Red writing hood prompt: "Water gives life. Water takes it away." Of course I'm way over 600 words, but I need to get ready for a bachelorette party and in the words of Blaise Pascal "I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter." And also because word limits are my nemesis. But one day I WILL abide my this rule. I'm sure this needs a heavy dose of editing as well, but I gotta go!
I wasn’t happy to see him sitting there.
I walked toward the end of the dock, clutching the bottle of vodka, stolen from my mother’s underwear drawer, in front of me like a shield. My hand fisted in my jacket pocket, but I was careful not to crush the pack of cigarettes.
“Hi,” he said when I got to the end. I sat down, my legs dangling over the edge of the dock, the bottle clamped between my thighs.
“You know the Petersons?” he said looking over his shoulder toward the house.
“No.” But that didn’t stop me from using their dock. The Petersons lived there three weeks out of the year. For those three weeks, the house was theirs. For the rest of the year, it was mine.
I unscrewed the bottle.
“I know who you are.” I put the bottle to my lips and tilted my head back, welcoming the burn in my throat. He was John Campbell. Star quarterback, homecoming king, teen heart-throb.
“You go to Franklin?”
I settled the bottle between my thighs and looked at him. “Yeah.” We had three classes together this year. I took another sip and looked out over the lake. I could feel his eyes on me.
“Wait. I know you. You’re…”
I toyed with the cigarettes in my pocket.
He snapped his fingers. “Right.”
I took another sip. A good, long sip.
I sighed. I supposed I should offer him some. It was the polite thing to do. But coming to the dock wasn’t about being polite. It was about escape. Escape from straight A’s and a 4.25 GPA, and volunteer of the year and being the twinkle in my father’s eye.
Sighing again I extended the vodka toward him, but he jumped up knocking the bottle with his thigh.
“Want to go swimming?”
He didn’t wait for an answer and ripped off his shirt. Suddenly I understood what girls like Kristy and Ally and Heather meant when they talked about a six pack. It was no longer just something my mother polished off before noon.
John had a body I thought only existed in cheesy movies. He was tan. Ripped, chiseled, whatever the word was, he was solid muscle.
I pulled from the bottle again hoping to calm my racing heart.
His hands were at his belt and before I knew it his jeans were pooled on the dock.
He stood before me. Naked.
I choked on the vodka, spraying it out my mouth and nose.
I caught his grin before he dove in the water, barely making a splash. He resurfaced and shook his head, sending water flying from his hair. The droplets caught the light of the moon, tiny diamonds falling to the water.
“Come on,” he said.
“Is it cold?” I asked, as if actually considering it. There was no way I was getting naked in front of John Campbell.
“Get in and find out for yourself. I guarantee you won’t need that anymore.”
I looked down at the vodka. I tapped the bottle. Took a sip. Continued tapping.
I looked at him and he smiled. Not the cocky smile he wore at Franklin High, but a real smile.
Tap tap tap.
What would people say if they found out John and I were swimming together? Alone. At night. Naked. No doubt the rumors would fly and it’d go from skinny dipping to them having sex to her banging the entire football team. Miss perfect, miss straight A’s miss teacher’s pet, banging the football team.
I set the bottle aside, jumped up and before I could think about it, ripped off my jacket and shirt. My hands hesitated at my bra before unhooking the clasp and letting it fall away. I bent over and yanked off my tennis shoes. I could feel him watching me. My body grew warm as I unbuttoned by jeans and pulled them down along with my underwear. I started to jump but my foot caught in my jeans and I stumbled forward, banging my shin on the dock before crashing face first into the water.
I wanted nothing more than to sink to the bottom of the lake and stay there until John grew bored and went home. But I needed air. I surfaced, coughing and sputtering and choking on the air.
I could hear John’s laugh above my commotion.
Composing myself, I pushed the hair away from my eyes and glared at him. “Shut up,” I said, smacking the water and sending a wave his way, splashing him in the face.
His eyes grew wide. “Oh, you want to play this game?” He splashed me back.
I returned the favor.
Back and forth we went. John ducking and dodging, gliding gracefully. He was one with the lake, while I went to war, flailing and grabbing at the water as if I could take hold and pull myself along. His movements were fluid. Mine were awkward. But with each splash I felt the tension release, the pressure subside. He was right. I didn’t need the vodka. The lake was my escape.
I let out a laugh of sheer relief right as John sent another splash my way. A flood of water rushed into my mouth and down my lungs.
I tried to cough. I gasped for air. I couldn’t breathe. I searched for something to hold on to but there was nothing.
“Hey,” John said, coming to my side. I grabbed his shoulder and held on. “It’s okay. Just relax.”
I looked at him and shook my head. “Hold on to me and be still.”
I did as he said and slowly I was able to take small short breaths until my breathing returned to normal.
I nodded. Could I be any more of an idiot?
“Good.” He flipped on his back and started to float. I watched him, treading water until I grew tired and followed suit.
The night was quiet, nothing but the sound of my own breathing in my ears.
“Sometimes I think about quitting football.”
I let his words hang on the air before I responded. “I got a B on a test once.”
“My father would disown me if I gave up my scholarship.
“Where are you gonna play?”
“UF. Just to annoy my father. He’s a die hard Seminole.”
I knew nothing about football, but plenty about the need to annoy your father. “My father swaddled me in his old Princeton shirt when I was born. He’ll be so proud to drive me there in the fall, but I’d rather go to culinary school.”
“Like in France?”
I had never let myself think that far. “Yeah. France.”
We floated to the center of the lake. The sky was filled with stars. A million flecks of light watching the Dance of the Popular Stud and the Geeky Nobody.
“I caught Lauren making out with Jake Fulmer.”
So that’s why he'd come here tonight.
“I’ve never been kissed.” As soon as I said it, I regretted it. The kids at Franklin will have a field day with that one.
“It’s not all the movies make it out to be,” John said and I knew my secret was safe with him.
We continued floating, sharing secrets we couldn’t tell anyone else.
Tomorrow we would go back to our separate worlds. John the athlete. Darcy the geek. He would hang with the cool kids and skip seventh period. I would go to the library and work on extra credit. We would be the all things everyone else wanted us to be.
But tonight, floating on the water, we were free.