The fact that he was out in the middle of nowhere, where his pleas might not reach another human ear, was entirely his own fault.
He had picked this remote lake because he liked to be cut off from the rest of the world.
It’s not that he wasn’t a people person, but life was a hell of a lot less complicated when you removed the rest of the population from the equation.
Of course, one might question why a man who couldn’t swim and had a serious fear of water had been out on a lake in a rowboat in the first place.
The boat! Of course. He swiveled his head to check his surroundings.
The rowboat was overturned about twenty-five feet north of where he struggled to keep himself afloat.
It might as well have been two miles because there was no way he was going to be able to swim to it. He could doggie paddle a few feet on his best day, but that was when he was in a pool and could touch the bottom whenever panic set in.
The bottom of the lake was a good twenty feet beneath the cold, murky water that had soaked through his clothes, which were now weighing him down.
He screamed again, but it was a waste of energy. Either no one could hear him, or no one wanted to help. The bottom line was, he was on his own.
He’d wanted to give her a perfect afternoon, and he knew how much she loved the water. She had always been accommodating of his fears, but for once, he wanted to prove that he could make concessions for her.
That was why he loved her. She had bent over backwards to adapt to his quirks to a point that he’d almost forgotten how incredibly odd he was.
He hoped an afternoon in a rowboat would make it clear how much she meant to him. He’d packed a picnic lunch, her favorite wine, and he planned to serenade her after he’d rowed them out to the middle of the lake.
She loved it when he sang to her, and he liked doing anything that lit up her gorgeous eyes and brought a smile to her beautiful face.
But somehow, he’d managed to rock the boat and ruin their romantic getaway. It had to have been him because he was always the one who caused trouble.
He was shivering uncontrollably, and had swallowed far too much lake water to remember how he’d wound up in the water. All he knew for certain, though, was that it had been his fault. Once again, he had ruined everything. He angrily slapped at the water that was trying to kill him.
Then his eyes opened wide, and what little color was left in his skin faded.
He’d forgotten all about her!
Oh God! Where was she?
He screamed out her name.
How typical of him to forget about her and only worry about himself.
Where was she? Why wasn’t she answering him? She was an excellent swimmer, so she had to be okay.
Of course, that was how he always thought. She was so strong that he didn’t ever need to worry about her. She always figured out a way to survive. He, on the other hand, was the complicated one who needed her constant help and attention.
His legs were so tired. He could barely move his arms. He was losing his voice. But he kept treading water and shouting her name.
Where could she be? Had she abandoned him in the middle of the lake? She’d never do that. She loved him and knew he couldn’t swim.
Had she drowned? Impossible! There was no way she’d let a pathetic little lake get the better of her. Besides, there was no sign of her body.
The panic attack hit without warning. Like it always did.
Breathing, already a struggle in the frigid water, became even more of a challenge.
He went under again, but immediately forced himself back up, spitting out a mouthful of the lake the second he broke the surface.
He screamed her name at the top of his lungs.
He couldn’t survive this without her. That much was perfectly clear. Without her he was lost, alone, and barely able to keep his head above water.
He called out to her one more time, her name impossible to decipher through his sobs.
When she didn’t answer, he finally gave himself over to the panic.
She was his everything. Without her, he was nothing.
He stopped fighting the pull of the lake’s bottom, and slipped beneath the surface for the final time…