TITLE: Simply Love
By Shawn Smith
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Sara gasped for air as her face found the surface of the water. The waves were overwhelming and she wasn’t sure how long she would have before she was rolled under the water again. She took long, deep breaths, trying to take in as much air as she could. As the water pushed her back and forth, she tried to look for Marcus and the others that were on the yacht. She couldn’t see more than a few feet out, the water seemed to have created walls all around her.
A wave pulled her under again. She frantically kicked and paddled under the water, desperately trying to find the surface again. Just as she thought she would never find it, the cold air caught her face and again she opened her mouth, gasping.
She finally realized that the more she fought against the wave movement, the harder it was to stay above the water. She tried to relax and move with the water, which helped some, but she was terrified and every muscle in her body was tense.
“Marcus!” She called out. “Can anybody hear me?”
Focusing on find the others helped take her mind off the surrounding waters. The crashing waves were like banging cymbals in her ears. She strained to listen, hoping to hear even the smallest cry. But she heard nothing.
She screamed as loud as she could, hoping that one of the others would hear her voice and somehow be able to swim to her. No one came. She wanted desperately to pray for help. But her anger toward God had built up so much over the years that she found herself screaming again.
“Marcus! No Marcus! Don’t leave me!” The realization that she was alone in the middle of the ocean brought a terror she had never felt before. This was it. This was how she was going to die – alone, afraid, and with overwhelming guilt that suddenly seemed to cover over her in competition with the surrounding waves. She wasn’t ready. There was so much she still wanted to do, so much she needed to say!
They say that your life flashes before your eyes when you die. Sara always imagined that is was like a million pictures all flooding your mind at once; good pictures, memories of the happy times. She was seeing pictures, but they were coming so slowly, one by one, and they were not good. She was remembering everyone who hurt her. And everyone she hurt. The guilt was overwhelming her and for a moment, she thought she was right where she deserved to be.
“NO!” She cried out loud. “This is not how I’m going to die. Not like this, sitting an ocean of self-pity and guilt. I’m not ready. I’ve got to try! God! Please help me!”
Once again she began to look around. She realized the waves were mostly coming from one direction and she decided not to fight them. She tried to swim, but mostly she just pointed her body in the same direction as the waves were moving, lifting her head up from time to time to look around.
A bright orange spot stood out clearly in the middle of the vast blue waters. She didn’t know what it was, she didn’t care, she suddenly felt like she wasn’t alone. For Sara, the bright orange spot represented hope.
She began to paddle excitedly toward it. In an instant, she was under water again. She didn’t see the wave coming. All she knew was that once again, she was fighting her way back to the air. When she found it, she wasted no time catching her breath. She immediately began frantically looking for the orange spot. It was close, much closer than when she went under. She swam hard toward it and finally overcame it.
“A life jacket! You’ve got to be kidding me.” She thought. She remembered Marcus’ plea to her to put her life vest on. She laughed at him. “Oh come on Marcus, we’re grown ups now, we’ll be fine. Stop being such a ninny.” She knew instantly he was angry with her for having treated him like that in front of his friends, but she made light of it, kissing him on the cheek and then hopped eagerly up the steps to the deck. As she reached the top step, she felt something hit her foot. Marcus had thrown the life vest at her and she knew she was in for a long argument when they went to bed.
The storm was unexpected, but the yacht had been through storms before. Sara enjoyed sitting on the deck watching the rain drops fall into the waves of the ocean. The yacht was rocking heavily and the wet deck made it difficult to walk to the lounge chairs. The lounge chairs! They were gone! Where are they? Looking around, she noticed something being tossed around in the ocean. The lounge chairs! Sara was momentarily paralyzed by the reality that this was no ordinary storm. As she looked out at the ocean and tried to gather her thoughts, she noticed that the boat was beginning to lean so much that she was starting to slide toward the edge of the railing. Scrambling, she reached toward the stairs she had just come up from. With the help of the slippery deck, gravity kept her from reaching the stairs and she began to grab for anything she could hold onto.
The boat rocked back the other direction, sending her sliding toward the other side. She could hear Marcus calling for her from below deck and she yelled for help, “Marcus! Marcus, help me!” No sooner had the words left her mouth as she was thrown into the water and sent tumbling around in the waves.
She was sure the boat had gone over. With her first breath of air, her eyes confirmed that as she watched the boat slip under the water. Just as she was about to yell for Marcus, a wave covered over her, pulling her into a tumble under water again. When she resurfaced, she could no longer see the boat.
Marcus was a tall man with wavy black hair and deep blue eyes. He was handsome, you know the type, strong, square jaw, everything perfectly placed where it should be. That was one reason Sara was with him. The other was that he was rich. No, he was more than rich, he was ridiculously rich. Family money. The kind that transfers from generation to generation. He doted on Sara. She wasn’t sure why. She had beautiful long, blond hair. She was not heavy by any means, but she wasn’t fit either. In fact, she was a little uncomfortable in her bathing suit in front of other people and usually covered herself up with shorts or a wrap. Still, Marcus told her time and time again that he loved her body. She would giggle when he said that, but she wasn’t sure he was being completely honest.
Their meeting was somewhat comical – when Sara looked back on it anyway. Marcus had flown into the small town by helicopter. He had lived all his life in penthouse apartments in one city or another. But he always became bored with the city he was living in and would move to another. New York, Paris, Hollywood – all had offered new faces, new adventures. But none had satisfied his appetite for peace. When a friend mentioned that a large, rural ranch was up for sale, Marcus was intrigued.
As a field reporter for the local newspaper, Sara was disappointed when she was given the assignment of covering the arrival of the “snotty, spoiled, rich kid”. She hated people like that. She thought they did whatever they wanted and didn’t care about the consequences to other people. She had read about Marcus in the tabloids, always flying off on the family jet for one adventure or another. She knew he held a position in the family’s business, but she didn’t get the impression he actually spent much time working.
She loved being a field reporter, but small town reporting didn’t exactly give her the opportunity to uncover big stories. She wrote articles about the new theater grand opening, this year’s rodeo queen, and the local high school Friday night football game. She knew this story was going to be as boring as the rest. As the editor rattled off a list of suggested headlines, she shook her head back and forth and thinking this was the low point of her life.
A NEW KID IN TOWN
MARCUS JAMES FINDS NEW LIFE IN SMALL TOWN
CITY KID RETREATS TO COUNTRY LIFE
His suggestions did not help her moral. This was a joke! What did this guy want to come here for anyway? She grabbed her backpack and camera. Hopping into her jeep, she made the tires squeal as she tore out of the parking lot, just to make sure she got the point across to her boss.
The small airport was barely big enough for the helicopter to land. She parked her jeep close, hoping she would be able to grab a few pictures from the higher vantage point of the rack on the top. As she set up her camera, she mumbled to herself that this was a ridiculous story. So what if this guy was coming to town. She had been writing for several years for the paper and she had more to offer than a story on a rich kid looking for a new home.
She lost her balance and almost fell off the rack when he exited the helicopter. Woah, is that him? He’s gorgeous! Regaining her footing, she lifted her camera to shoot. Her stumble had caught his attention and as she looked through the lens, she realized he was looking right at her. She clicked several times before lowering the camera. He smiled at her as if he were smiling at an old friend and then began walking directly toward her. She became increasingly aware of her nervousness, but simply smiled back at him.
“Hello.” He said just barely loud enough to hear over the roar of the helicopter.
“Welcome to Red Rock Mr. James.” She heard herself say confidently.
“Are you a reporter?”
“Well, yes. We heard you were looking at a ranch here. We don’t get many big, town visitors.” She said, suddenly feeling the weight of her small town attitude.
Sara began to climb down off the rack and he reached out to help her. Not seeing what he was doing, she placed her clunky boot on top of his hand, smashing it against the side of the jeep. He didn’t scream loudly, just enough to let her know that he was in pain. It took her a moment to realize what had happened. Unable to secure her other foot she jumped awkwardly to the ground, releasing his hand, but landing squarely on her backside.
“Are you ok?” They both rambled at the same time. She was fine, a little sore and she was certain she would have a bruise. Marcus’ fingers were beginning to swell and turn colors. Realizing for the first time that he had not arrived alone, Sara suggested that his companions take him to the hospital. One of them quickly noted that the car scheduled to pick them up was not there. Ordinarily, Marcus would have been angry for having to wait, but at the moment, he was intrigued by the woman who had inflicted his injury and saw this as an opportunity.
“Would you mind taking me?” he asked her, wincing enough to tug at her guilt strings. She had no choice but to agree. After all, it was her suggestion, not to mention her fault. Or was it? What was his hand doing there anyway?
Their drive to the hospital was mostly void of conversation. Marcus looked around at the town, noting that the few restaurants he saw were less than appealing. Sara noticed his look of disgust as they passed the sewage facility. The odor was rarely as strong as it was that day. She was pleased, maybe the arrogant jerk wouldn’t even take the time to look at the ranch and would just leave town as soon as his hand was patched up. Now there’s a story:
SMALL TOWN NOT CLASSY ENOUGH FOR MARCUS JAMES
Walking into the hospital, Marcus watched with intrigue as Sara said hello to “Billy” standing at the front door, leaned over to hug a woman sitting in the waiting room asking if she was ok, and then shook hands with the woman at the ER desk. He hadn’t given any thought before to the fact that everyone knows everyone else in a small town. He liked it.
“Hey Alice, Mr. James here needs to have someone look at his hand.” Mr. James? She wasn’t sure why she called him that. She knew his first name, but they hadn’t been formally introduced and she just wasn’t sure she wanted to be that informal. Yes, Mr. James was good.
“What did he do?” Alice asked Sara.
“Well, I stepped on it climbing down off the rack.” Sara said turning to Marcus. “I’m not sure how that happened exactly. Why was your hand there in the first place?”
“I was trying to be a gentleman and help you down, to keep you from falling. Which, you did anyway.” He said in a tone that made her realize he felt a little awkward. Now that was cute, she thought. He wanted to help her – how gallant. And somewhat ridiculous considering she’d climbed up on top of that rack and back down again at least a thousand times. But still, for a moment, she saw him as more than just a rich kid come to ruin the small town atmosphere she loved so much.
Marcus began to follow the nurse into the triage room and stopping briefly, he turned to Sara, “I don’t know your name.”
“Sara.” She said. “Sara Walker.”
“It’s a pleasure to know you Sara Walker. I’m Marcus James.” His smile was accompanied by a soft gentle gaze that nearly took her breath away.
She waited while his hand was x-rayed. His two companions had opted to wait at the airport for the car rather than cram into the back seat of her open jeep. She couldn’t help but laugh to herself over their starched suits and neckties. Did they seriously think they were going to be comfortable in this 3 digit temperature? She watched the sliding exit doors, eagerly waiting for them to arrive and becoming increasingly irritated as the time passed.
Marcus’ hand was not broken. He was given a few pain pills and told to ice it as much as possible. Sara asked him if she would like him to drop him off somewhere. She was taken back by his suggestion.
“I have a better idea. Let’s go have dinner. I’m hungry.”
“What about your friends?”
“Tony’s my realtor and Steve is my assistant. I called them from my cell phone and told them to check into the hotel. They can fend for themselves.”
Dinner with the rich kid went against her self-established values. But he was gorgeous. And the smile, oh the smile. Besides, maybe she could get a more interesting article out of it.
“Ok” she agreed, “but I pick the place.” Frankie’s Café had the best burgers in the south. It was some what of a dive, even by her standards and she sort of hoped Marcus would find it unsuitable. For the first time, Marcus found himself enjoying his meal simply because it was good, dripping grease and all. As they sat at the old metal-framed table, she caught him looking around at the other people in the café. She smiled slightly, thinking he was wishing he was back in the city at some ritzy restaurant that serves things like caviar and squid.
Without looking at her, he said, “Do you come here often?”
“Yes, I do.” She said. “I don’t eat here much, though, I usually just grab a burger and shake and eat on the road.”
“On the road? That’s right, you’re doing a story on me aren’t you, Miss Walker?” Miss Walker? Oh, he must have been insulted when she called him Mr. James.
“Please, call me Sara. I’m a reporter. And yes, I’m doing a story on you.”
“What do you have so far?”
“Well, it’ll go something like this: Marcus James, heir to the James family fortune arrived at the airport in the small town of Red Rock by helicopter. Upon his arrival, he was quick to attempt to rescue a young, beautiful woman from the top of her vehicle. During this attempted rescue, Mr. James was injured and taken immediately by the woman to the local hospital; after which, he bought her dinner at a local diner as an expression of his gratitude.”
His laugh was gentle, but sincere. She liked that he was amused. After dinner, she gave him a tour of the town and then took him to a small pond nestled into the back of a wooded area. As they sat on the edge of the water, she told him that it was her favorite quite place, that she had been coming there since she was a child when she just needed some time away from the rest of the world.
Marcus had seen the most beautiful of sceneries. He had hiked to the top of mountains and had skied down others; he had sat on the edge of the most beautiful beaches looking out at crystal clear oceans. Sitting with Sara at the edge of the pond, he realized that there was something so simplistic and natural about this setting that he couldn’t help but feeling at peace. Peace. That was a new feeling for him. It was exactly what he had been trying to find.
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