Home > Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(7)

Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(7)
Author: Miranda Kenneally

“I wouldn’t call it fooling around—we didn’t get that far. But I kissed him because I wanted some…you know, experience before college. I love swimming, I really do, but it’s all I do, you know? Like, how is it I’ve never been to a real party until the other night?”

“You want to swim,” Georgia says. “If you wanted to do something else, you’d do it.”

“But what if I’ve never even thought of doing other things because swimming always comes first? I mean, I haven’t even been to a school dance.”

“I’ll take you to Winter Wonderland, but I’m not sure it’ll impress you,” Hunter says, licking powdered sugar from his donut off his thumb. “Last year as a joke, somebody put Crisco on the gym floor and a bunch of people fell down doing the Chicken Dance. That was the most exciting thing that happened.”

Instead of going to that dance, I passed out at eight o’clock.

That’s my life. When I was younger, I only swam three to four times a week for an hour, but when I turned thirteen, my swim coach, Josh, told me I had what it took to make it big, but if I wanted to do that I had to swim all the time. Lap after lap after lap. Up to ten practices a week. Plus weight lifting. This routine exhausts my body, which means I usually need ten hours of sleep a night. My hard work has paid off—I won a spot at one of the best swimming schools in the country—but it leaves little time for anything else.

“I’m about to graduate,” I tell my little group of friends. “And when I look back on high school, sometimes I worry I won’t remember anything but swimming and eating.”

“Two very worthy endeavors,” Levi says, toasting me with his orange juice.

“Maybe you just need to carve out some time for you before college starts,” Hunter suggests. “Skip a few practices here and there.”

“She can’t skip practice,” Levi says. “We have the state championship in a month. And then the big races start.”

I nod. I love swimming. This is my life. I accepted it a long time ago. But then I picture Roxy flirting with that lacrosse player. She manages to be a champion, but still appears to take time for herself too. I mean, she clearly knew how to flirt with that guy.

Hunter says, “If you want to go to a dance so bad, go to a dance.”

“It’s not that I’m obsessed with going to a dance, guys. I just want a little more life experience.”

Levi throws an arm around my shoulders. “But how many people can say they’ve been to the Olympic Trials? Just a couple more months and we’ll be able to say that.”

“If I qualify, you mean.”

He squeezes my shoulder. “You will.”

“I have an idea,” Georgia announces, slapping her hand on the wobbly café table. “You should make a list of things you want to do before you graduate.”

“Like a bucket list?” Hunter asks. “My grandfather has one of those, but when he read it aloud to my family, Gram just about killed him ’cause it included stuff like, ‘Get a lap dance from a Vegas stripper.’”

“Your grandpa rocks,” Levi says, bumping fists with Hunter.

“Boys. Stop,” Georgia says. “I’m being serious. If Mags thinks she’s missing out on high school, we should come up with stuff for her to try.”

I furrow my eyebrows, and Levi gives me an anxious look. “George, let’s not distract her from the pool.”

“Levi’s right,” I say. “It’s not that I want to do lots of stuff.” I just want to make out.

Ignoring me, Hunter reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pen. He fishes a napkin out of the dispenser. “I am scribe of the bucket list.”

“The scribe,” Levi mutters, rolling his eyes.

Hunter ignores Levi and starts writing. Steal a car. Get a tattoo. Swim with sharks. Skinny dip. Develop a gambling addiction. Get a lap dance from a Vegas stripper.

Nothing he writes down appeals to me as much as being in the water.

By the time Hunter’s done with his silly list, which makes him crack up big time, I know three things for sure:

1. My friends cheered me up after my Horrible Hookup from Hell

2. There is no way on earth I’m doing Hunter’s list—swimming is much more important to me

3. After what happened with Dylan, I know there’s one thing I need to do

One thing I should accomplish before college.

The one item on my solo bucket list?

Learn to hook up.

New Wave

Levi honks his horn from the driveway.

We live twenty-five minutes from the Centennial Sportsplex in Nashville where we work out, so we carpool every day to save gas and to keep each other company. Plus, ever since my first driving lesson when I accidentally put the gear in drive instead of reverse and floored Mom’s car into the garage door, I supply Levi’s breakfast in exchange for a ride.

Dad stands by the front door with his eyes closed, still half asleep in his bathrobe. As an event planner, he works late and has never been a morning person. Not that 4:30 a.m. is morning. To most people, it’s the middle of the night.

“Have a good practice, Tadpole,” he says, passing me a bag of bagels and chocolate milks, one for me and one for Levi. Neither of us likes eating before we get in the pool, but we’ll need calories as soon as our laps are finished. Chocolate milk is our go-to.

I give Dad a kiss and jog out to the truck, my backpack bouncing against my shoulder. It’s about thirty-five degrees out, but Levi the gentleman is standing there to open my door.

“Morning!” I tell him with a smile, and he grunts in response. For him, it’s way too early for speech.

We’ve been swimming with the New Wave team at Nashville Aquatic Club, or NAC, since we were about two years old. That’s where our families met. Levi had a very similar experience to mine: he jumped off his Opa’s boat into the lake and started paddling around. He had a life jacket on but didn’t need it. By the time we entered kindergarten, we were both swimming with eight-year-olds.

Over the years, many of our teammates quit because club practice affected their social lives. But being at the pool with Levi was my social life. He was the only person from school also on my swim club.

But when we were twelve, professionals in the sport started saying Levi was “the real deal” and that he should move from Tennessee to a “real” swimming state like California, Florida, or Texas. To get to the next level in swimming, I knew he was going to move to Texas. I just knew it. That’s where his dad lives. He doesn’t really like his father, but he’s always wanted to spend more time with his younger half brother and half sister, twins who just turned thirteen.

I wanted to be an independent girl, but I wasn’t sure if I could handle swim club without him. Roxy was gone. At school, these girls Leslie and Maria made fun of my broad shoulders, wondering if I could ever fit in a dress.

Levi would say, “I don’t even know who these girls are. Your shoulders look good. They’re strong.”

He was my one true friend. I cried myself to sleep at the idea of losing him to Texas and sighed with relief when he made a decision to stay in Tennessee because he couldn’t leave his mother. We’ve been fierce teammates ever since.

He and I are different, though. No matter how hard I try to keep a measured pace in the pool, I race against other people. He races against himself. I wish I could be more like him. He’s like that person who runs marathons just to finish. I would never run one because I wouldn’t win. And I want the win.

Levi’s so good, he could swim just about anywhere in college, but he chose Texas because it’s one of the best swimming schools for guys. Selfishly I wish he’d come with me to Cal, but I know how much he wants to be near the other half of his family. He only sees his brother and sister once a year at most, generally at holidays, and always feels guilty about leaving his mom and Oma and Opa on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I can’t imagine what going to college near his father will be like for him.

When we get to the pool, it’s still too early for Levi to talk. We spend about ten silent minutes stretching in the yoga studio, then take showers before starting our laps. Coach Josh has three rules. Number one is always take a shower before we get in the pool. It helps keep the water—and our skin—clean. It’s the worst when your nose runs during a workout—that’s the chlorine mixing with the germs that wash off your body into the water.

   
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