I was going through some of my old short stories and found this one below (from roughly 2005/2006). Always nice to look back and see how your writing has progressed over the years.
Ella followed the group down a narrow dirt path that winded through a cluster of palm trees and out onto the sandy beach. A string of bungalows, connected by floating wooden bridges, occupied the hidden lagoon. The group was instructed to wait by a row of tanks laying in the sand. Ella wiped the beads of sweat from her brow, wishing she could strip off her sticky wetsuit and run into the water. Where is Adam?
She scanned the group of instructors but found no familiar face. Families and couples chatted with each other as two men fiddled with the equipment.
“Hey haggler,” a voice called from behind her.
Ella turned around, shielding the sun from her eyes, and found Adam standing there with a wide smile. Strands of long hair dripped beads of water on Ella as he leaned over to give her a kiss on each cheek.
“I was beginning to think you wouldn’t find me,” Ella said.
“Nah, I was just with another group. Enjoy the sun while I go check in with my boss.”
“Ok” Ella said before realizing the rest of the group was leaving. “Hey… wait, we’re not diving with everyone else?”
“You’ll see…” he said and disappeared down the path.
Ella planted herself into the sand and watched the party make their way into the water. Shifting her gaze to her lone cluster of equipment, Ella hoped Adam would be a bit clearer than the orientation guy. In the States, this type of half-ass orientation would never cut it. Then again, in the States, Ella would never be doing half the things she was doing now. Like letting perfect strangers take you scuba diving for the first time.
* * *
Ella met Adam the night before at an outside bazaar on the other side of the beach. Roofless stands divided by colorful tapestries ran along the coast. Hanging lights of purple, pink, and blue illuminated an array of crystals, clothes, and jewelry. The faint smell of incense drifted through the warm air and a symphony of bongos and guitars hummed in harmony with the crashing waves. Ducking under a pair of wind chimes, Ella made her way to a table covered with endless rows of jewelry. She picked up an amber embedded ring and tried it on.
“Want to know why amber is my favorite stone to sell?”
Ella looked up to see who had spoken, surprised to be addressed in English. Standing behind the table was a guy, hair falling over his eyes, wearing only a pair of swimming trunks.
“Because it’s actually fossilized resin that takes millions of years to turn to stone.” He lit a cigarette. “So every time I sell amber, I am actually selling a piece of history.”
“Well, in that case, how much would this pretty piece of history be?” Ella asked.
“Seventy shekels.” he said blowing a cloud of smoke.
Ella leaned her hands on the table. “Thirty.”
“That’s no price for millions of years of history!” he said.
He frowned and then broke out laughing. “What’s your name, haggler?”
“Ella,” she said smiling. “How did you know I spoke English?”
“I didn’t. I just don’t know Hebrew. Just been here a few months. I’m Adam.” Smashing his cigarette into a nearby ashtray, he reached out over the table and shook her hand.
“Where are you from, Adam?”
“LA originally but I’ve been traveling the Mediterranean for the past four years.”
“Selling history, Ella, selling history. But, no, I’m also a scuba diving instructor. I actually work over at Dolphin’s Reef over there.” He pointed to a piece of land jutting out into the sea and then walked around the table to sit on small carpet situated in the far corner of the stand. He motioned for her to join him.
“That’s so funny! I was actually supposed to go there this morning but my friend got sick and we ended up canceling.” Ella said sitting down.
“Too bad, it’s a kick ass spot. Hey listen, you should come by tomorrow – I can take you on a dive myself if you like.”
“Really? I don’t know. I mean, I have to check with my friend. Plus, I have never scuba dived before and -”
Adam reached over and took her hand in mock seriousness. “I am an instructor, Ella. Certified and everything, I swear.”
Ella continued talking to Adam until 3:00am. He even gave her the amber ring for free as payment for helping him convince two teens they should buy five identical t-shirts.
* * *
“Ready?” Adam said and held out his hand. Being so involved in her thoughts, Ella didn’t even realize he’d come back. Getting up she turned to allow Adam to put the tanks on her back.
“A little nervous.” she replied. Adam proceeded to attach a weight belt around her waist. “Damn – that’s heavy.”
After going over the few basic things, they both made their way to the water. Because of all the weight she carried, Ella had to wobble her way in. She felt the cool water immersing first her feet, then thighs, and finally engulfing her whole body. Adam directed Ella to float on her back so that he could put on her flippers. She leaned her head into the water and followed the circling dance of seagulls above her.
Adam looked down at her and moved a piece of hair from her face. Ella raised an eyebrow. His hand lingered and then slowly moved down her cheek. Ella smiled up at him. He bent and kissed her. Ella tasted the salt on his lips. Sweet. Ella relished the brief kiss and then watched as the grinning Adam put on her flippers. This done, he adjusted the weights on her belt, instructed her to put on her mask and use the regulator.
“Just put your face in the water and get used to breathing.” Adam said. Nodding, Ella dipped her face in and began taking long deep breaths. After a few minutes of this Ella lifted her head.
“Remember, Ella, thumbs down means descend, thumbs up means to ascend, if you feel a problem at any time, just wave your hand from side to side. I’ll ask you periodically how you are doing so just do the “ok sign” if it’s all good. Oh and don’t forget to clear your ears. Got it?”
Ella nodded, wide eyed. Her heart was pounding.
Adam put on his regulator and took his hand in hers. They descended a few feet at a time until they reached the shallow ocean bottom. They made their way along as it gradually sloped down. Suddenly, the ground gave away to a large canyon and Ella, startled by how deep it went, stopped swimming abruptly. Keep calm. Adam waved his hand to see if she was alright. Taking a moment to adjust to the height, Ella replied with the “ok” signal and holding his hand tightly, allowed him to continue leading her down.
Bubbles rose from Ella’s exhales as sparkling schools of fish swam freely all around her. Green, blue and yellow seaweed swayed next to a vast spread of orange coral. A small blue fish swam over to briefly hover above her palm before sauntering away. Adam pointed to a variety of vegetation warning her to steer clear of the black spiky growths and encouraging her to touch the stony bottom. He then let go of Ella’s hand and grabbed a pile full of small rocks and threw them up around them. The glittering pieces of brown, red, and orange floated all around her and Ella almost lost her regulator from laughing.
Adam made the thumbs up and indicated that he take her hand. Ella grabbed a rock from the ground and then allowed Adam to lead her up. When they finally surfaced, Ella ripped out her regulator.
“That was amazing! All those fish and coral – I can’t believe it. Wow.” When they reached the sand, Ella removed her wetsuit and watched as Adam gave two instructors all the equipment. Plopping down next to her, Adam dug his feet into the sand and leaned back on his elbows.
“So, haggler, was it worth the forty shekels?”
Ella grinned and leaned back as well. “Thank you, Adam – for the ring and the dive. This was just incredible.” Ella looked back out at the water and sighed. “This is one of those times, ya know? The kind of moment that you know you will always look back on.”
“Then my job is done,” Adam said.
“And what job is that exactly?” Ella asked.
“I told you from the beginning, Ella. History, I sell history.”