QUESTIONS • by J.D. Rice

I break the surface of the water, gasping for air, spitting dirty seawater from my mouth. I glance around. She’s watching me from a distance, her head bobbing above the gentle waves. Annoyed. She’s been asking the same question for five minutes now. “What’s so important down there?”

She clings to the side of the paddleboat, slowly drifting farther away from me. And yet, here I am, in the middle of the bay, diving again and again, looking for that lost piece of our perfect day. How could I tell her what I’m looking for now?

“I think I lost my cell phone,” I lie, before crashing beneath the surface once again.

She waits. So patient. Why couldn’t today have gone as I planned? I wonder, sinking deeper into the murky water. Why do things always turn out like this? Why can’t one thing ever go right?

My fingers reach the muddy floor of the bay, searching. My lungs burn. Can’t I hold the air in a little longer?

No, my body answers. I surface again. She’s looking more agitated by the second. The perfect day is ruined.

“Please, would you just let it go?” she insists, struggling not to lose hold of the boat. I don’t bother to answer and dive again. When I surface, I find that she’s even farther away from me. The tides? Must be. But I can’t wait. I don’t give her a chance to question my actions again before diving. The water is so murky, I can’t see anything when I open my eyes. I can only feel with my hands, grasping, searching.

What will she think? I ask myself, that I care more about a stupid cell phone than her?

I stay under longer this time, letting the fire in my lungs linger. Wherever my hands go, I find only mud, sea shells, and the occasional nipping claws of a crab. Finally I rise again for air. Gasping, I look around me, searching for the drifting paddleboat, and for her. The distance between us is widening.

I take a moment to breathe and watch her. Her brown hair is tinted green from the water. A piece of seaweed dangles from one ear. Somehow, despite all this, she is still beautiful.

Then she asks, “Do you want me to help you?”

Unexpected, but isn’t this exactly why I’m in love with her? Why do things have to go the way I plan? I realize. Why can’t today be perfect just as it is?

Smiling, I make my way over to the boat.

“Forget about it,” I say, giving up on my search, “I’ll help you with the boat.”

She smiles.

“But first, I have to ask you a question.”

J.D. Rice is a seminary student and aspiring writer living in Winona Lake, Indiana. His work has also been featured at 365 Tomorrows and

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Every Day Fiction