In a split second the waves engulfed her. She screamed as she began to be pulled down into the darkness below. She felt powerless. Like a sock in a washing machine.
"Lyla! Wake up, It's just a dream!"
She snapped into consciousness, lying in a puddle of sweat, tears running down her cheeks. Her dad was standing above her, with his arms outstretched, holding her. Worry spread across his face.
For the past three months Lyla had been having dreams, or nightmares, similar to these - the creatures that lurked below the waves. They haunted her at night. Even though Lyla Evans was an exceptional swimmer, she was petrified of the ocean.
When she was young, she was swimming in the shallows, but she was soon sucked into a rip. Her mind was spinning as waves crashed down onto her like trees in a storm. She was gasping for breath, she could barely breathe. It was as if the waves had a mind of their own. Each struggling breath could have been her last - but she had to keep fighting. Fighting to stay afloat. Fighting to stay alive.
Now she is twelve, but that experience still traumatises her.
Lyla and her dad had always lived on the beachfront, where through the salt-stained windows of their beach house, you could see the crystal-clear water that was swirling and creeping up along the shoreline, the crashing waves that sprinted to the sand and the seagulls that flocked to the shore in a white hurricane.
Even though she despised the water, she loved her home.
Every day she ran down to the fine trodden sand and sat there from sunrise to sunset making mermaid tails with the twisted dried seaweed and dried coral that had washed up from the reef that was just outside the cove that Lyla called home. She drew pictures in the sand with the twisted limbs of driftwood and collected shells that sparkled in the hot sun.
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One of her favourite things about her home was the wharf.
The wharf stretched all the way out to the deep waters. There was usually a sand bank right at the end. Lyla never went on the sandbank just in case she couldn't get back up.
Instead, she would throw her dog Max his favourite ball. She would hurl the ball onto the bank as hard as she could, and Max would bound after it, his tail wagging madly, his tongue hanging out of his mouth carelessly. It was as if it was the only thing he cared about. He would retrieve the bright blue ball by gripping it in his mouth and then he would leap back onto the end of the wharf, dodging the precarious oyster shells that coated the pillars.
Lyla loved whenever they played this game. As she laughed her dark thick hair swayed in the salty breeze and her white and blue swimmers glistened in the hot summer sun. The water sparkled like a thousand gems and the hot white sand blinded all who saw it
But one day when Lyla was sprinting down to the wharf, she hurled the ball without realising that there was no sand bank, that it had washed away with the tide.
As usual Max bounded after it at the speed of sound, but instead of squelching sand she heard a splash. Her heart sank. She whipped her head around. Her hands flew to her mouth. She saw Max splashing around struggling. To breathe.
She felt the salty wind pass through her when the dark clouds obscured the sun, heard thoughts screaming in her head as adrenaline rushed through her body and knew that if she didn't act soon Max wouldn't survive and would be swallowed by the darkness below.
Without another thought she gracefully dived into the water and even though a thousand fears were going through her head Lyla tried to keep calm. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth.
When she reached Max, who was still splashing about and choking on the water, she grabbed him by the collar and started to swim back to the safety of the wharf.
When she could stand on the wharf's ladder, she cradled Max in her arms stroking him silently in the water.
Then back on shore she held his head to her chest and vowed to teach him how to swim. She ran back to her dad and explained what had happened.
He held her and whispered "I'm so proud of you."
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