Punished (Part 2)

by Angela Bierbaum
(Mentor, Ohio)

Tom Richards, an eighteen-year-old man, had been walking down one of the dirt paths when he heard Charlie scream. "Is someone in trouble?" he thought. "It's coming from the lake!" He set off in a dead run to the west and followed the screams. He couldn't quite tell what they were saying.

His pace quickened when the screams ceased. They were just gone. But, he could hear a young man talking to himself. Once Tom neared the dock, he saw this young man searching frantically. He was looking downward toward the water. "It couldn't have been him," Tom thought. "It was a woman screaming..."

But, he continued to run as fast as he could toward the boy. "Who was that?" Tom questioned him. Max was in shock. He simply shook his head and looked up at the stranger.

"My friend, Charlie, just went down to save her sister, Bailey. She... she was drowning," he was almost in tears. Before Max knew it, Tom had his shoes, socks and shirt off and was diving into the water.

It was painfully cold. Stinging every limb and part of his body. It only got colder as he sank deeper and deeper. He didn't want to risk opening his eyes just yet. Oh, how he wished he had some goggles.

He continued to sink as fast as he could. Just his weight wasn't enough. He flailed his legs and arms against the wall of water, trying to get more speed. Two young women were in danger. He had to save them. God was with him. "Dear Lord Almighty. Please, let these two girls be safe and under your care, even while swimming underneath the water. They need your help!"

Tom was nearing the bottom of the lake, he could tell. The water was piercing his entire body, but he pressed on, determined. He was so determined that he forgot all about the pain when he felt another person's arm. Or was it a leg? Whatever it was, he didn't care. He grabbed hold of it. And, he couldn't help it. His eyes shot open. Just for a second, he could see that he WAS holding one of the girls' arms, and she was holding the other one. His eyes closed once again, and he was ascending back toward the surface. "They must be out of breath," he thought. Then, he remembered that HE was almost out of breath. He kicked harder and harder until they were all finally back up to the atmosphere.

Never before had Tom loved the taste of pure air.

He looked over to the two young women to see that one was holding the other afloat. Quickly, he helped them both back up to the dock. Max swam to all three of them, asking Tom questions, but he did not answer.

All four were on the dock and now safe. Max was standing, Tom was on his hands and knees trying to see what was wrong, and Charlie was holding Bailey, who was unconscious.

"She's not breathing," Charlie worriedly stated. "Sir!" she almost shouted at him. "Do you know CPR?"

Tom nodded and began the procedure on Bailey. She looked so pale and cold. Charlie took hold of her right hand and squeezed. Again and again, Tom tried to bring her back, but she was not responding. He checked her pulse, finally.

"Well?" Charlie asked while a tear ran down her cheek. She knew nothing about saving a person's life. She didn't even know if Bailey was still alive. But, she was about to find out.

Tom looked her in the eyes. He was sad, and they began to fill with tears. His fingers remained upon her wrist as he shook his head and replied, "No."

With that, Charlie was in total shock. "No," she protested. Denial. Such an awful thing. "No," she repeated. She couldn't believe that her one and only sister, whom she loved dearly, was actually gone. Bailey had always been there, but now she wouldn't be. Tom shifted from one side of Bailey to the other to meet Charlie. He wrapped his arms around her as she collapsed into them. She wailed and cried, but nothing could change the this. It was done.

"How could He do this to me!" Charlie screamed. "How could He have betrayed me?!" Endless tears were streaming down both of her cheeks, and even Tom Richards was crying.

Max glared at them, then looked down to lifeless Bailey. How could something like this have happened? Well, he knew how, but he couldn't figure out why....


Charlie Mennison let many teardrops fall over the gravestone and into the dirt. She was on her knees, praying. A year had passed, ans she still felt guilty. She should have been the one that swam to the bottom of the lake. She should have been the one to try and retrieve the bracelet. And, she did. She gripped the bracelet within her left hand harder and harder until there were deep marks in her hand.

She was so angry. She was so scared.

She was alone...

Bailey was gone, Dave was not talking to her, Max had moved many miles away to Chicago, and all she had left was God. But, was he really punishing her? She thought again, but no sin was big enough to match this tragedy. Not one thing.

Charlie wheeled her head around. There was some sound coming from the distant trees. She could hear their footsteps. Was it a wild animal, or maybe a person? She couldn't tell. It was impossible to tell. Fear swept her heart, and she began to pray. Very hard. "Please, don't let person or thing do anything to me," she thought. "Hello?" she asked no one. "Is anyone there? Hello?" No answer. Just footsteps approaching. "Hello?!"

To Be Continued...

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