Claudia plunged deeper underwater, staring up at the flickering starlight and the moon shadows blinking under a veil of the cleansing water. She held her breath, her heart beating the only sound, moving her arms and legs in slow motion. The burn in her lungs began as a memory of her father, when she was four and he pushed her on the backyard swing, his tie loose at the collar, gray flannel pants billowing in the breeze she made as she flew past him. Then, when she closed her eyes, the sensation of movement made her feel like she was flying like Wendy through the clouds to Neverland.
The burn continued, more strenuous now, vying for attention. It grew into a dull, penetrating ache. She released some air and watched the bubbles float above her face, drifting toward the surface, merging with the dappled light like a Monet seascape. Deeper, and a little deeper yet. More bubbles rushed to the surface. The ache became an urgent scream in her brain, and just when she thought she would black out, in that thin space between consciousness and some other realm, she kicked hard and torpedoed up, breaching the surface in a midnight explosion of splashes and sloshes and eerie echoes and great inhalations.
Crickets still chirped in the background and there, across the bay, fireflies danced in the darkness of the marshes. As she swam quietly, calmly back to the shore, feeling the water caress her naked body, the decision that haunted her for the past week solidified in her mind. It was time.
Cold sand pinched between her toes. Claudia gathered her clothes and climbed the stone steps to the cabin. Everything made sense now. Everything so clear. On the porch surrounding the wooden structure, she stopped to gaze across the mirrored water. The moon’s reflection and winking stars rippled across time, across the lives of all her generations. She shivered as droplets of water fell from her skin. She touched her belly softly, dead fingers trembling. Then, swallowing a deep breath, she turned and stepped inside.
- from a writing exercise in one of the Ottawa Writing Workshop sessions.
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