Page 38 of Hopeful Hearts

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“As soon as we hit the water, she started thrashing around. I tried my best to hold on to her.” Jayda burst into tears.

Lennon cried too and apologised repeatedly. “The water was just so freezing, she must have let go in shock.”

“I’m okay,” Kate spluttered, just loud enough for Sophia to hear.

“She’s okay, everyone. She’s just said she’s okay,” Lennon announced.

“Are you sure?” the swallow asked. He was still wrapped around Kate, trying to warm her up.

“I’m sure,” she whispered back.

“Thank you.” Sophia turned her attention to the stranger. “You saved our friend’s life. We owe you everything.”

He just nodded without commitment.

“No. You don’t understand. She has a little girl, if anything bad–” Paige dissolved into a flood of tears.

Kate began to cry, too. “What was I thinking?” Kate asked the universe.

“Don’t.” Sophia chastised her. “Don’t beat yourself up for this. We were having fun and you’re allowed to do that, Kate. You’re a person as well as a mum.”

“Yeah, and you’re okay. Sophia’s right, you can’t feel bad about this,” Callie added.

“Your friends are right. You shouldn’t beat yourself up about things that you can’t change. You did what you did and now it’s in the past. Just please make sure you wear a life jacket next time you decide to go deep sea diving.” The stranger stood and placed the blanket that was wrapped around him over Kate. “Next time there might not be a cute guy around to save you.” He winked and without a second glance at each of them, dived expertly off the yacht and back into the water.

The girls all watched as he swam back to shore and disappeared between the rocks into the shadows.

“Did that really just happen?” Callie asked.

Through their snot and tears, a few of them managed a chuckle. The others mustered a smile except for Kate, whose expression remained blank, mixed with bewilderment.

“Great. You finally meet a decent guy and he’s an arrogant arsehole.” Paige shook her head.

Even Kate managed a smile this time.

“I’m just glad you’re okay.” Lennon sat beside her friend and snuggled into her.

“Me too,” Jayda was quick to add.

“Let’s get everyone home and warm,” Sophia suggested.

“It won’t take too long. Are you sure your friend is alright?” The captain asked Sophia, and she nodded.

“Kate’s stronger than she looks. She’ll be absolutely fine,” she replied.

The yacht engine started up and as they sailed back toward the shore, they discussed how each one of them felt slightly different from when they left. Maybe there was something in the ceremony Kate held, or maybe it was the fact that she'd almost drowned, but each of them felt their unbreakable bond become a little stronger.

They had had worse nights and there would be worse nights to come. But they had also shared better nights and all of them, save for Sophia, were confident there would be more of those to come, too.

“My mum and dad are going to freak out when they see you come home like that,” Sophia stared at Kate, who had at least stopped shivering but still resembled a drowned rat.

“I’m not going to tell them what happened. It’s too embarrassing. They already know I can’t swim, which is ick enough.”

“There’s nothing embarrassing about it, it’s just one of those things. Tell them we all went skinny dipping; that would really freak them out.” Sophia pictured her mum’s face if she thought for one second that she had been in the cold sea water. She would probably have a heart attack. There was overprotective and then there was Mel.

“At least Daisy will be asleep,” Callie offered.

“I mean, apart from the near-death experience, I would say it’s been a pretty fun hen do,” Paige smiled a wicked smile.

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