Chapter 5

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Lauren recognized the sliminess under her foot. She'd already stepped on a few, and the rays would shoot away before she had a chance to move. She'd never been stung-and she didn't want to scare Camila-but she couldn't have her stomping around in the waist deep water.

Camila sloshed hurriedly towards her. She'd just ridden a wave in, clinging desperately to the board on her belly. She was reckless and excited in her movement, while Lauren dragged her fingers calmly through the water.

"Hey Camila, make sure you shuffle your feet, okay?" Lauren called casually.

Camila smiled, confused. She flicked the wet hair out of her eyes. "What?"

"Don't stomp or take big steps. Just do the shuffle."

"Why?" Camila's smile turned suspicious.

"Just..." Lauren decided to play it down. "There may be rays out here. If you shuffle, you warn them with your toes instead of just stomping on them. And they can feel the vibrations."

Camila's eyes widened. She was on her board in a flash, halfway draped across it with her feet lifted out of the water.

"Oh my God!" she shrieked. Her board drifted sideways while Camila peered over the edge, looking for shadows in the water.

Lauren bobbed her head. This was exactly what she'd expected. Camila might actually be able to scare the rays away.

"Stingrays! Oh my-Lauren!" Camila paddled frantically with her hands to get to where Lauren stood calmly in the waist deep water. "I've already been stung once! I don't-we have to-"

"Camila, they're tiny." Lauren held the nose of Camila's board steady. "They're more scared of you than you are of them."

Camila looked ready to combust. "That's what everybody says! That doesn't stop them from appearing on those shows where they were mauled by wild animals!"

Lauren bit her cheek. She dropped lower in the water so that only her head was visible and crossed her arms over the nose of the surfboard.

"If you shuffle, you'll be totally fine. How would you like it if somebody pinned you to the floor and you couldn't get away?"

Camila looked horrified. "No. No, just...Take me in. Push me in. I don't want-I don't want-"

Lauren rolled her eyes. She set her chin on her arms. "I'm not getting out of this water until you catch some more waves, Camila Cabello."

"Have you stepped on any?"

Lauren sighed. It was like talking to a wall.

"Just a couple. They just shoot away, Camila. They're harmless."

They really weren't. They'd cause excruciating pain that Lauren couldn't treat with just hot water and a nap. But the chances of being stung were incredibly small. Camila watched her warily.

Lauren smiled. "You're a dancer, Camila. Let me teach you the stingray shuffle."

Camila's eyes seemed to light up, like Lauren had phrased it the perfect way. She slid slowly off her board, staring down into the water, and inched towards Lauren.

"Just scoot your feet along the bottom." Lauren demonstrated. "The vibrations scare them away. Or you'll touch them with your toes and they'll dart in the opposite direction."

Camila looked too afraid to move. "What if they attack me?"

Lauren managed not to laugh. "They will not attack you."

Camila looked dubious. She shuffled slowly around, following Lauren. She kept one hand on her board, ready to leap back onto it if she felt anything odd, and her eyes fixed on the water.

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