Legends of the Sea

Image from Pinterest

Marisella would never grow tired of swimming in the deep aquamarine waters. Her soul felt free as she swam and dived, exploring the sea.

Ollie, her jellyfish friend, watched her swim by. He wondered where she was headed to this time. He had heard her mention to Shelly the seahorse that she wanted to explore a cave that she had found out about.

He didn’t know what would be so exciting about a cave. All thoughts of Marisella and the cave disappeared as he started glowing. Gloria, the new jellyfish in the sea, was floating towards him. Ollie started to feel a tingling sensation all over.

Meanwhile Marisella kept swimming. She was set on finding the cave today. Shelly told her that it was a heart shaped cave. How unique and pretty, thought Marisella.

Passing schools of fish and sea turtles, she kept going. Just keep swimming she told herself, you will make it!

Was that it? Marisella wondered a little later. She saw the back of a cave up ahead. Swimming around it, delight filled her when she saw the opening. It was indeed shaped like a heart.

There was some long seagrass that she swam through as she entered the cave. Once she entered she rested a bit against the side of the cave. There was no need to rush, so she let herself relax.

She was enjoying thinking back to when she was little and playing hide and seek with her friends among the reefs and other hiding places they managed to find in the deep sea.

Swoosh! Something huge swam by Marisella making her catch her breath! Was it a shark? She trembled as she watched it swimming to the entrance. Well she could tell that it definitely wasn’t a shark, but she was clueless as to what it could be!

Living in the sea she knew all sorts of sea creatures but she was absolutely sure that this one she had never seen before!

Feeling more curious now than afraid she swam after it to get a better look.

It was black and white , with 4 legs and a tail. Its body was huge. Nothing small and delicate about this new sea creature.

She didn’t follow it long until it swam up and out of the deep waters. Would she ever learn what it was? Would it come back again, and why was it in the cave?

Exploring the cave now took a backseat in her mind. She decided to to visit Clarence the sea turtle. Everyone knew how smart Clarence was, he had been around for almost 100 years! If anyone knew what that strange sea creature was, Clarence would.

Marisella was looking at Clarence’s book in shock. “I see it, but I don’t believe it!” she said.

“A cow! The book says cows live in pastures, not in the sea! But yet it looks just like what I saw.” She shook her head in amazement. “Wow! I saw the first ever sea cow!”

Clarence was quiet for awhile while looking in another book called “Legends of the Emerald Sea”

“Did you say that you saw this cow in the heart shaped cave?” asked Clarence.

“Yes, she swam right by me.”

“It then appears that you may have seen one of the biggest legends of the sea! Betsy the WonderCow! She is known for stealing gold out of the heart shaped cave!” said Clarence.

Marisella was stunned. A cow was the one who had stolen the famous gold? She remembered hearing about a cave full of gold, but she hadn’t known it was that specific cave. Had Betsy come back for more? She didn’t see any gold with her when Betsy quickly swam by.

Perhaps Marisella had spooked Betsy and made her swim away before she got more gold. Was there more gold to be had?

Thanking Clarence Marisella knew where she had to go. She needed to return to the cave and see if there was more gold there. While swimming she couldn’t get one big question out of her mind. What good was gold to a cow?

Stirring of the Heart

Image from Pinterest

This post is a continuation from my Settling In post. This story appears to just keep going. Enjoy!

2 more weeks had passed since Katy had come to this remote island to hide out. She missed the city and her friends, but she was really enjoying living by the sea. Waking up to such a beautiful view each morning, was helping her become a morning person. She had surprised Patrick by joining him on more morning runs. They ran 2 miles, not 6, like he had tried telling her on the first morning she ran with him. Some mornings they ran, and some were more of a walk/jog type of morning. Katy enjoyed chatting with him, getting to know him better.

He shared about some of his cases with her. He had close calls before, his job was risky, but he loved it. Katy was intrigued as he shared the story about the young woman Tanya, whose name was really Anna. What a story! She felt a little strange about the fact that Tanya had been hiding out in this very cottage that Katy was in now.

One morning Katy had stayed behind when Patrick went running. She decided that she would surprise Patrick and John with a hot breakfast of eggs benedict, pancakes and bacon. She was frying the bacon when she heard the front door open.

“You are back early, but I will be finished soon.” Katy called out. She turned around when she heard footsteps enter the kitchen. Her breath caught in her throat, it wasn’t Patrick standing there.

“How nice of you to cook me breakfast, a shame that we don’t have time to eat it.” the man said. He had a straggly beard and was wearing sunglasses and a hat. Katy couldn’t see his eyes, but she saw the evil smirk on his face.

“Perhaps when we get to where we are going, you can cook me up something good, you pretty little thing.” Shivers and dread ran through Katy’s body. Where was John? Was he really sleeping through all this, and shouldn’t Patrick be back by now?

When the man reached out and ran his finger down her cheek with a suggestive smile, she grabbed the pot of boiling hot coffee and threw it on him! He screamed dropping his gun, and Katy quickly picked it up as she started to run for the door.

“Hands Up!” Katy turned around, and relief coursed through her when she saw John in the kitchen. He had the man’s arms behind his back, putting handcuffs on him, while the man was screaming in pain.

Patrick came through the door and his eyes widened in shock when he took in the scene in front of him.

“Nice of you to show up!” said John with a wry grin. “Fortunately Katy had it all under control!”

Patrick looked at Katy with deep concern in his eyes. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“I think.” she said, in a quivering voice, as she started shaking all over. She was looking really pale.

“I will take care of this guy, you take care of Katy.” said John, leading the guy out the front door.

Patrick led Katy to the couch and took the gun out of her trembling hand. Then he held her, waiting for her body to relax. After a little bit he went to the kitchen to get her a glass of water. Later that morning they were able to eat breakfast and Katy was beginning to relax. Patrick kept in touch with John throughout the day, and they found out that the man was acting alone. It was the brother of the guy that Katy had sent to prison. Katy was so glad to know that he was behind bars now with no bail, she was safe.

They didn’t head back to NYC right away. Patrick thought that Katy deserved to enjoy some fun outings now that the danger was gone. He took her into town to visit the shops and she ate at the Seaside Cafe. They went out on his boat a couple times, enjoying the tranquility of the sea, and took night walks along the water.

Katy stretched out in her bed on the last night there with her mind in a whirl. She didn’t want to leave. She was thinking about all the times Patrick and her had shared together. Her heart was fluttering with butterflies. What was happening? She had reminded herself several times over her stay that while Patrick was a very nice guy that she didn’t have time for men. She had told herself not to fall for him, but she was afraid it was too late!

Hope in a Bottle

Long, long ago there was a young woman who lived by the sea. In a quaint chalet she lived by herself, The waves kept her company. Sometimes they would roar quite loud, but other times they were gentle when kissing the shore.

She never grew tired of walking along the shore and watching the dazzling display of colors as the sun would set over the sea.

In the morning the sea would glisten like sapphires when the rising sun shined down upon it.

She had learned to enjoy her solitary life. Each day was usually the same but she liked it that way. She kept a journal, recording all her thoughts and writing down memories of the life she had left behind. Sometimes the memories would tug at her heart, but for the most part she had learned to be content. Then one day, what the tide brougbt in changed all that!

She was taking her usual evening stroll by the sea when something washed up on the shore, lying right at her feet.

It was a bottle witb a message inside. She didn’t know what to think. She sat down, sinking into the sand, and opened the bottle.

Pulling out the message she began to read.”Dear Annalise, I have no idea if you will ever receive this but I want you to know its safe to come home now., she died. Come home sweet Anna, to where you belong.” Your loving Aunt.

Annalise re-read the short note 3x, letting it sink in. She could go home. No more fear needed, it was safe to return home. She pondered the news as she gazed out on the turquoise blue sea.

Riding the Waves

Mind bending painting by Robert Gonsalves on Pinterest

What had he been thinking? He had been sailing on the sea for 3 days now and had spent most of his time leaning over the railing, while turning green.

Ooooh the big waves came again, and with them another wave of nausea. Jeremy bent over the railing just in time.

Floyd came by and patted him on the back. “Not feeling too good eh?”

Jeremy groaned and shook his head, not trusting himself to speak. He gripped the railing, hoping the breeze would help refresh him and bring some relief to his misery.

“Don’t worry fella, this happens to all the newbies, you will make it! By the way, we are having liver and onions for lunch, sound good?” Floyd didn’t wait for a response, he walked away laughing as Jeremy grimaced.

The adventure had sounded so exciting. A 15 day deep sea adventure. They were going to dive and explore the hidden parts of the sea, who knew what wonderful things he may see. He didn’t think twice about signing up. He had always wanted to scuba dive, sounded so cool. He never took into account though that he had never been on a ship before!

He closed his eyes as he fought another wave of nausea. Earlier, Jeremy had been lying below deck in his cabin, but it got so stuffy in there that he thought he could use some fresh air. Maybe he should go back to the cabin and lie down, for he was starting to feel dizzy.

Staring out at the never ending sea he squinted his eyes, was that another ship he saw, and maybe 2, or 5 or … wait no just one. Oh he must be losing it, he couldn’t even count anymore. Jeremy closed his eyes. Then he opened them and looked again. Yes there was 1 ship and wait, was that a bridge? A bridge in the middle of the sea? He shook his head, trying to clear his mind and looked again, yup, sure enough there was a bridge in the middle of the deep blue sea.

Robert was mopping the deck, as Jeremy was slowly walking across it to head downstairs to his cabin.

“Oh Jeremy you really don’t look too good, where are you headed?”

“Back to my cabin to lie down.”

“Good idea! I am guessing you don’t want anyone to wake you up for lunch in a half hour? Liver and onions with beets. Hey ….. be careful the deck is wet, you may … !

Poor Jeremy’s legs slipped out from under him and he fell smack onto the floor! This day just kept getting better.

Later that night, he woke up and for the first time his stomach finally wasn’t turning. Perhaps the worst was over and from here on out it would be smooth sailing! He got up and opened his door. A strong odor assaulted his senses. What was that? He looked down to see that a tray of liver and onions with beets had been placed beside his door. Just then the boat rocked, almost knocking him off his feet.

He grimaced. Oh No! Not again, he thought, as he bent over holding his stomach, and ran back to his bed. Next time he was going on a safari adventure, he was not cut out for the sea!

The Magic of the Moon


He was out of breath from running. His mind was swirling with what he had just read in the note that Belinda had left on his truck. He was busy at work, working overtime to meet a deadline, and hadn’t been able to meet her for supper. He had come out of work and found her note on his truck. She couldn’t be serious. could she?

His life had taken a turn for the better he had thought, since he had met Belinda. Now though, he felt like he was going crazy. He thought back to the day he had met her.

He was fishing off the dock, with his brain in a whirl. His girlfriend had dumped him and he didn’t know how to feel. It wasn’t that she broke his heart, for she was actually beginning to get on his nerves. It was kind of a relief that she dumped him, but she had caught him by surprise! He had thought that she was head over heels for him, and then just like that she dumped him. By a simple text! They hadn’t been dating real long, but he thought he deserved more than just a text.

While those thoughts were going through his mind is when he had turned his head and noticed Belinda for the first time. She was wandering around on the dock, almost like she was lost. At first she was hesitant to speak to him, but the next day when he came back, she was there again. She was sitting on the dock, staring out to sea. Her long, honey blonde hair glistening in the sun.

Brian had packed 2 tuna fish sandwiches and offered one to her. He recalled how slowly she ate it. It was almost like she had never ate a sandwich before. They talked some more and soon it became a routine for him to pack 2 sandwiches and meet her at the dock.

A week had passed and they had seen each other quite a bit. They would meet there and then go out for supper, and maybe catch a movie. The first movie they went too, it was like she was mesmerized by the big screen! She still hadn’t opened up much about herself, but she had a great listening ear and a very kind heart. She also loved to ask questions. She found the littlest details about Brian’s life to be fascinating. Brian had never met someone that seemed to be in awe of everything around them. There was an aura of mystery around her, which intrigued Brian.

Yesterday she told him that she had something to tell him, but didn’t know how to say it. Her eyes looked so tender as she spoke and like they had a hint of sadness in them, that he didn’t understand. She had told him that there was a full moon tomorrow and that she had to go. He had asked her where, and she just gave him a soft smile as she brushed her hand against his cheek.

As he stared out to sea, he remembered the look in her eyes from the night before. So full of care, and he felt those caring words in her note. She had thanked him for being such a kind gentleman, and answering all her questions. The moon was full so she had to go back, but she hoped that at the next full moon he would be at the dock to meet her again.

Perhaps he was going crazy, but he knew that the next full moon would find him back here. For who knew, maybe mermaids really did exist, maybe fairy tales do sometimes come true.

The Clue that Answered All!

Tanya was filled with excitement and some trepidation, but she was trying to ignore that feeling. She was going to meet Patrick today for a boat ride.

She had waited a week to call him, she hadn’t wanted to appear too anxious about going diving to see the cave. She had also felt awkward, being that she had run out on him when at the cafe. He had put her awkwardness to rest though, when she called, for he sounded genuinely happy to hear from her. He was thoughtful as he asked her if she was feeling better and she assured him that she was. She asked about going diving to see the cave and was at first disappointed when he had said no, but was touched by the offer he made.

He invited her to come out for the afternoon on his boat. He said he would provide lunch, all she needed to do was show up with sunscreen, ready to enjoy some time at sea. How could she refuse that?  Would he really be so kind to her, if he knew who she really was?  She had been afraid that the authorities would show up at her door any second, but had convinced herself not to run, and each day she found it easier to breathe. Surely if Luke would have said something to him or they would have suspected something, there would have been police knocking at her door by now.

She had 3 bathing suits laying on her bed, trying to decide which one to choose. Once again she told herself that Patrick was just a nice guy, that she couldn’t have a relationship right now.  It didn’t hurt anything though to look nice for him, and she smiled as she picked out her bright tangerine bikini to wear. Should look nice against her tan skin.

Tanya wondered if Patrick did have gold from his last dive to the cave. Perhaps if she did try to get close to him, she could get her hands on more gold! The gold she took from the “Chicken Man”  may soon run out. Her heart started skipping, as she sprayed some “Temptation” perfume behind her ear. and a plan began to form in her head.

Patrick looked at her asleep on the boat. She looked like she didn’t have a care in the world, and she had acted like it when she was awake. He had rolled his eyes whenever her back was turned, at her flirtatious behavior. When he wasn’t quite sure of who she was, he did think she was a pretty girl, but now that he knew the truth, he wasn’t tempted in the least. He had known the “Chicken Man”, the couple times that he had visited Luke. Always a friendly guy, perhaps a little cuckoo with his talking chicken, but it really was terrible what had happened to him!

When discussing with Luke on the phone how to prove if Tanya really was Anna, Luke brought up a tattoo that she had on her back. Patrick wondered how he might get to see it, but after today he didn’t have to wonder any longer. Her little tangerine bikini showed off her tan, and the tattoo in the center of her back.

Patrick smiled as he put his sunglasses on. Tanya was slowly stirring. He moved closer to her and slowly stroked his fingers down her side. She jumped, letting out a giggle as she opened her eyes.

“Oh that tickles!” Tanya said, playfully batting his hand away. He grabbed her hand while taking his other hand and tickling her bare feet.

Two can play at this flirtatious game he thought to himself. Besides, what did it hurt to have her get some laughter now, for when she saw her cottage surrounded by police tonight, she wouldn’t be laughing!

She wouldn’t be laughing, but at least for Patrick, Luke and the town of Borden  all their questions were now answered and things could be peaceful once again.


To Dive or Not to Dive?

This story follows Wednesday’s post, here is a link, in case you missed it. Surprise at Sea


Tanya arrived back at her cottage and her mind was whirling. What had she just agreed to do? Why did she agree to meet Patrick for lunch? She did love seafood, but she is sure that he will expect to engage in conversation during the meal! Is she supposed to just keep her mouth stuffed with food the whole time?

She had nothing against Patrick, he seemed like a nice enough guy, but what if he asked questions about where she was from and her life before she moved here ? So far she had been pretty good at managing to avoid people and those possible questions, but today she may have to come with up something.

What should she wear? Nothing fancy, but she did want to look nice. Not that she was trying to impress Patrick at all, though he was kind of cute, but …. no, she couldn’t complicate her life with a romance right now!

Her eyes fell on her coral sundress hanging in her closet. That would be fine. She had some cute seashell earrings that would go perfectly with it and a pair of white sandals. It didn’t take her very long to get ready.  Taking a look in the mirror she took a deep breath, she may look put together on the outside, but her stomach was all in knots.

She wouldn’t have agreed to lunch if he wouldn’t have mentioned about finding gold in the cave! That is what made her turn her head and change her mind! Gold! Like the gold that Luke had shared with his friends. The gold that he had given to the “Chicken Man” ? Tanya’s thoughts began to drift back to that night.

No, she couldn’t let herself go there, the past was in the past. She had to start thinking about what she was going to tell Patrick if he wanted to know about her. She grabbed her purse and got into her boat, deciding she would think as she rowed.

Patrick was standing at the entrance to the cafe when she arrived. He smiled when he saw her and she felt a warm feeling shoot through her.

“HI! I like the dress. ”

“Thank you” Tanya replied, at the same time wondering to herself if she should turn around and go back to her cottage.

She followed him to a little table for two out on the deck near the water.

She busied herself with looking at the menu.

When the waitress came, Tanya ordered some oyster stew with a crab sandwich and Patrick ordered  fried oysters.

Once the waitress left Tanya asked Patrick a question, not giving him a chance to ask her one first.

“So please do tell me more about this cave? ”

“Well, legend has it that a very long, long time ago there was a young, rich ruler. He had lots of gold, but was very greedy and scared that people would steal from him. In order to protect his gold he found this heart shaped cave and thought it would be the perfect place to hide his riches.”

Tanya leaned forward, with her interest growing. “Has anyone ever found the gold?”

Patrick smiled, “No one really knows. People have explored it the cave, but no one will tell if they found gold or not. Do you want to give it at try? It is a very big cave.”

Tanya was thinking of how nice it would be to have more gold. Oh she definitely had to check out this cave.

“My cousin and I explored the cave once several years ago.” Patrick said smiling.

Tanya felt like he was wanting her to ask if they found gold. She was very curious, but she wasn’t going to let him have that satisfaction.

“Sounds like a great adventure, I am up to it, when do we go?” Tanya replied with a coy smile as she raised her eyebrows.

Patrick’s cell phone started buzzing. He briefly looked at it and then back at Tanya.

“Sorry about that, I thought I had it on silent. It was a text from my cousin Luke. He is a farmer, just came in from milking his favorite cow, Betsy,  and wanted to chat. I tell ya, she is one strange cow, but my cousin really likes her. I just have never quite met a cow like her. He also has a chicken that he says talks, have you ever heard of such a thing. I think my cousin may be a little cuckoo…” he said, as he was laughing.

“Oh my,  here I am gabbing away and  you are sitting there not looking too good. Are you okay? You are looking a little pale.”

Tanya was shaking as she replied, “Umm…sorry.. can you excuse me for a moment?”

Patrick’s eyes followed her as she walked quickly to the restroom. He sat still for a moment and then picked up his phone and texted back his cousin Luke.

Surprise at Sea

Tanya listened to the waves as she was on her boat. She hoped that she was remembering Patrick’s directions accurately when he had told her about the location of the heart shaped cave. It was a beautiful day to be out on the water. The sky was a lovely azure blue and she was feeling good. She was ready to go exploring under the sea.

What was that sound interrupting the peacefulness of the sea? Tanya looked and saw a speeding boat coming her way. The boat was huge and they were coming so fast, like they didn’t even see her!

Patrick couldn’t get that new girl out of his mind. The town was small and it wasn’t like they had new people come into town very much, so it hadn’t been hard to spot her when he had first seen her. She had made about 3 trips into town so far and each time he tried to talk to her and get to know her a bit. She really wasn’t a talker. It was like pulling teeth to get any words out of her, but she didn’t strike him as the shy type. He was thinking that there  was another reason she was being quiet. He couldn’t pinpoint it, but he was intrigued and wanted to keep talking to her.

Her eyes had lit up when he was talking about the undersea cave to her. it was the first time that she really appeared interested in anything he was saying.  Perhaps next time he saw her he would invite her out on his boat with him. Maybe being out on the open sea with the calming waves would help her feel more at ease and perhaps conversation could flow more smoothly.

There was nothing he liked more than being out on his boat on the crystal blue shining water. The weather was perfect today, he was glad that he had decided to come out today.

What was that up ahead? It looked like someone had fallen out of their boat and was hanging onto it!

As he got closer to the boat, he was shocked to see that it was Tanya! She might have been really quiet in town but she was sure saying a lot of words now! When his boat got up right beside her, her face turned a shade of pink as recognition dawned on her.

“Do you need some help?” he asked? She shook her head as she managed to climb into her boat.

“Thanks, but I will be fine, though my plans are ruined for the day. Thanks to the speed boat that almost hit me, all my diving gear fell into the water when the boat flipped!”

“Oh, you were going diving today, alone?”

Tanya gave him a look, “Yes, alone, just me and the sea.”

“You do know that is not  really safe, right? Especially from what I have gathered from you before, you aren’t a real experienced diver, correct?”

Tanya grabbed her paddles and started to row away.

“Hey, not so fast! We can get you some new gear, and I would be glad to take you some time. Why don’t you go home and get out of your wet clothes and meet me for lunch later in town at the Pearl of the Sea Cafe? They have the best oysters!”

Tanya shook her head, “No thanks, I …”

Patrick interrupted, ” I could tell you about the legend of the heart shaped cave? There is believed to be hidden gold down there.”

Hidden gold… thought Tanya. That reminded her of something! She smiled as she looked at Patrick. “I am feeling rather hungry after my little spontaneous swim”, she rolled her eyes, but Patrick caught the glint of a smile.

“I will meet you there at 1.”

“Sounds good!” Patrick replied, as he watched her row away. He was going to add that he hoped she managed to stay in the boat this time, but thought again and had bit his tongue. He wondered what lunch would be like. What was it about her that intrigued him?  He usually kept to himself, but here he had gone and invited her to lunch! If they were going to be diving together though, he may as well start getting to know her. What was she thinking attempting to dive alone? How crazy was she? He shook his his head. How crazy was he, at wanting to get to know her? He guessed that answer remained to be seen.




Adventure Awaits!

1553ee1a5c9f6cf422032c93aefc63fb Picture from Pinterest

The sun streamed through Tanya’s window waking her up early. She looked forward to early mornings. She felt more peaceful in the morning, at night her brain would start overthinking and fears would creep in. Then sometimes she would have the craziest dreams.

A nice, fresh cup of coffee or blueberry tea while she sat outside breathing in the sea air, chased away her night fears. Then she would stretch and get ready to go for a jog. Tanya wanted to stay in shape, and running helped her deal with her anxiety when unpleasant  memories flashed in her mind.

This remote island was the perfect place for her to calm her spirit. She had been to town a couple times now. Still tried to keep a low profile, and not talk to anyone more than she had to while she was there. For the most part it seemed to work, she would just politely say “Hi” and everyone would exchange pleasantries with her and  then go about their business.

Everyone but this one mysterious man, that is. His name was Patrick and he was very friendly.  He always seemed to bump into her when she was in town.  He wore a blue baseball cap on his head. The hair that she did see poke out from under his baseball camp was a nice chestnut brown. It matched his dark brown eyes. He was pleasant but he wasn’t content to just stop at “Hi”, he asked her questions every time that he saw her, trying to get to know her. She didn’t want to be rude, so she would patiently listen to him as he told her about the town. He also talked about the sea. He loved to take his boat out on it. He told her that there was a cave under the sea that he was anxious to explore. The opening of it was told to be shaped like a heart. That peaked her curiosity but she didn’t let on that it did. After a little while, he bid her good day and tipped his hat as he excused himself. She watched him as she walked away and she wondered if she could find a store that sold diving equipment.

Today excitement and a little bit of nervousness stirred inside of her.  She had found a store with diving equipment and had practiced using it for some short dives. She felt like she was ready now to go and find the cave that Patrick talked about. The thought that perhaps it would be wise for her to wait to go with someone did enter her mind, but she pushed it away. What could possibly go wrong?


The Calling of the Sea!



My body instantly relaxes as I step into the warm sand, feeling it squish up between my toes. I smell the most wonderful scent of all, the smell of the salty sea. I hear the joyful sound of the seagull’s call, as they fly free.  They are welcoming me back to the place that has forever captured my heart.

Where my soul is refreshed, and worries washed away by the waves of the sea. Where time stands still as I soak in the joy of the moment.  When the pleasures of the sea grab hold of me like an octopus and don’t let go. My heart smiles as I pick up seashells; my gift from the sea.

My friend and I walk along the edge of the sea, talking, laughing and sometimes just being silent, letting the waves speak.

Knowing in our hearts that there is no other place we would rather be!

Could we be mermaids in disguise … probably!

** We aren’t at the beach yet, but I am dreaming, as the countdown has begun! **