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Underwater This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I don't remember much from that day. I was only nine, after all. There are details, however, that time simply cannot wear away. The sirens are one of them. And the blue tint of my little sister's skin. Emily was only five, practically a baby, her torso encased in fiberglass due to scoliosis. There was no way she could have swam, even if she knew how.
I started panicking when I looked around the pool, quite literally swimming with people, and couldn't spot Emily. My breathing became labored as panic gripped me. I ran across the slick tile, nearly slipping and falling in myself. I found the woman who had been in charge of watching my sister in the hot tub, a forbidden place where only the grown-ups could go.
“Where is she?” I demanded, fear and worry pushing their way up from my gut. “Where is Emily?”
She looked at me for a moment, stunned. She reminded me of a deer caught in the headlights of my mother's car. I turned to scan the crowd for a sign, any sign, of my little sister.
Everything that happened afterward has blurred together in my memory. I remember the sirens – so loud I had to place my hands over my ears. I remember her tiny, discolored body being lifted from the pool and placed gently on the ground. One pump, two pumps, three pumps, a breath. Again and again, until the water rose up from her lungs and out of her mouth.
They rushed her to an ambulance before she could even let out a cry. The way she looked at me, though, she didn't have to.
She was one of many who cried that day. I did, my brother did, and my mother – my strong, fearless mother cried. It was so foreign to me, so strange; I had never seen it happen before. Someone must have called her at work. As she approached the hospital's emergency entrance, I rushed over to meet her. She hugged me tightly, then ran inside. I stood and watched as the doors closed. They wouldn't let me see my sister until the next morning.
I remember lying in bed at my babysitter's house late into the night, not awake, but not asleep enough to dream. What could they be doing to her? Was she connected to a bunch of wires like on the medical shows my mother watched? Was she being prodded like some lab experiment, like I had read about in science-fiction books? I didn't have to wait long to get the answers. What seemed like minutes later, I was being shaken awake and told to get dressed.
I had been to a hospital before, of course. I had regular checkups for my back. But the hospital I was used to had colorful floors, brightly painted walls, and silly doctors that made me giggle. This hospital was gray, gray, gray. Gray walls, gray ceilings, even the people looked gray.
When I saw my sister laughing and playing with my mom, though, none of that mattered. I was no longer standing in the doorway of a gray building. No longer felt the awful pressure in my chest, that feeling of guilt that I should have been watching her, should have protected her. She smiled at me, and everything was bright again.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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