I did not want to wake up this morning. Still, I had to because Dad got a text late last night from Coach telling me I had an early morning practice today; also that I had to give Matthew a ride. So here I am sitting in my jeep at five-ten in the morning, waiting for Matthew to come out and join me in the freezing air. It was dark but I saw the silhouette of Matthew exit his house and dart to my car.
Throwing open the door and jumping inside, “Dude turn up the heat! It’s freezing in here.”
“Why bother,” I grumbled as I started towards our death, “we will be jumping in a cold pool in a little bit, anyways.”
“Still. I want to be a smidge happy before I die,” Matthew reached across and turned the heat up to an unbearable temperature as we headed toward the school.
Practice was not what I expected. I assumed it would just be Matthew and I, but instead Jerry and Ken were waiting for us on the pool deck as we entered. Coach said he wants us to do a long recovery after our meet yesterday. So pretty much practice was lots of yardage and not speed. It was actually awesome. We four were floating in the pool waiting for practice to be over as Coach approached us. I was expecting a, ‘Gotcha! and some unwelcomed pain.’
“So how do you all feel? I apologize for leaving the meet so quickly without allowing you to cooldown completely, or give you your splits from that last relay. My daughter,” Coach paused and rubbed his forehead, “was perfect the whole day until the last hour, Mrs. Bailey said. She can be a real brat sometimes. I love her, but sometimes,” a frustrated huff came out to finish off his thought. “Anyways, you all good?”
We all nodded. I was surprised that this was actually all that this practice was going to be. I felt refreshed and ready to go.
“Good. Because other than relay exchanges, and maybe a bit of freestyle work for you Ken, your remaining practices will be somewhat similar to this one. I was deeply impressed by your last relay. Even with all the torment and craziness of your previous practices, you four were able to drop so much time. I am very pleased as your coach.”
That was a shock. I don’t think Coach has ever said anything similar to that in all the years I have swam for him.
“Okay for your splits. You should all, including Ken, be impressed,” Coach paused, “Matthew 49.56.”
“Wow. Dude! That is amazing!” Ken smacked Matthew on the shoulder. In return Matthew shoved Ken underwater. Ken came up sputtering.
“Enough you two,” Coach gave them the look of behave; they both separated and focused on Coach again, “Ken, 52.96.”
Ken was silent. Forgetting about what Coach just said, we all lunged at Ken and gave him a congratulatory hug, knowing he would be submerged under the water again.
“Blaaa…Wh…y..blah…did…” Ken surfaced again sputtering trying to compose a sentence. Realizing or mistake, we helped keep him afloat as he gained his composure, “I had my mouth gaping open as you shoved me underwater. I thought I was dying just now.”
Remembering where we were and who was probably annoyed, I slowly turned back to Coach. He was indeed quite annoyed. I jabbed Jerry in the side to shut him up and to hopefully bring his attention back.
“What was that for…” Jerry stopped mid sentence as he too saw Coach’s face. He in turn waved to Matthew and Ken, who both zipped their mouths shut.
“I apologize Coach. We will be better behaved now,” I said as we all turned and treaded water giving him our full attention.
“Good. I understand congratulating each other, but do not make me repeat myself again. And be happy the rest of the team is not here to witness this spectacle. Understood?”
Still treading water we all nodded silently.
“Good. Jerry 47.98. George 45.50. Over all you four did extremely well. And because you were able to do this amazing with no rest is why I have decided to slowly rest you until finals. Because I believe that you can go even faster by finals. And Matthew,” Coach stopped a moment, “since you were lead-off, your time will count as an official individual time. I will be updating your finals entry to this new time. Get prepared.”
We were all still silent. I was so proud of my teammates as Coach talked, but there was no way I was going to be the first to start talking.
“Okay. Enough chit chat. School will start in one hour. Do a five hundred cooldown and you all are done.” Coach walked away and entered his office.
“Let’s do the cooldown and go into the locker rooms to discuss your times, I don’t know about you all, but I don’t want Coach to take back all he just said,” Matthew said quickly before leaving the wall to begin his cooldown.
Ken followed his pursuit. Jerry nodded in agreement and looked to me before he left too. I needed no more convincing. I moved to another lane and left the wall just like the guys.
“You didn’t notice?” Ken said before devoring his breakfast burrito.
Instead of talking smack in the locker rooms, we decided to go get breakfast a few blocks away. It was a food truck called the Hot Moo. They had the spiciest, but most delicious breakfast burrito. I was about half way into mine.
“You noticed too? I thought I was seeing things. She was acting funny on the car ride home,” Jerry murrmered through chewing.
“Brit?” I asked quickly before taking another bite.
“No. Jenny. After your declaration of family and the awesome demonstrations of homeschooler side hugs, she was quiet the entire drive to her house. She just kept looking out the window. Brit was normal as usual. She tried to include Jenny into our discussions of swimming and coaching, but she ignored her and continued to stare out the window,” Ken said in between bites.
“Bro! Please, choose to eat or speak! Don’t do both. But yeah. Jenny was acting unusual. She said a quick goodbye and ran to her door; not looking back to say goodbye before shutting the door,” Matthew was disgusted with Ken’s eating habits, but was not fazed enough to hinder himself from finishing his burrito.
All this talk was news to me, “Nope. I didn’t notice anything before you guys left. But also remember, she had the great showdown with Jeremy and actually stood up for herself,” I paused to let that sink in. “Also, if you remember after the John incident, Jenny seemed to shutdown as well. Her way of dealing must be to put up wall and figure this out at her own
“That is true. Except for the awkwardness between the two of you she did become a completely different person before she figured it out,” Matthew said as he gathered up our trash and was throwing it away. “But seriously dude, what was with the side hug? She was obviously going for a normal hug?”
“I really didn’t think anything of it. I really do see you guys as my brothers, and now I do see Brit and Jenny as family. After Brit’s hug, I guess it was a reflex,” feeling exasperated that I was being questioned for good behavior. Heading to the jeep to head back to school, I paused, “I really don’t see the need to question me, and honestly I don’t really want to think about this. We should and will just focus on our swimming and prepare for finals. Sound good?”
“No worries, but I’m going to sleep on the drive back. I really can’t afford to fall sleep in another math class,” Ken said climbing into the back seat.
“If you wanted to sleep you should have skipped the breakfast and slept,” Jerry chuckled as he too jumped in the back.
“And miss out on the Hot Moo…yeah right,” Ken’s faced showed true disbelief and shock, “especially when George is buying. No brainer,” in a split second, Ken’s expression disappeared and change to smug confidence.
“Whatever. Let’s head to school,” I say as I pull out on the road.