales and turtles. Look at this dude, she said to Steven from the living room. Maybe we’ll see him. You won’t see him, stupid. We’re just going in the pool. Yea but maybe we’ll go in the ocean after, she said.
Laura said nothing, she didn’t want to push her luck, but that’s exactly what she was hoping for. A positive poolside class just might be the thing to swing Greg's opinion about diving. The pool was good, but the ocean dive was what she really wanted. And she knew that it was just a matter of time before she got her way. Greg was cautious to the point of boredom at times, and she knew they wouldn’t have an opportunity like this again for a long time. By then, the kids would be too big to want to vacation with them, so this was the time. She would push the boundary softly at first, but she wanted this badly. Laura was sure he’d give in.
The kids were ready and bugging her to get going. Hang on guys, I don't even have my bathing suit on yet. Just turn on the tv and we’ll go in a few minutes. The tv was both her best friend and worst enemy. Right now it was definitely working for her, and so she quickly cleared away the breakfast mess. Greg offered to wash up the dishes and she thanked him and went to get changed.
Pulling off her T-shirt she noticed how brown she was getting. The lines from her bikini top were pretty obvious, and she smiled as she thought about her buddy Sue back home. First opportunity she had to go for coffee and show off her tan, she’d do it.
Sue and Laura had a good relationship. They saw each other every week, sometimes for coffee, or just in passing at church. They talked on the phone too, but it wasn’t a needy friendship. Laura couldn’t stand it when relationships became too demanding. She enjoyed spending time with other women, but she also needed alone time. Maybe she wasn’t involved in Sue’s life enough, but she didn’t get the feeling that Sue needed more. She’ll wish she had my tan though, and that thought made her smile.
Greg came into the bedroom. You excited? Yeah. You feel comfortable with this? Yeah, I think they can handle this. They aren’t babies you know. I know that, I just don’t know about this whole thing. What are you afraid of? Everything. Them being underwater and freaking out or something. But the instructor and I will be right there with them. They’re good listeners, they are smart kids, they won’t freak out. Well, I’m just not 100% into this whole thing, that’s all. I know, but can you just trust me with this? Yeah, I can. Thanks, babe, you know I would never let anything happen to them. I know. Ok. Ok then. Yeah, ok.
Hey guys, you ready she yelled. Yeah, Mom. Did you put on sunscreen. Yeah, yeah, Nope. Jeffrey, I told you to put some on. Ok mom, ok. Just do it ok. We need to be at the pool in 5 minutes and we don’t want to be late. I know Mom. Don’t I know me, just put it on. Ok, Mom.
The sun was hotter than when Laura had gone running, and the pool looked enticing with it’s sparkling clear water. What a gorgeous day. It looked like they were going to have the class to themselves, and the instructor greeted them with ‘aloha’. Laura still wasn’t used to the kitchiness of the language, and felt people were putting them on sometimes with the Hawaiian phrases. Aloha she replied anyway.
That’s quite the crew you have there. Yeah, they’re all mine. The kids smiled and were soon making small talk with ‘Mike”. So, you guys done this before. Nope. You like swimming. Yep. Have you ever snorkelled? Uh ha. Well, it’s not much different than that. You just have to put these sexy suits on... I’ll show you how to do it. Don’t be scared, it’s really easy. But first, we have to fill out some forms to keep the lawyers happy. Okay.
Before long they were in the pool with all the gear and Mike. You’ve got a brave family, Laura. Yeah, they are willing to try pretty much anything. Is your husband doing something else today. He just isn’t into diving, that’s all. He gets a bit claustrophobic, and doesn’t want to try it. Well you tell him Mike can heal him of that problem will ya. It isn’t hard at all, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll never turn back.
INTERLUDE..... need chapter on the ocean dive gone wrong...
His body posture, as he walked down the hall towards me, was all wrong. It was as if he was on automatic pilot, the movements were exaggerated, and somewhat forced. His head was down, so I couldn’t see his face or look into his eyes. Fear flowed through me. I willed him to look up and save me from my fear, but he did not. The hospital corridor was empty and his footsteps echoed. The smell, you know that hospital smell, was suddenly strong and nauseating.
In that instant, I knew. The air was suddenly sucked from my chest. Time slowed down, but my body flushed hot as my heartbeat increased. I wanted to run, but couldn’t move from where I sat. Paralyzed with the sick knowledge I sat and watched my beloved husband come closer.
It was then that he lifted his head and I saw that my fears were real. His eyes were puffy and his face distorted, twisted, un natural. He collapsed into the seat beside me and sat staring at the wall. I grabbed his arm, pulling on his shirt sleeve and digging my fingers into his flesh. What the hell is going on, I said. What’s wrong, why are you crying? Tell me what happened. Oh my God, I said. What happened?
Still he said nothing. I began to lose control. I don’t know what words were coming, maybe they weren’t even words but sounds. Sounds that came from in my throat and I couldn’t stop them. Then all I could think of was help. I have to help him. I can help him. I started to get up and my legs buckled underneath me. I sank back into the chair and began to sob. Oh my God, what’s going on, I cried.
He told me. The words made no sense. He seemed to be mumbling and the words were not making any sense. Stop it, I yelled. What are you saying to me? I can’t understand you. And then it began to sink in. THen I began to submerge deeper into some place I had never visited before. I went underneath, below the surface. Just for a little while. It was quieter there, the lights were less bright, and the voices were muffled.
This can’t be happening to us. It’s not.
It all became a blur. Faceless doctors, and just as many faceless nurses, coming at us with questions. And they said things that made me angry, and things that made me confused. They said they were sorry, and that they had done all they could have under the circumstances. They asked us to sign things. They asked us to decide things that made no sense to me. They asked if there was anyone we needed to call. They asked if they could give me something to help with the pain.
Pain, what pain, I said. I don’t feel any pain.
Mrs. Blank, we realize you have been through a lot and we can give you something that will help calm you for the time being.
But I’m not not calm, I said. Why do you keep asking me things. Why don’t you just go away. Leave me alone. I just want to sleep.
Mrs. Blank, you really need to take some time to think this all through. We have a chaplain that could meet with you if you like? If you want me to call him...
No. No chaplain. Not now. Just leave me alone.
I had nothing to say. Not to anyone. There was nothing to say. The past, the present, the future held no importance to me. The moment needed no dialogue outside my own head. Do what had to be done. Pee when I had to. Sleep. Waking was too hard. Nothing outside my head. I existed in some strange way, but that was all.
No more conversations with God. He didn’t hear me, and I certainly wasn’t about to listen to him. But I wasn’t going to think about that either. Thinking was too hard as well. Thinking got me into areas that caused too much confusion and might be a reason to talk. No thinking, no talking. That was the answer. Just sleep. Sleep, sleep...
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