As autumn leaves fell, our lives’ hue darkened. Covid-19 grounded Sarah’s corporate-lawyer lifestyle. We fretted; could infection accompany me home from the hospital? Challenging times, despite dad’s toilet paper stockpile.
It pays not to giggle when your girlfriend repeatedly tries to shoo our cat away from her Zoom meeting.
“Annie, stop it!” Sarah’s tone was so testy.
Scooping up the cat and depositing her on the balcony, I brushed black hairs off my scrubs and headed to work, uneasy that Sarah and I were getting on each other’s nerves.
With winter chill came falling contagion; some Australian states reported being virus-free. Allowed out of the house lightened the load, but we weren’t back to normal. Our empty suitcases bore witness to our permanently cancelled Tuscan vacation.
Driving to work, I heard about Queensland re-opening its border to us. And recalled that Great Barrier Reef print in the Emergency Department waiting room. Qantas was still flying, the Hayman Island hotel was luxurious, the weather would be warm, and my girlfriend loves snorkelling.
The next Saturday Sarah wearily asked, “Anything happening today?”
“A magical mystery tour awaits. Your arse in the Uber at nine.”
Sarah’s eyes sparkled as she looked out of our hotel suite over the pool to the sea’s turquoise swirls. Tossed her red Wicked Weasel bikini, she dropped the thong. No doubt distracted; after all she had chosen the navy two-piece I had just squeezed into, knowing it preserved but a smidgen of my modesty. Her smile awakened.
“Later perhaps, Sars. Gin and tonic time.”
“Lemon or lime?” the pool bartender asked. With eyes that focused on breasts, I hoped he would take care with his knife.
Sarah giggled. “Lemon please.”
My cares started dissolving in the warm water; partly the alcohol relaxing muscles tense for weeks of anxiety.
“What’s next, Annie?”
Sarah’s grin was infectious as the boat sped across turquoise waters and dropped us at an otherwise deserted coral clay. And she wasn’t letting go of my hand, even while snorkelling above the vivid coral shards.
We spotted Nemo, surely he was one of a school of clownfish, and a lot more besides. Rainbow parrotfish, blue surgeonfish, even yellow striped butterflyfish.
A passing shadow scattered a school of damselfish into coral hollows. Their penumbra a green turtle gliding majestically underneath our floating bodies. The smooth subtle flow of her flippers starkly contrasting with our ungainly splashes. We had been told that at this time of year female turtles swam many, many kilometres. Back to a nearby breeding beach to bury their eggs. No doubt our serene mama turtle was about thumbing her nose at extinction, that grimmest of reapers.
Clambering out of the water, Sarah wrapped me in her arms. “That was exquisitely beautiful, Annie. Sorry. Occasionally I’ve been bitchy.”
“Fair point; no buts. Forgiven?”
“Of course, Sars. You’ll be making it up to me tonight.”
Sarah laughed, squeezed my bum and kissed me passionately. “You’re so in for it, darling.”