Introduction – Jessica
“Jessi! I know you won’t run but can’t you at least walk a little bit faster?”
My best friend skips ahead of me, eager to get to the beach and play. I on the other hand will not go any faster than a leisurely walking pace. I never run. Not even when I am late. If you’re late, you’re already late so it makes no difference if you run or not.
The main reason why I refuse to run is this: I don’t exactly enjoy perspiring. It makes you sticky and stinky all over and that is so not chic! Whenever I do perspire, I would look for a source of cool air immediately. Standing in front of a fan or an air-conditioner is one of my favourite positions for precisely that reason.
Talking about the word chic, well, that <i>is</i> part and parcel of my job. I am a writer for a fashion magazine <i>Girls</i>. Tiffany is my partnering writer in <i>Girls</i> and that’s how we got closer to each other. I got to know Tiffany in college. We were in the same faculty and major so it was inevitable that we knew about each other but we never got to do any project work together so we were more of acquaintances than anything.
When we met during the interviews for this job, we clung to each other for support and when we found out that we both got the job, we celebrated together. We hit it off pretty well, what with the both of us hailing from America and finding out later on that we were even born in the same hospital. Our fluency in English is also part of the reason why we got the job. We are in-charge of interviews and such that requires any speaking or writing of English.
Today, we are off to the beach to study the trend of bikinis in the summer season. From multi-coloured, rainbow-like bikinis to the standard ‘safe yet sexy’ colour, black, to unmatched bikini tops and bottoms, you’d see them all at the beach.
I don’t wear dark coloured bikinis. I prefer brightly coloured ones and the one I have on at the moment is hot pink in colour which incidentally is a colour that I like a lot while Tiffany is completely in love with. Her bikini is also pink but in a different shade of it and together we look like pink bikini sisters. Tiffany looks very striking in her red hair whilst I wear my hair in a neutral medium shade of brown.
We eventually arrive at the beach and Tiffany grabs a couple of sun chairs for us. That girl is always on the go, on the ball, on to everything. Some of us girls at the office call her ‘Manager Hwang’ because of this personality trait of hers. Not that we mind it. It’s always good to have a mother hen-like figure fussing around and on us. It is especially good for me, since I barely have any mother hen genes in me.
I simply go with the flow most of the time. Even the story of how I ended up doing what I do is a story that flows with relative ease. While most people have dreams and aspirations and work hard towards their goals, I’ve never been that way. I got into writing at a pretty young age, eleven, but even then, it was just classes for fun and leisure, not really to propel me into the world of journalism or writing. Unknowingly, I stuck to the classes for the longest time, eventually ending up as a writer for real when my pieces of writing caught the magazine editor’s notice. I was offered an opportunity to go for an interview and after that, I received news that I had been offered the job. Quite a breeze, I would say.
Going for those writing classes is also how I met Sooyoung, my long standing best friend of all time. Sooyoung has become a writer too, a food critic blogger and a very respectable and revered one at that. She has been labelled as the food critic circle’s ‘Shikshin’ and that is no easy feat, mark my words. To be recognized by food critics as <i>the</i> food critic is really an honour of the highest level. She used to write for various magazines, recommending eating places and such but after gaining a lot of fame as the best food critic around, she launched her own blog space and she hasn’t looked back since.
Sooyoung is also pretty chic herself and has been hailed by many to be very model-like in looks and proportions. You could say that she’s the ultimate food model. She is the envy of many people, including myself, because she can eat all she wants without paying the price. When I say price, I don’t mean the cost of the meal which is of course free for her. Rather, I am talking about the price of eating a lot—putting on weight and looking chubbier. Sooyoung must have been born to be a <i>shikshin</i>. She is blessed in all areas related to the job—to eat with no worries of putting on any weight whatsoever. There is nothing I can do except to sigh and lament on why I am not blessed with such genes too.
As I sip my third bottle of coke this week (yes, I count my calories!) I scan the crowd with my razor sharp fashion sensitive eyes. I’m out to look for successful bikini looks and Tiffany is on the hunt for the misses. Do what the celebrities wear influence the general public? We are out to get some answers today.
It is an exceptionally hot day. It is one of those days whereby you feel like running indoors to hide in an air-conditioned room. Unfortunately, I do not have that option today so I slap on the thickest coat of sunblock and jump into the sea for a swim instead.
I swim out to sea and before I know it, I’m a little too far out for my own safety. I start to make my way back when something gets wrapped around my ankle. I shriek but there is no one around me to hear me and as I try to pull my ankle free, it only seems to make it worse and soon I’m pulled underwater by whatever it is that my ankle is caught in.
I can’t breathe.
I’m choking on water.
My lungs are exploding, burning…
No… no… no…
I have no choice but to take a breath but nothing but water enters.
I’m struggling… my brain is growing hazy…
I am vaguely aware of something soft and warm on my mouth. It is the vaguest feeling.
I cough. Big, heaving coughs.
My nostrils burn, my lungs burn and my throat is hoarse.
But I know one thing for sure.
I’m not dead.
A shrill scream pierces through the air and I wince at the sudden shock. My ears aren’t feeling like themselves but I hear the following words:
“JESSI! OH MY GAWD! ARE YOU ALRIGHT?”
I have never been more relieved to hear that voice. My soggy mind manages to register that it is Tiffany and the knowledge of something familiar calms me immensely.
I open my eyes and a pair of the deepest dark chocolate brown eyes greets me. I do not recognize the eyes but even in my groggy state of post-drowning, I find them to be most beautiful, gentle and kind.
“What’s your name?” The foreign eyes ask me.
“…sica…” I answer weakly.
“Sica? Do you know where you are?”
“Beach? Yes, you are on the beach right now.”
“Jessi, oh my gawd, what happened?” The familiar voice of Tiffany’s reaches my ears and I turn my head away from the warm brown eyes to search for Tiffany. I don’t have to turn much for she is right next to me, wearing the most worried look on her face.
“…m…okay…” I croak.
“Shh… you don’t have to answer me if it’s too difficult to. It’s okay.” She looks away from me and carries on talking. “Hi, I’m Tiffany. I’m her friend. Thanks for saving her.” I figure that Tiffany is now talking to my savior.
“It’s no problem at all. Where’s your stuff? Let’s get her to her sun chair so I can apply first aid on her.”
I feel myself being lifted and I instinctively wrap my arms around the body that lifts me, fearing that I might fall. The body lifts me and carries me with such ease that for a moment I think that I am in the arms of a man but I open my eyes wider and the sight of the tanned cleavage on the body tell me otherwise. Since it is a girl carrying me, I decide not to make a big fuss about the fact that her fingers are all over the side of my breast as she carries me. I shouldn’t be complaining since she’s only trying to help me.
I’m lowered onto my sun chair very gently and laid down to rest. My eyes droop. I think I exhausted myself when I was struggling to free my ankle because I feel myself drifting off to sleep.
I shake her shoulders in an attempt to wake her up. Although secondary drowning cases are pretty rare, I remember that feeling sleepy after a near-drowning episode is one of the signs that we should be wary of.
“Sica, stay awake!”
I don’t know why she told me that her name is Sica when her friend Tiffany calls her Jessi but I call her Sica anyway.
“Don’t sleep Sica!”
The said girl’s eyes flutters open and I sigh with relief. I had to make sure that she wasn’t sleeping because of an oxygen-deprived brain. She yawns widely and I can’t help giggling. Now that she is out of immediate danger, I am able to take a good look at her.
Her face is scrunched up in a cute pout because she is not allowed to sleep. Her hazelnut brown hair is at the moment very messed up and clinging on to every surface because it’s wet but she still manages to look dainty and pretty. Her figure… well, I would say she has a figure to die for and that’s saying a lot, considering how picky and strict I am when it comes to body tone. I have no doubt that she has a personal trainer of sorts to keep her in shape because she is well toned but has little or no muscles. She has a very cute pointy nose and slightly thinner lips but her eyes are what I find to be most beautiful about her.
“Why won’t you let her sleep?” her friend asks me curiously.
“Usually after a near-drowning incident, we have to monitor her breathing to make sure that she didn’t sustain injuries to her respiratory system from the incident.”
“Oh… Jessi is a sleepyhead so it’s not easy to keep her awake.” Tiffany grins.
“Ya, don’t go around telling embarrassing things about me to strangers.” Sica speaks suddenly whilst glaring at her friend rather fiercely.
I am slightly intimidated by that glare but it doesn’t seem to have any effect on Tiffany who merely laughs a little more.
Strangely enough, I am attacked by an onslaught of sleepiness as well. <i>What is that about?</i> I wonder to myself. I’m anything but the sleepy type. I brush that strange feeling aside and tend to Sica’s ankle. It is cut and bleeding slightly so I fetch my first aid kit and clean her wound.
“Here’s my number. Call me if you don’t feel well within the next 24 hours. I’ll be able to give you advice on what to do.”
I hand Sica my name card and stand up to leave.
“Kwon Yuri. Lifeguard. Lifeguard trainer.”
Sica reads out loud the contents of my name card. She appears to be impressed for her eyebrows are raised as she looks at the credentials that are listed on my name card.
“Thanks Yuri. I haven’t thanked you for saving my life today.” Sica tries to stand up but I push her shoulders back gently.
“You’re very welcome Sica.”
“By the way, my name is Jessica.”
“Oh! I’m sorry, I heard you saying Sica when I asked for your name.”
“Sica is what my close friends call me for short but you can call me Sica too if you like.”
“I see. Well, I have to get back to work. Take care, Sica.”
“I’d like to treat you to dinner some time—to thank you.”
I smile widely at her and stick out my thumb and pinkie, making the universal phone hand gesture.
I wave goodbye to Jessica and Tiffany as I jog back to my tower and they wave back at me cheerfully. Ah…just another day in the life of a lifeguard.
Or so I thought.