My Year with Eleanor

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Authors: Noelle Hancock
she met on a diving trip a few months before. In fact, he’d paid for her passage on this trip, but she wanted to break it off so she’d been ignoring him since they got here. Hence, her suggestion we have a girls’ night out.
    It was after 11:00 P.M. when we returned to the boat and accidentally stepped on Gus, who was sleeping on deck. Traffic was bad and Bill had texted that he was still hours away, so he was going to grab a hotel room and meet us in the morning. I hosed off as best I could while still wearing my swimsuit. There was no saving my hair. It looked like it was not only styled by the mice and birds from Cinderella, but also serving as their primary residence. I eased down the ladder into our cabin, trying not to wake Les and Ronald, who was lightly snoring. I grasped at the darkness until my hands found my cushioned bench bed. Sleeping without a blanket felt almost as vulnerable as being in the shark cage. The encrusted salt bit into my skin every time I rolled over. I dreamed my body was being attacked by millions of tiny sharks.
    â€œH ancock!”
    I was sitting cross-legged on a padded seat on deck, reading the previous day’s newspaper, when I heard my name. I squinted into the morning light to see Bill climbing aboard, grinning his lopsided grin, brown curls barely contained beneath his White Sox cap.
    â€œYou’re here!” I exclaimed.
    He came to a stop in front of me and raised one hand in a jaunty sailor salute. “Front and centies!”
    â€œYou’re in surprisingly good cheer for someone who got in at three A.M. ,” I said as he tossed me his backpack. “Where did you sleep?”
    â€œIn my rental car in the marina parking lot,” he said with a laugh. “Didn’t seem worth it to pay for a motel.” He was wearing Birkenstocks, cutoff jean shorts, and a bright yellow T-shirt with JAMAICA ME CRAZY! printed across the front. That was essentially what he’d worn every day when I worked with him at the magazine, even though the office was in a corporate high-rise in Midtown Manhattan. There were introductions all around, and within minutes he was regaling the group with an anecdote about a narrowly missed ferry. They were instantly taken with him, as I knew they would be. Bill can—and will—talk to anyone.
    The wind felt almost combative as we headed out of the harbor, and soon I was securing my matted hair in a ponytail to keep it out of my face. The sea was rougher than yesterday as well. The boat pitched mercilessly until the horizon resembled a possessed seesaw. Soon I was clutching the rail and throwing up again. Bill disappeared below to get me some Dramamine from his bag.
    â€œWow, it smells awful up here!” he said cheerfully when he returned, the smell of vomit having fully mixed with that of chum. “It smells like puke that puke puked.”
    An hour later, it was time to dive again. I had no desire to get in that cage again, but it would take care of my scary thing for another day. And the others would think it was weird if I came all this way to dive only one time.
    I rooted around in the bin full of weight belts. “Is this the same weight belt I used yesterday?” I asked, holding one up. No one answered. Gus was busy helping Ronald and Mandy from the cage, and Les was fixing something on his camera and didn’t look up. I shrugged and tied it around my waist. When it was time for Bill and me to climb into the cage, he offered to hold my disposable underwater camera since I was getting in first. As I was easing my body into the chilly water, I heard a plasticky clicking sound. I looked up to see Bill holding up the camera, squinting one-eyed through the viewfinder.
    â€œSmile, you son of a bitch!” he said in his best Roy Scheider voice.
    I plugged the regulator into my mouth and slipped silently beneath the surface, followed by Bill a minute later. Gus shut the top of the cage with a clang

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