The sound of a gunshot was familiar to Jordan. She heard it every week.
“Ready...take your mark...BANG!” She propelled herself from the starting blocks with the precision and agility of a swimmer who had done this a thousand times.
She stretched her arms out over her head and sliced into the water like a razor. She loved it here in the blue...so peaceful and still. She took her allowed arm stroke, frog kicked, and was half way down the pool before she emerged from the calm quiet to the noise of the roaring crowd.
She was already well ahead of the other swimmers. Watching Jordan swim was like watching an artist at work. Her body moved beautifully, effortlessly through the water. She was extraordinary and everyone knew it.
What they didn't know was Jordan's motivation for swimming.
As she pulled at the water with each stroke, every hateful word her mother said rang in her ears. “You ungrateful...” grab the wall, turn...push off the wall underwater... “you'll never amount to ANYthing!” Under the blue again...her favorite part of the breast stroke...the long arm pull and kick before breaking the surface to swim with vengeance again.
Jordan's heart pounded, more from anger than exertion. Swimming was easy. It was trying to live with her mother that was hard. Their relationship had always been difficult and had reached a boiling point. She was tired of being bullied by one she could never please.
She pushed on...striving to prove she was important despite her mother's efforts to make her believe she was not. Jordan attacked the water like a person possessed. Perhaps she was...possessed with the idea of mattering to someone...anyone.
Another breath...almost there...she stretched her hands to touch the wall. The cheers and high fives told Jordan she had won. Another blue ribbon. She had a drawer full at home. She painted on a smile.
Jordan was envied and admired by every girl on the team for her prowess in the pool. She would have gladly traded places with any of them. She just wanted to matter.
Her friend Megan wrapped her arms around Jordan. “Way to go! You were on fire out there!” She had been such a good friend to Jordan, always trying to bring her into the stable world of her Christian family.
“Hey, what are you doing tonight?”
Jordan looked down, biting her lip. “I don't know Meg...”
You just beat your best time! This is a big deal!”
Jordan was a million miles away. In her mind she was in her room. She thought of the night before. She'd held a gun in her hand; a loaded gun, not one for starting races. Tears had fallen from her big blue eyes and plopped onto the gun as she'd thought of all she'd lost. She was so angry at her father for leaving her. Why hadn't he taken her with him? If he couldn't handle it, how was she supposed to? She'd been unable to pull the trigger. Perhaps tonight...perhaps she would use the same fortitude and fierceness that had led her to victory in the pool.
Megan knew Jordan had a tendency to get blue. She did her best to lift her up. Megan prayed for her friend; prayed God would set her free and let her know how much He cared for her, and how much she cared. Megan got the blues sometimes too, but not like Jordan. She had them all time...and some days were darker than others. Lately it had been very dark.
Megan grabbed her by the arm. “Come on!” Jordan reluctantly went along to Megan's house where her family had gathered for pizza.
Megan's dad patted Jordan on the arm. “Great job today kid! What a race!” Megan's mother concurred. Jordan's painted smile returned.
As she looked around the table at Megan's family, she wasn't envious. She was happy her friend was not broken and empty like she was; that people cared about her.
She stayed all evening; playing cards, eating popcorn, and laughing at Megan's brothers' antics. The sense of belonging she felt eased the pain. She and Megan sat up late talking about boys and swimming and other things, and Jordan smiled. This time it was not a painted smile, but the smile of a girl who knew she had a true blue friend. She wanted to matter to someone and finally she realized she did.
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