She was so small and the pool was so big. There were too many people and only one of her. Behind her, her mom sat perched on the benches. She smiled encouragingly at her and gave a thumbs up.
“Come on in!” the coach yelled a few feet from the edge. He held his arms up and out, waiting for her.
She eyed him warily. This was only the third time they had met. Why should she trust this man who is telling her to dive right in? She can barely even swim.
A shiver ran through her body, starting at those pink toes and going into her scalp. It was cold and she wanted to just put her towel around herself and sit down. Even more, she wanted to go home and lay under a blanket and watch a cartoon.
“It’s okay,” the coach stepped a little closer to the edge. She stepped back. The tears were coming and she couldn’t stop them. Her teeth bit into her bottom lip.
Arms wrapped around her from behind suddenly. She jumped, looking over her shoulder. Her mom was there kneeling behind her. The floor was wet from the other swimmers and the knees of her pants were already soaking through. But her mom stayed there holding her.
“It’s okay, babe,” she whispered. “Just jump in and then we can get ice cream.”
She turned to face her mom and put her short arms around her neck. “I don’t want to. I wanna go home.”
Her mom hugged her back and then reached up to her little arms clasped around her neck. She pulled them away. She nodded towards the pool and then stood.
“You can do it.”
Slowly, she turned back to the water. The coach was a few feet away helping a different kid, but kept an eye on her.
Again, her toes curled around the edge of the pool. The kids were still splashing each other. The screams still echoed around the cavernous room. It was moist. She knew it would feel good once she was in the water.
A step closer and her toes were over the edge.
She could already feel herself being immersed in the chlorine. Under the water would be quiet. It would be calm. Right now as a kid let out a high pitch scream behind her, that sounded wonderful.
She could do this.
A breath. In.
She had to do this.
She crouched, bending her knees.
An exhale. Her finger pinched her nose shut.
Then, she jumped. Up and out.