The little girl pulled herself up onto the barge, water streaming onto its weathered wooden deck. “Daddy, watch me!” She yelled as she ran and leaped off the opposite side, splashing into the gentle river’s blackness.
The little girl’s father barely noticed her pleas for attention as he spoke to his wife of ten years. “I know, that’s what I told him.” He said.
She sat, legs crossed, on an upturned crate in front of him. “Jake, then you need to get him to pay us back. We can’t keep living like this.” She grasped his arm, causing him to look up into her eyes. She had to get through to him. She said again, “We need that money back.” She held his gaze until he turned away in shame. She hadn’t meant to do that.
“I’ll talk to him again.” His demure voice betrayed his feeling of hopelessness.
She gently shook his arm, causing him to look back up at her. She smiled warmly and added, “I love you Jake. You can do this.”
He smiled back, some small bit of his youthful vigor returning.
His daughter pulled herself back onto the barge from the other side. “Did you see that daddy?” She asked him. “Did you see my splash? It was huge!” She exclaimed.
He turned around and grinned. “You’re amazing sweetheart. You got me wet all the way over here.” He lied as he flicked his hand pretending to dry it in the air.
She beamed. “Watch this one daddy.” She said as she ran and jumped back off the other side of the barge.
Jake turned back to his wife and said, “I will try again Mel, but he’s not likely to let us out of it. And I know what you’re thinking, but no. The authorities won’t help us in this matter.” Annoyance prevailed over his carefully checked emotions. He added in an accusatory tone, “Besides, it’s our own fault we’re in this mess, Mel.”
Her eyes bit deep. “You want to start that again Jake?”
He really didn’t. He was tired of this same old fight. They both had made mistakes. She more than he he thought, but that was not how she felt. Inevitably though, every time they quarreled it came back to this, and here they were.
“Look Mel, I really don’t want to fight today. I will talk to him tonight. I doubt he’ll agree, but you never know, right?” He just said this to get Mel off his back. Jake knew talking to Oli was a hopeless task. He probably wouldn’t even try, but Mel didn’t have to know that. Asking for an audience with Oli was dangerous. Mel realized this, but she didn’t really appreciate it. She figured since Jake and Oli were close friends as children, that afforded Jake immunity to his notorious temper. While this may have been partially true, Jake did not want to try his luck. People had a tendency to disappear around Oli when he got in one of his moods.
Mel’s jaw tightened as he had spoken those last words. She replied, “If you can’t handle it, I’ll go. I don’t know when, but I’ll go.”
“You want to go? Fine. Have fun.” He said smiling, his hands thrown in the air. “I’ll get you the contracts from the vault tonight.”
She said, “I can’t go tonight. It’s ladies night. I’ve had plans to go with Kellie for weeks. You know that. You bought me the tickets.” She stared at him, her face flushed crimson.
“Fine, don’t go tonight. I’ll get you the documents and leave them out for you. You go whenever you can.” He said disgusted. He stood up, suddenly wishing he could go for a walk, but he was trapped on the barge. Jake sat back down and sighed.
“Where’s Ana?” Mel asked, horror already creeping into her voice. “Jake!” She screamed. “Where’s Ana?”
Jake leaped into the water where Ana had jumped in only moments earlier. He grasped frantically at the water’s depths trying to find a strand of hair or a limp limb but felt only water. He came up for a breath and quickly dove back under, desperate to find his little girl. He kicked himself down deep and felt his foot connect with something solid. He turned around grabbing, but she was not there.
He twisted around feeling for her with stretched palms. He tried to calm his racing heart. He told himself not to panic; things would be okay. He’d find Ana, pull her up to the barge and pump the water from her lungs. She’d be okay. He grasped about aimlessly until he realized his searching was useless. He needed to get onto that barge and scan the water. Again, the back of his right hand touched something solid. He twisted it around and curled his fingers about a leg. Ana’s leg.
He pulled her to the surface and swam back to the barge. It had grown agonizingly distant from them. With all his strength he threw Ana up onto the platform and practically jumped up out of the water. Mel was already holding Ana, wailing a mother’s worst fears come true. Jake shoved her away and laid Ana flat on her back. He breathed into her mouth and pumped on her chest. Water poured out of Ana’s mouth as she choked and gagged on her first breath. Jake reached down and gathered her into his arms, sobbing.
A few minutes later Ana asked, “Daddy, did you see me?”
Copyright © 2019 Nathan Washor, All rights reserved