Missing in the Riptide
The force of the water was pushing us away from the exit. It was strong – too strong.
“Grab the rock!” I shouted behind me as I tried to grip it myself. It was slippery and mossy on my fingertips which made it hard to get a hold on. Finally, I got somewhat of a grip as the water continued to attempt to sway me to Exit B. I looked behind me to see her gone. She had just… disappeared. What was I going to say now?
It was a hot, summer day and my family and I was staying in Florida for a couple days. The second day we decided to go to SeaWorld and my family and I decided that after going to SeaWorld, we would go to the waterpark.
When we got there, I was in awe. I had never been to a waterpark before this, which made this experience way more exciting than normal. As we entered, I realized that huge wasn’t even the word for it. I didn’t even know how big the park was in total, it seemed never-ending. Around us were fake beaches and giant rides and people splashing and the aroma of fried food and chlorine in the air.
After we went on a few rides, our family decided to split up and my mom took my twin, Sophia, and I to a ride. The ride was set up to look like a fake “river” scene, with water which looped around in a long oval. People who were on the ride floated around by the water pushing against you. We were young at the time, and we got hooked up in life jackets to go on the ride alone; just the two of us (Sophia and I).
“Make sure you get off at Exit A, the exit where we are now. Do not get off on Exit B, okay?” The worker reminded us gently. It was easy. I knew where Exit A was. We would just float around then just swim up the shore of the fake beach to our mom. Sophia and I nodded.
Our mom reminded us the same thing the worker had before she let us go off into the water. Just like before, we promised her that we understood and that we knew how to get off.
When we went into the water and started swimming around and going along with the current, I felt that the water was calming. The water wasn’t too cold either, it was just right. There were other people floating along with us, chatting away.
Sophia and I talked the whole time. I was a little nervous and self-conscious and I could tell Sophia was too because it looked like we were the only eight-year-olds without parents. The ride wasn’t really a “ride” to me, but more like a mock-up river.
After we went around the loop about two or three times, we could see Exit A getting nearer and nearer as we floated towards it. But for some reason, the water was pushing us back around toward Exit B. What was happening? Were we not supposed to get off here?
Sophia was swimming behind me and the current of the water kept pushing us back stubbornly. Our exit was just ahead of us. I saw a big, mossy rock which I wasn’t sure was fake or not and gripped onto it; which was hard to do considering there were no places to hold on to. And the fact that it was really slippery, especially with my wet hands.
“Sophia, grip onto the rock!” I shouted, my fingertips slipping while barely staying on myself. The water continued to push us back. No one was paying attention to us because we were slightly off the course. Seeing that Sophia wasn’t grabbing on, I turned around to grab her hand.
I turned around expecting to see Sophia, but instead, I saw nothing. Except the water splashing around and the other people in the distance which I ignored. Had she just… disappeared? Had she floated away back to the wrong exit? My gut got a weird feeling and my heart was beating so fast that I felt like it was going to fall right out of my chest. My stomach sank as I kept looking around like she was just going to appear in front of me. I swallowed, scared of what would happen next.
For some reason, while I just floated here, the rock seemed much easier to grip as the current seemed much less powerful. What was I going to do now? I knew I had to tell my mom something, but what? That Sophia went missing and that I can’t find her? That would be the most reasonable option, but I was hesitant because I figured that my mom would blame me. As always.
I trod up the fake beach to my mom who was lounging on one of those long, beach chairs with an umbrella above it for shade. Water dripped off of me as I walked up to her.
When she saw me from under her sunglasses walking towards her, and she sat up. She must’ve realized Sophia wasn’t here with me because she asked the question I was dreading to answer.
“Where’s Sophia?” She questioned, looking around me hoping to find her.
“Um, I don’t know. I think she might’ve gone around again.”
“Really? By herself?”
I nodded. “Yeah, we were trying to get off and then the water was pushing us away so I grabbed onto the rock and then I looked behind and Sophia was gone,” I blurted unable to stop myself. I needed to let her know exactly what happened.
“What? Are you saying you don’t know where she is?”
I stayed silent. I had tried to explain what happened so I could save myself from getting in trouble which was selfish, but at the same time, what I thought was best to save myself. Now, I hoped she wouldn’t blame me. She put her hand on her head like she was used to this and told me to go back into the water to go look for Sophia while she called my dad to come help look.
Even though I wanted to reject the idea of going alone, I went back into the water and started to go around again. This time I felt paranoid. Mainly because I was all by myself. While everyone else was floating along relaxed, I quickly made the effort to swim all the way around as quickly as I could without making it noticeable. After going around, I still couldn’t find her.
When I got back, I could see that my dad and little brother were now here which made me feel less scared now that I had people with me. We went on the ride another time and then another, but still no sign of Sophia. I began to grow even more worried. Where was she? What if she had gotten lost and I would never find her again? The fact that the park was gigantic wasn’t helping; instead, it just made me more anxious.
After we had gotten out of the water, my mom had suggested I talk to one of the workers standing by about where Sophia might’ve gone.
Shyly, I walked up the woman and told her what happened. She instructed me to take a turn and go straight to Exit B along the walkway and then go to the shack, which I could see faintly from where I was standing.
After following her directions and arrived where she had sent me, I came to a stop at a shack with a sign which read ¨Lost and Found¨. There was another woman who I guessed worked there and I asked her if she had seen my sister, but she just shook her head and said sorry. She showed me her empty clipboard, meaning that no kids had shown up. Disappointed, I told her thanks as I turned to go back to my family. All of a sudden I saw a worker walking towards us with Sophia and another set of twins about our age who I guessed were lost, too.
“Sophia!” I called out as she started coming up to me. She was soaking wet, freezing in her bathing suit. As she came closer, I could tell she had been crying – still crying by her puffy, red eyes and the tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Bianca!” She answered, “I thought I was never going to see you again.” She enveloped me in a hug and when she did, I could feel her shaking.
Her hug gave me warmth, and my body melted as I hugged her back. Instantly, I felt relieved that I had found her. I realized how much she meant to me and how much I felt responsible for her, even though I was older than her by only two minutes.
“Let’s get back now,” She suggested as she started heading back toward our exit past all the rides.
“Let’s go back on,” I teased.
“I know,” I laughed, tilting my head back as the sun hit my face making me feel even warmer than I already was. I wouldn’t ask her about her adventure just yet. For now, I would appreciate that I found her, although I knew that her story would be one to look back and laugh at.