Don’t look at the fish. {fiction}

“One fish, two fish…” Kayla sang as she put her right foot directly in front of her left, hands held out to keep her balance. Even though Nate told her to focus on her feet and the log, Kayla kept her attention on the fish that swam in the creek below her.

She wobbled a bit to the right as she moved her left foot to the front.

Kayla looked up to her destination and saw Nate and Archie were already on the other side of the creek. They were waiting for her, but they looked impatient. She knew she didn’t have much time before they would give up on the slow-poke little sister and dash off without her. Her brother and his friend never hid their feelings about having to let Kayla tag along.

Kayla didn’t blame them. Even though Nate had to keep his eye on her, he didn’t have to actually let her play with them. So she kept quiet and played her own little games in her head while Nate and Archie played ninjas or pirates or hunters. But she still had to keep up. If she got left behind, she wasn’t sure she would be able to find her way back to their house.

Bending forward on the log, Kayla placed her hands in front of her to steady herself. Once she regained her balance, she stood back up slowly and moved her feet again. One foot in the front of the other. Don’t look at the fish. Watch where you put your feet. One step at a time. Hands out for balance.

She looked up and was pleased to see she only had a few steps left. She was almost across!

Then she noticed there was nobody waiting at the other side of the creek. The boys had left her. She was alone.

Kayla didn’t bother finishing her walk across the log. Instead she sat herself down and swung her feet into the water, watching the fish scatter as she disturbed their habitat. Soon, fat tears rolled their way down her cheeks. She didn’t care if anybody would make fun of her for crying. She couldn’t remember the way back to the house from where she was, and she didn’t know where Nate had gone. She was lost.

She watched the fish return to swim near her and her tears stopped. Watching the fish always seemed to make her happy. Sometimes when her mom took her and Nate to the community pool, Kayla liked to pretend that she was a mermaid. She would put her legs together and practice swimming without separating them. Kayla adored the water. Her mom called her a little fish because she had learned to swim before she learned to walk.

“One fish, two fish.” Kayla sang again as she watched the fish. It sounded like a song from when she was a baby, but she she couldn’t remember the rest of the words. She wasn’t even sure it was a song. She just liked the cadence of the words.

Kayla sat on the log for a very long time. She was too scared to try to find Nate or to try to find home again. She hoped that Nate and Archie would come back this way when they were done playing, or if they noticed she wasn’t around.

They would notice, wouldn’t they?

She tried to listen for the sounds of Nate and Archie, but all she could hear was the water beneath her feet and the breeze dancing in the leaves above her head. She enjoyed the feel of the water soaking through her sneakers, even if it was making her toes cold. She wondered how long it had been since Nate had abandoned her. She wondered how long it would be until sunset. She hoped she wouldn’t still be sitting on the log then.

She thought about walking to one side of the creek, but she was too scared to try log-walking without anyone around. If she fell in the water would she be strong enough to swim to shore? Would she crack her head on a rock and die? No, she would need to wait for someone to be around to help guide her back off the log.

She just kept hoping someone would come for her before the sky got dark.

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