Excerpt from the unpublished novel; Polymath
Caroline Daris nursed her infant daughter on the balcony overlooking the magnificent white sand beach of Phi Phi Island, Thailand. She watched her sweet baby’s face with eyes closed to focus on her mother’s milk. There was a comfortable cool morning breeze, a foil to the coming afternoon heat, and the calming sound of little waves rolling in a steady irregular rhythm. The sound became softer, different, and more distant. As she scanned the beach, she realized the hotel seemed unusually far back from the water’s edge. “Good morning, my two girls,” her husband said, stepping from the bedroom. Shawn Daris bent down to kiss her, but she only offered her cheek.
“Look at the sea,” she replied.
“The ocean tide is far too low,” Shawn said as he examined the shore. “I didn’t read about this.” There were a few people on the extended beach collecting seashells and other marine life. “Let’s check it out, then get breakfast,” he said as he went inside for his shorts.
They walked past the hotel pool and onto the cool sand of the beach. In his eagerness to investigate Shawn threw on shorts and sandals, but no shirt. Driven by his curiosity, they reached the wet sand where the water line had been. Caroline knew that Shawn needed to satisfy his academic curiosity, and understand this unique phenomenon before he could do anything else. She often wished he would just enjoy the world around him. She followed him as he wandered out farther towards the ocean looking at shells and crabs left behind by the retreating waters. His sudden pause startled her. Shawn screamed,“Run.”
She spotted the wave towering three stories high; only a short strip of sand remained between her and the water’s edge. They both sprinted towards the hotel, only having time to reach the dry sand before the first wave hit. Caroline clung to her baby girl while Shawn clung to each of Caroline’s arms as the wave knocked them down and swept them under the water. She could feel Shawn kicking with his legs to reach the surface. He pushed her up and she inhaled air and sea mist. Just as she lifted her baby to the surface, she went under again.
Caroline felt her legs hit sand as the rush of water dragged her back to the ocean. On her back still submersed, she struggled to keep her baby above the water. “Get up!” Shawn screamed at Caroline as he grabbed their baby by her dress; Caroline managed to twist to her knees.
Shawn yanked her to her feet and pushed their daughter into her chest. The baby screams told her that her daughter was alive. Shawn grabbed her face, squaring her jaw with his. He looked her in the eye, “Run, we have to run,” he yelled. She nodded; she could only nod, as her throat and nostrils burned from salt water.
Shawn pushed his tall athletic frame through the knee-deep water, kicking his knees high with one arm around her waist. Caroline lost her slip-on sandals in the rush of the first wave. She stumbled from stepping on rocks and debris.
“Run!” he shouted again, raw fear revealed in his voice. Caroline ran as best as she could toward the hotel, fighting the weight of the water as she pushed through the thigh high water. Shawn steered her toward the staircase on the corner of the building “We’re not going to make it,” he yelled in her ear. He directed her to the closest clump of palm trees. “Hold tight to the tree and hold your breath,” he yelled as he reached around the trunk and grabbed her arm. He looked at the wave and, just before it hit, he took a breath and placed his mouth over their daughter’s mouth and nose.
The force of the wave was brutal, pinning Caroline’s body against the tree, and ripping Shawn’s from it. She held her breath until the water subsided. She leaned against the tree fighting to stand with the swirling forces on her feet. She wiped the salt water from her eyes in time to see the wave pass over Shawn, stretched horizontal across the next clump of palm trees. He grasped the baby by the fabric of her clothing. Their daughter’s body flapped in the force of the water like a kite on the end of a string.
Shawn fought against the swirling crash of the wave to reel in his daughter. Wooden debris smashed into his body. Caroline saw the cloth, the last lifesaving tether to her baby, disappear from her husband’s fist. “Shawn,” she screamed, pointing to the smallest piece of her daughter’s dress floating in the water just beyond Shawn’s shoulder. He kicked around the tree and debris after the dress.
Caroline scanned the water as she screamed her husband and daughter’s names. Pushing through the water, she lost her footing. Another wave crashed in on top of her. She fought to find which way was up in the swirl of the wave.
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