Diving Without Fins

Status: 1st Draft

Diving Without Fins

Status: 1st Draft

Diving Without Fins

Book by: Dominique Hoffman

Details

Genre: Romance

Content Summary


This was initially called the Hill of 7 Colors. If you have read the first chapter, feel free to skip to the next ones.



Be ready to fall in love with Daniel, go on a trip to Argentina, enjoy phenomenal food, be smothered in romance while shedding a tear or two.



Annie, a successful psychologist, meets a handsome Argentinian Architect while scuba diving in Mexico. He's charismatic, intelligent, with a secret. They fall deeply in love despite COVID and the
distance that separates them. But there is a another huge obstacle in their way which Annie tries to figure out how to work around. Then her life gets turned upside down and she's in for the fight
of her life. Can her relationship survive all these challenges? how will she navigate the maze of affliction destiny has thrown her way?



I am not a native speaker so any grammar, syntax corrections you can add are very appreciated, then any feedback about the story and how it makes you feel is a great bonus. I wan you to know that I
really appreciate that you are taking the time to read my story and I always RECIPROCATE.

 

 

Content Summary


This was initially called the Hill of 7 Colors. If you have read the first chapter, feel free to skip to the next ones.



Be ready to fall in love with Daniel, go on a trip to Argentina, enjoy phenomenal food, be smothered in romance while shedding a tear or two.



Annie, a successful psychologist, meets a handsome Argentinian Architect while scuba diving in Mexico. He's charismatic, intelligent, with a secret. They fall deeply in love despite COVID and the
distance that separates them. But there is a another huge obstacle in their way which Annie tries to figure out how to work around. Then her life gets turned upside down and she's in for the fight
of her life. Can her relationship survive all these challenges? how will she navigate the maze of affliction destiny has thrown her way?



I am not a native speaker so any grammar, syntax corrections you can add are very appreciated, then any feedback about the story and how it makes you feel is a great bonus. I wan you to know that I
really appreciate that you are taking the time to read my story and I always RECIPROCATE.

Author Chapter Note


for this initial chapter I am looking for feedback on the HOOK. Do the first pages make you want to know more? Do you care what happens to these characters? are they likeable? Thank you in advance
for you time.

Chapter Content - ver.3

Submitted: August 28, 2021

Comments: 3

In-Line Reviews: 13

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Chapter Content - ver.3

Submitted: August 28, 2021

Comments: 3

In-Line Reviews: 13

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What a way to start the day! A white lump is glued to the roof of my car.


“I feed you everyday and this is how you thank me,” I mumble at the birds staring at me from the electrical wires.

“That’s because you washed the car. They always poop on shiny cars,” says my neighbor Ron.

Ron is a Vietnam veteran. He regularly walks up and down the street but never without a can of beer in his hand, even at this hour in the morning. He keeps watch on everyone and everything, mi-voyeur, mi-protector.

I pour water over the pasty pile and wipe it off before driving to work.

The phone rings as soon as I open the door. I recognize an international number. I ignore it — probably spam. It rings again with the same number. I pick up, in case a patient is overseas and needs help. It’s rare but it’s happened.

“Hindsight Therapy, how may I help you?”

“May I speak to Dr. Seylor please?” says the voice with a light Spanish accent.

“Speaking.”

“This is Daniel from the scuba diving group. Do you remember?” I feel a pang and breathe deep before answering.

“Yes, of course. How are you? How did you get my number?”

“You told me you were a therapist so I googled you. Google said there is only one beautiful therapist and scuba diver in the United States.”

“Haha, you want money or information?” I blush and scratch my neck.

“Information. I want to know if you find me irresistible like most women around the world do.”

“Is that what your mother told you?”

“That hurts. Let me wipe off the blood. I was calling because ….. “ he pauses for what seems like an hour.
“… I miss you. We had such a good time in Mexico. When is your next scuba trip?”

My heart flips. I tremble. My neck itches as it always does when I’m nervous. I fold my hand into a fist to avoid scratching.

“It depends on how this virus situation develops.”

“There is a solution now. Just get an injection of Ayudín.”

“What’s Ayudín?”

“It’s a disinfectant. Your president’s recommendation.”

“I’m sorry the world had to hear that.”

“Hey, serves you right. You inflicted Madonna on us. As if the people of Argentina haven’t suffered enough.”

“I think the US already apologized for that.” We laugh in unison.

Before we hang up, he asks to meet over Zoom later that evening. I have done video sessions with a few patients but never video dating. For a woman, it’s a huge disadvantage. We can’t showcase our beautiful clothes or shoes. It’s all about words and facial expressions. Nevertheless, I agree to meet him digitally.

My head is dizzy and my body feels heavy, similar to a change in a barometric pressure at the advent of a storm. Having shared my infatuation with my friend Tina, I text her to share the news.

“Tina, guess what?”
“??”
“The guy I met on the scuba diving trip just called.”
“Really? Better find out what he’s hiding. Maybe he’s a mafioso.”
“He’s from Argentina not Italy.”
“soccer fanatic. Just as bad.”
“You’re jealous. I’m about to date someone dark and handsome and you’re stuck with a gringo.
“Let’s if I can sing it ‘Watch out for Annie, Argentina’”
“Joking aside, He’s so imposing, makes me feel like a little girl.”
“You, intimidated? I’d pay to see that.”

I wrap up my work early and hurry home. I lost interest in the kickboxing class I planned to attend. Although my arm still feels funny after the last class. I’ve been getting strange bouts of pain for a week which are now escalating to headaches.

I open the computer half an hour before our scheduled date. As I wait in front of the screen, I can’t describe what I feel as butterflies — more like birds flying everywhere under my skin. A PhD in psychology is useless in a dating setting with such a charismatic man. I check my face in the mirror once more. I sit back in front of the camera, stretch my neck and shoulders, and take some deep breaths. I want him to see a confident and poised woman, but I feel my neck turning red again. Part of me wants to turn off the computer. Yet, the desire to see him, hear his voice, and feel his eyes on me again, is too strong and keeps me glued in place.

His name comes on the screen, followed by his smile. My knees are shaking. He’s different from the way I remember him. He’s wearing a suit and tie; his hair is neatly combed back revealing a receding hairline and a broad forehead. He looks at me with the same avid eyes. I never feel as beautiful as when his eyes are devouring me. He’s sitting with his shoulders against a tall chair. I like his round shoulders. Unlike square arrogant ones, bony and penurious ones or tired saggy ones, round shoulders are elegant, yet inviting and snuggly. His hands are folded on the desk. It's a large desk with a shiny surface. A pencil cup, and a vase without flowers stand in a corner. A book case to his left is filled with books and nicknacks I can’t identify.

I want to get closer to the computer screen and hug it tight. Thankfully, he can’t see me blush and turn into an infatuated seventeen year-old who experiences her first crush.

“You look stunning. I feel like I haven’t seen you for years,” he says.

“So you’re saying you forgot what I look like?”

“That’s impossible.”

“Can you believe how much our lives have changed in a month? It’s like the entire world is in mourning.”

“Mostly devastating for the tourism industry.”

“So what do you do in Buenos Aires, aside from tango dancing?”

“Indeed, tango shows are everywhere. There are also plays, open air concerts. Buenos Aires is a European city, a lot of the architecture is similar to Paris or Madrid. Amazing museums, too.”

“Best museums are in Washington, DC.”

“Why is that?”

“They’re free.”

“Oh, yes I remember. A great place for a student to take a date.”

“So is your family in Buenos Aires?”

“Scattered all over but I still have relatives in Poland and Spain. So what type of patients do you treat?”

With the agility of a fencer, he turns the conversation back at me. He does so every time I ask him anything personal.

“I counsel couples and patients with trauma. I’m actually writing a book about the effects of PTSD on families. Everyone focuses on the patient, but family members are also affected but they’re never included in the treatment. Basically, I’d like a wholistic approach to the treatment of trauma victims.”

“Amazing. When do you plan to publish?”

“It’ll take a while. I’m in the research phase.”

“Have you published before?”

“Two books. One about children of narcissists and another about spouses of PTSD patients. Most of my work is about trauma in all its forms. ”

Once again, I give more than I receive. Maybe he’s in the middle of a divorce or a separation. It can’t be marriage, he’s talking to me late at night from his home. I’ll find out soon enough.

*****
 
We are in the third week of our virtual relationship. My daily task upon waking up is to check WhatsApp. There is always a message waiting for me. We developed a dating ritual of video dates Tuesday evenings, phone calls Saturday mornings, and daily texts. The distance intensified our need for each other and created a closeness weaved by technology. Paradoxically, it's old fashion dating: communication before consumption.

On this Tuesday, we start our conversation as usual by relating the events of our day. Then we move to other topics, some flirting, some vague plans to get together in the future. As I’m about to tell him about my new difficult patient, he interrupts me.

“I need to end our session early today. I have to pick up Tanya.”

“Your girlfriend?”

“My daughter.”

“You have a daughter?”

“Yes. She’s fifteen. She’s in a play at her school. They’re rehearsing Macbeth.”

A chill rushes down my spine. I ask for pictures which he happily displays on the screen. Tanya is a beautiful teenager with long brown hair swinging below her shoulders. She has a slightly oval face with dark blue eyes. I distinctly see her father in her. She has the same honest and winsome smile.
 
As he moves through the photo album, I notice Tanya is often standing next to a woman in a sophisticated tilt-in-space wheelchair. Having worked in hospitals with car-accident victims, I know that’s a wheelchair used mainly by quadriplegics.

“She’s beautiful. Who’s the lady in the wheelchair?”

“That’s my wife.”

Silence. The ceiling falls on my head. The dust from the blast rushes in to coat my mouth. I catch my breath but don’t have any words. My whole body’s shaking. I want to hide or run away. I’ll figure out how I feel later.

“I need to get going, too. I promised my dad I’d call him. It was his birthday yesterday.” Instead of turning off the video, I stand to prepare my exit.

“Annie! Sit down please.”

He’s able to chain me to the chair with the power of his voice through a computer screen. But I can’t look him in the eyes, or more accurately, in the camera. After a few seconds of silence, I finally grab the few crumbs of courage I have left and mumble, “I can’t get involved with a married man.”

“I know that. You’re not involved with anything.”

“What’s going on between us exactly?” I reply with an angry tone.

He lowers his eyes and frowns. It only makes him sexier. I can tell he’s struggling to find an appropriate reply, so I throw him a lifebuoy and ask in a softer voice, “I thought you were single. So what’s the story?”

“If you’re looking for a simple answer, life doesn’t always offer those. But in case you’re wondering, I’m not some married man looking for action.”

I can tell he’s been waiting to tell me and didn’t know how. He probably rehearsed the scene many times in his head. Words flow out of his mouth like a waterfall —no hesitation, pause or punctuation.
 
“When Tanya was about five, Nina fell from a horse and was left paralyzed from the neck down.”

“How devastating.”

“It was, but we changed our life to adapt. Nina wanted everything to be normal for Tanya…

He wanted to say more but stopped himself. The emotion is noticeably rising in his speech as he relives the accident and the months that followed.

“Did you reach out to anyone else?”

“Never. I was completely devoted to her. I hired a governess to take care of the household and drive Tanya to ballet lessons or whatever she needed and we maintained a normal family life.”

“Are you still close?” I ask, feeling a twinge in my gut.

“A couple of years ago, her health started to decline and she was put on dialysis. She became more and more distant with everyone and a bit hostile toward me. She rarely said anything and smiled only when Tanya was around.”

“Did you try to get her into therapy?”

“One evening we were watching a movie and this actress was running in a swimsuit. I made a lame comment ‘with legs like that, she can swim accross the ocean.’ She snapped, which was out of character, and yelled ‘You want a girl with legs? Then you’d better look somewhere else!’ Next day she asked for a divorce; she said she no longer loved me and accused me of staying with her out of duty. Doctors said it was probably depression and to give it time. Months went by; her resolve remained the same. Any time I went to see her, she’d turn her head away and close her eyes. We agreed that a divorce would not be good for Tanya so I offered a separation where we lived in the same house but on separate floors.”

“I’m sorry. That’s gotta be lonely.”

“It was rough at the beginning but I got used to it.”

“How’s she now?”

“Still withdrawn. Unfortunately, her health continues to decline.”

“I’m sure you met a lot of women over the years. Why me?”

“From the first time I talked to you, I knew I could fall in love with you. Your wit, your sense of humor, and your beauty are an unusual combination to find in one person.”

“Not to mention my legs.”

“See what I mean? I tried to forget you when I came back from Mexico but your smile haunted me. I talked to my priest. He said under these conditions, I should not turn away from love. I’d like to have you in my life but a divorce is not an option for me.”

“I understand.”

“Annie… I would not be contacting someone thousands of miles away if I didn’t believe you were special. But I also made a promise I intend to keep.”

I close the laptop and stare at the window. Spring has not come yet so it gets dark too soon. I turn on the light and slowly parse the new data. I’m not ready to let go but I don’t know how to hold on.

 
*****

A month earlier …

With my PADI in hand, I was ready to explore the waters of Riviera Maya and February is the perfect time to escape to Mexico. Unlike most diving resorts that are in the middle of nowhere, Riviera Maya was a hidden treasure. Our small resort was surrounded by water and covered with luscious greenery under a constant blue and cloud free sky.

I was scarred on the first diving day. Leaving my comfortable world for an unknown dangerous one terrified me but, the promise of beauty and discovery still lured me in. Once I reached the water, I filled my lungs with air and pushed downward. At first, I couldn’t see anything in the murky water, but the sun shining from above cast its warmth deep in the water.

Everything we take for granted on land — breathing, moving, the noises we ignore, are all amplified under water and nothing is left to chance. Every movement takes effort and precision. One moment of inattention could result in death. Nature has strict rules and does not forgive.

Once I found my breath, moved with purpose, and adjusted my buoyancy, I could see a whole new world. I followed the diving master through cliffs of coral, small and large plants, and so many colorful fish with fluorescent blue, bright yellow, and even light orange. Entire schools zigzagged around us; a few chased each other; occasionally, a thin grey creature burrowed in the ocean floor and disappeared.

Sometimes I dragged my fins and got reprimanded by the diving master. In the vast and mighty space lived a fragile ecosystem — invisible to the human eye. We were instructed to stay clear of plants and not disturb the ocean floor so little critters could thrive in their own home.

On the second diving day, after we returned to the boat, everyone moved to the uncovered benches to perfect their tan and check their cell phones. I headed to the tray of oranges. I filled a small plate and sat in the shade. I lifted my eyes and saw a handsome man with luscious black hair dripping with salty water walk toward me. He asked why I was sitting alone.

“Sun doesn’t like me much,” I said after I swallowed a mouthful of orange.

“You burn? Are you Irish?”

I looked at him with a question mark on my face.

“Very white skin and red hair,” he says.

“The skin was free. The hair was on sale.”

He laughed and extended his hand for me to shake. "I’m Daniel.”

“Annie."

I felt his eyes scanning me head to toe so I returned the favor. I started with his hands and was pleased by the absence of jewelry. He had a beautifully sculpted chest with a few hairs competing for territory. A small round belly signaled the arrival of the forties but, he was otherwise in great shape.

“How long have you been diving?” I ask.

“Ten years. You?”

“This is my first dive. I just got certified.”
 
“I noticed you were floating.”

“I think I’m too tall to be buoyant. I saw a fish laugh.”

“You just need more practice.”

When we returned to land, we walked in separate directions toward our bungalows.

Next day, I was the first to arrive at the diving shop. Other divers came shortly after, but no Daniel. I watched the divers dress in their suits, apply sunscreen, and chat away. I felt distant from them. Did I hallucinate a handsome diver? I followed the crowd to the boat and dove with a little more confidence but with a dint in my joy.

Another morning came. I joined the divers at the diving shop again —not without hope of running into him. A spark of lightning traveled through my body when I spotted him chatting with another diver. As I approached, he turned and gave me the happiest smile I’ve ever seen. He interrupted his conversation to greet me.

“Annie! How are you this morning?”

“My diving kills improved during your day off.”

“Not as much as they’ll improve today under my lead.”

We walked together to the boat. He helped me put on my gear, he put his hand on my shoulder and encouraged me to dive at the same time as everyone. His touch was the boost of courage I needed to conquer my fear. I filled my mind with his smile and jumped in the ocean.

Under water, he kept me close to him. He helped me with my buoyancy and reminded me not to use my arms. At some point, he stood in front of me and crossed my arms on my chest so I’d stop swimming. He gestured to a fish as to say, “fish don’t have arms. Use your fins.” After the dive he helped me take off the gear and sat next to me again. I felt both protected and embarrassed. My feet are too big; my hair is messy, and my skin has no pigmentation. I covered myself with a towel best I could but it’s no use. All the imperfections were on display for all to see.

In the evening, he knocked at my door to accompany me to dinner with the group. We sat together at the restaurant, surrounded by other divers but our conversation had the intimacy of schoolmates. He put his arm on the back of my chair and talked to me in a lower voice — our heads almost touching.

When the waitress came, he addressed her in Spanish and ordered a burrito stuffed with rice, beans, avocado, and salsa, and a tray of sautéed vegetables. One evening, I inquired about his food choice.

“Are you vegetarian?”

“Nooo,” he says with a sarcastic glare and half a smile.

From the look on his face, I violated some sacred diet labeling law. He then went on to explain that he was vegan and launched into a speech on how vegetarians were hypocrites; they made it difficult for vegans to get food in restaurants without any animal products. Worse, he continued, there are countries where the word vegan does not exist in the vocabulary yet. In Ukraine, for example, a vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat beef; In France, restaurants won’t even talk to someone who doesn’t indulge in the French cuisine. In Spain, vegan restaurants serve fish. I didn’t need all that information but found it fascinating how his dietary struggles span several countries. Maybe he was a vegan spy and architect was his cover.

I ordered only meatless meals. I didn’t feel comfortable chewing on some dead animal under his gaze.

“So how’s that wall going?” he asks.

“Slow. Construction workers are unreliable.”

I immediately changed topics to get him to tell me more about his life — particularly his marital status.

“Is your family from Buenos Aires?”

“My grandfather is from Spain actually. My grandmother is Polish, she came to Argentina during World War II.”

“Your grandmother was Jewish?”

“Polish. Just as bad as far as the Nazis were concerned. A lot of Europeans, mainly Jews came to Argentina just before the war.”

He drifted into the history of Argentina during World War II. The attraction between us is undeniable but something is holding him back.

I combed the internet for his profiles. LinkedIn was the only online presence he had. He’s been an architect for years and worked for a British firm on many international projects for which he won several awards.

Every evening, he walked me back to my bungalow after dinner and we wished each other good night. There wasn’t a hint of romance on his part but I felt something resembling a bee sting. He had a light about him that drew me in, fed my curiosity, and lifted my feet off the ground. His face was soft and smooth; thick eyebrows accentuated wide green eyes filled with curiosity and playful sparks as he looked at me.

He was not very tall, about six feet. Standing next to him, I look a little taller with my 5’9 frame. There are no wrinkles on his face. A few lines furrow his high forehead, giving him an intellectual stamp. I always found wrinkles sexy on a man. He has a square jaw with high cheekbones. He wears mostly black, sometimes a white shirt or T-Shirt. Blue and purple also seem to be his favorites.

The more we interacted the more I was mesmerized by his elegance and his old world manners: he always opened the door to let me in first; he never sat before me; he kept a close watch on me underwater so I didn’t stray from the group. But on land, he never invited me for a drink or a meal.

My feminine intuition told me he was interested. But his behavior was of a man with a secret and I was convinced it was more than just another relationship.

At our last dinner, he was attentive as usual but more hesitant and quieter. Afterwards, he walked me back to my bungalow. As I was pulling the key my from purse, under the dim porch light, he pulled me close and we exchanged a long hug. I could see a sadness on his face as he whispered “Good night Annie,” and walked away.

 


© Copyright 2022 Dominique Hoffman. All rights reserved.

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