“Take the kids to the pool,” Mum said.
We got our swimming gear and then Dad took us in the car to the pool.
“We should go swimming every week,” said Frankie.
“Why?” asked Dad. “We have a bath in our own house. Two bathrooms and a shower.”
Dad changed into his shorts. Every inch of his body covered in thick black hair. It stopped at his wrists and ankles and the start of his neck. He flexed his arms.
“Don’t you wish you had muscles like these, boys?” he said.
Over at the deep end of the pool were Mark and Robert and Laura and Estella. I set off swimming across the pool. At the other side, I grabbed the side rail. Mark and Robert were diving in from the side of the pool. They pulled themselves out to dive again, slim and sleek and muscled like otters. Their shorts slipping down as they climbed out.
Laura’s blue swimsuit set off her red hair as it hung wet down her back. She sat with her legs in the water like a mermaid. Estella stood behind her scowling. Her skin like ivory, smooth and shining. Like porcelain, delicate as an eggshell.
“Over here,” shouted Laura waving. Estella scowled. Mark dived. Robert frowned. He slipped into the water and swam over to me. When he got to where I was, he put one arm on each side of me and held onto the rail, pinning me to the wall.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m here with my dad. What are you doing?”
“I’m here with the girls.” He made it sound as if they belonged to him.
“Come on over,” shouted Laura.
Robert let go of the rails. He turned onto his back, face upwards and swam back looking at me all the time.
I climbed out of the pool and walked towards where Laura and Estella were standing.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” said Mark and then turned without another word and dived into the water.
“Watch me,” said Laura. She stood up at the edge of the pool. Her wet swimming costume clung to her body. “Watch this.”
She pointed her arms upwards, her chest lifting. Then she sprung up and backwards and into the water. Like a kingfisher arcing through the air.
“That’s amazing,” I said.
“Aren’t you going to dive?” said Robert. “I bet you can’t.”
“Mark taught me how to do that,” Laura said.
“Can you dive?” I said turning to Estella.
“I don’t like swimming,” she said.
Robert climbed out of the water and stood next to me. “If you can’t swim, you should not be at the deep end.”
“I can swim,” I told him.
“Let’s see you then. I bet you can’t dive.”
“Let’s see you do it from up there.” Robert pointed to the diving board, to the very top one.
“Leave him alone,” said Laura. But when I looked at Estella, something in her eyes made me speak.
“I will then. I will.”
I began to climb to the very top board. I could not believe how high it was. It seemed much higher from the top.
“Come down, Jacko,” shouted Laura.
Mark shouted too, “Try the lowest board first.”
I could see the whole complex. I could see the diving pool below me, the blue water still and calm and deep. I could see the swimming pool filled with playing children. Dad was swimming laps in a bit of the pool roped off for serious swimmers. Frankie was ducking one of his friends under the water. I could see Mark and Robert and Laura and Estella down below like tiny dolls. I could see Estella’s face, still frowning and those eyes.
“Come down,” shouted Robert. “You know you can’t do it.”
But how hard could it be? I walked to the end of the board leaned over and pointed my hands down and let my weight carry me over.
I felt like a bird or like a stone, down, down I went and then I hit the water. I went down deeper and deeper. Like a fish, a shark, a dolphin. I kicked my legs and hung weightless in the water. My skin kissed smooth by water. I held my breath, my lungs ached. Up and up I kicked until I burst into the air, the echoing shouts of the children in my ears. I swam to the side. Mark leaned down to give me his hand and pull me out.
“Don’t ever do that again,” said Laura. “It’s very dangerous.”
Estella stood with her arms wrapped around herself still scowling. Her eyes still looked at me. What did that look mean? Did it mean anything?
It was time to leave now. Dad insisted.