Just Keep Swimming

Amelia stared out her bedroom window overlooking the neighbors' lawn - wondering whether other children her age had families like hers. Were they also sent to their bedrooms so the grown folk would yell at each other and fight? Did they ever have to hide under the bed just so they could feel safe? Were their lives full of horror and misery like hers? She adored her parents, like most kids her age but never spoke of them with the enthusiasm other kids did theirs. Whenever anyone asked about her parents, Amelia would hang her head low with sadness. And if they insisted, she would get furious. “I don't want to talk about it!” She was often quick to end the conversation. Most kids at school despised her. If your parents did not drop you off in the morning or pick you up after school, you didn't have any friends. Most of the other kids assumed she had no parents. Whenever her parents were summoned she would go all the way to Aunt Flora's place across town and ask the bulky noisy woman to fill in. Aunt Flora had no children of her own and had given up trying a long time ago. Now she simply stayed home tending her garden, looking after Molly, Jolly and Polly, her three cats, and yelling at whoever appeared on TV. For Aunt Flora, people on TV either dressed badly, spoke poorly or just looked bad. Having been kicked out of a convent a few years back, Aunt Flora had dedicated her life to being a noisy loner. Not long after she was kicked out of the Convent she had met Patrick with whom she tried to have children. The news of her bareness came as a heartbreak to Patrick who eventually died – possibly of disappointment. Now all Aunt Flora had was her garden to tend, her trio of nonchalant cats to keep her company, her TV to yell at, and the occasional visit from her little niece, Amelia. Amelia noticed the lights go out from the neighbors living room window. Around this time of the night, they would all be seated in the living room playing Scrabble, Monopoly, or charades and laughing the night away. But tonight, they were turning in early – either because of the storm or the noise from Amelia's house. “Please stop it, Nathan! You're hurting me!” she heard her mother plead from downstairs. “I will do as I please," her father retorted. "And you will do nothing." “You're hurting me, Nathan. Stop!" Her mother began to scream. Then for a whole ten seconds, everything went silent. But Amelia knew what was coming. This was not the silence she was hoping for. Something horrible was about to happen downstairs - it always did. Her mother was about to let out a loud painful scream. Without warning, the sky let out a thunderous roar drowning out every other sound, including the noise from downstairs. Amelia dove right under her bed. The loud thunderstorm outside seemed to offer her a bit of reprieve, albeit scary reprieve. Perhaps the universe had listened to her silent prayer for the noise in the house to be drowned out because, for a few seconds, she could not hear anything more than muffled sounds of fighting and screaming coming from downstairs. Her mother was pleading for her life but Amelia was momentarily glad she could not hear it. Just as quickly as the thunderstorm clapped and roared, it went silent and heavy rainfall replaced it. A steady pouring of tears from the sky replaced the noisy thunderstorm and the sky became one with her emotions. As Amelia became teary, the sky wailed and sobbed, letting out its own steady flow of tears with the occasional cough or sneeze marked by a bit of thunder here and lightning there. From under the bed, she could see shadows floating around the room. And she held tight onto Dory, her only friend. Dory was a plush little blue fish with large eyes and a little yellowtail. She wore a constant smile and always reminded Amelia that everything was going to be all right. She pulled herself from under the bed and quickly jumped into it, clutching Dory close to her. “Dory, I am scared,” she whispered to her inanimate blue friend, hoping for reassurance. Then she pressed Dory close to her chest and waited for the magical words. “When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming.” Dory responded. And that is what she always did - swim. Through the tides of noise and fear, through the waves of sadness and pain, she was going to keep swimming. Most fifteen-year-olds had big fluffy bears and large stuffed animals. She only had Dory, and that was all she needed. Most teenagers worried about how they looked, who their friends were, what dresses they wore and what toys they had. She worried about the constant arguments and fights between her parents. She held Dory close to her chest, folded herself into a tiny little bundle of fear and drifted off to her safe place - dreamland - a place where there was no noise and no one could hurt her.

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