In a swift, diagonal upward thrust of the arm, Michaela dislodged the velvety teal shawl that her step-mother draped around her shoulders at the start of the diving meet. Water droplets slid down her arms and puddled around her feet. Michaela tightened her swimming cap and stared at her toes. The springboard reminded her of a reluctant lover, sprawled out in supplication but betraying no facial expressions that communicated a yearning for gestures of passion.
Michaela noticed the shawl dangle on the edge of the diving board to the right of where she was standing. She took a deep breath, looked up around the empty stands, and imagined a crowd of impatient, bored spectators. There would be no official competition until she could make this dive, the one that fractured the skulls of the best swimmers the school had seen in the last ten years. It didn’t make sense to her why such a difficult and fatally dangerous routine should be required of an aspiring diver if the whole point was to win and the odds were high that the university would lose athletes to it.
But Michaela buzzed with the right amount of pride and delusion to believe that the worst that could happen would be death and not paralysis. She repositioned herself on the board, went through the requisite arm motions to prepare for a take-off, and as she leaped forward, twisting her body like a projectile pencil, she saw the water in the pool steam and turn the color of fruit punch. It tasted much worse than it looked. Exuberant, bright red appears as though it should taste of luxurious strawberries, but its flavor was much more like the sweet and sour inconvenience of apple cider vinegar and cranberries.
Michaela was still falling through the water, though. She didn’t understand how she could taste it if she was still in it. The bottom of the pool kept getting farther away the further she fell. And there was no slowing her momentum. She wondered if the shawl had fallen into the pool, and if so, where it had gone.
I don’t know why this fall jazz music mix inspired this piece of flash fiction.
Original pic cred: Adrien Ledoux @adrienl, unsplash