On this particular day the sky was a clear robin’s egg blue and the water of the lake was like a dark green mirror. A few of the others from the dormitory were already gathering on the small dock and undressing to go swimming. The air was only slightly warm since it was still spring so I could only imagine how cold the water would be.
I watched as Timothy shoved Mark off of the dock unexpectedly. Mark was under for a good solid minute before he came back up with a look of complete shock on his face. Spluttering and splashing he yelled at Timothy through chattering teeth.
“Bastard, it’s freezing cold!”
“Oh, you’ll get used to it the longer you’re in there; you’ll go numb soon enough.” Timothy calmly retorted as if he were making some kind of medical assessment.
At this point James looked over and noticed that I had stopped up by the gazebo on the vast school lawn. He called up to me,
“Dennis! Come on, it’s really not that bad. What’s the hold up?”
“Not that bad?” I muttered to myself with a smirk, “Mark’s lips are purple.”
Despite that obvious warning sign I started jogging down the hill to the dock, tearing clothes off as I went. Once I hit where the grass met the wood of the dock I didn’t stop but sped up and kept running to dive off the end of the platform. Running past with a determined smile I did not look at anyone. I hit the water and at first felt nothing; just my body gliding and cutting through the water like a knife through warm butter. It only took a second though, for the prickling of the cold to pierce my skin. I tried to go deeper, ignoring the pain – and remembering what Timothy told Mark about going numb – but it was not happening fast enough. I could not bear it any longer. I could feel the pressure from the cold and the depth closing in on me and crushing my insides. I quickly turned around in the water to head back to the surface. On the way back up I kept my eyes on the fuzzy ball of light that was the sun; imagining it to be my guiding light that would bring me back to reality and the raucous laughter of my friends.
I broke through the surface with an immense gasp for air. With several pairs of eyes staring at me from wondering faces I let out a bit of a nervous laugh, and started swimming to the side of the dock where Mark was still soaking from his forced entry into the water. As I reached him my laughter grew louder and the others had fallen back into their rough-housing. Since it was a nice day – for the time of year that it was – we stayed in the water, letting the numbness take over.
Lost as we were in our activity none of us noticed when a group of girls from the academy across the lake walked onto the grounds with their headmistress. We didn’t hear their giggling over our laughter until, once the headmistress had gone inside, the girls walked down to the water’s edge.
I was the first to notice their wide eyes as I spotted them a few yards off still. With their hands hiding their mouths – no doubt commenting on us – they were fearless in their approach. Timothy and James were the next to notice them. They looked at each other and welcomed our guests with a loud “Hi, girls;” their bodies jumping half way out of the water. At this the rest of the guys’ heads turned and they all reacted similarly with loud “Hellos” and encouraging words for them to join us. The girls eyed each other and continued to join us by sitting on the dock; careful all the while to keep their dresses dry.
I quietly watched them as they scanned and assessed each of us individually, smiling and quickly moving on to the next half-naked boy. Several of the guys, Timothy and James included, took turns displaying bouts of manliness and strength. I laughed and cheered along with each of them, keeping my place in the water next to Mark all the while.
After a moment or two there was a dull thud to my side. I looked over at Mark just as he went to hit me again under the water and he nodded his head toward one of the girls, a devious smile on his face. I looked in the suggested direction to meet a pair of soft, warm, golden brown eyes.
My laughter, which had previously calmed to a chuckle at Mark’s nudge, completely halted now. I was stunned silent and thankfully I still had a smile on my face for I didn’t want my abrupt reaction to scare away this beautiful girl staring right back at me. She giggled at my response to her for she had noticed the change in my demeanor – mine stiffened while hers relaxed. I could tell we were both captivated as I made the decision to move closer to her. Just then Timothy ran behind the line of girls, shaking off his excess water, getting them wet. They all shrieked at the cold droplets and got up quickly to run toward the school.
I quickly tried to get through the water to the grass but the dark liquid seemed suddenly like molasses. I struggled, but once I reached the grass I took off running after the girl with the golden brown eyes; snatching my towel off of a bush on the way. As I got closer to the girl I was after I noticed that she was a good ten paces behind the rest of her group. She was slowing down on purpose. My smile widened as she turned to look behind her – to look for me. A smile quickly spread across her face as she stopped her slow pace and fully turned to meet me. I had just finished wrapping my towel around my waist when I reached her.
Her expression was not one of surprise but of confident joy. I knew she was glad I had come after her. It was like she knew I would have. I tried to speak but was out of breath – not really from running but from the nervousness of talking to her. She noticed my annoyance at not being able to speak properly.
She smiled, “I’m Sadie, hi;” giving me a chance to catch my breath.
Sadie…it was fitting.
After a couple of seconds I was able to reply. “Hi…I’m Dennis.”
“Nice to meet you Dennis” she was so calm and relaxed. Not giddy and giggling like the others would have been.
We just stared at each other for a few moments. I did not know what else to say so I took the time to notice that her hair, when lit by the sun, was exactly the same color as her eyes. Her lips were just slightly full and a deep shade of pink. The sunlight behind her made her skin glow and she looked absolutely perfect.
I tried to speak once more but this time I was interrupted by the girls’ headmistress’s shrill voice.
“Miss. Weston! Come here at once!”
Sadie grimaced and mouthed her apology to me, then turned on her toes to run quickly toward her headmistress who was at the door to the school’s auditorium.