Soul Gazer Chapter 2

Read Chapter 1 here

One more semester, all that’s left of her college life.

As she finished her workout, Kaila’s mind drifted back to her insecurities and newly blossoming fears.

She would be a graduate, entering the real world as an adult. She’ll have adult things to worry about. A job, paying rent…being happy. She thought going off to college was the scariest thing she’d ever done. She was wrong and this new chapter of her life didn’t even require moving to another state.

But could she really say if she’d stayed in Indiana she’d feel any different? Would she have found her life’s calling if she’d stayed home? No. She would’ve found what was expected of her. Married, kids, the whole nine yards. But she wouldn’t have been happy with that either.

Grabbing the bar on the underside of the starting platform, she maneuvered herself so her back was to the wall and stretched her sore arms. Taking a few deeps breaths, she raised and lowered herself, kicking her legs gently under the water. Through her goggles she saw everyone else already out of the pool.

Last again,Kaila thought as she placed her goggles on the pool edge. It wasn’t because she was the worst in class. She liked swimming. The longer she could forget about the rest of the world the better. But everything ends and reality always came back.

She watched the other students drying off, getting dressed, and a few even taking advantage of the spa to ease their sore muscles. Two unfamiliar figures caught her eye, standing next to Pam, the teacher or honestly the one who had to be present.

She’d never seen the two before, clearly they weren’t students, but they didn’t look like professors either.

One wore a brown suit, matching his hair and bringing out the green of his eyes. He did most of the talking, throwing an occasional smile at Pam. It clearly did the trick as Pam laughed and placed a hand on his arm.

The other man leaned against the wall, barely paying attention to the two. His blonde hair was obviously not natural and even his clothes, which were baggy and oversized, seemed unnatural on him. He wore horn-rimmed glasses, but even those were most likely for show.

Why were they here? Were they looking for someone? Everyone else was already out of the pool…were they waiting for her?

As if hearing her thoughts, the man with blonde hair raised his head and his eyes met hers. Her heart skipped a beat and she nearly lost her grip on the starting platform. His eyes were a beautiful golden color and she knew they were real, the one real thing about him.

A smile spread across his lips and she felt her face blush. She turned away in an attempt to hide it, but she heard laughter from the wall. A flush of embarrassed anger filled her and she turned to face the pool edge. Placing one hand on the edge of the pool and squeezing the bar of the starting platform, she took a few deep breaths then tried to pull herself from the water.

This always ended up being the hardest part of the class, trying to figure out how to climb out of the water without looking like a complete fool or beached whale. There wereladders, but they were on the opposite side of the pool from her warm towel…and meant getting out directly in front of the two weird men.

She didn’t need them seeing the bruises on her legs from her many attempts at climbing out over the past few weeks of the class. Most people became concerned when they saw them, but she considered them badges of honor, reminders she’d succeeded more times climbing out than giving in and swimming over to the ladders.

She pulled herself from the water with shaky arms, kicking with her legs to gain more height. Her muscles were weak, sore, and made her body feel thousands of pounds heavier. Managing to pull herself halfway out of the water, her grip on the starting platform slipped and she fell back into the water with a loud splash.

Hovering under the water, she prayed no one saw her miserable, failed attempt to climb out, even if they heard it. Maybe she could stay under the water forever. Would drowning really be that bad? It couldn’t be worse than the embarrassment of popping out of the water.

Her lungs made the decision for her. Her survival instincts were far stronger than her bashfulness. She kicked her legs and broke through the surface, taking a deep lungful of air. She wiped the water from her eyes and grabbed the bar again, freezing when she saw a pair of black shoes next to her goggles.

Slowly looking up at the owner of the shoes, her eyes widened when she saw the man with golden eyes smiling down at her.

Holding a hand out, he leaned down. “Would you like some help, Miss—?”

She tore her eyes from his gaze to his hand before taking it. “Kaila. Yeah, thanks.”

Pulling her out of the pool with surprising strength, the man managed to avoid getting any water on his clothes. He stepped back giving her space.

Grabbing her towel, she rubbed her face before wrapping it around her shoulders. Noticing the man standing, watching her, she hesitantly met his eyes. The golden orbs moved up and down her body, surveying her. She felt like he was taking notes in his head about her and she fought the urge to lower her towel, covering as much of her as she could.

Leaning close to her, the man placed a hand on her shoulder. “You’re going to be fine. You’ll be someone amazing.” With that, he walked away.

Standing, frozen to the spot, Kaila slowly turned her head, her eyes following the man as he joined Pam and the other man. The green-eyed man gave him a confused expression before glancing at her.

Quickly looking away, she felt a single tear roll down her cheek. She placed a hand over her mouth, holding the sobs back. Suddenly, she was seventeen years old again sitting in her room.

*            *            *

“Kaila?”

She turned away from the doorway, pulling her knees up to her chest. “Go away. I don’t want to talk.”

Her father stepped into her room, closing the door behind him. “We don’t have to talk. We can sit.”

She fell onto her side, holding her knees tightly. She felt her bed lower as her father sat down. He didn’t touch her and she was sure if she looked at him he would be facing away from her.

They stayed that way for several minutes before the dam broke. Tears rolled down her cheeks and sobs shook her body. She buried her face in her pillow, a burning sensation in her throat as she fought from crying out loud. She gasped for air and the sounds finally came.

Minutes passed, perhaps even hours, she didn’t know. Her throat hurt, her chest hurt, her eyes hurt, even her arms hurt from squeezing her legs tightly. She didn’t know when the hand on her side was placed there, but she appreciated the comfort.

“Ready to talk?” Her father’s voice held no judgment. Honest care and love filled each word.

“What am I going to do? Who am I going to be?”

“Ah, your mother mentioned colleges again, didn’t she?”

She shook her head. “We talked about where we see ourselves in ten years at school.”

“And?” It wasn’t a demand, only a simple gentle encouragement.

“I couldn’t answer. I don’t have an answer. I don’t…can’t see myself in ten years. Everyone else had something to say. I thought about lying, but when my turn came I just…sat there…silent.” She rolled onto her back, staring into her father’s eyes. “What am I going to do? Who am I going to be?”

Taking her hand in his, her father pulled her into a sitting position. He wrapped his other arm around her and hugged her. She listened to his heartbeat. Feeling more tears well up in her eyes.

“You’re going to be fine. You’ll be someone amazing.”

 

*            *            *

 

The last thing she expected was pain as something slammed into her left shoulder. Her eyes widened as the unknown object hit her with enough force to push her back. The ground disappeared from beneath her feet and time slowed.

She managed to glance towards the two strange men. The green-eyed man’s expression reflected her shock. The man with golden eyes was running towards her, but it was his hand her eyes locked onto.

Something was there. Something in his hand, but at the same time nothing.

Hitting the water brought a gasp from her lungs, one last attempt at life before the water swallowed her.

Soul Gazer Chapter 1

Blood. Not a good sign.

Underwater. Also not a good sign.

Kaila Linna realized two other not good signs. She couldn’t lift her arms without a sharp pain nearly making her inhale water and her legs were tangled in something heavy, dragging her deeper.

This is how I die. In a swimming pool, half naked.

The thought almost amused her, but the growing pain in her lungs reminded her drowning was one of her greatest fears. The realization intensified the pain.

She tried reaching for what held her legs together, but agony shot through her left shoulder and more blood rose towards the surface. In desperation she tried kicking, but the movement only tangled her more.

Her eyes burned with the chlorine, one becoming blurry as her contacts lens fell out. Her body slowed and soon she couldn’t find the strength to even lift her head.

Hitting the bottom of the pool, she stared at the distorted blue sky. Shadows appeared at the edge of her vision and her lungs burned for oxygen. She couldn’t hold it any longer. She exhaled the last of her air in a stream of bubbles.

Inhaling, the pain shocked her only for a few seconds before she lost consciousness.

∗          ∗         ∗

“Everyone will be doing the workout today. Go to your lanes and get started. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me or Rachel,” Coach Pam Green yelled across the pool area.

The fourteen shivering students reluctantly sprang to action, simultaneously regretting signing up for an outdoor swimming class in winter. California winters though not as cold as other states, still weren’t comfortable.

Kaila pulled her towel tighter around her, wishing she were back in her bed instead of standing half naked in the chilly air. The only true motivation to getting in the water: heated pool. But it didn’t make the transition any easier.

Wincing as she crossed the cold concrete, Kaila hurried to her assigned lane. She hated the moody California mornings, cloudy and cold before the sun burned the overcast away to reveal seventy-five or eighty degree temperature.

It’s winter, either be cold or be warm, not both, she thought. She couldn’t really be mad at the weather. She chose to take the winter swimming class in January. She thought it would be relaxing. She always found swimming relaxing, but after the first day of climbing out of the warm water into the cold air, she regretted it.

But she wouldn’t quit. A credit was a credit.

Reaching her assigned lane, she placed her warm towel on top of the starting platform marking her lane. She pulled her dark brown hair back into a tight ponytail, shivering as her skin not covered by bathing suit lay bare to the cold.

With her hair secured, she leaned down and placed her goggles in the warm water. Goose bumps ran up her arms from the difference in temperature as she watched her goggles drift up and down, side-to-side depending on the water current.

Seeing the chaotically beautiful way the plastic moved in the water, she couldn’t help feeling she were staring at a strange representation of her life. She’d been floating through this year, almost like a dream, taking the small disturbances in her life as easily as her goggles of the current.

Does everyone feel this way about their senior year of college? she wondered, though a twinge of doubt answered for her.

Everyone around her, it seemed, had their next steps planned out. Graduate school for some, moving to new cities for those who could, and jobs already lined up for the rest. She was stuck in life purgatory. A shadow loomed over her future because she couldn’t see what it held for her yet.

A splash snapped her from her daze. To save himself the slow adjustment to the pool water, the boy in the lane to the left had jumped in. Pulling her goggles from the water, she stood and stepped back.

Perfect time to have doubts about life after college, she scolded herself, staring at the water. Those already in made the surface ripple, distorting the bottom. The once welcoming pool now seemed like a stranger to her.

“Could you help me put this on?”

Jumping, she turned to the girl assigned to the lane to the right of her with a confused expression. The girl held a swim cap in her hands, her eyes hopeful as they now cautiously watched Kaila.

“What?”

“Could you help me put this on?” The tone of the question changed to cautious, the girl unsure how Kaila hadn’t heard her the first time.

“Sorry, yeah.” Placing her goggles on top of her towel, Kaila walked up to the girl.

Leaning over, the girl placed the front of the swim cap on her forehead. Kaila grabbed the back and pulled it over the girl’s blonde hair. Why bother with a cap? You’re still going to shower after anyways. Why waste the effort? Kaila thought.

Finished, the girl stood straight and smiled awkwardly at her. “Thanks.” She grabbed her nose and jumped in.

Water splashed on Kaila’s legs, reminding her of the cold air versus the warm water. Grabbing her goggles, she sat down on the edge of the pool, letting her legs hand. Kicking her legs in front of her, she enjoyed the feeling of the water against her skin.

“Enough thinking. Just swim,” she whispered to herself. Closing her eyes, she pushed off the edge into the warm water.

∗          ∗         ∗

“Which one is it?”

The two men sitting in the spectator seats above the pool watched the class below with partial interest. One man lounged with his feet up on the row in front of him, one arm propped on the back of the seat next to him. The other sat in the row behind, his arms crossed over his chest.

“I knew you weren’t listening earlier.”

Dunstan Frei leaned his head back so he could see Crewe. “When I’m not allowed to talk, I don’t listen.”

Refusing to look him in the eyes, Crewe watched the group below. “Maybe if you knew how to behave, you’d be allowed to talk.”

Returning his attention to the pool, Dunstan winced. “Ouch, you’re a bit snippy in the morning.”

“Whose fault is that?” Crewe grumbled, glaring at the back of Dunstan’s head. “You’re the one who’s done nothing but complain since we left.” Leaning forward, he lowered his voice as though anyone could hear them. “And I’m talking about since we left the hotel and home.”

Dunstan snorted, trying unsuccessfully to stifle his laughter.

“What?”

“The way you said that, you make it sound like we’re a married couple.”

Anger flushed Crewe’s face. “You’re truly unbearable sometimes.”

“Thank you. Now, honey, please, which one is it?” Dunstan barely dodged Crewe’s hand.
“No violence now. Not in front of the children.”

The next swing hit him on the side of the head. Dunstan laughed as Crewe stood and stormed down to the bottom of the seating area. He fumed as he leaned don the guardrail, his eyes searching the lanes below for their target.

“Crewe, I’m sorry.” Dunstan groaned and stood. He leisurely walked down the steps towards his partner. “Seriously, which one is it?”

Turning his head to watch Dunstan, Crewe took a deep, calming breath. “He should be in lane nine.”

Both counted the lanes, realizing the last few were reserved for those involved in aquatic sports. It explained why the boy in lane nine swam much faster than the other students.

“Are we starting a swim league or something?” Dunstan asked, his eyes lazily following the target.

“I’m guessing he doesn’t impress you. Should we even bother going down and talking to him?”

“Not unless you want a chance to catch something I didn’t.”

Pulling out his phone, Crewe shook his head already scrolling through his contact list. “I appreciate the attempt at flattery. But if you don’t see anything, I doubt I’ll find something worth reporting.”

“Oh, your compliments…they’re what I live for.” Dunstan pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket.

Crewe grabbed the pack before he even had a chance to open it. “Not in front of the students.”

“Why? I’m sure half of them smoke anyways. This is a college, not a high school.”

“This is also a no smoking seating area,” Crewe said, pointing to a pillar with the familiar red and white sign. “Last thing we need it to be kicked out…again.”

“Last thing I need if for you to have something else to blame me for.” Dunstan’s eyes stopped on the third lane. His eyes narrowed and a smile formed on his lips.

“I’m making the call.” Before Crewe could hit send, Dunstan grabbed his arm. He winced at the strong grip, but when he saw his partner’s face he understood.

Turning to view the pool again, Crewe’s eyes returned to lane nine. “You spot something?”

Without answering, Dunstan grabbed his pack of cigarettes and put it in his pocket. Sitting, he leaned forward and watched with an intensity he hadn’t felt in a long time.

She’s the one we came for, Dunstan thought to himself.

Read Chapter 2 here