Gura’s memories of the ocean are filled with drowning, fallen Atlantis and crumbling towers.
So they start small and begin with rain.
They are on the balcony, in their pyjamas. Ina extends a hand out to catch the drizzle, squeezing Gura’s hand with the other.
“Then, what’s this one?” Ina tilts her head at a dark cloud. Gura frowns, staring at the floating mass. Her brain struggles to make sense out of it. “Uh jeez, well… it kinda looks like a face.”
The priestess hums.
“You think so?”
A thumb slides down a crease on Gura’s palm.
“Oh- well now it’s gone. It moved again.”
The conversation travels from simple guesses to weird-looking feet (the shark insists). They sit on a bench, listening to the soft drizzle of rain. A pulse of warmth captured in intertwined hands. And if you squint your eyes hard enough, Ina says, you might catch view of little puffy takodachis boarding a rocket-ship (though Gura couldn’t see it).
It’s afternoons like these that matters; spent guessing shapes of sky-grey, so that Gura’s head is in the clouds, and out of the water.
Gura moves from rain to showers, then from showers to baths.
It takes her awhile to abandon the bucket and cloth, and she still showers with her eyes closed. But when Gura steps into a shallow bath, it’s because Ame’s here, holding her tight when the water tickles her toes, rubbing her back when it slides up her calves.
“You’re doing great.” A hand cups her cheek tenderly. “Take it easy now.”
Gura clings onto Ame like she’s a life buoy.
“Remember to breathe.”
It’s the movement of soft juddering exhales over a collarbone. The way her hands grip onto Ame’s arms when they gently descend. Knees first. Fingers digging into wet clothes. Ame slips a little before she drops into the tub and Gura manages to laugh at the clumsy splash.
They spend a couple of minutes here, in rippling water of gold confetti as the bath-bomb fizzles. A couple of yellow ducks floating. Ame has her hands in silver locks, massaging gently. The shark settles in the girl’s embrace like a pearl in its clam. Anchored and protected. For once, it seems almost magical.
Gura swears that being in the water has never felt warmer.
Gura walks onto sand for the first time in years. It feels like she’s stepping into summer. Ame and Ina wave to her from a distance, dressed in cute swimsuits. But Gura sees the past through the view; the scent of tide-brine breeze and crashing waves takes her back.
D̴o̵n̷'̶t̵ ̸l̶e̴a̸v̸e̶ ̴u̸s̴.̸.̴.̶
A small shark tumbles through an angry ocean. The rain threatens to pierce through the water surface; and it’s moving like shattering glass, sounding like the thunder’s screaming. Picture the bloody gash across gills. Then hands fumbling. Because it’s sinking. Sinking with the weight of guilt knotting itself into heartstrings. Sinking into red.
But here-- the sky’s baby azure and the water’s glittering. Ina’s holding her hand, looking worried. Ame unties the towel around her hip and drapes it around the shark quickly.
“We don’t have to.” Her voice is firm, anchoring. “You don’t have to push yourself, you know?”
Gura sees love written on their faces and feels the memory ebb away like the tide, folding upon itself. A gentle smile curves her lips. God , she feels like a princess.
“I’m okay.” She slides her other hand into Ame’s, and the shark gives them both a little squeeze. “Well… and I want to do this. With the both of you. I want to go in because we’re here together.”
Gura’s pulling them towards the coastline now. They’re leaving footprints in wet sand. The sensation of the waves kissing their legs, it’s tangible and present; it’s three girls wading into the ocean drenched in sunset filter.
“Promise you won’t let go?” Someone says.
The ocean looks different in this new light and Gura sees everything like it’s the first time.
“Yeah, I promise.”