I love the beach. It's my home, and I'm proud of it. I love to run on the beach and then dive into the sand and feel the warmth soothe my body. I love to feel the waves ripple on my toes.
This is my home, Maui, Hawaii. Sure, it's a big tourist place, but I don't care.
I also love the animals. There's so many dolphins, whales, birds and fish, nobody could be happier.
That's why I never wanted to leave.
* * *
Whoosh! The waves splashed against my boat. I laughed as my hair flew all around my face. It was one of those nice, hot summer days. There was a strong breeze, so it was perfect weather for sailing. The air smelled like plumeria flowers.
I was out in my boat, sailing in the ocean. I glided for a while in the peaceful waves.
Suddenly, a grayish, triangle-shaped figure popped up from the waves, right next to my boat. Then another one popped up! And another! Before I knew it, there were seven of them. I slowed down my speed. I knew what those figures were. My favorite animal on earth gracefully leaped into the air. It was a dolphin.
The dolphin thrashed its tail in the air as it flew over my boat. SPLASH! It dove back into the water. Then, all of the dolphins raised their heads above the water.
They chirped, and at that moment, I could feel all of their joy. Trust and happiness rushed through my body, and I could feel it pouring into my heart.
Two ropes that were connected to my boat fell into the water. Instantly, two dolphins grabbed onto the ropes. They swam as fast as they could, pulling my boat along with them.
We soared through the water. The wind tore at my face. It blew my hair behind my shoulders. I never wanted this moment to end. It was a miracle! I'd never been this close to dolphins before!
An hour went by of sailing with the dolphins. I knew that it was time for them to leave when they clapped their flippers.
I leaned over the edge of my boat to touch the dolphin's back. I leaned out too far, so SPLASH! I fell into the ocean.
Luckily I was in my bathing suit. Water poured into my eyes. I struggled around, gasping for air and trying to find something to grab onto. I felt something rubbery. Well, it was something, so I grabbed onto it.
I wiped off my eyes, and saw that I had grabbed onto one of the dolphin's dorsal fins. Then another dolphin swam under my open legs. It lifted me up into the air.
Now I was actually on a dolphin. I let go of the other dolphin's fin and grabbed onto the dolphin's fin that I was sitting on.
Then the dolphin suddenly raced forward. I almost fell off of him! The other dolphins swam on either side of me, as if for extra protection.
I zoomed through the water. This has got to be a dream, I thought, this is too wonderful to be happening to me. The dolphins that were swimming next to me jumped in the air.
After a long time of riding the dolphins (it seemed like just minutes of riding), the dolphins brought me back to my boat. Then they grabbed onto the ropes again and brought me back to shore.
It had been the best moment of my life.
* * *
"Mom! Dad!" I yelled. I slammed the door behind me. I couldn't wait to tell my parents about the miracle.
My mom walked into the room I was in. "Oh, Mom!" I told her. "You won't believe what just happened! There were dolphins in the water, and they . . ."
"Start packing, Sunny," she interrupted. "You can tell me your little story later. Right now I want you to start packing."
I was puzzled. "Where are we going?"
My mom tried to look sympathetic. "Oh honey. Your father and I thought that you were spending too much time in the ocean. We are going to move to Montana for a year and see how it works. Also, your father got offered a very good job there."
"You're kidding, right?" I asked.
She smiled. "No, I am sorry."
Suddenly I got a very sick feeling in my stomach. I raced to our bathroom and threw up. I sank down and sat on the toilet. How could they do this to me? Tear me apart from my life? I was just about to go into sixth grade. My best friend Lydia would need me!
They weren't my real parents anyway. They adopted me. If only my real parents were alive, they wouldn't wreck my life.
Mom walked into the bathroom. She smiled like everything was normal.
I glared at her. I got up to leave and stormed out of the room.
* * *
Up in my room I turned on the radio. They talked about some hurricane coming this way. Oh, well. It was probably just another fake call. Last week they had my "parents" scared because of a false alarm.
I pulled out a suitcase and my backpack. I started packing. I wasn't packing to go to Montana though. I was running away.
* * *
Today was the day. I was running away. I woke up and acted normal. I ate an extremely big breakfast. Then when my parents were packing in their room, I raced out of the house. My suitcase was luckily lightweight and easy to carry, while my backpack was heavier.
I walked down to our dock and got into my boat. I put on a life vest. I checked my pocket to make sure that I had my $709. The day before I had gone to the bank, plus I took the money from our family emergency fund. After all, this was an emergency.
I pushed off the dock. There was an island that I could easily sail to. On that day, there was a strong current. Perfect for if you were trying to run away.
About an hour after sailing, I looked up into the sky. Black clouds swirled in my direction. It was then that I wished I had paid more attention to the radio.
* * *
I could tell that it was a hurricane. There was no doubt about it. I turned around. I saw that I couldn't make it back to Maui. I also knew that I wouldn't survive if I stayed in the water. Hurricanes were dangerous, powerful and deadly. Two years ago a big hurricane came. It tore off Lydia's roof and threw their car into their house, paralyzing her dad.
Without warning, strong winds pushed me toward the hurricane! The hurricane was coming from the south side of the island, coming quickly. I turned on my motor and started as fast as I could toward the north side of the island. There was about a ninety-nine percent chance that I'd make it out of this hurricane unharmed.
The hurricane was pulling toward my boat quickly. I veered off to the right, hoping to come out of its path. Big mistake. I ran right into some heavy winds. My boat was swirling around, and I just couldn't get out of the big tangle of wind. Now I knew what a fly trapped in a spider's web felt like. I also knew that if I didn't get out of there quick, I would become dinner!
The hurricane was pulling in quickly. The noise was heart stopping. Swirling wind, water being churned up into the hurricane. The wind was tremendous! I was grabbing as tight as I could onto my boat. It did no good though. First my motor flew off, and then the back of the boat. The wind tugged at the sail. It flew off. A blast of wind flipped my boat in a somersault. Then I too was thrown up into the wind. I was spinning around, desperately grabbing for something, although there was nothing there but air, crushed-up leaves, pieces of wood . . . you name it. I finally grabbed something and saw it was a steering wheel. I remembered Lydia's dad and just the thought made my stomach turn.
The hurricane tossed me into the water. I kicked with all my strength to get to the surface, but it was useless. The hurricane was pushing me down. Even my life vest didn't help.
I needed to get to the surface! I never should have run away in the first place! Air! All I wanted was air. My lungs ached and hurt terribly.
Everything seemed to be in a daze. I breathed in. I breathed in water. This was it. This was the end of me, Sunny. If only I hadn't run away . . .
* * *
I lay there, breathing. Good. It had all been a dream, a realistic dream for that matter. The dolphins, everything had been a dream. It was too bad. It really had felt like I was riding them. At least the hurricane was just a dream. Or so I thought.
Ka-BOOM! My eyes flew open. I was floating in the middle between Maui and the other near island. I saw in the distance the hurricane.
I groaned. So it wasn't a dream after all. I started choking; it must have been the water I'd swallowed.
It was impossible to see. The lightning blinded my eyes, and the big ka-BOOM of the thunder was just too much. The rain was pouring.
It was then I noticed that I was lying on something. I felt it with my hands. It was . . . a dolphin!
So they had come to rescue me! I grabbed onto a dorsal fin that was near my back, and with a chirp we were off! I wasn't sure if we were going back to Maui or not. I really hoped that we didn't. I knew that it was right in the hurricane's path.
I had the feeling that the dolphin didn't either. My yellow windbreaker and blue jeans were soaked to the skin. The orange life jacket still was on me though.
The dolphin was going at a fast pace. The whole pack was with him. I knew that they too wanted to get away from the hurricane alive.
It was good that I had finally gotten air though. At that point, I suddenly remembered from my German class how luft meant air in German. It sure is strange to remember strange things at deadly times.
* * *
We were finally there. The dolphins let me off. I stroked one's head to show my appreciation. Then they dove down. I could see their tails as they swam deeper and deeper.
I looked in the sky. My heart skipped a beat. I was in Maui. The hurricane was aiming toward Maui.
Good. At least the dolphins had dropped me off by the dock at my house. I started walking toward a little hill that lead up to home. The wind was going against me on the hill. I fell down and skinned a hole through my jeans. I had forgotten how weak I was and how strong the wind was. I somehow managed to climb the hill, which at this point seemed to be a cliff.
I walked as hard as I could to my house. I felt a flashlight in my pocket. I tried to flip it on. To my luck, it worked.
I opened the door to my house. It looked empty.
"Mom!" I cried out. "Dad!"
I searched every room in the house. They must have left, I thought. I raced out of our house, slamming the door.
There was a big hill leading down to Lydia's house. As I turned toward the hill, I gasped. About three feet were flooded!
I tried to walk down the hill, but slipped on a big palm tree leaf. I slid down the hill and landed in the chilly water.
Did I say three feet were flooded? About five-and-a-half were! I spotted a door floating by and grabbed onto it. Then I saw a table, but on it was something. . . something alive.
"Lydia?" I yelled out. "Sunny? Sunny, it's me! Help!"
I paddled over to the table and grabbed on. "Where is everybody?" I asked.
"Both my parents and yours left. I stayed here. I wanted to wait for you."
Between strikes of lightning I could see her worried eyebrows. Her usually happy face and brown hair were soaked.
"Lydia, we have to get out of here!" I said. "The hurricane is coming fast. I already got caught in it, and trust me, it isn't much fun."
Lydia quickly got off the table. "Where should we go?" she asked.
"Well, I think lots of people go to the hospi- . . ."
Before I could finish, Lydia reached out her palm and forced my head into the water.
* * *
A BRILLIANT IDEA
Lydia kept pushing me down. I could tell that she was underwater too. Why was she doing this?
Then I saw a great big telephone pole smack on the water's surface right where my head would have been.
Lydia loosened her grip on my hand and I swam around it. Back above water, I thanked Lydia.
"No," she said, "I should be thanking you. After all, you came to rescue me."
So we started off on our way to the hospital. As I had been saying, the hospital was where most people went when a hurricane was coming, We had to climb up a tree to get up a steep hill. I boosted up Lydia into the tree, and then she pulled me up. The tree was nestled next to an extremely steep hill. For many years Lydia and I had always tried to ride our bikes up it but were never successful. From the top branch of the tree, we finally made it up on top of the hill; we looked back and saw jumbo waves.
Both of us were terrified, seeing the wind tear apart palm trees that we had read stories under, that we had built sandcastles under.
"Run!" Lydia suddenly cried out.
I didn't blame her. As we were racing past abandoned gas stations and houses I could feel my heart pounding against my ribs. The hospital was over six miles away. Would we make it?
I was burning hot. My shoes were untied. I didn't know it, so I tripped.
Lydia knelt next to me. "Sunny, I just can't make it to the hospital."
I gulped. "Neither can I." I think we both knew that the end was going to come. Then I saw it. Not the hurricane, but a car. A nice little car. Maybe . . . "Come on!" I said to Lydia. "I've got an idea." I grabbed her hand and we raced toward the car.
"Sunny, are you going to drive the car?" Lydia asked as she got in. "Because if you are, I'm getting out."
I got in by the driver's side. Next to the steering wheel there were keys. All right! I thought.
"Sunny, you can't drive," Lydia said.
I buckled my seat belt and turned toward her.
"Look, Lydia," I said, "I'm cold and I'm hungry and I've almost died a few times tonight. Now this is the only way that we may get out of this alive."
Lydia sighed and buckled her seat belt too.
I turned the key. The engine started up. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, opened my eyes and pressed the gas pedal.
* * *
SAFE AT LAST
Screech! The car lurched forward. I took my foot off the gas pedal. Then I put my foot on, but not quite as hard. Lydia was shivering all over. She closed her eyes.
"Lydia!" I screamed over the wind, "Don't close your eyes! You need to look out for things on the road."
Lydia barely opened up her eyes. "WATCH OUT!" she screamed as I dodged a telephone pole that was lying in the middle of the road.
Finally we reached the hospital. I was wet, sweaty, and terrified.
Lydia and I grabbed hands after we were out of the car. The wind was too loud to see anything. We tried to open the door, but it wouldn't budge.
"It must be jammed!" I yelled.
"What?" Lydia asked, "I can't hear you!"
Right as I was about to answer though, I felt a big clunk on the back of my head. My eyes went out of focus and then everything turned black as I fell down to the ground.
* * *
When I came to, I was in a hospital room. There was something wrapped around the top of my head. It was just above the top of my eyes, so I could still see.
A nurse came in and gave me an exhausted smile. I could tell that there were a lot of other hurt people here too.
"So your friend Lydia told me that your name is Sunshine Williams," the nurse said. She had shoulder-length blond curly hair.
"Yeah, but what happened?" I replied.
"Lydia said that you got hit on the head with a life preserver. You've just got a minor concussion. Your parents are outside the hospital room."
"And what about the hurricane?" I asked.
"The hurricane is almost over. Now try to get some sleep." She left then, turned the light off, and left the door open a crack.
* * *
TWO WEEKS LATER
Two weeks later I was back at home. My parents and I both apologized, them because of almost moving, and me because I'd run away.
My boat was gone, somewhere off at the bottom of the ocean, but Dad had promised to build me another one. Our house was pretty fine, except for the fact that the wall facing the northernmost side had been completely torn off. There were workers at our house, and they were already halfway done. Meanwhile, we'd been staying at a hotel about eight miles away. And that $709? When I pushed off the dock it fell out of my pocket. My parents had been taking a beach walk and found it.
Lydia was over at our house that day. We were both in our aqua socks, bathing suits and shorts. We were sitting with my dad on the hill overlooking the ocean.
"Well," my dad mused, "I sure am glad that you girls made it out of the hurricane alive and well." (I got over my concussion about a week ago.)
"Me too," Lydia said.
I just stood there nodding. Then I saw something in the water and got an idea.
"Dad, can Lydia and I go down to the beach? Just to see what it looks like?" I asked.
My dad smiled. "Sure. Just be careful!"
All right! I said silently. We raced down the path to the beach. I dodged through the branches and bushes that lined the path. When we got to the bottom, I made Lydia promise never to tell anybody about what was going to happen.
I splashed into the water, shorts and all. Lydia followed close behind. We waded in even further, until the water was over our heads.
Then the dolphins came up to us. Lydia looked surprised, but not scared. "This is what you brought us down here for?" Lydia's smile was a mile wide.
I touched one of the dolphins. She did the same, still amazed.
"Hold on tight though," I reminded her as I sat on the dolphin and grasped onto the dorsal fin. I don't know how, but she managed to get her smile even bigger.
"Do you mean that we can ride them?" she asked.
I nodded and helped her position herself on another dolphin. Then I noticed that this time there were more dolphins than before, at least ten! The dolphins started swimming slowly. Both Lydia and I hugged onto the dorsal fin as they picked up speed.
We both were laughing. We couldn't see anything though because there was so much water rushing up at us.
"Hold your breath!" I screamed as the dolphins plunged into the water. They came up in a jump. Then they went under the water again and jumped again.
As we were riding the waves on the dolphins, I felt like nothing bad had ever happened. I felt as carefree and happy as the dolphins did. Then I knew that everything was back to normal, and in a way, even better than before!