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Facing Fear
Julie, Age 13, Vancouver, BC

Alice took a deep breath, and stepped a bit closer to the edge of the diving board. She looked down, and nearly suffocated; she was so high up! What if she died, or broke an arm, or choked in the water?

“Alice! Come on! You’re a natural born swimmer, but you can’t dive off even a one meter diving board? How are you supposed to compete if you can’t even dive?” cried her dad, looking up from the stands. Her dad didn’t understand. She tried hard every single day, but it just wouldn’t work!

“I…I can’t do it,” she whispered, and took a backwards step. She cringed as she heard her dad sigh with disappointment, and hated herself for letting her dad down.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay. You tried. Maybe next time, okay?” reassured her dad, but Alice still couldn’t forget her dad’s sigh as she backed away from the diving board.

“Why don’t we go visit your mother, hmm? I think it’s okay to see her, it’s only six.”

Alice nodded happily; she hadn’t seen her mom in about a week. She grabbed a towel from for bag and went inside to change.

“Hey, Mom!” she laughed, as she went inside the hospital room. Her mom looked up, saw that it was Alice, and smiled. Her eyes had big bags under them, and she was losing her hair from chemotherapy. To Alice she was still beautiful. Her mother had diabetes, and the doctors had told them that the stages were too far for them to help her.

“How are you sweetie? How was swimming practice?” asked her mother, and Alice didn’t answer.

“Oh, honey. I’m guessing you didn’t dive today either.”

Alice nodded, and her mother stroked her matted blonde hair.

“It’s okay. I used to have fears like that myself when I was swimming. You just need to take that step and jump.”

Alice’s mother used to be a swimmer, until her sickness overcame her and she had to stop. She usually went to her mother to tell her these things because she was the only one who’d understand her fear of diving.

“I want to dive, I really do. Then I could compete in swimming competitions like you did and make both you and dad proud. I know I’m good at swimming, it’s just the diving part I can’t do.” Alice moaned.

“It’s okay, honey. You can keep on trying and one day it’ll feel right.” Her mother answered, smiling. Alice nodded and looked at her mom sadly; she looked weaker and weaker everyday.

The next day at school, Alice was sitting with her friends at lunch on the steps, and the PA speaker came on.

Can Alice McGillary report to the office? Alice McGillary to the office please.

Alice looked at her friends, bewildered, and stood up. She walked to the office and found that everyone in the room was staring at her in sadness.

“Did you call me on the announcement?” she asked the secretary, and she nodded.

“I’m sorry, Alice dear, but I’m afraid your mother has died.” Everything fell around her, and she found herself on the floor, sobbing. She could feel the stares, the sorry looks from everyone.

“Could I…Could I talk to my dad?” she finally managed, and the secretary quickly nodded, tears in her eyes as well.

“Daddy…?” she whispered, trying to stop the tears.

“Honey, your mom wanted you to know that she loved you a lot, more than the world, and asked for you to overcome your fear, for her.” Her dad’s voice cracked; he was on the verge of tears.

“I’ll understand if you don’t want to go swimming this afternoon,” he said, but Alice shook her head firmly.

“No, dad. I need to go.”

“If this is what you really want,” he replied. She could almost see her dad’s head nodding thoughtfully.

“Okay.” She hung up, and sat down on a chair, choking from the shock. She still couldn’t believe that her mother had gone, just like that. She didn’t even have time to say goodbye, or tell her that she loved her. Just like that.

Alice changed into her black swimsuit and walked into the pool. Since it was Wednesday, there weren’t many people. She calmly stepped onto the diving board, and felt the world spinning. She looked down with tears in her eyes, whispered, ‘Mom, this is for you.’, and dived.

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