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Blue. Everything is blue, and silently shimmering like leaves on a tree, weaving and blowing. Her frail legs tremble, shake, and her veins pop up through pale skin.
The slippery tiles that she clings to barely support her tremulous, awkward weight, unsure whether she is truly there or not. Through the warped plastic of her goggles everything is twisted, discolored. Even the sloshing footsteps of her mother coming closer seem to be drowned out by the thick blue.
Then the panic sets in, like a boulder on the edge of a cliff, waiting to be pushed, toppled. Her heart races quicker, and the pressure of the deep water all around is felt more acutely. The knuckles of her right hand, slick and white, are loosing purchase on their last lifeline.
A shout, her mother's, from above the murky surface.
"Caroline, sweetheart! You can do it!" But Caroline shakes her head, violently. The water is swirling too quickly, becoming a greedy, voracious animal, sucking her in.
"Just let go!"
And she wants to, so badly, so completely. Because it is the only way out. She slips away, half surprised, half delighted. She has a glorious moment, a moment of no fear... and then she is falling, falling, falling...
Caroline gasps for air, floundering in the blueness, struggling to float, spitting and fighting to keep her head above water.
She is still afraid. All her life has been spent fearing wishing, wondering. It's the water she wonders about most. What if she could swim? What if she wasn't so afraid anymore?
Sweat that lingers on her cheeks melts softly into salty tears, the kind she tastes on her trembling lips, the kind that her mother tries to wipe away with a sweet word or two, a back rub or comforting hug.
She cries quietly, honestly, a thousand droplets for wishing she didn't have her fears and trials. Two thousand for wanting to swim, to race past everyone and fit in.
Maybe they will laugh at her feeble efforts. Oh look, it's Caroline, the one with agoraphobia, hydrophia, and about twenty others we don't know and don't care about.
Caroline, the wimp. The untouchable of junior high society.
She gives up the hopeless struggle with the water and lets her mother haul her up onto the soft grass, wrap a towel around her pale, shivering, defeated body.
Blue haunts her dreams, the taunt of never being able to just jump in. But maybe, someday, she will be able to take her first steps into the impenetrable crystal water.