"The Deep End"

I opened my eyes, blinking away the layer of dust and ash that settled over my face. The dizzying blur of memories had come to a screeching halt, leaving me gasping. The dark wooden buttresses that enclosed me told me I had left the world of dreams behind and into the realm of the living. Around me survivors moved to and fro in the cargo hold. The only person that hadn't awoken yet was lying beside me. I couldn't look at Priscilla the same way anymore. Not with all the memories I had of her and more.

"Troy." I looked up to find Julius standing over me. "I think we survived the worst of it."

"How long has it been since the eruption?"

"A full day has passed. You were out for most of it." He cracked a smile. "I got a chance to step onto deck. Through the gray haze we found my parents clinging to the rock mass. We brought them overboard..." His last words hung in the stale air as if waiting for my reaction. I couldn't share his smile even though I wanted to. He could tell me that the ash clouds parted, and the sun was shining. Blue skies meant nothing without being able to share it with Priscilla. I sucked in a sigh before giving my head a slow shake. Without a word he crouched down on the other side of Priscilla. He squeezed her hand. I stooped over her waiting for a response to the sudden touch. A low moan escaped her parted lips before her eyes flickered open. Julius dropped her hand before exhaling a rattled laugh.

I leaned in. "You're alive!" Her blue eyes darted around the room before settling on me. My lips spread into the widest grin. I made the first move to kiss but she jerked her head away.

A panicked breath escaped her. "Where am I? Why are you staring at me like that?" Julius gave me that knowing look. The look he gave me when Priscilla was found lifeless in the sand. The: I-cannot –help-you with-what is-about to-happen-next look. Now I knew the helpless feeling of watching your loved one lose themselves. My heart sank.

She squirmed at the proximity of our bodies. I retreated, still clinging to her wild gaze. "Your name is Priscilla. The daughter of Craetus. And I am Troy. The young man that saved you. We are on the boat sailing to safety. Our final destination is Rome where I have family. I kept my promise that we would be on the same boat together. We escaped our home in Aegea from an eruption. It rained ashes and fire from the sky." I turned to face Julius who dropped his gaze to the floor. "Julius and I saved you. I cannot promise that your family is alive or anyone survived on the island. Neither can I promise that you will gain all your memories from your past. Or me." I swallowed the growing knot that welled in my throat.

"But I promise that you are surrounded by those that know you well. I am staring at a kind-hearted, strong-willed soul that always looked for the good in others. And I promise all of this will make sense someday because I was just like you a year ago. I of all people should know. But for the next few weeks I need you to trust me." I looked over my shoulder to find Apollus sauntering in our direction. "That you can trust us."

A smile found its way on her lips as if my speech amused her. She pointed a dainty finger at me before whispering, "Troy." She remembered my name! Julius and Apollus shared a smile. Each had a reason to distrust the other but today they looked more like friends than enemies.

"What do you remember?" I asked in a breathy voice.

She grinned. "That I saved you."

Apollus smirked. "When did that happen?"

I blushed. The last thing I wanted was for her to blurt out she saved me from Maximus' hands. If anything I saved her from getting stabbed by that monster.

"Anything else?" I asked.

She frowned. "That is where it ends."

"Troy can help fill in the rest," Julius added. I could share with her how I kissed her as Artemis spewed her ashes. How I scooped her in my arms as I outran the waves. Or when we hoisted her to the boat. But all she needed to know was one thing.

I leaned in close. "I love you."

Her eyes twinkled. "I was hoping you would say that," she gushed. "I love you too."

I helped Priscilla to her feet. Together we were leaving the cargo hold to see if the sun had truly pierced the gray expanse. We held our breath waiting for the sun to emerge. Peeking between the clouds were just streaks of blue.

Priscilla sighed. "Too bad the sun has not come out yet."

"Maybe it will come out tomorrow. But no matter what happens the sun will always rise. There will be another day." I stopped to gaze at her blue eyes. "I have what I need. I don't have to chase the blue anymore."