“But I’m wearing my leopard underwear.”
I never feel this way. The tension of knowing what I will do and being completely unable to stop it. I’m so used to knowing what I want to do and having it line up with my morals. Not this time.
Push through it.
“I’m so fucking scared,” I say through gritted teeth. And then I take off my clothes. Knowing full well I’d never done it before. Knowing full well I’d be cold out of my mind.
But there are no eyes on the far side of the lake. Only the ones on shore, up close, and looking the wrong way.
It’s suddenly my turn now. My turn to clamber onto the log with slimy moss and shimmy across to the far end hovering above it. The cold, cold lake. My companions encourage me forward, the ones who join me and the ones who don’t. And suddenly I’m there. On the end of the log. With three other brave dare devils.
That’ when I know there’s no turning back. All three of them have devilish grins on their faces, but it’s one guy that captures my attention the most. He stands neither confidently nor tall on the log, but out of the crowd standing on the edge of the log, silhouetted by the emerald trees of the lakeside, he’s getting the biggest kick out of it. He’s the one who grins wildly and announces, “We’ve got to jump in all at once on the count of three.” We debate amongst ourselves whether to jump on three or after, who will be in charge of the count down. We delegate that role to the two who are still standing, dry and safe, on the faraway shore. Good. They won’t judge me. Except…
“You’re the kind that slowly dips your toe first and get used to it?” Three heads turn and the leader gives me a cockeyed look as I submerge my legs to the knees, sitting down with a death grip on the log.
“It’s not as cold as I thought,” I hedge, but then the hysteria of the moment gets the better of me. An alien laugh comes from me. “That’s the only way I can do it.”
“I’m a fair weather swimmer. I only swim in warm water,” chips in a fit and brave but not cold-water girl from the shore.
The others dance impatiently on the log. The leader speaks up again, unperturbed, at most slightly perplexed. “Isn’t that worse? We gotta all jump in a once.”
“I never swim. The last time I swam was probably three years ago.” But now I know it’s too late. How did I make this all about me again?
Somehow I pull my legs out of the water and stand, poised to jump, with the rest of them. I’m shivering so hard I know I’m ready to back out, but pride keeps me on the log. Keeps me from dipping in my toe, walking back to shore, or falling. “Ready!” And the count down begins. 3…2…Take one last look at the serene fern-green surface of the lake…1. We take the plunge. Cold air and space is what I feel as I dangle in the water, watching my terrified reflection for a split second before I break into the mirrored glass. The impact is more surprise than bite. Cold and fear confiscate my breath. I flail, blind and full of terror. Have I dropped in too far? Will something catch my leg and keep me hostage? I kick, furiously, and there I am, suddenly, readjusting my vision to the wavering green all around me and rapidly assessing my temperature and breath. I’m not desperately cold, I’m not desperately out of breath. But I have taken off my glasses and my vision is blurry and I desperately want to see up close the reassuring faces of my companions…
Push through it.
I swim. I’m shocked I still have the moves in my muscles. It’s freeing, flailing helplessly in the water and then suddenly refinding one’s legs. I feel so liberated my core warms up, bubbling with exuberance and joy, training my eyes on the jewelled grey expanse of water that is the far shore, and filtering the closer mossy branches of the log and floating green debris around me. Beautiful.
I’m determined to power through the water haphazardly, to swim to the centre of the lake like everybody else. When everyone else whoops that it’s not too cold, I join in. When we reach a spot far enough to be safely considered away from the log and are turned around to face each other, the leader declares, “We should have brought beer!”
“We should have a party!” I agree, exchanging grins with him.
“Agreed!” says a pro swimmer who’s got an impressive amount of body above the water.
Lanky guy smiles at us with a grin that dwarfs his ears “This is the best! I thought it might be a bad idea, but I’m so glad we did it. I”m probably the worst swimmer here.”
It was just a short leap into May waters, anyhow.
Reading teen fic again after one year of not reading it and I can’t say I’m above reading simple sentence simple vocab books for reluctant teen readers. Reading something is better than reading nothing, and just reading something again makes me want to write. To me, reluctant teen fic has certain tropes involving romance, something to prove, and plentiful decision making, leaving room for realizations (and, hopefully, growth.)