There's something about water that fascinates the mind. The way it ripples with each drop of rain in the cold. The way it glistens in the moonlight when the day is done. The way it reflects the beauty of a cityscape as dusk falls.
But it becomes something more.
The water sparkles below me, pinpricks of street lights dance across its surface. They seem to spread ferociously as my eyes are filled with tears, pinpricks becoming blazing stars. The air whispers to me, telling me what I need to hear. Exactly what I need.
It becomes something more.
My legs fold beneath me, my body goes limp, I fall. I hit the surface of the river and plunge into its icy arms. I lose consciousness. No one will ever know why.
But I do.
"Oh my God! Guys, get over here!"
The shout echoes around our makeshift camp, stirring me from the uneasy sleep I managed to find despite the cold. The call is accompanied by the shuffling of feet and what sounds like water. With some effort I get up from the ground, trying to ignore the aching in my legs and the tightness of my neck. My eyes adjust slowly in the dark, but when I see, I do not hesitate.
Someone is in the water, struggling. No, two people, one struggling, the other...not. My legs act without giving me time to be afraid; I am submerged before I can even take a breath. The water is cold, but I don't feel it, instead I swim as fast as I can to the pair. As I get closer, I recognise the face of Leo, he is desperately trying to keep both him and the limp body of a black-haired girl above water. The frantic kicking makes it hard to get close, but approaching from the other side allows me to take the arm of the girl. Together, we are able to drag her close enough to the side of the river for the others to lift her onto dry land.
I clamber out soon after, my lungs yearning for the night air. Now the cold hits. I begin to shake, in short bursts at first, but soon beyond my control. My sodden clothes do little to help the situation, providing little, if any, warmth. I try to forget my cold and focus instead on the girl.
Her face is pale, almost ghostly, the white of her skin emphasised by her dripping ebony hair. I can't tell if she's breathing or not, but I can't see any sign of life. It seems Leo can't either, as he is putting his ear to her mouth, listening for even the hint of a breath. The answer is clear as he starts shaking her and calling for help.
I step towards him, but find a hand on my shoulder, stopping me.
"You need to sit down," a familiar Slavic accent tells me. It belongs to Ivet; she leads me to the least damp part of the floor, pushing me gently to the ground and letting me lean back on the wall. I try to look around her to see the girl on the floor, but she turns my head to keep my focus on her. "She is fine, or if she isn't, you are in no state to help her," Ivet insists, staring at me with her deep green eyes. She takes off her coat and hands it to me, letting me wrap myself up as best I can.
"But-" I try to protest, but Ivet cuts me off.
"-No, you just keep warm, I will help them with the girl."
She looks right at me until I concede with a nod, letting her leave me and attend to the more pressing issue. Her bare, pale-skinned arms seem to be shaking as she kneels next to the strangely serene body of the girl. I can't help but feel guilty, after all, it's still a cold night, whether you've been in the water or not. I begin to lose the feeling in my fingers, but I try to ignore that, now that Ivet is concentrating on the girl, I am free to watch events unfold.
Ivet takes control immediately, pulling Leo away to stop his frantic shaking. She kneels beside him and with steady precision tilts the girl's head back, lifting her chin gently. A weak cough echoes, causing us all to fall silent. The girl's chest rises once, then falls again, we all look to Ivet - the only one who seems to know what she's doing - who has her cheek by the girl's mouth. Another cough. Ivet sits up and nods, Leo lies back on the cold ground, I suppose in relief.
Perhaps it's a trick of dawn's light, but some colour seems to have returned to the still unconscious girl, though she is still paler than Ivet, which before now I had thought was impossible. Her eyes are still closed, but she seems to be sleeping now, rather than slipping away. By now I have dried off and I don't think I can get back to sleep, so I offer to take the first watch. Although Ivet protests, I return her coat.
I watch her as she slowly makes her way to the spot I had been occupying, before assuming her usual seated sleeping position. She brushes her hazel hair from in front of her eyes with a hand covered in dirt and cuts. Her lids fall. Leo has fallen asleep where he lay, so I nudge his legs out of the way so I can prop myself up next to the stranger we managed to keep alive.
Her lips are parted slightly, allowing a thin stream of air in and out of her frail body. Now I'm next to her, I can see how thin her arms are, not exactly skeletal, but fragile. Everything about her seems so...delicate, I still can't believe she survived the fall, let alone the water.