Summer in this part of the country was so beautiful, Dave thought to himself as he sat on the dock at his parents’ resort watching his fishing pole in the water, the red and white bobber bouncing with the smallest of waves making their way across the otherwise still waters. He had a few minutes to himself before the next group was set to take off on his family’s pontoon. He would take the group anywhere they desired across the huge expanse of lake, and it was a job he loved.
Each group was different; some wanted to find shallow waters to play in, others wanted the rush of jumping off the diving board over an eighty foot hole in the lake, still others wanted to take in the scenery at a snail’s pace, and he loved the variety as much as the scenery.
Growing up on the lake was a child’s dream, and each summer brought new friends and new excitement. When he had gotten a bit older, he helped his dad on the pontoon, learning the ins and outs of this particular lake, and as soon as the law allowed, he was the one guiding the guests across the waters.
Decades later he still loved the lake and couldn’t see himself doing anything else, but it was difficult to make any lasting relationships. The guests came in for a weekend or a week, or sometimes a month out of the summer, but they never stayed long enough to produce a real friendship; he kept too busy at the resort to pursue anyone back in town, and so here he sat, contemplating his future with as much uncertainty as his bobber on the water.
On this particular day, the heat was getting to him so he pulled off his t-shirt, left only in his swim trunks. He lazily pushed the sunglasses back over his nose and reeled in his bobber. Nothing was happening on that front, much as his love life he surmised, and it was time to start the pre-cruise checks on the pontoon anyways. He hopped up and over the side rail, forgoing the door and ramp for the time being, and double checked the life jacket supply, fluids in the engine, and the cleanliness of the seats. When everything seemed ready to go, he headed back to the door, intending to lay out the ramp so the guests could easily board.
However, when he took a step in that direction, expecting to escort an elderly family on a leisurely cruise, he was delightfully surprised to instead see a gorgeous, curvaceous lady walking down the boards of the dock. She had a long sheer cover up over her bathing suit, flip flops on her feet, a towel in hand, and a stack of books he supposed she was planning to read.
A broad smile crossed his lips. “Welcome to the Party Pontoon!” he said brightly, hoping she was his next guest instead of the group of elderly women he was expecting.
This tall beauty seemed just as surprised to see him and he did her. She seemed befuddled for a moment, but then straightened her back and pulled herself together. “Thank you, but I’m not planning on a pontoon ride today,” she said shyly.
“It’s a perfect day for a ride,” he contested with a wink. “I promise.”
She blushed, not hiding much in her sheer cover. “I think you’re planning on taking my friends for a ride, though,” her sultry voice sung out. “Emmy is going to be vibrating with excitement when you deliver her to Jack Sparrow’s Cave, or whatever your brochure called the natural stone cave. And don’t forget the dive into the black hole. She has been talking about it for days!”
“Are you here with the Nelson Bachelorette party?” he asked, hoping for it to be true.
“Yep.” she said, without much enthusiasm. This confused and intrigued him. Just as he was about to expand on this topic, he heard the rush of giggling voices behind them.
“My name’s Dave,” he said, wanting to know hers before the throng reached them.
“Claire” she said, bracing herself as she faced the incoming crowd, as if expecting to get shoved into the water.
“Claire!” shrieked Emmy with a spirited cheer, one Dave figured had came from a top of the rack wine. “I am so glad you could make it! When did you get in?” she said, nearly tripping on the first board of the dock.
“Within the hour” Claire replied, her smile turning genuine and friendly. “How are you? I missed you, too!” she said as she wrapped Emmy into a big hug, and the other four girls chatted incessantly around them. When Dave spoke, he caught every single one of their eyes. “Welcome!” Dave said with enthusiasm. “Let’s get this party started!”
He helped each one of them onto the pontoon, and when it was Claire’s turn, she just stood there, frozen. He read the fear in her eyes, recognized the constricting of muscles and unintentional change in breath.
“Claire! You HAVE to come with!” begged Emmy. “It’s my party, and I command you to have fun today. Please!” continued Emmy.
Claire studied her books, looked around quickly, and after one more plead from Emmy, took the final step towards the pontoon. Dave took her hand, as he had all the others, but the electricity that pulsed through his body when he touched hers shocked him. She was a Heavenly mix of perfume, soft skin and female form.
He found himself following her up the ramp, more out of desire than necessity, trying to absorb the enormity of her presence upon his body, impressed that she could heighten all of his senses with just a touch.
He had lived at this resort his whole life, but never once had a woman so quickly caught his attention. Some may have caught his eye, or some forced his attention, but never had a woman caught both without even trying. He spent every summer on the lake, wake boarding, skiing, and swimming, and his body was in good form thanks to it. He never lacked for female attention, and he never had to seek it out. This one, though, this one called to him and begged him to chase after without a single word being said.
She boarded the pontoon, proud of herself for making it onto new territory. She liked predictable and safe, and this pontoon seemed neither for her. It was outfitted with diving boards, fishing gear, and lounge chairs. She wasn’t familiar with any of it back in the city; it was all new, and she hadn’t even taken the time to read or learn about any of it. Anxiety coursed through her veins. Emmy had sprung this on her last minute, and thanks to her nonexistent social life, she had no excuse to stay home. Just keep breathing, she said to herself. It’ll be OK.
She followed the girls to the ice cooler, pulling out a water while the rest went for the few beers hidden towards the bottom. “Cheers!” blurted out Emmy, and the other bridesmaids echoed her sentiments, and then the single ladies all gave Dave a cheers. He didn’t shy back, but he also seemed to only be looking at her.
Claire was embarrassed for the inebriated state of her friends, confused by the heat that was building within her. It wasn’t that long ago that she would have been right in the middle of it; she would have been toasting the bride, filling her belly with beer and being the life of the party. She would have been leading the lustful comments aimed at their sexy as hell pontoon boat captain, whatever you called him, and she would definitely have made comments about the movie Titanic by this point.
But everything had changed, and she couldn’t find a way to unwind, relax or have fun the way she used to. She knew she needed to get back in the game, but it had become so much more difficult; it was now an effort when before it was just her.
He watched her, and her personality seemed to echo the outfit she had worn. She tried to hide or downplay her excitement and fears, but her face hid nothing. Much as her sheer cover up hid nothing that the bikini didn’t expose underneath. He wanted to know what made her tick, what made her get on the boat when she clearly didn’t want to, and what it would take to get her to jump off over the black hole later on.
They first set out to a shallow, sandy area of the lake. The girls tossed floaties over the side, stripped to their bikinis, and jumped overboard. All but one that is. He took advantage of his opportunity and sidled up to her. “You’re not going to jump in?”
She looked conflicted, as though she really wanted to jump in, but not sure that she could. Interesting.
“Maybe later” was all she said, her hands white knuckling the side of the boat. Noticing her bottled water was nearly empty, he reached for the cooler and offered her a fresh one.
“Oh, thanks” she said, her voice as sweet as honey. “My name’s Claire, by the way.” she turned to face him. “I’m not sure you were able to hear me earlier” she said as she stuck out her hand, and he met hers, lavishing the delicate softness of her hand, holding it for a second longer than necessary. “Dave” he replied, wanting to say more but suddenly realizing that his brain had shut off and was only absorbing, not able to push the air from his lungs into a reply.
She was beautiful. Short blonde hair, cut just above the shoulders framing her heart shaped face, her baby blue eyes mimicking the deep blue of the lake . Her lips were highlighted with a bright colored lipstick, and he knew she had a wild side under all that armor.
He finally gained his wits about himself, and he conversed with her for nearly an hour, all the while keeping an eye on her tipsy compadres floating or splashing in the shallow, warm waters of the lake. He was impressed with how put together and intelligent she was. She had worked hard to make it up to Manager of the Marketing division at her company, but she had dreams to someday branch out on her own. “It’s a big risk, and I’m not sure I’m ready to take it just yet” she said with trepidation, followed by a look of dreamy passion, “but I will some day. I know it.”
He believed it.
He had worked at this resort his whole life, sometimes traveling to different wake board or water skiing competitions and earning a little money that way, but the truth was that he enjoyed his job very much. He spent all summer on the lake, and all winter trekking guests around the lake on snow shoes or cross country skis or out ice fishing. If he applied for any other job, he would only be working to pay for these hobbies anyways.
His parents had recently spoken to him about transferring ownership of the resort over to him in the next few years as they neared retirement, but he wasn’t sure he wanted that aspect of this resort. He knew it was very important to them, so he hadn’t yet declined the offer, but he knew that wasn’t what called to him.
As he mused over these thoughts, the girls had sobered up substantially. They swam over to the side of the pontoon, and he helped them up the ladder. They thankfully switched back to water, although it didn’t seem to dampen their jovial spirit one bit.
Next stop: the black hole. An eighty foot hole in the lake they could jump into, though most likely not for long as it was considerably cooler than they shallows they had just basked in. He anchored the boat, prepared the jumping boards, and let the ladies at it. They jumped, screaming and giggling as they were shocked by the chill of the water and the length of time it had taken to surface after the jump. They begged him to join, but he declined their offers. He instead watched Claire, and she watched her friends from the side of the boat with interest, but never attempting to jump.
He asked her if she wanted to jump, and when she shook her head, Emmy chimed in. “Help her in, Davey! Make her have some fun!” she teased. Dave looked over at Claire’s face, and it was red with embarrassment. “I’m fine, no worries.” she tried to convince him.
“Do you want to?” he whispered.
“Yes, but I can’t seem to force my legs out there” she admitted quietly. He took her hand and helped her onto the board. Instead of tossing her overboard as the girls were encouraging, he just sat her down in front of him on the jumping board and watched her friends around them. After a bit, Claire seemed to warm up to this idea. She looked back while the girls were climbing the higher jumping board next to them, and giggled each time she and Dave were splashed. Finally, she turned to him and whispered solemnly. “I want to try, but I may need a push.” He gave her a wink, and when they both stood on the board the girls turned their attention back to them. “Do it! Do it! Do it!” they chanted.
Claire walked to the end of the board and froze. He noticed her breathing changed just a bit, so he picked her up, squealing and all, and jumped into the water with her. He was blessed when his eyes opened under water. He had honestly just intended to be sure that she was making it safely to the surface, but he stole a view of her beautiful body swimming up to the surface above him, like a mermaid with the way the light cut through just the top few feet of the water.
When his head finally reached the surface, he was delighted to see that Claire was laughing and giggling with the rest. They both swam to the ladder, he helping her up first, and then they made their way back out to the board. When she didn’t move, he came up behind her and rested his hands on her waist, asking permission. He noticed she was shaking, and he wasn’t sure if it was from fear, adrenaline or the cold, but she nodded her head. He picked her up, and much like a catapult he tossed her into the water, diving in himself just a second behind her. She squealed on the way down and giggled when she made it back up.
When the girls had tired of this adventure, they hopped back into the boat. Dave fired up the grill and started cooking the food they had chosen for this particular outing while the girls toweled off and sunned themselves. Claire fell asleep on her towel, nearly naked and looking so much more relaxed. She was nearly always knotted tight he had noticed. While thoughts of Claire flitted through his mind, Emmy scooched over to him, thanking him for giving her friend the push she needed. “She hasn’t quite been the same since her brother died last year, and it was good to see the old Claire come back out, even if for a minute.”
This made so much sense, explaining the contrast between her neon lipstick but anxious ridden heart. He keenly felt his heart ache for her, for what she had experienced, and he felt more commitment to helping her find her old self again.
Soon it started chilling off, and the sun was getting closer to the horizon. They wanted to explore Jack Sparrow’s cave before the ride was over, so he pulled anchor and lazily drove the pontoon in that direction, hoping to extend the trip as long as he could. When they reached it, Emmy woke Claire, and they sat on the benches near the front of the pontoon, taking in the natural wonder.
Claire’s eyes went from sleepy to wide with wonder as they neared the entrance. She reached out in a futile attempt to touch the rock, so instead named a few of the rock types, showing how the limestone wove with the other compressed materials, and her friends just rolled their eyes.
He, on the other hand, was impressed. “You’re right, there were two sinkholes, one here and one there” he said, pointing in the direction of the dips in the land, high above the side of the lake. “When they collapsed, just the stone was left, and this one makes a bit of a cave. The locals nicknamed this one Jack Sparrow’s cave, after a wily bank robber hide out in here for a week back in the 1800’s” he said with a grin.
When she gave him a playful jab, he winked and said jovially, “It’s true.”
They pulled out the snorkels and hopped over board. He anchored the boat just outside the cave, and grabbed his snorkels from the storage compartment. When he reached the jumping board, he watched Claire climb down, to sitting position, trying to muster the courage to pull herself over the edge.
He sat down next to her, held out his hand, and she took it. “On three” he said, “One, two, three!” and they catapulted out into the water, decorated beautifully by the colorful oranges and reds of the coming sunset. They fastened their snorkels and explored the colorful ins and outs of the small cave and the lake bed below. She pointed excitedly when a small school of large carp leisurely swam past, and she picked up abandoned shells and rocks from the bottom, studying them before releasing them back down.
He was excited to share this time with her, and he was already figuring out how he was going to get her to be a more permanent figure in his life, not just one that disappeared after the weekend.
She loved snorkeling with Dave, imaginary magnetic sparks flying each time he held her hand, or patiently waited for her to muster the courage to jump, or when his body leaned against hers as they conversed safely on board. The marketing firm she had been employed at for years now had offered her to take this account, preparing a marketing strategy for this resort, and she knew if the weekend ended as well as it started that she would gladly accept the assignment come Monday. She would definitely enjoy any extra time spent in this vicinity, or more precisely in Dave’s vicinity.
As the evening wound down, they piled back into the oversized pontoon and made their way toward shore. The girls were chatting wildly, gossiping like crazy, but Claire had chilled. She walked over to grab her towel, and she caught sight of Dave at the wheel. She moseyed over to him and feigned interest in the gadgets and gizmos adorning the captain’s chair.
When he caught her shivering, he gently pulled her over to him. In a huge moment of error, she tripped over her own flip flop and landed practically in his lap. He didn’t seem to mind, and he pulled her close to his body and wrapped her in a blanket. The warmth of the blanket relaxed her immediately, and she became keenly aware of her proximity to his, the I’m actually sitting on your lap proximity, and a wave of heat flooded her body. She looked over at him, and his eyes were just as heated as hers.
The old Claire came out of hiding, and when they stopped to allow the faster boats around them, she bent down and kissed him square on the lips. She was more than delighted when he returned the kiss, butterflies blooming in her stomach. Sparks flew, tongues tangled, and she was only vaguely aware that the girls were hooting behind her. She didn’t care, bringing the blanket up to cover their faces, not slowing the pace of the kiss at all. When his hand wrapped around her waist, also not intimidated of their audience, her heart beat catapulted into the next universe!