PTB Writing Challenge 2013

Challenge Number/Title: 1/Rocky Horizons

Date Posted: 13 Jan 13

Fandom: Original Fiction

Rating: PG

Genre: AH

Content Descriptors: Original Fiction, Drama, Humour

Character Pairing: Newlyweds Jen and Rob

Beta'd By: All About Eric (thanks so much x)

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

"Does my bum look big like this?" I asked Rob.

I lay propped up on an elbow, sort of backside-up too, resting on my left hip, across a stone-cold, sandy-coloured rock. My handbag had wrapped around said-bum, adorning it.

"You can't distract me that way. Stop stalling!" Rob's muffled answer came from behind me. He was talking through his scarf, I guessed, trying to keep warm.

Twisting my bobble-hatted head around, I smiled over my shoulder to where Rob squatted, watching and waiting. With only his dark fringe and glistening-green eyes visible outside the cocoon of his winter wear, my newly-wedded-to-me husband didn't smile back. His eyes didn't crinkle or twinkle. I was right about the scarf.

Rob didn't like the cold, and although this was a sunny Spring day, it could easily have been mistaken for midwinter, temperature-wise. When Rob booked this private island for our honeymoon, I don't think he'd quite realised what Spring might be like in north-western Scotland on an island on the edge of the Atlantic. Sure, the wildflowers were lovely, and there was a good chance of spotting amazing wildlife, but the beauty came at a price.

Through his scarf-muffler, I heard Rob say, "Go on, I know you can do this!" Despite the encouraging words, his voice sounded as cool as the temperature. Chilly!

My eyebrows arched, askance. Yeah, well, we were both 'cool' - even my bum, big or small, was feeling the nip through its handbag and denim cladding. But this whole situation had been Rob's idea, and wintry hours spent high up on cliff-edges, overlooking the open ocean had this effect on a body. If Rob didn't like it, he would just have to lump it!

Feeling like a bit of a lump myself now, I turned carefully back towards the distant, clouded horizon.

Along the world's edge, storms brewed under the pristine blue sky, over the sapphire sea. From my rock, I watched a ship tip over that edge. I hoped it wasn't some sort of warning to me about the cliff edge, dead ahead.

"C'mon, Jen, move," Rob told me.

I heard him over a roaring slurp from the sloshing waves below. I also heard impatience. It just made me feel rebellious; he knew this was difficult for me. I wiggled my backside in protest, and then stayed put, like a limpet.

Rob huffed his own protest.

I stalled.

Of course, I did know Rob was right; I needed to move. Forward or back? That was the question. As if to emphasise the fact that I should get on with it, a salty puff of polar wind refrigerated my face. Yes, definitely time to move. C'mon, I said to myself, you know you can do this. So I did. Using the strength in my arms and hands, I caterpillared forward, dragging my faulty legs behind me. I was a recovering almost-paraplegic, or that's the way I thought of it! I pulled forward again, scratching across the gritty surface towards the sheer drop.

Rob encouraged warmly now. "That's it! Nearly there."

'There' meant looking over the cliff edge. Maybe I would see seals bob below or witness a basking shark yawning by. 'There' wasn't a comfortable position to be in though. Stone bit into my elbows and hips, but that wasn't the worst of it.

I feared heights. Actually, I feared falling from heights. A lot!

And Rob wanted us to finish our honeymoon with a champagne, hot-air balloon flight! He was a real romantic. So here I was getting in the mood for the romance!

'Here' was Rob's idea of therapy. Face your fears head on, he always said. It was his mantra. Now, it was my head that had to stick out, and look down the vertical drop. Hopefully, my brain would register my horizontal position - flat out on the rock - and realise that gravity would keep me safe. Rob had thoughtfully suggested giving gravity an assist, by holding onto my ankles. We wanted my brain to get rational, and de-phobia, so I could balloon romantically, not catatonically!

So far, adopting Rob's mantra had stood me in good stead. And I mean 'stood' in the upright sense. Rob, my physical therapist, had pulled me out of my 'poor me' mind-set, to say nothing of the wheelchair, after my accident! Now on honeymoon, he was still my physical therapist, just in more ways than one, and I was almost-walking. It was more like a stagger on two sticks admittedly, but it was progress. If I'd had any fears about our marriage – too far, too fast - Rob had swept those aside, as he swept me off my feet, the ones he'd just got me standing on again!

Now, here I was two weeks' wed, on a remote but beautiful island, looking out over the Atlantic getting ready to conquer yet another fear, with the aid of my hunky, able-bodied 'assistant'.

I felt Rob's strong hands wrap around my ankles.

"I've got you," he said, squeezing reassurance right through my black, fur-lined boots into my ankles. Those ankles were apparently connected to my backbone because when Rob asked, "Ready?", I announced, "As I'll ever be!"

Carefully, I pulled forward a little more. Rob pushed gently from behind as well, until my half-open eyes peeped over the cliff edge. The cool updraft reminded me to keep breathing. Straight down, a loooong way down, clear-blue water rippled. My hands clenched over the rocky edge. Rob tightened his grip on my ankles and…

The world tipped.

I suddenly didn't know which way was up. My heart pounded, as I flipped and flew. Tumbling! Falling! My mind screamed. Vertigo! It's a stupid, stupid feeling. I pressed myself into the rock.

But there was no rock or Rob's hands holding on. Gravity had had its assist! I'd been pushed. The water, once so far away, was coming up to hit me hard and fast! My handbag sailed off somewhere, somehow. My arms and legs flailed, much like my mind.

Was Rob trying to kill me?

My self-preservation instinct or my training kicked in then. If I hit the water the wrong way, it would feel like cement! I knew this because I'd been a champion high-board diver, before one bad dive had left me with serious injuries needing physical therapy. I didn't have a phobia about falling from a height for nothing. Now I was between a rock and a hard place, with a phobia becoming a reality!

All this took a lot longer to write about than to think. But it was still a near thing, as I straightened out of the tumble, forced my arms towards the water and tucked my head in ready for impact! I sliced through the surface, like a warm knife into cold butter. A perfect 10! If Rob had hoped to kill me outright, he'd forgotten what a great diver I had been. Still am, I thought, with a sense of triumph.

That triumph was short-lived. The chilly water snatched the breath from my lungs. Completely submerged, I struggled, fully-clothed, to make my frozen limbs work. My legs dangled weakly, weighed down by soaked boots; I couldn't kick hard for the surface. But I was determined not to drown … if that was what Rob intended … if I survived the drop! Had he forgotten my arms were strong from months of pushing a wheelchair, and from years of swimming and training? I stroked hard for the surface and broke through with a big gasp, to float on my back. The sky looked blue and cold, like the sea water, and probably my skin. This water was made for seals, and I wasn't one. I knew I had to get out. Fast!

I looked across at the cliff face. Sheer! There was no way I could climb, not with my legs anyway. I looked up to the top of the cliff. Rob stood at the edge, grinning down. Maybe I should have insisted upon a prenup!

"Get me out of here," I shouted, with what little breath I had. Aching pain caused by the cold water was morphing into numbness. Not good!

To my utter surprise, Rob jumped! Instead of getting me out, he got in! I couldn't remember making any suicide pact, when we'd joined our two lives in matrimony! Or was he getting in to finish me off?

I needn't have been concerned. Within moments of landing his enormous bomb-dive, Rob swam, not towards me, but into a crevice in the rock-face. He rowed back in an inflatable built for two! I didn't care how he'd organised it, just as long as he helped waterlogged-me in over the side.

He did.

He dragged me in, unceremoniously, and wrapped us both in survival foil. I noticed he'd ditched the scarf. I'd lost my handbag! All coherent thought seemed to have left me, as I lay dripping and shivering in a soaking heap in the bottom of the boat. I could have wept.

Rob looked as pleased as punch. I wanted, very much, to punch him!

"You see, there was nothing to worry about, Jen! You high-dived again! Hardly any splash on entry either!" He winked. I imagine I looked stunned. "I knew you could do it." He shuddered then. "Sorry about the cold." His teeth chattered, in time with mine. "I didn't know…."

I realised, then, that Rob hadn't been trying to kill me; he'd been trying to cure me! Not just from my fear of heights, but my fear of diving too. Face your fears head on, he'd said, and that's just what he'd made me do. Dive in head first. I wasn't sure I appreciated this kind of 'do or die' physical therapy. Or was it mental therapy? Something or someone was certainly crazy here!

Rob crackled in his foil wrap, as he leaned over to plant a kiss on my frigid lips. The phrase 'look before you leap' suddenly sprang to mind.

I wondered if I should have looked a bit harder at Rob, before I'd leapt into his arms and let him sweep me off my feet! I feared I might have made a big mistake. But then, I knew what to do with fears.

Face them head on!

The End