Chapter 4

For a moment, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. As I skidded to a shocked stop on the edge of the pond, I watched as Toni’s hat along with its little red bob disappeared beneath the dark water. I stood, gaping, utterly immobilised by disbelief and fear as the water closed over my friend.


As my eyes raked the quickly stilling surface of the pond, something in the back of my head made the decision for me and I felt my muscles tighten and release as I sprung, arms outstretched, into the darkness. Freezing temperatures rolled over me and I let out a muffled scream as my head surfaced once more some distance away from the shore, before a small ripple of water rolled into my mouth, making me splutter and cough uncontrollably.


My lungs hurt as I tried to clear my throat, but the cold air made it rough and sore. I tried to shout her name, but the ragged, meagre voice that came out could not rival the winds that had picked up above me. I had never been so cold in my life. Back at home, the temperatures had never dropped so low, and the shallow waters had always easily warmed up over the course of the hot, still days.


I could feel my fingers going numb as I churned up the waters, looking before and behind, to the left and right of me, for any sign of Toni. I was about to summon my last remaining strength before the cold froze me to death when I heard an indistinct splash right behind me, and then another. I propelled myself around to face the shore once more, eyes stinging from the cold, toes numb and barely moving as I tried to remain afloat.


Through the water that had splashed into my eyes during my dive, I could barely distinguish a little red bob seemingly jumping up and down above the dark surface of the pond. It was Toni’s hat!


Madly, I swam towards it, pushing my feet against the murky water, forcing my lungs to transfer air in and out of my body as I gasped for a breath. Channelling all my energy towards the red bob, I saw as I got nearer that the bobbing had decreased. My ears could hear no more splashing. As I pushed myself on the final few strokes to the red bob, I realised, dismayed, how still the water had become once more, and as soon as I neared Toni’s hat, I understood why.


She lay there in the water, so peaceful and beautiful. She was ghostly white. Her hat, snuggly fitted by the family’s professional dress fitter had stayed on throughout all of Toni’s struggles.


My eyes stinging, this time with tears, I dragged Toni’s drenched body back to the shore, pushing and rolling her onto dry land before hauling myself out to huddle beside her, teeth chattering and eyes blurry with both tears and dirty pond water. A sob escaped my lips, and I wondered if they could possibly be as blue as Toni’s were now. I wondered how long she had struggled for underwater while I was too far away to guess where she was. I tried to blow into her mouth, tried to rub up and down her arms to warm her up, hoping she would open her eyes and tell me she would never again run like that to the pond.


But Toni remained utterly still and composed, shedding not a beacon of light for my hope to remain. Instead, as the rays of the sun became shorter, the light fainter, what had remained of my unexplainable hopefulness that she may still be alive dwindled and went out, just like a candle I had seen which had lost its fight against the breeze from the window in the house. Just like that candle, Toni too had succumbed to a more powerful force and was inconsolably, and with no possibility of return, silent forever.

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The first paragraph sent a chill through me. Oh my goodness that image of that red hat sinking below the ice. Oooh

What a way to capture a reader and hold him or her.