Author’s Note: Sometimes you have an idea so wild and perfect it makes you laugh out loud. The one I had while writing The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms is in this week’s chapter. I hope you enjoy it, and maybe spot that idea that still makes me smile.
Chapter 67 – Breathe
Imelda knew her knots. She had tied Tim and Foxy securely but not so tight blood could not circulate. She wanted their attention focused on each other’s suffering, not their own.
Tim strained against Foxy. The ropes dug into his wrists, burning his skin as he twisted his hands struggling to touch her backside. His damaged shoulder burned with jagged inner fire.
‘Wait,’ Foxy gasped, ‘you’re not getting down far enough. We need to loosen the ropes.’
Tim leaned his weight against the rope running through the eyelets and held steady while Foxy twisted and writhed behind him. Despite being ankle deep in freezing water in the hold of a sinking ship Tim was amazed to find an erotic element to the situation.
My God, he thought. Is everything women say is wrong about men actually true?
Then Foxy slipped, her full weight went against him and the pain in his shoulder became his universe.
Foxy’s voice came from a long way away. ‘Tim? Tim?’
Someone was making wounded animal noises through clenched teeth. Tim realised it was him and stopped. The pain receded by moments. ‘Oh Gods, that hurt.’
‘I’m sorry,’ Foxy gasped, breathing hard.
Somehow she had been holding him up. The water was up to their knees.
‘Forget it. Let’s try again.’ He reached down, yelped and immediately stopped. There was no point trying if he was going to pass out. He twisted round to use his left arm. Foxy pushed up. They stretched, they arched their backs. Tim’s fingertip slid past her waistband.
‘There, can you feel it. My pocket.’
Tim touched the pocket’s top seam. ‘Got it.’
‘Try and get my comb.’
‘Good idea. Saw through the ropes.’
Freezing sea water surged around their thighs. Deep in the ship the pumps kept up their steady beat. Tim slid two fingers into Foxy’s pocket. The seam was tight, he couldn’t push down any further. He moved his fingers from side to side, his fingertips touched the comb and it slipped away from him.
Foxy strained upwards. ‘This could almost be fun. In different circumstances.’
‘Don’t make me laugh.’
They tried again as chill salt water surged around their waists. Tim hands were submerged, getting cold, growing stiff. He growled through gritted teeth. ‘Come on you bastard fat fingers.’
He touched the top of the comb again. His attention narrowed to his fingertips, the texture of the sodden fabric of Foxy’s skirt, the spot on his finger where the seam rubbed his skin raw. The water softened the fabric, loosening the weave a fraction. Water that was now chest deep.
‘Push up now. Hard as you can.’ Tim said.
When Foxy moved he let his knees drop.
His fingers slipped into the pocket. First and second fingers brushed the comb.
‘Got it,’ Tim said, then lost it again. He shifted his shoulders, fought the surging fire-burn agony there, and actually had the comb pinched between his fingertips. Then he blacked out.
It was only for a fraction of a second but it was enough. The water was over his chest now, almost at is shoulders. Not long now. He knew had perhaps one more effort in him.
‘Again, Tim,’ Foxy said calmly.
‘In a bit.’
‘I can’t do it, Foxy. I need to let the water numb my shoulder.’ He doubted it would be enough. He could barely feel his fingers as it was.
The water touched his chin. He tipped his head back and it went into his ears, the corners of his eyes. His shoulder was a cold dead lump. He blinked and gasped, sucking in lungs-full of air, hyperventilating for that long last breath.
Water brimmed around his mouth.
‘Now,’ Tim spluttered.
There was desperate urgency in her voice. ‘Tim, I never said–’
He sank underwater and reached down as hard and as far as he could. All the sweet hells how much it hurt. Black grinding iron agony, pain that had a shape and form, a thing that had an existence of itself. He let it have the part of his body it wanted. Tendrils of pain spread out and he pushed back, pushed himself right out of his own body. For a moment he hung in the dark water and watched himself drown.
His fingers slid into Foxy’s pocket. He pinched the comb between his fingers and lifted it free.
Everything was black. He tried to surface but the surface was far over his head. Dark and cold. An irresistible urge grew in his chest, soon he would have to breathe. There was not enough time to cut the ropes.
He felt Foxy’s fingers against his. She tugged gently on the comb and he let go. Too late. They had tried, together. At least they had tried. Perhaps she…
Everything was black.
Behind him Foxy stroked the comb across the knots binding their wrists. At its touch they unravelled.
She ducked down and freed their feet. She pulled away the rope around their waists. She put her arm around Tim and lifted him to the surface.
He choked and coughed, then took one solid glorious breath after the other.
Foxy held her comb triumphantly aloft. ‘My comb, my mermaid’s comb. It untangles my hair when the salt and surf have been at it. These ropes were no contest.’
Rope that were now nothing but loosely spreading fibres.
All Tim could do was nod and breathe and tread water. Around them the stacks of seed drums ponderously toppled into the rising water.
Foxy took his hand. ‘Come on, Ace. Let’s get the hell out of here.’
To be continued…