Nye fought to stay in one place, but azure waves rolled him further from his comrades. A cry for help started in his lungs and rose in his throat. He stopped it before it came out. The others were experienced rescuers, he must have faith in them.
His crewmates reappeared. A shiver of relief went through Nye's body. He laughed out loud, then made himself stop. The others musn't know he'd been afraid, must they.
Blue Dolphin drew alongside him and powerful arms dragged him aboard. His teeth chattered.
"I-i'm cold," he lied.
"Are you sure that's all Spaniel?" Cox asked.
Nye looked away, feeling embarrased.
"I'd be worried if you hadn't been scared," Cox announced. "The sea's more powerful than you and me, if you don't respect her you'll pay for it. If you never know fear then you're a fool. Courage isn't knowing no fear, its carryin' on even though you're afraid."
On hearing this Nye felt better.
Soon afterwards Cathy took Nye to a rehersal by a local choir. She already sang with them. They rehersed in a church hall near whitewashed cottages and gardens brimming with blooms. Nye's stomach churned with nerves but he couldn't find an excuse to pull out. Cathy introduced him and asked him to sing a song that she had taught him.
Oh take one consideration with another
A policeman's lot is not a happy one
When constabulary duties to be done, to be done
A policeman's lot is not a happy one
The first line seemed odd to Nye as he still felt that music should carry a message. Then he felt the tightness in his chest loosen and his fingers uncurled. He felt the lyrics take him out of himself and into a world of pure enjoyment. He sang more, in a baritone rich as a steak pie, then finished with a smile on his lips. Back home he always ended with a snarl or a cry of defiance.
They invited him back and he said "thank you, I'll be there."
One summer day, Nye and Cathy met on a lane outside of town. Branches from hedges leaned over the earthy track. Ruts and gravel lay on the route. Stoats hunted mice, voles and shrews under wild roses. Cathy and Nye greeted each other with a hug, then made small talk.
"Nye, what did you do before you came 'ere?"
His face froze, but his mind raced trying to think of a distraction. Then he took her by an arm and, gently but firmly lead her away from dark green leaves to the middle of the track. Nye looked back, then said "sorry, I thought I saw an adder under that rose bush. I must've been mistaken."
They looked each other in the eyes and Cathy's narrowed while her mouth hardened. He lowered his gaze.
When it was time to leave, Nye said "we could meet here again tomorrow."
"Mmm, I've got to catch up with some chores."
"I don't know Nye. Bye for now."
The following month was torture for the young Welshman. Memories of falling rocks haunted his dreams. He woke up sobbing and shaking. During the daytime he knocked on Cathy's door but no one answered. He waited in the lane but she didn't come. How could he have been so stupid? If he couldn't trust her then how could they have a future? He missed his mother's arms. What would she have said? Training for the lifeboat provided a welcome distraction.
Summer gave way to early autumn. Berries replaced blossom. Not as many holidaymakers came. One tree developed yellow leaves on one branch while most of it stayed green. It looked like a glove. Nye continued his work on the building site, amongst piles of gravel and stacks of bricks. It was hard but he was accustumed to physical exertion. He felt on edge. Sooner or later he would be called out on his first shout on the lifeboat. How would he cope?
It happened one bright morning. Nye was carrying a timber door over to a new house. It would be semi detached and have an indoor toilet and a lawn in front. Nye envied whoever would buy it. Sounds of a ringing bell and then a firework rose up from the waterfront. Nye handed his load over to a workmate. Everyone had strict instructions to let him go should this happen. Nye said goodbye, turned and pounded away, down the road that lead off site. Young legs made long strides. Booted soles crunched on gravel and sand. As he ran he felt a recoil from quick feet, through strong thighs. Memories of training ran through his head. Cox appeared and ran alongside him.
"A soldier did a parachute jump and got blown off course!" Cox shouted. "He landed in the sea and he's drowning."
Nye felt as if electric currants were surging through his stomach. They reached the lifeboat station and raced past lifebelts, ropes and boots. Other crewmen were already there and all had more experience than Nye. He thought "they won't take me, they'll need experienced men." He was wrong for Cox said "get in Morgan." Nye shoved rubber boots onto his feet, pulled a jumper over his head and donned a life jacket. Part of him was glad of a chance to help but another wondered how he would cope. If they had to retreve a corpse how would he deal with it? As they threw themselves into Blue Dolphin Nye's crewmates glanced back at him. He knew what they were thinking; "we've got to keep an eye on the new boy." He couldn't blame them.
Somewhere out there a man was drowning. Blue Dolphin and her crew were his final hope and time was running out.
To be continued