The sand was soothingly warm. A gentle breeze kissed her face. With a sleepy yawn Faith watched seabirds glide silently over a distant wave. A solitary, early morning board rider paddled out across the sandbar in search of the best. Sunbeams danced on the surface around him. A shipping tanker seemed to glide across the smooth far-away horizon while the sound of waves crashing ashore filled the air.
It was Faith’s first day on the job as a lifeguard. Max the head lifeguard, slouched high on the lookout tower; binoculars swinging from the arm of his deck chair. Faith was happy to stretch her long legs on the beach below. She watched a young mother dressed in red chase her small child around a sandcastle they sculpted in the wet sand. The little one was wearing matching bright yellow shirt and briefs. Faith blinked drowsily shifting her slender body into the shade of the tower.
“Help, someone please help!”
The scream jerked Faith to attention. Max almost fell off the tower as he took the steps two at a time. Faith’s gaze fell on the young woman in the red bathing suit screaming hysterically at a small yellow object bobbing in the waves. A quick assessment alerted Faith to a cross-current. Seizing a short coiled rope, about half an inch in thickness, she raced down the beach and plunged into the breakers.
“WAIT FOR ME.”
She turned momentarily and saw Max dragging the life-raft behind him. Her strong legs kicked through the waves swimming against the pull of the flow. Tolerating aching limbs, her eyes remained focused on the tiny head that kept disappearing below the surface. It felt like an eternity of great effort. Her eyes and throat stung from the salt. Training had not prepared her for the fear she saw before her. Closing the distance Faith could see the little boy’s eyes wide with fright and gasping for breath. His lips were tinged with a thin blue band. “Only a few more yards, hang on little one.” She held one end of the rope tightly between her teeth causing the rope to trail behind but as she advanced forward it gave her full use of her tiring limbs. Short wheezing sounds escaped her lungs as she convinced herself to breathe.
“That’s it Faith. Let him take the rope.” Max spoke clear and precisely as he approached from behind.
The small child gripped the rope briefly then lunged forward wrapping his little arms around her neck. Gasping from the pressure the lifeguard twisted awkwardly. The sea attempted to consume them with its every rise and fall. Faith swam with determination to the nearby raft.
Max reached over the side and picked the boy up by his shirt sleeve. Faith began to tread water for a few minutes while Max rubbed and patted the little one’s back. He gave a choking cough and vomited seawater all over Max before she headed to the beach. The surfer appeared unexpectedly forcing her to submerge below the board as it threatened to intercept her.
By the time Faith reached the dry sand she was exhausted but relieved the child was safe. Taking a mental note to lecture the surfer later, she gave a few hoarse coughs before returning to meet Max and help pull the raft ashore. The boy’s mother raced to retrieve her baby from Max’s arms.
“Thankyou, he was so quick. I only turn my back for a moment to get the towels.”
“Don’t thank me, thank Faith our newest lifeguard. It’s a trial program and I think she past with flying colors.” Max grinned.
Faith barked at hearing her name and shook violently spraying salty water over everyone. Max and the woman laughed. The child struggled from his mothers embrace and wrapped his arms once more around his rescuer’s neck.
“Say thankyou to Faith, Ethan.”
“Woof woof.” Faith replied with excitement and licked the little boy’s face until he giggled with delight.
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