I've been underwater all my life. It is all I have known. Breathing used to be easy, a simple catch and release.
Until she floats to me. Or perhaps I swim to her.
Her hand feels cool and soft in my own.
She smiles shly, holding on tighter.
My breath is gone, her bright eyes and grinning mouth have stolen it.
The edges of my mouth curl, a laugh escapes, and bubbles make their way up towards the unknown.
I wonder what it would be like, to follow those silver spheres to the surface. I wonder what it would be like to breathe air instead of water. Surely, we weren't made for just living this way. I tell her so, she nods slowly and surely, her hair cascading around her.
I have never been more open, more real, in my small, short life. We start swimming, ascending towards the light that filters through the murky water.
But something holds me back. I can hear their voices, chastising and condemning me. I can feel their eyes burning holes in my back, unable to look me in the face.
I pull away, quickly, quickly, quickly. She lets go of my hand. She lets go of me. We drift apart, oceans between us.
They do not understand that we cannot breathe underwater forever, that our oxygen will run out. They do not understand that I cannot belong to the sea.
I long for release. I churn underneath the surf, waiting to break the surface, waiting to taste the salty air in my tired lungs. The water keeps me down, it keeps its heavy grip on me. It is getting harder to breathe. Yet I stay for fear of the release. Though I long for it, I am scared of what will follow. Though I long to hold her hand, I am scared of what will follow.