By the grace of God, I noticed the trap that I was slipping into: by having no fixed plot, only characters, I was very close into having this become little more than a daily diary of Nichole’s life.
A diary is not a story.
The diary elements wrap up today. I’m not saying there won’t be more: this is an ongoing, free webnovel, so there will be more diary-like elements. But now, I think, after this installment, it’s time to play. Yeah!
“Defiant” – Episode 14
Just off from the pool was a hot tub. It could have fit ten, so there was more than enough room for three. Nichole had been the first in: “an artificial hot springs! Cool!” After her ‘lesson’ in the pool, had there not been lane lines, she would have literally been swimming circles about them. Gil’s rhetorical question had been politely ignored, and after a look towards one another, he and Joe pulled themselves out and ambled over.
Joe went for it: getting into the hot tub just at her left. Gil took note of that with a grin flickering across his face that no one else saw. He walked around and sat with his legs in, watching them. This will be fun, he thought.
“You are so amazing!” Joe exclaimed. “You really, really, haven’t swam before, much less competitively?” He splashed some of the warm water over his head.
“Not at all!” Nichole turned to look at him. “Between your instruction and Gil’s example, how could I go wrong!?”
“It must have been easier than acting as a forward observer, certainly!” Gil said cheerfully. Mocking her.
Her eyes froze. And the rest of her face. She pivoted to look at him. Why did he say that?
“Forward what?” Joe laughed. “C’mon, Gil, just admit that she’s got natural talent in the water!”
“Maybe not just in the water. I hear she can climb pretty good, too.” Gil said.
She narrowed her eyes at him. What was he getting at?
Gil lowered himself into the hot tub.
“Really, what do any of us know about each other?”
“Huh?” Joe was lost. Nichole was not.
“I know something very important about the both of you,” she said pitching her voice low, undertones to carry emotion. “You two are my friends. And very important to me.”
In the moment that her voice bought her, she splashed some water onto her face as she’d recalled others doing. I’ll have to shower off later. The chlorine is a good sterilizing agent, but I don’t want parts of me fading.
“And you, to us,” Gil replied evenly.
Joe couldn’t take it any longer, and it was also an excuse to touch her.
“You really never struck me as the ink-type,” he said poking gently at the red five on top of her left arm. “I’ve a few tats myself-”
“Which no one wants to see!” Gil called.
“-so I was curious why you got it!”
“You…” This would be an interesting answer. I wonder where it will lead, she thought?
“You might be a little surprised to hear this, but it’s a tradition in my family. All of my siblings have one!”
“You must have a big family!” Joe laughed, his fingers lingering on her. “Is this how they keep track of you?”
“That’s…one way of thinking about it.”
With a derisive snort, Gil heaved himself out. He crossed his legs and leaned his head onto his right arm, resting on his knee.
“May I as you a personal question?”
She let her eyes drop from his to the level of the water.
“You may ask.”
He wanted to say ‘what are the names of your father and mother,’ but at the last moment, thinking about that sketch from the gray ghost, asked something else.
“What do you really want?”
She remained silent for almost a minute.
“What I want…” She raised her eyes from the water to his eyes dark gray, “is an experience I’ve not yet had, so it is difficult for me to say. Friend Gil.” For once, she did not smile.
He nodded and stood. “Let’s go, Joe. Our homework isn’t going to solve itself.” He walked off.
Joe paused for only a moment. His touch on her arm went to his hand on her shoulder.
“Don’t mind mister ‘lone-wolf,’ he makes trouble. I…” He paused only for a fraction. “I really like you, Nichole. See you tomorrow?”
She found her smile again. “Sure!”
She kept waving as he walked to the men’s lockers. Overly conscious of the wet floor, she carefully made her way to hers. There were no sounds within. She peeled off her slightly too small suit and went into a shower to get the chlorine off her. If her hair changed color and stayed that way, it might be noticed.
She paused as she caught her reflexion in the mirror. She’s almost never looked at her images; it was irrelevant. But this time, she stared.
She raised her hands and rolled them about her breasts, as she’d seen Kathy. Nothing. Because I’m a virgin, she’d said. Having a man in me seems to mean nothing… is there more? What do I misunderstand?
The cold water ran over her; there was a small bar of soap she used. Rinsing again, she turned the water off.
She walked out of the shower. She looked around.
“Hello!” She called. Nothing.
She had no towel. There were none to be seen.
She used her hands like squeegees to try to get as much water as possible off of her.
Putting her clothes back on was a chore. Putting her panties on felt awful, so they came right back off. It was only a half-dozen blocks home, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Her dark blouse stuck to her in odd places. She folded her coat over her arm. Better!
At the front counter the older man she’d met earlier handed her a large bag of coins. ‘Real copper,’ he’d said. Portland was still finding its feet when it came to currency, but it was already a law that specie was repaid with specie. She stuffed that into her handbag as best she could. She walked carefully, trying not to make a watery squeak as she did.
Outside, she just caught a glimpse of her friends backs going around a corner. Either they took inordinately long showers, or they’d been waiting for me. She paused for a moment.
She was very young, but not stupid. It was obvious what Joe felt towards her. She liked – the verb in her mind was storge – him, too…. She wondered if Gil actually didn’t like her? He’d seen more of what she really was than anyone else. He was pushing that at the hot tub, and she’d ignored him, rather than confronting him. Why? There were techs at Somi she both out argued and shouted down, when she had to. Why was Gil different?
She glanced at the sky and thought about the time. Curfew was in about three hours. She thought about the library. Wet or not.