Water Play

After our first aquatics class, Valerie Kaiser stripped off her suit and stood nude in steaming water, rinsing away the stench of chlorine. Then she slid onto a narrow bench as twenty women in various states of undress discussed the instructor, the lesson, emerging aches and pains.

Val spent a luxurious quarter-hour there. Toweling down. Chatting animatedly. Smoothing lotion over every inch of creamy skin. I tried but failed to ignore that perfect exemplar of the female form. Such a delicious assemblage of line, plane, texture and tone I had to force myself to pack up and peel away.

Back home, I took a long look in a full-length mirror. Stretch marks on my breasts. A soft, round stomach that had housed two precious babies before delivering them without undue drama. A portrait of life prior to discovering I was a dyke. Even in low light, it wasn't a pretty sight. I couldn't imagine being the object of anyone's desire again—certainly not that sylph in the shower room.

Still, I studied her during class as the instructor put us through our paces. Long after I slowed and fell out of rhythm, Val was bright and bouncy. While I fought for balance in the shifting currents, her feet seemed rooted to the floor. And she executed every move with balletic grace—impossible to replicate, though I certainly tried. Because I'd signed up to work hard, to remember I was once strong and fast, if far from beautiful.

Some students stayed late to do lazy laps, but I'd never learned to swim. Instead, I became a regular in a silly game—a dozen of us laughing and bobbing in shimmering water, lofting a cheap plastic ball into the air. Mostly though, I just wanted to be near Val. And as the months passed, I'd occasionally imagine she wanted to be near me. Because often all her spikes in my direction, all those diamond-bright splashes, seemed like a cover for an unacknowledged flirtation. But any time she aimed the same saucy grin at another player, slapping the ball her way, I'd feel equally battered—and berate myself for being an idiot.

The day I nearly drowned, I was showing off for Val. Skipping backward to block a lob gone long. Teetering on that sharp concrete drop-off. Plunging into swirling depths, into flailing terror. Then suddenly I was hauled to the surface. Through panicked eyes, I first saw a high grid of windows framing cobalt sky and autumn leaves. Next I found Val Kaiser's face, read fear morphing into relief. "My god!" she gasped, pulling me to the shallows, "I can't lose you!"

"Me? Why would you care about me?"

"Are you kidding?" she whispered, releasing me with obvious regret. "I love your determination, your strength, your playfulness . . . I guess I just plain love you."

And gazing into those aquamarine eyes, I realized that no matter how far I fell, she'd always be there to rescue me.

The End