“Frankie- you don’t have to do this. He’s just trying to humiliate you.”
“I said I wanted everyone gone. Not just most of everyone. We do this, and we get the whole park to ourselves all night long.”
They’d chosen the closest spot to practice in- a much smaller, but overall still-quite-lengthy indoor pool, the somewhat unpopular Seagull Shore Indoor Swimming Pool. It had green tile floors, walls, and ceilings, likely intending on some relaxing feel, but it really just came off as kind of sickly.
“The Angelfish is huge. This is the closest we’ll get to simulating that length.”
Frankie sighed as she set her beloved Percy shirt back in Katie’s bag, staring down at the water in her swimwear. As her nose filled with the smell of chlorine, she remembered the wave pool at the start of the park, and the feeling of her lungs being injected with water.
She shook it off, leaping into the shining liquid.
“Okay! Let’s see what you can do!” Umi cheered as she surfaced. “First, we’ll get warmed up. Just how fast can you do a lap here?”
Umi watched as Frankie carefully aligned herself with one end of the pool. She was interesting in seeing what old skills she had to brush off.
“And… go!” The woman shouted, voice echoing in the hollow emerald chamber.
Katie danced and cheered, almost slipping on the wet floor as she encouraged Frankie with all her might. The younger sister was silent as she shook her arms as hard as she could, fluttering her feet behind her, imaging what must have been ancient muscle memory awakening for the first time in years. The pool felt longer than any she’d ever been in. It had been so much time since she last did this that she’s forgotten just how long a lap was. But still she pressed on with all her might, cutting through the water like a rusty saw.
At last, she touched the other end.
“Time!” Katie burst, as if she’d been the one keeping track. “So? How’d she do, Umi? Umi?”
Umi, who had been looking at the wall for quite some time now, finally stared back at the water in an expression one could only describe as fear.
“You’re, uh… oh, you’re done. Um…”
“What… what is it?” Frankie questioned, terrified.
“It’s been… almost six minutes, Frankie…” she stammered worryingly, trying very hard not to offend. “Are you… Frankie, are you sure you were on a swim team?”
Oh god, Umi couldn’t help but think. This situation was far was worse than a little league player challenging a professional- Frankie could hardly skim to begin with. She had no skills to brush off.
“Oh… uh, now what?” The young swimmer asked.
“We get to training is what!” Umi dived in with her.
“Move your feet like this… remember these three positions.”
As Umi floated alongside Frankie, she quickly noted how unhappy the girl looked. Not the general unhappiness she always had, but something more specific.
“So you didn’t like swim team. Is that right?”
“Yeah.” She answered groggily. “It was pretty bad, looking back on it.”
“What was bad about it?”
“I didn’t, like… get it. Everyone there was so obsessed with winning something. I guess it did rub off on me, a little. But only enough for some jealousy to brew when I lost. It never drove me to work harder… I never worked there at all, really.” She tried out her breaststroke. “I don’t think I saw it the same way they did. I liked… swimming, kind of. I liked the water. That said, I dreaded every single competition. Hell, I dreaded most of the practices, too. I think for me it was just an excuse to go play in the pool.”
“Do you remember any of the people there?”
“Not a single one. I never… talked to them, or anything. And… it’s not like they talked to me. So I was pretty much alone all the time.”
“I really don’t think I can beat this guy…”
“Yeah, me neither. But maybe, if we try really hard, you’ll be able to make it to the end of the pool. Then you’ll at least have a chance if he gets a cramp or something.” She held both of Frankie’s hands as the girl practiced kicking.
“You really turned around on all this. A few minutes ago, you didn’t even want me racing him.”
“That was before I could tell you really wanted to.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Anything you wanna do is always worth doing.”
They practiced for the remainder of their time before the race.
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