Floating is the First Step
“No! I don’t want to do it!” my little sister cries at the top of her lungs, thrashing in my arms. “You can’t make me!”
I roll my eyes, but keep my hold on her strong, making sure not to accidentally drop her into the ocean. “Don’t be so over-dramatic, Mabel. It’s just water; it can’t hurt you.” There isn’t a drop of water to be found anywhere on her green fur yet, but she still finds a reason to whine. “The water’s not even that cold.” Of course, this is a lie. The water is up to my torso, and it has been for at least five minutes, yet it feels no warmer than it was when I first got in. Still, I know there is no chance of Mabel even considering swimming if it isn’t the perfect temperature. She’s a picky Acara, much pickier than I was at her age.
She’s stubborn, too, and doesn’t even absorb what I have been telling her. “I don’t want to swim!” She tugs at my ears and at my tail, her hind legs kicking at my chest, squirming to break free.
“You stop that right now or I’ll drop you in the water,” I threaten her as convincingly as I can, narrowing my turquoise eyes.
This is enough for her to stop struggling, but she continues to blubber like a baby. “I- I- you can’t- I want... Waaaah!!!” Nothing attracts more attention than a crying Neopet, and sure enough, strangers on the beach are quick to give us funny looks.
“Fine,” I sigh, giving in. “You can take a break. But,” I add, before she can celebrate, “you have to keep your feet in the water.”
Even this makes her protest. “That’s not fair, Rebecca!” she complains, her voice reaching a high squeak at the end of my name.
“Do you want me to dunk you in, then?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
Mabel shakes her head quickly, and I obediently bring her to the shallow end and place her on the ground. She winces a bit when the cool water touches the tips of her feet, and she lets out a quiet yelp, but that’s all. A small smile manages to sneak its way onto my face. Just getting Mabel to touch the water seems like a great victory.
I turn around and stride back to the deeper part of the water. “I don’t know about you,” I call over my shoulder, “but I really want to do some swimming.” With a graceful leap, I jump into the water, and although it’s still pretty cold, it’s also exhilarating, in a way. I tuck my brown Usul tail close to my body and dive down to the very bottom. When I start to feel a bit short of breath, I race back up to the surface as fast as I can. Upon opening my eyes, I’m able to see Mabel gazing at me enviously. Without me being able to help it, the corner of my mouth quirks up into a grin. The only way to get Mabel to do anything is to show her what she’s missing out on.
I plunge back under the water and decide to try and sneak over to my sister without being noticed. The water is considerably dark today, so I should go unseen if Mabel isn’t paying much attention. Each stroke I make is careful, each movement of my legs as limited as possible. I see a pair of green Acara feet getting closer to me, and my hands reach out in front of me...
The moment I touch her feet I’m able to hear her screams, even from underwater. Once my head is out of the water she’s still screaming, and I giggle at her outburst. “Calm down,” I tease, and try to grab her foot again.
Instinctively, she jerks her feet back. “Don’t!” she warns me, pointing her finger at me to make it clear that she’s serious.
“Oh, come on. Lighten up! Go swimming with me!” It’s worth a shot, I figure.
Maybe it’s just a trick of the light, but I think I see her honestly contemplating what I have suggested. Just as quickly as I see it, though, her blue eyes flicker back into that stubborn look I’ve seen so often before. “No.”
“Fine. Suit yourself.” I swim back to the deep area, then I turn onto my back and float to the top of the water. Lying in the water, watching the sky... It calms me—until my little sister does what she does best and ruins the moment.
“Rebecca!” she yells at me. “Teach me how to do that!”
“Nope!” I shout back automatically. “You said you didn’t want to swim!”
There’s a long pause before she responds. “I don’t want to swim, I just want to do what you’re doing right now!”
I make my way back to the shallow area again. “Yes, but that’s the thing,” I tell her, and pull playfully at her ear. “I’m not going to teach you how to float unless you promise you’ll let me teach you how to swim afterward. Do you promise?”
Mabel stares at her feet while she thinks, intent on not looking me in the eye. “Fine,” she finally decides, but her voice sounds slightly reluctant.
“Good.” I get onto my feet and stand closer to my sister. “So, I’m going to have to hold you at first, just so you can get the feel of it.” Mabel says nothing as I grab her sides, then slowly glide her over to water that’s a bit deeper. “Don’t worry, I’ve got you,” I remind her when she starts to whimper. We stay like that for a moment before I tell her, “Try and make yourself as light as you can. You could try holding your breath for ten seconds, and I’ll let go of you. If you start to sink, I’ll grab you again. You’re perfectly safe.”
She doesn’t object, which I take as my permission, so I remove my hands. For three seconds she stays afloat, but then begins to lower. Just like I promised, I quickly grab her again and raise her back up. “Good job,” I tell her with a sincere smile. “Let’s see if we can go a little longer this time.”
Once again, I let go, and she stays up for a fair amount longer. “Nicely done. It’s kind of easy, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” she agrees, sort of breathless. I can tell she’s still nervous, so I ask if she’d like a break. “Nope, I can do it,” Mabel assures me, and I have faith that she can.
This time, when I let go, she stays for the whole ten seconds. “That’s it, Mabel!” I cheer, and I’m about to grab her again when she stops me.
“No. Not yet.”
I count the time that passes in my head. Fifteen... Sixteen... Seventeen... She’s still floating up at the surface. Twenty-one... Twenty-two... Twenty-three... Her expression is determined, and her ocean blue eyes are concentrating on a spot in front of her. Only when I reach twenty-eight does she begin to sink, and when she does, I’m quick to react. “Don’t worry,” I murmur. “I’ve got you.”
My hands on her sides, I lead her back to the shallow area and let go of her. “You did really well,” I praise, which makes Mabel beam even brighter. “Now we just have to tackle swimming.”
The groan that escapes my little sister’s lips does not please me at all, but I place my hands on my hips like an older sister should and remind her, “You promised.”