Can't Let Go GO PL

By: Barbara Freethy

Callaway Cousins #5



One


"I can do this," Annie Callaway told herself as she ventured into the surf, the setting sun dancing off the dark sea in front of her. With each passing minute, the royal-blue sky was changing into a glorious spectrum of oranges, pinks, and purples.

Dusk was beginning to fall on Southern California, but while it was past four in the afternoon, the temperature was still in the high seventies and unusually warm for early December. She wouldn't know Christmas was a few weeks away if it weren't for the holiday decorations on the pier.

As she moved deeper into the water and let it swirl around her knees, she could feel the current, and it gave her pause. She told herself she could handle it. The waves weren't particularly large right now. In fact, only one surfer lingered out beyond the break; most of the other surfers had given up on the day.

She'd seen that lone surfer before, usually from the deck of her apartment on the bluff behind her. He often came out in the late afternoons, and he was never part of the pack, always separate, always alone. He seemed to have an infinite amount of patience, waiting for just the right wave, and she had yet to see him get tossed off his board. He always won his battle against nature, and she found that inspiring.

She wanted to win…at something.

After the last two months of being pummeled professionally and personally, she needed a victory—a triumph of some sort. She couldn't be the only Callaway loser.

It was bad enough she'd chosen to be an artist, instead of following in the family tradition to serve and protect the community or the world. She really couldn't afford to fail at something most of her siblings and cousins probably found trivial. She needed a test, something she could pass, something she could do…which brought her back to her latest—probably bad— idea to get over her fear of swimming in the ocean.

If young children could do it—why couldn't she?

She'd grown up across the street from Ocean Beach in San Francisco, and she'd been in and out of the water without a second thought until she was about ten. Then everything had changed. She and her neighborhood friend Kim Watson had been playing on the beach when a rogue wave had come in and swept Kim off her feet and out to sea.

She could still remember standing on the shore, terrified that Kim would not come back. She should have jumped in after her, but she'd been paralyzed by fear. Luckily, her older brothers, Dylan and Hunter, had jumped into the water and pulled Kim to safety, but she'd never forgotten the terror she'd felt that day. Since then, she'd stayed far away from the ocean.

Until now…

She took another step forward, her feet sinking into the wet sand, goose bumps running up and down her body. Two more steps had her in water up to her thighs. She drew on every fiber of Callaway courage and finally dunked herself in the water up to her chin. Her heart skipped a beat, not just from the fear but from the cold. There was only one thing to do—start swimming.

She kicked her feet and pulled her arms through the water, feeling somewhat amazed that she was actually doing it. She was swimming in the ocean! Her hair was wet. There was salt on her lips. She was doing it!

The realization sent a rush of joy through her body. It was going to be all right. This was the first step—one of many she would take to get herself back on track, to prove she could still fight, be tough, and resilient. Callaways might go down, but they always got back up. She could hear her Uncle Jack's favorite mantra in her head as she paddled in and out of the waves, ducking under a larger wave to avoid it breaking on top of her head.

Memories of being happy in the ocean were coming back to her. In her head, she saw her brothers on their surfboards, her sisters playing in the water, her parents and extended family picnicking on the beach. She'd missed those days. She'd let fear take away what had once been pure pleasure.

No more being afraid! She was done with that.

A shout made her turn her head. The surfer was paddling toward her, yelling something, but the wind took away his words. He put up a hand and waved it around in the air.

She didn't know what he wanted. Was there a big wave coming? Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She pushed her hair off her face, wondering what she was missing.

"Get out," he yelled, drawing closer to her. "Shark!"