The Little Sister

Chapter One

The water felt cool and refreshing on my tan skin. I dove under and reached for the bottom of the pool’s surface, my fingers reaching out in front of me with unbridled anticipation.

Our pool rested under the shade of a depressed crab apple tree. If only you could behold this tree, you would have no choice but to agree with this description.

The gloomy tree and our scruffy tan dog, P.J., stepped in as my faithful audience for this under water showcase.  Yes, I was the one who proudly named him after a sandwich that was a staple in our historic Victorian home.  P.J. lay on the deck unamused, perhaps wondering if I knew when I proclaimed his name that “he” was in fact a female.

Lifting  my legs gracefully above me, the warm summer air greeted them.  I held my body as long as my seven year old lungs would allow.  The ballet dancer that I was becoming most notable in my long pointed feet.

I delighted in releasing air through my nose as I  flipped over under water onto my feet. A delicate bubble necklace trailed behind me.  If a girl could feel blissful, it was happening for me in the quiet sanctuary of my pool, as it had countless times before.

I emerged from the water like a dancer steadying herself from a turn, slightly off balance but beautiful nonetheless.  As my hands reached to wipe the remnants of water on my face, extending back over my long dark hair, my attention was unexpectedly drawn to something beyond me.

Chlorine stung my dark brown eyes and I squinted to make out a figure that was slowly walking down our private street.

A moment or two passed, P.J. shifted his position and the water stilled around me. Yes, there was a man walking down our street, but I struggled to make out his features. His face was not only obscured by chlorine and the bright afternoon sun, but by his nearly shoulder length hair and spotty beard.

Without fully processing my situation, I lept out of the pool dripping wet and hurriedly climbed down the wooden deck.  P.J. remained in his spot, only his eyes moving from my sudden and unanticipated exit.

Seconds later, I found myself dripping pool water onto my wooden bedroom floor.  I closed the door behind me and sat on the edge of my bed in disbelief.

Decades later, I could recognize this instinct to run for cover anytime my emotions overcame me as my all to common response to emotional pain.

I felt for the soft fur of my beloved cat, who was asleep beside me, and stroked it. My eyes were still fixed beyond on what seemed to be, in that moment, a mirage.

My heart pounded in my rib cage like a caged bird meant for flight.

It was only when I heard the front door open that guilt and shame overcame me.

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