Cooper and I knelt in the small motorboat and plunged our paddles into the surging water again and pulled.
“It’s not working!” I yelled.
I glanced back at Alivia who sat clinging with one hand to the boat’s frame while frantically trying to restart the engine with the other. Behind her, a churning black cloud swallowed the sky and pulled the sea like a magnet. Lightning—or whatever it was—flashed constantly from within.
I looked down at the compass that had fallen between my knees. The needle was flying erratically between east and west.
Cooper’s voice brought me back to the task at hand, but the rain was coming harder now, and the growing current threatened to tear the paddle away from me.
“It’s not the fuel,” Alivia yelled. “Or the gears.”
“Did you check the kill switch?” Cooper said.
“Yeah, it’s good.”
Cooper shook his head.
I glanced at Cooper. “Does that mean—?”
I tried to ignore the sick feeling in my stomach.
“Just keep trying, Liv,” he called over his shoulder, his voice tense.
Suddenly, a noise like thunder shook the sea, and the boat rocked sharply to the left. I lost my balance, grabbing the side of the boat to keep from being tossed overboard.
The boat came back up, and I let go. My hands were shaking—shaking and empty. The paddle was gone, speeding in the current toward the ominous black cloud and vanishing beyond.
“Life vests!” Cooper shouted over his shoulder as he moved toward the center of the boat, paddling alternately on either side.
I scrambled on hands and knees toward the back seat. The life jackets were fastened underneath it with a small rope. I located the knot and began clawing at it with my fingernails. But the rope was wet, and my fingers kept slipping.
I looked up. Cooper knelt beside me, his knife in hand, paddle gone.
“Lost it,” he said, cutting the jackets free. “Put this on,” he said as he handed me one. Then he was over the seat and beside Alivia.
I squirmed into the vest and fastened the belt as tightly as I could.
“Liv,” Cooper was saying.
“I can’t believe it.” Alivia stared at the approaching darkness. Her voice was steady, but I saw the fear in her eyes. She knew the stories as well as any of us.
“Just put it on,” he said, glancing nervously ahead and unfolding her life jacket.
A blast of wind rocked the boat from side to side. I grabbed the seat and hung on. We were about 30 ft. from the edge of the massive storm . . . or whatever it was. No one really knew.
Cooper helped Alivia fasten the straps on her life jacket.
“We’re going to die,” Alivia was saying as she sank down against the side of the boat, dazed.
We didn’t bother to contradict her. No one who made it this far had ever come back.
Cooper slipped his life vest on, and we braced ourselves as best we could in the small vessel.
15 feet and the rain stopped, but the roar of wind and sea grew steadily louder.
Alivia was deep in thought, fumbling restlessly with the strap on her life jacket. Cooper studied her face and then smiled at me faintly.
I closed my eyes, and I could see the little green trailer with the peeling paint. The sparse brown grass that had tickled my feet on so many warm summer evenings. The jar with the fireflies.
Grandma running out of the house in her housecoat and slippers with two glasses of lemonade. And that smile of hers—the best kind, the kind that sinks down into you and makes you smile too.
“I’m sorry,” Alivia said. “I’m sorry.”
I hugged her as the boat began to tip downward into the darkness.
“Hang on!” Cooper said.
Then the boat was falling, and everything turned black. And all I could do was gasp as the cold weight of the Atlantic came down on us.