Chapter 6:

Float Away with Me

The Lonely Lovers Club

Chelsea’s entrance to the pool was certainly not what Willie expected. She appeared from the pool house clearly looking ready to swim and quite frankly, not looking bad. Her navy blue swimsuit shimmered and her short blond hair glowed in the sun. All was well… other than two bright orange arm floats.

Her arms were sleek and slim. But her biceps were covered by bulging bubbles of blown up plastic. It was a look that would gather a lot of attention. Luckily no one seemed to notice yet. Though it was only a matter of time before people spotted the girl using children's safety devices.

“Oh no. What is she wearing?” asked Maria

Willie stared in disbelief. “Children's floaties. She’s wearing floaties.”

This of course, would be a cute look for a toddler who is still learning to swim. But Chelsea was a fully grown high school girl. This was not how she wanted to appear before interacting with a romantic crush.

Willie stood up and began trying to get her attention, but it was too late. With a soft leap, she jumped into the shallow end of the pool. She adjusted her floaties and began paddling through the water.

“Uh oh,” said Willie. He began moving towards Chelsea, desperate to reach her before she confronted Brad, who was now only a few yards away from Chelsea. Maria followed quickly behind Willie. He had to stop this. In all his time as a lifeguard he not once saw a grown adult use children’s floaties. And now that he had seen it, it was not something that he would recommend. And it seemed like people were beginning to take notice.

At the edge of the pool, Willie called out “Chelsea,” just loud enough to attract her but not enough to draw any more attention. He waved her over. Chelsea stopped her bee-line swim to Brad and made her way to the edge.

“Hi,” she said, seemingly oblivious to her situation.

“Hey. What’s on your arms there?” asked Willie. Maria caught up and gave a look of concern.

“Just some floats,” said Chelsea.


“Ginko said I should grab something to float on.”

Willie grinded his teeth. “I don't think this is exactly what he had in mind.”

Chelsea looked disappointed. Clearly she thought this was a good idea. Even with the floats, Chelsea still had to tread water. These definitely were for kids.

“Here,” said Willie. “Just slip them off and hand them to me. We just want to make sure Brad doesn't get scared away.”

“Okay,” said Chelsea. She made it obvious that she thought the floats were a good idea, but now she was extremely motivated to look good in front of Brad. She took Willie’s advice without a second thought. Chelsea began tugging at the floatie on her right arm. “It's just that every other float was so big. They wouldn't even fit in the pool with all these people.”

“You had the right idea there,” said Maria. “You don’t want something too big. It's just that these floaties are a bit too small.”

Chelsea kept tugging at the floatie on her right arm. She twisted and turned in the water, trying to find better angles. The floatie would not budge.

“C’mon,” said Willie. “Get it off.”

“I’m trying,” said Chelsea, frantically tugging. “It won’t move.”

“Come here,” said Willie.

Chelsea came to the wall. She stuck her arm up to Willie who tried pulling at the floatie. No luck. The floatie was designed to stick to the arms of a small child. Wrapped around a high schooler's arm made it stick even stronger. The tight fit was like a boa constrictor suffocating its prey. There was no letting go without a fight.

Now things were desperate for Chelsea. She needed this floatie to be gone as soon as possible. She would do anything not to look like a fool in front of Brad. This floatie had to go.

Willie huffed and puffed. “Here, pull against me when I try to get it off.”

Chelsea wiggled around in the water while Willie pulled. Still no movement. Chelsea planted her feet high against the wall. She pushed with all her might to get leverage against Willie’s pulling.

“Almost…” said Willie, yanking with all his might.

Instead of coming off, the wet plastic floatie slipped out of Willie’s grip. Maria caught willie from falling backwards onto the ground, but there was no one to stop Chelsea. She had still been pushing against the wall in full force. When Willie lost his grip she flung backwards into the pool making a big wave. While spinning around to get reoriented, Chelsea heard a familiar voice.

“No way!”

Chelsea turned to see who called out. It was Brad.

Of course it was Brad.

The bright orange floaties still clung to Chelsea like glue. And Brad was looking right at her. On the bright side, Brad was not paying attention to his friends and the people around him. His focus was on Chelsea. That was the dream of hers… But this was not the way that was supposed to happen.

Chelsea tried to hide the floats by sticking her arms down into the water. The thing about floaties: they come right back to the surface. There was no hiding it.

It was too late anyways. Brad was paddling over. Chelsea’s mind raced. How would she explain this one? She was an imbecile for thinking these floaties were a good idea.

“Look at those floaties,” said Brad. He was now right in front of Chelsea. There was no escape. “I haven’t seen those since I was a kid. That’s hilarious.”

Chelsea didn't know what to do. How do you respond to that? She just wanted to sink into the water, but obviously that wasn’t an option based on her swimwear.

Chelsea looked towards Willie. She thought he would be just as devastated as she was. Chelsea thought he would be crushed. But he wasn’t. In fact neither was Maria. They both seemed excited. Willie pushed his hands forward in a gesture to signal Chelsea to keep going. Maria seemed to edge her on too.

Chelsea turned back to Brad, realizing there had been quite a long pause since he last spoke. She tried to muster up some words.

“Ha, uh yeah,” said Chelsea. It was one of the most awkward yeahs Chelsea had heard in her life, but it was impressive that she was able to say anything at all.

“Hey. You’re the girl in my pre-calc class, right?” Brad asked.

“Yeah,” she cleared her throat, starting to sound a little more confident. “Chelsea.”

“Those are some gnarly floats you got. That’s like, super ironic,” said Brad.

“Oh really,” Chelsea let out a tiny embarrassed laugh. “Thanks.”

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Well you have a good swim.” Brad left with a smile. His friends also seemed to be giggling. Now Chelsea really wanted to drown.

Slowly, Chelsea kicked her way to the edge of the pool. Willie and Maria helped her out, but Chelsea quickly walked by them. She did not want to stick around any longer. She had been embarrassed enough. She went to her bag and began drying off with a towel with floaties still on her arms. She sat down and put the damp towel over her head, hiding herself from the rest of the party.

“Hey,” said Willie.

Chelsea pulled up her towel like a hood.

“That worked out really well,” he said.

Chelsea was stunned. “What do you mean? That was a disaster.”

Willie smiled. “Brad really liked those floaties. The goal was to talk with him, and it worked!”

Maria said, “Yeah. The floaties really helped. You must know Brad better than we do to have picked those out.”

Chelsea blushed. She thought she knew Brad well, but she knew it was obvious that conversation was a disaster.

“Maybe it was okay, I guess,” said Chelsea.

“You did great,” said Maria.

Chelsea was able to squeeze a slight smile. It was forced, but it wouldn’t be there without Maria and Willie’s optimistic point of view. It certainly still felt like a failure, but it was too late to go back and fix it. All Chelsea could do was wait to see the results and plan for the next move.

Willie spoke up, “now that you’re done swimming, do you want to try to get these things off?”

“Please,” Chelsea said quickly.

Willie grabbed onto a floatie as Chelsea extended her arm. They both braced for a big pull. But with only a small tug, the floatie slid right off, like a knife through warm butter.

“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me,” said Chelsea.

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