Home > Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(12)

Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(12)
Author: Miranda Kenneally

“I trust you,” I say. “You’re my best friend.”

“That doesn’t mean we should hook up… You should wait until you’re with a guy you care about.”

“This girl I stayed with at Cal told me that no one in college wants serious relationships.”

“No one?”

“Well…what if I don’t meet anybody? Or don’t have time for a relationship? I want my first time with a guy to be special.”

His eyes flash when I say that. “You think it would be special with me? I think it would be awkward as hell.”

I push his shoulder. “Don’t call me awkward.”

“You’re not awkward. It would be awkward.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because our moms gave us baths together.”

“So we’ve got the nudity part out of the way.” I wink at him, and he scowls. “It would be special because I already care about you as a friend,” I add.

“I don’t think we should,” he says. “You’ll have to find another gigolo to play with.”

“Gigolo!” I splash him. “You are disgusting.”

Smiling, he wipes the water off his face. When he looks back at me, his expression is serious again. He breathes deeply. “Maggie, I want to help you, but I don’t want it to be weird between us.”

I can see the gears working in his head. It occurs to me that being physical with a person isn’t supposed to involve a lot of thought, but that’s all he’s doing: thinking. That’s not so sexy. But I don’t need this to be sexy.

I tell him, “I want to learn how to hook up, but I need it to be personal and something I won’t regret.”

His eyes don’t meet mine when he responds. “I’ll think about it.”

Swim Lessons

In order to decide who gets to swim at regionals in two weeks, eight middle Tennessee high school teams are competing at conferences today.

While I do not expect this to be a super difficult meet, these races set the tone for regionals and the state championship, not to mention my club’s long course season, which starts next month with Junior Nationals. Long course—what’s used in the Olympics—is measured in meters. The pool is a lot bigger too. Today’s short course meet is measured in yards.

As usual, Levi picks me up for the meet. It’s 7:00 a.m., later than our usual 4:30, but he’s still not in a talkative mood yet. “Hi,” he grunts, opening my door for me. I’m grateful he doesn’t say anything else, because I have no interest in rehashing that mortifying discussion from last night.

Once we get to Hendersonville to the meet, we separate to go to our respective locker rooms. After struggling into my super tight racing suit, I take a shower, put my sweats back on, and go do stretches in the warm hallway leading to the pool, listening to classical music on my iPod to get myself in the zone. I glance around to find Levi. He’s talking with a pretty blond swimmer from another school. She moves closer to him, placing a hand on his chest. Are they making plans to meet under the bleachers during down time?

My face flushes when I remember how I propositioned him last night. Shit. What was I thinking? The blond girl’s hair is so sleek. I run a hand over my bushy hair pulled back in a frizzy brown bun.

I pull my legs to my chest and rest my head on my knees, working to keep my mind on the violin music pouring from my earbuds.

Somebody taps my knee. I look up to find Coach Josh. He’s not in charge of my high school team, but he tries never to miss one of our meets because my high school coach, Mrs. Keller, is more of a sponsor than a coach. She just doesn’t have the same level of expertise.

“You’re up,” Coach says, pulling me to my feet. “Go out there and kill it, understand?”

I nod, and get in line with the other seven swimmers I’m competing against in prelims. I adjust the back of my suit through my warm up pants, making sure I don’t have a wedgie.

As I walk out onto the deck, the announcer says my name. “Maggie King! Maggie holds the Tennessee club swim record for 200-meter backstroke after her win at the Summer Sizzler last year.” Waving to the cheering crowd, I spot my parents sitting with Ms. Lucassen, Oma, and Opa.

I shed my sweats and test the cool water on my arms and legs. With my goggles and cap securely in place, I hop down into the middle lane and get ready to push off. When I look up to the deck, Levi is standing right above me. His silver chain with the Make Waves pendant is swinging back and forth.

“Let’s go, Maggie!” he shouts, already clapping. I give him a nervous smile.

The buzzer sounds. I launch off and start my fluid backstroke. One arm after the other, I keep my body as straight as possible. I spot a girl out of the corner of my eye, so I speed up to go faster than her. I do okay in these short courses, but it’s not like swimming in an Olympic-sized pool. The shorter the pool, the easier the swim is for sprinters because there are more opportunities to push off the wall between laps. But I’m no sprinter. I’m better at long distances because I have great endurance between turns. Still, I swim as fast as I can in this small pool.

Like Coach told me, I kill it. After four laps, I touch the wall, finishing the race, and immediately swivel around to check the score. First place! “Eee!” I scream. This means I’ll be in the final later today.

After hugging the other swimmers, I hop out of the pool to hug Coach Josh and Levi, then jump around and wave at my parents.

As soon as my high starts to wear off, Coach pulls me aside to do what he does best. “You have to stop racing, Maggie.”

“But it’s a race.”

“You know what I mean. You can’t go out so fast like that. You know you don’t have early speed. You have to stay steady or you’re gonna waste all your energy. You need to pace yourself.”

I nod as he pats my back. This is always his main critique. It’s the reason I always lose against Roxy: I go too fast at first and wear myself out. I am faster than all of these girls, but only if I keep a measured tempo. I have strong back half speed. When I saw the girl to my right swimming faster than me, I sped up, even though I knew it would wear me out more quickly. I need to learn patience. Focus.

Coach always says, “Sheer talent only gets you so far. You have to hone it.”

Later Levi will swim both 100 and 200 breaststroke, and me 200-yard free, which isn’t my favorite, but I’m pretty good at it. Since we’re still so young, Coach makes us race in all the strokes to see if we might break out and win, but Levi and I are set in the strokes we like. We have some time before those races, so he and I go sit in the stands to cheer on kids from school and New Wave.

Between events, Levi plays Candy Crush on his phone.

I lean closer to see his screen—well, as close as I can. His copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is on the bench between our thighs. “What level are you on now?”

He doesn’t reply as he continues to tap his phone screen.

“Levi?”

“What?” he snaps.

“I asked what level you’re on.”

“You know I’m on two-oh-nine.”

“Who was that girl you were talking to earlier?” Shit. That just popped out. I probably sound desperate. I wait for an answer, but he shrugs and grunts like a caveman.

I should come up with a name for that rude gesture. Shrunts? Grugs? Whatever it is, it’s unlike Levi to blatantly ignore me. He’s usually over his morning grumpies by now.

Jason from our club team comes and sits down on the other side of Levi, and they bump fists. “I fucked up my turn,” Jason complains. “I lost half a second.”

“I saw that, man,” Levi replies. “That’s rough.”

“My dad’s gonna kill me,” Jason says. “He’ll compare me to you again.”

Coach Josh sometimes accuses Jason of slacking off in the pool. His dad is CEO at a healthcare company. I bet he’d work twenty-three hours a day if he could, and he thinks Jason should too. Jason’s a wonderful swimmer—dead fast in the pool—but I’m not sure he likes swimming as much as Levi and I do, and he might be a little burned out.

   
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