I looked at myself in the locker room mirror. The Speedo brand bathing suit was tailored to fit me perfectly, hugging every curve in just the right place. I had to admit, the white body and red detailing looked great on me. Well, it made me look tanner than I actually was, which was a plus. Expertly, I pulled my hair in a ponytail and shoved it under my swimmers cap. Leaning close to make sure I had gotten all of my make-up off. I mean, who wants mascara running down their face? Not this girl. I tucked a few loose hairs away and then grabbed my goggles off the sink. Scooping my towel off the bench I threw it over my shoulder and was about to head for the deck when I heard my phone chime. Turning back I looked at the caller ID and groaned.
[Text Message Received]
3:49 [Where u at?]
3:50 [None of your damn business –AliceS96--]
I threw my phone into my gym bag and zipped it up before he could text again. It wasn’t the most mature thing I’ve done but hey, there was no one there to judge me.
When Jordan told me to lose the meet I was furious, like so mad in fact that I’m sure, given half the chance, I would have drowned him willingly. But, as the day wore on I became less livid and more, let’s say, cunning.
If he wanted to play dirty well then, game on. He may have won this battle but I was definitely out to win the war. For now he had the higher ground, but if I outplayed and outsmarted him, I may just become king, I mean, queen of this rock; I just needed leverage. Unfortunately I didn’t have that right now so that meant playing by his rules.
I tried not to look confident as I walked onto the deck, I’m sure a smug smile would have been a dead give away. Rinsing off quickly I tried to ignore Jordan as he walked over.
“Alice.” I raised my eyebrows as if to ask, what do you want?
“You can’t just ignore me forever.” Ignoring him, I smiled sweetly and snapped my goggles over my eyes.
For the life of me I couldn’t understand how someone who was such a brat could look so damn fine standing in front of me. Sure, I was supposed to be mad at him, even though it was kinda my fault for giving him the opportunity in the first place but what girl wouldn’t notice this nice piece of eye candy.
“Did you just check me out?” Jordan’s voice broke through my perusal. I slid my eyes to his. I most def was not embarrassed. I mean, if guys could do it, why couldn’t girls.
“Yeah, I did. Gotta problem?”
“Not at all. See anything you like?” He raised his eyebrows suggestively and smirked. Shamelessly I gave him the once over, head to toe. When I got back to his eyes he was grinning like the Cheshire cat. God, men were so easy. Walking past him I laid my hand on his shoulder and leaned in to whisper, “Not much to look at.” I tried desperately not to laugh when I patted his shoulder and walked on. That may have sounded like a bad line but give me some credit, his mouth had flopped open and he gapped multiple times like a fish, I gave myself a pat on the back for not laughing.
I couldn’t help one last dig though, so I called over my shoulder, “Looks like your practice hasn’t paid off.” I swear to you, I heard and audible click as he snapped his mouth closed and that’s when I snorted. So sue me, that boy sure needed to be brought down a peg or too, and if I was the one to do it, then I wasn’t going to object. A couple kids on the swim team were now looking between us so I wished them good luck and continued to the end of the deck where the girls coach stood.
Ms. Anderson was nice but when it came to whipping us girls into shape, she had a will of iron. When she got into the zone it was like watching Bruce Banner transform into the hulk, I swear she would grow like three inches. One minute she’s talking to you all calm like but the second you put a whistle into her hand she could verbally rip you a new one.
She was pretty too, with blond hair she always wore in a braid down her back. She was kinda the question mark of the school. She didn’t wear a wedding ring but she always talked about “her guy.” Rumor had it that she was dating an Olympic athlete, not that you could trust rumors because another rumor circulating was that she was a closet lesbian and she only referred to her lover as “her guy” because she wasn’t ready to come out. I tried to ignore rumors because they tended to be feed for those people who had no life.
Cautiously I approached Ms. Anderson, looking for any sign of the whistle. I sighed in relief when I saw it hanging from the chair behind her. I waited for her to finish giving pointers to a couple girls in the pool then coughed to catch her attention when she stood up.
“Alice! Great to see you! How’s school so far?” The thing about Ms. Anderson was that she knew how to make everyone feel special. She always looked genuinely interested in our lives, asking questions and giving us some solid life lessons. It was great coming to practice every day, even if she had a tendency to turn into the Hulk.
“Eh, Senior years not what’s it’s all cracked up to be.” People always tell you how great your senior year is going to be and how much fun you’re going to have and all the memories you’re going to make, blah blah blah. I wanted to find the person who started that lie and throw them in the trash can. All the fun I’ve had so far was late nights filled with homework and study sessions. My most memorable memory you ask? Tripping down the stairs. Yeah it happened. Thank God no one was there to see it or it could have been ten times worse. Ms. Anderson didn’t seem to notice all my inner turmoil when she smiled.
“Well, it’ll get better. Just you wait,” She flipped a page on her clip board. “We’ll be swimming in lane 5 and 6 today. You’ll anchor us off.” Of course I knew that. Usually I swam first in normal meets when Coach used the fastest to slowest technique but in this circumstance the coaches wanted to build up some suspense not to mention they wanted to make sure that all the fans stayed for the entire thing instead of bailing after the fastest went.
Suddenly I got an idea.
“Actually Coach, could Kendra swim anchor today? I know she’s been practicing really hard and she deserves a chance.” Ms. Anderson looked as if I had just sprouted two heads of something. Swimming anchor in the interschool meet was an honor; it meant you had surpassed your teammates in speed and ability.
“Are you sure Alice? You worked really hard too and besides you’ve swam anchor since your sophomore year.” I knew she was confused but I had had a sudden insight and it almost made me giggle with anticipation. I knew Kendra was fast but I knew she would be faster if I lit a fire under her butt.
“I’m sure. I know she can do this.” I smiled in assurance and received and pat on the shoulder in return.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less from the captain.” I watched Ms. Anderson walk off with a silly grin on my face. Oh God, this had to work. I wrapped my arms around myself and did a little dance.
A couple minutes later the students and faculty started mobbing in. Where a few minutes ago I could hear the drop of a hat I could no longer hear myself think. I felt a tap on my should and turned expecting Jordan, it wasn’t.
Kendra was a cute girl with bright mahogany hair and round cheeks. She was kinda shy and introverted but when she got into the water she was a real show stopper. When I graduated she would be the next captain and I was ok with that. She could show these showy girls a thing or two.
“Coach told me you wanted me to swim anchor?” Nervousness leaked from her voice and I wanted to reach out and give the poor girl a hug, after all, all eyes would be on her. Instead I smiled reassuringly and clasped her shoulder.
“I know you can do this girlfriend. You’ll have the team after me so I wanted to make sure you could handle the pressure.” Not a totally lie but a lie none the less.
“No butts about it, you’ll either win or you’ll lose, which do you want?” I stared into her eyes like a hard ass. Not gonna lie, I felt really awesome right now.
“I want to win but—“
“Well if you want to win then what’s stopping you? Those boys? Those boys have nothing on you! Their arrogant and conceited and you want to squash them, right?”
“You want to make sure they know whose boss, right?” I’m pretty sure she was looking at me like I had just fallen off the crazy train or something but I didn’t care, I was in the zone! I was fired up and I needed to get her fired up too, or it would be for nothing.
“I don’t hear you?!” I shouted in her face.
“I want to win.” She said a little louder.
“What was that?!”
“I want to win!” I really wasn’t expecting her to yell back at me but she did…just as the room went dead. We both looked around and I saw a blush creep across her face but I just smiled and fist pumped the air. I swear, the crowd ate it up when they erupted in cheers and a couple cat calls. I ignore it and clapped her on the back.
“You go get ‘em girl.” She smiled and gave me a thumbs up. There was a fire in her eyes and a spring in her step. If we didn’t get this girl in the water soon she was going to explode.
I was pacing impatiently for a good five minutes before I heard the sound system come to life.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, students and staff. Thank you for joining your Polar Bear swim team in the fifteenth annual interschool swim meet. This is a proud and time honored tradition that our swimmers have trained very hard for, so if the crowd could refrain from any cat-calling, horns, calling names, or any distraction of any sort that would be greatly appreciated.
Today each relay team will swim 1500 meters with each swimmer swimming 100 meters, or 4 lengths of the pool. Ironically enough, this year we have 15 boys and 15 girls, an equal match! So if you would all take your seats we would like to get started as soon as possible. Again, thank you for coming!”
The first swimmers took the block and with the sound of the whistle the game was on. It was dead even for the first 200 meters, then we pulled ahead in the final lap. Inwardly I cursed. This was not how this was supposed to go down; well it was, just not right now. I almost sighed in relief when the boys took the lead after one of our girls missed the flip.
It stayed like this for four hundred more meters then we were dead even again. Silently I counted down the swimmers getting anxious. My plan had to work.
Inconspicuously I peeked over at the boy’s bench. Most of them were leaning forward in eagerness watching the race eight of them were wrapped in towels having already completed their laps, another boy waited in the wings as another took the block in the starting position. I was sure it was a mirror image of what was happening on our side but I didn’t look to check, I was focused on Jordan. He was leaning back casually against the wall, calm as could be. He seemed to not have a care in the world but why would he? He knew the outcome of the race so why would he need to worry?
I smiled on the inside. Silently I had been counting down the swimmers, usually I would have been the fifteenth but I had allowed Kendra to take my position bumping me down to fourteenth. Everyone expected me to be the fifteenth swimmer; everyone was waiting for me to be the fifteenth swimmer, even Jordan.
Casually I got up and pretended to stretch. Making sure Jordan didn’t suspect anything in the process. He had opened his eyes and was eyeing me across the way but I pretended not to notice.
I grabbed a drink of water and stood around nonchalantly. Jeez, the waiting game was a lot harder than the actual swimming. I just wanted to get this over and done with. I noticed the girl was almost halfway done with her third lap with the boys slightly in the lead. I don’t remember when that happened but it was perfect. It looked like God was shining down on me today. I shot a look at Jordan and finally let him see my smirk. He'd leapt forward on the bench as I took the block, leaning forward to grab the top of it. I could almost hear the collective gasp as the audience realized who was taking the dock. Alice.
Alice Hemmingway was taking the fourteenth position. Gasp. I stifled a giggle.
I watched at the boys swimmer jumped in then the girl in front of me touched the wall and I jumped.
Jumping into the water was like an out of body experience. My heart rate slowed and I could count the seconds until my fingertips sliced the water then I was in. I took off down the lane. I was excited and rejuvenated but I knew if I didn’t control my breathing shit would hit the fan.
Right arm. Left arm. Right arm, breathe. Right arm. Left arm. Right arm, breathe. I chanted over and over. It was the beginning of the third lap when I broke even with the guy next to me. He was good but not as good as I was. Cautiously I slowed down a bit to stay next to him.
Final lap. I knew Kendra was on the block. I knew I could beat this guy with a simple kick of my legs but I waited. I waited till the very last second then pull back and let him touch first; milliseconds later I grabbed the wall.
Technically I had lost.
I hopped out of the water and mechanically accepted a towel thrust at me. Jordan was flying through the water with Kendra right at his heels; I closed my eyes in defeat.
Then I heard a collective gasp and my eyes flew open, Kendra had drawn even! She was swimming furiously, faster than I’ve ever seen her go. Slowly she crept forward, not much but enough to throw her in the lead. She was doing it! Kendra was really doing it!
I saw Jordan dig in and he may have won had they had another lap but Kendra slapped her hand against the wall seconds before Jordan. She looked up and over not sure if she had won or lost.
But the crowd wasn’t in shock for long. They started shouting her name and banging the bleachers and I smiled and pulled her out of the water. Victoriously I thrust her hand into the air and faced the crowd. Kendra looked at me and mouthed, thank you.
I just nodded and walked away letting the champ have her victory.
And it really was a victory. I smiled smugly. Damn, I’m good.
“What the hell was that about?!” I was about to walk into the girls locker room when Jordan spun me to face him. I looked around to see if anyone else was nearby. Nobody. Just my luck. If I was going to die it would be now. Jordan looked pissed.
“That, my blackmailing friend, is what victory looks like. You should try it sometime, it feels great.” It could have been my imagination but I swear he growled.
“I told you to lose! That was not a loss!”
“Oh contraire, I did lose. I just didn’t lose to you. Now if you’ll excu—“
“No I will not excuse you!” Jordan grabbed my arm and pulled me back right up against his body, “We had a deal.”
“That we did. And I lived up to my side of the bargain; I’ll expect one of my picture in my locker tomorrow morning, hmm?” I yanked my hand free and haughtily kissed my hand and blew it to him.
“This isn’t over Alice!” I heard him call through the door.
“It is unless you want me to bring your little blackmailing scheme to the Principle. Last time I checked, that was against school policy.” I’m so glad nobody else was in the locker room and Jordan couldn’t see me. I was dancing around, fist pumping the air and would have done cartwheels had the floor nor been so wet. God, it felt great to outsmart him.
“We’ll see.” I heard his huff then walk away.
Score 1 Alice.
I stopped my celebrating when I heard my phone beep in my bag. Happily I yanked it out and slid it open.
[Text Message Received]
4: 40 [ good fight]
4:40 […I thought so…–AliceS96--]
4:41 [ Meet me at ur locker when ur done.]
4:42 [Why? –AliceS96--]
4:43 [I have ur pic dumb ass]
4: 44 [Oh. Right. Be there soon–AliceS96--]
Did I mention it felt great to beat him?
I quickly changed out of my swim wear and hung it in my locker to dry. Pulling on a pair of jeans, I yanked on my t-shirt and grabbed my brush. God, I don’t know how hair gets so ratty; it’s in a cap for Christ’s sake! Giving up I threw my brush in my bag and swept my hair in a ponytail.
I thought I looked all right and the giant smile across my face didn’t hurt much. I winked at myself in the mirror and laughed.
Jeez I was weird.
I snatched my bag and swept out of the locker room doors. I must have beaten the crowd because usually well-wishers would wait outside and congratulate us on a job well done. I’m sure if I had been caught in that I would never have gotten away. I already had a couple text from people wondering about the change up but I hadn’t texted them back yet. Quickly I rushed out into the school; I was right about beating the crowd, as the doors were closing I heard a gaggle of voices echoing down the hall.
I skipped down one hall then slid down another. I was in such a good mood not even the sight of Jordan leaning against my locker could knock me out of it.
“Well you look mighty pleased with yourself.” He commented dryly when I stopped in front of him.
“That might be because I am.” I saw him sigh more than I heard it when he reached into his back pack and pulled out a folded paper. He opened it, looked at it then handed it to me solemnly.
“I guess you earned this.” I grabbed the paper. Flipping it over I saw that it was one of the picture I had drawn of Matt when he had been reading. This one was actually one of the suckier ones, but who was to complain. I got one back!
Carefully I folded it along the creases and slipped it into my backpack. I could feel Jordan’s eyes boring into the top of my head. I pulled out my phone and checked the time.
“Are we done here? My mom’s expecting me back by 5:30 and it’s 5 now.”
“Mmhmm. Just remember Hemmingway, this games just beginning.” He grabbed his bag off the floor and strolled down the hall.
Jeez, he was so dramatic.
Remembering the time I quickly walked towards the parking lot.