• Shelly Powell

Swimming for Non-Swimmers (Short Story)

Melanie hugged her pool noodle and desperately thought, Please don’t see me. Please don’t see me. Please don’t see me. After a day full of algebra and chemistry, her two worst subjects, was it too much to ask that the one guy she was seriously crushing on didn’t see her in the “Swimming for Non-swimmers” class?

Of course it was.

Brycen Stanton walked down the bleachers from the locker rooms in nothing but his red swim trunks, sat on his life guard tower of coolness, and inevitably, his maple brown eyes fell on her pool-water blue ones.

Her grasp on the pool noodle loosened as she reflex-smiled toward him, but at the slightest sensation of sinking, she tightened her grip. Oh, how she hated the thought of drowning, a thought that plagued her every two minutes in swim class, but if Brycen’s rich eyes were the last things she saw, then what a way to go!

Melanie shifted her gaze back to her teacher, Debra, who was only a year older than she was and flaunted her skills by treading water in front of them as she taught.

“Eyes on me!” Debra called out.

Melanie rolled her eyes. Did Debra have to talk to them like toddlers just because they had toddler level swim skills?

“I know a lot of you are scared, but hey, good job signing up for a class that will help you overcome your fear of the water!”

Melanie clutched her pool noodle and wished she had grabbed two of them like the girl floating next to her.

Debra continued, “We’ll start simple. Today, I want everyone to practice sticking their face in the water and blowing bubbles, like this.”

Just the thought of doing what Debra was currently doing horrified Melanie. She even had nightmares of bobbing for apples. How could she do this? Was there a straw she could blow into instead?

Before long, Debra swam over to the edge of the pool closest to the life guard tower and climbed out. “Okay, everyone,” she called to the class. “Just keep practicing your bubbles for a few more minutes before we move on.”

Melanie watched as the eight others in the class stared at the water. Only two of them actually stuck their faces in. The rest of them were mumbling things like, “She can’t make me stick my face in there” and “I’m not gonna ruin my contact lenses for this.” Then there was the one girl who frantically yelled, “Don’t do it!” whenever anyone else looked like they might actually try it.

Melanie looked around and waited for the right moment. She kicked with her pool noodle over to where Debra was talking with Brycen. Melanie pretended to stick her face in the water as she tilted her ear to listen in on their conversation.

“Swimming for Non-Swimmers? Now that’s funny!”

Melanie cringed at Brycen’s sarcastic tone. It wasn’t her favorite title for a class either. What did it even mean? Swimming for people who were good at not swimming? Swimming for people who had no business being in the water?

“I know, right?” answered Debra. “I mean, who waits till high school to learn how to swim?”

Melanie thought about getting out and telling them all about how she had tried to learn when she was little, how her first swim teacher had freaked her out by letting her pet pit bull wander around the pool during lessons. But Melanie didn’t want that to be the subject of the first real conversation she had with Brycen. Instead, she just wished that there were more useful classes she could take like “Dating for Non-Daters” or “Flirting for Non-Flirters.”

Melanie was about to dunk her face in the water just to hide her embarrassment when suddenly she heard screaming.

“Bee! Ah, there’s a bee!” Debra was flailing her arms around her head wildly. “Where’d it go? It’s following me!” Debra stepped around chaotically. A tiny bee had somehow found its way inside the school’s indoor pool and was circling Debra’s head.

“Now, just stay calm.” Brycen was climbing down from his tower when Debra simultaneously pulled on his arm and slipped on the slick tiles, sending them both careening into the water.

Melanie watched with wide eyes as Brycen fell right toward her. She barely had a chance to suck in a breath of air before Brycen collided with her, muscles and all, freeing her noodle and pushing her under.

The impact was sudden, and the world rolled around her. She kept her eyes shut tight but could feel Brycen right next to her. The pressure around her head pulsed with her heartbeat but was softer than she expected. She risked a glance and saw red swim trunks and legs kicking in the crystal blue.

So this is life underwater, Melanie thought. Funny how there was no panic, no hyperventilating. Just watery echoes. And Brycen. Now with his arm around her, pulling her up from behind.

When Brycen got her above water, she closed her eyes and rested her head against his arm. She thought about playing dead and getting a little mouth to mouth. She had seen it work in movies, but she had also seen it go wrong. Instead, she just smiled at his touch.

From across the pool, Debra was coughing and cursing, her swim students forgotten.

Brycen pulled Melanie to the steps and sat next to her, keeping his arm around her shoulder. “I am so sorry. Are you okay?”

Melanie loved seeing the concern in his eyes. For her. She had been close to drowning, but there was Brycen, and suddenly, she laughed, a contagious, bubbly laugh, and soon his eyes relaxed and he laughed too.

“Hey, you seem pretty cool. Let me take you to lunch when class is over. You know, to make it up to you.”

“Ok,” Melanie breathed out. So this is Swimming for Non-Swimmers. I could get used to this.


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