The girl gasped in fright and turned around; there wasn’t anything to really get scared of. It was just her little cousin, Mila, who suddenly emerged from behind her and tapped her flip-flops on the concrete. Her fear vanished in a second, and she smiled softly. Her little cousin had a special place in her heart; she could never remain sad or angry at her. She was so small and cute it was impossible not to feel warm inside at just the sight of her.
She was beatific; her youngness and innocence radiated through everything she does and the way she looks. Her blond curls always seemed lighter under the rays of the sun; her green eyes were always glowing ecstatically. Her cheeks were rosy and chubby; you couldn’t help but squeeze them. Her smile sparkled with glee: the glee a child felt towards any new adventure. She was always babbling in excitement, especially these days, where the fresh, fun activities of each day thrilled her. Leila held her hand and started walking down the path filled with flowers, trees, and green grass on their right. Mila bounced along.
“Leila, I hope you won’t be sad because I want to ride on the slide before you!” Mila said inn concern. “if you are sad, I will go on it after you.”
Leila smiled and stroked her curls, “never mind, little one. You’ll go first.”
Mila pointed at the ice-cream booth they were passing by; Leila knotted understandingly. She walked up to the counter and told the cashier, “two scoops. Vanilla and strawberry, please.”
They both took their scoops and resumed their stroll. As they approached the waterpark, Mila began to fidget as she heard the splashes; she was sliding her hand gradually out of Leila’s, trying to leave her and march faster. Mila squealed happily as little drops of water tickled her eyelashes and touched her lips. Leila placed their belongings on two chairs, took two floats, and they began the climb up the three stories for the slide.
Once at the top, Mila undid her pigtails: the hairdo that gave her a charming look and completed the picture of her baby face. She put both ribbons in her right arm and rearranged her hair. She looked at Leila and said, “I want the water to play with my hair!”
Leila was bending over the slide, firmly holding the float with both hands. She replied, “do as you wish, Mila. Now come.”
Mila situated herself lightly atop the float. She raised her arms and stretched them for as far as she was able to. Leila counted, “one. Two. Three. Push!”
Mila’s float glided swiftly. The float turned crazily where the slide looped, but Mila was exuberant and felt no hint of fear nor anxiety. She was giggling happily and flapping her arms; her smile widened as the float sped up on the slide. Suddenly, Mila was met by a wave that indicated the end of the ride. Mila moved and was about to jump into the pool when she heard a sound. She slowly raised her head towards the sky and saw a colorful bird that caught her attention with its graceful flight.
Above, Leila was preparing to take the slide. She was already sitting on top of the float, ready to exert some force and start sliding. She peered to check that Mila had moved away from the slide; she saw no one interrupting her way, so she pushed and off she went. Leila was not sitting upright on the float; she was lying on her back to have more momentum and speed. Near the end of the slide, Leila was submerged; she sat up and jumped off the slide and into the cold pool. She looked around in search for Mila. She could see many little girls, but Mila was not among them. She scanned the faces and her surroundings quickly, but Mila was not in sight. She clacked her teeth impatiently, and she climbed out of the pool and ran, barefooted, towards the chairs. Mila was not there also; there parents had come, though, and they were chatting together and laughing. Leila stood quietly for a long moment, thinking where to look next; her parents noticed her strange behavior, and her mother jumped in, “anything the matter, Leila?”
Leila opened her mouth to reply, but a loud scream and call for help resounded. Everyone was alarmed and sprinted towards the pool. A woman was calling for the lifeguard eagerly. The woman struggled to carry out a little girl, who must have drowned. She set her on the ground beside the pool and cried, “oh! My girl!”
She was wailing loudly, and her tears were very clear from a distance. Mila’s father sprang towards the little girl and shouted, “I can help with the first aid!”
A second later, He was standing very still. His feet couldn’t carry him and he fell to his knees beside his… daughter! His wife was startled at this strange move from her husband; she moved closer. She looked down at the ground; she saw her daughter: her little child lifeless on the ground. Mila’s mother fainted and Leila, who came closer to investigate the situation, caught her in time before she hit the ground. Leila’s father and mother carried Mila’s mother towards one of the lounge chairs to take care of her.
Leila was stunned. Her hands involuntarily clutched her head and pressed hard, a gesture she does when she is unable to figure out something. Yes, she was unable to understand: how did Mila drown? Why did she drown? She was an excellent swimmer, so why? Her tears fell silently; she couldn’t make a sound because guilt was ripping her apart. She was scarred and horrified; losing her little Mila was unthinkable. She staggered towards the woman to ask her the questions that were flooding her mind and drowning her in apprehension and shock, which she was sure she deserves.
“How can I be so uneasy with my state of mind and think of it as drowning when my Mila had actually drowned minutes ago?” She thought.
The woman looked up as Leila neared her, “I am Leila, her cousin. Please, please tell me what happened to my Mila?”
“I don’t know, sweetie. my children wanted to go on the slide, and I saw this float and was grabbing it for them when I saw your cousin underneath it. she had sunk near the floor of the pool; I guess the float flipped and settled on top of her and she couldn’t move it. she could have swam, but her foot was tangled in the float itself, and I assume panic overwhelmed her and stopped her from thinking. I was so fearful and my motherly instincts and emotions moved right away when I saw her.”
Leila shut her eyes tightly in pain. More tears escaped her eyes and wet her cheeks. Her whole face contorted with pain as she imagined her little cousin finishing the ride and jumping in the pool, giggling, to have her giggles swallowed by the water that invaded her mouth and small nose abruptly when the float settled on top of her skinny body for whatever reason, pinning her in place. she could almost see her Mila struggling to push the float away from her; she could almost see her tears as her ineffective pushes and thrusts didn’t make the float budge; she could almost see her trying to yank her leg and twisted free from the doughnut-shaped float; she could almost see her moving her arms up and down and hitting the water forcefully; she could almost see her suffocate; she could almost see her losing consciousness and starting to sink towards the floor of the pool; she could almost see her loose hair circling her neck and falling on her face; she could almost see her dull. Her whole body shivered, and her bones rattled at these thoughts that displayed themselves so brutally in front of her eyes, as if she was seeing them happen. A sob escaped her lips, and she started gasping for air, like she was the one drowning; her close relationship with her cousin made her feel like she was the one experiencing this; she wished it wholeheartedly. her heart, which was sharing her pain and tormenting guilt, was yearning to reverse time and never let Mila go first on the slide; yes, she would have made her sad if she had decided to do that, but at least she wouldn’t have contributed to killing her. She would have been able to save her in time, before the condition intensified and became so critical; she would have seen and intervened in the first second of this.
Mila’s father had been already performing mouth- to- mouth resuscitation; he had turned Mila’s head to the side, allowing any water to drain from her mouth and nose. He then turned her head back to the center. He had strongly breathed four times into her mouth while pinching her nose to help air get past any water that is clogging the breathing passageways and the lungs. His heart was thrashing insanely, but he carried on for the sake of his daughter and put his ear near her mouth; he could hear raspy breaths in relieving response. Her chest was moving slightly, and her pulse was back. She began to choke weakly. He lifted her up on his shoulders, and Leila saw him and flew right after him. his wife was conscious again, but she couldn’t go to him because she was blinded with her fear; Leila’s mother also advised her to stay away as not to distract her husband and make him nervous with her crying and absolute terror. The family rushed to the car, and Mila’s father rode in the back seat with his daughter between his arms to perform more mouth- to- mouth resuscitation if needed. Leila’s father drove them to the hospital that would provide Mila with more medical aid and perform checkups to make sure she won’t experience pneumonia, infection, or heart failure from water exposure.
After a few hours, Leila was sitting down beside Mila’s bed. the doctors decided to hospitalize her for 48 hours to be sure that no problems will occur in such a fatal time for her, after she survived drowning. Leila was patting her head gently and weeping in relief, thankfulness, and guilt. Mila whispered quietly, “Leila, why are you crying?”
“my baby! Oh my little Mila! I am so sorry I will say this, but I wish I would have took the slide before you to save you earlier. I know you would have been annoyed, but it’s better than you getting injured or endangered.”
Leila was beating herself up.
“who could have thought that such a simple decision, driven by my love for Mila, would create such a dilemma. I let her take the slide first because I loved her and cared that she doesn’t feel sad at all, but I should have also considered that taking the slide before her is also a kind of love and care: love more important than that of not upsetting her, a love and care for her safety. She is still too young; she needs an older person to be around always, even if she is a good swimmer. I never know what could happen.” She thought.
Mila answered, “sorry, Leila. I didn’t know this will happen. I was so scared; the float was very heavy and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was worried none of you would know I was under this float; I was worried no one would find and help me. i tried calling you, but more water entered my nose and mouth. Even my leg hurt me a lot; I couldn’t free it. I hoped you would hear me and come. I know you didn’t mean it, Leila. I love you.”
“what didn’t I mean?”
“to push me with your legs when you were going down the slide. I landed in the water, and the float flipped and landed on top of me. but I was wrong because I stayed at the end of the slide to watch this pretty bird.”
Leila’s eyes widened with realization: now that Mila said it, she remembered that she felt her feet collide with something when she was at the end of the slide. But this fell through the noise and fuss, and she didn’t think it was Mila her feet had hit.
Leila kissed her curls deeply and murmured, “I love you more, my Mila. you took my heart with you. I was so frightened when I saw you this way. Honey, it’s all over. You’re safe, you’re safe, sweet Mila!”
Mila smiled drowsily and drifted off at the sound of Leila’s voice and her very tender words.