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Coming of Age Inspirational

The surface of the clear water was still, but for only a moment. Suddenly, the surface exploded, sending water flying as a woman emerged from the shallow depths of the Caribbean Ocean. Jacky tossed off her snorkel, and gasped for breath. letting the fresh, cool air fill her lungs and swirl around in her body, as if bringing life back into it.

After a few moments Jacky flopped back into the water, sinking barely a foot before she hit the bottom. She relaxed against the soft sand, and observed a small tropical fish swim around for just a moment, before she sprang back up for air once more.

And yet she did it again and again, sinking and jumping back up for air, all the while admiring the beauty of the ocean and it's splendor.

Jacky sank down again, eyeing the sky above her, which was contorted by the ripples of the clear water and the few fish swimming above her.

Somehow, Jacky felt comforted in the peace of the ocean. Where she was there seemed to be no commotion, no pollution, no hurting. Just living, thriving, clear water for miles that displayed all of its life in colorful quantities.

Jacky went back up to the surface for air. She took a deep breath and noticed her snorkel, which was floating idly around the area. She knew it would help, and probably permit her to stay under the water for as long as she wanted with no worries of losing her breath, but even after she saw what good purpose the snorkel served, she still found it best to see the ocean's wonders through her own eyes, not goggles.

The human way, with no 'machines' helping her.

Jacky thought about going back under, but glanced at the shore and decided it was best not to. She knew someone was waiting for her on the dry, sandy beach.

Jacky gathered her snorkel, pulled her long red hair back, wiped some water off her face, and began walking towards the shoreline. There was no use swimming in such shallow water.

She finally reached the shore, and sand stuck to her wet feet as she walked towards a small area with a cooler, lounging chairs, a few towels laid out, and a large umbrella. Inside the area was a tall man and a younger girl, about 23.

Jacky walked over to them and collapsed on one of the lounge chairs, stretching out in the warm sun, not bothering to say hello, or have the man introduce her to the new girl.

The man cleared his throat awkwardly.

“Jacky?”

“Yes, Henriq? Is there something his majesty requests?”

Henriq rolled his eyes and ushered towards the girl next to him. Up close, Jacky could see more prominent features.

The girl had a few faded freckles dotting her face. Her strawberry blond hair was pulled back into a low ponytail, and her blue eyes squinted as she smiled at Jacky, dimples appearing on either side of her face. She was wearing a peach-colored bikini, which-from Jacky’s perspective- was not suitable for swimming.

“Jacky, this is Della Blaire. Della, this is Jacky Pan Hurdle.”

Della gave a cutesy wave that made Jacky want to barf. But, nonetheless (and against her better judgment), Jacky gave a lame wave back. Della’s smile fell, but she quickly brought it back to her lips, though not as strong this time.

Jacky was grateful for that.

Henriq’s lips tightened as he read the expression on Jacky’s face. If he hadn’t known her as long as he had, he would never have been able to know what her unreadable face said. And yet, over the years, he knew exactly what certain expressions and signs meant. Including this one. 

It was definitely one of Jacky’s more popular ones.

Henriq coughed, breaking the tension between the two women.

“Um, Jacky! Della will be joining the team.”

“She will?” Jacky raised an eyebrow, just barely. Henriq, once again, noticed, and read her mind.

“Yes,” he said, a bit firmly. “Della will be accompanying us to the Australian Reef.”

Jacky’s face didn’t change, but Henriq noticed her twisting her fingers. Another sign.

Henriq turned to Della. “Della, dear, why don’t you go and take a dip? I need to discuss some...matters with Jacky.”

Della nodded a bit too quickly. But it made sense that she wanted to leave the awkward situation.

Henriq watched Della jump in the water, before turning to Jacky, a frowning expression crossing his face.

“Jacky, this has got to stop!” He said seriously. He ran his hands through his dirty blond hair, his blue eyes darting from Della to Jacky and back again.

“What? I didn’t do nuttin’,” Jacky said, rolling onto her side so she wouldn’t have to look at Henriq in all of his young and handsome glory. Henriq rolled his eyes.

“This is serious, Jacky! We have a new member, and she’s coming with us, and you need to respect her!”

Jacky sighed and turned back to Henriq, sitting up. “How am I s’posed to respect some young kid who looked like they just came from a modeling agency and thinks she’s the boss?!”

Henriq rolled his eyes again, getting more agitated by the second. “Della does not think she’s the boss, Jacky.”

“You’re only saying that because you are!”

“No, Jacky, I’m saying that because you need to learn to accept people and figure out how to be kind! Or at least pretend to be!”

Jacky went red and glared at Henriq, putting her face just inches away from his.

“I just call ‘em as I see ‘em, okay. And anyone can tell from a distance that that Della chick is gonna ruin us all. Probably get you and me fired!”

“There is no way Miss Blaire could possibly get me fired. The only reason she would get you fired is if you keep on talking about her like that. You’re walking a very thin line, Jacky. You should either get with the game and get to the other end faster, or you should move on to the safer line, which would mean keeping your job and treating others with respect.”

Jacky had no response to this. She scowled at Henriq for a moment, before backing down and resting back on the lounge chair.

Henriq quickly changed the subject.

“Have you taken that course I requested you take before you explore the reef tomorrow?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s all good, my boss. I took it last night. This job isn’t exactly rocket science.”

Henriq’s downturned lip spoke for him. “Maybe to you, Miss Kinley, but keep in mind that Marine Biology is a very hard field, and requires a lot of dedication, hard work, and the necessary experience.”

“-Which I have,” Jacky interjected before Henriq could finish. “And Della does not.”

Henriq gritted his teeth. “The only reason I’ve kept you on this team is because you are our best marine biologist. Without that, Jacky, you’d be outta here. And you know why? Because no one can take your attitude, your disrespect, and your perspective that you ARE BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE!!”

Jacky shuddered ever so slightly at Henriq’s raised tone, but made no comment. Henriq sighed, his cheeks hot, and narrowed his eyes.

“I’m surprised that I’ve put up with you this long, Jacky. You can count yourself as lucky that you haven’t been fired.”

Henriq pushed all of Jacky’s buttons. She exploded.

“Listen Jack, I don’t care about your pathetic speeches and lame excuses for keeping me! I don’t care! Because I know that either way you’re gonna keep me, because I am the best person and most qualified on your team.”

Jacky took a breath, letting some of the redness leave her face, but she continued, a crease forming between her brows.

“Do you know why I became a marine biologist, Henriq?! Because the ocean lets me get away from humans and machines and noise and people like you! People who threaten but don’t act! You can talk a big game, Henriq, but we both know that if you truly wanted to get rid of me, you would’ve done it already, whether I’m the best for the team or not.”

Jacky glared and slumped back down against her chair, turning away. Henriq stayed silent.

“Um, sorry, am I interrupting something?”

Jacky rolled her eyes as Della glanced back and forth between her and Henriq, biting her lip. “If I am, I can go--”

“No, no, Della, it’s fine,” Henriq sighed. “You’re fine.”

Della looked at Jacky, who wasn’t looking at her, and Henriq, who was forcing a smile. She fumbled with her hands. 

“Um, are you sure, Henriq?”

“Yes, yes, just sit down.”

Della gave a weak smile and took a seat in the lounge chair furthest from Jacky, which was much appreciated by both Jacky and Henriq.

Henriq sat down on the sand next to Jacky, who was engrossed in a speck of sand on her leg.

“Jacky,” Henriq started, mussing his hair.

“Henriq.”

“Jacky, I’m sorry, but this isn’t going to work out. I must have been blind the last few years.”

“I would agree.”

Henriq frowned, glancing up at the darkening sky. “Jacky…”

Jacky held her breath, bracing herself, feeling like she knew what was coming. She wanted to blame someone else, but she knew she had only herself to blame. She’d egged it on. All this time.

Henriq looked slightly as if he’d been punched when he said “You’re fired.”

Jacky let out her breath and opened her mouth to say something. But she closed it.

Henriq winced as he got up and muttered something like “pack your things tomorrow”, before he walked over to Della, who had been observing them for a short while.

Jacky blinked back a dry tear as she watched Henriq usher Della up from her chair, had the newbie gather her things, and walked off the beach.

Jacky was left alone in silence.

The universe had finally given her the justice she deserved.

If only she'd seen it coming sooner.

After a few minutes of sitting there, not knowing exactly what to do or how to move, Jacky slowly stood up and dipped her feet in the water. The cold rushed up her body and made Jacky gasp a little, but she ignored it. The water might have gotten colder as the sun set, but it wasn’t stopping her from doing what she loved.

Jacky pulled her hair back and delicately slid under the water. She opened her eyes and saw a few fish swimming in the darkened waters. Jacky let her body sink to the sound, landing with a soft thump on the ocean surface.

Jacky closed her eyes and let the world close in around her.

She felt the cool, stillness of the water against her skin.

The soft, lumpy feeling of the sand against her back.

The way her hair and legs defied gravity and floated amidst the ocean.

Jacky felt herself in a new way- calm and peaceful.

She emerged from the water, breathing in the air, keeping her eyes closed. Jacky flopped on her back, and let herself float along the surface of the ocean.

When Jacky finally opened her eyes, she saw the stars.

Millions and millions of bright, shining stars.

And each of them was an opportunity.

A tiny miracle.

Which was just what she needed.

One small miracle to get back on her feet.

And from the look of the sky, there were many miracles to choose from.

Bright, shining, daunting, beautiful, tiny miracles.

All waiting to be called on.

She just needed to trust herself and pick one.

March 03, 2021 15:23

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