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.
* * *
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.