August 1st, 1992

In every life lies a core characteristic that defines who a person truly is. Personality, outlook, drive, dozens of intangibles. This core contributes to making an individual with their own unique state of being. For some, this was all there was. For Meghan, there was something far greater.


The reason one does the difficult things they do, the reason they make the hard choices. What drives them to take themselves to the brink for the sake of family, success, or personal goals.

Meghan learned from a young age to put motivation in front of everything else. Having been born to a father in the Marines and a mother working as a senior biotech researcher, failure was never an option. Her parents were not the hardline taskmasters one might expect from such backgrounds, but anything less felt cheap; beneath her. Hardship was, and always would be, par for the course.

Today would be one such day where Meghan would need to overcome hardship. Today would be the day when her father taught her how to swim.

Meghan woke to the grating buzzing of an alarm on a bright morning. A steady breeze flowed through the open window, the thin curtains fluttering lightly. She switched off the incessant noise before rubbing her eyes and sitting up, gears in her brain struggling in an effort to shake the cobwebs of sleep. Her mind settled on the reason for being up at 7AM on a Saturday.

On her sixth birthday, her father told her that he'd teach her to swim when he came back from his deployment. The day had arrived more quickly than she had hoped, yet here she was. With a yawn, Meghan rose from the bed and moved to the bathroom. She ran the water, washed up, and slipped into her two piece swimsuit.

As she padded down the stairs, a voice bounced off the cream-colored walls.

"-just isn't going to happen… I'm sorry, Robert, but it's just too short notice. You know that we can almost never get leave at the same time, and Kenzie can't just take time off whenever she wants…"

He paced around the desk, one hand in his pocket as the other held the phone. The features on his face twisted, flashing through mild annoyance and exasperation. Meghan's gaze wandered, scanning the objects in the room. She settled on an ornate piece of paper hanging in a frame on the wall.

The Regents of the University of California on the nomination of the faculty of the college of letters and science have conferred upon Sean P. Castellano the degree of Bachelor of Science with a major in Civil Engineering-

"Yeah, I wanted to see you too, man, but it can't happen now. You know we'll see you over the holidays… Heh, yes you can bring Alicia, just don't let her ask dad about his views on immigration. Alright, I'll talk to you later, Rob."

He placed the phone on the base, running a hand down his face. He looked up to see Meghan standing in the door of his office, holding her arm with the opposite hand, half-lidded eyes staring into the small room.

A smile split his face as he pocketed his other hand. "Mornin' Angel, sleep good?"

Meghan hummed, speaking being too strenuous an activity.

He chuckled warmly. "What's the matter, dear?"

She huffed, "I don't see why I had to get up so early." Her tone fell into impatience.

Her father stepped over to the blinds on the window and pulled the cord. Light spilled into the room, assaulting Meghan's eyes and forcing her to raise a hand.

He pointed out. "What is that up there, Meg?"

She blinked, mouth hanging ajar. "Uhh, the sun…?"

"Yes, and what does the sun do?"

"Makes things warm…?"

He spread his arms out in an extravagant gesture, "Exactly! Perks of living in California, hun, the sun is very good at its job here. Starting early means we avoid the parts of the day where it's extra hot. Make sense?"

A dissatisfied grumble was the answer.

"You'll see, it's for the best. C'mon, let's head outside."

Meghan shuffled at the edge of the pool, staring at it with a hesitant look. Her feet tilted inwards, body swiveling back and forth. As she absentmindedly tugged at the floatation cushions on her arms, she looked up at her father to see him swimming laps, knifing through the water like a spear from a ballista.

Upon hitting the near wall, Sean righted himself and pulled up his goggles. He pulled up his wrist to check his lap time, and pumped a fist.

As he refilled his lungs, his eyes flicked up to his daughter standing idle. "What's wrong, sweetie?"

She didn't immediately answer, instead dipping a foot in the pool. "…I'm scared."

Sean's brows pinched, and he gave a faint smile. "I understand. I was just like you when I was little."

Her face brightened as she gaped at him, "Really? You were?"

"Sure. Everyone's got a little something they're afraid of, even me."

Meghan tried to cross her arms, the floaties making it more like a frustrated hug.

"Nuh uh! Daddy's not afraid of anything!" She stamped her foot.

Sean laughed, loudly this time. "For you? I would ignore any fears I had."

The concerned look recaptured her face, and Sean waded forward. He held out his hand, "Do you trust me, Angel?"

Meghan chewed her cheek. With a huff, she nodded defiantly.

He beamed, "That's my girl. Now come on, water's fine!"

She laced her fingers into his, and tentatively stepped into the water, until she stood chest high.

"We'll start off simple," he put a finger to his chin, "and I know just the thing. Hey Meg, can you make believe for me real quick? I want you to pretend there's little fishies in the pool."

She looked around, confused. "Okay… there's fishies here now."

"Good, now what I want you to do is talk to 'em! Take a breath, go underwater, and talk! Don't open your mouth, though, just hold the air as long as you can."

She complied, and Sean set his watch to count. Not long after, Meghan surfaced.

Thirty-seven seconds.

"Good job, Meg! Get your lungs back, then try again. Go for a little longer!"

She did, getting to forty one seconds. The next, forty-two.

When she came up again, Sean spoke. "You're doing great! Now I want you to try and catch the fish. Remember, they're pretty quick, so push your arms really hard. But, only do one motion each time. Watch me."

He demonstrated his teachings, and Meghan noted that he did the same thing as before. Singular, powerful strokes to push himself through the water.

Like a lion cub following its mother in a hunt, Meghan attempted to do as she saw her father do. Her initial motions were uncoordinated, lacking timing. She grew frustrated as her muscled ached, why was it that she couldn't be like him?

Sean noticed the increasingly flustered expression as she moved, and stopped her when she reached the wall. He placed a hand on her shoulder. "Meg, let me tell you how I see a pool, or a lake, or the ocean. For me, swimming is how I calm down after a long day. The water is your best friend; it just massages all of the bad energy from your body. It doesn't judge, it doesn't yell, it doesn't ask you to do anything. You can tell it anything, and it makes me feel happy. The water can help you, if you respect it."

Sean prostrated himself again, "Watch how I use my legs."

He swam a lap again, kicking his legs in time with each other and the circular motions of his arms.

"You see what I did, hun? Try that, and pretend that your legs are like the motor on Uncle Rob's boat."

Something seemed to click in Meghan's mind, and she took off immediately to put this to the test. Each time she kicked, water moved out of her way. Every time she pushed forward, her body became one with the fluid. As Sean looked on, he could practically feel her willpower from where he was standing, his chest swelling with pride.

Meghan pumped furiously, limbs starting to move in synchronicity. Back and forth she went, launching off the wall as if knowing exactly what to do. Sean bit his lip in a smile, she always was a fast learner.

She continued practicing, hours trickling by with minimal breaks. Sean checked his watch.


He swore to himself; he had to be at the base by noon.

"Meghan, I gotta get ready for work. Time to get out!"

She slapped the surface of the water. "But dad, I'm getting really good!"

"I know you are, Angel, I've been watching the whole time! I'm so proud of you."

He knelt and hugged her, eyes misting over at the proud smile adorning her face.

"I promise I'll teach you some more later, kay?"

Meghan's head bobbed up and down, hazel eyes wide with excitement. "Can I show mommy when she gets back?" She asked, bouncing all the while.

Sean chuckled as he tussled her hair. "If she isn't too tired, sure thing. She should be home pretty soon, kiddo."

He led Meghan inside, shutting the sliding glass door behind them.

Throughout the day, Sean thought about Meghan's growth in such a short time. She conquered fear, shattered doubt, destroyed dissatisfaction, all while exceeding her own expectations.

His little Angel was maturing before his eyes, and he knew it was only a matter of time before she gained her armor – piece by piece.