Seventeen years earlier
“Lupa come on, come on in. The water is great.”
“But the water is cold.” I complained. It was the middle of winter and dad thought that it would be a good idea to take a trip to the ocean. It would have been wonderful if we’d gone somewhere warm like the Caribbean or Tahiti. Instead, we were on a very cold, very wet beach in Scotland.
It got me off school early as we left Friday morning. Which was good with me as I had a science test that I was nowhere ready to take. My dad convinced my teacher to prepare a make-up test when I returned the following Wednesday.
“Listen to your papa Lupa and go ahead. It is not often that we get to do things like this. We should live in the moment and enjoy life.” said my mother.
"Which is exactly why you are wearing a fur coat, fluffy pyjama pants and an even woollier bathrobe.” I accused.
“The water is wonderful. Once you stand in it for a while, you don’t even feel the cold.” said my dad as he waved me over.
I still wasn’t convinced about this, but this was my papa, he would never let anything happen to me. I dropped the towel I had draped around my shoulders and walked to the shoreline.
“This isn’t even a real beach.” I complained. “It has no sand. Next time dad we go to a beach with sand.”
“Will do,” he said giving me a huge smile and salute. “Now quit stalling or I will have to come over there and get you myself.”
“Dad I am almost fourteen, you can’t dunk me anymore.”
“Wanna bet.” he said as he inched closer. He had on this wide grin which I knew meant trouble. If I didn’t go out there soon, he was going to catch me and throw me in the ocean. He was getting old but was still in very good shape and I was practically a bean pole so I would be no strain on his back.
“Okay, okay. I am in.” I said as I waded knee deep into the water. My feet went numb and I shuddered. “It’s freezing.” I said wrapping my arms around my shoulders which was ridiculous considering I was wearing a bathing suit.
“Not out here.” he said as he waded further into the water. “You don’t get to experience the fullness of the ocean until you’ve been fully immersed in it.”
“I will take your word for it.” I said retreating. I heard my mother laughing before I felt two hands grab me around the waist and then I was hoisted over his shoulders. “Dad!” I protested as we were wading back into the sea. “Put me down!”
“As you wish,” he said.
For a few seconds, I was airborne and the whooshing breeze formed a blanket of warmth around me. But that was quickly ripped away as I landed into the briny water.
The cold was shocking and all my nerves were slapped awake. After that initial shock wore away new tingling sensations skated over my body, which felt like menthol in my throat. I broke the surface and I felt a blooming warmth surrounding me. It was like bathing in sunlight.
“You were right this actually feels good. It’s warm.” I said after paddling around him a couple of times.
“I told you.” he grinned.
That was the first time I bathed in the ocean in winter.
The memory faded.
This was the first time I was bathing in a river.
The cold slapped just as hard going in but to feel the warmth, I needed to get to the surface.
A surface that was quickly retreating.
I was trapped in a metal box with no air. All I could do was sink while the cold sunk deeper and deeper.