Fears (A Wee Story)

I almost didn't post this, because I wasn't sure about it. At all. I've never written anything quite like this before...
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Water closed over her head, the waves buffeted her body, and she was being tossed and tumbled. The great ocean had her in its grip, and she was afraid. She felt the panic rising inside her - that old, familiar helplessness. She was a little girl again, tiny, vulnerable, holding tight to someone's hand. She was the teenager making excuses to stay out of the river because there was no-one to hold her hand. She was sinking beneath the surface, where she would be lost forever in a dark, airless world.

Her heart raced in terror, and she fought the urge to struggle - to waste her strength in lashing out wildly and blindly at the imprisoning sea. Cramps seized her legs as her muscles tensed. Air escaped her mouth in frantic bubbles.

She gritted her teeth. Fear must not win this time. Squeezing both eyes tightly shut, she conjured the impression of security; fingers gripping her hand. They were warm fingers, strong fingers, and the hand was a little wrinkled, work-roughened and dependable. She blotted the images of terror and darkness and the ravening jaws of sharks from her mind, and thought about the face that would belong to such a hand. It would be kind. Yes, certainly kind, and it would not be disappointed in her. It would keep her safe.

Her muscles relaxed, and for just an instant, she experienced a wild, euphoric kind of joy. The thrill of a conqueror, and the sensation of peace in the midst of danger. Her lips softened in a half-smile.

Then the waves spat her out upon the beach and she was alone again. Tiny fragments of shell and sand rasped against her skin, and she scrambled, shaky-legged and gasping, out of reach of the sea. The encounter had sapped her strength; the pound of her heart seemed deafening. With studied carelessness, she flopped down in the comforting sunshine and waited for her limbs to stop trembling.

Looking around, she saw the others heading back out to sea, already knee-deep in the water. One of them turned and motioned to her. "Come back in! The waves are getting better and better!"

She shook her head, then lay down with her face to the ocean, lest it creep up behind and steal her from the shore.

'It's always good,' she thought, 'to face your fears.'

She did not know exactly what that meant, but it seemed an honorable thing. She liked the sound of it. And anyway, if she told herself that she was facing her fears, she no longer felt guilty about hiding them. There was just one unsettling question adrift in the back of her mind. She was never sure if she faced the water out of bravery, or because she clung to the hope that someday, the rescuing hand would be real.

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