“Guys,” I whisper urgently. “We need to wake up in four hours."
Someone throws a pillow at my face.
“Be quiet Mel, we’re trying to sleep,” the culprit mumbles from their bunk bed.
I’m being a pest, but what can I do? I’ve wanted to swim with dolphins since I was a child pretending to be a mermaid, so the anticipation keeps me awake.
This revelation does little to soften the scowls my friends give me, as we shuffle onto the boat the next morning, yawning like a row of dominos under the fading moon.
I’m a bit worried, but he assures us their equipment keeps sharks away. My friends agree to stay, seeing as we crammed into a car from Sydney to Port Stephens for three hours to do this.
We travel so far out to sea that nothing blocks the horizon and I suddenly feel immortal. Dolphins glide along the boat and we sing loudly, discovering they love music and committing this to memory. The sea invites us to jump in and bliss awaits, but not for long.
It’s rough out there and the ocean flings me around, proving my timing is off.
Sea: 1, Me: 0
Water fills my snorkel as the waves become frantic, pushing the goggles down my face. Am I panicking, or having the time of my life? It’s hard to tell. The dolphins vanish and our session is cut short, as the weather worsens.
I’m hauled out of the water, looking more like a seal than the mermaid of my fantasy. The diver pulling me onto the boat has strong arms and a cheeky grin, so this case of mistaken identity is unfortunate. I seem to have lost my brain cells in the sea, because there I go, fluttering my lashes at him, most alluringly, like a Damsel in Distress.
This is how it plays out in my mind, but in reality, I stagger around like a drunken sailor, as my friends hold back their laughter.
They don’t all get the chance to swim and we later mull this over while driving home. I’m thrilled, despite my fleeting plunge into the sea, or maybe because of it. The boat trip alone was worth it and we agree to return in spring, when the water is calm, but armed with motion sickness pills, just in case.
I glance at the calendar on my phone and plan to keep track.
“Four months to go,” I say, secure in the knowledge there are no pillows to throw here.