Chapter 13

=== Home of the Dunnhill's ===

Judith stared at the window, where the smashing rain left constantly changing patterns. The invisible storm clouds within the room were just as dark and heavy with regrets as their real counterparts were with rain.

“I thought it was the right thing to do”, Judith repeated. “I wanted to help Mom. I wanted to keep her away from Carver! She always said she did not trust him, and that he was a devious guy! And suddenly, she LIKES him!”

“Love is a complicated thing. You said so yourself,” Nora said.

“Now… now she will never speak to me again! She will probably send me to a boarding school. Or HE WILL!” She kicked against the bench beneath the window. “Or what if I have to go to jail?!”

“Nobody goes to jail because of such stuff,” Terry tried to calm her. “And of course, Marybeth will not send you away.”

“No,” Nora sat down next to her sister. “And if, she would have to send me away, too.”

“Come on, I'll make you a hot tea. Your Mom just needs a little space. In the morning, she'll be back and everything will look different.”

“What if…” Judith sniffed angrily at herself for displaying so much childish drama. “…if something happens to her. She went out on the bike in that weather! Then it will be my fault!”

“No, the storm is not that bad,” Terry answered. “She surely went to the Institute to be with the dolphins. I don't think we have to worry about your Mom, I think she is pretty good at taking care of herself out in nature. After the stories, she has told me… But I'm going to check the weather forecast.”

The girls followed him into the kitchen, where a sleepy Jordan dozed next to his furry friend Zeus. Terry turned on the radio but had some problems finding a broadcast because of the enormous static. Only after a few minutes, he reached one. The storm had changed its direction and turned further to the west to Cuba. There it would probably unleash its force. “Poor people, they already have little to live.” He looked at the girls. “At least, it is good news for us!”

Judith sighed. “I messed up everything!”

“Let's go through this tomorrow! Now I will make some tea, if you can tell me, where you have your supplies, that is…”

 

=== At the Institute's Ship ===

Marybeth woke up from a faint breeze against her neck, and she discovered that she was curled up in Claude's arms. For yet a moment longer, she enjoyed the warmth of his body. Then, she cautiously turned around, hoping not to disturb him. Now she could look outside the cabin. It was still raining a bit, and the storm was also not yet tired. She stretched her hand after one of their clothing that was spread over the benches. Of course, everything was still wet, and the air was chilly. There, she had moved too much, and now Claude woke up as well. He caressed through her hair, and she snuggled up to him again.

“I hope I did not leave a … too bad impression,” he whispered in her ear. “My memory is a bit scattered. Alcohol and I are not the best pals, I normally know that.”

“Everything is perfect,” Marybeth answered smiling. “Nonetheless, the floor starts to get a bit uncomfortable. We should see to it we have a bed next time.”

“I love you. In case I did not say it already…”

“You did. And I love you!” They kissed and cuddled even deeper in the only blanket.  And I will never let anything come between us again.  “I wished we could simply sail away to a lonely island.”

“Oh no, we would both go mad without any work and research! We'd classify all the plants, bugs, and finally the sand grains!”

“You may be right…”

They mused about getting at least halfway dressed, to the car and into Claude's apartment. The thought to leave each other's warmth and comfort even for a short while was that unpleasant, though, that they could not bring it into action. Eventually, they fell asleep again.

A strange noise startled them an unknown time later. The sky was only starting to lighten up.

“What is this?” Marybeth sat up and listened. “Something with the ship? Did our anchor break loose?”

“No, it is coming from further away. I think… I take a look.” Claude fished for his pants, which were and went outside. “There is a … a wreck, or part of it, hanging between the rocks to the North. – Can you spot the binoculars somewhere?”

She fumbled on the window ledge and on the benches under their clothes. “Here they are!”

Claude adjusted the sight. It was still too dark to discern the details. “I'd better notify the coastguard. They have to send a salvage – oh no!”

“What is it?” Marybeth was at his side.

“There seems to be oil leaking… or some other stuff. When the flood comes, it will all spill into the bay and our basins!” 

 

=== Home of the Dunnhill's ===

Everyone was hanging in the chairs and on the couch in the living room, too tired to play any game or watch TV, and too agitated to sleep. Suddenly, Zeus started to whine and scratch at the door. 

“Okay, okay, I'll go out with you!” Judith pulled a jogging sweater over her shirt.

“Wait, put him on the leash,” Terry said, now heaving himself up as well. “Not that he runs away again and we have to search in this crappy weather!”

The commotion roused Jordan who, as sleepy as he was, followed them outside like a watchdog for Zeus. His furry friend did his business in the chilly early morning but afterward refused to come back inside. Instead, he continued to whine and bark.

“He wants to tell us something!” Jordan was excited. “He is barking out to the sea!”

“Maybe he hears something we can't hear? The dolphins? Roxanne?” Judith mused and suppressed a yawn. “Or perhaps Mom—“ That moment, Zeus broke away and despite a fast jump, Terry could not catch his leash. He shouted a surprised curse. Thankfully, the dog halted a few steps down the road, turned, barked, jumped back and forth.

“He clearly wants us to follow him, Dad!” Barefoot, Jordan ran at Zeus' side.

“Alright. Everyone into the car,” Terry decided. “We're driving to the Institute!”

 

=== At the Institute ===

Claude and Marybeth had just hauled out the spare roll of the plastic foil they used to separate the basins. The tiny weights attached on one side to keep it upright once deployed in the water made it very heavy. “If we use the hand cart, we will manage,” Claude said, slightly out of breath. “How much time do we have left until the flood sets in?”

“About two hours. We have to hurry!” Marybeth brought the cart in the best possible position, and together they dragged the huge plastic monster onto it.

“Mom?”

Only when Judith's voice reached them, they discovered the others standing outside the shed. For a few awkward seconds, they all were frozen and stared at each other. Not enough energy for anger was left – but also not enough courage assembled for apologies. Neither of them knew where to begin. Finally, Marybeth took the initiative, skipping all personal matters. “We have an oil spill in the bay. We have to contain it until help arrives.”

“With that?” Terry asked skeptically and eyed the rolled-up plastic foil.

“That's the stuff you use for the basins, right?” Nora realized and Marybeth nodded. 

“We will try to fasten one end on the rocks and keep the other stretched out to the ship. It should work for a while. The Coast Guard is already informed.”

“Wouldn't it be better if we take another boat,” Terry suggested. “We'd deploy it in between, you know. Like a net for beach volleyball.”

“That could actually work,” Claude said. “We have the other small motorboat…”

“So… I take that!” Judith felt the moment had come to prove useful and make up for past mistakes. “You know I can steer the boat, Mom!” Seeing her shiver from the cold in her still not quite dry shirt, Judith took her sweater off and handed it to her. “Take it, you look freezing!”

“Good idea!” A short timid smile wandered from mother to daughter. “Ah, this makes all the difference!”

“And you take my jacket!” Terry slipped out of his leather jacket and threw it to Claude.

“Thank you.”

Terry padded on Claude's shoulder. “Welcome to the biker gang! – And now, let's get that thing rolling!”

Zeus' loud barking drew their attention to the things going on outside the shed. Jordan and the dog ran down the jetty. “Roxanne's here! Look, and her friends!”

The animals had probably taken refuge from the storm. For once, Marybeth was not happy to see her favorite dolphin. Claude had the exact same thought. “If they turn back into the open sea now, they'll swim right into that oil leak!”

“We must keep them here, close to our basins!”

“Now – let's put that interspecies communication theory to the test! – Jordan? Jordan, listen to me carefully! Play with the dolphins, talk to them, let Zeus talk to them – the important thing is, you keep them here near you, near the Institute! Away from the sea! Do you understand?”

“Yes, of course, Claude! Zeus will tell them, no problem,” the boy yelled and gave a thumbs-up. As if he wanted to confirm the given task as well, Zeus turned his pointy ears back and forth, barked, and waggled his tail. The dolphins emitted a series of clicking sounds. “See, it works!”

It better does…  he thought.

“I'll stay here and help Jordan,” Nora said. “I can get food for the dolphins!”

“Yes, do that! It is over there in the shed; I showed you once!” 

“I remember, Mom! I got this!”

Their plan to contain the oil on the surface with the foil barrier was good, however – many obstacles arose in detail. One of them, the still relatively rough sea and high waves. And the clock was ticking. Claude and Marybeth on the Institute's ship had reached the destination and now inspected the wreckage closer. It seemed in fact to be part of a piping system from an oil platform, which must have been damaged during the storm. The oil had already spread considerably wider. They deployed the small observance platform, where they had placed the foil-roll and attached it to the winch. Judith and Terry waited nearby in the motorboat.

“Be careful, Claude,” Marybeth embraced him. They indulged in a hasty kiss, not caring anymore about the others watching.

“I intend to. After all, I want to marry you!” He climbed down onto the platform and opened the foil-roll. It took some effort to hand Terry the end of the large plastic band because the waves frustrated every attempt. But finally, he had grabbed it and pulled it over into the motorboat. “Man, this was worthy of a James Bond – movie,” he joked. Judith set the boat in motion slowly, but not slowly enough. They almost lost the foil again.

“Slower!” Marybeth shouted from above. Next time it went better, and now the boat gradually moved away from the ship, towing the unrolling plastic barrier behind. It was difficult to synchronize the winch and the speed of the boat. Judith did the best she could. But she had not so much experience, the less under such weather conditions. Sometimes the plastic foil dipped deep into the water, was almost submerged, and then again, it stretched that tightly that Marybeth feared it would tear apart. Claude tried to adjust and help from his side. At some point, he almost lost ground and slipped from the platform.

Seeing his struggle, Marybeth realized that, first of all, she wanted him safe. Him and her family and friends. And maybe, they should just –The radio sizzled, and a call came in. It was the Coast Guard, informing her, that it would take them about half an hour to reach the destination. With that news, she ran out and signaled Claude. “Half an hour! Can you hold out?”

“I will!”

Back on the bridge, she switched the connection to the motorboat. “Judith? Terry, do you read me? Half an hour!”

“Yes! Hear you! Almost there!” came her voice over the radio, disturbed by the noise of wind and waves and the plastic foil. Then, the connection broke. 

Marybeth could see the boat in the distance, but no details were discernable. “Judith???”

“…Okay!” That was Terry. She could barely hear what he was saying, but it seemed they were busy fastening the foil to the rock. A little bit of the oil spilled over before they could react. But then, finally, the plastic barrier stood upright. Slowly, the sea started to calm down, and the clouds dissipated. However, for the tired people fighting to keep the dolphins and the other animals of the Bay safe, it became a long half an hour until the Coast Guard with the salvage equipment arrived.

 

=== Home of the Dunnhill's ===

They all sat in the living room, wrapped in warming blankets and drinking hot tomato soup with cream. It was almost noon now, and the sun was shining from a once again blue sky. But they were so frozen and exhausted that only gradually, comforting warmth spread in their bodies. Marybeth let her gaze wander over her company before halting on Claude. Feeling happy and blessed that he and all the others were safe and they were together, she took his hand and squeezed it. He answered with a smile that reached his eyes and finally radiated through his face. No words were necessary between them.

Marybeth turned back to her family and friends. “If we stand together, we can overcome all obstacles and succeed. I learned that from today.”

“I only wished I had my camera,” Jordan looked up from cuddling Zeus. “He really talked to the dolphins!” He hugged his furry friend. “He's the best!”

“He surely is special. What about …. Me writing a song about him,” Terry said. “Maybe I score a big hit!”

“Yeah!” Jordan cheered. “Write about us all!”

Only Judith still felt uncomfortable amidst all the family happiness. “Mom… I'm sorry.” She stared in her soup. “And I…”

“Let's not talk about it,” Marybeth decided with a deep breath. “Let us focus on tomorrow.” Now Judith stood up and, completely forgetting that she was almost 17 and hated such stuff, embraced her mother.

“But Claude and I, we will stay together. So… you will have to find a way to get along.” She blinked in Claude's direction. “Both of you.”

“Well, if dogs and dolphins are able to understand each other and become friends, we pitiable humans should manage to do that - what do you think?” he said in the girl's direction.

“Yes. Yes, I think we might manage that.” Eventually, a relaxed smile crept over her face.

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(I still have an idea for an epilogue but I have to go to the hospital, so I wanted to have this story as far as the happy ending…. I feel now so happy for my characters=)