Cheating Death by Jen Naumann
Lysandra Brooks remembers everything about the day she almost drowned alongside her grandma, especially the set of mysterious eyes she saw at the bottom of the lake. Ever since then, she's been seeing strange things when she is near water - things that aren't really there. Because of it, Lysandra has the tendency to avoid anything that isn't on dry land. On her last day of high school, however, the biggest party of the year is set to take place at a fellow senior's lakeside mansion. Despite her fears, Lysandra decides to prove to her friends and herself that she can handle it.
But after a horrific night of drinking and drama that leaves Lysandra feeling lonely and confused, she nearly drowns for a second time, only to be saved by the new guy in town. From that moment on, Lysandra's world is turned upside down with the discovery of mind blowing secrets, including a revelation that something sinister is after her soul.
Ironically, my first clear memory in life is also the first time my life nearly ended.
When I was a little girl, my then tight-knit family of five would pack into our battered red mini van every summer to make the painfully long six hour drive “up north” for a week of fishing with my grandparents. This journey was torture for me not just because iPods and decent video games had yet to be invented, but because I despised fishing and didn’t understand why we had to travel so far when there was a lake just down the road from where we lived. But as the tradition goes with all Minnesotans, we made the long journey to where the lakes were bigger and therefore the fishing was supposedly better. My parents seemed hell-bent on giving us the ultimate summer experience whether we liked it or not.
There are very few things I remember about the actual time we spent at the rented cabins. Most of the memories I do have I’m pretty sure have been prompted by pictures I’ve seen: my brother with a crooked grin holding up a string of little walleye, my sister’s sunburned face frozen forever in a frown, and a miniature version of me crouched proudly next to my father as he held up a little sunfish attached to the end of the pole I held with both hands.
The one solid memory I know to be my own and not brought on by any pictures involves me as a four-year-old. While my Grandma fished, I sat on her lap in an old lawn chair on the end of the dock. The chair was made of hard, smooth plastic that crisscrossed over metal bars, making a pattern of large holes that I would push my little hands through whenever I was bored. I wasn’t wearing a life-jacket. Grandma never made me wear one when I was with her, even though it made Mom crazy.
With the warm sun on our faces, Grandma hummed happily, smelling of the cocoa butter-scented suntan lotion mixed in with sweat from the heat. After a while, she jiggled her line up and down, trying to snag something. I quickly bolted up on her lap in time to see the bobber drop deep below the water’s surface.
When I whirled around excitedly to tell her that she must’ve caught a giant fish, we were suddenly propelled backwards, flipping off the dock and plunging into the dark water below.
Metal and plastic pushed me further down, my arm wrapped in the chair’s plastic bars. I struggled against it until I felt the murky mud of the lake’s bottom beneath me. The sensation of the water filling my lungs and Grandma’s body pushing up against mine are all still so vivid that I swear I’ve relived it a thousand times.
We both thrashed around, turning from the force of the plunge. I didn’t know which way was up. A sliver of her white hair and a small portion of her face were the only things I could see in the dark water when she reached out for me. I watched as she struggled for her last breaths and then became very still.
I’m pretty sure that I didn’t yet have the concept of death at that age. I had never been to a funeral and no one in our immediate family had died. I remember thinking that I was falling asleep and that when I woke, I’d be snuggled in my bed at home, as if it had all been a dream.
Before I totally lost consciousness, a beautiful set of eyes of the most peculiar shade of blue appeared before me. Even though we were at the bottom of the lake, I could see a light behind the eyes, making them twinkle. Looking into them, I suddenly felt safe. I knew no matter what happened, that I would be okay.
Later I was told that my father and brother dived in once they discovered what had happened and pulled me out. Grandma had already drowned. The next thing I remember is waking up on the damp sand with my parents and siblings hovering over me. I guess I was lucky that Mom’s a nurse and well-trained in CPR. Without it, I would’ve died along with my grandma.
For months after the accident, I asked my mom over and over about the person who had been with me under the water— the one with the beautiful blue eyes. She kept insisting that either I was seeing Grandma for the last time, or that it was my brother and father when they came to save me. But I knew those eyes most definitely did not belong to any of my family members.
In my nightmares, I sometimes still see Grandma drowning and those mysterious eyes looking back at me. Sometimes the dreams are just a retelling of how things happened that day. Other times Grandma will stop and stare at me, her hallowed out eyes so terrifying that I’m startled awake. When I first told Mom about the nightmares a few years ago, she made me see a shrink at the hospital. The little man I met with reminded me of a troll and really freaked me out the way he would just stare. It lasted all of two sessions before I lied and told Mom that the nightmares had stopped.
The one thing I never told her, the shrink, my friends or anyone is that every now and then when I’m wide awake, I also see things that aren’t really there.
About the Author
Jen grew up during a magical time in which Ghostbusters, Star Wars, E.T. and The Goonies were the biggest blockbusters. Her love of sci-fi exploded over time, eventually growing into a career of writing YA fiction with a paranormal flair. When not sitting at her Mac, she can be found at concerts and movies, hanging with friends, chilling at her lake home, taking pictures, working on graphic design projects, traveling, or at home with her husband in southern Minnesota while trying to keep up with their four active children.
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