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“Brie!” Kyle yelled again. “Brie!”
“Brie!” Kyle yelled again. “Brie!”
She just kept swimming.
The speedboat was rapidly approaching, and he spun back around towards it and started to wildly wave his hands. It was making a wide turn to the left side of his dad’s boat. Two boys were standing behind the windshield, peering curiously at the abandoned ski boat, probably thinking the occupants were having sex, hoping to glimpse a little skin.
“Hey!” Kyle screamed, waving his arms, splashing. “Hey! Watch out! There’s somebody out there! Heyyyyyyy!”
They didn’t see or hear him. The boat seemed to streak across the water like a low-flying jet fighter. He mentally predicted its trajectory and his eyes widened—it appeared to be heading directly towards Briana.
“HEY! HEY! HEYYYYYY!” he yelled at the boat. But it did no good. He turned back towards Briana, hoping she might have heard his yelling or the sound of the propeller, but she was still swimming steadily towards the cliffs, oblivious to any possible danger. Kyle started swimming frantically towards her for a few seconds, then realized the futility of it. In that fleeting moment, he had never felt so helpless in his life. He began to scream again, this time at Briana. “BRIE! THERE’S A BOAT! THERE’S A BOAT COMING, THERE’S A BOAT!!! BRIEEEEEEEE!”
In the middle of his scream, she finally stopped swimming. She turned her head towards the oncoming boat. It was bearing down on her so fast it would hit her—or at least come close to hitting her—in a matter of two or three more seconds.
“DIVE!” Kyle screamed.
She either heard him or saw the boat coming, or perhaps both. Her head disappeared beneath the surface. Not more than a half-second later, the speedboat whipped across the water in what looked like exactly the same spot.
Kyle threw his hands over his face, uttering an agonized wail, afraid he would hear a thump or the sound of the motor wavering as the propeller made contact with...
But he heard nothing except the drone of the speedboat as it moved away from him.
“Please, no!” he said, his hands still over his face, treading water with only his legs. His stomach seemed to turn inside out. He slowly uncovered his eyes, afraid of what he would see.
There was the boat’s wake. But Kyle could see nothing else.
“BRIE!” he yelled again, his voice cracking. He waited a few seconds, hoping to see her head surface somewhere around the wake, but he saw only the churned up water. He started swimming madly towards the spot where she had been, swimming the most intense American crawl he had ever swam in his life. When he finally neared the place where he thought he had seen her disappear, the sick feeling in his gut had turned into sheer horror—he was afraid he would bump into one of her severed limbs or … worse. He stopped swimming and looked around at the water, half-expecting to see blood or clumps of her yellow-blonde hair floating on the surface. But there was just lake water. He swam to the direct center of the wake, which was fading rapidly, and slowly swam around in a circle, looking for any sign of her.
After a few more seconds, the water became still and quiet as it had been a few moments earlier. Only there was no Briana.
Surely if she was hit, she would float to the surface, Kyle thought, as he treaded water. Wouldn’t she? And if she wasn’t hit, where is she?
He looked over towards the cliffs, wondering if she might be swimming in that direction, injured and disoriented. But there was nothing in sight save a few gently rolling waves from the wake of the speedboat. His arms and legs felt rubbery. He accidentally inhaled some water and started coughing. This isn’t happening, he thought, coughing and choking. This can’t be happening.
But it was definitely happening. And he knew that if he wasn’t careful, he might drown. He had to get hold of himself—he had to think rationally and decide what to do next.
He decided it was best to swim on his back to help him remain calm and conserve energy. He made a U-turn and started swimming in the direction of the ski boat. Yes, that was the smart thing to do now. He would return to the boat and bring it back to look for her. If he didn’t find her within a couple of minutes, he could go back to the marina and call...
“No!” he croaked up at the sky. Panicking, he rolled over, and started dog-paddling frantically, then checked himself and spun around onto his back again.
Just stay calm, Kyle. You have to go back to the boat or you’ll drown.
Ten long minutes later, Kyle dragged himself up the ski ladder attached to the boat’s stern and collapsed on the carpeted deck, trembling and queasy. He lay there for a few seconds. The sky seemed to be spinning and spinning. He jumped back up and leaned over the starboard side of the boat. His lunch—a Big Mac and one of his dad’s Bud Lights—gushed into the lake water.
“Brie,” he uttered in a hoarse whisper, fighting tears. He thought he might fall apart right there in the middle of the lake. Keep it together, Kyle. Keep moving. You have to get the boat started so you can look for her.
“Get the boat started,” he repeated aloud. His voice sounded hollow and far away, like his ears were stuffed with cotton. He turned and blankly looked at the ignition switch on the dashboard. There were no tools on board now. Being a college professor, his father rarely found time to use the boat once school started and always took the toolbox home for the winter. But Kyle would have to make do.
He laid down on his back and wriggled around in front of the driver’s seat until his head was positioned directly underneath the dashboard. The back of the ignition switch had three wires connected to it—red, black, and green. He wasn’t sure which was which, and he didn’t have time to find out. He would just yank all three of them free and try different combinations until the engine turned over.
Just as he took hold of the red wire, there was a thump from somewhere underneath the boat.
It sounded like something had bumped against the boat’s hull, not far from his head. He stayed still for a few seconds, but heard nothing more. He started to yank the red wire loose, but stopped again. He thought he heard another thump.
There was definitely something moving around underneath the boat.
Probably just a fish...
He lay there for a few more seconds, completely motionless, listening. He heard the unmistakable sound of the ski ladder banging against the stern. Somebody was pulling down the ladder.
It had to be Briana.
He swallowed. Didn’t it?
He swallowed. Didn’t it?