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The small girl sat quietly on the seat of the old timber swing, suspended from the strong low branch of the tree she would often climb with her friend. She hummed a tune as she waited patiently, with her ragged pink bows dangling from her ponytails, and her pink overalls slightly worn from the adventures she had been on. “Hum di hum di hum,” she hummed as she kicked her tiny feet so that the toes scuffed along grass below her. Every now and then she looked around inquisitively, as if expecting someone to show up, but the silence was matched only by her loneliness, and the echo it left was a hollow emptiness. Dangling from a branch nearby hung some tiny butterflies, sitting lifeless, suspended carefully, but nothing much more, and only seen by a few curious eyes. “I wish I could fly,” she whispered as she gave a gentle kick, but then she did not have as much strength as she used to and it hurt somewhat when she moved suddenly. She sobbed quietly as she sat there and thought about the adventures she wished she could go on once more, carried away to distant places where her weightless form would drift and sway.

As the tiny tears rolled down her cheeks, she wiped them away and gave a sniffle as elegantly as any small girl could, and as she sat there a single tear fell unguarded, and as it tumbled and turned a tiny dragonfly appeared as if brought on by a wish or a thought. It hovered unseen behind her ever so quietly, as if it too were hung by a single thread. She had stopped crying and was almost at the point of climbing down and giving up, when a tiny breeze blew, pushing her forward ever so slightly. The breeze stopped and she swung backwards before the breeze blew once more, pushing her forward again, ever further.

With a whoosh past her ear the dragonfly now hovered before her so she could see it, and as she swung forward once more she watched as its tiny wings began to beat rapidly, sending a breeze in her direction pushing her backwards once more. Gradually she swung further and higher, smiling ever wider as the rush of wind now filtered through her hair, and as she swung forward once more she laid her head back, as if to look at the sky only to see a small boy smiling from the branch above her. She giggled and he shouted, “close your eyes and make a wish,” which she did without hesitation, and as he watched on he laughed and at the same time he sprinkled some magic from the pocket of his blue jacket.

“Are you ready?” he cried at the top of his voice. “Yes I am,” she called back as she swung higher and farther still, giggling with the gay abandonment that she had long ago lost. “I hope you are wishing?” he questioned loudly, and as soon as she nodded her response a coolness enveloped her and she was carried away to where she found herself floating aimlessly in the cool clear water that had been like a second home to her. Immersed in the salty liquid, she felt all her cares wash away as if she were in a hypnotic trance, a dream state that she had longed to experience once more. She swayed in the gentle wash of the ocean like a child within a womb, and all around her the creatures she saw brought a long forgotten ‘wow’ to her once cracked, dry lips. It had been so long since she had been able to enjoy the simple pleasures that being under water afforded, and even longer since she had felt the freedom that it gave her.

She kicked her tiny feet and glided effortless through the water, cutting a path through schools of brightly colored fish that seemed to smile in her direction before following her on the adventure. Her body twisted and turned as she swam, free like a creature of the sea. She wove her way through the tall sea weed forests that were intermingled with large cuttlefish that randomly changed shape mimicking the surroundings, as if putting on a magic show for her, at the same time sending waves of color across their bodies like the pulsating light of a disco strobe or the most intricate kaleidoscope. She hovered as the largest came close, holding out a tentacle as if gesturing to touch, before shooting off in a teasing movement. She swam away once more, this time with her arms outstretched as though she was flying, then from the corner of her eye she spotted the shape of a large stingray as it came close as if emulating her movements. She smiled widely as it twisted and turned slowly, following her every move. It had the grace of an angel, and for a moment she imagined, she wondered, but then her thoughts shifted once more. Upon the sandy floor she spied a small blue shell glistening in the filtered light, and she picked it up and placed it in her pocket as a keepsake from this adventure.

She was truly in her element and this was surely her most favorite place, and of all the things she had dreamed, this was the one thing above all else that held such great importance, and at times you may think more important than life itself. After all, what is a life unless you can drift in the waters cool embrace. She was growing tired, but her journey was not yet complete, and something told her there was more, more than she could ever hope. Ahead in the stream of sunlight that punched through the surface of the water she could just make out a distinctive shape, one she knew but had only dreamed of. As it came close she realized that this was truly the one thing she had waited for, the one thing feared by most, but respected and sought after by her. It was the much maligned great white shark, with its grey to white body color and as powerful as any animal that existed, but to her it was like a puppy dog that would melt at her touch. It brushed close by as if it knew her, even understood her intentions and she felt as at ease as she had at any time in her life. She swam as one with this great creature, an experience that would be as great as any she had ever had. Her dreams had been realized and she was grateful for this day.

The light had faded to dark, and as it did so a strange feeling came over her. She woke to find herself sitting on the swing where she first started. He hair was slightly damp, and she could taste the salt on her lips. Surely it was not a dream, it was too real, and how refreshed she felt? She looked around once more and as she did she noticed a tiny dragonfly lying on the ground, barely alive, glimmering in the moon glow. She picked it up carefully and held it gently in her hand, and as it turned itself towards her it gave one last desperate flutter, before it died. She carefully tied it to the most wonderful piece of colored string and placed it hanging next to the butterfly mobiles where it now belonged and in the breeze it tapped them as if to keep them awake. She now looked further into the tree, but there was no sign of the small boy, and she wondered if he was real or just a part of the dream, if that is what she had. She wondered, and then she remembered, the shell. Her tiny fingers reached inside the pocket of her pink overalls, searching, fumbling frantically, and then her face lit up with a smile as she removed her hand and there within her tiny fingers she held the blue shell. She knew now that this was as real as she had wished it could be, and the small boy with all his magic had made it possible, but then he knew that all he had done was to give her the belief to live the dream that was all hers.

She climbed down from the swing and before she left she looked to the stars and she saw a twinkle in amongst them with an echoed laughter of a small boy. She smiled and whispered thank you, and although she could not see, he smiled in return knowing that he had made some difference once again, and that there was more magic where that had come from.

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She stood staring, her eyes transfixed on the cold blue expanse of water that lay before her. If it were not for the thought of the cold that would chill her to the bone, she would definitely jump in at this moment. She had walked the worn timber boards of this pier many times, just as thousands before had also done, with the coarse grey knotted texture of the timber rippled under her bare feet. Usually she would be here with her friends, but today she journeyed on her own, the first taste of freedom or independence she had experienced for a while now. She stood there and watched the dark silhouetted shapes as they moved beneath the surface like giant birds and as she did, she made a little wish. She closed her eyes and thought of the many times that she had swum beneath these waters before, and she felt herself become lighter, and in her mind she found herself floating above the cold weathered timber of the pier, about to take a new journey.

Although her eyes were closed, she could clearly see the water which was now turning from dark blue to a warmer softer tone with the sunlight that had now found its way through the tiniest opening in the imposing sky sparkling off the water’s surface as if it was covered in tiny diamonds. As she floated effortlessly above she felt the energy of the imaginations she was now having fill her like a thermos of warm green tea. Slowly she floated downwards towards the waters surface until her feet touched it and as it’s warmth wrapped around her it was like a blanket of the softest wool, gradually taking away all the aches and pains and thoughts of dread and fear that she had come to know of late, replacing them with a calmness that she had felt on just a few occasions before.

Down she sank until she was fully immersed in the crystal clear blue green liquid that now surrounded her. It had been so long since she was last in this world, the watery world she had so come to love, and for so long she had not believed it would ever be again. As she sank she span slowly around turning like a spinning top on its last revolutions, and before her the weed and the fish danced with a hypnotizing sway, mesmerizingly beautiful colors like a kaleidoscope of her wildest dreams with the sun’s golden rays reaching through the water like tiny fingers, touching, caressing all they fell upon and bringing it to wonderful life. As she touched the sandy floor she stopped spinning and like tiny ballerinas the fish surrounded her moving close to place a kiss upon her flushed pink cheeks, then moving away again to see the wide smile upon her face before they joined the others once again on the fishy merry go round. Nearby the resident Weedy Sea Dragons drifted like tiny sticks of colored wood, mystical magic wands of iridescent blues, greens and yellows, carried on the current that had now enveloped her, with their eyes blinking slowly as they too began to drift around her in the increasing whirl.

She was at home, in this place where she had truly belonged and her heart was beating effortlessly, like a tiny drum played by the faeries of the Magic Forest. Just then a shape caught her eye, with its dark grey form moving gracefully towards her. It was like an angel of the sea as it cut a path through the water. A large bull ray, flanked by a tiny squadron of silver fish with small blue tears in their eyes, as if cried for her, swam towards her, then as gracefully as it came it turned and glided away. Its majesty was so inspiring and as she watched it disappear, she had not see that three more had now joined her, each one coming and then going, effortlessly without disturbing a single grain of sand. As they did she became caught up in the pull of the current that was created and with her arms outstretched she too glided above the sand with its finger print patterns flickering in the light that played upon it, dipping and swaying as she went. Leaving the sand she flew like a bird above the thick strands of green weed that covered the deepest parts, on past the end of the pier and the remnants of the wreck that lay rusting there, a testament to mans vain attempts to capture the ocean and all its beauty.

As she turned and headed back once more, she passed a cuttlefish with its body pulsating in waves of color like a rainbow in a sun shower on a warm summer’s day, with the colors coming and going like a strobe light, changing its body shape to blend in with its surroundings, then reaching out with its tiny tentacles to brush her arm as she glided past. She continued to glide above the weed towards the shallow water, dipping down once more to brush the sand that rolled in tiny waves beneath her, and as always the creatures she so loved surrounded her, as if they were protecting her.

In a moment she glided to a stop once more with all four rays, the fishes and sea dragons surrounding her in a final spiraling wave of emotion and beauty. The water spun in whirls and twirls within the vortex that had been created, and she closed her eyes feeling herself being lifted again, spinning slowly in life’s never ending cycle, but now feeling stronger than ever, reenergized by her experience. As she broke the surface of the water she took a deep breath of the fresh salty air, and as she rose the water fell from her body like tiny raindrops. She looked down and said goodbye to critters who were still spinning below her, knowing she would be back one day to see them all not in a dream, but for real and next time with her dearest friends.

She floated above the water like a Tinkerbelle balloon, and as she did she was carried by the gentle breeze to where her form could be seen, still standing on the pier, with her eyes closed. She shook startled and a chill ran through her body as she opened her eyes. ‘Was this magic, or was her deepest imagination responsible for what she had just experienced?’  Then she thought, ‘did it really matter at all?’ What was important was that one believed, that they knew anything is possible as long as you truly wanted it to be.

She opened her eyes once and gave a smile, before she turned and headed on her way excited to tell her friends about her adventure. As she scurried along the creaking and clattering pier, the dark clouds drifted overhead once more as if to remind her that there was still a journey to be travelled, but at the same time she had seen the sun shine today and she knew it would again. The day would come when the clouds would clear and the sun would shine for evermore.

Dreams can come true. Sometimes they need a little magic, and other times needing just a little bit of child like imagination or belief.

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Angelica sat on a grassy bank overlooking the inlet. Only moments before, her dearest friends in all the world had disappeared far below the water’s glassy surface to explore all the wonders and mysteries swirling and swarming in the sparkling expanse of blue water. Normally, she would be right there with them, gliding through the cool water, sharing the delight of all the treasures they discovered together. Today was different. She had found the time to come to the shore but could find no time to venture further. So here she sat at the water’s edge, her mind forced to focus today on work rather than on play.

But the sweet memories of the preceding days warmed her heart like sparkling rays of sun falling onto her pale skin, and she replayed them over and over in her mind as though they rode a magical carousel. Though she had stayed on the shore to work, there was an irresistible dreaminess as the fondly remembered moments seemed to rise and fall endlessly to the twinkly sounds of beach-side carnival music, each delicately remembered moment perching itself atop a swirling circle of brightly painted seahorses, dolphins and fanciful fish, all gleaming as they spun in the sun.

How blissful the preceding days had been! So full of sunshine and laughter. There had indeed been many adventures together in the ocean, exploring under dark rock ledges to find mysterious sea monsters, some as long as eight or ten feet long, resting quietly on the sandy bottom. Other delights came in the form of tiny decorative sea slugs, crawling quickly over rocks or resting quietly upon them – minute, multi-coloured jewels in every hue under the sun for which there was no equivalent on land. How comfortable the friends all seemed spending their days soaring like strange sorts of birds in this underwater world.

Angelica loved the quiet confidence of the white-haired boy as he navigated the course, always sharing the treasures he found with her and the beautiful girl in the bright red wetsuit whose eyes sparkled like rubies behind her red diving mask. How surprised Angelica always was by the girl’s growing fearlessness – how she would descend so courageously into the deepest, darkest waters to explore the shipwrecks resting like abandoned monuments at the bottom of the ocean! How bold she had become, squeezing her way under a cave-like ledge to come face to face with some enormous, unknown creature, at the same time too beautiful for words but too fearsome for most people to desire such a close encounter. Angelica’s face beamed with pride at the thought of her friend, even now, gliding deep now beneath the water’s surface, gathering more exquisitely coloured and textured shells to add like medals to her collection as indisputable evidence of how utterly fearless she had become.

Gazing out over the water, in her mind’s eye Angelica also replayed the adventures the three friends had shared out of the water. Only yesterday, they had played games like only the happiest children can play, pretending to be pirates, dodging the flying cannonballs and raising their skull-and-crossbones flag high into the breeze that blew over their heads. Then in the next minute, they were space cowboys, chasing each other with guns that shot lazer beams, squealing with delight as they ran through a dark maze full of corners, twists, turns and mirrors. Even when she tripped and fell to the ground during one of their games, Angelica was so overcome by such child-like glee that she had stayed on the ground, laughing uncontrollably like the eight year old she truly was inside. How blissful, how divine, how simply delightful to be so completely and utterly alive and free!

Even now, breathing the sweet, fresh air into her lungs at the water’s edge, Angelica knew that although she most certainly had Grown Up matters of significance to attend to, that the intense joys she had shared with her two most beloved friends over the past few days would sustain the Child within her for the days and weeks to come. And before too much more time had passed, she found that she had managed to progress through the work which had ungraciously demanded so much of her attention and had kept her from sharing today’s sweet new adventure.

But now here were her friends, the white-haired boy and the sweet red girl, emerging from the water towards her like two strange sea creatures, sparking in the dazzling sunlight. Their smiles embraced her warmly in their joy, and she knew that she had not missed the adventure entirely, for they would relive it for her in exquisite detail, each of them presenting to her one small, precious treasure from the deep – perhaps a shell or a word story or even a pair of warm, wet smiles in exchange for her own. She had waited for them by the water’s edge, and now they had returned.

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Right now I  wish, wish, wish, wish I was underwater … cool, crisp, fresh, soft magical  salty water. So here’s my buddy check for all my friends … today you get to go on the most relaxing, refreshing dive you’ve ever known. As you wade into the  crystal clear sea, sun-sparkled ripples seep slowly through the black neoprene that tightly encases your body, into your boots, cooling your feet.
 
Then you stop for a moment and smile to yourself. Have I turned my tank on? And what has that crazy little critter  filled it with this time? Reaching over your shoulder, you release the air from the tank into the valves, then reach down to read the special gauge that tells you exactly what and how much your tank contains today.
 
 
Pale pink butterflies flit across your small round dive computer screen, then round in swirling circles of colour until their translucent images dissolve. Yes, you knew your tank would be full of them – no surprises there. Then a red button on the gauge begins to flash and beep, emitting the high pitched sound of rubies clinking like ice in a tall crystal glass  filled to the brim with sparkling pink champagne. Yes, there are rubies in your tank, a mine full of them. The tank is so full, the rubies start to spill out into the water, making its surface shimmer to life with a greater radiance than you’ve ever experienced before.
 
 
Then you steal one last glance at your dive computer, convinced of your strong suspicion there must be one final element filling the tank strapped fast to your back. You can feel whatever it is rumbling deep inside the tank, ready to burst forth and animate each of your forthcoming breaths. Every fibre of your being is convinced this  is one of the most powerful propellants known to humankind. It is both common and magical, pure and unique, refreshing and sustaining. It is obscure yet obvious, clear but enigmatic, both invisible and evident, simple though profound. Of course, your tank is nearly ready to burst with friendship in its most potent, poignant and purposeful form. In its highest known, most concentrated form, friendship spills – then floods – out of your tank, and the very ocean itself is transformed.
 
 
Today each of us will dive in different directions, yet somehow we know that we will all be swimming under the same glossy, glassy surface, experiencing  the same sacred secrets of the same splendid ocean. Each one of us with be utterly awed by the peaceful beauty and graceful diversity that surprises us with every fish-like kick, each second of every day. And in those moments when accounts and projects and meetings and administrivia intrude into the salty, seamless fabric of our day’s delightful dive, a quick glance back down to the small round computer in each of our hands will transport us immediately back into the bliss of our oceanic escape.
 
 
The fragile wings of butterflies will flicker, find their strength and take flight. Streams of sunshine will send bright beams through each facet of a thousand rubies that radiate faint freckles then fantastical flames of exquisite light. And once again the tenacious ebb and flow of unquenchable friendship will eclipse the roar and surge of the waves themselves, infusing each ripple with inexplicable peace,  joy, serenity and all the power of the very ocean itself.

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Christmas lunch is finished, and after an indulgence-induced nap, several of our party decide to take three dogs – my beloved Golden Twins and one rather portly King Charles Cavalier – for a drive to walk along Flinders Beach. Usually, I am diving under this beach’s ancient wooden pier, making photographs of weedy sea dragons, small schools of fish and the occasional nudibranch or eagle ray. Now I find myself walking along the shore in a flowing pink dress and my best pair of heeled shoes, entirely inappropriate for such spontaneity. I remove the shoes and feel myself sink slightly into the weed-strewn sand as it presses into my soft bare soles.

Three men – my boyfriend, along with his brother and his brother’s friend – are some way ahead of me, hurling tennis balls far into the ocean for the boldest dog to retrieve. They move further and further ahead of me down the shore, and I am quietly delighted by the slowness of their pace. Steadily, I’ve begun to focus my attention on collecting shiny specimens from the hundreds of tiny shells washed up on the shore, some rocking and spinning with the tide’s ebb and flow in the shallows. I know I will need many minutes – and possibly several fixated hours – to sort and sift through them all. This ocean is the quintessential Australian Christmas tree, the late afternoon sun bouncing and glistening across the water’s surface like fairy lights gleaming off garlands of blue and silver tinsel. A thin veil of the smallest shells sparkling in the water, then just beyond its lapping reach, is now a sand-bottomed box of bright, festive baubles, each more fragile than glass.

I am absorbed, filling my hands – then my pockets – with shells no bigger than my smallest fingernail. Many are as common as snail shells – cream, green and orange. Others are small, elongated cones, covered tip to tip in tiny brown checkerboards. Of course, the shells I am searching for against all hope are any shade of pink. While a few shells offer the smallest flecks of the coveted hue, so far only one, now buried amongst fifty or sixty others deep within my pocket, has caused the pink heart within me to pulse with delight.

When I glance up again quickly, the men and dogs have become little more than slow moving specks on the long expanse of sand, and after a few more steps, I find myself much relieved by their distance. I have stumbled upon an unexpected trove, a concentration of tiny treasures right at the water’s edge – literally thousands of them. I determine to work my way eagerly through this richly bejewelled tapestry of sand until the moment the men and dogs return. My eyes are dazzled by the pearlescent rainbow of tiny shell beads. My hands cannot move quickly enough to feel them all as the cool water washes over them: sharp, smooth, spiralled, flat, perfectly round, halves clasped together like fragile hearts, a jewellery maker’s drawer of bright beads spilled out onto a sandy workshop floor. Far too many shells to search through on my own to find the ones that will delight me the most – and soon there’s a dog pressing its wet nose against my hand. The men have almost returned.

“Time to head back,” my beloved commands across the sand. Such are the subtle moments that threaten to destroy the soul. “But look at all these shells! I could honestly do this for hours.” And as all three men have now returned within a few steps of where I crouch barefoot in the shallows, I extend myself to buy more time to secure more of the most precious tiny ornaments. “Before we head in, would you please each find me one special shell as a final Christmas gift?” Sensing they will not get me back to the car before obliging my request, three new sets of eyes turn towards the sand and the next stage of the treasure hunt begins. “Do you have this one?” my boyfriend asks, tendering a green snail shell. “Yes, but I wanted another.” He heads off again in search of something unique and he finds it – a sharp, narrow shell like a long pearly fingernail.

“Here’s a nice brown one,” his brother declares. He is not in the mood for shells. His quickly chosen offering matches ten or eleven already in my pocket. There is nothing inspiring about it at all, but I thank him for his gift. By now, the third man has retreated far down the beach. He bends every few steps to select yet another sun-kissed gem. His large hands full, he reluctantly turns to walk the treasure-littered expanse of sand back in my direction. “Do I have to pick just one? I’ve found so many!” And not content to just pour his collection into my waiting hands, he goes through maybe ten or fifteen or twenty tiny jewels, one by one. “Look at this one – it’s magnificent! The colours on that one are just outstanding. These checkerboard shells look hand-painted. And some of these could almost be pearls.” His delight delights me more than any of the shells he is now describing with the most intense child-like wonder.

It’s getting late and, while the slowly setting sun evokes sadness that the hunt for Christmas shells must draw to a close, my pockets and hands are full to overflowing. Three wet dogs pant beside me as we make our way back to the car. How long since I have gathered shells as though there was nothing more blissful to do in all the world? How long since I have walked barefoot along a stretch of sand without so much as wondering what treasures might lie deep in the water underneath the adjacent pier? To my surprise, I cannot remember doing either of these things – any time at all – in my adult life. My most recent memory of such pleasure is of myself as a child, wearing pink shorts and a straw hat too big for my head, in awe at discovering the large spiralled shell of a paper nautilus, peeking like an enormous pearl from under a piece of driftwood. Now as I empty hundreds of tiny shells from my pockets into a small cloth bag, I promise that I shall return like a child to this magical stretch of sand to collect more tiny, shiny treasures. Soon.

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Hello to all our followers.
We hope you are enjoying the work we are putting in the Friendship Tree.
We have now put a large number of the poems and stories into a book, available through Blurb as a Hard cover book or as an E Book for the iPad or iPhone so you can enjoy our work to date at any time.
The books are 180 pages in total with illustrations on a large number of the stories.
Have a look at the following links.

http://au.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3791785

http://store-au.blurb.com/ebooks/358259-the-friendship-tree

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Three friends ambled slowly along the concrete walking path, looking out over the expanse of wet sand and the calm shallow waters of the inlet at low tide. As always, the white haired boy gently held the hand of the rose-cheeked girl, while the girl with pink overalls and bows in her hair lagged a little way behind, fascinated by the pulsating movements of a small pink sea jelly that bobbed just below the water’s surface. Its soft dome occasionally broke the surface to catch the few sunny shimmers that managed to reach the water from the heavily overcast umbrella of sky. But quickly, the sky’s umbrella developed a small tear, and gentle rain, now becoming heavier, sent the three scrambling to the nearest covered picnic table. Laughing, they shook the rain from their hair, and soon they realised they were not alone.

A young man was sitting on the other end the table, feet on the bench, hands in his pockets, the hood of his grey jumper pulled up over his head. He smiled as he watched the trio of children laughing amongst themselves at how wet they had become so quickly in the rain. “It’s only water you know,” he remarked which for no real reason made them laugh even more, and soon he was laughing with them. “We were thinking of maybe going for a swim a bit later on,” the rose-cheeked girl told him, “But now it feels like we’ve already been in.” She had always been the most confident one of the three, even though sometimes she felt as though she was a little on the outside of the friendship the other two seemed to swim inside. She grappled within herself to accept and understand the wordless language they seemed to speak to one another when thinking about the ocean they both loved passionately or the Friendship Tree they often climbed together and always wanted her to climb too. She was slowly starting to comprehend how such a friendship could exist when the boy’s heart belonged totally to her, and with time she was growing to understand and love them both for wanting her to be part of their circle.

“Why settle for running in the rain or going for a swim when you could dive?”, the young man replied, turning slightly so the children could read the ‘Scuba Dreams’ logo printed on the back of his jumper. “There’s no greater adventure in all the world than an underwater safari. You kids are just the right age to start learning, you know.’

“I don’t think that’s something I would ever do,” the girl told him, a small crack appearing in her usual courage, “But these two here – they would do that in a heartbeat.”

At the sound of the man’s words, the white haired boy’s vivid imagination had already taken him under the water, and as always the girl in the pink overalls was not far behind him. They had only ever seen the ocean from the top and its hidden mysteries had always intrigued them. Now their minds transported them both deep under its glassy surface, and together they glided through the warm water, its mysteries no longer hidden from their eager eyes. They soared above the sandy bottom like birds soar above clouds, marvelling at the shapes and colours of spiky black urchins, large cobalt seastars attached to enormous purple boulders, bright tiny fish and massive blue groupers that swam towards them, inviting them to interact. In turns, the children pointed out to one another a beautiful brown eagle ray, taking magical flight from the rocky ocean floor. Then, a spotted yellow moray eel poked its head out from a crevice between some rocks like a wide-eyed, open-jawed snake, and the girl in the pink wetsuit felt a strange fear and thrill combine to course through her veins like water. She knew that the creature would not hurt her if she didn’t touch it, but the strange sight filled her with a powerful sense of awe and wonder.

And then she saw the white haired boy, motioning her to join him in the water just a little way ahead. Before she knew what he had called her to see, he had disappeared into a large crevice under a rock ledge between two enormous boulders.The girl always carried her bright pink torch with her into her deepest daydreams, and its bright white light now shone through dark water, bouncing from wall to wall to reveal that she had in fact followed the boy inside a large underwater cave. It was like entering the hall of an underwater castle, its cold stone walls protecting anyone brave enough to venture inside. She glided slowly through the water, hovering over large rocks, searching behind and under ledges for hidden treasure and mysterious creatures that might inhabit this underwater kingdom, this secret palace made of boulders.

Then her torchlight caught the white-haired boy ahead of her, waving frantically, pointing towards something that had just swum past the spot where he now hovered weightlessly in the dark water column. She glided towards him, following as he increased speed to find whatever sea monster had just brushed past him. She reached his side and he pointed down to what appeared to be a mottled flat brown rock, nearly seven feet in length. Slowly her eyes made out the wide shape of a head with beady eyes on its flat top and a tassled fringe along its jaw, a long body with fins and an enormously long tail. The creature had settled quietly down onto the cave floor like a dragon guarding the castle, and she sensed that if she did not disturb it, it would leave her peacefully alone. At other points in the cave there were small fish, and a fast moving brittle seastar made its way through a nest of red shrimps that scurried busily under the lowest rock ledge.

“It’s perfect down here,” she thought to herself, for words in this world were as impossible as underwater butterflies. “It’s almost perfect,” thought the white haired boy, his mind tossing like waves between the joys of exploration and the feeling that, while this adventure was rich for two, it would be all the more treasured if it could be shared by three. There were so many colours inside this cave – the yellow and orange sponges adorning its rocky walls and the brilliant blue of the ocean above that occasionally peaked through rugged holes in the cave’s ceiling. Gold sunlight sometimes streamed in, its dappled beams dancing like happy children on the boulder walls. And there was his friend with her bright pink torch, a little too excited as always by all that she could spy with her little eye, where every adventure was for her just another funny game. Even in the darkness of the cave, he could sometimes see a smiling sparkle in her eyes when she spotted some new creature darting in or out from the cave’s rocky crevices. But for him, there was just one colour missing – the vibrant red of the girl he loved the most – and in his heart he wished for nothing more than to one day share this magical underwater world with her too.

And at this thought, he caught from the corner of his eye a large moving object that sent a small terror through him, causing his heart to skip a beat and his lungs to miss a breath. Had he disturbed the large flat wobbegong shark that he’d just now seen resting on the floor of the cave? But no – now that his heart had settled and his eyes had found their focus, the moving object seemed to be holding a torch of its own, and it wore a mask through which vaguely familiar eyes could be faintly seen. As the dark shape moved closer, the boy recognised the eyes of the young man the children had met in the shelter earlier when it had started to rain. “Come follow me!” the man motioned, and the white haired boy and the girl with the pink torch swam slowly and steadily behind him to see what he had discovered. Gliding through the dark water, he led them back to a place just inside the entrance of the cave where sunlight streamed like liquid gold through one large gap in the cave’s domed roof. Then he motioned them to surface inside the cave and their three heads now broke the water’s surface to catch sight of whatever it was that the diver had brought the children here to see. Actually, it was not something he had found, but someone he had brought with him, and the eyes of the white haired boy sparkled more brightly than as if he had discovered the richest pirate treasure. Sitting on a rock near the entrance of the cave, her legs dangling in the water, sat the beautiful girl with the smile full of roses. Her friends’ eyes filled with awe and wonder. How had she come to be here? And how had she found the courage to join them in the cave?

“After you two disappeared under the water, this one realised there was fun to be had and she didn’t want to miss out,” the young man explained, nodding in the direction of the beaming girl he had led down to the cave to sit on the rock in her cherry red bathers.  She waved to her friends and blew the white-haired boy a sun-dappled kiss. “I’m feeling braver now,” she whispered down to him. “Next time, I might be brave enough to put my head right under the water and explore the cave a bit further with you both.” And as they leaned warmly into each other’s smiles, they barely noticed the girl with the pink mask disappear back below the surface, sending tiny bubbles back up through the water until her head popped up again. Swimming over to her lovely friend, she lifted her arm out of the water and placed a delicate object into her open palm, folding the girl’s fingers gently over it to briefly hide the tiny treasure. “I saw this down there before, and it made me think of you,” she smiled, and the girl whose eyes sparkled like rubies opened her hand to discover a small red, heart shaped shell. “Tonight when you go to sleep, place this shell under your pillow – it will help to make all your Scuba Dreams one day come true”, her friend whispered.  “And next time we go exploring underwater” the boy beamed, “My heart tells me you will be brave enough to lead us on the adventure.” “I think so too”,” the beautiful girl replied, her cheeks rosier than he had ever seen before.

“So what do you think, kids?” the young man in the Scuba Dreams jumper asked the three children. “Do you think one day you might go for a real underwater adventure?” They barely heard him – their eyes were still full of their magical daydream about all finding each other in the underwater cave. The words he spoke reminded them where they were, sitting on a picnic table in the park.  The rain that had been falling heavily now softened into a gentle mist that faded and dissolved like the underwater cave itself. “I think we will,” replied the girl in the rose dress. “No doubt,” said the white haired boy. “For sure!” the girl in pink squealed with delight, and with that the three friends waved goodbye to the young man, linked their arms together, and made their way back down the concrete walking path alongside the calm shallow waters of the inlet and into the brightest sunlight.

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