“Truth or dare?” I asked gleefully.
We were behind Sirius’ house, sitting beside a large oak tree and squinting in the bright sunlight. It was one of those rare days in early spring when we finally got a day full of sunshine after weeks of snow. The moment I woke up, I sprang to the window and just knew I wanted to go play with Sirius.
The black-haired boy folded his arms. “That's a girly game, Cecilia. Can’t we play something else?”
“But we always play whatever you want to play.” I pouted. “Let me choose for once!”
“You mean we always play what you want to play.” Sirius rolled his eyes, but grinned at me nonetheless. “Okay, I give up. We'll play a couple of rounds, but then you'll have to come with me to Diagon Alley. I wanna buy something.”
“Alright then! So, truth or dare?”
He took a moment to ponder the choices before replying, “Truth then.”
“Aw, you're boring, Sirius!” But he just shrugged. “So, what'd you eat for breakfast?” I asked cheerily.
“Oh, that's easy. Waffles.” Sirius pointed at me. “Your turn! Truth or dare?”
“Go climb that tree.” He snickered at me.
I glanced up at the big oak tree a short distance behind me. It was pretty tall. But I could do it. I could do anything. And minutes later, I reached the top. “See? That wasn't so hard!” I called to him from my place swinging from one of the bigger branches. I jumped down and turned to stuck my tongue out at him.
But instead of grinning at me like he usually did, he shouted suddenly and then shoved me into the pond by the oak tree. I let out a yell before falling into the pond. The water quickly filled my nose and mouth, choking me with every gasp. I didn’t know how to swim. Daddy didn’t teach me yet. I couldn’t…
My arms flailed in the water, trying to keep myself afloat, but the water splashed into my eyes and mouth and I couldn’t see or breathe. The ice cold water was draining my energy and suddenly my arms and legs wouldn’t move anymore. I began to sink. My eyelids fluttered in the water, straining to keep myself awake, but my vision was already blurring.
As I sank deeper into the chilling water, I saw Sirius walk towards the edge of the pond. His face stared down at me.
Help me! I thought. It was just an accident, right? You’re going to help me… right?
But he didn’t move. He just looked at me. Watched me sink deeper into the pond. I tried to call for help, but all that came out of my mouth was a stream of bubbles. As my conscious finally began slipping away, I saw Sirius slowly turn away from the edge of the pond and then run.
“Cecilia—goddammit, wake up!”
The sudden breath of air filling my lungs feels ragged in my mouth. I feel the mouth over mine move away and then a rhythmic pounding on my chest.
Where—what’s going on?
Then it all comes back to me. Sirius’ reaching for my hand from the edge of the cliff. Falling off. Plunging into the water. The memory that had erupted into my consciousness from the impact.
My eyes snap open and my arms thrash out wildly. “Get off me!” I scream, the sound ripping out of my throat. “Get away from me!”
Sirius looks at me, confused and almost terrified. “It’s okay, Cecilia. You need to calm down. I just dragged you out of the water.” He reaches out to touch my shoulder, but I slap his hand away fiercely.
“Don’t fucking touch me!”
“Cecilia, what’s wrong?”
I look him up and down, still fighting for breath. His clothes are soaking wet. His hair is damp and pasted against his forehead. His eyes are stricken in concern. But none of this mattered to me. I was scared. I was angry. I wanted nothing to do with him.
“You…” I whisper, my lips trembling. “When we were kids… Is this what you tried so hard to hide from me? You manipulate me into liking you all in the hopes that I wouldn’t remember how you let me drown? How you nearly got me killed?”
Sirius’ stares at me. “What?”
“All those years I spent traumatized to the point that I couldn’t even leave the house to go to school… to the point that my mind suppressed my entire childhood so I wouldn’t remember… that was because of you?”
“No, Cecilia, that’s not—” Sirius looked horrified. “Please, no, I can explain. Just listen to me—”
“Get away from me!”
“Cecilia, I can explain!”
“Just stay away from me!” I stagger to my feet, nearly tripping over my own legs in the process. But the moment I take a step back, I collapse to the ground again, barely able to catch a breath. Sirius grabs me around the shoulders before my head can hit the ground and I try to push him away again, but my vision was starting to blur and I was gasping for each breath.
“Cecilia? Get a hold of yourself! Cec—SOMEBODY HELP!”