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  • Writer's pictureLaura L. Zimmerman

Flash Fiction Friday: Henrietta

Henrietta hated school.

This was no secret to anyone. Not to her parents or her friends.

In fact, this is why she found herself swimming among the coral reefs at six o’clock in the morning, when she should have been at home. But there was nothing to be done about the beauty of nature, the way it called to her at all hours of the day, beckoned her to come play. Even during school. Especially during school.

She sighed. How much longer could she stay here before one of her siblings would pull her away? The colors that surrounded her begged her to stay, to remain a part of the world around her: magenta and scarlet and saffron and azure and plum and lavender. All those colors.

Her favorite spot beckoned, so she rounded the far side of the coral, the one she’d found the day her family had moved to this part of the coast. She was deep into the sea now, deeper than her father liked her to be. Far from help, if she’d ever need it. But why should her father’s fear keep her from exploring? From finding and learning about this new world? A place she had never had the chance to see, in her old home.

Bubbles drifted past and caught her attention. Drat! That could mean only one thing. Her brother Harry had found her. Sent by her father to retrieve his most-middlest daughter, and bring her back before she was left behind and missed school all together. Curses. Harry was the worst. The worst of the worst. He would follow rules to the point of death, if he had to.

Henrietta dove behind the largest rock she could find. Hold your breath. Don’t move. Stay still. Stay calm. He totally didn’t see you.

Boo! Harry darted from behind a bright emerald section of coral, a smug smile in place.

Fantastic. Just what she needed.

He motioned for her to follow but she hesitated. Should she follow? Pretend to obey, then slip away when he didn’t notice? Or would the proactive approach be more effective? Make her escape now and risk the inevitable chase? After all, she was a far faster swimmer than her brother could ever hope to be. She’d learned that the year before when he’d been put to shame during the summer swim competition.

She glanced left and right, an assessment of her surroundings. Also, a dead giveaway at what she was about to attempt. Harry lunged in her direction. Henrietta fled.

Around the patch of coral, through the hidden hole of a sunken vessel from long ago. Harry followed, close on her heels. Had he gotten faster? Panic zipped across her belly at the idea that he might be able to overtake her after all. She pushed harder.

Her head spun and she lost which way was up, for a moment. A brush against her side made her jump and she jetted to the side on instinct, her older brother just one step behind her.

No school. No school. No school. I will not go to school today!

Slam! Harry blindsided her right into one of her beloved coral reefs she so desperately clung to. School was inevitable, after all. He gave her a hard stare, something that sufficed even without the words. It was time for school.

Henrietta no longer put up a fight, but simply fell in line behind her brother, defeated and obedient at last. The short swim home took only minutes, far too short for her taste. She avoided her father’s gaze as she joined her remaining brothers and sisters.

Without another second wasted her father took the lead. Each member of her fish family gave a quick swish of their tails as they took off in the direction of the next current. Henrietta stayed close behind the bright cobalt hue of her older sisters, her family of fifty-three already together in a tight bond, as they traversed the swell and pull of the tide. It was time to eat, which meant staying together for safety.

Time for school.

Henrietta sighed. There was always tomorrow.

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016


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