Saturday, April 23, 2011
I teetered on the narrow metal railing and tightened my grip on the mast line. Jumping was supposed to be a piece of cake, except that now, looking down at the Mediterranean Sea swell against the wooden sailboat, I wasn’t quite so sure. I mean, it had to be at least twenty-five feet to the water. Twenty-five feet! I did a quick calculation and my eyes nearly popped out of my head. Holy moly, that’d be like leaping out of a third-story window.
“Hold up, Luke,” Dad called from the main deck. He held up his lucky Apollo coin and tossed it, like he always tossed it, with a swift flick of his thumb. The gold glinted in the sun before he caught the coin in one hand.
I furrowed my brow and shot Dad an annoyed look just so he’d know he was starting to piss me off. If I was going to jump, it was going to be on my terms, not his.
“Heads you jump, tails you dive.”
Dive? Diving wasn’t part of this deal. My temples pulsed. “Dad, I never said I’d—”
“Apollo says…” he interrupted as he opened his fist. “Dive!”
The word spun around in my head, my panic building, and I got all woozy inside. It was like I was riding a tidal wave of nausea. Then, in the back of my mind, I heard my main bro, Conner Larkin. He was egging me on like he was some kind of authority. “Chillax,” he’d say if he were here now. “Don’t get your tighty-whiteys in a twist. Just do it.”
Dad rocked back on his heels and rested his beer can on his paunch. “Want me to toss it again?” The way he said it made it sound like he thought I was a wuss, a real yellow belly.
The whole point of my being up here was to prove that I wasn’t a wuss. I guess you could say I wanted to show my dad I still had grit. I gulped down air like I was popping a couple of chill pills and stared at the water.
Suddenly, my brain sparked. At first it told me to dive, but it was so amped-up that it went one better: You’re fifteen, Luke. Forget the dive. Go for a front flip.
So I did it.
I propelled myself off the railing so fast that my gut never had the chance to the spew the humus I’d eaten for lunch. But I pushed too hard. The greens and browns and grays of the scrubby Turkish coastline become a muddy blur as I realized my error. I was over flipping and if I didn’t do something I was going to land on my stomach. Instinctively, I twisted to the right.
The result was a pathetic side-flop, if that’s even possible, onto a slab of turquoise-colored cement. Pain radiated from the pit of my stomach to the tips of my fingers. I curled into a ball and sank.
Not for long, though. The sea pushed back and shot me to the surface.
“Son,” Dad said when I exploded out of the water. “That was one hard fall.” He tossed me a life preserver. “You all right?”
It didn’t take the brightest bulb in the box to see I wasn’t all right. I started to reach for the preserver, but dodged it at the last second. No way was I going to let Dad know how much I hurt. Instead, I treaded water and eyeballed the distance between our boat and the rough grey cliffs that jutted up at a ninety degree angle. I’d be hard pressed to scale those cliffs on a good day, and it was too far to swim to point where the sand met up with the rocks.
I gritted my teeth and forced a fake smile. I knew I should have made my gut pull rank on my brain. I just knew it.
Chapter 2 The Blues
It wasn’t until I ducked back under water that I realized how close I’d come to taking up permanent residence with a certain Mr. Hades. The lagoon where the Didyma 111, our 89-foot broad-beam gulet, was anchored was shallow, and the sea floor gave way to an entire underwater mountain range. If I’d nailed the flip and entered the water feet first, I’d have mashed myself into a boulder and splintered my ankles at the very least.
I shivered just thinking about it, and then moved into a slow one-armed breast stroke around the bow of the boat. The only thing left was to haul my sorry butt up the rope ladder. I took a quick look-see at my chest and winced. The whole right side was as red as a hunk of rare roast beef.
When I finally got onto the fore deck, I made a b-line through the few late-afternoon sun worshippers and rushed into the lounge. I needed some serious time in solo-land and I figured the best place to do that was in my sleeping cabin below. Unfortunately, Kaitlyn Davies jumped down from the upper deck and intercepted me.
“L-L-Luke,” she called, trailing me to the stairs like a puppy dog.
In my haste I tripped on the bottom tread and stubbed my big toe against the wall. Man, that hurt. I shot Kaitlyn a fierce look, and then snarled. That’s when I saw Ray Davies’ large square head darken his daughter’s shoulder. He glared 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.
I opened my mouth, an apology right there on the tip of my tongue, but then I thought: no way; I’m not the problem, she is. Kaitlyn Davies. Why can’t she just bug off? She’s thirteen for Christ’s sake. Thirteen. There ought to be a rule.
I bit my tongue and stomped down the dark hall to my cabin, slamming the door behind me.
Inside the tiny room, my younger brother, Adam, was sprawled across the upper berth. His scraggly brown bangs masked the fact that his nose was glued to a book. He was so gripped by the words on the page that he’d forgotten to remove his shoes—a crime punishable by a lifetime of Mom’s “I told you not to’s.”
I switched off the overhead light and slid between the sheets on the narrow bottom berth.
“Hey, what’s your problem?” Adam complained.
The dark mahogany-paneled room was equipped with only one of everything: one wardrobe, one side table, and one port hole. Without the glaring overhead light, it was too dark to read. Adam leapt off the upper berth and switched the light back on.
I pulled the pillow over my eyes and ignored him.
“I heard Dad telling you to dive.” Adam climbed back up top.
“I thought you were reading,” I said.
“I can read and listen, you know.”Adam made a nasal squeaking noise, which meant he was pretending to clean out his ear. Creepster.
“The minute we land at Dulles airport. I’m history. Gone, like yesterday.”
“Why? Because of Dad?”
“Dude, you don’t understand.” I pressed down on the pillow. “He’s a tool. Always pushing me…in front of everyone. Then I do my birdbrain routine. This time Ray and Kaitlyn and the whole stupid boat crew saw me.”
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