Sammy Shaker lived a life of excess. As such lives go, hers seemed to be relatively harmless. Practically since birth, Sammy had a love affair with the color blue. No matter the weather, occasion, or anything in between, Sammy wore blue in one way or another. Her car, I-pod, and cell phone were all blue. During her high school years, she dyed her hair blue. Sammy insisted each year was a dramatically different shade than the year before. Her father’s point of view seemed to mirror most others.
“Sweetie, when it comes to hair, blue is blue. The shade really doesn’t matter.”
No one could explain it, least of all Sammy. After her parents’ initial alarm, they stopped searching for a reason and went with the flow. Eventually, they figured it couldn’t get worse than the mid-teen years. Consequently, Sammy’s high school photos were safely secured in a box in the attic.
In the summer of her sophomore year at Duke University, Sammy took an elaborate vacation. Her sainted Aunt Theresa died and left Sammy seven thousand dollars with the instructions of using half the money “foolishly”. Sammy was only too happy to oblige, and booked a trip to Bermuda, where the blues of the sky and ocean could only truly be appreciated in person…
Sammy screams in agony as another Charlie horse flames through her lower leg. She takes a hitching breath, lowers her head into the teaming water, and uses her hands to beat the oxygen-starved muscles in her right calf. Within a few wrenching seconds the pain subsides.
With tears running down her burned and blistering face, Sammy leans back and floats, looking for a few seconds of peace. She knows this is dangerous, if she falls asleep, even for a few seconds, she could drown. As exhaustion pushes down her eyelids, she can’t help but gape at the beauty of the sky directly above her. The sky is so bright, it seems more white than blue.
A disturbing thought crashes through her muddled brain, it’s not the sky that’s white, it’s the clouds. Sammy squeezes her eyes into a three-second blink, opens them wide and tries to focus. The clouds seem to be racing across the sky, high winds, not good. Sammy tilts her neck to the west and sees the clouds are darkening from an ash grey to slate, charcoal won’t be far behind.
Sammy rolls her body to a vertical position, using her legs to tread water. The movement requires no thought; she’s long been working on instinct. Eventually exhaustion will take its toll, remove that barrier, and Sammy will cease to care about blue anymore.
She covers her face with both hands, wrinkled fingers rubbing her burned forehead. The back and forth pressure stretching and opening her blisters yet again, causing flashes of pain to roll through her face, much like the ocean has been doing for so many hours. Sammy doesn’t care. Pain helps her focus and abates the panic attack percolating just beneath the surface.
A splash of water crashes into her hands. She thrashes her numb legs, forcing feeling into them as her head rotates from side to side like a frantic parent looking for a child. The ocean is getting choppy, a gust of wind howls from nowhere sending a chill spiking through her upper body. She resists looking up, but soon relents. Ragged breaths machine gun from her chapped and peeling lips. The lovely opaque blue of the Caribbean sky is gone, now nothing but darkening shades of grey.
Movements of the clouds seem to mirror the ocean, churning, repeatedly rolling over, both growing in intensity. Panic and raw anger flash to the surface, as if breaking through thin ice. Sammy begins to scream with anguish and utter fury, burning her throat.
The memories of the afternoon come up one by one across her vision, her friend too hung over to go surfing, Sammy deciding to go alone, noticing the instructor’s periwinkle eyes more than listening to his advice. As each memory appears, she rhythmically beats it into the boiling ocean with cries of anguish.
Driving rain, cold and sharp, begins to pelt her face and shoulders like stinging bees. A sudden, rhythmic whirring forces her eyes skyward. Between her protective fingers Sammy sees the soul-raising sight of a Coast Guard helicopter hovering directly above. Sammy Shaker can’t help but give a gaping smile as she’s raised closer to the most beautiful shade of red she’s ever seen.
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