Young Adult Adventure — Heather Tourkin
I wavered on the edge of falling over the narrow metal railing, tightening my grip on the mast line. Twenty-five feet below me the Mediterranean Sea swelled. This was the highest I’d ever climbed, let alone jumped from. My gut balked.
“Luke,” my dad called, waving at me from the main deck of the Didyma 111. “Heads you dive, tails you jump.”
“Does that old thing even have a tails?” My voice sounded weak in the wind.
The coin was a relic from the pagan days of Alexander the Great when coins were minted with the likenesses of gods. But in my father’s hand it had morphed into a modern-day lucky charm.
Dad laughed and tossed the coin. “Apollo says…” he caught it and opened his hand. “Dive!”
Dive? The word sounded foreign to my ears. Then suddenly something inside me sparked. Chalk it up to youthful exuberance, but the truth was that I wanted to prove myself, show my dad I had the grit to go one better.
I stared at the water and mouthed, “Forget the dive. Do a flip.”
A lump formed in my throat. I knew that jumping from this height was the equivalent of leaping out of a third-story window. Any aerial maneuver would be a delicate balance between over-flipping and landing on my stomach, or under-flipping and landing on my back. Not an easy feat.
The confusion in my head reminded me of my best friend, Conner Larkin, egging me on like he was some kind of authority. “Be cool,” he’d say if he were here now. “Don’t get your tighty-whiteys in a twist.”
Dad rocked back on his heels, letting his beer can rest on his paunch. “Want me to toss it again, son?” The way he said it made it sound like he thought I was too sissy to dive.
“Focus,” I breathed.
A gust of wind whirled around me and sent a sharp shiver down my spine. I teetered, catching myself before falling backwards. Just as I got my balance Kaitlyn Davies walked around the corner of the bridge, gripping her tangled curls behind her head. She looked up at me and stopped short.
“Mr. Ha-ha-hansen,” she said, jabbing a finger anxiously in the air. “I-I-I don’t th-th-think he should do it.”
My father roared, “A strapping young man like him?” He took a giant swig from his beer, wiped his lips, and then shot me a narrow look. “Now, which is it, son? Are you an archer like Apollo? Or do you favor Athena with your bright blue eyes and long golden hair?”
“Very funny,” I said, rolling my eyes at Dad’s not-so-subtle attempt at sarcasm. Who was he to compare me to a Greek goddess just because of my hair? He didn’t even have his facts straight. What a joke, especially after Mom, who I’m pretty positive is part bulldog, force fed us the Iliad and the Odyssey before she’d even paid for the plane tickets for this trip.
I chose to ignore the insult and said, “Gray.”
“Athena. She had gray eyes.”
“Whoa!” Dad did this little pretend bow and wiggled his rear end. “I stand corrected, smart al—er…Bright Apollo, sir.”
On the main deck, Kaitlyn’s father, Mr. Overprotective Ray Davies, sidled up to his daughter. He glanced at me with these rheumy green eyes etched with red veins that made him look like he was on the verge of crying, or screaming, or both. Then Tasant, the cook and co-captain of the boat, poked his head out of the galley. He gave me a thumbs-up.
Dad raised his arm over his head. “Shoot!” he yelled.
So I did.
I rolled back my shoulders and faced the sun head on. I stretched out my arms, raised my heels and bent my knees. In a moment of no return, I propelled myself off the railing. The tans and browns and greens of the scrubby Turkish coastline became a blur.
But, like that kid that had feathers glued together with wax, my flight was an utter failure. What followed was the most pathetic, swan-dive-cum-front-flip a 16-year-old American boy has ever attempted. I ended up doing a side flop onto what felt like a slab of turquoise-colored cement. Waves of pain radiated from my solar plexus to the tips of my fingers. I curled into a fetal position and sank.
“Please, Poseidon, Hermes,” I agonized, sinking deeper. “Take me away. Swallow me. Deliver me to Hades!” I’d have given my right foot to disappear forever, but that wasn’t to be my fate. The sea pushed back and straight as an arrow, I shot to the surface.
“Son,” Dad said when I exploded out of the water. “That was one confused dive. What happened? You all right?”
I cringed just hearing his voice. Of course I wasn’t all right. Quickly, I eyeballed the distance between our boat and the rocky shore. Too far. I gritted my teeth and tried to smile, if only to keep myself from crying out. It didn’t take a Greek god to know that I should have forced my gut to pull rank on my brain. Sometimes I was my own worst enemy.
“That was one hard fall, Luke,” Dad said as he threw me a life preserver.
Chapter 2 The Blues
When I ducked under the water I realized how close I’d really come to moving in with Hades. The lagoon where we were anchored was shallow and the sea floor hosted an entire underwater mountain range. If I’d done a flip from any higher, or from a little more to the stern, I’d have broken my neck on one of the boulders.
I did a slow, one-armed breast stroke around the bow of the boat. Just as got to the ladder, a shadow beneath me caught my eye. Quickly, I did a double-take, and took in mouthful of salt water. A dolphin was swimming inches below me. I spat, and then reached for its dorsal fin, but it dipped down and swam off. Too bad, I thought. The dolphin could have been my ticket out of here.
It hurt like hell climbing the rope ladder, and when I took a gander at my chest, the whole right side was as red as a hunk of a rare roast beef. A whimper bubbled to my lips. I sucked it back. My reputation was at stake. If a Hansen boy broke down in tears, what would the Davies think? Or the boat crew? Worse, my dad?
On deck I rushed for the stairs to the sleeping cabins below. Unfortunately, Stuttering Kait spied me dodging through the lounge.
“L-L-Luke,” she called, in hot pursuit. “Y-y-you okay?”
In my haste I tripped on the last tread and stubbed my big toe against the wall. I shot Kaitlyn a fierce look and snarled. That was when I saw Ray’s large square head darken his daughter’s shoulder. The crow’s-feet along the corner of his rheumy eyes deepened.
I opened my mouth and was about to apologize. The words right there on the tip of my tongue, I could almost taste them, but then I thought: wait a minute; I’m not the problem, she is. Kaitlyn Davies. She’s always oohing and aahing, like I’m some kind of lost puppy dog. Man o man, she makes me crazy. And when I do acknowledge her, which I have to because she’s the daughter of my father’s best friend, she flutters her doe-eyes and tilts her head so that her long blonde curls drape over her cheek. She’s thirteen for Pete’s sake. Thirteen. There ought to be a rule.