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A Perfect Heart

written by: Sarah Gent

I sat on the edge of the dock, watching the waves crash against the wooden pillars. A small boat passed, a small wake opening up behind its motor. Laughter came from the boat; two little kids were pushing each other on the deck, earning glares from their father. Another boat passed, a roaring engine drowned out the silence of the waves. I lifted up my body and then slowly straightened my legs so the tips of my toes brushed against the ice cold water. I cringed, imagining all the fish and bacteria in the murky river, waiting for something new to infect. I took my toes out, and considered running to take a shower. I didn't think that would go over too well with Mom, though. She still didn't how much last summer affected me. How it made me see everything differently, how everything changed in less than a second.
I was always the quiet kid, never speaking up in class, never trying to get noticed, just blending in, trying to be normal. I rejoined the swim team one year, deciding that it would be something to keep me busy. Mom jumped on the idea. I think I was signed up later that afternoon. I remember the first practice, I was so nervous, but a song I liked played on the radio and I started singing the lyrics in my head. I heard someone's voice singing them, too. At first, I was afraid it was me and I just didn't notice I was singing that loudly. I turned to my left and saw a girl called Olivia. She was the singer. She smiled when I looked at her, and told me that it was the most amazing song ever. I agreed, and we were immediately friends.
I knew her from soccer a few years previous, her dad was the assistant coach. We never really talked, though. I had my cliché, she had hers. She taught me so much in the month I really knew her. One month and eleven days to be exact. She taught me how to speak up and make friends. I learned how to have fun and do crazy things I never imagined possible. I finally wasn't the quietest person, I wasn't the loner. I actually fit in. Mom was so happy that I was happy, and everything seemed okay for the moment.
Then July eleventh came around. Olivia, being her crazy self, had an earlier practice than the one I had with her. She and her sister, Carly, got up and practiced at five in the morning. They missed a lot of our practices together, those days I was a little bit like the quiet girl I used to be. I got up a few minutes later than I was supposed to that morning, and ran around my house finding my practice suite, fins, towel and clothes to wear on top. Mom drove me that morning; Dad was busy working on the computer. On the car drive, Mom was listening to the radio. I never like to listen to the news, it's too depressing, in my opinion. Apparently, a girl died in Fairfax City, right near Oak Marr, earlier that morning. Mom changed the station before we could hear her name, knowing how much I hated that stuff.
When we pulled up to the pool, no one was on the deck. Normally, Olivia and Coach Shelley would have the lanes across and flags up by the time I got there. The gate still seemed to be closed. I rationalized with my brain and decided that Shelley was late for some reason. We pulled around the pool and found a group of people standing in the center of the parking lot, white objects being passed around. I looked at Mom, but she had the same confused expression on her face. She pulled up next to the building with the locker rooms, but Shelley stopped me before I could get out. She told me to get out carefully. I obeyed and found myself standing next to her with my swim bag in my left hand. She reached over and squeezed me hand before talking to me.



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