The first time Sammy ever went swimming was when her father took her three hours up north to her cottage in Muskoka. There where the pine trees grew monstrous and deer were so abundant they lay like trophies along highway 401, every deer fresh, ready for stuffing. Sammy’s mother wanted a break from the family after a few months of being babied and carried from the couch to the bedroom every morning. Day after day of hidden wine bottles and slurred insults, fed up, Sammy’s father agreed to the terms once she set them.
He took their daughter to the heated cottage on the lake and bought a life jacket at the nearest Walmart in anticipation of the lesson to be carried out later that day. The afternoon had ended on the highway, the evening beginning, the sun set comfortably underneath the clouds, seeming to gaze down the lake and smile colors of yellow, rainbow violet and cotton-candy pink. It grinned at the tops of pine and the roofs of cottages hidden in the wooden along the shores of the many smaller islands that inhabited the residential lake. The fisherman had left to feed their families and the fish had settled to no longer graze the tops of the water to feed the greedy loons and seagulls. The lake was silent
Sammy changed into her black one piece, she’d acquired a love for the color ever since her mother started throwing up her food and alcohol- it was the only color that didn’t come out of her in acid- and newly bought black life jacket that hung off her boney shoulders and buckled at her fast-food filled belly and between her muscly thighs. Sammy walked down the familiar wooden dock steps that she had sat on so many times before, watching her older brother flirt in the water with his girlfriends. She stepped into the water, toes first and then the second slender foot. The pebbles and larger rocks felt coarse and infected with zebra-mussels that inched to pierce your skin and release young blood into fresh water. Her father followed her closely behind and then passed her to jump off the edge of the largest rock and into the black water and then swam towards her with outreached arms and a grin that started with his yellowing teeth and travelled to his great brown eyes. Sammy jumped towards him with no fear of falling, Sammy felt the loving warmth and comfort of the water, as she splashed into it. Her mother wasn’t here to ruin the moment with and tell her she was going to catch a cold. Her brother wasn’t here to make fun of the boys she liked at school and how they would never like her back while she had knobby knees and a boney spine that ribbed out of her back. It was just her and quiet, reserved, bearded Daddy here, the last time she would ever be able to call him that, Daddy, after this she would have to grow up too fast to take care of mother, watch her father die, and be beaten up by her first boyfriend, Bobby. But here, time was suspended in the strokes of her legs and the way her black hair disappeared into the darkening water past her shoulders. Time was mostly still in her father’s nicotine infested smile, the way he ends of his lips crept up naturally, he was so happy.