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A Test Of Courage

By EternalEmbers

Drama / Romance

Slipping Away

Bright rays of sun painted my skin in a golden glow as I bathed in it's warmth, the auburn streaks in my otherwise mousy brown locks highlighted as I lay in the reclined outdoor chair.

There wasn't a cloud around, allowing the sun full access to the sky today. It was surely a rare sight, especially being so far out to sea.

“Hey, Hana!” I fluttered my eyes open to the sound of a young voice yelling for me. I squinted against the rays of light and rolled onto my side, propping myself up on one elbow to get a better look at my little brother.

He wore a big smile that just screamed he was up to no good again. His chestnut hair was unruly and sticking out every way imaginable, dirt, sand and a slimy green goop I couldn't – and didn't want to – place a name on dusting his cheeks, forehead and nose.

The four year old tyke stared at me with saucer-wide eyes, his hazel orbs practically sparkling with self-satisfaction. I couldn't hold in the small giggle as he grabbed my hand and tugged eagerly on it, wanting me to follow.

I reluctantly got to my feet and allowed him to tow me along, hand-in-hand. We're three years apart in age, but we're as close as twins. Not only do we share similar features, but we also have the same tastes in food, the same interests (minus the fact that I like dresses), and sometimes we even finish each others sentences.

He's practically my own little doppelganger! I knew from the moment he was born into this world that we'd have a strong connection; and I was right. My little brother and I are inseparable.

“What is it, Saki?” I asked as I crouched down beside him. He reached for a nearby bucket and pulled it towards us with his free hand, keeping a firm grip on my own with his other one.

“Look, look! I catcheded a crab! A crab!” He exclaimed excitedly, his chubby cheeks turning a slight shade of pink at his enthusiasm.

I laughed merrily and gently patted his head in praise. “Good job, Saki! But are you sure it wasn't dad that caught it for you?”

“No! I catcheded it myself! All on my own!” He boasted proudly, holding his head high. I giggled at the sight and gave him a quick one-armed hug.

“Well done then, little brother.”

“Look, I'll show you!” I barely had a chance to find my feet before Saki was pulling me off to the other side of the yacht.

“Hey, slow down! We'll trip!” I yelped as my feet slid across a puddle on the deck.

I gripped the edge of the white railing that trailed around the entirety of the yacht and looked down into the shimmering blue ocean as Saki pointed at the crab nets.

“I finded it in there!” He announced, jabbing his little finger excitedly at the nets tied to the side of the boat.

I was about to congratulate him once again, but then the water caught my attention. It was changing. The ocean, which once resembled the colour of priceless sapphire jewels sparkling beautifully under the light of the sun, had shifted into a murky grey, the playful reflections of light disappearing and dark shadows beneath the surface taking their place.

The warm blanket enveloping my skin disappeared as an icy chill crawled down the length of my spine.

“What's wrong, Hana?” Saki questioned. He must've picked up on my sudden change in mood, because he suddenly sounded as scared and confused as I felt.

I glanced up at the sky, gasping in shock at seeing the sun hidden behind one of the largest storm clouds I'd ever seen. The smoky mass of darkness stretched across the heavens, leaving no room for the giant star or the cobalt blue sky to peek through.

“Hana...? Hana? Hanako!”

I shook myself out of my trance and looked down to my little brother. His eyes were glassy from unshed tears and his bottom lip was quivering. I could feel the palm of his hand growing sweaty within the clasp of my own.

I tightened my hand around his and nudged him along as I ran back to the front of the yacht. Saki stumbled behind me as he tried to keep up.

“S-slow down, Hana!”

I ignored his protests and kept running. “Dad! Daddy!” I called, my vocals shaking from the fear I felt.

“Hana, Saki, where are you?!” I heard my father yell. I felt my heartbeat slow a little at the reassuring voice of my dad calling for us.

“We're here! We're coming!” I yelled back, hoping he'd hear. Just then thunder rolled through the sky and lightning was soon to follow it.

I ducked my head and shielded my face with my free hand as rain suddenly began to beat heavily upon our shoulders. I gripped Saki's fingers with my own as we skidded across the slippery surface to our frantic parent.

“Hana, I can't run that fast! Stop! Hanako!” Saki shouted over the noise of the weather above us. I continued to ignore him as I tried to get us to safety. Why was this happening? Didn't dad say that the weather forecast was clear this weekend? Why is our family trip turning out this way? This isn't how it's supposed to be!

Another round of lightning cracked across the sky, but just as the thunder started to die down a single, large bolt of blinding light tore through the thick blanket of clouds, striking the ocean right beside our yacht. The boat shook from the impact of it meeting the water. I yelped as I lost my footing and flew across to the other side, dragging my sibling with me.

The deafening roar of the thunder and Saki's petrified screams made it hard to hear my father calling out to us as we plummeted towards the menacing liquid.

Suddenly the yacht straightened up again and I barely missed going over the edge, my hip clipping the side of the boat. I cried out at the sharp pain travelling through the entire left side of me.

“Hana! Help!” Saki wailed, large, fat tear drops rolling from his eyes and staining his rosy cheeks.

I turned my head to see Saki dangling precariously over the edge, his brown leather boots and striped socks drenched from the water lashing up at him, reaching as high as it can to try and drag him in.

The feeling of Saki's entire weight pulling on my left arm was almost unbearable, and I knew that I couldn't hold onto him for much longer.

“Dad, help!” I called, hoping he'd hear. Saki sobbed uncontrollably as violent shivers wracked through his tiny frame. His hand was shaking so much it made it that much harder to keep a grip on him.

“Daddy please! Help! Please! DADDY!” I screamed, my throat aching and my voice cracking by the end of it. “Help, please! Someone!” My desperate cries for assistance had turned into hiccuping sobs. No one was coming. No one was going to help. I was going to lose him...

“Hana, I-... I can't hold on! I'm slipping!”

“No! Just hang in there, I've got you!” I cried, gazing at Saki through my blurred vision as tears of my own began to fall. “I won't let you go, I promise! Hold on! You have to! You have to...”

Saki closed his eyes and hiccuped his next words out, “I-I can't, I'm slipping! Save me Hana, please... I don't want to go! I-I don't want to l-leave you! I want to see m-mummy, and daddy! Please Hanako!”

A strangled sob of my own escaped through my trembling lips as I desperately tried to pull my little brother to safety, but the pain from bashing my hip earlier made it hard to lift him up.

“H-hold on...! Don't let go! I've got you. J-just stay calm, I'll save you, I promise. I promise...!” I gritted my teeth and tried to pull Saki up once again, but it only served to make my grip on his hand loosen.

“Dad, help me!” I screamed, squeezing my eyes shut tight as the fear of losing my only sibling took over all rational thoughts. But no matter how much I yelled, or shouted, or screamed; no one could hear me because of all the thunder overhead.

“Hana, I'm-...!” I opened my eyes to see Saki's hand slipping out of my own. His fingers gradually slid through mine, holding on for all their worth until, finally...he had no more strength left.

“No... no! Saki! Nooo!” I wailed, stretching my arm as far as I could to try and catch him. I watched with wide eyes full of shock and disbelief as Saki's body met with the ocean. His eyes were just as wide as my own as his mouth gaped open in a silent scream of terror.

I could do nothing but watch as the cruel, sadistic waves lapped around his tiny form, engulfing him bit by bit until only his hand stuck out of the water, his little fingers stretching for something he couldn't reach.

And then even that was gone, too. Saki had been completely dragged under by the force of the water, leaving nothing but the raging surface behind, it's sinister licks and splashes against the side of the yacht mocking the loss of my only sibling.

An over-whelming feeling of loneliness and grief fell upon me as my mind finally caught up to what I'd just seen. My brother...he's gone. My little brother...was ripped away from me. I'll never get to see his smile, or hear his laugh, or even hear him cry ever again.

A gut-wrenching scream rang through the sullen atmosphere, chasing away the noise of the storm. Hysterical sobs followed shortly after, the only sound to be heard other than the distant rumbling of the passing clouds.

“Hana? Hanko! What happened? Are you alright? Where's Saki?” Father questioned, pulling me tightly to his chest while stroking my tangled hair flat.

I latched onto his crumpled dress shirt and cried my eyes out against the already soaked fabric. I stretched one hand out towards the water, reaching out for the little brother that I'd lost, even though I knew it wouldn't bring him back.

“S-Saki...come...b-back... Saki. Saki! Come back! Don't leave me! Saki, please! S-Saki...!” I tried to lean over the edge and reach into the water, but my dad quickly stopped me and pulled me back to him, holding me against his chest as I lashed out in a fit of rage and anguish.

As I begged and pleaded my brother to return, the man pinning me down finally caught on to what happened and squeezed me tightly, resting his head on my shoulder.

I quietened after hearing someone else crying, and realized it was my dad. He's crying too...he's sad as well. If daddy's crying then that means...Saki is really never coming back.

I sniffled and hid my face in my father's shirt, my own anguished howling echoing off the walls of the yacht as we held onto each other and mourned the loss of our most cherished family member.

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