She couldn’t kick in the tight dress, so she drove her spike heel into Davis’ instep, dodged Weasel, and ran forward. Davis and Weasel followed. It was fifty feet to the mesh half-gate. Within two steps, she knew she wouldn’t make it. They caught her, each one grabbing an arm, and she screamed. She got a good breath and screamed again, louder, until Weasel clamped his hand over her mouth and began pawing her. Davis pushed Weasel off and said, “There’s no time for that now.”
Davis twisted Raven’s arm up behind her back and shoved her against the rail. She could see the water rushing by forty feet below. Then they all heard the sound of the heavy steel door opening behind them.
Davis spun Raven around and threw his arms around her.
An old couple stepped out onto the deck and stopped. Raven tried to cry out, but Davis’ arms crushed the breath out of her.
The old man took them for lovers. He said, “Sorry,” with a wry smile, and pulled the door shut behind him as he retreated into the ship.
Davis spun her around, slamming her against the rail, and reached down to grab her thigh and tip her over. That was the part I saw, captured as an afterimage while Raven fell.
“I never fainted,” Raven said. “I never lost consciousness. I remember every foot of that fall – the water frothing out ten feet from the side of the ship and rushing up to get me. If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never forget that fall. I thought, ‘Just let me break my neck and die. Don’t let me drown.’ But reflexes took over; I straightened out at the last moment and went in clean.”
# # #
Raven had to stop her story. She had my hand in a death grip. Wahini was pitching and rolling and groaning around us, but she took no notice of that. She was too lost in the memory of fear.
“The water was cold. I had thought it would be warm. When I went under, I could hear the throb of the propellers and I tried to swim away from the ship to avoid them. I couldn’t move my legs in that damned dress, so I peeled it over my head and kicked off my shoes. The sound was all around me – terrifying. It scared me more than drowning and I swam straight out until I thought my lungs would burst before I came up for air.
“When I did come up, I couldn’t scream. I had used up all my air, and I could barely get a breath. The ship was rushing by, not fifty feet in front of me. I could see couples leaning on the rail above me, staring into the darkness. They never saw me. I tried to scream and just squeaked. It was horrible. It was worse than anything else that had happened. Seeing the ship roll by, seeing those people staring out over my head, and I couldn’t even call out to them. Then they were gone, the ship was gone, and I was alone.”
She came into my arms, sobbing, struck wordless by the horror of being left alone in the water as the ship rolled on uncaring into the empty ocean night. I braced my legs against the opposite transom and held her tight against the rolling of the ship and the trembling of her body. I could imagine dimly how it might have felt. Falling overboard is a constant danger to singlehanded sailors, and a reason to never go on deck at sea without safety harness. I could too easily imagine what it would be like to fall off Wahini and see her sail away, unmanned and uncaring.
I could imagine it, but Raven had gone through it. That would be a whole different story.
There were no words to comfort her. I simply held her. more tomorrow