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The Calm Before the Storm
The simple serenity of the early morning breeze and the tranquility of the ocean would
seem to guarantee the safety of anyone walking along the beach or frolicking in the water. The sun was rising and the clouds began to clear, as if to erase the imperfections of days past. She walked with a quiet sense of excitement—her small feet barely making imprints in the fresh, wet sand. Sneaking out from the beach house had been an adventure in itself, and she had been careful not to wake the sleeping cat or her older sister Jane, who shared her bed. With each step she took, a wooden floorboard creaked beneath her and she slowly made her way out of the bedroom.
She felt the adrenaline pumping through her veins—had she ever done something this rebellious before?
“Never go near the water alone. Do you hear me Anna?”
Her father uttered these words almost daily, among other directives which she was expected to obey, no questions asked. She always nodded, but her ten year old self longed to go against his wishes—to do something unruly, defiant, almost delinquent. To leave the house, much less to walk to the beach at such a time of day, was to break the decree of her father’s rigid words.
But along she went, walking excitedly with her flip-flops in hand, closer and closer to the edge of the water. Her tiny feet barely left imprints in the wet sand, and it looked almost untouched after she walked across it. The waves foamed as they washed up onto the shore, and she stuck her foot in timidly.
They warned her about the volatility of the waves this time of year. About how the water could, in almost a minute’s notice, switch from being seemingly unmoving to behaving like an
angry toddler throwing a tantrum. Yet she put both of her feet into the water so that her ankles were completely submerged in its warmth.
With no one around her, she felt a remarkable liberation from the world itself that was unparalleled by anything she had ever seen or done before. This was freedom—being subject only to herself and her intuition—her parents having absolutely no control over what she saw or did. The ocean intimidated her, but the longer she stood in the water, the more comfortable and confident she felt.
She walked farther and farther in, and the water creeped slowly above her hips until it was just shy of her neck. The ocean was unmoving now, the waves almost completely nonexistant. This feeling of complete liberty was new to her. Turning towards the sand, she felt energized by the adrenaline that this experience brought about.
All of a sudden, the waves began to pulsate in tune with her heartbeat. One by one they started to come, quickly getting more frequent until finally she was at the mercy of the waves and had completely lost control of her own body.
Almost immediately, a giant wave crashed over her head and she was weightless in motion.
The wave released, and her nose was able to reach above the surface of the water just enough so that she could take one breath. But before she could think about it, a second wave swallowed her whole.
This wave was stronger, and as much as she frantically tried to come up for a breath of air, it held her under the surface. She was in full panic as the water began to infiltrate her lungs.
She tried to claw her way to freedom and to use her arms to propel herself back to the surface. Fighting against the force of the waves, she grasped at the empty darkness in an attempt to get a breath of air. It was almost as if each attempt at breathing was grasping for
straws. She wrestled with the waves in a ferocious manner, knowing that her window of opportunity was slowly coming to an end, much like the sands of time in an hourglass.
Then, as quickly as the waves had grabbed her, they were gone. Poof. As if somehow, magically, she had managed to break free. She had been released by the powerful force of water which almost ended her life moments earlier. Her head now above water, she was gasping for air, coughing wildly, thrashing ferociously.
Treading water, she gazed at the beach in the distance. She could see the finish line in sight, but could she make it there? With every ounce of will that her tiny body could hold, she said a prayer to the almighty and promised that if she were saved, she would never disobey her father again. Taking a deep breath, she began to make her way towards the beach, her eyes blurry and her arms swinging ferociously to complete each stroke. She didn’t think about the beach ahead and just focused on one stroke at a time.
She told herself that if she could just put one arm in front of the other, she might make it. Before she knew it, her arm touched a rock in the water. In that moment, everything else faded away because she knew she had made it. Finally.
She crawled up onto the sand, panting like a dog. Suddenly, she felt a warm embrace that seemed familiar. She looked up and saw her father—horizontal lines on his forehead, eyebrows furrowed, eyes full of fear and worry, his brown eyes glossy, his skin pale. In that moment, she felt ashamed. Head hung low, she realized the torment she had put her father through.