On the Brink   3 comments

Nicholas Aspen breathed a deep sigh. He locked his restaurant door. Business hadn’t been going well. He shrugged his shoulders, and tried to think about other pressing matters. He was taking his wife Simone to the Radcliffe Concert hall tonight to watch Swan Lake. Then he had to pick up his daughter Natalie from her High school Graduation night. Simone had gone to the Graduation ceremony earlier that day; but he couldn’t afford to take time off. 

As soon as he got home, Simone was harrying him to hurry up. She was dressed beautifully as usual, with a long white sparkly dress, white fur wrap, and diamonds everywhere. Nicholas pulled his clothes off, and got into the shower. He stood there and let the hot water run over him. On auto-pilot, he washed his body and hair, stepped out of the shower and dried himself. Then he put on the newly pressed clothes that Simone had laid out for him.

“Come on Nicky!  We’re going to be late!” Simone said, making for the door, as soon as she saw him coming downstairs. Nicholas bit his lip and said nothing. They sat in silence, as Nicholas drove to the concert hall. When they got there, Nicholas went around to the other side of the car to open the door for Simone. She got out regally and took his proffered arm. Walking up the steps, they looked like the perfect couple.

In the bar they met their friends Madeleine and Tommy. Their daughter Valerie was friends with Natalie.  Tommy and Nicholas shook hands.

“Such a shame you missed Natalie graduating today,” simpered Madeleine.  “Nathalie and Valerie looked wonderful. They were so dignified, weren’t they Simone?”

Simone nodded and shifted her position slightly. “I think I see people moving in,” she said looking sideways at Nicholas.

Simone seemed totally enthralled by Swan Lake. She had wanted to be a ballerina when she grew up; but this ambition had been put on hold when she found herself pregnant with Natalie. Nicholas didn’t take any of it in, because he was too wrapped up in his own thoughts. He felt like his whole world was crashing down on him. His restaurant that had once been frequented by celebrities was failing since the recession; Simone seemed to have lost all respect for him, and he felt he was constantly letting down his daughter. Before he knew it the ballet was over. Simone was getting a lift back with Madeleine and Tommy, while Nicholas was to pick up Valerie and Natalie.

The High School Graduation dance was in The Grand Hotel, out by the golf course.  Nicholas drove there in a daze. He drove up the tree-lined avenue, and stopped by the large man-made lake. He got out and walked down to the lake. Nicholas didn’t really know what he was thinking, as he stood there on the edge of the water. Maybe the thought of ending it all did cross his mind. But, as he was standing there he heard some girlish giggles. They were coming from the bushes on the far side of the lake. Then he heard his daughter’s voice.

“Come on Valerie, one….two……three…” 

Next there were two big plops, splashing and screeching. The shrieks that told Nicholas the water was icy turned into frightened screams. Nicholas hurried to the car and got out a powerful torch, he kept for emergencies. He turned it on, and shone it over to the area where the screams were coming from. He called out to the girls. But they didn’t seem to hear him. Nicholas pulled off his jacket, shoes and bow-tie, and plunged into the water. The chilliness of the lake made his body feel like stone. As he swam he shouted out the girls’ names.  Then Natalie called back…

“Dad is that you “

“Nat….. are you ok? Hang on I’m coming.”

“Hurry Dad, I can’t hold on much longer.”

Nicholas pushed himself forward. All that mattered was that he had to save the girls. He prayed desperately and hoped.

“Dad, Dad, Valerie’s blacked out and is slipping away from me!” Natalie cried. She sounded nearby.  A few minutes later he was with Natalie. She was clutching onto Valerie with one hand and sweeping the water with her other hand. Natalie was shivering and sobbing. Nicholas took hold of Valerie.

“Can you swim back?” Nicholas asked. Natalie nodded and cried with relief. Nicholas put his arm under Valerie’s limp arm, held her across the chest, and pulled her along as he swam backwards. He followed Natalie back to the place where the girls had entered the water.

Natalie and Valerie had taken off their graduation dresses and gone into the water in their underwear. They had drunk a lot, and hadn’t even thought about towels.  After helping her Dad to pull Valerie out of the water, Nathalie gathered her and Valerie’s belongings, and stumbled back to the hotel to raise the alarm. Meanwhile Nicholas tried to resuscitate Valerie.  Eventually Valerie coughed, spluttered and moaned. He put her in the recovery position, and lay her dress over her. Nicholas sat down beside her, and reassured her that there was help coming. When the paramedics did arrive Nicholas suddenly started shaking and crying. They said he was in a state of shock, and insisted he came to the hospital with Natalie and Valerie to be checked out.

Simone, Madeleine and Tommy came to the hospital. Valerie’s parents couldn’t thank Nicholas enough. Simone kissed him tenderly. With tears in her eyes, she held his hand, and mouthed “Thank you.”

When they all got home safe and sound, they discussed what was best for the family. Natalie was going to go to college, and Nicholas decided he would sell the business and take up teaching cookery instead. Simone said she would help out by getting the right qualifications to be a dancing instructor. “Family is what matters, nothing else counts. You are my girls, and mean the world to me,” Nicholas avowed, hugging them tight.

 

 

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Posted February 11, 2014 by eileenmoynihan in Uncategorized

3 responses to “On the Brink

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  1. Lovely, warm story – issues we all recognise. I love short stories – this is a good one !

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