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Friendship Drama

“Wake up, wake up!” Anna squealed. Oggan grunted, stirring from the peaceful sleep. “What's happening? I thought you were fast asleep after that awesome night in the woods.” Anna giggled and pinched his arm. “Hey,hey! I am awake, what's wrong?” He opened his eyes and smiled. “Are you ready for the most beautiful experience of your life?” She nodded, jumping around the mattress. “Calmie, calmie. Now follow me outside. We have some time, do you want some berries to munch on?” Anna was way too excited to pay attention to him. Oggan sighed and smiled at her. “Let's sit down.” He offered. Anna sat down, tucking her hair behind her ear and played with strings of her shirt. “Anna... it's okay. No need to be nervous. We are not going to miss it. Look!”

The light grey surface of the Pawaio lake burst in burning orange light as the rising sun touched it. The chillness of the morning started to dissipate. Anna's eyes widened. She never thought it could be so amazing. Videos on internet were pleasure to watch but personal experience was different. She grabbed Oggan's huge hand, tearful. He simply hold her hands, experiencing the most pleasant feelings. This was her first time in the woods and she was doing great, she cried to go home only seven times. 

“Anna, it's over. The sun is getting higher. It's time to have breakfast. Do you wish to eat french pancakes or caviar with seaweed?” She burst into a laugh and shook her head. 

“No, Oggan. But I would like to visit the underwater cave you mentioned to my dad.”  

“Anna-” he started, then sighed. “Help me disassemble our lovely accommodations and then I'll consider. Just to let you know, to cave we need to dive.” Anna gulped and looked at him, unsure of his words. “I am not joking, Anna. U-N-D-E-R-W-A-T-E-R means under the surface. Are you sure about it? You may get wet.” She eyerolled him and laughed. 

“Okay, okay, well deserved. Let's fold these tents.”

With a new wave of energy Anna helped Oggan with tents and after quick breakfast; which consisted of canned lunch-meat and some blueberries; Oggan showed Anna where she can refresh herself before returning to the main campsite. “But-” She started but he interrupted: 

“We need diving equipment and also inform the camp manager we are planning to dive here. Don't worry, it's more for security than allowance. Besides, it's my dad. You met him before, remember?” Anna sighed. 

“Does he know about me? Or how you are going to introduce me?” Oggan came closer to her and squeezed her arm. 

“Ann, don't worry about that. He knows everything.”

“And are you sure I don't need to be worried about?”

“Annie, no one in Pawaio gives a bat about your past. You shouldn't think that someone will judge you here.”

“I'm sorry. It's just- I'm still not over it.” He hugged her, feeling her uneasiness.

“I'm here, Annie. I'm here. Your father was right. You don't need meds but little bit of nature.” 

“You told me-” He shushed her. 

“You means a lot to me. And I don't flirt with all of my clients. Consider yourself very special.” She blushed, not forgetting he was her guide and counsellor in a first place.

Upon returning to the main campsite, she was quiet and Oggan let her. She had a lot to think about. While she was sitting on the bench, he spoke to his father.

“I'm taking Anna to the cave. We will return tomorrow, around 3 am. She had some experience in diving but I am not sure if she will get there at once. So we'll try a couple of times. Also, it's good for her bond with the nature. Relying on something so unstable, with her trust issue... you know what I mean.”

“Oggan, are you hundred percent sure she will made it to the cave?” Oggan nodded. His dad smiled. “You love her, don't you? But be careful. You know what happened to her.” Oggan bit his lip, nodding. “But we shouldn't speak about her without her.”

“You are right, son. Okay, go and seize the day. Wait... don't forget her life is in your hands.”

“Are we ready, Anna?” She nodded. “There's a reason for me asking. If you are scared or unsure, I need to know. For diving you need to be seriously light-headed. You need to be clear of what you really want.” When she looked at him, her eyes were full of tears.

“I want to go home. What am I doin' here? Bothering you... taking you time you can spend with your wife and chil-” Oggan laughed and hugged her tightly. 

“My sweet Ann, I don't need to spend my time with my wife. She's dead for a long time now. I would better spend my time with you. And my son is perfectly okay with his own family now. They are expecting second baby girl. He doesn't need me. You do, Anna. And I'm here. So let's have a nice day in a water, and I promise no one is mad at you because you opted to have some time off. You deserved it. Now, no complaints and you better start to walk. It's going to be an adventure of your life, so head's up and march!”

 His excitement was contagious and Anna soon followed him. On the way back to the lake they even sang the most beautiful native songs Oggan could think of. And he knew a lot of songs. Being a long-term guide in Pawaio gave him an opportunity to uncover more and more of his roots to tourist and therapy-seekers. But Anna was different. Special case...

Memory take him back to the first day he met her in a hospital. She was empty, her soul shattered around one stupid photograph. “This is her.” Someone said, no emotions. No care. Mr Trip found their family counselling service through a good feedback from previous patients, though not completely believing them. “Are you sure she needs it? I mean, well, was she ever nearby any forest, or lake? Pawaio region is something different than city park...” Mr Trip sighed: “I'll give you money, no matter how much. Just fix her.” Just fix her... When Oggan saw her, he thought there's no need to fix. There's need to hug and regaining trust in humans.

“What happened to her?” He shook his head.

“I need to know in order to choose right therapy, Mr Trip.” 

“Look at her!” Mr Trip nearly screamed at him. “Look at my daughter! Look what they did to her. She was the best ballet dancer in the city, she won Nationals twice. And now she is just sitting here, holding the photograph. She's not eating and since she came here, she barely slept.”

“Who did what?” Oggan kept asking. No avail.

“I'll go ask her.” Finally, the man turned to him. His attitude changed. From mad to sad. 

“The man on the photograph is her manager since age 9. They were best friends, then eventually started dating. I was against it, she is barely adult. But you know, youngsters and their own approach of the life. She won every competition I sent her to. And she was in a bloom. Little I know there was something behind her success. Her last doping tests turned out positive. Nationals competitors were out of their mind and made us to return all her medals and cups. Her name, once synonym of the success, was now used as the warning for future generation and she was removed from the hall of Ballet in Wisconsin. Her promising career in National Ballet Theatre in Paris gone, she attempted for suicide. Twice in past two days... back to the manager, though. He, under the force, admitted giving her facilitators to enhance her trainings. Without her notice. Also, at the court, in front of the reporters and whole bunch of strangers informed about her poor performance in a bed. Turned out it was sooner that was legal. I was horrified. I let my daughter in embrace of the monster, encouraging her to... doesn't matter know. You need to fix her.”

“What happened? Why you stopped to singing? It was nice song.” Anna's voice snapped him from thoughts.

“Sorry, Annie. I was thinking about how I met you. Do you remember it?”

“Yes. But I am not ready to talk about it, yet.” She averted eyes but didn't stop smiling. 

“It's nice you remember. It was very interesting randez-vous. And now, we need to walk to the other side of the lake, down those rocks to start diving.” He pointed at the teethed bank on the far-away side. 

“Can we just swim there?” She asked, not fancy to walk around for next three hours. “It's too cold to get into water. The sun didn't shine enough to warm the water up to 2 metres. And we are descending to 5 metres. Getting cold in the middle of June is not good experience, and you will need to go home sooner than you are supposed to. Be patient. Also, it means you and I have some time to walk and talk.”

“If I get cold, you could take-” She stopped, embarrassed she said it aloud. Oggan laughed heartily and hugged her.

“You don't need to get cold in order to get my attention, sweet Ann. Now proceed to walk a little bit. Do you need me to do something to make you more comfortable?” She looked at him with a shy smile. “Can-can you hold my hand?”

“As you wish, Anna.” Gently he entangled his huge hand with her small one and smiled at her. 

They took a long walk and Oggan occasionally asked her about her feelings. If she is feeling anxious or comfortable, if she needs something to feel better. She hesitated first but answered all his questions truthfully. After two hours they reached the right side of the lake and started with preparations. 

“Since this is not your first diving, I expect you to be responsible and careful. Stones here are sharp as knives and some of them are crumbly so be extra cautious. 2 metres below it's small entrance to the tunnel. It's long around 7 metres and then continues to the so-called bowl, partially over the water. We can have a little snack there. Then tunnel turns sharply to the left and deep below up to the cave. It's about 10 minutes of swimming.”

“And where's that mermaid tail? In a bowl?” Oggan smiled. “You will see by yourself.” She blushed, then concentrated on the dive. Oggan then started to undress, which startled her, loosing her control. “Ann?” He didn't understand what happened. She was okay a while ago. “Shit.” He swore and put his jacket back on, not attempting to reach her. “Annie, honey, it's okay. No harm done. I need to undress in order to put my diving suit on. I am sorry, I should inform you. Ann, breathe now with me. Just breathe. Close your eyes, listen to the nature around you. Do you hear the mockingjay, and blackbirds? Do you hear the rustling in the nearby bushes? It's a bunny, he got startled by our arrival. Do you feel the breeze that tickles your nostrils?”

He talked and talked, looking carefully as her breathing slowed and became more regular. A loud sneeze of her startled them both and they burst in a laugh. “Now, I will hide behind this tree and put off my trousers. Don't watch, I am shy.” He said, awakening her sense of sarcasm. “Well, well. I will stay here and I will definitely observe your buttocks.” He blushed a bit. Buttocks? He had the most impressive back muscles, being former body-builder and she is bottom-enthusiast?

Now, being both ready to dive, they entered the water. Oggan was right. The shape of stones reminded her of knives which was a bit unfortunate, considering her suicidal thoughts. But he was right behind her, watching her swimming, she felt his look on her back. Back, definitely not other parts of her!! He was different than K- no, she shouldn't think about him. She felt strong pull on her leg and panicked but then she realized it was Oggan, pulling her in the safe distance of the unexpected stone fall. In fact, he warned her before that some stones may be unstable. She signed to him, thanking to quick save, but he didn't answered, urging her to swim further. She obeyed. They'll talk later in a bowl. She found out quickly and climbed atop, unclasping the mouthpiece. The air inside of the bowl was chilling but refreshing. He approached her a while after.

“Was checking the damage.” He answered her unspoken question about his delayed arrival. “Some snacks and then we will carry on. I didn't expect the- we need to talk, right?” He stopped talking, looking at her.

“Indeed. I got distracted. I am sorry. You know, I felt your eyes on me, thinking how he thought of me, of my body. Then I forced myself to stop but during that internal fight I forgot I'm swimming.” He smiled at her.

“Ann, that's awesome you are able to stop thinking about him. Yes, you did mistake but I was here and helped you. Now you need to know not to be afraid of being observed. Not every man is going to harm you because one did.” She nodded, fighting the tears. He pulled her closer to him, hugging her shaking body so gently she barely felt it as forced act.

“Can you kiss me?” She whispered. He shook his head. “Not yet. You didn't see the cave yet.” Then they snacked on the rocks, surrounded by water, in comfortable embrace. After some reassuring, they carried on, reaching the bottom of tunnel. As Oggan said, rapid descending further and then... Anna gasped for air from a shock. Mermaid's tail... it wasn't a real mermaid. But the ceiling of the cave had a hole in shape of tail, through which they could see silver glittering of the moon above them. “Now, if you still want, I can kiss you. Here, under the mermaid's tail. I am hopeless romantic. And helplessly in love with you. But not enough to make love with you. So now just a friendly kiss on cheek. Until you are ready for more. I promise.”

Deep down underwater, he unclasped his mouthpiece and pecked her cheek. She grabbed his hand and together they swam out of the cave, not speaking a thing. What Anna needed the most became real. A true friend. And little bit of love.

November 14, 2020 15:46

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1 comment

Oleg Shleyfer
19:02 Nov 27, 2020

Great , full of warmth love story.


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