24 September 2007 | Vol. 7, No. 3

Plunge Bath

The day we snuck into the pool, everything changed between them.

We're a product of, what they like to call, 'total institution'; most of our formative years were spent in various sleeping, dining, studying, and relaxation facilities, supervised by quasi-parental housemasters. Ian was my best friend; we slept side by side in the same dormitory. A distance of 0.9 m was supposed to be maintained between us (and any two beds) at all times, but after lights-out we'd sometimes push ours together for a late night game of Risk. Ian's twin sister, Kate, slept in the girls' dormitory, in the house adjacent to ours.

It was Kate's idea to go swimming. Actually, she said it was a surprise, and asked us to follow her out of the refectory during lunch, while the prefects weren't looking.

"Where are we going?" Ian whispered, as the three of us scuttled down the hall.

Kate was between us, linking our arms with hers, pulling us faster and faster, her tiny corduroy-clad legs, spinning frantically.

"You'll see."

Outside the building it was freezing. The blanket of pure, white snow that had covered the school walkways just a few days earlier was partially melted, leaving behind a swamp of brown slush. Sneakers soaked, we slowed down once we got behind the gymnasium.

"Guess what I did yesterday after last period?" Kate said, panting.

Ian and I stood silently with our arms crossed, shivering and staring blankly at each other through clouds of breath. She pointed to a door, further down, on the adjoining building, propped open only slightly.

"It's the pool's back entrance! I had swim class on Friday and wedged a Coke can in the doorway."

"Aw, yes!" Ian kissed her on the cheek.

I sprinted towards the doors, without hesitation; Ian and Kate close behind me, pushing and shoving—propelling me forward. Once at the door, I crept in slowly, excited and relieved to feel the warm, humid air—mingled with the thick smell of chlorine. On the opposite end of the Olympic size pool, was our school motto, painted in large, sweeping, chirographic strokes: Scientia Auget Vires (Knowledge Increases Strength).

"Is anyone else in the building today?" I wondered aloud, suddenly nervous.

"No," Kate shouted from the equipment closet. "I made sure to check the schedule at the front desk yesterday." She was now grabbing armfuls of Styrofoam floats and chucking them into the pool.

"So who's going first?" asked Ian, one eyebrow arched.

I started to take off my shoes, then my socks; rolling them up neatly and placing them on the far edge of the deck, behind the diving board. As I began to remove my belt I noticed that Ian had already stripped down to his underwear, and he speedily removed those as well. He looked back at me, grinning, and dived straight into the deep-end. Kate was on the other side of the pool, at the shallow-end, walking into the water slowly, naked from the waist down. She removed her sweatshirt briskly, plugged her nose, and sank to the bottom.

I was somewhat dumbfounded for a few seconds, and didn't know what to do next. I carefully took off my pants, one leg at a time, and undid each of the buttons on my shirt, tossing it to the floor with the rest of my things. I stood still for a moment in my white boxer-briefs. Kate and Ian were laying belly down on some flutter-boards, kicking and splashing as the boards buoyantly escaped upwards from underneath their weight. I saw the warped magnification of their bare bodies through the brightly lit water and I couldn't help but think, and take comfort in the fact, that these two siblings had once shared a womb, swam side by side in their mother's amniotic fluid, and had probably taken hundreds of baths together growing up. It was nice. They were now fifteen, and still easy friends; Adam and Eve, each untouched by the other's profound dissimilarity.

I just wanted to fit in, really; I wanted to have fun and take part in that scene of camaraderie with the same ease. I yanked off my underwear and jumped in. The water was much cooler than I expected; I doggy-paddled towards Ian. He playfully pushed down on my shoulders, plunging me so far down that I could clearly make out the drain and lost goggles at the bottom. I drifted up to the surface; Kate was now right by my side, laughing, with her arms around her brother's neck as he treaded water for both of them.

I don't know why it had to happen, and I wish it didn't, but as we continued to swim, brushing up against one another, our bodies gliding around as one, in figure eights; the mood abruptly shifted. Kate's legs had butterfly-kicked their way between us, grazing me and Ian, simultaneously, in the most intimate, and sensitive, of places. Everything stopped. I stared at Ian; he shut his eyes for a moment. I could see the pale skin on his collar bone sprout a shade of pink that crawled up his neck and across his face, until he was completely flushed. Kate was now at the other end of the pool, hanging onto the ledge, glancing back at us and breathing heavily, no longer smiling or laughing.

Afraid of what I knew he was feeling, I quickly reached out and grabbed Ian in an attempt to casually resume our mock wrestling match. I dragged him under, almost to the pool's floor, where our skin appeared to each other a pale blue, where we couldn't hear a thing, or see Kate lying on deck, her body stretched out, exhausted, and coated in beads of water and sweat.

About the author:

Monica Pacheco, a graduate of the University of Toronto, received her BA in art history and political science. Originally from Toronto, Ontario, she now lives in Sweden with her husband, Benny, and their Miniature Pinscher, Conan. She can be reached at monni36 [at] hotmail [dot] com.

For further reading:

Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 7, No. 3, where "Plunge Bath" ran on September 24, 2007. List other work with these same labels: fiction, flash fiction, unpublished writers.

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