Rising Tide (Chapter Seven)
Illustrations By Jenny Cooper
To read previous chapters go to Stories
“Ari,” his father said. “You and I know this water, mate. When I say ‘Jump!’ I want you to go over the side, keep your knees up, stay high in the water. I’ll be right behind you. We’ll stay together. We’ll use the pull of the tide. Ari, don’t fight against it. Trust me, Ari, and trust yourself.”
Ari took a deep breath and nodded.
Ari rolled over the side of the dinghy. The freezing water enveloped him. He pulled up his knees and lifted his head.
The water was moving even faster than it had looked like it was from the boat. It stung his eyes. He heard his father hit the water and he struggled to turn and find his dad. Where was he?
“Daaad!” he screamed.
His mouth filled with water. Panic overtook him. He began to kick and struggle against the water, fighting to keep his head up.
“Daaad!” he screamed again.
The boat was in front of him now, caught in the current of the outgoing tide …
Then suddenly his dad was there. He wrapped a strong arm round Ari, tipping him on to his back. “Don’t fight me, son,” his dad gasped.
Dad was behind Ari, holding him up. Ari felt his father’s knees come up behind his own, forcing them higher in the water, then his dad used his free arm to begin to swim. Ari sculled his own hands and began to kick on the surface of the water.
Together they moved with the flow of the estuary, letting it take them sideways … and slowly, slowly, they began to make their way to the shore.
His father had been right about it getting dark quickly. The white caps on the waves were unpredictable and merciless, stinging their eyes and making the shore seem further away than it was.
Ari realised that the estuary was much further up the sand than usual, because the trees that were usually on the shoreline now stood in the water.
He knew that if they put their feet down they’d sink in the soft sand.
Ari thought he could hear his name.
Then he heard it again, and his father’s too!
He was so tired he wondered if he was imagining it.
His father slowed his stroke, and Ari felt his dad’s arm loosen across his chest. Dad could hear their names being called too! Ari wasn’t imagining it.
Suddenly there were lots of voices. Headlights lit up the bank. He thought he heard dogs barking.
“You can let him go, Riki. I’ve got him!” shouted a man.
Ari felt a new arm round him, and they were swimming faster now, strong and steady.
Then he was on his back on the sand. He began to shake as if he’d never stop. Ari tried to sit up to find his dad, but there were torches and headlights, and he couldn’t see past them. Hands held him down, wrapping him in blankets.
Someone lifted him up, and then he was back in his father’s arms.
They held on to each other. His father had Ari’s head in his hands and was kissing him, crying. Ari let his tears go too. He couldn’t believe they were really safe.
“We need to get you both warm and dry, Riki,” said a man Ari didn’t recognise.
Riki agreed and tried to stand with Ari still in his arms. Then he sank to his knees, the pain in his ankle suddenly returning.
“And it looks like we’re going to need to take a look at that leg,” said the man. “Here, mate, let me help you. The ambulances are out dealing with the flooding, but I’ll take you to the emergency room.”
Ari climbed into the back of the man’s car. The man sat dripping and shivering in the front seat, and someone else helped Riki into the back seat with Ari.
“What do you think?” asked the man. “Should we make this a quick one, Ari?” He reached across the dash and set the siren and lights going.
Ari started to laugh. His mates weren’t going to believe this! He wondered what the story would be once he got back to school.
Ari couldn’t believe the change in the emergency room from when he was there with Koro just yesterday. Now there were adults in white coats and uniforms rushing through the rooms. A man was groaning in the cubicle next to him and his dad. It was exciting and frightening at the same time.
A man who Ari guessed was a doctor appeared round the edge of the cubicle curtain. “I’ll be with you as soon as I can. Sorry, you’re a wee way down the list.”
He handed Riki a clipboard and asked him to check the details and add any that were missing. Riki looked at the clipboard for several seconds. Ari watched him. There was an expression on his dad’s face he recognised. But what was it?
Suddenly Ari realised it wasn’t an expression he’d seen before. It was one that he’d felt. Riki was pretending to read the papers.
Ari’s thoughts began to move too quickly for him to catch them. Surely not …
“Oh, my darling men!” Mum rushed into the small cubicle, filling it with her relief. She pulled them both towards her and held them close. “My darling darlings! My loves!”
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