I nod at Jason with as much confidence as I can muster and pride bleeds into his eyes, making me ever more determined. I have this. No, I’m not having this experience, I’m taking it.

We step off into the water.

It’s over my head faster than expected, and my first instinct is to kick back to the surface, but I beat the reaction and let myself sink, let the increasingly colder temperature surround me. My eyes are closed. It takes me a second to realize that and open them…

The first thought that springs to my head is The Little Mermaid. The strains to ‘Part of Your World’ begin to play and an underwater snort sends bubbles twisting and lifting around my face. What I’m looking at is incredible. Eye-piercingly colorful. Greens and blues of every description blend and shift, shafted with sunlight. There’s a rock formation to our right, just existing in the silence, welcoming a school of tiny silver fish, steady in the drift. A glance at Jason tells me he’s watching me from behind his mask, that sensual mouth wrapped around black. Despite the incredible display of nature around me, I can’t help but stare back, hearing my heartbeat rap in my ears. No conflicts exist down here. Just us.

Finally, with a visible effort, he nods at our surroundings. Make yourself at home. Timing my breaths in my head like he taught me, I turn and thread slowly through the dense blue, my fins alternating slow kicks behind me. A sense of wonder tugs at my throat, tears springing to my eyes behind the mask. A yellow fish glides past and my hand automatically lifts and reaches out, coming within inches of an animal that’s been here all along. Living its own life while I ditched my wedding and paraded naked down the street in body paint.

It’s all so much bigger than me or my personal drama.

The whole world is so much bigger.

Bigger than pageants, my mother’s expectations, always having the correct response.

When a woman comes across something in this life that she feels compelled to take…when her soul yearns for it…what’s the worst that can happen if she leaps? If she makes an honest grab for it? This ocean will still be here in all its glory. The sand won’t shift based on my decisions. Only my insides will. I’m ready for that. I’m ready for a seismic shift.

I’m ready to take what I want. What I need. And he’s right behind me, watching, needing me back. Ready for his own seismic shift. Maybe. Maybe I’m that for him, too. There’s no telling how we’ll handle the resulting terrains inside of us when it comes to an end, but I’m not going to hesitate out of fear. Not when I know I can be this brave.

I run my hand over the rock formation, gasping internally when three more yellow fish wiggle out of a crevice, dancing past my face. Needing to share the moment with Jason, I turn…and at first I don’t believe what’s in front of me. Surely my mind is trying to scare me at my strongest moment. Trying to drag me back into uncertainty. There’s not supposed to be a shark moving in slow, back and forth ticks between Jason and me.

It’s on the small side. I think. Compared to Jaws. That’s all I have to make a comparison. But its teeth are deadly. Sharp. My eyes fly to Jason, who is motionless on the other side of the creature. The time I comforted him in the middle of the night, I thought him tormented, but that was nothing compared to this. He’s terrified. This invincible giant of a man with battle scars and enough courage to fill this ocean looks like he’s being tortured alive—and that chills my blood until I’m trembling. Jason shakes his head slowly at me. Don’t move.

Apart from the necessary glide of my fins, I couldn’t move if I wanted to. My heart has climbed into my throat and I’m lightheaded from forgetting to breathe. Remembering the importance of breathing Jason impressed upon me, I kick back into my rhythm, though, mentally begging the big, silver animal to keep on its merry way without leaving any bites behind to remember him by.

It seems to take fifteen minutes, when in reality it was only one, but the shark finally vanishes into the distant dark, fish scurrying out of its path and bubbling past me. Jason reaches me before I find the wherewithal to move again, wrapping an arm around my waist and kicking us toward the top, wild eyes searching mine. Seeing God knows what. Because I have no idea what’s happening inside me. As soon as we break the surface, my fear is replaced by careening adrenaline. It bashes off my ribs and tickles my neck, filling me with almost unbearable buoyancy.

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