My head had been in a fog since the near drowning episode. It now hit me how very
quiet it was—in my head that is. It was never quiet there. Dahlia constantly lambasted
me with her fairy-like speech. Oh dear God! Had she drowned in the pool? I couldn’t
feel her anymore. She wasn’t perched on my shoulder like usual. She was gone!
My mom came to get me a half an hour later. She’d brought me some dry clothes and
sported an overanxious expression. “Charisma, oh good Lord, are you okay?”
Yes, my mother had named me Charisma. Charisma Elaine Mansfield. Was it any
wonder that I’d been included as one of the popular trend-setters at school? It’s like I
didn’t even have a choice with a name like that. But really, Charisma? Other than the
actress who’d starred on that TV show, Angel, have you ever heard of anyone with this
unfortunate designation? Perhaps an exotic dancer?
The nurse calmed down my mother and then released me into her care. Ironic, right? I
convinced Mom to walk down to the pool with me, having made the excuse that I’d left
something behind. It was true. I had lost something: Dahlia. She could be a great
nuisance at times, but she’d been with me as far back as I could remember.
Dahlia is what my mother called my conscience when I was little. At seven years old, I
tried to convince her that Dahlia really existed. She didn’t believe me, and I’d never
mentioned her since. Over time, I’ve discovered that she’s more of a pixie than a
conscience. I’ve never seen her only felt her and heard her. She’s invisible and not
able to show herself to mere mortals.
The thing about having a pixie with me 24/7 is that I’ve never been able to verbalize all
the things I’m thinking and feeling even when I’m alone because, of course, Dahlia will
hear. Even then she always seems to know what I’m thinking and at times her thoughts
come out of my mouth as if I had no control. After nearly eighteen years, I wish I could
get rid of her. But not like this. Not drowned because of my stupidity.
We made it to the gate of the pool, and I cautiously walked beside my mother toward
the water, my legs still feeling a bit shaky. It’s not like I wanted to land in the drink
again. “Over beside that bench, Mom. That’s where I left my book.”
It was a lie. I hadn’t left a book. It was Dahlia. I had to find her. Please, please, I prayed
silently. Please let her be okay.
“Dahlia,” I whispered close to the water. “Please, don’t be dead. I’d give anything if…”
For a split second, I felt that odd but familiar sensation near my shoulder. She wasn’t
“Dahlia, you’re okay.”
“Of course, I am. You didn’t think a little water could take me out, did you?”
“No, well, yes, I did. I was worried.”
“I told you to stay away from the pool, but you didn’t listen.”
“I know. You were right…again.”
“Yes, but at least Heath came to your rescue. I should have known that gimlet of a
boyfriend of yours would be useless in an emergency situation.”
“Shh! Here comes your mother.”
When we couldn’t find my fictitious book, Mom took me to the car and drove me home.
On the ride, I wondered what had happened to Brett. Okay, if the truth be told, it was
more than likely Dahlia who had whispered the idea into my ear.
I didn’t respond to her because Mom would find it entirely suspect if I started talking to
myself. I gave that up in second grade. Still, the thought remained. What had
happened to Brett? He hadn’t followed me to the nurse’s office as far as I knew. Did he
care that I’d nearly died? I did! I nearly died and I would have if it hadn’t been for Heath.
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