Writing Challenge Winner: Lifeguard to the Rescue by Bella Johnson

Bella Johnson is a thirteen-year old writer who participated in the Summer 2023 Elemental Writing Challenge in which she wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Bella’s contemporary adventure introduces readers to Scarlett, a girl struggling to care of her ill mother, balance her complex friend groups, and decide what to do about a mysterious magical object offered to her by an even more mysterious sorcerer.

Read the full story below!

Original drawing of the main character, Scarlett

We began in an indoor pool with nobody there, the perfect place for 2, 14 year old girls to work. When the new aquatics center opened up nobody wanted to come to the old aquatics center. The girls’ names were Mia and Scarlett. Mia was a tall girl, with brown hair that was dyed blue at the tips. She had on a red swimsuit and Scarlett had a green. Scarlett was a little bit shorter, with red hair dyed with silver tips, she also had green eyes.

“What are you doing tonight Scarlett?”

“Same thing I do every night Mia. I have to look over my mother and watch my sisters. Sorry, I can’t do anything tonight either.”

“Are you going to hang out with me ever, I remember before your mother got sick. We used to hang out all the time. I miss that.”

“We are hanging out right now, wanna race?”

“Nah, remember the last time we raced?”

Scarlett thought about the last time they raced, she just found out that her mother was sick. She also remembered getting stuck in the water and almost drowned, but thanks to the lifeguards they saved her. That’s why she became a lifeguard.

“Yes, I remember.”

“Hey it’s time for me to go home, you got close up again?”

“Yeah, just be careful. I heard your sisters are at it again.”

“Aren’t they always? I will talk to you later bye.”

Scarlett changed out of her swimsuit into her school outfit putting on her most boring jacket. She turned in everything about that day and clock out. On her walk home, Scarlett could not stop thinking about how boring her life is. She can’t hang out with any of her friends unless her father is home or Grandma or Grandpa could come over and help out. When she got home she heard yelling inside the house. She stayed outside for a couple of minutes, before going into the crazy house.

“Stop, your mother is trying to rest. Don’t give me tude. Marie, don’t say that! Emily, come clean your room.” 

Scarlett went upstairs to see total chaos. Right in the middle of it was Marie’s and Emily’s day nanny. The nanny was Mia’s mom, she was a tall woman with brown hair that was in a braid. She was wearing a black jumpsuit and was racing around the two little girl’s rooms. Also going into their mother’s room to check on her.

“Scar, you’re here. How was work? Oh wait, don’t tell me you had another boring day. I knew it. Mia comes home complaining about it all the time. You are so lucky to have a friend like her.”

“Hello, Mrs. G. Would you like your pay now or at the end of the…”

“I don’t need to get paid every week, remember we made the agreement that you and Mia split the pay. Mia has already done all her chores to save up the money for you. You don’t have to worry about it for next month. Well, goodbye my dear.”

Mrs.G left and out came Marie and Emily. Marie looked just like her mother with brown hair and green eyes and she wore her favorite dress with butterflies all over it. Emily looked just like their father with red hair and blue eyes, she was also wearing her favorite dress that had dragonflies all over it. 

“Sissy it’s mommy. She said she needed to talk to you.”

Scarlett walked over to her mother’s room. Her mother’s pillow was propped up. She was reading a book called Doctor. She wanted Scarlett to be a doctor really bad.

“Hi, Scar. I know you need to go make dinner and get everything done. I wanted to tell you your father is on his way home as we speak. He should be here in 3 days. Okay, that’s it. You may go make dinner.”

Scarlett went downstairs and made dinner. She brought it up to her mom also with her medicine. After dinner, Scarlett did the dishes, made sure her and her sister’s homework was done, and got her sisters ready for bed like she did every night. Then when her sister was sleeping she would always open her computer and continue writing her story. Her story was about a lonely girl. Who never got to see her friends because her mother was sick. At 9:30 pm every night she would go to sleep.

Every morning she would get up. Get ready for school at 5:45 am in the morning. Make her sister’s lunch and make her mother’s breakfast. Then she would get her sister’s up. Help them get breakfast. Then out the door for school. On top of that she had to make sure the dogs had food and water. Her mother was given her meds and Mrs. G was still able to come after school. When she was at school she got tons of homework but was able to get it all done in Study hall and at lunch/break.

“Scar, did you hear me? I said that we have to leave school a few minutes early to get to work.”

“Yeah, why?”

“I don’t know if the aquatics director said that we need to be there and she already told the school. The school resource officer is waiting outside of the study hall to escort us outside.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

Like everyday the girls took the same path and were in the same swimsuit like every day but not today. They were about to bump into someone that could help with their troubles. 

The girls were talking about gossip that they heard. When Scarlett ran into someone.

“I am so sorry sir.”

“That’s okay. You must be Scarlett and Mia. I have come to tell you about the magic ball that could help with any of your problems.”

He gave no other instructions. He was waiting for their answer.

Would the girls say yes or no?

The girls thought about it and they said…

“No thanks, we can figure it out.”

“Are you sure, here take this. You can find me at that address. I would say not to call so nobody on the other side can hear what we discuss. Unless you want to speak in code. Which I have with me.”

He handed them two pieces of paper. The paper felt wet and sticky. Then in a blink of an eye he vanished. They stood there in shock. They wanted to solve all their problems but they couldn’t trust a stranger. When they got to the aquatics center they basically ran all the way to the locker rooms and changed into their swimsuits. They walked all the way to the director. The director was a taller person with blonde hair and blue eyes. Their name was Ocean. Ocean loved working as an aquatics director more than living by the ocean.

“You’re late, both of you. I have a promotion to give you. At night there has been a secret water yoga class that happens. Only the people who do yoga get to be in this class. Their teacher, Jenna, would love for you two to be the lifeguards at that time. What do you say?”

“I am so sorry but…”

“I can do it, Scar over here can’t because of her sisters.”

“Really, thanks Mia but we need two people to be the guards.”

“Why don’t I call over my sister, Tia. She did save my sister when she was drowning a while back. She would love to come back as a lifeguard.”

“Great, Scarlett, you may leave. I need to talk to Mia and call up Tia.”

Scarlett can’t believe that her friends doesn’t understand what she is going through. They have been best friends since Kindergarten. She couldn’t  believe that her friend would be so rude. She shook it off and went to her guard/sitting around. When Mia came out, Scarlett knew that they needed to talk.

“Mia, we need to talk.”

“What is there to talk about Scarlett,” spat Mia. “You turned down a perfectly good job that could get you more money.”

“You don’t understand what my life is like outside of what I tell you. I have to make sure my sister are fed and put to bed. My mother has everything she needs. Also on top of that I don’t want to make your mother work longer. I can’t afford to have her work longer.”

“She could do it for free or I could pay for you.”

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to. You don’t understand…”

“You know what you’re right I don’t understand but I want to understand but you never talk to me or let me come over. When your life got tough, all you thought about was your mother and sisters. You don’t think about hanging out with me anymore. I don’t even know you anymore. When the month is up, you can pay for it all by yourself and I will never help you ever again. Enjoy your break.”

After that, Scarlett started to cry. She felt like a horrible friend because of her situation. She had some homework to do but she felt like she couldn’t do anything. She just lost her friend and nobody will ever understand what she is going through. After her break she went back up to guard. After her day was up she changed into her school uniform. Then started her long walk home. She felt the stars of some of her peers when she walked by. When she got home, there was no sound. She stayed outside a little bit longer and let the tears come. When she felt ready she went inside to nothing. There was a note from Mrs. G.

Dear Scar,

Emily, Marie, your mother and I are out at the park. Don’t worry about dinner, I have that covered. Tia, Mia, and I will be joining you for dinner. So do some homework or whatever you want. We should be back around 5:30. See you then.


Scarlett read the letter. She felt really bad. Why did Mia and her have to fight the day that they were going to be able to hang out. She got out her homework and tried to do it but everything looked like it  was written in gibberish today. When she couldn’t take it anymore she was lucky when she heard the door open.

“Scar, we’re back. Emily put your shoes away! Marie, go finish that homework. Emily no, don’t jump on the furniture. We were just at the park. How do you have all this energy?”

Scarlett went downstairs to help Marie with her homework. Marie has trouble with her homework every night and it was a nightmare to get her to do her homework. Tonight was different, Marie sat there and worked. At 6, Tia and Mia walked in. Tia looked like Mia in every way. Mia and Tia are identical twins but Mia and Tia are different.

“Tia and Mia, hi.”

“Tia tell Scarlett that I am not talking to her.”

“I already told you I am not doing this. Scarlett, can we go work on our project for science.”

“What project? Scarlett, Tia, what project?”

“Nothing you don’t need to worry about. We were partnered up, remember.”

“That’s right Tia we were.”

Tia and Scarlett went up stairs and started working on their history project. They picked to do their project on Marco Polo. When they heard Mrs. G call for dinner. They were having pizza for dinner. They started out silently.

“Why are you girls being so quiet?”

“Mom, Scarlett said no to being a lifeguard for an after hours thing at work. Then she started saying how she had all this stuff to do when I know that is not true.”

“Her life is a lot different.”

“For the record Scarlett. We are not friends.”

“Mia, you can’t mean that.”

“Tia I just did. You can also get out of my life if you are going to be that way. You know what just live with this liar.”

“Mia, how could you say that? I am your sister and I saved our little sister before she drowned.”

“It was all your fault that she died. You keep saying because she was sick. I don’t believe yo…”

“Mia Gardener, you take that back right now! We are celebrating something special and you are being a brat right now. Tia if you want you can go home and pack some stuff and stay here if you want with Scar. You can help her out with everything.”

“Thank you mom, I think I might take that up but let me ask Scar. Scar, do you mind if I stay and help you with everything?”

“Sure, Tia. I would love that.”

When dinner was finished Scarlett and Tia went over to Tia’s house to get her things that she needs to spend some time with Scarlett. On the walk back Scarlett found herself telling Tia about the weird man that she met on her way to work.

“Why don’t you go over to that man’s house and ask him questions about the magic ball tomorrow after school. I can cover your shift tomorrow if you want.”

“Sure, ok. I might run late getting back if I am going to his house.”

“Don’t worry about it, that’s why I am here. I am going to help you with everything.”

“We better head back, Tia. It’s starting to get dark and I need to make sure Emily and Marie get to bed on time and get their homework done.”

When they got to the house Tia went to help Marie with her homework and Scarlett was left with Emily. Emily was having a tantrum because she didn’t want to go to bed and leave the party. Mrs. G and Mia left shortly after they finally got Emily in bed at 9 pm and Marie went to bed at 10 pm because she was having a problem with her reading homework. When Scarlett and Tia finally got everything done around 11 pm they finally went to bed.

When they got up the next morning they woke everyone up and got breakfast made and lunches pack. They got the girls on their way to school. They finally hit school just before the first bell rang to let them know that they have 2 minutes left to get to class. When school got out Scarlett started walking to the address on the paper. When she got to the house it was like walking into a fairy tale. His house had a balcony and a tower. It was a red color and it was the only kind there was. Nobody seemed to notice the house that was here. Not even the Neighbors.

She rang the doorbell and waited for the man to answer. When he came out it was clear that he did live like he was in a fairytale. He looked at her with a twinkle in his eyes.

“Hello, Scarlett. I see that you stopped by. Let me guess you want to ask me some questions about the ball, Hmm. Do come in, come in. Would you like a chocolate chip cookie? They were just freshly made.”

Scarlett took one. She thanked the man for it and ate it in one big bit. It tasted like warm chocolate cookies. She just went into a different world. It was weird, she knew she didn’t go anywhere.

“Don’t be alarmed, I am only here to help you. Let me introduce myself.  I am King James the 3rd. I have traveled all over the world looking for someone to have my next legacy with my magic ball. I think I found the perfect person. You Scarlett, you.”

“Me! I have to protect it.”

“Yeah, you have to do challenges to see if you should get it. I am immortal with the magic ball. Anyone that helps you can become Immortal

 with you. You can also heal people, mend the sick, or just do anything that you want to do.”

He handed her a handwritten list of challenges she had to do. She read the list and it didn’t make sense. It looked like it was what she did everyday but with help. She had to find people to help her with these challenges. After she looked at the list she turned to thank the man but he was gone and she was in front of a field that had no houses. She was very confused. She walked home and found the house quiet. When she walked in she saw Marie doing her homework with Tia. Emily wasn’t running around, she was bringing their mom’s medications to her. 

“Tia, what have you done? My sister is doing her homework. Which she normally waits to tell me after dinner. Emily is bringing our mom medications.”

“Don’t worry. Emily said she also did some of your chores. She wants to help your mom as well but she never asked you because she didn’t want you to worry that she would drop it. You need the help. So what did the man say?”

“He said that I have to earn the Magic ball. Here are the challenges. Maybe you girls could help.”

When Scarlett said that Emily came in. She started nodding her head like she was saying yes.

“All right. I guess I have to get used to the help. What are the first 2 challenges?”

“They are, do a session of water yoga with Jenna with 2 to 3 people and have people help you around the house for two days.”

“Scarlett, Tia, that’s easy you have Marie and I to help.”

“Can we go with you to water yoga? Please.”

“I don’t think that I can even do it. What about you Tia?”

“I say, I say…”

“Please Tia?”

“Yeah, Please Tia.”

“You heard them Tia come on.”

“Oh, all right, we can do it.”

“Yay! I’m going to go tell mommy that we will be ou…”

“We don’t even know when we are going to do it Emily.”

While they were talking to Emily they did not notice that Marie had laid her head on the table. Marie was also not feeling good but she couldn’t tell her sisters that because she wanted to help. When they decided to wait to talk about the plans until after dinner. Scarlett went to cook dinner and Emily went upstairs to play with her dolls. Tia saw that Marie was lying her head down on her homework.

“Marie, are you all right? Can I get you something? Do you need to lie down?”

“No, I’m fine Ti…”

Scarlett walked in right when Marie fell out of her chair unconscious. Scarlett and Tia both did the Shout tap shout sequences. Marie was unresponsive. They checked she had a pulse but she was barely breathing. Tia called 911 and Emily came down to see. Emily went up to tell their mother what was going on.  The Ambulance came and took Tia and Marie to the hospital. Scarlett called Mrs. G asks her to come over and watch Emily while she goes and covers Tia’s sift for guarding at the yoga class.On her walk there she got a call from her grandparents. 

   “Scarlett we got the call, is Marie all right? Do you need us to come over and watch you and Em?”

“No, you don’t need to watch us. I have Mrs. G taking care of Em and I am on my way to guard duty for Tia. Thank you for checking up on us but we are fine.”

She hung up the phone after their goodbyes. She was not ready to guard but she told Tia she would. When she got to the aquatics center she clock in and went to get changed into her swimsuit. She went into the Directors office to tell Ocean that she was guarding for Tia. After that Mia arrived. 

“What are you doing here Scarlett? I thought you had to take care of your mother and sisters. Well looky there you came to apologize well let’s hear it.”

“What are you talking about Mia? It should be you apologizing. You know what, let’s not fight and not talk to each other this whole time. I don’t have the energy to talk to you right now.”

“When did you become so bossy, but whatever. Fine, we can do it your way. You know I despise you right?”


The water yoga class was 2 hours long. They did it with the lights off and with the pool lights on and some twinkle lights but that was about it. When they were done guarding Mia stayed to close up and Scarlett went and changed back to her regular close.When she got home at 8:30 she found that Emily was curled up on the couch waiting for her.

“I miss her already and I got a call from Tia. They say that she will get weaker and weaker everyday. Mom said something about a piece of her soul in Marie when she was born but I thought mom said that about all of us. Mrs. G is upstairs talking to mom.  Can I sleep with you tonight? Tia said she won’t be back for a while. Please?”

“ All right. You can. I need to go talk to mom anyway.”

Scarlett knew that she had an important decision to make. A month has passed and everyday Marie became weaker and weaker. They visited Marie as much as they could. Marie looked like she was in pain. Her beautiful hair was as white as snow and kept falling off. She was as white as snow in the face. That last visit they did before the water yoga challenge, everything changed Marie went into a coma. They knew that they either had to save Marie or their mother first. That same day, their mother also went into a coma.

“Tia, I can’t do the challenges, they both fell into a coma. Please, I need your help more than ever.”

“Yes of course. Today is the day we do water yoga. Are you ready? I will be guarding so don’t worry and Em will be with you the whole time. Don’t think about anything that will upset you right now.”

The girls walked to the Aquatics center and got into their swimsuits. They met Jenna, the instructor for the water yoga class.

“Hi, I’m Jenna and I am the instructor for the water yoga class. I know that you and Em are here for the challenge of the magic ball. Is that correct? Well how would you like to know that I know that. King James came and told me.”

Jenna looks really pretty with her hair in a bun. She had red hair with brown eyes. She wore a red swimsuit with Guard on it. When they got out to the water. Jenna taught them to just breathe when doing this stuff. She also taught them how to go underwater and do some water poses like downward dog and warrior posies. They also did a lot of breathing exercises. By the end she had everyone move to the deep end and told them to try and touch the 12 foot bottom. Scarlett and a few others made it. Jenna signed the list and the girls were done with the first two challenges.

“Thanks Jenna we really enjoyed it, right Em.”

“Yes, thanks.”

“Have fun girls.”

When they got back they had brownies for their snack. The phone rang and Tia answered it.

“Bad news guys, Marie is not doing so good.”


“Yeah, her doctor says that they can’t tell how much time she has left. Who are we going to save your mother or sister, Marie?”

“I don’t know who we’re going to save.”

“You’re right. The last 2 challenges are going to be super hard. Emily, would you like to read them?”

“Sure, it says travel to King James’ home planet and find the orb hidden deep in his home.”

“Wait, it says go to his home planet, are you sure?”

“YES! I am sure.”

Well, I know where to find the orb. It’s in his house. Let’s go to sleep and then go and visit his house tomorrow. All the girls filled into Scarlett’s room. Close to midnight, Scarlett had a strange dream. She came to this door that was glowing. She doesn’t remember where she has seen it before. She opened the door and she was on a different planet. 

“Welcome back Princess Scarlett, we haven’t seen you in quite some time.”

“What do you mean Princess Scarlett, I don’t even know you. Where am I?”

“Princess Scarlett, I am your butler,” remembers Niles. “May I get you something. You did ask a question: where are you? Is that correct? Yes. You are in Whirlpool Galaxy Kingdom.”

“Your Niles, the nice old man who comes to our house to take care of our mom sometimes while we are at school?”

“That is me, the one who always tells you. You look beautiful just like your mother. Yes, that is me. The others are waiting for you at the palace. Should I lead the way, your majesty.”

“Yes, you may lead me. Um Niles, can I ask you a question?”

“Well you just did but I suppose so. What’s on your mind.”

“Do you know why my mother and my sister are in a coma?”

“WHAT!!!!!!!!!!! Queen Julia and Princess Marie are in a coma and King James has done nothing with the Magic ball.”

“No, he was going to give it to me after some challenges he gave to me and he wanted me to come to his home planet and I don’t know how to get there or where it is exact… You said King James and Queen Julia. King James is my FATHER!!!!!”

“Not even close, he is your grandfather and you are in his home plant. Whirlpool Planet. Your grandfather wanted to keep this place a secret for a long time, your mother as well. She married your father on the planet earth and you were born on earth as well as your sister. Marie was actually born here. You, Tia, and Emily aren’t sick because of where you were born. Julia was born here as well as Marie so they both got sick because of it. Julia wanted to get Marie back to this planet so she can get the medications that they can actually take.”

“Niles, do you mean the time you came? You had the right medication for both Marie and Mother.”

“Yes, Marie was so good about taking the pills before your life got so busy that you kept forgetting to remind her when you were younger and Ellie tried to get her to take them but she always had Marie screaming because Marie wanted you to remind her to take them. Marie wanted you to remember the time that you girls had in the palace when you visited your grandpa. We’re not saying it’s your fault that she went into a coma. Julia wanted to give you this.

Dear  Scarlett,

I want you to know that if Marie and I go into a coma, please bring her back. I want to be buried in the garden of the palace. Also one more thing Tia is your twin not Mia’s. I asked Ellie to take care of her. I love you both.

Love, MOM

Queen Julia

“Thanks Niles, I have to get back and get my sister to wake up. Do you know where my grandfather will be so I can get the Magic ball?”

“The place you saw him last time see you later princess.”

Scarlett woke up and got ready for her adventure, she was ready to get the magic ball and wake up her sister. She woke up Tia and told her everything. Tia was super happy. They woke up Emily and ate breakfast. When they got to the field 30 minutes later. The house was there and there was their grandfather waiting for them.

“Well would you like to come in or I go get the ball and we go together down to the hospital to wake up your sister.”

“Second option please.”

James grabbed the ball and they made their way to the hospital and right into Marie’s room. 

“Only you can do it, Scar.”

Scarlett knew what to do. She put both hands on the ball and started chanting the words. When she did, Scarlett, Tia, Emily, James, and Marie magically changed into their royal clothes. Also Marie woke up.

“What happened? You finally know the secret again. Scarlett, Tia, Emily thank you for bringing me back. Now we have to get back to the Kingdom right Grandfather.

“You’re right my dear we must. Please Scarlett open the gate.”

“Okay,  Orb of magic open the gate.”

The gate opened and they found that the kingdom changed. It looked like it was some special event and the ocean beyond it. It smelled like lemon. The air had a salty taste. When they got down to the celebration they tasted the best cheesecake in the Universe. Everything felt weird. The littles got stuffed animals and the older two got medals that felt weird.

“Welcome back!”

“Thank you for saving our Kingdom!”

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. I give you are new queen. Queen Scarlett.”

Everyone was hooting and hollering about the announcement. That was 3 months ago. Their Grandfather gave up the throne for Scarlett and Tia. Marie and Emily liked to play by the ocean and Queen Julia was alive as a spirit. Crashing waves help the children into a deep sleep. One day they will use the orb again.

Alyssa Larue

Author: Alyssa Larue

I am the teen librarian at DPL and the epitome of a book nerd. When I'm not producing our teen or tween short films or getting glue everywhere while making a teen zine, I can usually be found with my nose in a classic, historical fiction, or fantasy read!

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