St. Aloysius’s Health and Wellness Centre was a 24hr facility. Alanna sometimes came at three in the morning when she couldn`t sleep. The campus had a Walk-Safe programme for women – campus police would escort females around campus from eleven o`clock at night to five in the morning – so Alanna never worried about getting to and from the pool safely.
She always assumed that a pool was nothing more than a training tool for competitive swimmers. Lana couldn`t imagine them getting the same sort of relief and joy out of being in the water that she did. It wasn`t until she was getting out of the pool that she realised she wasn`t the only person there. Alanna wore earplugs as she swam so she hadn`t heard the quiet splashes as Damon swam at the other end of the pool.
They stood there facing each other for the second time that night, neither knowing what to say. Finally, Damon cleared his throat.
“I didn’t know you were a swimmer.”
“Not competitively like you. I just love being in the water.”
“I could tell. You move like you belong there.”
“You were watching me?”
“Not in a creepy way. I didn’t realise it was you until you came out of the pool. Didn’t think anyone so clumsy on land could be that graceful in the water.”
“I get that a lot, actually. I think I was supposed to be a penguin and God changed his mind at the last minute.”
“That would explain why you’re so out of place on land. Plus, you do waddle.”
“What?! Oh, that’s embarrassing!” Alanna turned beet red.
“No, no. It’s cute somehow.”
Alanna turned a darker shade of red. Damon sensing her discomfort at the turn the conversation had taken, decided to heed Terry’s advice and tried to keep things light.
“So, why is it that every time I see you dressed up for a party you’re wearing a corset? Is it like a BDSM fetish or something?”
Alanna laughed again. She was surprised at how easy it was to have a conversation with Damon when he wasn’t hitting on her.
“No. In fact, I didn’t own a single one until I met Maria. She insisted I buy three. Something about them accentuating the good and hiding the bad. I don’t know. I don’t really care about fashion but Maria seems to have fun making me her own life-size Barbie doll so I let her.”
Damon wanted to tell her that he thought she looked good in just jeans and a t-shirt but he didn’t want to scare her off.
“Has she taken over complete control of your wardrobe and banned you from wearing certain items? Terrence did that to me when we first met. I used to wear mainly button downs and slacks. He told me if I wanted to survive school in Scarborough, I would learn to dress less “stush”, which is apparently the Guyanese word for ‘stuffy and snobby looking’.”
“Maria’s banned me from wearing my nerdy t-shirts anywhere but in the apartment. My poor Captain America and Kingdom Hearts t-shirts are just sitting neatly folded in my dresser because I think it’s an injustice for them to not be proudly worn outside of my house. I will not waste them on the four walls of my apartment!”
She paused as she caught sight of the look on Damon’s face.
“Yes, yes. I am a massive comic book nerd. Yes, I know I’m black. Yes, I know I’m a black woman. No, I don’t care and, no, I will never give Iron Man a chance.”
Damon cracked a huge smile.
“You’re the mystery woman!”
“What mystery woman?”
“Every one of Ryan’s customers knows the legend of the girl on campus that reads comics. You’re the only black girl any of us have ever heard of reading comics. We all thought he might be lying!”
“The guys at Paradise think he’s lying too,” Alanna laughed.
“Will wonders never cease…”
“You say the strangest things sometimes. You know my grandmother says that a lot.”
“So does mine. Where do you think I picked it up?”
“My weird saying is ‘Jesus Boots!’ instead of ‘Jesus Christ’ . My mom says it all the time and it rubbed off on me.”
“You know Jesus wore sandals, right?”
“Why does everyone insist on making that lame joke?!”
They laughed together as they neared the doors to the changing rooms.
“Well, this was… actually fun,” Alanna said.
“Yea, it was; wasn’t it? See ya ’round, Lana.”
Damon headed off to the guys’ changing room. Alanna watched him walk inside and then shook her head as she processed the night’s events. Maybe she and Damon could be just friends after all. Would wonders indeed never cease? Alanna checked her watch and realised that her escort home would be there in a few minutes and rushed into the changing room. Five seconds later a huge bang could be heard in the lobby as Alanna slipped on the wet floor and collided with the nearest row of lockers.
Yep. I was definitely supposed to be a penguin, she thought just before she blacked out.