Sarah watched as Nick pulled on his fins from the side of the boat, pressed his mask to his face with his left hand, then fell easily back into the green Balinese waters off Ceningan Island. He smiled as he dropped in, though she could tell it was forced. Why wouldn’t it be? She thought back to the events that had led them here. To the girl, she’d found on his phone. Kim, at least that’s what her FB profile had named her, with her thick lips, splayed legs and not so cryptic texts. That’s where it had all started, hadn’t it? Or had it been her own trip to Melbourne with the girls back in March? Sure, things hadn’t quite gone according to plan. Mainly because she’d never had one. Things had just happened. Of the girls, only Kat had seen her from the far end of the hotel, though Sarah had been quick to shut it down. It had been one night with no strings. Six months later and nothing, so she’d assumed she was in the clear. Though Kat was a relatively new friend. one that to be fair, had known Nick longer. A school mate by all accounts. One she had watched carefully, had prodded Nick for history on. What guy had a long term girlfriend he hadn’t slept with? That said they were friends, so maybe that was the difference. Had she said something to him?
They’d been together for more than six years. There was no ring in sight, though they had the house and the policies to be married on paper. Thing was, neither of them seemed to be convinced that this was it. They hadn’t tried for kids as neither wanted to paper over any potential cracks with a commitment that big. Things had just seemed to carry on. Sarah worked in a florist shop. It was her business and was going well. She was making money. Their accounts were shared, though they’d agreed to one personal account to ensure that each of them felt like they had ownership of something. Thing is, Sarah had noticed his contributions to their dual account had declined. Not immediately, though over time. She had the spreadsheets and charts to confirm it.
She stared at the circle of bubbles on the surface of the water, watched them burst as the local instructor beckoned her to follow him in. Nick was underwater and drifting slowly down the side of the boat. She needed to go. But that’s how it had always been, her chasing him with whatever it was he decided to do. The photos bothered her. Whatever she had done had been a one-off. The fact he still had photos on his desktop, (yes she’d found his password), screamed betrayal way more than anything she had ever done. One photo had torn it. There was Kim, bitchface, looking relaxed, sitting with a coffee in hand, the sun is behind her. She was dressed in something white with a pink pattern across it, sunglasses on her hair-ruffled head, a packet of cigarettes placed on the table beside her. Aftermath. Though the thing that really pissed her off was that the table the cigarettes were on, was her own.
Sarah had watched him closely after that. She checked his calendar, called his work as a potential client when he was out of town. In his defence, most of it had checked out. He sold insurance. He was in risk management. Was he assessing her now? More damning was the fact that their dual policy around life insurance had been increased without her consent. The premiums had stayed the same, he’d been covering them. He earned more, though he’d convinced her that they needed equal coverage so that no one was disadvantaged in any way should the other go. She’d discovered the policy change through a bank error. She had gone a step further and had added a second policy, under income protection with another company. She’d forged his signature and had funded it. None of it mattered. What was clear, was that they were broken. Would he act on it? Or should she?
Sarah dipped her mask in the water with a cord that was tied to one end of it. She dropped a cupped hand into the saltwater before running it through her hair, then pressed it down and pulled it free of her face. She slipped the mask on, inhaled to make sure it was fastened, then adjusted the strap to the back of her head. Then she was under, floating on gentle currents beside a wall of coral and kelp. Resplendent colours stopped her breathing before instinct kicked in. She could see his stream of bubbles twenty-meters below her. She turned on her back to watch the hull of the boat she’d arrived on as well as the surface gently disappears from view. Tropical fish flew past her from all sides, approaching then disappearing as quickly as they arrived. This had been the thing that had always brought them together, floating in space, inside a silence, a membrane that just shielded you from all of the worries of the world. There were no arguments down here.
The water was warm, it caressed her skin in her short wetsuit. She drifted by huge funnels of coral, greens, purples, and blues that seemed to belong to another time. Turtles and parrotfish drifted by, Mola Mola that hid the light as they passed. She was careful to avoid the soft outstretched red and orange tips of the fire coral. It ruffled gently in the currents, though the slightest touch left welts on your body. She’d been there and it wasn’t something she was willing to repeat. Sarah turned around, he was gone. She rolled on to her back, to her front, circled sideways, pulled her fins underneath her, straightened herself, then floated standing like a superhero with a tank instead of a cape, equidistant from the surface to the seafloor. He was nowhere to be seen. And why would he be? She found a text that he’d obviously struggled to delete. Kim was pregnant. She’d suspected something, he hadn’t been himself.
She drifted forward with the sea’s currents. The shadows of fish seemed to get larger. She was alone and feeling strange versus enjoying the serenity of it. She swam a little higher, searched for any sign of bubbles that would give away his position. Was this what he wanted? Was he waiting up ahead? She unsheathed a knife that was strapped to her right ankle. She could feel the weight of it in her hand, the press of the rubber grip in her palm. They never carried anything, she’d surprise him if she had to. Could she do this? Sarah floated across an oversized boulder, thought she’d spotted something in the forest of kelp below her. Something shimmered, catching a narrow ray of light from above. She followed the shaft of light down towards it.
It was a hand. His hand, clenched. She recognised the black Nixon dive watch she’d bought for him three years before, the silver clasps refracted light from above. It wasn’t moving. He was hidden within the kelp. She pulled the fronds apart before she screamed bubbles into her mask. Nick looked back at her, his face pale, his eyes glazed, lips blue, free of the air that should have sustained him. He had tied kelp around one leg and held his tank to his body with a free hand, using it as a weight to keep him down. He had a small board tied to his waist, it floated upwards on a piece of nylon. Sarah was crying now, she tried to wipe the tears away though could only connect with the glass of her mask. She caught the board and flipped it over. He had scrawled -˜Sorry honey,’ in blue pen on it, below that in smaller writing it said -˜untie me and let yourself go. X’
She undid the fingers of his outstretched hand. A small gold ring with a solitary diamond sparkled on top of it. Her body shook on discovering it. Huge racking sobs forced their way through her body dislodging her mouthpiece. She watched it circle her in a jet stream of bubbles before she followed the connection behind her head and the tube that lead to it. She forced it back into her mouth and made herself breath, deeply. She was alone. He was gone. She placed the ring on her finger, then wiped the board free of the pen. She reconnected the tank to his BCD, inflated it with air and undid the kelp from his leg before she floated with him to the surface. She screamed when she got there.