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She died in the water. She had been swimming in an outdoor pool that day, a perfect day for swimming. Summer: the only escape from the hellish heat was to hide beneath the cool clear water. It was midday when she swam, but the pearly white clouds that hung lazily in the sky shielded the sun’s cruel rays. A gentle breeze swept across the water, creating faint ripples on its surface, distorting the perfect reflection of the sky.
The only lifeguard on duty was slouched leisurely in his raised chair, the blood red rescue tube draped across his chest. Having given in to the heat, he was dozing. He had no worries. The girl was the sole person in the water and she came often. He knew she was a proficient swimmer.
She had almost reached the far end of the lane. Somewhere a bird sang a sweet melodic tune. All at once, the girl was no longer swimming. Uncontrollable spasms shot through her arms and legs. She floundered wildly in the water. The cloud blew away from the sun. Light from the sun reflected off of her eyes, now wide with terror. Her brown irises glowed in desperation, the dilated pupils barely visible. Forty-five seconds elapsed and then her flailing limbs went still. Exhausted, her arms and legs floated limply in the water. Her eyes closed; she sank. The bird continued to sing, a full, harmonious song.
The lifeguard awoke from his slumber and looked out at the water through sleep blurred eyes. He did not see the girl. At first he thought she must have left. Then he saw the dark shadow lying at the bottom of the pool. He pushed himself out of the chair and plunged into the water. He saw her unconscious form. Her arms and legs were spread, her eyes were closed, and her hair drifted slowly around her, pushed by small currents. He pulled her to the surface, frantically treading water, screaming as he had never before for help.
The lifeguard in the office raced outside. Together, they pulled her from the water. No breath, no pulse. Thirty chest compressions, two rescue breaths, over and over. One minute - no pulse, no breath. The AED was brought out. “Scanning heart rate,” droned the computerized female voice. “Shock advised...Charging...Shock ready.” A shock jolted her body. “Shock delivered.” Still no life. The ambulance arrived. More CPR, more shocks, emergency oxygen. Still no heartbeat. Then, no pulse, no breath, no life. Dead.
The boy sat quietly in the funeral home. Completely dressed in black, his head bowed, his eyes staring blankly at the carpeted floor. A preacher stood at the front of the room, drawling on and on. He kept repeating the word “God.” “And my sister didn’t even believe in God,” a voice inside the boy’s head whispered. The preacher was describing someone who was not his sister. No one knew her; no one had the right to talk about her. “They are ruining her memory, robbing her of her identity,” he thought furiously. It felt like a betrayal to him. Was it really that much to ask to have someone describe his sister as she really was? The least they could do was honor her memory.
At the end of the service, people whispered in sad, tearful voices, “I’m sorry. I know what it’s like.” You don’t know what it’s like. You don’t know what pain is. He walked in a daze, his eyes unseeing. His sister was gone forever. He had lost part of himself, a part of who he was. He could not feel. He wasn’t sad, he wasn’t angry: he was empty. Rain fell from swirling grey clouds onto the gravel driveway.
Later that day, he stood in the cemetery, in front of the hole where she was to be buried. The hole stretched out in front of him, a bottomless chasm surrounded by rich green grass. She would disappear beneath the earth, never to be seen again. A single tear trickled down the side of his face, rolled off his chin, and fell to the ground. He wanted to fall into the hole to be with her. He wanted to fall and never hit bottom. “Everything is gone,“ whispered the voice in his mind. He jumped.




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