Author's note: This is inspired by my interest in swimming and the differences between my friends and I.
Chapter 1Chapter 1
I plunged my hand into the warm blue water, and threw my head to the side, trying to capture as much air as I could before I went back under again. Three more strokes and my head was up again. Seeing how close the wall was, I slowed down, paddling towards it and breathing hard. Carter caught my eye and shouted, “Good job, Diana!” I went back under the water to hide my grin as I grasped the wall of the pool. Carter was one of the coaches on my swim team. We were the Tallahassee Otters. I wasn’t sure how much I liked being an Otter, but no one really cared what animal your team was supposed to be anyway.
“Okay, just do two more good, slow free style laps and you’re done!” Carter told us. We groaned, mostly because we had just finished doing 8 free style laps, and also because that meant we would have to get out soon, and no one wanted to do that. It was about 65 degrees today, and after swimming in the heated pool for over an hour, walking around in only our wet swim suits did not sound appealing at all.
“Kevin! Go!” Carter said, which informed me I was not going first. I took this opportunity to lift up my goggles and wipe away the fog that had formed there. I liked to be able to see while I swam, though I didn’t know why. It really wasn’t incredibly important. After a couple more kids left, it was my turn.
“Go!” I heard, and was off. I splashed into the water, and started swimming. I felt good, and fast today. But because of that I found myself at the heels of the kid in front of me. After a second of thinking about the best way to get around him, I swerved to the side, got in front him and then swam as fast as I could. When we finished, everyone in my level climbed out of the pool, and into the cold air. I dashed, barefoot to the bench where my towel and flip-flops lay. I grabbed the towel, and wrapped it around myself for a minute. Then I began drying as much of my legs as I could, and slipped my sweat pants on.
“God, it’s cold….” I whispered to myself, feeling like a wimp. But hey, living in Florida did that to you. I thought that was pretty cold, especially when all you had on was a wet swim suit, sweat pants and a towel.
I sat down on the bench and sighed. Now I just had to wait about 15 minutes for my little sisters’ class to end. Then my mom would come and pick us up. She was only 8, and about three levels below me. I was 13, and turning 14 in less than a month. My hair was about an inch past my ear, simply because short hair was a lot easier when you were a swimmer. My sister and I both had blonde hair and green eyes. But unlike me, her hair was long. My sister’s name was Lannie, and we were pretty close. She was just so cute and sweet you had to love her. All of my friends liked her too. She didn’t mind them, but she was a little bit shy.
When I found her light blue swim cap popping in and out of the water, I frowned a little. Every time I watched her swim I realized how much slower she was then the rest of the kids in her level. Her head seemed to be coming up way too often and there was something wrong about her stroke too, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.
“Go Lannie!!!” I yelled as loud as I could, hoping she could hear me, but doubtful she could while she was swimming.
When they finally finished, Lannie climbed out of the water last. I grabbed her towel and walked over to her quickly, so she wouldn’t be cold. Walked up behind her while she was putting away her kickboard, and wrapped it around her, “Did you have fun swimming today, Lannie?”
She just sighed, and walked toward our bench to get her flip-flops. Her reaction to that question was always something like that. I could tell she didn’t enjoy swimming, but we never really talked about it. I loved it, and I never really knew what to say to comfort a person who hated it. Sighing myself, I watched as she walked into the bathroom to take a shower. I sat down on a bench again and watched the other kids in her level leave while I waited for her. As Lannie entered the bathroom, I saw a small group of girls, older than Lannie, but younger than me; I guessed fifth or six graders; looking at her and whispering. I raised my eyebrow, curious about them as the whole group followed my sister into the bathroom. I stood up, and followed them, walking down the short hall, and peering around the corner. The bathroom didn’t have stalls, everyone just showered quickly in their swimsuits. That way both your hair and your swim suit were rinsed of all the chlorine. The floor was slanted, so the water just ran down the little drain under each shower. Lannie wore a bright blue swim suit, her favorite color. The girls I had followed to the bathroom were all wearing purple swim suits. Obviously they had tried their best to all look the same, but their swim suits were all different styles and shades of purple.
One of them walked up to Lannie, and all the other purple girls followed. I almost laughed at the eight year olds’ attempt to look like a little popular clique. Were children becoming so messed up there were gossipy popular girls in third grade? I shook my head. The girl who had walked up to Lannie grabbed the strap of her blue swim suit, pulled it back and let go. The strap slapped back onto her back. My fist tightened. Lannie winced, and slowly turned around.
“Look,” the girl started, with an obvious voice that told me she considered herself better than everyone else, “I don’t know what your name is, but you get in our way. It’s hard to pass people in our group, and you’re slow.”
Lannie didn’t say anything. She just stood there, staring sadly at the girl’s shoes.
“You’re terrible at swimming, you know”, she continued, in her a high pitched, trying to sound girly, eight year-old voice. Lannie nodded.
The girl was silent for a few moments, “It means you suck”.
Yep, definitely trying-to-be-middle-school behavior. They had to be around fifth grader.
One of the girls grabbed her fluffy green towel off the counter, and casually tossed it under the shower Lannie was using, which was unfortunately still running. My little sister just stood there, not moving.
As they walked into the hall, I stood in front of them, my arms crossed, trying to seem indimitdating. They were giggling and chatting happily- until they looked up and saw me.
“That was my sister you just insulted”, I told them, trying to sound, and look, as angry as I felt. They still weren’t saying anything. So I continued. I grabbed the towel of the girl in the front and threw it on the ground. “How do you like that?” I asked her. They didn’t answer. “Yeah, I thought so. Get out of here”. Everyone one of the girls walked as fast as their evil fifth grade feet would go.
“Lannie?” I said, now very calmly. I walked around the corner into the bathroom. Lannie still stood under the shower, the water still on, her head drooped. “Lannie.” I said more firmly. She still didn’t look up at me, “Lannie, stop staring at the floor!”
She looked up at me, her eyes red and wide. She looked like she was on the brink of crying. I sighed, “You really don’t like swimming, do you?” She shook her head, her blonde hair splattering the floor around the shower with water.
“Turn off the shower.” I told her, walking up to her. She turned it off, and then picked up her soaked towel. She wrapped the wet towel around her and shivered. That very sight made just made me feel guilty for some reason.
“Lannie, you can just have my towel”, I offered, taking the wet one off her shoulders and draping mine across them instead. It was a little bit damp, but it was defiantly better than hers. Finding a hook on the bathroom wall that was meant for towels, bags or other things people hang, I set the green towel on it. I pulled my sweat pants and jacket out and pulled them on.
“Thanks…” Lannie said, almost whispering.
“So those girls are in your level, huh?” I asked her.
She shrugged, “I think they might be a level higher than me, but some day there aren’t enough lanes, and we all have to swim together”.
I sighed, wishing they could find a way to separate the eight year olds from the ten year olds. “Well that’s really stupid; they shouldn’t make you swim together when you’re in different levels”
“They were right.” Lannie said after not replying for several seconds.
“They were not!” I exclaimed.
Lannie looked up, fresh tears running down her adorable face. “Yes they were!” she sobbed quietly.” I’m so much worse than everyone else! People are always passing me, and running into me! I hate swimming!! I know you love it, Diana!!! But I don’t! I’m bad at it, and I can’t do the breathing properly, and I hate how cold it is when I get out!!!”
Seeing my little sister sobbing just about broke my heart. “I know”, I said gently, leaning down and hugging her, “And I’ll talk to mom. But honestly, I won’t be surprised if she makes you keep swimming. You’ve just dropped out of so many different sports; I can tell she’s frustrated”.
“But I don’t like sports…” Lannie complained.
“I know, but mom said we have to exercise. If she does make you keep swimming, maybe I can help you practice on Saturday’s if you want. The pools open then, but there are no classes. So I can swim with you”.
“Yeah…” she replied, wiping away her tears with the back of her hand. I smiled a little, “Come on, I’m sure mom’s waiting for us…”