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Coming of Age Friendship Inspirational

Bright Futures at Sea.

Under the cover of night, Andrea Houghman finally finished her nightly ocean swim. As she arose from the Lush Island sea she reminded herself that this was not just any night. It was her late mother's birthday, and on the beach and in the sea were some of her fondest memories of time spent with her mother. As she did every year since her return to Lush Island, she took a late night swim to honor her mother. Swimming was her mother's favorite pastime, so living in an oceanfront home must have been a dream come true. 

Glad that she could swim, it was not a surprise. Dr. James, Andrea's mother, naturally, wanted her daughter to be able to swim. When the opportunity to create an android was actually given to her, she ran numerous experiments, combining several different versions of artificial skin types and metals and placing them into various types of water and depths to make certain that she would not electrocute her child. If Dr. James had not insisted that she be able to survive in the water, Andrea's development would have taken less time. 

What a terrifying sight to behold if the Wicked Witch of The West died by electrocution due to water exposure rather than merely melting. If Andrea was unable to suffer touching a raindrop, the same dramatic fate might have befallen her. Ultimately, her mother was right, as she was about many things. Taking the extra time was well worth the wait. In addition to preventing a destructive event, likely featuring collateral damage, she was able to 'blend in' with the crowd simply by being able to walk in the rain. Furthermore, since many people enjoy swimming, she would have something in common with many others too. 

As she swam out of the depths, she had realized she went too far into the ocean without scuba equipment. Part of the reason she took many nighttime swims was because of this bad habit she still had not completely overcome. Although the island was isolated, she was still inclined to take such precautions to prevent being seen.  

Having done this, yet again, Andrea began to reflect upon the past, as she did each year. This time she recalled her mother's warnings on her first of many swimming lessons. That day was full of excitement, and one of her favorite childhood memories. 

“Andrea, come back here NOW! You're too far away,” shouted her mother, clearly distressed. She was too far away to reach her daughter if she needed to be rescued from drowning. Dr. James would have to swim directly through a fast paced current, something few, if any humans could do. 

Even with all the background noise from the seagulls flying around, as well as the crashing of the waves against each other and nearby rocks, Andrea was still able to hear her mother's words quite clearly. After climbing onto a nearby rock, she sat like a mermaid and waved to her mother. Her megaphone voice made it easy for her to hear her daughter's reply,

“Don't worry mommy, I'm fine! Why don't you come over here? The beach and our house look beautiful from over here!” Sensing that her mother was starting to become irritated, Andrea shouted “OK mommy, I'm coming, just give me a minute!” Andrea proceeded to dive down from her position on the rock, into the depths of the ocean. While swimming underneath the currents she briefly saw fish of all sorts of sizes and colors. Passing through coral reefs that varied so much it looked like an underwater rainbow, she felt sorry her mother was missing out on all of the underwater fun.

Returning in one minute as promised, she proceeded to tell her mother everything about her journey to and from the rock. Relieved she was able to return, Dr. James patiently listened to her daughter's lighting fast ramblings, until she heard this,

“Oh, and a jellyfish pet my knee with one of its' tentacles. Either a squid or octopus, I couldn't tell, gave me nice big hug around my neck. How sweet! And then-hold on-,” she stopped herself for a moment, turning around and tugged a long black, thin creature that was vibrating heavily out of her swimsuit. Even though she did not recognize the full danger it presented, Andrea knew to throw it away as far as possible from them. It hit the rock, the impact against the rock causing it to smash apart. She turned back around, her eyes glowing red from anger, and simply commented, 

“Well that fish, whatever it was, behaved quite rudely and it's mother should punish it. I thought everyone knew you shouldn't put your hands down a woman's shirt.” It was clear to Andrea that her mother was trying to prevent herself from laughing. 

Now just completely and utterly confused by that day's events and her daughter's remarks, Dr. James told Andrea that they should swim back home for the day. She said she was growing tired and wanted to make it home rather than say Andrea's escapades made her want to leave sooner than intended. As they swam back, slow and steady, with Andrea in front of her, Dr. James was pleased by Andrea's quick progress, although wondered where she learned certain things. At least no harm had befallen either of them. 

While she could attribute Andrea's basic knowledge of aquatic life due to the time she spent watching aquatic animal shows with her father, where she learned how to dive she could not recall. Diving is not taught on day one of swimming class. They reached the beach, but before going back inside, they took refuge from the sun by sitting under the palm trees halfway between their home and the sea. Dr. James took this time to discuss the day.

“Andrea, dear, please be more careful next time. You scared me so badly I nearly had a heart attack! You may be rather irritated that I always have to tell you this, but humans can't survive what you did today. Swimming against the current is generally fatal, but even if a human managed that feat, getting 'hugged' in the neck by tentacles would be deadly. So would getting stung by the electric eel you pulled out of your swimsuit top. Depending on where, a jellyfish sting could be deadly too.” 

Seeing that Andrea was becoming discouraged, Dr. James added how proud she was of her swimming abilities given that this was her first lesson. Apparently, when the family was watching the swimming day of the Olympics she saw the divers and how people swam in general. But it was not just TV that taught Andrea, Dr. James was actually a higher quality instructor than she thought. However, she realized precisely how lucky she was that day that her daughter was, for all intents and purposes, indestructible. If she was dealing with a human child, she would be considered a horrible mother for letting things get so absurdly out of control.  

Andrea remembered her mother's wisdom on this night now more than ever. She could hear her mother's voice at that moment,

“You can be exceptional without always bragging about it,” her mother explained.  

“That's why,” she continued “you must learn to control yourself. Just because I programmed you to be exceptional does not mean you need to be at all times.” Although she emphasized how important it was for Andrea to relax about her life, she was never able to do take her own advice. Being parents was going to be an extremely difficult skill for she and her husband to learn, and Dr. James simply hoped that her husband would not do something equally careless during any father-daughter time. 

As Andrea walked back out of the water she sat underneath the same trees she and her mother sat under that very day and looked directly across to the other tree. Pretending that her mother was with her she asked “should I do it? What if I mess up, or he just finds out the truth. I've never done this before...would daddy approve?”

Forgetting that her mother was not there, she patiently waited for an answer for over an hour. Most humans would have been eager to dry off quickly. Andrea, had no sense of temperature, given that she was programmed that way, so she would not suffer from being soaked in cold water. She did however, feel wetness come down from her eyes as she briefly cried over the loss of her mother. She sneaked back inside before dawn, so nobody would know she was out so late. 

If only her mother could witness the transformation she had undergone from their last meeting in high school to the present. It was as though the waves gently washed over her and spending the last few years on the island was slowly cleansing her of her past. She was still her blond blue-eyed self, now appearing to be in her mid-twenties. Although she was decades older than that, it was not exceptionally effective skin care and healthy habits that made her look so young, it was the fact that she was an android. She could change her appearance in anyway she desired. 

A recent graduate of Bright City University-Online, she was a counselor. She specialized in working with children and families rather than the terrifying serial killers. Of all professions she could have chosen to study, a profession that involved connecting with other people would have been a challenge far beyond her reach prior to her graduation from high school. Her mother's obsession with her 'blending in,' constantly being reminded to control her actions did help her to a point. Overall, the repetitiveness of it started increasing rather than alleviating problems.  

Her mother's passing helped her realize that she while she did need to be cautious, she did not need to be paranoid. Few people thought androids were real and doubted those who genuinely did. Her mother was unfortunately never able to demonstrate her 'greatest accomplishment,' after decades of dedicated work due to fearing other people's reaction to Andrea. Perhaps she let her psychological trauma of that realization rub off onto Andrea. Once given freedom to choose her own progression eventually she actually behaved the way her mother kept trying to teach. Mistakes happened, overall she developed into an individual that could still blend in with the crowd. She realized she wanted to help other suffering individuals. Her mother would have been proud of her.

Having lived many lifetimes, this was the first of many potential lives she would live without her mother. After decades of traveling the world together, then finally seeming at peace in Bright City, the tragic turn of events initially flipped Andrea's whole world upside-down. It seemed like she was drowning, with no hope in sight of any rescue. It was an overwhelming feeling to realize that the comfort and protection her mother provided was gone. With no father left to rely on, currents became too strong. They broke through the small cracks of a grieving woman's mind, suddenly causing a flood too strong to be stopped. 

Given her status as an android, her options were limited. Seeking help while suffering from a crisis is normal, but she was not in a 'sane' enough piece of mind to talk to strangers. What if she let something slip. They would be unlikely to consider her an android, but would consider taking drastic measures against her. At that point, simply 'going with the flow' would no longer be an option. 

After a long absence, unseen anywhere in public, finally her two best friends sought her out.

“What happened Andrea? You missed school for the past three weeks! We thought you ran away, I'm so relieved,” said Jane as she jumped and hugged Andrea, pinning her to a couch covered in a white cloth. 

“I missed you too...but um, what's with the new decorating job? Are you moving or just doing some winter cleaning,” inquired Mia as she took a brief glance around the living room and hallway. 

“I'm sorry I worried you”-stopping to lightly push Jane off of her- “I should have told you I transferred schools. I enrolled in an online high school and finished up a semester sooner. There was no in-person graduation ceremony or I would have invited you both.”

“Oh, yes indeed I am moving. My family has a large home on Lush Island, a rather beautiful, but obscure place. As I am the only heir, it naturally belongs to me. Given that it has not been used in a long time, however, many repairs needed to be made. Police even needed to remove 'squatters' from the property. I must say with everything else going on, I'm glad I missed out on seeing that additional incident.” 

Recalling an incident she read about in a magazine regarding a place called Lush Island, Mia had to ask,

“I read about an extremely bad hotel on that island, which eventually got closed down a long time ago. Eventually, someone bought it and remodeled it...”

“Yes, one of my relatives bought the disgusting hotel, spent loads of money on various repairs and eventually my family had a rather large beach house. No, I never mentioned it because we never took a vacation there since before Bright City.”

Pondering whether she should make an offer or not, she decided it would be a harmless enough suggestion,

“Do you want to be roommates with me? I'm attending Bright University-Online, hopefully for my bachelors and masters degrees. I can live anywhere by studying online and I'm sick and tired of Bright City. My family's beach house was formerly a small hotel, it can certainly fit all three of us.”

Jane instantly agreed. Attending online college was her intention too, so no conflict arose. As for Mia, she had been accepted to an actual on-campus performing arts college. However, she decided she would spend her summers living there, so all three made plans to leave. Plucking up the courage to ask people to live with her was just the beginning of Andrea's changing abilities to show emotion.  

Stuffing as much of their belonging as they could into their own cars, all three still needed moving trucks for their journey to Lush Island. After several hours, they arrived and began the unpacking process. It was not in their job description, but one of the moving men stayed behind for hours helping the three women unload and maneuver their furniture. She regretted not being able to help the man because she could not use her full strength, settling on carrying several boxes of her belongings in at once. Scratching her left shoulder to prevent opening it and adjusting the gears she had to resist an even greater urge to stretch her legs up taller to hang things, even when she was alone. “A step-stool it is,” she sighed.  

The man was named Carl Martin. An attractive red-headed man in his early-thirties, he was a student studying for his PhD in Genetic Engineering. Filing in for a friend on move in day, he actually was a teacher's assistant at the Tree Bark University. An intelligent man, he could sense something special about each girl, but Andrea intrigued him the most. She looked normal but something about her was different. He was frustrated he could not place his finger on it. After offering to show the women around, his wish was granted. Andrea grew up in the area, but given how long it was since she had lived there, she could use a tour. Walking around town, showing Andrea the sights she had not seen in decades was delightful to them both. Her former self would have refused interaction with another person, let alone a man. They grew friendly over the years and eventually became a couple. Such a small community knew instantly that it was love at first sight. 

Getting close to someone studying his field troubled her. If anyone would find out about her, it would likely be him. She started becoming slightly paranoid and considered breaking up, but had to remind herself to act like herself not her mother. They proceed to get close enough for him to move in. Given the size of the house, him moving in with her and the other women was the more logical choice. The years passed on until a genuinely surprising moment occurred. Given that both of her parents had passed on, Carl asked Mia and Jane for Andrea's hand. There was no question in their minds that yes, he should become part of their 'family.'  

Afraid of offending him, she pushed the topic aside in every time a conversation started involving the topic. They had similar ideas as to how they wanted to run their lives and they had been in a relationship for several years, it was the only logical next step Andrea knew. Asking her mother's spirit as to whether she should take his hand if he offered it, she knew the answer was her choice. In a manner of speaking, this is what all of Dr. James time training Andrea was going to lead up to. 

Under the moonlit sky on the anniversary of their first meeting, Carl did indeed get down on one knee, a family heirloom diamond ring for her to behold. Excitedly, she said yes! Relieved, they laid down between the large heart of shells he made earlier in the day and looked up. Her large ring shone almost as brightly as the stars. Exceptionally bright stars clearly foretold an exceptionally bright future for them together.

March 06, 2021 03:08

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1 comment

Graham Kinross
05:18 Nov 22, 2021

That was sweet. Good for Carl, and Andrea. She has two mothers?


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