The Cold Water Ordeal (Story by R.C. Peris)

Fernanda, Spanish by birth and raised in Nice, was a tour guide. She usually met tourists in Cannes and drove, with Marco the bus driver, to Monaco and Monte Carlo. It was a beautiful trip along the French Riviera. Most of her tourists were British or American. Fernanda had no problems with English. She had studied it for years and watched all the seasons of Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones without subtitles. Fernanda was good with languages. She knew French and Spanish as well and could converse, minimally, in Italian. Fernanda never attended college. She had no interest. Instead, she waitressed in Cannes and learned languages. She met Marco at the travel agency. He was Italian and lived in Italy. Once you reached Monaco, you could see the Italian border and this is where Marco was born and raised.

“A drink perhaps?” asked Marco.

Fernanda laughed. “Yes, a drink.”

Drinks led to dinner and led to Fernanda’s studio apartment in Cannes. They made love and Marco was very tender. Perhaps a little too tender. Fernanda dreamed of grand and dramatic passion. But Marco was kind and handsome in his way. They did well guiding tours of the Riviera, Monaco, Monte Carlo. In Monte Carlo, where the Grand Prix started, Marco would rev the bus engines and the tourists would laugh. After a year, it was no longer fun for Fernanda. While the tourists were wandering Monaco, unleashed from the tether of a guided tour, Fernanda and Marco argued.

“You’re cheating on me.” Marco sounded so wounded.

“I’m not. Why can’t you listen to reason?”

“I know you have a lover.”

“I don’t,” screamed Fernanda as the Guard changed at the Palace of Monaco. She went down to the parking level and waited for the tourists.

After a long day and endless traffic along the Riviera, they finally arrived in Cannes. Fernanda usually accompanied the tour group back to the cruises ship. Marco, after locking the bus, decided to join. Fernanda was confused. Marco usually made the long trip back to Italy in his Japanese car.

“I will know if you are cheating on me,” said Marco in a hiss. He took some twine and quickly tied Fernanda’s hands.

“What are you doing? You fool. I’m not cheating on you but perhaps I should. Perhaps I find someone sensible.” Marco was far from sensible. On the boat to the cruise ship, he dumped Fernanda into the ocean. The tourists screamed. Fernanda struggled valiantly to stay above water but her bound limbs prevented swimming. The boat proceeded onwards. The tourists were frantic.

Fernanda did not surface from the water. If she were guilty she would rise and breathe. Fernanda sunk. The water didn’t reject her. She was innocent. She did not cheat on Marco. He dove into the water amidst screams to find her. The water was cold and dark. Marco felt a fish slap his cheek. He dove deeper but there was nothing to grab hold of. Nothing to covet. Fernanda was lost to the ocean depths and Marco swam deeper despite the burning in his lungs. There was no noise down there and Marco was mad with grief. He had killed his love. She had passed the cold water ordeal but Marco could not save her. He could not save himself. In the water, he cried and exhaled his last breath. His final thought was that he loved Fernanda. Deeper than the ocean. Deeper than the soul.


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