Disclaimer - I don't own Twilight or its characters. I do, however, own this plot. I also perform all of my own stunts.
23°6'22.82"N 75° 0'31.25"W
Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island - the Bahamas
Monday April 18th 2011.
"Back… bead… buck… cane… cut…"
Listening intently to the tinny voice coming through the earpiece in five-second intervals, I mark off the words on the communication board that I believe I can clearly recognise as each of the random words are spoken from the fifty lines on the modified rhyme test table. The MRT procedure is necessary to ensure that the crew can communicate effectively with me, and each other, while they are filming. Joham and Gustavo, the underwater crew on this shoot, are currently halfway down the blue hole where the base plate of the official descent line is positioned.
"Pane… path… peas… pill… pub…"
Despite a flurry of activity going on around me, and the fact that I'm feeling under the weather with a head cold, I do my best to concentrate. Lauren Mallory, the previous DoP on this shoot, is in the hospital on Nassau. She underwent an emergency appendectomy Friday night; therefore, on Saturday I was informed that Aro, my boss, wanted to fly me in as her last minute replacement. Regardless of my feeble protests from my own death bed, I was given no choice in the matter. Although I got in late yesterday afternoon, I still feel like crap and swear my sinuses are going to burst out of my forehead.
Newsflash Mister Arse Vulture: Air travel, underwater filming, and head colds do not mix. Ever!
Thanks to Lauren and her dodgy appendix, the crew has already missed three days of filming, so we can't run the risk of any fuck-ups during the final day of the 2011 Suunto Vertical Blue free-diving competition.
For those people involved in the sport, Vertical Blue is touted as the Wimbledon of the AIDA free-diving circuit. Spread out before me is its magnificent arena, Dean's Blue Hole. This particular blue hole is a narrow, 202-metre-deep limestone pit – the deepest in the known world. When viewed from the rock cliffs that surround it on three sides, its beautiful peacock-blue coloration is in stark contrast to the shallow, aquamarine lagoon surrounding it. For the locals, the blue hole is known for its peril; in fact, most don't come here. To free-divers, however, this place is their idea of Mecca.
"Hot… vest… rust… jaw… day… That's it. Got it all, Bella?" Gustavo asks.
"Okay guys. Come on up with your boards and we'll compare lists."
I disconnect the laryngophone from around my throat and pull the receiver out of my ear. As I wait for the boys to surface, I pick up one of the four GoPro cameras and begin the process of checking to make sure they've all got brand new anti-fog inserts and empty memory cards. While working quickly, I'm vaguely aware of someone emerging from the lagoon in my peripheral vision. Their feet swish noisily through the shallow water as they approach the shore.
"Hey," a pleasant male voice that belongs to neither of my crew says in greeting.
"Hey," I respond in kind without bothering to look up. Steadfast in my task, I'm about to sync the camera to my monitor. Admittedly, I know I'm being rude, hoping the person will just take the hint and walk on by, but in my experience, I've found that syncing the cameras is a procedure that is never as straightforward as it's supposed to be.
A large shadow falls across my bare legs, blocking the warmth of the morning sun. "I'm Ry," the man announces, holding out a wet appendage and disrupting my field of vision. "And you are…?"
Not interested. I'm far too busy for chin wagging with nosey-parkers.
With a scowl, I look up to acknowledge the owner of the dripping hand so I can bat him away from the monitor, but I freeze as I'm confronted by the twin image of my own face in a pair of orange, reflective goggles. Although my pre-shoot research on free-diving has been minimal at best, something about the face above me is recognisable. It's not until the man removes his goggles that I can confirm, without a shadow of a doubt, that the hand extended out towards mine belongs to Riley Biers. Here on a wildcard entry, he is one of the most popular, up-and-coming participants in the competition.
Now that I can see his eyes, I note they are mesmerising and as deep as the water he just emerged from. Lauren described him perfectly. This guy is hot, although he's somewhat shorter than expected. By my estimation, he's not much taller than me, but still, he's gorgeous. Aware that I'm probably just gaping at him like a star-struck fool, I place my warm, dry palm against his cold, wet one and decide to introduce myself. "Hi. I'm Bella. Bella Swan."
While pointing to the camera in my other hand, Riley smiles and asks, "Are you one of the official camera people or an avid spectator? I haven't seen you around here before today."
"Director of Photography, actually," I reply with pride while shaking his hand enthusiastically. I love to brag about my job. Without anyone else's financial help, I worked bloody hard to put myself through the National Film and Television School.
"I have zero concept of what that means, but it sounds like an impressive title." His cheeky grin eases my deflating ego as he releases my hand to pull off his wetsuit hood. Damp, shoulder-length tendrils tumble haphazardly around his face, and he has to rake his fingers back through his hair to move the strands away from his eyes.
"If I said I was a videographer working for Volturi Image Professionals, who has specialised in filming extreme sports, then perhaps that would make more sense to you?"
As if a cartoonish light bulb has appeared above his head, his expression becomes one of swift comprehension and then admiration. "That's awesome. VIP makes some amazing documentaries. Really edgy stuff."
Edgy is right. Lately, I think that some of the documentaries VIP has released have gone a little too far just for the sake of controversy. Slap an NC-17 rating on a documentary and suddenly everyone wants to see what all the fuss is about.
Without an invitation, Riley picks up one of the cameras and moves it to the side before taking a seat next to me on the large, flat rock. "Hey, are you from England?"
"Yeah, originally… I live and work in Seattle now, but I grew up in a place called Westbury, in Wiltshire. What gave it away? Was it the fact that I speak like Hagrid?" I ask, exaggerating a West County accent.
"That and the sunburn you're starting to get on your arms," he says, laughing as he pulls down the zipper at the front of his black and silver wetsuit top in one quick, fluid movement. The tight garment springs apart to reveal his bare chest and abdomen.
I'll admit I'm beginning to feel rather warm, and I'm unsure as to whether it's due to the sun burning my lily-white skin or the fact that my eyes are apparently powerless to turn away from Riley's nipples.
"Huh?" In a daze, I look up to meet his striking face again. I don't usually go for guys with facial hair, but the moustache-soul patch-goatee thing he has going on there looks good on him. Really good. In fact, without it, it would be easy to mistake him for being much younger than his actual age.
Riley is gazing at me in an amused expectation, as though he's waiting for me to do or say something. He must have asked me another question while I was busy ogling. Feeling like a fool, a hot wave of embarrassment heats my face and neck. "Sorry. What did you say? My mind was miles away."
He chuckles. "I just asked if you've ever been free-diving before."
For some reason, my head is nodding up and down like my most prized possession – a personally signed bobble-head figurine of David Tennant as Doctor Who. "Oh. Yeah… yeah. I have… a couple of times."
I have absolutely no idea why I just told him that. I've been scuba-diving, of course, or I wouldn't have been sent on this assignment, but I've never free-dived before. I start mentally smacking myself on the forehead for lying in an attempt to impress this man. Then again, it's unlikely I'll ever see him again once the competition is over.
"Cool." He grins at me widely. "So… will you be filming underwater today?"
I shake my head and quickly come up with a plausible explanation for keeping my head above water. "No, not today; that's Gustavo and Joham's role. I'm getting over a nasty cold- I mean a- you know… an earache from flying, so I'll be staying on the platform where I can shoot the pre-dive prep and when the divers resurface."
Why, oh why did I admit I have a cold? That's not sexy. Being snotty is not sexy, at all. Oh well... I suppose it could've been worse. At least I didn't mention my period is also due and that I'm worried I'll attract sharks.
Riley nods in understanding, staring at me as if I'm the most fascinating thing he's ever seen – or maybe I have a bogey on my face? Without being too obvious, I run my hand over the lower half of my face, just to be sure.
"That's a shame. If I had my way, I'd be permanently in the water. Would you like to go out to dinner with me tonight?"
His dramatic change of topic from diving to dinner catches me off guard. "P- pardon?"
"Dinner tonight; me and you," he says, moving his hand back and forth to indicate the two of us. "Which resort are you staying at? I'm staying at Gems."
"Since my employer is a tight-arse, the crew and I are all staying in a tiny two-bedroom cottage on a private estate in Hamiltons. It's cheaper than a resort."
"Okay. So we'll have dinner in the resort restaurant, and then we'll hit the after-party. I'll pick you up at six." He announces this as if it's a foregone conclusion that I'm okay with the arrangement.
I snort in laughter at his forward behaviour and decide to tease him. "Hold your horses, pal. I didn't say yes."
"But you will," he retorts confidently.
"What makes you so sure that I'll go out with you?"
"Because I'm the best, and a girl like you deserves to be around the best." I burst into full-on laughter, and he laughs along with me. "It's true, I tell you… just ask any of these people," he boasts, waving a hand around in a dismissive manner to include anyone within visual range.
I shake my head in wonder. This guy's cockiness is really something, but he's funny and easy to talk to. "And you think the opinion of random strangers will convince me to spend time with you?"
"You're playing hardball, aren't you? Hmm." He looks at me as if I'm a mystery to be solved. "What if I were to perform an impressive display of super-human endurance – in your honour – to prove my worthiness?"
I can see where this is going and try to suppress a grin. "And what sort of super-human feat do you propose? Lifting a car over your head, or pulling a plane across a tarmac using just your teeth?"
He smiles and shakes his head ruefully. "Quick-witted and pretty; I'm totally out of my league."
Although I feel myself blush at his compliment, I manage a quick comeback. "No? Too difficult? Okay… walking on hot coals then?"
He rolls his eyes at me in response. Before I can say anything else he announces, "I'm going to attempt the U.S. Constant Weight Without Fins record today. Is that impressive enough?"
Pursing my lips in order to suppress a smile, I pretend to think it over before agreeing. "Okay, but you've gotta give me something else as well."
"Anything… except the walking on hot coals thing. I did that once, and it hurt like a bitch."
"'It hurt like a bitch'…, whines the man who seems to have a bit of metal speared through his nipple. What happened? Did you faint before getting the other one pierced?" I sigh and shake my head in mock-disappointment.
He looks down at his chest and laughs. "Oh, come on! I have the scars on my feet to prove it."
"No, not really..." He chuckles. "And for your info, I had to take the other ring out because it got infected."
"Oh, all right then, you big girl's blouse; I'll take pity on you. I want to film you while you explain the various breathing and breath-holding techniques required to free-dive."
He grins like a man who just won the lottery. "Sure. No problem."
Both Gustavo and Joham emerge from the water with their MRT boards in hand. It's time to stop bantering and get back to work.
"Hey Riley; can you meet me back here in say… fifteen minutes? The crew and I have some things to go through, but after that, I'd love to film you.
"I'll be counting down the seconds." Playfully, he pulls the bill of my cap down, covering my eyes, and then he leaves to walk along the shore towards a group of people standing near the refreshment tent.
I smooth my hair and readjust my cap as I continue to watch his retreating figure. As Riley walks away, he pulls off his wetsuit top, revealing a spectacularly muscled back. At the sight of it, I sigh audibly.
"Bella? Hey, Bella?" A hand is waving in front of my face. It's Gustavo trying to get my attention.
"You can perv on the pretty diver boy later; we've got work to do." Behind him, Joham is snickering at me.
My heart is pounding hard, and I feel out of breath while filming Riley. Shirtless, he's sitting on a rock in the lotus position, and his waist diameter appears deformed and tiny, now that he has reduced his lung volumes from the size of footballs to something akin to the size of tennis balls. He's performing a technique called 'reverse packing' – a breathing exercise that simulates the effect of water pressure on the lungs at the depths free-divers often strive for. After what feels like an eternity, Riley finally takes in a breath of air, filling his lungs once again before speaking.
"It results in a lot of negative pressure on your throat, so it's an exercise you need to build up to. I wouldn't recommend doing it without supervision because you can damage your vocal cords, but it's an extremely powerful exercise in order to expel air and thoroughly collapse the lungs without necessarily needing to dive down eighty or ninety metres." After a pause, he raises an uncertain eyebrow at me and asks, "How was that?"
I smile and turn off my camera. "Perfect. You're a natural in front of the lens. You should teach this stuff."
"I already do. When I'm not working and traveling as a freelance forensic accountant, I'm a part-time yoga instructor." Riley goes on to explain that yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques are practiced by most of the free-divers.
At the sound of a voice amplified by a megaphone, announcing that the competition will begin in thirty minutes, we both stand.
"Looks as if things are about to get started," I say, dusting powder-white sand off my backside. "Good-luck for today."
Riley nods. "Thanks. I'll see you out there, right?"
Lifting my camera to eye level, I give it a jiggle. "You bet."
"Okay. Catch ya later, Limey."
Gustavo quietly slips back into the water, and I wait for a few minutes, allowing him to reach the forty metre mark.
"Are you in position yet, Gustavo?" I ask. "Riley Biers is about to get in the water."
"Almost," is the reply I hear through the earpiece.
"Joham?" I call to the man treading water before me.
"I'm ready," he announces.
Jason Jenks, one of the head judges, enters the water, followed by the safety divers. After Riley's safety lanyard and depth gauge have been checked, he listens to a few words of encouragement from his coach as he pulls the wetsuit hood over his head, applies his goggles, and pegs his nose clip. Riley is the last competitor in the Male Constant Weight Without Fins discipline. Since 2009, Robert King has held the U.S. CNF record of 63 metres. The New Zealander, William Trubridge, the host of Vertical Blue, holds the world record of 101 metres.
Joham dips just below the surface, and I adjust my own camera to film Riley as he stands on the edge of the floating platform.
"Two minutes!" Austin announces from his standing position next to me. As a competition official, it's Austin's role to observe the sonar and to call out the progress of the dive.
"This one's for you, Limey," Riley says in a nasal-sounding voice, grinning and pointing directly at my camera before giving a thumbs-up signal.
Austin calls out again, "One minute thirty!"
Riley steps off the platform and gets into position. With his feet and upper body resting on a pair of neon coloured pool noodles, he lays supine in the water next to the descent line. He appears to be relaxed and calm; meditative.
"Ten seconds! Nine, eight…"
With my camera trained on Riley, I watch as he takes in a large breath – his last normal inspiratory breath until he resurfaces. Once his lungs have reached usual capacity, he begins to take in sips of air – swallowing and packing, ramming the air in to expand his lungs further by almost half a gallon. According to his earlier interview, they are now close to the size of watermelons.
"Official top! Plus one, two, three, four…" Riley has a thirty second period left (known as the Official Top) in which to make the dive before the attempt is cancelled. "Eight, nine, ten…" He rolls over, and diving down, disappears under the surface. "Riley Biers - USA. Constant weight, no fins, 64 metres, a U.S. record attempt," Austin announces.
Joham is there to watch and follow Riley through the first and last quarter of the dive. Although my camera is still directed at the surface of the water, I watch the monitor that is relaying the images transmitted from Joham's camera. I only wish we could have attached a GoPro to Riley's ankle using a vented helmet strap mount. The footage Lauren took the first day during one of the practice sessions was phenomenal.
Headfirst, Riley's hands and legs gracefully propel him parallel along the length of the descent line. Once he nears the thirty metre mark, he loses buoyancy and begins to free fall to the target. I tap the screen to get a live feed from Gustavo's camera, which will capture the second and third quarter of the dive.
"Thirty metres… forty metres… fifty metres," Austin intones.
"Come on… come on," I chant under my breath as he nears the target.
"Sixty metres… touchdown."
Riley snatches the tag from the base plate, turns, and then begins the arduous task of swimming to the surface. Negatively buoyant at this point, his lungs are fully collapsed. His body must surely be craving oxygen, his brain befuddled by hypoxia, but slowly and gracefully he ascends through the water towards the light. As Riley reaches the fifty metre mark, I hear the sound of the buoyancy compensators deflating as the safety divers slip beneath the surface of the water. The ascent, particularly at the thirty metre mark is the most dangerous part of the dive. Running out of oxygen, this is when the free-divers are at risk of a shallow-water blackout.
"Thirty metres… twenty metres… ten metres," Austin says.
The heads of the safety divers breach the surface a second after Riley appears. He was under the water for two minutes and fifty-two seconds. Although he has the tag tucked in the side of his diving hood, it's not over yet. He has fifteen seconds to execute the surface protocol, or he'll be disqualified. He must remove his face equipment, give the okay sign with his fingers, and then say, 'I'm okay,' while looking at the judge. Just three simple tasks, in that precise order, and the U.S. record will be his.
His brain and body aren't cooperating. With one hand holding onto the descent line, his other arm is moving erratically, in a way that one's arm would wave about while having a convulsion. His head falls back and he loses his grip on the descent line, slipping under the water for a second. It looks as though Riley is experiencing a Samba. Samba is the name given to the loss of muscle control that occurs as a result of having exceptionally low oxygen levels in the body, when a diver is bordering between consciousness and unconsciousness.
He resurfaces and gives the okay signal. "I'm okay," Riley gasps, and then three fumbled attempts later he manages to pull off his goggles and nose clip. The mandatory thirty seconds elapse before anything is said, but we all know the outcome.
"I'm sorry. You're disqualified," Jason Jenks says while holding up a red card.
Riley, coming to his senses, shakes his head in disappointment. "Aw fuck. I did that out of order, didn't I?"
Jason smiles and nods regretfully. Riley just chuckles and then flops backwards to float on the surface. Although it seems like a technicality, in order for the dive to qualify, he must be able to prove that his mind is as tough as his body. After a minute or so of catching his breath, he looks around, and upon seeing me, he swims towards the platform and hoists himself out of the water.
"So I guess our dinner is cancelled." He sighs and takes a seat next to me.
I switch off the camera and turn to face him. "I was looking forward to a free meal. What am I going to do now?" I say teasingly. "I mean, this poor girl has got to eat!"
"I'm sorry I didn't get the record for you."
"From memory, you never promised that you would."
His eyebrows furrow in confusion. "Didn't I?"
I shake my head. "You just said you'd make an attempt in my honour. The second your head went under the water, the deal was sealed. You're not getting out of buying me dinner that easy, you cheapskate."
Riley chuckles and reaches out to hold my hand. "I wouldn't dream of it, Limey."
"Why do you keep calling me Limey?" I ask.
He smirks. "It's because you're English."
"Does this mean I get to call you, Yank?"
He shakes his head. "I'm an ex-pat from The Commonwealth, just like you. Although I grew up in the U.S., I was born in Toronto."
"Well, there you go; I did not know that. Canuck, then?" Riley just rolls his eyes and pinches me on the arm which makes me squirm away from him. "Hey! Don't blame me, you started the name calling thing!" I protest.
We are interrupted by the announcement that the next event will start in a few minutes.
"I'd better get out of everyone's way," he says regretfully. "Where can I pick you up?"
I give him the directions to the blue cottage, and then Riley slips back into the water and swims to the shore.
Dawn's BayView Motel – Long Island – the Bahamas
Saturday November 16th 2013.
Sitting on the sand in the lotus position, I get the sense that someone is walking behind me. More than likely, it's one of the motel guests heading off for a morning walk towards the marina. I focus on blocking out the distraction by concentrating on my breathing. In the last year, I've found that Prāṇāyāma, the yogic breathing discipline that is practiced by many free-divers, helps to calm my mind and body by lowering my blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen requirements, which in turn helps me to focus. I'll be filming underwater today, and I know I have a long day of work ahead of me.
The last two days of the Vertical Blue 2013 competition have been spent sitting around in the bar, waiting for the right conditions. On Thursday night, a violent cold front hit the island, bringing gale-force winds and bucketing rain. While the water in the blue hole was calm, a huge swell on the reef outside the lagoon churned the water into milk, making underwater visibility less than two metres. For safety reasons, the organisers and judges postponed the event. Consequently, today, which was originally scheduled to be a day of rest, is now a competition day.
"Hey, Limey," a familiar voice purrs warmly next to my ear, bringing me completely out of my meditative state. Before I can turn around to face him, playful fingers dig into my sides and start tickling me. In response, I fall sideways onto the sand and shriek in laughter.
"Thanks for ruining my serenity, you arse," I gasp between laughs. "You of all people should know better than that." Wriggling out of his grasp, I roll over to hug him in greeting, but I'm startled by the transformation he's undergone since I last saw him a week ago. The once wild, long hair that I loved is now stylish and short, and the facial hair is also missing.
"I was wondering when you'd turn up," I say, dusting the sand off my hands and sitting up to embrace my best friend. I kiss Riley on the cheek, and his smooth skin feels foreign beneath my lips. Pulling back, I look him over again. He looks so young now – ten years younger than his thirty years of age, and I have to wonder about the sudden change in appearance. "What's this about? Did you do this for work or lose a bet?" I ask, running my hand over his hair and then a thumb across his top lip.
"I thought you might like it better this way."
I feel my forehead furrow in confusion. "Why would you think that?"
"No beard burn." He smirks and wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.
I sigh. "Ry…"
We've been through a lot together in the last two years. After our first meeting at the Vertical Blue competition in 2011, we met up again the following month on Grand Cayman during the Formula 3 Free-diving Grand Prix. As if the sport of free-diving wasn't extreme enough, they decided to take it to the next level by combining free-diving with Grand Prix style racing and Top Gun tactics. The F3F featured teams of free-divers racing underwater with diver propulsion vehicles strapped between their legs as they sped through various underwater courses, in and around reefs and shipwrecks, on just one breath of air. The footage we got from that shoot was sensational as each diver in Riley's team was fitted with their own cameras.
Following the Deja Blue 2012 competition in May, we became online acquaintances who followed each other on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. By November's Vertical Blue 2012 competition, we were best friends who regularly chatted by phone, Skype, and text.
At the beginning of the year, Riley moved from Florida to Washington to take up a permanent position at a large accountancy firm. Needing a place to stay while he searched for an apartment, he took up residence on my couch. After just one week, his cooking and domestic skills won me over. During a delicious meal, featuring the best carbonara fettuccini I've ever tasted, I announced that we ought to buy a bed for the spare room so he could stay on as my personal chef and dishwasher. I was just joking around, but he readily agreed.
The arrangement we have is perfect. We both travel a lot; he for business and sport, and me with my work. It's comforting to know there's someone at home looking after the place when I'm not there. It's even better knowing that I'm coming home to my best friend. The problem is that the living arrangement and our friendship recently became complicated by sex.
Two weeks ago, I was hit by a double-whammy – my grandma's cancer diagnosis, and the announcement that my parents are in the midst of a bitter divorce – something they neglected to tell me about for months. Feeling sad, confused, and vulnerable, I'd taken comfort in Riley's bed. While the sex had momentarily helped me to forget about my family problems, I knew it was wrong to use my best friend in that way. Plus, it opened up a can of worms. I think I'm falling in love with Riley, but I don't think he feels the same way. I'm sure he loves me, but only as a friend. He pretty much confirmed it when he casually suggested a 'friends with benefits' arrangement the morning after.
Feeling confused and more than a little disappointed, I told him that I needed time to think about it. I haven't given him my answer yet – it's something I'll probably need to discuss with him tonight since we're sharing a motel room with a king-sized bed. I don't think I can have that sort of relationship. Knowing how I honestly feel about Riley, I'll get too emotionally invested, and when he leaves me for some other lucky woman, my heart will shatter.
Interrupting my inner turmoil, Gustavo yells from the balcony of the motel. "Bella! We need to get a move on if we're going to make the start."
"Coming!" I shout back. Riley helps me to stand, and we dust the sand off of each other. "I have to go to work, but we'll talk tonight, okay?"
He nods in understanding. "Yeah, we will."
"Well… I've got to go," I say again.
"Hey. Mind if I come along with you guys? I wanna get in a few practice dives."
I smile. "Sure." Taking a hold of my hand, Riley walks back towards the motel with me. "You're competing today, right?" I ask, already knowing the answer, but needing to fill in the silence.
"Yeah. Gonna try to beat the U.S. CNF record."
23°6'22.82"N 75° 0'31.25"W
Dean's Blue Hole.
"You about ready, Bella?" Lauren, the DoP on this shoot, shouts from the water's edge. With all the equipment loaded onto the inflatable dinghy, it's time to head out to the platform.
"Almost," I yell back. I laugh as Riley twirls me around and wraps his arms around my waist. "Hey, lemme go!"
He squeezes me tightly and picks me up so that my feet are off the ground. "Not until you pay your dues. Where's my good-luck kiss? It's tradition."
I roll my eyes and then give in. "Good luck, Canuck," I say, kissing him briefly on the forehead before he lowers me back to the ground.
"Catch ya later, Limey," he calls after me as I sprint towards the dinghy.
Taking a break from filming underwater, I watch as Gustavo and Lauren apply their face masks and give the okay signal. With cameras in hand, they tip forwards into the water. Once they hit their marks, they adjust their buoyancy compensators to the neutral position, send me a signal, and then wait for my instructions. I tap on the monitor and verify that I've got live feeds on all four cameras. We've been filming for hours, and Lauren and I have taken it in turns to film above and below the water.
Riley takes a seat next to me, waiting for his turn to dive. As I continue to fiddle with my camera, he starts to cough violently.
"You okay?" I ask, staring in consternation at the two specks of blood that have appeared on the back of his hand.
"I'm fine. It's just a little sinus barotrauma," he replies nonchalantly, wiping the blood away on the side of his thigh.
"I don't think you should dive today. Clearly, you're not 100%."
"The event physician checked me over earlier, and she says I'm good to go," he argues.
He rolls his eyes. "When don't I have a blood nose or sinus pain? It's all part of the game."
I know the realities of the sport, but don't like it. I've lost count of the number of times he's come back from a competition, coughing up old blood from his throat or blowing it out into a tissue. "Ry, I don't want you to dive."
"I need to do this. This is one record that has always eluded me."
"Don't let your goals cloud your judgement. You don't need to do it today. There'll be other competitions. Take more time to train."
"And in the meantime there'll be other U.S. competitors vying for the same record, and this year, two of my previous records have already been surpassed. I want the U.S. CNF record to be mine… just once."
I sigh in frustration. There's no way of talking him out of it. When it comes to his sport, he's stubborn and single-minded. "Promise you won't do anything stupid. Promise me that you'll turn back if something's not right."
Riley cups my chin and searches my face. I'm almost positive he's going to kiss me on the lips, but at the last moment, he moves my face to the side, capturing the corner of my mouth instead. "Of course I will."
"Forty metres… fifty metres… sixty metres," Lee Stephens, the official announces. "He's… stopped. He's turning back; I think."
I watch on with my heart in my throat as Riley pauses, seemingly indecisive.
"He's going back down… seventy metres… touchdown." Riley grabs the tag, turns around, and begins to ascend.
"Sixty metres… fifty metres…"
"I think he might be in trouble," someone says behind me when Riley's arm and leg movements appear to falter.
I remove my camera from the Steadicam and attach it to a tripod on the side of the platform. Something doesn't feel right, and I'm worried about Riley's safety.
"He's all right. He probably just blew an eardrum," someone else says.
Riley's arms and legs stop moving in the water, and in horror, I realise he's had an underwater blackout.
The buzzer sounds, and the feed from Lauren's camera shows that the safety divers are already moving in. A diver places one hand over Riley's mouth and nose and the other hand on the back of his neck. A second diver grabs Riley underneath his left arm. With the assistance of a diver propulsion vehicle, all three of them are pulled towards the surface.
Every second we have to wait feels like a minute. When their heads all shoot out of the water, I'm relieved to see that Riley's eyes are wide open, however, my relief is short lived. The expression on his face relays stress and sheer panic. His body spasms and then slumps backwards into unconsciousness. Immediately, one of the safety divers places his mouth over Riley's and administers a breath. Then another. And another. And another.
"Breathe, breathe," several people say, including me, but Riley remains unresponsive.
More breaths are given as the other divers help to move Riley towards the platform. I'm scared out of my mind for my best friend, and I step back to give his rescuers room. Hands reach out to haul Riley's limp body onto the platform.
"There's a lot of blood in the mouth," the event physician calls out urgently after checking his airway. "Help me to roll him onto his side, so I can suction him."
People move in and help to roll Riley, and as soon as his head tips to the side, frothy blood-stained liquid pours from his mouth.
The second they begin CPR, my whole world crumbles.
Don't fret. This really is an Edward and Bella fic. You'll just have to be patient for Edward's appearance. This is a story from Bella's POV, so there is a bit of a lead up to when they meet. In the meantime, if you want an idea of what Riley looks like, Google 'Xavier Samuel drift' and check out the 'images' section or else watch the movie trailer on YouTube. If you want to see what a Samba or underwater blackout looks like go to YouTube and type in 'AIDA in trouble'. Scary stuff.
If you want to check out the banner for this story, the link is on my profile.
The coordinates that you'll see appearing whenever there is a change of location during this fic relates to Google Maps. If you put them into Google Maps or Google Earth, you'll see the view.
I've written this story in British English as Bella is British. I apologise/ apologize if that bothers you.
I have no idea how long this fic will be, and I don't have a posting schedule.
I know I still haven't updated my other story 'Isle E.S.M.E 2412'. It's still on hiatus until dystopian Bella and Edward start talking to me again. Sorry to anyone who has read it. I think I may need to rewrite some of it to enable me to continue.
Hope you enjoy this story anyway. Thank you for reading.
AIDA – Association Internationale pour le Développement de l'Apnée (English: International Association for Development of Apnea) – a world-wide rule and record-keeping body for competitive breath holding events.
CNF – Constant weight: no fins – The free-diver descends and ascends under water using only his own muscle strength, without the use of propulsion equipment and without pulling on the rope. Constant weight without fins is the most difficult sportive depth discipline because absolutely no propulsion materials are used to go down in the water. This category needs a perfect coordination between propulsive movements, equalisation, technique, and buoyancy.
DoP – Director of Photography – is the chief over the camera and lighting crews that work on a film, television production, or other live action pieces, and is responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image. The study and practice of this field is referred to as cinematography.