The last days of summer for Sammy
|"I told you it was great at night," Amber said as we made our way down the beach.
I looked over the still, dark water, and up to the cloudy, darkening sky. "Yeah, great," I said without conviction.
Amber laughed as she kicked off her sneakers. "Come on, before it gets too dark."
She took off running then, across the pale gray sand, on to the weathered boards of the dock.
"Wait," I called after her, but she just grinned at me over her shoulder.
My chest tightened as she neared the end of the dock.
Amber turned to look at me and frowned, "Aren't you coming?"
I wasn't sure.
"Just a second," I said and bent to untie my sneakers. I suddenly felt my nerve disappear, and searched for any excuse to head back to camp. I didn't know why I had agreed to come. Maybe it was because Amber was just one of those people you always wanted to say yes to, or, more likely, because she was my only friend and I didn't want to lose her.
"Did you chain-lock your sneakers?" Amber teased.
I took a deep breath, told myself it would be fine, and stepped out of my sneakers. The sand was cold and damp, a welcome change from the afternoons when I burned the bottoms of my feet, but a gentle reminder of the water I was now approaching. You're not going in the water, I thought, unable to ignore the knot in my stomach getting tighter the closer I got to the dock.
I had been watching the distance lessen between the sand and the water when Ambers voice made me jump.
"You're slower than a turtle. Come on," she said and wrapped her arm with mine.
Amber had come back down the dock to meet me. It reminded me why I had accepted the invitation in the first place. She had always come to my rescue. Most of the campers made it their daily activity to tease and torture me, but Amber was quick to defend or divert the attention away. I felt safe with her.
"Come on, you got to see this," she said and led me along the dock. We walked at her pace, but cautiously enough that I felt almost comfortable. When we got to the end she let go of my arm and lowered herself to her knees. Amber waved for me to follow. I did, but I wasn't as graceful as she. My nerves had weakened my knees and I dropped to the dock.
"You okay?" She asked with a crease in her brow.
"Okay, so, what I want you to do is lay on your stomach, put your chin over the end of the dock, then look straight into the water, like this," she said and did exactly that.
I stared at her, my fingers locked on the edge. "I thought we were gonna look at something?" There was a shiver in my voice.
"We are, but in order to see it you have to get as close to the water as you can." Amber paused. "You're not afraid are you?"
I looked down.
I shook my head, ashamed.
"I always thought you were just too shy to be in a bathing suit," she chuckled.
I felt my cheeks grow hot.
"Oh, Sam, I'm sorry," she said putting her hand on my shoulder. "I don't mean to make you feel bad. I'm just surprised, that's all."
"It's ok," I said quietly.
"Maybe this will help."
I looked up at her with an arched brow.
"It's okay. I promise its not that scary," she said with a glint of a smile.
My stomach was still churning, but Amber had always been there for me before. I had no reason to doubt her. I took what little courage I had and forced myself into the position she had suggested. The dock felt sturdy beneath me and it quieted my nerves a little.
"Okay, now, open your eyes and look into the water," she instructed beside me, doing the same.
I squeezed my eyes shut before turning my face down to the water, then slowly, very slowly, I opened them up again. I gasped when I saw a pale face looking back at me. It gasped too. The water was so still and dark it became as reflective as a mirror. It almost looked like I was under the water. My stomach churned a little faster.
"Good," I heard amber say beside me. "Now I want you to take one hand off the edge and put it into the water."
I shot a look at her.
"Do you trust me?" she asked.
I thought I did.
Taking a shaky breath, I slid my arm over the edge. My heart was beating fast. I tried imagining a bathtub. I was just testing the water, I told myself. My fingers broke the surface, then my hand, and my wrist. Soon, the lower part of my arm had dipped below too. I did it. I was putting my arm in the water, and I was fine. I could feel my heart calming, and a smile starting to tug at the corners of my mouth.
I opened my mouth to speak but the words disappeared. Something had hit my hand beneath the water. No, not hit it, grabbed it. I tried to pull myself free but it wouldn't come. "Amber, my arm is stuck." I turned to look for her, but she was walking back down the dock. "Where are you going? I'm stuck. AMBER!" I called after her.
She grinned over her shoulder at me again, but this time it sent a cold shiver down my spine.
I screamed as I was suddenly jerked forward. I felt a flash of hot pain in my finger tips as I failed to hold onto the dock. Whatever was beneath the water was stronger than me, my resistance was useless. There was no time to think as I was pulled over the edge and swallowed into the cold depths of a lake I managed to avoid all summer. I struggled to break free, inhaling water as I did, but it was no use. The lake had claimed me at last.
- - - - -
On the shore, Amber scooped up the second pair of sneakers and tossed them in the brush. As she headed back to camp she crossed paths with a fellow camper.
"Hey, Jake," she said wiping the sand off the back of her jeans.
"Hey, Amber. What have you been up to?" he asked.
"Just feeding the fish," she said with a grin. "You know, Jake, you really should come with me next time."