It was the routine of the front crawl that calmed her. Her hand entered the water just above her head, cut through the water at her side, exited the water near her waist, completed its arc through the air and re-entered the water to begin the cycle anew. Her feet kept time with tiny splashes as she propelled herself through the water. Kick, kick, stroke, kick, kick, stroke. It was a rhythm she knew well, perfectly honed over the years. It was more welcome to her ears than her IPod playlist. She did a graceful flip-turn as she neared the wall of the pool and then continued- kick, kick, stroke, kick, kick, stroke.
Alanna wasn’t a fast swimmer, but she’d always had perfect technique (except for a weird little flick of the wrist she performed as her hand exited the water); and she was beautiful to watch as she did her laps. There was a confidence about her here in her element. Her strokes measured and sure; her body relaxed in a way it never was when she was on dry land. But it was the way her joy at being in the water infused her body from head to toe with an energy and radiance that truly made her beautiful to watch. She was a different person in the pool and as he watched her, Damon wished he could get to know this Alanna.
As she neared his end of the pool, he hurried to another lane and dove in so she wouldn’t know he’d been watching her. He was still taking it slow and didn’t want to scare her off. Damon had come to train, thinking Alanna would be off at the Gala. He was surprised but pleased to see her here, since that meant that she wasn’t spending the night on the dance floor with another guy. But as with everything else, he found it hard to concentrate when she was around, and so his strict training plan went out the window and he just went through the motions as he focused on the girl swimming a little over eight feet away.
Do I say ‘hello’? Should I wait for her to acknowledge my presence first? Crap, I sound like a thirteen year old girl. What is it about this girl?
He was taking a breather in the deep end as he mused about Lana’s ability to frazzle him without a single word. Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t notice that the quiet splashing of her kicks had stopped near him until he heard a quiet, “Hey.”
He jumped and she laughed.
“Didn’t you know there was someone else in the pool?”
He grinned sheepishly.
“Kinda in my own world.”
“Oh. I’ll leave you to it then.”
Lana started to swim off but Damon called her back.
“Wait! Stay. It wasn’t anything important,” he lied. The truth was that she was all that was ever important to him these days. But he couldn’t tell her that, so he asked, “Why aren’t you at the Gala?”
Alanna pulled her goggles up onto her head and looked away for a long moment before answering.
“I didn’t want to be a fifth wheel.”
“Surely, you could find a date.”
“Well, that’s the other reason I didn’t go. I didn’t want a date-date. But not many guys want to do platonic group outings in university. And I don’t know that many guys here anyway.”
Damon didn’t know what to say to that, and an awkward silence descended on the two. When Alanna couldn’t take it anymore (and her curiosity got the best of her), she asked Damon why he wasn’t at the dance himself.
“Didn’t want to be a fifth wheel either,” he smiled.
Alanna looked genuinely surprised.
“Okay, we both know any girl on this campus would kill to be at that dance with you. What gives?”
Damon briefly considered telling her the truth- that he had wanted to go with her ; that best case scenario she would have said ‘no’ and worst case, she would have said ‘no’ and shown up on the arm of another guy. But he wisely decided to lie instead.
So, he shrugged and said, “Wasn’t in the mood to do the whole date dance. The corsage, the little rituals like telling her how much prettier she is than all the other girls at the Gala, and not being able to cut loose and really have fun.”
“Guess we’re in the same boat, huh? I don’t really mind missing it. I hate getting dressed up. I’m a bit of a tomboy. But I do like to dance.”
Damon was genuinely surprised by that revelation. Alanna seemed to shy away from ever being the centre of attention, and dancing was generally about being the centre of attention and outdoing the couple next to you. At least it was for the girls he usually dated.
Alanna must have guessed what he was thinking because she added,
“I don’t mean the flashy grinding crap that most girls do at these things. I’m not trying to snag the attention of every guy in the room. First of all, the only guy’s attention you should care about is the attention of the guy you came with. Second, dancing should just be fun. Enjoying the music and just having a good time. I can’t imagine it’s any fun if you’re worried all the time about how sexy you look.”
Damon wanted to kiss her right then and there. Instead, he heard himself ask,
“How about if we go together? Just as friends, I promise.”
“The Gala runs ’til three and it’s only eleven now. If we leave now, we can get in a good three hours or so of solid dancing.”
For a minute, he was sure she’d say ‘no’ and take off. But, then she surprised him by saying,
“Sure. Lexie will be glad that the dress she bought me didn’t go to waste.”
He couldn’t deny that he had hoped she’d agreed because of him. But Damon knew better than to believe that. But the fact was that she hadn’t turned him down. A platonic date was better than no date at all. He smiled and said, “We could always go in jeans and sweatshirts, if you’d like.”
Alanna laughed as he helped her out of the pool. He felt a spark as they touched and was sure she did too; neither commented on it as they headed to the change rooms.
“Pick you up in forty-five minutes?”
“Sure. My dress is red. Not sure if that matters, but thought I should tell you in case you wanted to… Just thought I should tell you.”
Damon smiled inwardly. She wants us to match. Maybe the date isn’t entirely platonic after all.