Saved by the SEAL(2)By: Diana Gardin
The smell of gasoline. The smell of burning rubber and plastic. The smell of hot, dry air as the darkness exploded with orange light. The smell of blood. Your own blood smells really fucking distinct. It’s a scent you can never erase from your memory.
Yeah, the smells are still with me every single day.
I’m torn from my thoughts when I hear the scream. It was short and staccato, possibly cut off by the waves.
I sit up straight, my eyes scanning the ocean for the source of the scream. Without even realizing it’s happening, adrenaline surges through my body in a way I haven’t felt in months. My muscles tighten, alert. My senses kick into overdrive as my eyes continue to search the blue-green sea and my ears strain for foreign sounds.
This is a private spot on the beach, usually occupied only by surfers. At seven-fifteen on a Wednesday morning, it’s nearly deserted. I scan the sand and notice there’s a beach bag and towel about twenty feet to my left and behind me. I’m not sure when that person got into the water, maybe when my eyes were closed. Maybe when I was thinking about the desert.
When I turn my eyes back toward the ocean, I see it. There’s an orange and pink surfboard drifting in the waves, minus its rider. I’m up from the sand in seconds, raising a hand to my eyes to scan the water for the missing surfer. I don’t need to search the small stretch of beach behind me to see there’s no lifeguard stand here. There’s a sign on the old, twisty steps leading down to the shore that this is a private stretch and there’s no lifeguard on duty.
I step forward, and the foamy sea rolls over my foot. I stare down at it. It’s been so long since I’ve felt it; I’m having a weird reaction. Blood pumps in my ears, and a thin sheen of sweat breaks out all over my skin that has nothing to do with the sun and the heat.
Then, out past the breaking point, a small figure surfaces, floating on top of the rising and falling swells. I watch for movement and don’t see any.
I don’t think. I react.
Taking two running steps, I rush into the waves and dive headfirst into the ocean. I use my arms to pull my body through the rolling waves, kicking out hard behind me. I’m a skilled swimmer; it’s kind of mandatory in my job description, but I’ve been a good swimmer for my entire life. Even though this is my first time in the ocean since the accident, it doesn’t take long at all for me to reach the girl floating facedown in the water. Her raven-colored hair floats around her. My eyes scan her, noting her surfboard still floating feet away, attached to her slender ankle. Without a second look, I flip her on her back, pulling her under one of my arms. Then I use the other to cut through the saltwater once more, this time with the beach set in my sights.
I’m winded when I reach the sand, but I stumble up onto the beach carrying the still girl in my arms. Her head lolls against my chest, her limbs hanging limply from my hold. She’s a rag doll, and fear courses through my blood, heating it until it feels like it’s bubbling in my veins. I fall to my knees, laying her gently on the sand. My hands are steady as I unstrap the surfboard from her foot, but my heart crashes against my ribs. Then, still running on autopilot, I brush her hair back so that I can assess her.
As soon as her face is clear of her long, dark mane, I suck in a breath as recognition slams into me like a jacked-up truck.
“Holy shit,” I murmur. “Greta? Come on, girl, you gotta wake up for me.”
She doesn’t move.
Breathe for her.
Her gorgeous face is turning blue. I use my fingers to tilt her chin back, and then I lean in and breathe into her mouth twice.
My hands are centered on her chest, and I’m riveted to her face as I press down again and again, counting aloud each time I pump. After thirty compressions, I return to her mouth, pinching her nose closed and breathing in twice.
I repeat the process, pushing all fear out of my head. “Come on, Greta! Berkeley will kill me if I let you die. Wake up, dammit!”
Suddenly, she splutters, takes a huge, gasping breath, and ocean water pours out of her mouth. Lightning fast, I turn her on her side, and she retches, coughing again and again. When she’s finished, I help her sit up on the sand, and I brush her hair out of her face as her crystal blue eyes finally focus on me.