Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Surrounded by nothing, Nicole could only hear her heartbeat. The sound was peaceful, but Nicole couldn't hold it in anymore. She began flailing her arms and legs. When she surfaced, she gasped for air. She had stayed underwater for far too long. The pool was empty, which she liked. No one to disturb her thoughts as they wandered off into nothingness. She swam to the edge of the pool and pulled herself up so that only her legs were dangling in the water.
She liked the peace and quiet. The only thing she could hear was the slight buzz of the fans and lights above her head. She wished there was another place on earth where she could be surrounded by nothing but the sound of her heartbeat. Only a pool could let her do that. There was most likely not another place on earth other than a pool that would allow her to peacefully listen to her heartbeat. The sound of her life. The life her mother had given her.
Her mother. She had managed to not think too much painful memories about her mother for one day, yesterday. She was hoping she could do that again today. Avoid the tears. Avoid the pain. But that was all gone now. Her thoughts had somehow wandered to her mother. Her loving mother. It had been a week since the death of her mother and Nicole and Hero finally packed the last box and brought it successfully to Hero's house. As Nicole's wish for a welcome to town celebration from hero, Nicole wanted some peace and quiet at the local pool. Peace and quiet so she could think about nothing. But that nothing turned into the face of her mother. The face of her mother turned into the smile of her mother. The smile of her mother turned into the happy memories of her mother. The happy memories of her mother turned into the sad memories of her mother. The sad memories began to flow towards her father. The man she had never talked to since the age of 7. The man who she had never seen since the age of 7. The man who caused her mother so much pain. Pain. Pain was something she was feeling right now. The tears began to flow down Nicole's cheeks again. No. She didn't want to cry. She refused to cry. As the tears continued to flow, Nicole dived down back into the water, hoping the chlorine would disintegrate the tears.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump. The sound of her heartbeat. Surrounded by nothing. Nicole loved the peace, the sense of nothing. She wished she could stay underwater forever. She wished she could become a fish, swimming under water forever. No worries. No pain. No feelings. Just doing nothing but surviving by instincts and swimming along the coral reef. Not a care in the world.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Splash! Splash? That wasn't right. Why was there a splash? Nicole surfaced smoothly and almost instinctively to see what the splash was. As she surfaced, she saw a boy swimming gracefully underwater. As he surfaced, Nicole couldn't take her eyes off of the boy. He turned to see Nicole staring at him. Nicole quickly composed her expression and nodded slightly at the boy. She swam to the edge and stood there, fixing her stare at the ceiling. The boy shrugged and dived back underwater. He swam a few laps, then surfaced at the edge opposite where Nicole was.
"Sorry if I disturbed anything." the boy said.
"Why should you be sorry?" Nicole asked, still looking at the ceiling. "It's a public pool."
"I come here to get my mind off of things. I hate when people come splashing into the pool and disturb my thoughts." the boy answered. Nicole tore her eyes from the ceiling and looked at the boy, who seemed to be somewhere else. His eyes looked as if they were looking into a distant place. Somewhere very, very far away. Could it be possible? Could there be another person in this world who knew how Nicole felt? Another person who understood her pain?
"So, I'm sorry if I disturbed you." the boy said again.
"It's all good." Nicole shrugged off the thought of another person in the world like her. It was impossible. No one could ever feel the way she did. It was just impossible.
"So, there is something on your mind." the boy looked at Nicole, studying her. When Nicole didn't respond, he smiled. "This pool is magical. It really gets a person's thoughts straight." the boy continued to study Nicole as he spoke. After a moment of silence, the boy finally spoke up again. "Are you new here?" he asked.
"Yeah." Nicole answered. "I'm moving in with my brother."
"That's cool." he nodded.
"Hey, you done swimming yet?" Nicole and the boy turned to see Nicole's brother, Hero.
"Yeah." Nicole smiled at her big brother. She lifted herself out of the pool and grabbed a towel. She wrapped the towel around her body and headed towards the girls' locker room. Hero sat patiently at one of the poolside chairs.
Nicole walked into the shower and let the steamy hot water fall onto her. After a swim in the cool pool, all Nicole wanted to do was stand in the shower for a long time and rinse away all the thoughts that came into her head. It usually didn't work very well. Nicole's thoughts usually wandered back to what she was thinking about after 5 seconds in the shower. That didn't happen this time. This time, Nicole's thoughts wandered to the boy. Something about him made Nicole wonder. Was this boy really experiencing the pain she was? It didn't seem possible. The pain she was feeling still seemed unrealistic to even her. It all felt like a dream. It was all a world she didn't know existed.
Nicole figured she could stay in the shower and try to figure everything out, but it would be unfair to Hero. Her bigger brother was patient and a great person, but Nicole didn't know his limits. She felt it wasn't fair to make him wait too long. She quickly washed her hair and dried herself up. Nicole slipped into a pair of jeans and threw on a tank top and a hoodie. She grabbed her bag and walked out to meet with her brother. Nicole stole a quick glance towards the pool as she walked out. The boy was still there, sitting in the exact same position as he was when she left to take a shower.
"Ready to unpack?" Hero threw his arm around Nicole's shoulder and lead her out to his car.
"Yup." Nicole nodded. She gave Hero a big smile. If anything, Nicole knew her mother wanted her to be happy. Nicole also knew Hero felt bad for leaving Nicole and their mother alone. If Nicole cared, which she did very much, Nicole was gonna be happy. She was gonna smile and laugh and live on. Nicole was gonna be the girl she had always been. Nicole made a promise to herself as they walked to Hero's car. Nicole promised she wouldn't let anyone see her tears. No one.