Here are three fun excerpts from Descent!
Directing my attention to the trail ahead, some might consider the dim, rocky scenery to be creepy and dirty. I find its untainted beauty refreshing. Seeing a place so unique and full of natural wonders is a privilege, but this place is unlike any I’ve ever seen. I remember my dad taking me on hikes and teaching me about the great outdoors, when we went camping. I know more than the average kid about rock and natural formations. That’s because my mom is an Environmental Scientist and my dad was a park ranger.
I take a deep breath and trudge forward, the mist from the looming falls ahead pushing itself against my face. The top of the precipice lifts ahead of us a good fifty feet, and solid rocks play the role of steps as we move closer to our unknown destination. Reaching the top of the waterfall alone, I realize the source of the water is seeping through a wall that the rocks rest against. There’s no way to follow the water’s source. Mateo, Jesse, and Alexis are a few feet below me, and I survey ahead.
There’s a pool on the other side, and I’m immediately transfixed by movement. Someone is swimming. As he reaches the pool’s edge, he pushes himself out with muscular, bronze arms. His broad shoulders break through the water’s surface first. Then shoulder-length hair and flexing shoulder blades follow. As his masculine back and backside ascend from the water, I turn away as heat spreads from my neck into my cheeks.
“Hey there!” I greet all three of my friends who are now just three feet behind me. They’re all staring past me; Jesse’s mouth falls open and a grin spreads across Alexis’ face. Heat rises up over my chest, into my neck and cheeks. I’m embarrassed when I look at Mateo, and one eyebrow raises as he moves his gaze from the pool back to me.
“Holy-nekkid-buns, Batman!” Alexis’ crude, and hilarious remark prompts a giggle from me.
Thanks to experiencing a high school locker room, I’m familiar with community bathroom etiquette. I’ve mastered the art of modesty. I sink into the pool careful to conceal myself and hear a snicker coming from two pools over.
“What now, Alexis?” I huff annoyed. I can’t help but miss an incredibly zen Keren, oblivious to our conversation.
“You’re just so uptight. You should let go a little.” All traces of mockery are gone, and I can tell that Alexis is actually trying to be nice.
Then as if rising out of the steam, Keren interjects, “Both of you must relax.”
Alexis and I shrug and look back at our respective pools. Then Alexis, in her typical way, breaks the silence. “Can I ask you a question?” She blurts.
“You just did,” Keren answers in a language I speak fluently. Sarcasm. I look over to her, and a smile stretches across her face. “Do you mean to inquire about something in particular?” she asks back.
Alexis grins. She appreciates wit.
“Before I ask, I have to admit that I’m glad to hear a little snark coming out of you. But, I was wondering who you are in the counsel?”
“I am Enoch’s daughter, and Gabriel’s younger, smarter, sister.” Keren grins.
“Where’s your mom? Gabe never mentioned her…”
“Alexis!” I shoot a dark look her way.
“What?” Alexis begins to argue.
“It’s all right.” Keren reassures me. This entire time, not even a ripple appears in her pool. “Our mother passed. She died a few years after I was born.” An awkward pause mingles with the steam in the air. “Might I also inquire about your relationship with each other, and the two men you arrived with?”
“Well, Ollie and I are BFFs.” Alexis answers with a laugh and winks at me. “Mateo and Jesse are brothers that live next door to Ollie. Oh, and Ollie and Mateo used to be best friends, before my brother screwed everything up and I stole her away.”
Keren reacts with a confused look on her face. I wasn’t sure if our lingo was confusing or the message itself. But I knew I had a lot of explaining to do.
“Don’t listen to her. She must’ve cracked her skull when she fell from the surface. I’ve known Alexis for a long time, and I’m rethinking our best friend status at the moment. By the way, that’s what BFF means: best friends forever. As far as Mateo and Jesse are concerned, they’re my next door neighbors.”
“Right. Like that’s all there is to it!” Alexis chips in.
Keren grins to herself at our banter, then I give up the argument and lean back into the warm water. I can feel a constant flow pushing against my lower back, and it massages the tension out of my muscles. There’s no chance it’ll push away all my concerns. It does help me forget some of this bizarro-underground-field-trip I’ve fallen into.
A bell rings, startling me, and I look over to Keren. She slides her white fabric into the water and over her body. Alexis and I mimic her, placing the fabric over ourselves, and then in my peripheral vision I notice someone walk into the room.
No, three someones. I squint to see through the steam, and recognize Gabriel, Mateo, and Jesse.
“When I reach the shore of the lagoon, you can toss your packs to me. I will begin to set up camp while the rest of you enjoy the benefits of the waterfall.” As Gabriel finishes explaining, he takes off his tunic and tucks it into his pack. My eyes are not sure what to look at, and I catch Mateo crossing his arms to pull his tunic over his head in my periphery.
I fiddle with my belt, and feel someone grazing the back of my arm then a pinch.
“Just checking. This is definitely not a dream.” Alexis says from behind me. Her hand is a few inches from my arm, but her gaze is bouncing from the three shirtless guys in front of us. They each wear loose pants that hang to the middle of their calves.
“I think you’re supposed to pinch yourself,” I chide.
Abs, arms, pecs…eyes. I need to look at them in the eyes. Jesse has a knowing grin pasted across his face while Gabriel steps back toward the edge of the waterfall.
“See you down below.” The smile that spreads over his face is more childlike, full of joy and excitement. In a few seconds we all hear Gabriel meet the water with a splash.
“Well, gentlemen, I hope you aren’t planning to just stand there and look pretty all day,” Alexis jokes with waggling eyebrows. She takes her bag and sets it next to Mateo’s pack.
“Do you mind tossing it over to Gabriel? I’m afraid I won’t be able to throw it across the lagoon,” I ask Mateo.
“Sure….” As he answers, Alexis is already jumping off the edge of the waterfall.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” The scream ends when Alexis hits the water. A few seconds later she pulls herself up to the surface and gasps for air.
“Woohoo! That was awesome!” she yells up at us. “Come on, Ollie.”
I look over at Mateo and Jesse, who are tossing packs out into the air. Unsure if I’ll be able to make the jump without peeing on myself in terror. I feel pressure on the back of my arm again, but this time it’s solid and calming.
Mateo moves close and gives me support, in more ways than one. It’s a glimpse of what we’ve had, and hopefully what we might still have. “You can do this, Ollie.” His confidence in me gives me courage. “I’ll be right behind you.”