Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ty's Dream Girl (The Middle)

Ty faced the now-empty beach with a blinking incomprehension. It wasn’t possible for Kit to have walked--or even run--down to the water in the time he’d been submerged. And even if it were possible, where was the chaise?

Despite the impossibility of it, the evidence--a long slash-mark in the sand--pointed waterward.

Feeling stupid even before he began to move, Ty took a deep breath and dived under. Eyes open and alert, he took several slow underwater strokes toward shore.

Directly ahead, in the knee-deep shallows, he thought he could make out a cloud of dirt, the aftermath of some soon-to-be-forgotten disturbance. But when the impression failed to prove itself, he eased himself back to the surface.

Without really knowing what he was looking for, he turned around in the water, glancing off in all directions for some sign of help. The only visible activity was the sailboat he’d seen earlier, unreachable in the distance.

Some part of him--the hopeful, mystic part--felt that if he just stayed there, dog-paddling long enough, Kit would reappear, that she would come walking out of somewhere, and that her reappearance would make sense of her disappearance.

In a strange bargain with himself and with this girl he’d never even officially met, he decided to give her a count of 100 before taking any other action. But almost as soon as he began to count, the dog-paddling grew hard. An act that had been easy and natural just moments before grew labored now that it was being measured.

Despite the struggle, when he broke 50 his counting slowed in an unconscious effort to give Kit more time. But even then, the numbers seemed to come too fast.

He had just settled on an even slower count when something underwater grazed his leg. A whispered number “73” died on his lips and he instinctively jerked away from the touch, tucking his legs up toward him. Squinting down into the water, he waited for the next contact, sure that he would scream when it came.

Nothing happened for what seemed an eternity. He had just decided to swim for his own beach when, just a yard away, something floated almost imperceptibly to the surface. At first, the brown strands rolling gently in the water confused him. But almost immediately his brain made the connection; he was staring at a tiny island of dislocated human hair, floating long and brown there on the surface.

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