Excerpt from Lingering Echoes

Damien swam back over to where he could stand in the water, waist deep again. He shook his head, throwing water droplets into the air. Then he ran both his hands over his face and through his thick hair, slicking it back. His pale shirt suctioned against his chest, outlining every muscle.

“It’s not so bad once you get all the way in,” he commented. He reached out with one hand, still a good ten feet away. “Come on.”

I shook my head in defiance.

He persisted. “You said the other night you wanted help, right? This water is as calm as you can get. It’s safe.” Now it was his eyes that summoned me. His next words were slow, deliberate, his voice deep. “What are you afraid of, Allie?”

I stared at him with terror in my green eyes, barricading the tears that threatened to spill. Disbelief shrouded my face, my voice quivering as I spoke with an edge of anger. “What am I afraid of? Are you really asking me that?”

Damien didn’t waver, his hand still reaching for mine. He waited.

I trembled, swallowing the burning lump in my throat. My voice was hushed, a whisper that exposed the aching in my soul.

“I’m afraid of how the water feels when it swallows you whole. It doesn’t care who you are, or who you love. I’m afraid to sleep, to dream . . . to remember over and over again why I know how that feels.” I was mildly aware that I had removed my shoes, my eyes locked on Damien’s.

“I’m afraid of the hatred I feel inside myself, for surviving when she didn’t.”  A single tear escaped the blockade, sliding down my cheek. One foot stepped into the water. I watched it disappear.

“Allie, you can trust me.” Damien took a step towards me, beseeching my compliance.

In that moment, I wanted to believe him. I wanted to believe he could make all my fears and pains go away, and release them from the snare inside of me. A shiver ran through me as I immersed the lower half of my body into the crystal pool. I waded towards Damien, reaching my own hand out to his.

My mind swirled with frightening memories of a cold, rushing river, but as the tips of my fingers touched his, the fear receded. His hand enclosed around mine, until my trepidation was all but forgotten.

Then he pulled me close, wrapping me into the sanctuary of his arms. Safe and secure, I held onto him like a buoy, the side of my face pressed against his solid chest.  I could feel Damien breathing in and out, slow and relaxed, his chest expanding and contracting alongside my cheek. When I was able to let go and stand on my own, I cast my eyes across the surrounding water.

            We were our own little island.

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