There was hardly any splash as Dennis dove into the water. Underneath the surface he kept his eyes open, saw bodies churning water, children, adults, only a few people his own age. Sound was distant. He stayed under. Chlorine hurt his eyes. Swimming quickly, the pleasure in swift movement.
He broke the surface into noise, water dripping off his nose, his fringe hanging wet across his eyes, forced the chemical sting from his vision with a determined blink. Breathing. And he smiled at the girl.
She’d seen him looking at her. Short black hair, pale complexion. Not much chest. Two-piece swimsuit, blue and black. Now she wasn’t smiling back but she was looking at him.
‘How old are you?’ he asked.
‘Fifteen,’ she said.
‘Good,’ Dennis said. She was with another friend who was younger and not at all interesting. He maintained eye contact with her and pointed down. ‘Deep breath.’
Dennis filled his lungs and sunk under the water. The girl took the bait and followed him down. Underneath, the noise went away, and it was quiet, and everything was soft-edged. She looked at him and he looked back at her, grinning. Suddenly intimate.
He pointed his index finger at himself, then put his hand on his heart, then pointed the finger at her.
She cocked an eyebrow, unconvinced. Dennis could tell she was impressed. He let the air out of his lungs, bubbles rising to the surface.
She pointed at him, then put her finger to her temple and tapped it.
They both broke the surface. Dennis spoke before she’d got her breath – ‘So I’m crazy?’
‘What’s your name?’
Dennis held her eye for a moment, then took another breath and went back under the water, this time swimming. He went as far from Kim as he could before breaking the surface again, then switched into a smooth breaststroke. He looked back at her only once, just as he was reaching the others. Kim and her friend were both watching him and talking. Good.
Dennis slowed up as he approached the others. Scott was sitting on the side of the pool, his legs dangling in the water, talking away. ‘I wonder if there ever were any razorblades in waterslides. Because I remember we all took it seriously, when we were younger. But I wonder if it ever actually happened anywhere, or if it was total invention.’
Richard was floating on his back. ‘Like the halloween candy thing. You never would have got that over here, that whole thing of only taking wrapped candy, like stuff that was sealed in a factory. I don’t think it ever actually happened.’
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if it had,’ Adam said. He was leaning against the wall of the pool. ‘There are some crazy people out there.’
‘You’re so gullible,’ Scott said, reaching forward to splash some water in Adam’s face. ‘Don’t believe the hype, man. Dennis, you ever hear of any proof behind those razor blade things we worried about as kids?’
‘Why the hell would I know?’
‘Come on, man. Your dad’s police, two of your brothers are police, of course you’d know. Your dad ever tell you to be careful on a waterslide?’
Dennis gave him the finger and leaned against the side of the pool, next to Adam.
Scott changed tack. ‘Who was that girl?’
‘You never seen her before, have you?’ Scott raised his eyes to the heavens. ‘How the fuck do you do that? I don’t know how you can do that. Besides, what is she, like twelve years old?’
‘Fuck you. No.’
‘You’re a danger to yourself and others, Den. You know this is true.’
Richard splashed a bit as he reoriented himself vertical. ‘Hey, guys – I should tell you. My Dad got some details sorted out. We’re going on August two. It’s a Monday, I think it’s the Monday after the ball actually.’
‘So you’re going to the ball then?’ Scott asked.
‘Of course. We’re all going to the ball. It’ll be my farewell party too I guess.’
‘What, so that means I have to go?’
‘You have to go, Scott. You too, Adam. All of us.’
Dennis listened to this exchange in silence. Something in Richard’s manner bothered him. Something in his face, in the way he was announcing his big news. Dennis didn’t like it. He felt implicated.
‘So there it is,’ Scott said. ‘A departure date. Fucking hell, Rich. I can’t believe you’re going.’
‘Me either,’ Richard said.
Dennis went underwater and swam away. There was a girl on the other side of the pool, and she was waiting for him.