“Ouch mum, take it easy. I thought this cream was supposed to help my sunburn. Are you sure you’re not using bleach or something?”
Jocelyn Stevens smiled. Todd had always been a likeable, fun-loving, sensible boy but how long would he stay that way? She’d heard horror stories about other teens and as each year progressed so did her anxiety.
She was also anxious about Todd spending so much time with Jimmy Galant. There was something about Jimmy that made her uncomfortable.
Her son rolled over to have lotion applied to his chest and shoulders. Jocelyn gasped at the crimson-colored flesh before her.
“I told you to stay out of the sun. You’re as red as a beet young man. You must have been lying in the sun for hours.”
Todd winced, forced a smile and allowed his mind to drift back to the events of the previous day.
It had been a perfect day for the beach; glowing sand, sparkling water, cotton wool clouds dancing in the sky. Todd sat on the beach while Jimmy dragged a large stick in the sand, leaving what appeared to be a gargantuan snail trail.
“Todd, come here. The water feels kinda warm, kinda cool. And check out the waves! Just the right size to dive under.”
Todd knew he would not have peace until he acquiesced.
He stood on the water’s edge and let the foam lick his toes. Jimmy appeared beside him like an excited puppy. “Race you to the buoy. Last one there’s a rotten egg!”
“Jim, why do you have to be so childish? Grow up will ya?”
“What’s wrong with you man. Seriously, you haven’t been yourself lately. Talk to me.”
“Get lost Jimmy. What are you a girl or something?”
Todd felt his face grow red. Jimmy was a good friend but sometimes he really annoyed Todd. He always wanted to talk about ‘deep and meaningful’ stuff and Todd just wasn’t that type of guy.
Escaping under a wave, Todd felt the salt water sting his eyes. Ouch! It also stung the tell-tale cuts on his wrists and abdomen. He’d always wondered how salt water could be such a powerful healing agent, yet cause such pain. Apart from the ‘sting’ aspect he loved everything about the ocean; the way it smelt, the way it crawled inquisitively into his mouth, the invigorating touch it provided.
Standing knee-deep in the water, Todd’s gaze become more fixed, more focused and he became increasingly pensive and morose. His heart pounded against his chest in unison with each crashing wave.
He walked slowly and deliberately against the surging waves, eyes focused on the horizon. He walked further and further, deeper and deeper until he could no longer feel the sand beneath his feet. He waited for the next wave to take him under and under he would remain. As he waited the ocean seemed to echo his thoughts.
“Nobody cares” whoosh, whoosh
“Stay under the next wave” crash, whoosh
“Stay … under”
Todd let himself sink beneath the surging water. He felt its strength overtake him.
Scenes from his life flashed before him and at that moment Todd felt somebody grab him under the arms and raise him from his watery coffin. That was all he remembered.
When he came to, Jimmy was leaning over him, soaked from head to toe.
“Todd, thank God you’re alright!”
Todd tried to speak and managed a hoarse whisper.
“Don’t … don’t tell anybody. Promise you won’t tell anybody.”
“Well, I’ve been thinking about that my friend and you know what a big mouth I have. I promise I won’t tell anybody on one condition.”
Todd didn’t have the energy to voice his rising frustration.
“What … what condition Jimmy?”
“That you see my pastor and talk to him about what was going through your head today.”
Todd closed his eyes and felt the sting of the residual salt water. He winced. He licked his sun-scorched lips and tasted saltiness. He touched his arm and felt salt clinging to his skin. Salt, salt, salt! It just wouldn’t leave him alone!
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