After their last side by side springboard dive, the Wallace girls had run into the dressing room and missed their mom’s confrontation with the man who was one of their fathers and the other’s uncle.
“He watched us dive,” Willow pointed out.
“I know,” Gracie frowned, “Did you see the way he was watching mom? Stalker alert!”
“We can always drown him, Tank and Uncle Beau will help us hide the body,” Willow plotted.
“We are not drowning anyone, besides better that they live and suffer knowing what they missed and will never have,” Grace sneered viciously. Willow eyed her cousin-sister; normally Gracie was the sweet one and Willow was the mean girl.
In a sweet voice, Gracie called out to Amy, “Amy, do you know who that guy was, the one your dad was sitting with?”
Amy blinked at them blankly then answered, “Oh, that was the developer that bought the old Kemper Dude Ranch. He’s dreamy and super nice. He is going to build a resort like they have in Glenwood Springs.”
“But what’s his name?” Willow added in an irritated tone. Amy was their fastest swimmer, but was flighty and she like boy bands.
“Umm Keith or Kyle High-something from Blue Water Resorts.”
“You can’t remember his name but you can remember his company?” Gracie questioned as Willow rolled her eyes.
“Well, yah, I googled the resorts to see what we were getting. It looks awesome. All his resorts have water parks and really nice rooms,” Amy gushed as her mother called and she left with a quick ‘see ya’.
Gracie frowned after Amy. “Well, we still don’t have their last names but their company name is a place to start.”
“We’ll go to Tammy and Sammy’s. They’re gone to their dad’s for the weekend and their mom’s in Black Bear Creek ‘not gambling’,” Willow said sarcastically.
“I am so glad we agreed to feed their horrible skunk cat,” Gracie agreed then sighed.
“Aww, don’t talk that way about Mr. Stinkerton,” Willow giggled, “He’s Sammy’s boyfriend.”
The changing room was loud and boisterous. Girls laughing and talking excitedly about their day and weekend plans and who was asking who to the Valentine’s Day Dance overwhelmed everything else. Coach Wallace or Wally as everyone called her hardly noticed as she whistled for attention.
She simply announced, “No practice tomorrow morning or till Wednesday, someone tell the guys that evil Coach Wally is giving you all a few days off.”
Her offering was met with a resounding round of cheers then she headed for the showers. When she stepped out, her girls were waiting.
“Mom, can we go to Tammy and Sammy’s for the night?” Gracie asked.
“We’ll come to church and be home before evening chores tomorrow.” Willow promised.
“Please,” they chorused.
“Fine, you girls have a good time, tell the twins hi, but I need to talk to you both about something first, just let me get dressed,” Camille turned toward her clothes.
“It’s about my dad sitting in the stands watching us dive today, isn’t it?” Gracie said flatly.
Camille almost tripped as she pulled up her pants, “How did you...”
Willow grinned mischievously, “Do you know Uncle Beau would tell us anything while he was on that pain medicine after the bear attack? Even about your super-secret file.”
“Yeah and you need to find a better password than Aunt Mina’s birthday,” Gracie added.
Camille sat down, “You were not supposed to see those pictures, ever. They are pornographic; I only kept them to protect you both.”
“We’ve seen worse on MovieTime,” Willow sat on Camille’s right and Gracie sat on her left, each took one of her hands after she pulled her shirt on.
Gracie started, “Look mom, you are the best mother we could ever have, and you never hid the fact that Willow was adopted because Aunt Mina died.”
Willow squeezed Camille’s fingers, “And when we asked about our dads, you didn’t lie to us, you left a lot out, but you didn’t lie to us or sugar coat it either. We knew our dads were not the kind of men you wanted around us, so we asked Uncle Beau.”
“He told us what Kyle and Kent did to you and Mina. How you loved Kyle and Mina loved Kent but they went to Vegas for Kent’s bachelor party and bagged some ho’s before the wedding, and took a bunch of pictures,” Grace made a disgusted face.
“He also told us how Mother tried to send you a picture of my pregnancy test and that was how you both found out what they were doing on their little bachelor trip. And Mom, Uncle Beau also told us how you got pregnant. A vacation fling with Kyle whom you fell in love with after only three day and a wedding rehearsal repeat... Honestly Mom, I am glad for my sister but there are these little things called condoms,” Willow smirked.
“Wrap it before you tap it,” Gracie added.
Camille stared at them mortified for a moment, “You girls are 14 and if I find out you’re...”
“Chill mom, we’re not. And we know you were a 20 year old virgin before you were attacked by Aunt Violet’s ex,” Grace interrupted, and then quoted. “Acquaintance rape is the most common form of sex assault on college campuses.”
“You didn’t raise us to be stupid about boys, Mom. We know all about how men have urrr-gggeess-ss! That’s why we’re saying don’t worry about us and the Hightowers, they aren’t our fathers and they never will be. What they did to you and Mother,” Willow huffed, “No woman should ever have to deal with sh*it!”
“Willow, language,” Camille scolded and the niece she had raised like her own daughter had the sense to look chastised.
Gracie scowled at Willow for a moment then continued, “I know you’re worried but we just want to talk to the Hightowers for a few minutes, and get it behind us. At least we have always known our dads were cheaters. No girl wants to be like Carrie Silts and find out her crush is her half-brother because her dad was a douche back in the day.” Both girls gave an exaggerated shudder of disgust then dramatically had an episode of fake gagging.
“Totes therapy for life moment,” Willow memed and they laughed.
“What did you mean, get it behind you?” Camille asked concerned.
“We get to met them, talk to them, say thanks for the sperm, then say adios, gringos. No more worrying about them showing up at Nationals and sinking our groove,” Gracie stated firmly.
“Or the Olympic trials,” Willow added.
“Or the Olympic Games,” Gracie continued, “I mean, who wouldn’t want us for their daughters.”
“We’re awesome!” Willow agreed enthusiastically.
“Okay, okay. I get it. You’re both smart, beautiful, talented girls who don’t want no scrubs in your life, and you make me proud.” Camille laughed, putting her arms around them as they stand, “Gosh, I did good.”
They hugged her, “You did! Don’t worry Mom, we’ll never leave you. We love you.”
“I love you both too, and if you want to meet your dads, I’ll arrange it,” Camille promised.
“Thanks, Mom,” Gracie kissed her cheek, and Willow hugged her as they walk out of the changing room. “You’re the best, Mom.”
Camille watched her girls go off to meet their friends with such pride at the young women they were becoming. If she had known then, half of what they know now...
Camille waited until everyone had left before testing and treating the water. After one last look around, she made herself lock up the pool gym. Somehow she resisted the urge to change back into her suit and spend the whole night diving. As she drove through town, she saw Tank’s Durango wasn’t back at the station and hoped there wasn’t trouble. She wondered vaguely what Tank did with Kyle. At home, she ate dinner alone, glad that Beau was off at the Cattlemen’s Forum in Fort Collins and her grandmother was at a Saturday Night Bingo Charity. Lying in bed, looking out at the stars, Camille thought about all the pieces of her life that led her to this moment.
It was close to midnight when she fell asleep and dreamed about falling into an undulating mirror. Swirling bubbles in silky, azure water turned into rich blue butterflies. They fluttered against her skin and some melted into her flesh, staining it, making it a canvas. Three across her stomach and along the vine that covered her C-section scar and the largest over her heart. Other swirled like a dust devil as all the moments and memories of her life danced around her in corporeal forms with blue shimmery wings.
One over her heart, convulsed and moved, tearing itself from her flesh. In her dream, she screamed and cried as it fluttered away, carrying her heart with it. The flock followed. Lying on the water, she turned her head watching the swarm until they settled, only to scatter again and leave behind a man with eyes the same color blue as their wings. He looked at her with such love and longing as he held her heart in his hands. It was too painful. She closed her eyes and let herself sink into the mirror, until she was lying on the tile at the bottom of the pool. Looking up through the bubbles and moving blue, she could see him standing at the water’s edge, waiting for her.
Standing in front of the coffee pot, Camille willed it to work faster. She usually didn’t have a cup of caffeine until after her morning dive but today she needed it. She had slept a solid six hours but it felt like 6 minutes. Her dreams had left her unsettled and pensive. Stealing an ounce at a time as the pot brewed it, she gulped the bitter liquid and grimaced at the flavor she hated. She was a tea drinker and as she swallowed another acrid shot, she cursed herself for forgetting she was out of tea. She added some cream to her cup, it still tasted bitter, too bitter and she had enough to be bitter about right now. Her confrontation with Kyle just kept playing over and over in her mind with her disturbing dreams. Moments she wanted to forget, feeling she didn’t want to have, memories she didn’t want to hurt anymore.
As the coffee pot slowly dripped, she eyed the sugar bowl then shook her head. She never like sweetened beverages, not even fruit juices, the only exceptions were hot cocoa in winter and milkshakes in summer. The girls and Beau loved coffee; the sweeter the better, if one could call it coffee after all the stuff they put in it. There was a whole cabinet of flavored syrups, their grandmother had stocked just for them. Camille had only liked blended iced coffees when they lived in Texas. Mina had always teased her that it was just ice cream with a caffeine kick. She hadn’t had one since she didn’t know when, maybe once or twice after Mina’s accident.
“You slept in,” her Grandma Dorine’s voice was soft.
“Girls are at a slumber party and I gave the team a few days off. They worked hard to win State, and deserve a few days to let the sun rise first,” Camille licked her teeth wondering why coffee left a film on them and tea didn’t.
“Why are you drinking coffee? Your face looks like you licked the barn door.” Dorine chided with an amused chuckle. “Do want to tell me the real reason you didn’t go for your morning dive?”
Camille sighed and pushed her coffee cup away, usually she grabbed a cup of tea and was out the door with an energy bar, but today she was actually stalling. In her heart, she knew why. She was afraid he would be at the pool waiting for her. “I saw Kyle Hightower at the school yesterday. He’s the developer that bought old dude ranch from the Kemper estate.”
“I see, and his brothers?” Gramma Dorine’s voice was level.
“I didn’t see Kent or Kris, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t somewhere or can’t be here tomorrow. Kyle knows about the girls, I expect we’ll be hearing from their lawyers soon. The girls want to talk to them.” Camille groaned, putting her head in her hands, “Oh gawd, Gramma. The girls don’t need this right now; Nationals is in a month. They need calm, and no distractions.” She knew what grief and uncertainty did to her and her sister, remembering when her parents had died. The custody battle, the investigation, and the blame thrown back and forth between the two families over whose fault it was the plane crashed.
Mina had quit diving completely; she would just lie on the bottom and stare up through the water, or lay on the surface like a ripple. Meanwhile, Cami had thrown herself into every body of water she could find from altitude. She even jumped off the windmill into the stock tank when her grandma had said no more jumping off the roof into the pool. And finally, she snuck out and dived off the Ridgeline Falls. Stress makes divers do weird things. Mina needed to float, Cami needed to fall.
“Cami, sweetie. You raised to strong capable girls who have honed their mothers’ gifts into a special talent, any judge in the world will be able to see that,” Dorine chided. “But a man has a right to know his children, they’ve been punished long enough, don’t you think?”
“Gramma, I can’t... Those pictures, I can’t unsee them. I don’t want men like that around my girls and I can’t unfeel what they did to sis and me. You always said a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I loved him, trusted him, but I have 328 images telling me he never loved me, telling me everything he said was a lie, and Kent did the same to Mina,” as she said it, she hated how bitter she sounded. “You didn’t hear her voice when we found out.”
Her grandma wrapped her in a hug, “A picture is worth a thousand words, and sometimes they are painful words, but forgiveness can erase them all.”
“I don’t know if I can forgive him.” Camille admitted bitterly.
“Oh sweetie, forgiveness isn’t about him; it’s about you moving on. You have so much to offer the right man. Dating isn’t that bad," Dorine scolded.
“I date, kinda...” Camille defended herself but she knew she really didn’t and so did her Gramma.
“Other than Tank, you haven’t had a real date since before the girls were born, and they are almost grown. Tank Tanner is a nice young man, what my generation called ‘a real dish’.”
“Seriously Camille, he is the most wanted bachelor in the county for a reason, but, well, he still carries a torch Irene and hasn’t moved past what he did to her. I know the girls and the town gossips would love to see you two married, but I realized long ago you’ll never be more than friends. There’s no spark there, and you, my darling butterfly, need a spark. You both need to stop using each other as a windbreak and take a chance on someone else. You’re young, attractive, stop hiding in your pool, and get out there, or I’ll out you,” Dorine threatened with a mock glower.
“Gee hmmmm thanks Gramma, but don’t you dare,” Camille sighed, “I like what I have with Thomas. It’s comfortable.” Gramma gave her the look, and Cami quickly amended, “But I’ll try to find someone with a spark.”
“No, you’ll do, young lady. I’ve only got two grand children and I want more. Lawd knows, your cousin isn’t in a hurry to give me any, in spite of Katherine being willing,” Dorine grumped.
Camille had to laugh, “You’re too much. Want to go to the cafe before church? I’ll help with the horses.”
“Now that’s the best offer, I’ve had all week, then how about we take the girls and take them into Canyon to get dresses for the Valentine’s Dance Friday. I am sure Tammy and Sammy’s mom could use a break. We’ll have lunch at the mall, and maybe get a dress for you too,” Dorine nodded, murmuring more to herself than Camille. “Yes, you need a new dress too.”
Camille groaned, “Gramma, I don’t wear dresses.”
“Well you should, you’re a beautiful woman.” Dorine grinned, “Imagine the novelty, Ice Cold Coach Wally in dress. Maybe something with a plunging neckline, has Tank seen your tattoo more than the once or twice?”
“Oh gawd, Gramma! Everyone has seen my tattoo. My Sports Illustrated Cover was the one before the Swimsuit Issue that year, it sold out. Blue butterflies became a popular tattoo for women for years.” Camille did not like where this was going.
Her grandma smiled at her in a scheming way, “You never know when love will walk back into your life, Camille.”
“Love can jump off a 10M platform into an empty pool!” Cami retorted but Gramma Dorine just chuckled at her.
“Let’s get the chores done since I’m not going to dive this morning. I want to get to the cafe and get a cup of tea. Gosh, I wish the Wild Anemone Bakery was open on Sunday morning.” Camille dumped her coffee out with a grimace. She really did hate that vile brown liquid everyone else in her home was addicted to.
Her grandmother followed her out to the barn, still laughing.