It was with an almost lackadaisical sense of doom that I sensed the quiet. Where had the quiet come from? When had it begun? What had become of the singing and laughter that had pervaded the afternoon stillness only moments ago? And exactly how many moments had it been?
I could not say. I could not recall last hearing them, those happy sounds, replaced now with this dreadful quiet. I closed my eyes, listening intently for a direction, but the only sounds were the low, steady hum of the air conditioning unit at the side of the house and the steady lap of water against the floating dock at the far end of the yard.
I sat up to my full height, fastening the bikini top with one hand while the other shaded wide eyes, eyes that followed the sloping yard down to the water’s edge, searching the already green, April lawn for blond curls. They were not to be seen. My eyes drifted outward to the water, its thousands of tiny waves bedazzled with gold. Nothing on the shore. Nothing on the dock.
I resisted the panic, but it was prying in, pushing its way in, and it was strong, very, very strong. This could not be what the panic was saying that it might be. Not enough time had passed for that. Stay calm. Push down the panic. It had only been a moment, and she was playing right here beside the deck. A quick text was all. I had taken my eyes off of her long enough to read a text. Andy wanted to come over. My dreams at night were of Andy Beard. He was so cute, and he wanted to come over to see me. Imagine that! And I had texted back, “ok,” but it had only been a moment, a moment was all I had needed to recall his cute smile, with its white teeth, and those bottomless brown eyes that sucked in every girl who chanced a peak inside. It had only been a moment before he texted back, “be there in thirty!” He was on his way! And then had come that dreadful quiet.
My heart pulsed unbelievably loud, pounding my ears. This was not happening! Where was she! Jesus Christ where was she? “Libby!” It came out a whisper. I forced a breath and pushed the air out, the panic inside now, and angry. “Libby?” And louder, “Libby!” And still louder yet, “Libb-AYYY!”
I let the thought out, the one hiding behind the trap-door I had been so fiercely holding down. It came out in a heave of breath like vomit, “She’s in the water!” The panic had won! The panic was dancing inside me now, an Indian victory dance, taking over. I screamed at it, a bloody, terrible, frightened scream. A scream for a life more dear than my own. The tears started, the panic danced, and I was dead, too.
Across the lake a man working in his yard looked up. He saw me, and he waved. He ran to the water’s edge, but he was too far. I went in, not noticing how cold, nor caring. I walked in, hands low, elbows under, feeling beneath the murky top, chin floating on top, and crying, the lip shaking against the elastic surface. A breath and I went under, and out. Where to go, in all this water? Which way to dive? “Where are you, Neicy?” I yelled it below, her pet name, and the water surged in like panic, choking, cruel, emotionless water.