The good officer staggered to the floor.
I put a tentative hand to my mouth, then laughed—first timidly, then with a great, head tilted back, roll of relief that came from almost as deep a place as the blast itself.
Ann and William rushed to Barnes' side.
Julie stared wide-eyed, first at him, and then at me.
"It's all right." I said. "He'll be fine in a minute."
All of the guests were looking our way again. Celia ambled toward us in her necktie skirt.
"I've got to go." I said. "Now."
I limped past them, and down the stairs to the beach.
Julie called after me.
"Do you need a ride, or something?"
I laughed again.
"No," I said. "I think I may have my own transportation after all."
My leg was feeling better already.
Some people say that everyone and everything in the universe is all connected, all working together somehow. I wouldn't know.
I do know that before I had gone ten feet, I heard a dolphin calling, out beyond the breakers.
It was no one I knew, but she had a beautiful voice.
The music and chatter from William's party drifted after me. I pulled off the bow tie from the caterer's uniform and tossed it on the sand.
I stopped for just a second to rub my leg. It felt a lot better. I let my eye follow the water out to where it met the sky, cloudless and the palest yellow. I was surprised.
It was almost sunset.
A pelican circled, then plummeted, after a fish.
I pulled off my shoes and socks, and strolled toward the sea.
I could see her now—my dolphin friend—leaping into the air, quick, clean, and alive, and then plunging back into the waves.
* * * * *
William watched Officer Barnes sip water from a glass Celia held to his lips.
William was concerned, but the officer did seem to be recovering nicely.
And there was business to deal with.
He turned to Ann.
"We still need to sign that contract, you know."
Ann nodded absently, but grabbed her mother's arm.
"We need to talk" she said.
She pulled Ann to one side, just out of hearing. They began an intense conversation.
William rolled his eyes.
His top was wobbling once again.
* * * * *
I strode along confidently, my limp completely gone.
My friend beyond the breakers had been joined by two more. And there was no mistaking it. They were calling to me.
I began to jog, past sunbathers, past surfboards and beach umbrellas, peeling my shirt off as I ran, the sand hot on my bare feet. I pushed myself faster and faster, fastening on the sea with my mind, trying to reel it in by sheer will power, straining till I thought I would burst.
Nothing else mattered. Nothing.