A Tormented Hero Pt. 2, a short story by KiwiDreamer. Date added: 2012-08-19. Times viewed: 713.
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- Intro: A memorial service for a young girl drowned in a storm is held and the support Troy receives from her family and the beach community releases his unwarranted burden of guilt.
Reese Finch sat with her boyfriend in his car in the cliff top car park, looking across the bay to the far lights of the city.
Merv scowled and said, “I’ve been told you have been talking about this jerk Troy Daniels.”
“Oh has your hearing improved?” she said darkly, not appreciating his direct attack.
That set him off and he snapped, “Have you been seeing him?”
“Yes, twice in the distance since that Sunday he rescued me.”
“Merv said jealously, “If you are lying I’ll screw your neck.”
That didn’t go down well and later at the movie he complained it was crap and said, “Come on, let’s go.”
“No I’m enjoying this. I guess it’s too sensitive for you and you don’t like her talking to her mother in French.”
“No they are bloody foreigners.”
He left angrily, bumping the knees of people as he slid past them and they complained and next day when Merv called for a date and made no effort to apologize, Reese said she had no wish to date him again. Merv swore abusively and the cut the call, breathing heavily and thinking of the names she could have called him.
Thirty minutes later when she had her thoughts sorted, Reese called Troy’s mother to ask for Troy’s phone number.
Mrs Daniels said, “You won’t need it Miss Finch. Troy is visiting us right now. I’ll call him.”
“Hi Reese,” he said cheekily. “Lost your fear of mother sharks yet?”
She giggled and was shocked, thinking she was supposed to be glum and not giggling like a scatty teenager.
“I was just calling to say hi.”
“Hi Reese, are you still pretty?”
What? She couldn’t think how to answer that modestly. Saying she expected she was would sound so vapid.
Troy filled in the vacuum by saying, “My sister thinks you have the best breast-line of most women in this beach community.
“Oh god,” she squeaked.
“It’s okay. I was calling to invite you out for coffee or even better lunch.”
He sounded surprised and said, “You wish to date me?”
“Well it was really just a casual invitation to… um to thank you for saving me.”
He said please excuse him for a minute and heard him yell, “Mum can Reese Finch come over for lunch?”
Troy put his phone to his mouth again and said, “Mom says you are very welcome to come to lunch. She thinks she knows you.”
“Yes she took me for gym in the third and fourth forms at high school.”
“Ah I’ll remind her. It’s a barbie (outdoor cook-out) and very casual… we will be playing polo in the pool so wear your bikini under a sundress and minimise make-up because dad is paranoid about the quality of the pool water. Oh choose a tight dress to allow my sister to ogle your breast line but I don’t think she’ll attempt to touch them. Here’s the address….”
“I know where you parents are because we do live in a small beachside community,” Reese said, wondering if Troy’s sister really was a compulsive lesbian although Reese recalled her marriage on the beach three years ago and that Lola had at least one child and they lived down at Thompson.
* * *
Feeling not at all nervous, Reese rang the doorbell and she was greeted by Roy’s smiling sister.
Reese was suddenly nervous.
“Omigod, you are even more beautiful that how you appeared on TV,” Lola said, and kissed her. “God I admire your breasts, may I touch?”
Reese nodded and immediately thought what a dumb thing to do but it was okay. Lola simply ran her hand over the left-hand one lightly and made no effort to tweak the nipple and returned her am to her side and she smiled, “You’ll have no idea how I envy women who are blessed with delicately shaped breast. You can see I landed up with heavy hangers.”
“Um don’t some men like big ones?”
“Spot on darling, only change that to most men. My husband Tom adores them and my youngster loves going to sleep on them.”
“Then isn’t that a blessing?”
Lola took Reese by the hand and said, “Darling I love you already. Come in and make yourself at home. Mum is excited that you are joining us because Troy has mentioned you a few times.”
Mrs Daniels was in the kitchen preparing food and she looked at Reese and said, “Mary Poppins wasn’t it?”
“Yes and thankfully I haven’t heard that stupid nickname in years,” Reese said as she and Mrs Daniels hugged and the hostess invited Reese to call her Marlene.
Reese picked up the big knife and stood over the onions on the chopping board and said, “Chunky, medium or finely sliced Marlene?”
“Careful dear, that knife is very sharp. Medium please as they’ll be sautéed on the grill to go with the steaks.”
Mother and daughter watched open-mouthed as the knife flew through the onions coming within millimetres of Reese’s fingers and the onions were almost done by the time the two women had closed their mouths.
“God,” Lola said in awe.
“My mother was a restaurant chef until she became pregnant,” Reese smiled. “It’s only an acquired skill.”
Lola was asked what she'd picked up from her mother.
She cupped her breasts and wobbled them without saying a word and the three females screamed in laughter.
“God Lola you’re so funny,” Reese said, dabbing her eyes.
Lola took her out and made the introductions, starting with her brother.
“You know Reese of course.”
“Yes and hi Reese. You look lovely.”
Lola said, “Kiss her you fool” and he responded, kissing Reese sweetly and that left her feeling a little breathless.
Later Troy took Reese to his bedroom and he smiled and said, “I’ll lock the door” and she said firmly no, to leave it open wide. She needed time to get to know him and that prompted Troy to look at her so intently she had to look away and she said in astonishment, “Omigod, look at all these trophies.”
He shrugged and said, “Do you notice that gap” and pointed.
She said yes and then something flashed into her mind and she said, "Is that where the medallion would have gone had it been awarded to you for saving the life of Christie Vickers?”
He looked astounded and she thought for a moment he would not comment. But he did, though not complimenting her for her cleverness. Instead he said, “Are you doing anything next Thursday evening?”
“Not at present and I could keep it free.”
“I’d like you to accompany me to Scott’s Point for a small family remembrance unveiling of a plinth at the spot where Christie was last seen.”
Reese said, “Omigod yes, but why me?”
“There’s tenderness about you that, well, rather gets to me and you’re so lovely as a person.”
The fashion boutique owner felt a surge of warmth flow through her and wondered if that was the tenderness Troy was talking about.
“Yes I’d love to do that. A small gathering you say.”
“Yes just the Vickers family, me and now you and the Priest to dedicate the memorial. The dead girl’s mother requested privacy.”
But it’s difficult to keep things secret in a small community. On Thursday from mid-morning vehicles with surfboards of surf skis on roof racks or towing jet skis began arriving and by 6:00 a flotilla of launches were in the bay and a national TV film crew in their chopper flew overhead and began filming.
Gwen was aware of the build-up and when her father-in-law arrived to take them to the beach she cried, “Why Barry why?”
“It’s my fault and I apologized. I was at a surf club council meeting on Sunday morning and happened to mention to the president what was happening here today and told him Troy was still nursing his bitterness for failing to bring back Christie to the beach, hopefully with Christie alive.”
“Stupidly I didn’t tell Douglas to keep what I’d told him confidential and obviously he told other people and the good old network swung into gear. Gwen I’m ever…”
“Barry you’ve done nothing wrong. I’m the person who has been so wrong. I’ve allowed my grief to dominate my sensibilities. I know and accept Troy went over the top to do his very best for Christie. It was circumstances and no fault of his that he failed in his endeavours. He must know that but cannot accept it. Kiss me Barry but accept I’m happy about what is happening. These people are really gathering here today to honour the greatest surf lifesaver that our club has produced since its founding in 1911. We must let it be.”
Barry, smiling again, dabbed the sweat from his forehead.
The small party was joined on the beach by Troy and Reese and they boarded the 30-foot open catamaran with twin outboards that took them slowly between the two lines of anchored craft forming a guard of honour.
The silence was almost eerie with so many people out on the water. People just waved, remaining mute and the overhead chopper kept its distance. Gwen and her party were ferried ashore four at a time and when the Priest began the short ceremony, Gwen stood holding her husband’s hand with Barry and his wife, her son Royce and Troy and Reese and the Gary Lee, president of the Bryant Bay surf club and his wife, standing in a line behind them.
When Father Nolan invited Gwen to unveil the small monument Gwen turned and held out her hand and said, “Come on Troy, let’s do this together.”
They knelt and slowly pulled the two cords to unveil the simple plinth inscribed with Christie’s name, her birth date and date of death by drowning in a ferocious storm and the words, ‘Christie At Rest in Her Beloved Sea’.
Everyone standing on that rocky foreshore heard it when Gwen turned and looking at Troy, both still on their knees, said, “I love you and hugely respect you Troy.”
He grasped Gwen in a hug and clearly his eyes were closed.
Barry and others believed that the healing process that would allow those two to let go would be underway.
Club president Gary Lee radioed to the club RIB to come in and take him and Father Nolan off the rocks.
“We’ll leave you guys here for a few minutes to get your thoughts together,” he said. “And then come back to the clubhouse where everyone has been invited to celebrate this honouring of Christie. Barry has kindly insisted on picking up the tab.”
When Gwen and her party were aboard the catamaran, this time they went by the two lines of waving and shouting people, many of them yelling, ‘Well done Gwen’ or ‘Good on you Gwen.’
“Overcome Gwen turned to her husband Steven, “Why are they calling me and not including you; you were Christie’s father?”
“Well think it like this,” Owen said. “These boaties and lifesavers and surfies know how the woman folk worry when their husbands and children are out on the water. You might not think these harden types have even a hint of softness and sensitivity but you are now seeing and hearing it exhibited. They are acknowledging your loss to the uncompromising sea.”
“Oh god, hold me Owen,” Gwen said, weeping.
Reese moved in and placed an arm around Gwen too.
Just before 9:00 Gary took the microphone and announced to the 250 people crammed inside the clubrooms with the spill-over on the huge outside deck, “Hi everyone, I’m club president Garry Lee. This in an unbelievably large turnout and on behalf of the Vickers family I thank you all for gathering to help Gwen and Owen mark their sad loss of their daughter Christie by the unveiling of the memorial at the spot were Christie was last seen. Now about supper, the ladies…”
“Gary may I say a few words?”
“Sure Gwen, please come over here to the mike.”
“Everyone thank you for turning out like this. I found it unbelievable and I guess this is what community is all about. Owen and I have lost our daughter forever and slowly I have been coming to terms with that. But Christie has gone and what she left behind is her wouldbe rescuer Troy Daniels, who attempted to defy all odds to effect a successful rescue. Would you please acknowledge Troy.”
The clapping and cheering must have almost lifted off the roof of the clubhouse.
“Thank you, I hope you heard that Troy. If you didn’t I could asked for another cheer with more volume.”
“No I heard and my ears are still ringing,” Troy shouted.
Gwen continued, “Club president Gary Lee has kindly provided me with some stats and they speak volumes. In his years of service as an active lifesaving as a member of this club, Troy Daniels participated in 219 group water rescues and 43 solo rescues and listen to this, all but one were successful rescues. And so it is with heart-felt sympathy and, well absolute awe actually, that I can recognize why Troy Daniels has been a tormented hero over his unsuccessful attempt to rescue our daughter from drowning. The rescue attempt took place in horrific conditions and in the opinion of the coroner the evidence indicated Christie was probably already dead when Troy managed to catch a wave to sweep them ashore on to rocks at Scott's Point but tragically he was knocked unconscious on a rock and her body slipped from his grasp to be claimed by the sea.”
“Troy I believe your success as a surf lifesaver has been the reason for your torment. You were so successful that this one failure hit you extraordinarily hard. But it’s my belief that this great turnout today and your involvement in the unveiling of the memorial plinth will allow your mind to gradually put everything in perspective and bring you peace. You almost sacrificed yourself that day Troy and I’ll never forget your heroism. Thank you.”
During the thunderous applause David Guest, Member of Parliament, whose three sons were members of the club, made a note in his diary about that tribute to Troy.
Reese and Troy have been living together for almost a year and Reese is pregnant. Their wedding is next month.
A month ago, following an application signed by David Guest, MP, and supported by a petition of 434 residents of Bryan Bay together with documentary evidence, the Government awarded Troy Daniels the country’s top civilian award for bravery, the Gold Medal for Exceptional Valour. The medal hangs in a secure wall display in the clubhouse along with photos of Christie and Troy and a copy of a citation made at the presentation of the award at Parliament.
Troy’s activity within the club is now limited to being chairman of the Membership and Building Maintenance Committee and Reese was recently elevated to the post of vice-chairman of the Ladies Committee. No one, not even Troy, is aware she’s afraid to put her head underwater which is why she only paddles at the beach and stays in the shallow end of her family’s swimming pool.
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