"I am not sure I am up to this," sighed Nick as he adjusted the stack of flippers.
"Sure, you are. Get over yourself, boy," Margo grunted as she continued to pound on the computer keyboard.
"Margo, think about it..." he started.
"Nick, you have to. What is the use of having your scuba instructor's license if you don't use it?"
"If word gets out that..."
"I'll have more business running through here, and I won't have to worry so much about these blasted taxes," Margo swore, as she ran her fingers through her salt and pepper hair.
"The shop's not doing that badly, is it?" Nick asked concernedly.
"No, but scuba shops are a dime a dozen along here," she replied. "Never hurts to have a little extra."
Nick was about to answer when the bell over the shop's door rang. A tall brunette walked in and looked around nervously.
"Can I help you? Margo asked as she walked out of the office.
"I hope so. I'm Diana. I called yesterday about going for my open water dive?" she said timidly.
"For your PADI qualification. Right. Well, I have your instructor out back. Just grab your stuff and the two of you'll head out," the older woman said.
Diana shouldered her bag and followed the woman through the shop, out the back to the small dock. Margo nodded at the small boat down the jetty and to the man, a tall blond, who was loading tanks in the boat. Diana smiled her thanks and walked towards him.
"Hi. I'm Diana. You're supposed to take me out for my qualifying dive," she smiled, trying to sound more confident than she felt.
The man turned and shook her hand. "I'm Nick. Just put your bag in the boat and we'll get going."
Diana jumped in the boat and they set off. Nick seemed to be studiously ignoring her, which only made her feel worse. She was nervous enough about this dive; her first deep water one. If she failed this, she wasn't sure she could go for it again. Scuba diving was an expensive sport, and she was not rich by any stretch of the imagination. She had gotten by with snorkeling for years, but she had been determined to try more. "Midlife crisis," she thought ruefully. After all, this was her birthday present to herself for her 31st birthday. It had been either scuba or surfing and at least she could get the class and pool instruction under her belt in Toronto. It was hard to get decent waves on Lake Ontario.
"So, this your first time here?" Nick suddenly asked.
"Florida? No I was here with my mother and my little sister about fifteen years ago. We went to Disney. Drove my mother crazy," Diana chuckled remembering.
"Yeah, my brother and I drive our mother nuts whenever we go there. She won't go with us anymore," Nick smiled.
"Wow, you're human," Diana said.
"What?" Nick said defensively.
"I mean you have been ignoring me since I got on board. I thought I was being tested on my scuba skills not on how well I could take rejection," Diana smiled, hoping he took it well. The last thing she needed was to have her scuba examiner mad at her.
"I was just trying to let you get settled," he said gruffly.
"Great," she thought. "Now I have totally blown this."
"So do you like music?" Nick asked.
"Of course, doesn't everyone?"
"I'm from Canada so I tend to favour Canadian groups; Great Big Sea, Tragically Hip, Ashley MacIsaac. I also like Crowded House, Midnight Oil and Hootie and the Blowfish. A bit of everything really. Except..."
"Yes?" Nick interrupted her intently.
"Not a big fan of heavier rock. You know Def Leppard and so on. And I really don't like gangsta rap. There is enough hate in the world without celebrating it. I suppose it's a being a woman thing but any music that glorifies pain, suffering and violence is not okay in my books."
Nick seemed to tense a bit. "So you like more pop stuff?"
"Sort of. I am interested in the message too. I prefer music that says something. Love songs and ballads are okay but romance doesn't control my world so there is only so much I can listen to. I seem to be listening to a lot of soundtracks right now. They usually have a good mix of music, and I am a big movie buff."
Nick nodded and relaxed a bit. He was a good-looking man. Younger than her, but tall (which she had always preferred), and well built. He had very straight, blond, almost white, hair. He was sporting a deep tan, which seemed to emphasize his deep blue eyes. He was clean shaven, which emphasized his strong jawline. He also seemed a little angry.
"Look, I am kind of nervous about this dive. It means a lot to me. You are clearly annoyed with having to be here and it is throwing me off. Why don't we go back and I can arrange to go out with someone else for this," she said.
"No, its okay. I am sorry if I have been standoffish. It's just... Its not you. I had something on my mind and I promise I'll be better from here on in," he smiled and it lit up his face.
"It's a deal."
They arrived at the small reef where they were going to do the dive. Nick dropped the anchor. Diana pulled on her flippers and mask and Nick helped her pull her tanks on. One they were both ready, and he had dropped the 'divers below' flag, they both hopped overboard.
The water was clear and they made a steady descent to the reef, where Diana saw coral, sea cucumbers and urchins. They swam along the reef, admiring the many fish and other sea creatures. A small shark swam by in a determined manner as it followed a small school of fish. Diana performed the various tricks and techniques that were expected of her, and before she knew it they were on their way back to the boat.
"Hey," she said, looking at her watch. "We were down there for an hour. It seemed like only a few minutes."
"I know," Nick said dreamily. "It is amazing how cool it is down there. I could just float out there forever."
Diana chuckled, "sure but what about the others?"
Nick was immediately on the defensive again. "What others?"
"You know, the other divers. Wouldn't they get pissed off if you didn't show up for their lessons?"
He looked at her intently. "True, they probably would."
They headed back to the scuba shop's dock where Diana helped Nick unload the boat. The door to the store was locked, but Nick had keys and let her in, pointing down the hall to a small washroom so she could change out of her wetsuit and back into her clothes. He went into the shop front. There was a note on the counter.
"Gone to pick up some supplies. Back soon. Watch the shop. Margo," Nick read. "Great, just what I need."
"So are you going to autograph this for me?" a voice said behind him. He spun around to find Diana standing there holding out her PADI license form. "I can't do any more diving until you let me know if I passed or not."
"Yeah, that's true," he said as he signed the form with a flourish. Diana let out a whoop of joy and grabbed the form back from him, staring at it intently.
"You have no idea what this means to me," she beamed as she shook the license. Nick couldn't help but smile, remembering how he had felt when he had first gotten his license. "I think I do. Look, I am sorry if I was so rough on you. You were my first qualifying dive. You did really well."
"Thanks. I was hoping it wasn't because you hate Canadians or anything," she grinned. "I mean South Park hasn't been giving us a break."
Nick laughed heartily. "Forget about Terence and Philip. Canadians have always been good to me. Just nerves on my part too, I guess."
"So, Mr. First-time-as-an-examiner, where should I go diving now that I can officially?" she said waving the license under his nose. Nick pulled out some maps from below the counter and the two pored over them. He told her about various places he had dived and what to see there. Diana was soaking up all this information, but couldn't help notice the three girls who were peering into the shop's window.
"Umm, Nick? You better head into the back for a sec," she said.
"Just do it," Diana ordered, pushing him around the corner as the door bell chimed.
Diana leaned up on the counter and said, in a very good impersonation of Margo's drawl, "Can I help you ladies?"
The middle one, a girl with red hair, freckles and braces stepped forward -- definitely the leader. "Do you work here?"
"Of course. I wouldn't be standing here if I didn't." Diana growled.
"That guy who was just here..." the girl started.
"Bob?" the girl repeated.
"Yeah, Bob Haskell. One of the instructors."
The girls had a quick confab.
"Is he coming back?" said the skinny blonde.
"He better not. I just fired his ass." Diana said.
"Fired?' the redhead said weakly.
"Yeah, lazy good for nothing. Kept sniffing the oxygen from the tanks. Never showed up on time. I have a business to run here."
The petite brunette stepped forward. "You are sure his name is Bob? He looked a lot like Nick Carter," she said bravely.
"Nick Carter?" Diana played dumb.
"You know from the Backstreet Boys," said the blonde pointing to her t-shirt.
Diana pretended to peer closely at it. "Oh yeah, I guess he did kind off, if Nick was a stoner. Aren't they off tourng in Asia or something."
"No, they are at home on a break. That's why we are down here. Nick likes to dive so we thought..." the redhead trailed off.
"Well, he doesn't dive here. Shame though, he'd be good for business. Course its that tall, dark one that'd really bring them in," she pointed to the shirt. "What's his name again? Keith?"
"Kevin," the brunette corrected her. "You are sure that wasn't Nick?"
"Bob Haskell, I told you. If you want to check he's probably up at the 7-11 with his stoner buddies."
"You are sure you are not just saying that to protect him?" the brunette asked fiercely.
"Listen honey, I could care less about some bottle blond kid singer." Diana said angrily.
"He is not a fake blond, or a kid," said the blonde (who obviously did dye her hair).
"Miss, I have a class of," Diana picked up her license and pretended to be reading it," twenty-odd people coming in shortly, and I just fired their instructors. I would love to sit around talking about baby-faced boy bands, but I am really busy. Are you gonna buy something?"
"No," said the redhead angrily. "And don't think we won't go and check at the 7-11."
"Whatever." Diana said dismissively as she moved the maps around on the counter, trying to look busy.
The three girls stomped off, slamming the door. Nick poked his head around the corner, but Diana shooed him back until she was sure the girls had left.
"You knew the whole time," Nick accused her.
"So why didn't you let on?"
"Listen, you can be Nick Carter, Backstreet Boy or Nick Carter, President of a small country for all I care. The only person I was worried about was Nick, diving instructor. The guy who held my diving license in his hands."
Nick sat down heavily on the stool, and sighed.
"You kept trying to get me to admit I knew who you are. Why?" Diana asked.
"I dunno. I love diving and I love teaching it. But I am afraid that some fan is going to come in here and take a class just to get close to me and then end up in real trouble out there," he said indicating the ocean.
"That would be really wrong," Diana sympathised. "So why are you doing this?"
"Margo has been my dive buddy since the start. She qualified me for both of my licenses. She needed some help and I am filling in." He laughed. "She actually did fire her last instructor's 'ass'."
Diana smiled. "So I just got lucky, then."
"Or I did. Thanks for getting rid of them. I love my fans, really I do, but diving is the one place where I can get away from it all."
"I can certainly understand that," Diana chuckled. "The ocean is a big place. Hard to find celebrities in there."
"Even bottle blond ones from baby-faced boy bands?" Nick teased.
Diana blushed, "I only said that to make them leave."
He leaned back on the counter. 'So, you like Kevin do you?" he grinned.
"Stop it. I'll call them back. I will." she threatened.
"Eek, don't do that," Nick squealed, ruffling his hair," my dye job isn't ready."
Diana laughed so hard she knocked over the stack of masks, at which Nick laughed so hard he knocked over the flippers. Neither of them heard the door chime.
"Making a mess of my shop are you, Carter?" Margo said gruffly, pleased that he had relaxed.
"Oops, sorry. Diana was just..."
"I was not! You were..."
"Yeah, well you can both clean it up."
The two started cleaning, stopping only a few minutes when Nick chased Diana around the room wearing a mask and flippers and trying to poke her with a snorkel. That was quickly ended by a loud throat clearing sound from the office.
"Well, Mr. Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys, you are a hell of a lot nicer once you relax," Diana remarked.
"I only relax around qualified scuba divers," he smiled, and laughed as Diana's face lit up again as she remembered her triumph.
"Yeah, we are the best kind of people," she glowed. "You were telling me where to go diving..."
"I can't believe you came down her to do your deep water qual and you don't even know where to go diving," he said shaking his head.
"I never really thought about diving here. I am just waiting to go back to Cuba."
"Big island country, south of here," Diana smirked.
"I've heard of it," Nick returned sarcastically.
"Yes, well you imperialistic running dogs can't go there, but us nice Canadian humanitarians have been visiting it as a cheap vacation spot for years. I have been snorkeling there a couple of times and it is fantastic. I heard the diving is even better."
"So why not do your qual there?"
"My spanish isn't that good and I didn't want to risk it. I had a lot riding on this piece of paper."
"I know what you mean."
"Okay Mr-Know-it-all... diving? Where?"
"Sorry. Peroxide fumes got to me," he said cheekily.
"You are never going to let that one go, are you?" she laughed.
"You really shouldn't do a lot of diving alone in unfamiliar waters." Nick warned. "why don't we go together. I can show you some of my favorite spots."
"Won't that cut into your "Teen Celebrity" lifestyle?" Diana teased.
"Well, I will have to miss a few movie premieres and skip that date with the supermodels, but I think I can fit it in," he laughed. Then stopped and said, in wonder, "funny. A few hours ago I was scared about being recognized."
"And now you are making fun of it? I think the reason you said you were worried is valid, Nick. Don't judge everyone by my charming self."
"Like I said, Canadians have always been good to me," he smiled.
"We rock," Diana agreed. She gathered her bags together and Nick escorted her to her car.
"Do you want to come to my house for a pool party tonight?" he asked suddenly.
"Ah," Diana stammered. "Nick, I am more than ten years older than you."
"So? That makes you in the perfect age range for Kevin," he said, making kissy noises.
Diana laughed and slugged him on the arm.
"No, I am serious. To celebrate your getting your license, and me surviving my first day as an instructor," he said earnestly.
"Okay. You're on."
Nick gave her instructions to get to his house, and sent her off with a warning that she may run into other "baby-faced boy band members" there.