So I enjoyed running down hotel hallways at fast speeds, was that a crime? According to the very angry girl I ran into - yes, it was. And a heinous one, at that. ONESHOT.
When it came to drying off after a swim, I preferred running up and down the hotel hallways to actually using a towel. Towels weren't very efficient, in my opinion, and running was more fun anyway. Sure, I often slipped on my wet feet, and I'd gotten in trouble a few times for getting the hall walls soaking wet from my dripping hair, but it was well worth it.
I liked to rate the hallways of all the different hotels our team stayed in with a five star system. Hallways could earn stars by being particularly long, wide, or echo-y. Alternatively, they could lose stars depending on how many times I tripped over myself, or how many times I got yelled at by sleeping neighbors. The only hotel to get five stars to date was the place we stayed at in Anaheim during a Disneyland trip with the swim team.
This particular hotel's chances weren't looking good. The halls were narrow, with too many doors crowded all together in a line, and the ground was already giving my feet rug burn. Sighing, I threw my gym bag on the ground and prepared myself – I had to run it none-the-less. I always ran the hallways, sometimes more than once, no matter how many times my teammates told me I was weird.
"Malcolm," my roommate, Dario, called out from our room as he poked his head around the half open door.
"What?" I said as I did my stretches. I took running the hallways very seriously, you know.
"You're not really going to run through the halls like a spaz again, are you? Why don't you just use a towel?" my best friend asked.
"Towels are overrated," I answered, not taking my eyes off the end of the hall. "And I'm not a spaz. I'm exercising; you should try it some time."
Dario scoffed and closed the door. I heard him mutter something that sounded an awful lot like "eccentric bastard" and laughed to myself. So I enjoyed running down hotel hallways at fast speeds, was that a crime?
I looked down the halls once more, just to be sure there was no people in the way, and took my starting position. My feet were already raw from the wet skin rubbing against carpet, but I ignored the pain and focused on my task.
I broke out into a run as soon as I was sure the coast was clear, but there must have been chlorine in my eye or something because almost immediately, I collided with someone and fell to the floor.
"What the hell?" said someone shouted from underneath my soaking body. Oh, so that's what I landed on, I thought.
"Oops," I muttered as I pulled myself off the unfortunate person. "Sorry, I didn't see you there." I held out my hand to them only to notice that it was a girl around my age, and that she looked very, very angry.
The girl ignored my hand and stood up on her own, looking down at her newly wet clothes with disgust. "What the fuck is your problem?" she shouted at me, her eyes narrowing in my direction.
I held my hands up defensively. "Whoa, no need to get so worked up, I apologized, didn't I?"
She took a daring step closer to me and poked me in the (bare) chest. I cringed; she had sharp fingernails. "Don't go pinning this on me, you're the idiot that's running up and down hotel hallways in his swimsuit," she said.
I glared down at her, ignoring the fact that her blonde hair smelled deliciously like strawberries. "I'm not pinning anything on anyone; I'm just saying that you don't need to swear at me when I said I was sorry. And I happen to have just come from swim practice, so the swimsuit is not entirely illogical," I explained.
"Illogical," she mimicked with an eye roll. Taking a step back, she began to take her wet dress off, causing me to blush when I realized that she was only wearing a pink bikini underneath. "You're lucky I was heading to swim practice, otherwise I would murder you for getting me wet."
I stared. She was on a swim team, too? Obviously she swam on the girl's team, and for a different school, but still. This meant that she and I had something in common, other than the fact that we were both presently wet and aggravated.
"Are you staring at my boobs?" she asked, snapping me out of my reverie.
"What?" I asked, averting my eyes from 'that area'. I hadn't meant to be staring, really. To be honest, I didn't even notice that I was. "No, of course not," I said. "I was looking at your swimsuit. It's…very nice."
She rolled her eyes, not buying my excuse one bit. "Whatever," she said. "You made me late for practice by ramming into me so don't think I've forgiven you just yet." I watched her in fascination as she looped her thin hair into a high ponytail on her head. "Bye, hall-runner."
She hopped down the stairs and I stood there for a moment, trying to comprehend what had just happened. I had somehow missed Blondie while checking for people, which was unusual; and what was even more unusual was that she seemed so angry at first but less so after her initial explosion.
Deciding to give this hotel a measly one star and call it good, I grabbed my bag and used my room key to unlock the door when Dario didn't open it for me.
"I heard shouting," he said from his position in front of the TV when I walked in. "Did you run into someone?" he asked with a joking laugh.
I sighed and collapsed on the bed near the window. "Yes, actually," I said. "A girl."
Dario turned towards me in surprise. "No shit," he said with amazement. "Was she hot?"
I thought of her strawberry-scented hair and brown eyes. "She smelled good," I mumbled into a pillow.
"She smelled good," Dario repeated slowly. "Alright, fine. But was she hot?"
I pretended not to hear him, not because I didn't want to answer but because I was too tired to do so. I hadn't realized how exhausted I was until I was actually laying on my bed.
I didn't care that I was still wet, or that I was in my swim trunks, or that it'd be very hard to breathe with my face squished against the pillows. I was tired, and so I drifted off to sleep.
The next morning I woke up to an empty room. I checked the clock and hurriedly hopped out of bed when I saw that it was 9:28 - two minutes before the team was supposed to meet in the Coach's room. Cursing slightly to myself, I grabbed a t-shirt and pulled it on. I quickly ran a brush through my hair in an attempt to tame the way it had dried from sleeping with it wet, and then bolted out the door.
When I stumbled into the meeting, the Coach gave me a stern look and a slip of paper. Meekly smiling at him in apology, I took a seat next to Dario on the ground.
"As I was saying," Coach said. "The bus leaves at ten thirty ON THE DOT. So don't be late," he stared at me. "Or you can't compete."
I winced. It would suck to be kicked off the meet. "Thanks for waking me up," I whispered to Dario snidely. He just laughed and said "You're welcome."
I remembered the paper I was handed upon entering the room. "What's this?" I asked Coach.
He gave me a look that suggested I should already know. "Why don't you read it, Malcolm," he said.
"Right." I nodded and took a look.
It was a list of all the competitors.
I scanned the names, seeing some I recognized from previous competitions and others I had never heard before. I was only slightly aware of the fact that as I was reading all the names of the girl swimmers, my brain was mentally deciding which one belonged to Blondie.
"Remember, ten thirty," Coach said. "Don't forget your goggles, your towels, all your gear, etcetera etcetera, blah blah blah. Just don't be late." He gave me another stern look and I rolled my eyes.
"Don't worry Coach, I'll be there," I assured him.
"You better be, Malcolm. You're our secret weapon."
I grinned at this. Even if he was constantly reprimanding me for things that didn't necessarily need reprimanding, Coach knew our school wouldn't place first without me and he respected me for that. Sure, the other boys were good, but I was what held us all together. Without me, we wouldn't really be a team.
"You can count on me, Coach," I said with another grin. He nodded and dismissed the guys, and we all began filing out of the small hotel room and into the very hallways I'd been running through the previous night.
Dario and I were halfway to our room when I ran into a maintenance cart that was set up outside someone's door. Obviously I hadn't really been paying attention to where I was going – I was too busy trying to figure out which one of the girls was the one I'd collided with.
"Dude, watch where you're going, or pretty soon you'll have a world record for knocking things over."
"Ha ha, very funny," I said. I glanced down at the list again. "I bet she's Autumn, or maybe Natasha. Then again, she could also be Mattie, or Julia," I reasoned. I scrutinized the list of names once more, as though looking at them again would somehow give me a clue I hadn't seen before.
"Try Ashton," Dario said casually.
I unglued my eyes from the paper and looked at him. "Ashton? How do you know that's her?" I asked.
"Continental breakfast, 7:00 AM. You know, the free breakfast in the lobby that everyone on the team's supposed to go to? The one that almost everyone in the hotel attends, including this girl of yours?"
"You saw her at breakfast? But…how'd you know it was her? I didn't even tell you what she looked like," I said.
My best friend sighed. "She was talking about you; that's how I know, dumbass."
I ignored his insults. "She was talking about me?"
He smirked. "Well, actually, she was talking about 'that idiot ass-wipe that nearly ran me over in the hallways last night', to be precise."
"Ouch." I winced. So she was still mad. Oh well, I'd find her at the meet and apologize again. Or even better yet… "Hey, I think I'll go down to the pool for a little bit."
Dario's head whipped around to face mine. "What? Malcolm, we have to be on the bus in less than an hour. You don't have time for a swim," he said.
"I know, I know," I said. "I'll be quick, don't worry." I began walking in the opposite direction, completely ignoring my best friend's shouts.
There was nobody at the pool, which wasn't surprising considering the fact that everyone in the competition was supposed to be packing and that half the hotel was high school swimmers. I was a little disappointed, though, because for some reason I'd expected Ashton to be there.
I walked to the edge of the pool and set the paper with the list of names down on the ground. Sighing, I stared out at the water. Not entirely sure why I had come down there in the first place, I was about to turn around and go back to my room when suddenly I was pushed in.
I rose to the surface spluttering for air. "Wh-what the?" I looked up at my attacker. She was laughing. "Blondie!" her eyebrows rose at the nickname. "What was that for?" I asked.
"Consider us even," she said.
"Where did you even come from?" I looked around skeptically. I hadn't even heard her approach, for God's sake! "I have to be on a bus in forty five minutes!" I complained.
"So do I," she said nonchalantly as she rung out her wet hair. Wait, wet? Had she been swimming?
I was about to ask her what she was doing there when she jumped in the water, nearly landing on top of me. The splash from the impact hit me with full force, causing me to splutter again.
"You do realize that we'll both be late if we stay in here any longer," I pointed out.
Ashton ignored me and began swimming laps. Damn, she's fast… I thought as I watched her swim.
"Yo, Ash, you listening?"
She stopped swimming and looked at me. "How do you know my name?" she asked.
I froze. "Um," I said. "You told me," I lied.
Her eyes narrowed. "No I didn't," she said.
She wouldn't buy it. I sighed. "My best friend overheard you and your friends talking at breakfast."
I saw her frame relax a little. What, did she think I was stalking her or something? I'm offended!
"Oh," she said. "You mean the cocky redhead that came up to me and asked what my name was?"
"He talked to you?" I asked, shocked. "He didn't tell me that," I mumbled.
"Jealous?" she teased. I shook my head, purposely making sure that all the water from my hair sprayed Ashton in the face, and proceeded to climb out of the pool.
"I need to go get ready to leave."
"Okay. See you at the meet, Malcolm," she said. I stared at her. She laughed at my surprised expression. "The cocky redhead told me," she explained.
I shook my head again. "And you were giving me crap about knowing your name," I said.
"Malcolm and Ashton, sitting in a tree!"
My best friend is really mature.
He is probably the most mature person I've ever met.
"First comes love, then comes marriage…"
This is all incredibly sarcastic, by the way.
"Then comes the baby in the baby carriage!" Dario shouted.
"Alright, that's enough," I said.
Dario continued laughing, but he stopped singing. We were on the bus to the competition, and my faithful best friend had somehow managed to tell everyone on the team about how I'd collided with Ashton the day before.
I had chewed him out for telling her my name, but he just laughed and told me I'd thank him later. That was when he started the singing. Irritated, I had changed seats about halfway through the bus ride, but I was still only three seats away from him and so it didn't really make a difference. But at least he wasn't shouting in my ear anymore.
"Are we almost there?" I whined like a little kid. Everyone ignored my complaints and my question except Dario, who of course took the opportunity to tease me some more.
"Why, you can't wait to see Ashton again?"
I sighed. "I don't even get you," I said, turning to face him. "Just because I wondered what her name was doesn't mean I'm in love with her or anything. She's just some girl I accidently ran into, that's all."
Dario shook his head. "When I asked you if she was hot, you told me she smelled good. That means you like her," he answered.
"How, exactly? Enlighten me."
"Any normal person would've answered my question by saying that she's fucking sexy – which she is, by the way – but you mentioned how good she smelled, which means you respect her, which means you love her."
I stared at my best friend. "What? How does that logic even make sense?"
"Listen," Dario sighed. "A guy doesn't describe the girl he loves by saying she's sexy or has great boobs. That's how he describes the girl he wants to sleep with. The one he loves is described by things like: her hair smells like strawberries, or: her laughs sound like a wind chime in the summer breeze. Shit like that."
"What the hell? A wind chime in the summer breeze? I never said anything like that," I said.
"Hey, I'm just stating an example. But don't you get it? You respect Ashton enough not to call her hot, so you must like her. It makes sense."
It did make sense. But I didn't want to admit that. "Maybe I just don't think she's hot," I said. "Ever thought about that?"
Dario gave me a look.
"…fine. She's insanely pretty. But still – "
"Pretty! He said pretty," Dario exclaimed.
"Oooh, Malcolm's got it baaaad!" another guy from the team yelled.
"Malcolm and Ashton, sitting in a tree!" the guys began to chorus. Laughter echoed throughout the entire bus.
Oh, good lord, not this again, I groaned. My forehead found the palms of my hands, and there it remained for the rest of the bus ride.
Of course my next run in with Ashton would be right after I spilled my Dr. Pepper all over her white shirt.
"Oh God, not you again," she said in annoyance when she realized who I was.
"I know," I said. "Sorry. Again."
She glared at me and took her wet shirt off, revealing the same bikini from the day before. Déjà vu, I thought.
"Why is it that every time we meet, I end up wet and shirtless?" Ashton asked.
I heard a cackle from behind me. "That's what she said!" Dario shouted.
Ashton ignored his retort, but I was mortified. Was it his life dream to embarrass me, or something? Jeez.
"I don't know, Blondie, but I really am sorry. I don't know why this keeps happening," I said.
"You know," Ashton replied as we began walking into the building where the meet was being held, "You're not my friend. So you should stop with the nicknames."
"Oh. Sorry, Ash."
"That's still a nickname, Malcolm."
"…Fine. Sorry, Ashton. You happy?" I asked.
I rolled my eyes and opened the door, letting her enter the building first as an act of politeness. Dario saw my chivalrous move and snorted, but I ignored him. There was nothing wrong with being a gentleman!
"Wow, this place is huge," I said as I examined the pool (which had ten lanes – ten!) and its inhabitants. There had to be at least a few hundred people there, being directed by their coaches or swimming warm up laps. I thought back to my slip of paper with all the competitors on it – it hadn't seemed like there would be this many when I'd seen the names. I was expecting maybe eight schools, not fifteen.
"It's the state invitational," Dario replied. "What did you expect?"
"Less people," I muttered.
By then, Ashton had wandered off to be with her team, much to my dismay. I was starting to realize that maybe Dario was right about me liking her. I preferred to call it an 'infatuation' rather than a 'crush', though. It sounded much better that way.
"Listen up, men," Coach's voice bellowed from a few feet away. The guys and I rounded up around him, listening intently for our directions. "No matter what happens today, I want you to know that you're all really good. That's why you're here. So don't get too disappointed if you don't win." I rolled my eyes; did all coaches really have to give the 'inspirational speech' before a competition? It was more embarrassing than anything.
"Malcolm and Jansen, you swim at noon. Dario, Jon, Patrick, and Cole swim the medley relay at one…" Coach drawled on, telling each person when it was their turn in the water.
Out of my peripheral vision I could see a familiar blonde head.
I didn't want to peek at her, because that would just give Dario another opportunity to make fun of me, so I sat there and fidgeted while the coach talked. I could feel her stares and suddenly became acutely aware of many things: the fact that I hadn't had time to brush my teeth that morning, and that my eyes were red from the chlorine, and that my hair was still doing its own crazy thing from being wet and never dried too many times. I was a mess, and it killed me to know that she saw that.
At 11:55, after an hour of warming up with the team, my buddy Jansen and I took our spots at the pool for the first event – the 50 meter freestyle. I was assigned the fourth lane, which was perfect, because I had always preferred swimming in the middle.
I sat on the deck next to a guy from our rival school and pulled my goggles over my eyes. There were eight people in the first heat – and five heats – which meant there were forty people competing in this one event. And that was only the boys.
It was insane how many people were there. All the more reason to try hard, I thought. Now if I win I can say I swim faster than at least thirty nine of my peers.
Pretty soon it was noon. The referee got ready to blow the starting whistle and I readied myself for the race. Just one lap, I thought. Two lengths. Fifty meters. You can do it.
"Break a leg, Malcolm!" I heard Dario shout.
And then, "Oh, man, that'd be so great if he really did."
Oh, Ashton. She inspires so much confidence.
Then the whistle sounded and I was off the blocks and in the water, immediately getting into the groove of the race. From then on, the only thing I could think about was keeping my stroke perfect, my breathing even, and the finish line in sight. I was totally taking this race.
My concentration while swimming was off the charts. It always had been - which surprised a lot of people. But hey, what can I say; swimming was my one love. It was my life.
I was at the far wall. Twenty-five meters down, twenty-five to go, I thought to myself.
My older brother and sister had both been swimmers during their high school years, as had my parents. I came from a family of athletes, so it was only natural that I followed in their footsteps.
The wall was getting considerably closer. I was almost there…
My younger brother hated swimming. But it was only a matter of time.
I touched the wall – the race was over. Breathing heavily, I pulled myself out of the pool and sat on the deck, wiping my face dry with a towel (reluctantly). I peered at the clock to see my time.
23.00, on the dot.
"Dude!" Dario suddenly appeared from behind me, clapping me on the back and laughing. "Awesome job! Is that a PR?"
I nodded in amazement. My previous record had been 25.14. Had I really just swam fifty meters in 23 seconds?
Suddenly my whole team was around me, congratulating me on my personal record and winning first in the heat.
"There's still four heats left," I said. "I haven't won yet."
Coach whacked me on the back, almost knocking me over. "Twenty three is a damn good time, son. I'll be surprised if you don't take first," he said through his grin.
I laughed and moved out of the way to watch the next heat. As of then I was in first, but there were still 32 other guys to swim. Anything could happen.
I heard Dario wolf whistle and turned around to see Ashton. I wondered briefly if she had been watching my incredible race, and then realized that of course she was. I noticed that she had, at some point, changed from her pink bikini to the navy blue one-piece that was undoubtedly her team uniform. Even with the different swim suit and absurdly bright yellow goggles covering her brown eyes, she still looked good.
She looked at me. "Meh," she said, referring to my race. "I've seen better."
I scoffed. "On what, TV? The world record is 20 seconds. I'd say 23 is pretty good."
She shrugged. "I bet I could do it in 22," she said.
I stared at her in disbelief. "Yeah, right," I joked. "There's no way. Sure, you're fast, but baby, I'm faster. I could take you any day."
"Oh really? Wanna bet?"
The whistle for the second heat sounded.
"Yes," I said. "You're on. You swimming the 50m too?"
She nodded. "At 12:35," she said. "If I lose, I'll forgive you for spilling your pop all over me earlier. And if I don't…I get to pour some of my pop all over you. We'll see just how much you like it."
I snorted. "Fine," I said. "But if I win, you have to also agree to be my friend, which includes letting me use nicknames."
"You two have no idea how dirty this sounds right now, do you?" Dario butted in. We both ignored him.
Ashton frowned, and then seemed to think about my proposition for a few seconds before responding. "That's not a fair wager," she said. "No deal."
"What if I let you pour two sodas on me if I lose? Would that be fair?"
She was silent for a moment. Cheers erupted from next to us, where I assumed the first swimmer had just emerged, and I was itching to check the times for the second heat to see if I was still in first. Unfortunately, Ashton was taking forever to agree to our bet.
I heard many shouts of "Good job!" and "Better luck next time" as I waited for her answer.
"Alright," she finally said. "Bring it on."
"Oh, it's on," I replied. I then checked the score boards to see the current standings – the first place winner for the second heat had a time of 25 seconds. I was still the champ.
I watched the remaining three heats like a maniac; getting nervous each time someone neared the end with only twenty seconds on the clock. But every time, the heat leader would get 25 or 26 or even 27, not one of them ever surpassing my miracle time.
At 12:29 I was given my two ribbons, one for winning 1st in my heat and another for winning 1st overall. Coach was beaming - Jansen had come in third overall with 24.83, which put our school in the top spot at the competition for the time being. We knew it probably wouldn't last long, but it was nice to be the best for at least a little while.
When the girls swam, I was surprised to see that they were not much slower than the guys. The world record for women was 23.25, so I was expecting the high school teams to come out with times in the high twenties, but some of the first place girls had PRs as low as 25 seconds. It was amazing.
And yet it was still ridiculous that Ashton had even wanted to bet that she could swim the 50 meter freestyle in 22 seconds. That was faster than the world record holder, for God's sake! There was absolutely no way she was going to win, which meant that after this I would be allowed to call her Blondie for as long as I wanted. Muahaha!
The first place winner for the girls had a time of 25.36, and it wasn't Ashton.
"Ha! In your face," I gloated once Ashton was out of the water. She gave me an angry look. "You did splendidly, Blondie, but unfortunately you failed to beat the all time world record and win our bet. Good job though, you really can swim." I held my hand out for her to shake as a peace offering. Still glaring, she took it and bent my pointer finger backwards, causing it to crack in an unpleasant way.
"It's not a broken leg, but it's good enough," she said lightly.
"Ow, what the hell?" I shouted as I caressed my throbbing finger. "I was complimenting you."
"You call, 'oh good job, you're fast, too bad you didn't beat me, ha ha!' a compliment?" she asked.
I couldn't think of a good enough comeback for that one, so instead I just cradled my finger and ignored her.
"You know, friends don't insult each other or brag about winning bets," Ashton said.
"What are you talking about?" I nearly shouted. "My friends do both those things all the time."
"Well mine don't."
"-and you're the one who freaking broke my finger! What kind of friend does that?!"
She sighed. "Oh, stop whining, it's not broken."
"Not broken?!" I exclaimed. "How do you know?"
"Hey, man, you know what else friends don't do?" Dario's voice rose up from where he was positioned in lane three. I turned to him. "Argue with hot girls while their best friend is about to compete," he finished.
"Oops," I said sheepishly. "Sorry. I'm watching!" I diverted my attention to my best friend, and Ashton, shrugging, followed suit. The referee blew the whistle and the medley relays began.
Dario was fast, but he wasn't as good as me or Jansen or Cole. He and I had joined our first swim team together when we were five, and we both instantly fell in love with it. Unlike those annoying kids who go to the pool and scream about drowning the instant they hit the water, or the ones that splash around and call it "fun", Dario and I were swimming competitively by the time we entered the first grade.
We swam together for years, until in the eighth grade he broke his leg playing basketball. After that, he couldn't even swim – let alone compete – for an entire year. Unfortunately for him, that was the season that our team improved the most. While the rest of us were setting new personal records every day, he was sitting on the bleachers looking forlorn and crippled.
That year put him behind the rest of us once we entered high school. By then most of the boys on the team had been swimming together for a while, so we were already pretty good. Dario was finally able to participate again, but he had lost a lot of his learning momentum with that broken leg.
In 27 seconds Dario was back at the wall and Cole was diving into the water to complete the second stretch of the relay. After Cole's amazing swim Jon went, and then Patrick. Our team ended up getting third.
The whole competition went surprisingly well. Our school placed the second most times out of all of fifteen, behind only our rivals and in front of everyone else. I swam in a few other events and did fairly well in those, and Ashton tolerated my nicknames for the whole day. The only downside to the competition was my hurt finger, which I suppose I deserved, anyway.
After a long day of swimming and cheering and betting and winning, everyone made their way back to the hotel to crash for the night.
Just when I was about to collapse on my bed and go to sleep, someone knocked on our door. Dario made no move to get up and answer it, even though he was only a few feet from the door, and so I groaned and went to do it myself.
To my surprise, it was Ashton. She looked frazzled.
"Hi, I'm using your shower," she stated plainly as she barged in the door without waiting to be invited inside.
Dario shot up from his spot on his bed and covered his chest with his blanket. "Dude, she can't just barge in here, I'm half naked," he complained.
Ashton rolled her eyes. "You were also half naked at the swim competition earlier, where I saw your bare chest for hours. You didn't seem to mind then."
He made a face. "Well yeah, but this is in the comfort of my own home. Malcolm, how could you do this to me?"
"It's a hotel, you idiot, not your home. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take a shower." She spun around and entered the bathroom, slamming the door in my face when I tried to follow her in to ask her what she was doing.
"Um," I said, rapping on the door with my fist. "Am I allowed to ask you why you need to use our shower? And how did you know which room we were in?"
I heard nothing but the sound of running water for a few seconds before the door slightly opened and her head poked out. "My roommate is taking forever in the bathroom, and I really just want to go to sleep. Friends let friends use their bathrooms, right?" she said. I nodded slowly, not really understanding what was going on, and she continued. "Oh, and I know which room you're in because you ran me over right in front of it, remember?"
Oh. Right. Of course.
"Um, okay, but – "
"It'll only be for like ten minutes," she said, closing the door again before I had a chance to protest. "I promise I'll be gone soon!" she shouted through the door.
I stood there for a few seconds, stunned, and then, shaking my head, I went back to my bed and sat down. The only sounds in the room were the steady flow of the shower water running and the faint music coming from the radio on Dario's bedside table.
"Dude," my best friend whispered after a few moments. "Ashton is naked in there."
"Dario!" I said sternly but quietly. "That's disgusting."
He shrugged and pulled out a book. He flipped through the pages a few times and then got bored, putting it back where he found it. I watched him move around restlessly for a while, and then suddenly the sound of the water stopped.
"Hm, that was fast," I muttered to myself.
About a minute later, Ashton emerged from the bathroom. Clad in pink boxer shorts and a white tank-top, she sighed and twisted her blonde hair up into one of our towels to dry.
"Thanks, guys, I needed that," she said. I was expecting her to leave, but instead, she sat on the edge of Dario's bed, causing him to whine and shift uncomfortably.
"No problem, I guess," I said uneasily. "Isn't it against the rules for you to be in here? It's almost ten thirty." Curfew for our school, at least, was ten. We weren't supposed to be in other peoples' rooms after curfew. And yet here she was.
She shrugged and adjusted the towel on her head. "I figured that you wouldn't mind, seeing as you tricked me into being your friend anyway," she said.
"And that's what friends do, right? Break curfew together."
Dario groaned. "Friends also let other friends sleep when they're tired. Isn't that why you came in here anyway? So you could take a shower and then go to bed?" he complained.
I rolled my eyes. So did Ashton.
"Stop being such a baby," she said. "I think I liked you better when you were cocky and suggestive."
I sighed. "He gets cranky when he's tired," I explained.
"So how's the finger?" Ashton suddenly asked.
I stared at her. It took me a moment to realize that she was talking about the one she'd nearly broken earlier that day. Looking down at it, I noticed that it was swollen, but I hadn't really felt any pain for a few hours, so I was assuming it was fine.
"It's alright," I said. Another uncomfortable silence ensued. "…so, as your friend, I'm allowed to tell you that you did really well today, right?"
She laughed. "Does everything you say to me always have to come out as a question? I'm not that intimidating, am I?"
"I don't know," Dario butted in. "You're pretty scary."
"You did scream at me the first time I met you," I said in agreement. "And then the second time, you pushed me in a pool. Oh and the third time you told me to literally break a leg and then you literally broke my finger – "
"Alright, I get it," she said. "And thanks."
I had already forgotten what I'd said to her before the argument of her intimidation came up.
She saw my blank stare and sighed. "For telling me I did well today?"
"Oh, right. You're welcome."
"You did really great too. Oh, and as your friend, I have to say that you look really good in a swimsuit," she said.
My eyebrows rose. I definitely wasn't expecting her to say that. "What?" I asked in disbelief.
"What? Friends are allowed to call each other hot. So I'm just saying. You're hot."
Dario snorted into his pillow.
"Thanks," I said with a grin. "If friends are allowed to call each other hot, then are they allowed to kiss each other? Because I really want to kiss you right now."
"Oh, God," Dario groaned. I ignored him.
Ashton seemed to contemplate this for a while before she answered. "No," she said, and I felt my face fall, but not by much. I wasn't really expecting her to let me kiss her. "But boyfriends are," she finished.
"Oh. Well then, can I be your boyfriend?"
Again, she took a while to think about it first. "No," she said again.
I made a disappointed face at her.
"I just met you yesterday," she said defensively.
Dario sat up and let out a frustrated sigh. "Can you please just make out already so I can go to sleep? Who cares if you just met each other yesterday? Romeo and Juliet knew each other for like, an hour, before all that crap happened with them."
I looked expectantly at her. She looked back at me with an unreadable expression.
"Fine," she said. "I'll let you be my boyfriend. But that means no more knocking me over, or spilling soda on me, or insulting me when I lose. Got it?"
I smiled. "Okay!" I said, a little too happily. "…can I kiss you now?"
Ashton rolled her eyes. "Again with the questions," she said. And then, "I suppose so, yes."
I swooped down and pressed my lips to hers as Dario covered his head with his blanket.
"Still mad at me for running into you?" I said after we broke apart.
She smiled slightly. "That depends," she said. "Will you kiss me again?" I nodded and did as she said, this time with more intensity. I could tell just by the way she kissed back that she wasn't mad anymore.
To be honest, I don't know if she ever actually was.
A/N: The end! God, you have NO idea how long this took me. This is my longest one-shot yet! I like it a lot, but I re-read it and edited and re-read it again so many times that now I kind of just want to print it out and shred it in a paper shredder. Ugh. So sorry if there are any mistakes; having a fifteen page long one-shot will do that to you. I hope you enjoyed it! Please review! (:
P.S. I know NOTHING about swimming. Like, at all. I can't even swim. Sad, right? Anyway, the point is, I had to do a butt-load of research in order to write this, so I hope it's accurate. If you're a swimmer and you see something blatantly wrong, please let me know so I can fix it! Thanks. (MEGA-THANKS TO SKYTERRA AND LALAITH7 FOR LETTING ME KNOW SOME THINGS TO FIX - HAVING SWIMMERS FOR READERS REALLY HELPS!)
P.P.S. I stole the name Dario from my bestest friend forever, who also happens to have red hair and be a swimmer....heh. Dario, please don't kill me for making your character a douche and a playah (haha), I just felt like it, okay?! Sheesh.