How long had she been sitting there? Five minutes? Three hours? She wasn’t sure. All she really knew was that this was the place where everything had changed.
Jessalyn picked up the beach blanket she was sitting on and wrapped it around her shoulders for warmth. The sights, at least, hadn’t changed. The beautiful view into the ocean was the same. Behind her, she knew, was a snack hut, where she and Andrea always picked up a lemonade before finding their favorite spot to sit – right by the lifeguard stand.
“Annie, he’s HERE!” Jessalyn bounced toward her twin sister, pointing enthusiastically to the lifeguard.
“Jess, chill out, would ya? He’ll see you!”
Jessalyn controlled her outward enthusiasm but still snuck glances every few minutes. He was definitely gorgeous. She could stare at him forever – and today, she had decided, she would talk to him.
Glancing his way, she figured this was the perfect chance. He was alone - and he didn’t have a drink. Jessalyn grabbed the extra lemonade she’d purchased and signaled to her sister.
“Here I go. Wish me luck.”
“You know I do. I’m gonna take a dip. It’s getting hot.”
Jessalyn nodded, heading toward the lifeguard stand, two lemonades in tow.
“Hi. You look thirsty. Want some lemonade?”
The lifeguard turned toward her. “Thanks! Hey, I’m Darrin. I’ve seen you and your sister around here a lot.”
“Yeah, we’re here a lot – live down the street. I’m Jessalyn, but people call me Jess.”
Darrin smiled broadly. “Jessalyn’s a pretty name; it suits you.”
“Thanks.” Jessalyn blushed crimson.
Darrin looked out onto the horizon.
“Oh man – I gotta go!”
Darrin raced out into the ocean. Jessalyn and the rest of the beachgoers watched as he swam purposefully toward someone who appeared trapped in the current.
“Oh my gosh. It’s Andrea!” Jessalyn, paralyzed with fear, could only stare with dread as she watched Darrin straining to reach her sister. From where she stood, it looked like a hopeless struggle.
I caused this. It’s my fault. If I hadn’t been talking to Darrin, he would have been out there sooner!
Overcome, Jessalyn collapsed in a heap and bawled tears of grief, guilt and hopelessness. It wasn’t until a good three minutes had passed that she noticed applause around her. Lifting her eyes hesitantly, she saw Darrin carrying Andrea toward her.
Her sister looked pale and beat up a bit, but she was definitely breathing. Darrin placed her on Jessalyn’s beach towel.
“Oh, Annie, are you okay?”
Andrea nodded, smiling up at Darrin, who was checking for wounds.
“She had quite an experience, but I got to her just in time. You should get her to the ER so they can check her out, but I’m sure she’ll be fine.”
Darrin looked straight into Jessalyn’s eyes and smiled.
“Thanks so much, Darrin,” Jessalyn bubbled. “I never could have forgiven myself if you hadn’t gotten to her in time.”
Darrin looked genuinely surprised.
“Oh, it wasn’t YOUR fault, Jessalyn. God was in control. He took care of it!”
Jessalyn looked at Darrin, baffled. Darrin smiled and looked at his watch.
“Hey – I’m off right now. Need a ride to the hospital?”
They both nodded. They went to his car and the girls sat in the back seat.
“You know, Andrea, you really shouldn’t swim alone,” Darrin playfully scolded.
“I know – now!” Andrea smiled.
“Seriously, how are you feeling, Andrea?”
“I’m okay, thanks to you. God sure answered my prayers.”
“God always does, you know.”
Jessalyn leaned in to her sister and whispered, “You prayed? I thought you didn’t buy into that stuff.”
“I do now,” Andrea said resolutely. “It all clicked out there, when I thought I was gonna die. I have to be sure I know where I’m going, and where you’re going.”
As he pulled into a parking space at the hospital parking lot, Darrin turned his head, looked at them and smiled.
“Well, girls, I think I can help you with that too!”
Jessalyn watched as the last vestiges of the sun disappeared beyond the horizon. Walking back to her car, she waved goodbye. She was heading overseas tomorrow to share the Gospel with the lost. Only God knew how long she would be there, or if she’d ever see this beach again.
This place would always be special to her. She had almost lost her sister that day, but what Jessalyn gained that sunny summer afternoon was infinitely more valuable.
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