Instinct

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The drowning incident was the first thing my mother brought up at breakfast the next morning before my 6 a.m. class.

"Good gravy! Does everyone know?"

"Juliana Irene, did you really think we wouldn't find out?" she said. "It happened in front of the entire town during a national holiday celebration."

"I just didn't want any of you to worry. Nothing serious happened," I assured her as I dowsed my cup of coffee with sugar.

"Julie, you nearly drowned. That's not considered serious?" Her voice was tense with concern.

"Mom," I assured her, "I was fine, everything was under control. Really. It was just a small misunderstanding."

"And Joey saved you?" she asked.

I frowned at the memory of Broderick and his heroic act and how I had treated him afterward. "No, it was someone else. And the other guy didn't really save me; he just kept me from swimming to the other side of the lake."

"And why were you trying to swim to the other side?" she asked with a tone of incredulity.

I groaned. In hindsight, I could see that attempting to swim across just to save face was one of my most ignorant ideas ever. "I didn't want everyone making a big deal out of it. It was embarrassing. I was mortified! I was just going to swim to the other side and leave the party, hoping no one would notice."

Mom cackled as my dad shook his head in disbelief.

"And this other boy made you swim back to the party?" She then asked.

"Well, not exactly. He practically dragged me back." I sipped the coffee and contorted my face realizing I forgot the vanilla creamer.

My dad, who had been eating in silence at the breakfast table listening to our conversation, spoke up. "What did you say his name was again?"

"I didn't." I replied flatly.

Natalie slipped in the kitchen without us taking notice. She, too, had an early appointment this morning—cheerleading practice. Easing behind me to grab a piece of bacon my mom had just fried, she answered for me. "It was Broderick Cooper."

"Our neighbor? Evelyn's grandson?" My mom was bursting with interest.

"Thanks a lot, jerk." I whispered to Natalie. She grinned widely in response.

I was unwilling to divulge any more information, afraid my face would say too much to my parents—especially my mother, who knew me all too well. She would immediately catch on that I liked Broderick, although I was still working hard to convince myself that I didn't.

"But instead of thanking him," Natalie continued, "she bit his head off."

"Jules, why would you behave so ungratefully?" My mother was appalled.

I became defensive. "Because, I told you—he really didn't save me, mom. He nearly killed me is what he did. I was fine until he decided to play Superman."

"You mean Aquaman," Natalie corrected in a witty fashion.

I conceded dryly, trying to downplay my interest in Broderick Cooper. "He was about as effective. All Aquaman ever did was talk to the fish."

Natalie was shaking in laughter at my dry humor. "Really, Jules, he was trying to save you."

"Talking to the fish," I repeated.

"Savannah said that she had never seen anything like it before." Natalie announced with excitement. "She said it seemed like he was making his way to the lake before the collision even occurred. Nobody on shore was even aware of anything dangerous going on until he sprung to his feet! It caught everyone's attention. Like, totally intense. She said that before anybody could even register what was happening, he was swimming across the lake like a mad man to get to Jules." She chewed silently on a thought before raising her eyebrows and adding, "It sounds hot. Wish Amber and I had gotten to the park a few minutes sooner to see it."

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