With blistered, salty skin, and matted hair, she was down to her last sips of fresh water. A recreational day at sea had turned into a fight for continued existence. Slumped on the bow, searching for any hint of a breeze to soothe her burning face, her eyes widened when she noticed something fast approaching in the distance.
Was it real or was it just a mirage caused by the simmering heat waves dancing off the surface of the hot water? She could not tell; her brain on fire from thirst and heat. When she dozed off, she dreamed of cool, refreshing water; swimming in it, drinking it, washing her face and hair in it. When she was awake, she hallucinated about skiing down an ice cream covered slope or diving naked into a mountain of shaved ice. The dreams and hallucinations were far better than the reality.
She reached for her sunglasses but remembered that she had knocked them overboard hours ago. Shielding her eyes from the sun, she looked again at the approaching image. It was real, but she could not tell what it was yet. Squinting didn’t help. She tried closing one eye and that helped. She could make out a figure moving toward her at a rapid pace. At least it looked like it was moving toward her. She prayed it was moving toward her. Whatever it was didn’t matter now; salvation or death, she didn’t care anymore. This torture had to end one way or another.
She looked at her skin. It was turning bright red. Before long, it would blister if she didn’t get some relief from the scorching sun. If only she had some suntan lotion, but that fell overboard with her sunglasses. Without the lotion, her skin would start to blister and look like leather very soon.
This is how it ends! she thought. Burnt to a crisp and left to die alone. No human being to hear my cries and hold my hand. No friends to say farewell or to remember me. My youth dried up like a raisin in the sun. My beauty just a fading memory. My dreams rolled up and tossed overboard with my sunglasses.
She looked again for the approaching figure. Yes! It was coming toward her; for her, to her. Would it arrive in time? She was afraid to get her hopes up but also afraid not to. It was the figure of a man. Waving took too much effort so she decided to wait, and when he was near to try to smile, if her parched lips could part enough for a smile.
What if he isn’t coming to save me? What if he just sails on by without stopping? What if he doesn’t see me? The thoughts came into her dulled brain. She tried to drive them out; to keep hope alive. If he does not rescue me then I will just die, she thought. I am prepared for that. Death would be a relief. Death would cool me down. She looked again at the man, and the sight of him, so close and yet so far, jerked her mind away from the thoughts of death.
She decided to get try again to get his attention to make sure he saw her. It took all her energy, but she was able to raise one arm. She steadied it for a moment. It weighed a ton. It tried to fall; to pull her down with it and overboard like her glasses. She fought the weight of her arm– the pull of gravity. With a deep breath, she waved her hand. It was a small wave, but it was a wave. Her arm dropped back down by her side, and she looked again at the man. He waved back. He saw her! He acknowledged her wave! It was the sign she needed. Whatever happens, she knew that she would survive. Her spirits began to soar.
An instant later, he stepped from the dock onto the bow. “Here you go,” he said. “One cool bottle of water, on bottle of suntan lotion, and one ice cream cone. I can’t believe you made me walk all the way back to the boathouse for this. You turn into such a drama queen when you run out of water.”
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