The guilt was too much to bear, especially for one as sympathetic as Sammy. She felt smaller than usual, insignificant even, in a high school gym full of hurt and despair.
It was all her fault. Virginia's heat was sweltering- one of those summers that started early and left late burning the world to brown bits as the season ran its course. Days were spent inside, air conditioned and artificially cooled because the moisture had up and left. All of the creeks ran dry, all of the pools were closed, the backyard hoses gathered dust. Mimi murmured about droughts and kept a watchful eye on her herb garden, irrigated with rationed water.
Sammy stood barefoot in the backyard, dry wind in her dishwater blonde hair, shifting her feet to find a stance that didn't allow the prickly grass to poke her. She closed her eyes and lifted her hands as she had once seen Mimi do, concentrating, willing her wants into reality. The rustling of the weeds, the hum of the air conditioner, the comfortable weight of her sundress all fell away as she focused on her wish for water.
Mimi had always said to be careful about wishing- that women in their family had found a way to make wishes come true. Selfishness was not tolerated in Mimi's house because the consequences could be catastrophic.
All Sammy wanted was a little water, but when it welled from beneath her feet and fell squeezed from the sky, she knew she had asked for too much. No one told her when you grabbed water from the air that the molecules could dance and reassemble to form big fat rain drops that filled your palm, then your buckets, then the valley you lived in. No one spoke of a reservoir of water, filtered through the mountains over centuries and patiently waiting for a way out. A way Sammy hoped and wished into existence.
As Sammy looked around the room she knew what her selfishness had cost her. Dirty faces, vacant stares and mud smeared everywhere. The gym was full to the brim with families, rescue workers, nurses and volunteers. They were packed together, small spaces staked out, but the colors were all wrong: blue blanket islands on the yellow wood floor.
Sammy shivered. It was all her fault. The water resisted all of her attempts to constrain it. It roared and frothed, exploding into life where it had previously been missing. It seeped up through basements and rolled through streets; it fell down in sheets, soaking everything in it's path. The townspeople could barely keep one step ahead of the rising tide as floods weren't normally a threat to house and home. They grabbed what they could: shoes, picture albums, computer hard-drives and waded their way to higher ground.
She wasn't cold, but her body shook uncontrollably. She clamped her mouth shut to keep her teeth from chattering, a reflex she had never quite conquered when faced with anxiety. She rose from her blanket island and wove her way through the displaced families, stepping slowly, trying to keep her anxiety from building. No one looked at the eleven year old twice.
She reached the megaphone on the other side of the room and picked it up, smooth and cold in her hands, surprisingly heavy. She had never used one, but it couldn't be too difficult. Just point and shoot, right? She flicked the ON switch and cringed when the machine screeched to life.
"Excuse me?" her voice bounced around the gym, off folded bleachers and hanging championship pennants and devastated townspeople grieving for homes lost.
"I just wanted to say...that I'm sorry."