Here’s some more from 365, an ongoing project. I’ll never say “abandoned”. Nothing’s abandoned, even when it’s finished.
Swimming was good, though pools often weren’t. To be fair, the leisure centre Grace chose was clean, modern and polished. It had been built at least 15 years ago, its insectoid tangle of stanchions and buttresses a fixture on Grace’s horizon every day as she drove to and from work, though she’d never stepped over the threshold before.
The receptionists were young and welcoming – not like the harridan Grace remembered from the public pool of her girlhood; too hard to be a librarian, too much of a personality black hole for teaching. The changing facilities and the pool itself were similarly new, shiny, welcoming. Back when she was young, the old pool had been warm and Victorian on the outside with its red sandstone edifice, but decrepit and mildewed on the inside. In the water itself, the horror of drifting sticking plasters and god knew what else. And always the whistle, the echoing roars from the attendants.
Not so here. She slipped into the one-piece costume she had been upset to receive from Greg at Christmas – a good fit, to be fair. And now came the moment she dreaded, and not with an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini either. Stepping out, and walking through the doorway to the pool itself.
She showered beside a young and disturbingly trim girl in a sharkskin costume – surely a student, someone with spare time anyway – and then came the entrance to the pool. Blue water, lazy drift of tiles on the bottom, bobbing lanes on the surface. In the water, mainly old people, it looked like, nice gentle strokes, gentle billows. As ever, a gaggle of older ladies laughing by a partition which separated the shallow end. It was a good, deep pool, Greg had said. Soon, she knew, her feet would not touch the bottom.
She felt a chill in her stomach and the soles of her feet as she lowered herself down the steps.
Grace couldn’t help but gasp as she threw herself in, the sudden chill of immersion giving way to jerky strokes, twanging muscles, a water memory of forward motion, exertion. She made her way over to one of the lanes, braced herself, then ducked under. Sudden quiet roar in her ears, the sting of chlorine. And then she was there, poised, ready to fly.
An older man was coming towards her – barrelling, was a better term. He dipped in and out in a butterfly stroke, sucking in breath, a slick cascade coating his face and his tiny goggles. He was fast, surprisingly so. She moved aside to let him touch the end of the pool. He stopped, huffed out a breath and grinned at her. “Hard going the first few days after Christmas, eh?”
“Oh, definitely,” Grace replied. But he was already gone, massive shoulders ducking and weaving, stubby legs scissoring behind him. She watched the foam subside into troubled blue, grinned to herself, and struck out into the water.
I’ve written loads of short stories. Here’s my first collection of them: Suckerpunch. They’re lonely souls, be kind.