Julia refused to join the conversation between her father and Head Coach Benson. She tried to hear it while she watched the boys swim, but the bandage on her arm was uncomfortable, and she was hungry from skipping breakfast. She didn't have her cell phone (her mother's discipline).
Discipline! It was an accident!
Mrs. Johnson walked over. She is always at the pool.
"What happened to your arm, Julia?"
"This?" Julia pretended to admire her bandage. "Shark attack."
Mrs. Johnson raised an eyebrow, "Are you still going to Nationals?"
Julia's father appeared, "It looks like we're staying home this year."
"That's awful..." she looked from father to daughter, "I... guess I'll see you..." She walked away and Julia's father sighed.
Julia had never seen her father cry. I wonder how close he is.
Coach Benson turned away as Julia and her father walked to the car. Minutes passed in the hot front-seat, and Julia's stomach flipped in the silence.
"You may have missed your chance, Julia. You're a junior this fall."
"It was an accident--I got five stitches--remember?"
"A little work can yield a full scholarship, Benson said so."
"Sally is my coach, dad, and she doesn't really like me."
Frustration was building, "She helped your technique--you just don't like to be told what to do."
"You swim at 5:30, go to school, swim again, and then do homework..."
He rubbed his knee. "It's only worth it if you make your goals. You had goals, Julia, why throw them away now?"
"So, I'm throwing goals away, because I accidently cut my arm?"
"You don't seem to care."
"It used to be Deanna and me. Now, I swim with divas." Her voice rose, "I'm going crazy with it, Daddy. I can't reach your goals!"
He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. Julia looked at his crumpled form. He had goals. When his knee blew, it wasn't due to foolishness. Her tears reached her chin.
"I love you, Julia. I want you to have the life I couldn't."
"What if it's not the life I want?"
Silence took over. He turned the key.
Julia sat with the big yearbook in her lap. "Look at Daddy! He's way up high."
"That's the high dive," said her mother.
"What's he going to do?"
"Turn the page."
There was a picture of her father curled in a ball, midway between the high board and the water. His teammates were yelling their encouragement. The next page displayed a picture of his teammates holding a sign blazing the words: WE'LL MISS YOU CANNONBALL--YOU'LL BOUNCE BACK--YOU'RE NUMBER ONE! Next to the picture was a newspaper article announcing why her father wasn't competing in State Diving that year--a blown knee. COMMUNITY SENDS SUPPORT TO STATE'S TOP DIVER.
There was not a newspaper article for Julia--no team to cheer her--no clear goal to cling to...
Series 3 will be posted Friday, July 10.