W.I.T.C.H. Fan Fiction ❯ My Niece ❯ Day 4 ( Chapter 4 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
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Day 4
I woke up the next morning without any disruptions, compared to the prior mornings. But I was rather reluctant to get out of bed, owing to how Wilma had dissolved the previous evening. Still, it would look very odd for me to climb out the window so I could go to work, and I didn’t want to leave Sven in the house with nothing to do. So after gathering myself up, I walked out of my bedroom and into the kitchen/dining area.
As I expected, Wilma was at the table, having a bowl of cereal. And also like before, she seemed unhappy. Without saying anything and trying hard not to look directly at her, I walked over to the shelf to get myself a bowl and a cup. With those things in tow, I returned to the table and set up some breakfast for myself. From there, the only sounds in the area were the sound of Wilma, Sven, and I munching our breakfasts. It felt very awkward and tense in that morning, as if Wilma was about ready to explode.
After Wilma was done eating, she placed her bowl into the sink. I followed suit and went about cleaning the dishes. I sure hope I haven’t screwed up your mind anymore than I already have. I thought as I began applying the soap to the bowls. I’m not trying to be the bad guy. I’m only trying to help sort things out so that you can move on.
Once the dishware was clean, I then went about cleaning up and getting dressed for the day. All the while, I tried my best not to make Wilma anymore upset than she already was. But I knew that, eventually, I would have to face her. I was her half-uncle, after all, and it was my responsibility to take care of her for the time.
That time came almost too soon, as I was ready to go to work. That meant I needed to call Wilma to get her to go to the Howl House, as per the job shadow. With great reluctance, I said, “Are you ready to go to Connections, Wilma?”
To my relief, I heard her say, “Just about. Let me get my shoes on.”
“OK. But don’t take too long. I don’t want to be late for work.”
I didn’t really need to worry, as Wilma was out of the guest area about only five seconds later. Once out in the main room, she said, “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting.”
“You didn’t.” I replied. “Now, because this is a regular work day for me, I won’t be coming home until quite late, and your job shadow will be over with fairly early. So once you get off of work, head straight home. It might be wise to ask for a visitor pass, so as not to alert the police.”
“But why is that needed?” Wilma asked.
“Well, I hate to say it to you, but the police are quite strict about letting people of your age group dink around during school hours, and…”
“OK, I get your point.” Wilma said, looking bemused. “How then do I obtain one of these passes?”
“You can ask William for one of them. By law, every business in Whitesage is required to keep a number of them for purposes similar to yours.”
“I sure hope you know what you’re doing, Arthur. Anyway, we better get going.” And with that Wilma, Sven, and myself were out the door and off to work.
Minutes later, we were at the Howl House. After dropping off Sven, we stopped by Connections. “Well, here we are, Wilma. I’ll see you this evening.” I said.
“OK then. I’ll see you then.” Wilma said. She then walked through the door and walked towards the counter. Seeing that she was in the right spot, I then walked off to the Mystic’s Emporium to do my work.
The first half of the day’s work was nothing unusual. It was pretty quiet for the day, with me doing more of the paperwork and keeping tabs on the inventory. There was some talk about the upcoming Samhain festival, but nothing that got us really talking, especially in my case. I felt entirely wasted by the time lunch arrived, something that Bryan was quick to notice.
I was munching away on an apple when Bryan approached me. “Are you doing OK, Arthur?” he said.
I looked up and said, “I guess so. Is there something wrong?”
“Not really. You seem kind of preoccupied.”
“To be honest, I am.” I said, putting the apple down on the desk. “I’ve been having issues in regards to taking care of Wilma.”
“You mean the redheaded girl that came in yesterday?”
“Yes. She’s an emotional wreck, and I don’t know how to make her feel better.”
“Well, she seemed to be quite interested in that frog necklace.”
“I don’t that will help her out in the long run, Bryan. She has a ton of issues that can’t be fixed with something as simple as a frog necklace.”
“Like what?”
“Oh, she’s in bad straits with her mother, her friends, her boyfriend…”
“Oh, I get it. The usual teenage girl problems.”
“I haven’t finished yet, Bryan. She also has problems with her academics, and she also has problems with the swim team, in which she’s a member.”
“As I said before, the usual teenage girl problems. Except for the swim team part.” Bryan said.
“Not to be rude, Bryan, but why would you care? You don’t have a family.”
“No, I don’t. But I do have siblings that have teenage offspring. Particularly my older brother, Martin; he has two boys and a girl in that teenager group. And my older sister, Ella, has a girl in that age group, and another will be joining her later this year.”
“Hm. I never heard. Or maybe I heard and I forgot.” After a short break, I then asked Bryan, “Have any of your siblings gone insane raising them?”
“I don’t get what you’re trying to say, Arthur.” Bryan replied in a serious tone. I quickly realized that he DID get what I was trying to say, but didn’t like how I worded it. Understanding my mistake, I then said, “Let me rephrase that. How much trouble have they had trying to raise them?”
“Some. Of course, that’s normal; teenagers tend to be rather unhinged.”
“Well, how do they do it without doing something regretful?”
“As I can’t speak for them, the best advice is to treat them much like a spouse: in that, one should be patient and listen. I think there are a few other things, but that’s the primary thing.” After another break, he then said, “Why did you ask me this?”
“Well, it’s in regards to Wilma. She’s technically my niece.” I answered.
“Eh… I find that hard to believe. She doesn’t look much like you.”
“Let me explain, Bryan.” I then spent a good ten minutes explaining the predicament I was in. When I was done, I noticed the disbelief on Bryan’s face, who then said, “Are you sure you haven’t been smoking something?”
“No! It’s all true! I’m just trying to take care of her until we can get things straightened out, and I need advice on the best way to handle her until the end of this week.”
“I wish I could help out more, but what I’ve told you is the best I can do for now.” After stretching a bit, he then said, “Well, the lunch break is almost over, Arthur. You better get back to your apple.” And with that he left. I was then left eating the remains on my apple, frustrated on not getting any more info needed to help my cause.
The rest of the day went by quite slowly, and soon enough, I was out the door and towards the remaining stops.
The first stop was Connections to print out the next section of homework for Wilma, though I had doubts that it would ever get done. The place was mostly empty, though there were a few teenagers at some of the computers. I slipped into one of the vacant computers and logged in. I saw that the new documents from Mrs. Rickenbacker were up, but I also a new message from someone named Taranee in the Spam file. Wait a minute. That’s one of Wilma’s friends! I thought as I stared at the E-Mail message. Eh, I’ll read it once I get back home before I go to bed. I then moved the message into my Inbox section, and then I went to Mrs. Rickenbacker’s E-Mail, where I printed out the attachments. From there I collected the papers and I walked over to William for the tab. “Hi Will.” I said as I approached the counter. “How’s your day been?”
“Reasonable.” William replied. “And yours?”
“Can’t complain, though it was a bit dull. By the way, how did the job shadow go?”
“You mean the one with Wilma?”
“Yes. I can’t think of any others I would be referring to.”
‘You’ve got a point, Arthur. Overall, it went pretty well, though Wilma insisted being in the back area making the drinks and other stuff. When I asked about the insistence, she said that because of my name, it reminded her of her former friends. She seemed quite down in the dumps after saying that.”
“Well, that’s because her friends called her Will. I find it rather odd that she got such a name like that.”
“Perhaps she’s a bit of a tomboy.” William suggested.
“Perhaps. Anyway, I’ve already told you about her problems and my quest to deal with them, so I don’t need to say much more on that.” I stated. “Now, while I’m here, is it OK if you could get a few paninis to go alongside with the printouts?”
“Sure. What kind would you like?”
“How about one with chicken and another with tilapia. I can then split them in half and allow Wilma to have a taste of each.”
“Anything else?”
“I think that’ll be it for tonight, Will.”
“Alright then. I’ll be back with the paninis and I will then ring them up along with the printouts.” With that, Will went to the kitchen out back. He was back about ten minutes later with a bag containing the sandwiches. After paying ¤32.230 for everything, I was then out the door and towards the Howl House, where I picked up Sven and was on my way home.
It was about 6:50 PM when I finally got to the house. After letting Sven off the leash, I then put the sandwiches into the oven and went to the guest area, as I figured Wilma went in there. I was correct; she was on the futon, snoozing. Knowing that I had brought food, I tapped her on the shoulder, to which she groaned and opened her eyes. “Hi Wilma.” I said as she began to sit up. “I’m home.”
“Ugh.” Wilma said. “You took forever to get home. What was holding you up?”
“Well, I work from 8:30 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening. I stopped by Connections to talk to William to see about how the job shadow went and to get supper for the two of us, and then I dropped by the Howl House to pick up Sven. It takes a while to get all of those things done.”
“Eh, I guess I can’t blame you for taking so long. It’s just that there’s nothing to do here.”
“You can always read one of my books to pass the time.”
“I’d rather lick a poison dart frog.”
In response to that comment, I rolled my eyes, as if to let her know that it was only a suggestion. I then said, “I have supper, provided that you want it.”
“Oh yes. All I had for lunch was a chicken salad offered at work.”
“Oh. I got two sandwiches, and one of them was chicken. I take it then that you don’t want that sandwich.”
“Well, what’s the other sandwich?”
“It’s consists of tilapia.”
“What’s that?”
“It’s a common type of fish.”
“I’ll have that, then. You can have the chicken sandwich, if you don’t mind.”
“No. I’m perfectly fine with it.” And with that, we made our way to the kitchen/dining area, where I pulled out the sandwiches while Wilma got some plates and cups. Pretty soon the two of us were munching away at our sandwiches, though Wilma was eating hers at quite a pace I hadn’t seen prior to tonight; she must have been very hungry. Seeing this, I said, “You must have been hungry, Wilma.”
“I am.” Wilma responded. “That salad I had wasn’t terribly filling.”
“I guess so.” After I took a bite out of my sandwich, chewed it, and swallowed it, I then said, “So, how did the job shadow go?”
“I guess it went OK, but I refused to work up at the counter because of William.”
“Why is that?” I asked, though by now I knew the reason why.
“Well, it reminds me of the nickname my former friends used to call me by.” Wilma responded. While she said this, she became rather depressed yet again.
“You mean Will?”
“Exactly. I thought everyone ordering stuff or paying for stuff would call him Will, and I can’t deal with that. Not after what I’ve been through.”
“Well, I’m sorry that you fell like that, Wilma. I just thought that it would help cover the fact about our awkward situation, and at the very least it’ll keep you from being bored.”
“Yes, it did help me out in the boredom department. I appreciate that.” After a short break, Wilma then said, “I’m going to the Howl House for my next job shadow, right?”
“Yes. Since you’ll be with Sven, you can take him home with you when the job shadow is done.”
“OK. Just thought I’d ask.”
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions, Wilma. I’m more than happy to answer them.”
The rest of the supper went by uneventfully for the two of us. I then began cleaning the table, while Wilma left for the main room with Sven in tow. I was just about done with the table when Wilma said, “Arthur, would it be OK if you could take me swimming tonight?”
I stumbled a little when I heard that. Considering that her issues with the swim team had contributed to her running off, that was one of the last things I ever expected to hear from her. After getting my bearings set again, I asked, “Eh… I didn’t hear you quite clearly, Wilma. What did you say?” I knew that it was a lie, since I did hear her very clearly.
“I would like to go swimming, Arthur. If there’s a swimming pool around town, can you take me there?” Wilma responded.
After setting the wash cloth back into the sink, I walked into the main room where, as before, Wilma on the couch and Sven on her lap. I then said, “I thought that would be one of the furthest things from your mind, owing to what happened back at your home.”
“Does it really matter?” Wilma said. “There’s nothing for me to do here, and I’ve almost always gone swimming whenever I have some down time in the past few years.”
I could’ve gone into a spiel regarding her ‘does it really matter’ comment, but I knew it wasn’t in my best interest to bring it up. And I also knew that I hadn’t had much exercise in the past few days, so with those two things in mind, I said, “Well, if you want to go swimming, that’s fine with me. That is, of course, you brought along a swimsuit with you.”
“I have that, Arthur. I wouldn’t ask about going swimming otherwise. I actually have quite a bit more than just that, to be honest with you.”
“So I hear. Well, let me get some of my stuff, and by that time our digestive tracks will have settled down enough that we can hit the water.”
“What kind of stuff are you talking about?”
“Mainly my swimwear, plus my inflatable boat set. Every once in a while I go to the pool area to row, and it’s actually been awhile since I’ve done that.”
“That sounds like a plan, Arthur. Let me go get my stuff together, and I’ll then get cleaned up.” And with that Wilma left for the guest area. Once the door was closed, I went to my bedroom to gather up my aquatic gear, which included a jammer, a rash guard, a wetsuit, and the aforementioned inflatable raft along with the oars and a hand pump. After going through everything, I packed them into some of my grocery bags and I then entered the main room. Only Sven was there, sitting on the couch and looking towards the door that led to the bathroom. Knowing that Wilma was showering, I then sat on the couch to wait.
Soon enough, Wilma was done cleaning up and emerged from the bathroom. She was wearing the same clothes as she did prior: a t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and her sneakers; more likely than not she had put on her swimsuit and then put on her clothes over it to save time in the locker room. Barely noticing me, she said, “Let me get my stuff, and then we’ll be on our way.” She then walked into the guest area, and came out a few seconds later with a small duffel bag in tow and her jacket on. “OK, Arthur. I’m ready.”
“Alright then. Let me get the keys.” I said. I then turned to Sven and said, “Sven, I’ll be back in an hour or two. Please don’t do anything stupid.” I said. I then went to grab the keys, and soon enough we were out of the house, the doors were locked, and we were walking out to the South Whitesage RCA Center.
The South Whitesage Recreation, Community, and Activity Center (or RCA for short) was one of two RCA centers in Whitesage. The first one, located in the northern part of Whitesage, was started in 1970 and was completed five years later. And for a while, it served all of Whitesage quite well. But owing to the rapid growth of the town, having one such center was simply impractical. In 1993, construction on a second RCA center on the south side of town began, and it too was completed five years later. Regardless of whatever locale one chose, both facilities were much like Recreation centers throughout North America. Of course, Wilma and I came to the RCA center for the use of its aquatic center.
Being that it was a Monday, there wasn’t too much activity going on in the RCA center from what Wilma and I could see. Without giving it much thought we walked into the front door, where we were greeted by the doorman. I didn’t recognize him, so I assumed that he just started. “Let me get out my ID card, sir. I’m a citizen here.” I told him as I got into my wallet and took out my card, along with some money. The man looked at the card and said, “It looks good. Does the young lady have her ID card?”
“No. She’s actually out of town.”
“So I see. In that case it’ll be ¤17.000.”
“I have the cash, sir.” I then dished out the proper currency, and after taking a look at things, he said, “Everything seems to be in order. Let me get your cards prepped.” He then took out two small index cards and, using one of those classic library stampers, stamped in the date onto the blank line. “Here are your cards. Enjoy yourselves.” He then pulled open the gate and we were both inside. As we walked through the lobby, Wilma said, “What are the cards for?”
“They are used to show that you are using the facilities legally, and they are good for the entire day, so one can return here later in the day without paying again, provided that one has the card in possession.” I answered.
“That makes sense.” Wilma said. Then she looked at me and said, “I sure hope the pool is still open; it’s kind of late.”
“Don’t worry, Wilma. The pools here are open until midnight, so we have plenty of time to use it.”
She seemed a bit relieved when I told her that. About a minute later we were at the locker rooms. “Alright Wilma, I’ll see you in a bit.” I said to Wilma.
“OK, Arthur.” Wilma responded, and with that she entered the women’s locker area. I then entered the men’s locker area, and after finding an empty locker I began to change into the more appropriate attire in one of the bathroom stalls. Why would Wilma want to go swimming? I thought as began to undress. It doesn’t make any sense on someone who had her life ruined in part due to a demotion on the swim team. Outside of going home, this is one of the last things she would do. I cleared my mind just long enough to completely change into my aquatic ensemble, and I then began working on inflating my raft, which I remembered took quite a long time to fully inflate. I sure hope that this was not a metaphor for something else. I can’t see her purposefully drowning herself, but I can’t imagine her swimming, as it’ll probably bring back bad memories. Eventually, the raft was fully inflated, and once the hand pump was put away in the locker, I was then out to the pool area with raft, oars, and a towel in hand.
As one might imagine, the pool area of the RCA center was not just one pool, but a series of pools. For this RCA center, there were four: first, there was a small, shallow, circular pool off to the side and fenced off with a gate called the youngster pool; I don’t have to go into further description with that one. Closest to the locker room was the recreation pool that was 15 meters square and about 1 meter deep. This pool was used by amateur swimmers and for all sorts of other aquatic activities, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the most used of all of the pools. Next to it was the actual swimming pool, which was 15 meters wide, 25 meters long, and about 3 meters deep. This was where the experienced swimmers went, and it was where I would do my rowing exercises. Finally, next to that was the diving pool, which was 15 meters square, about 5 meters deep, and was equipped with three pairs of springboards at 1, 2, and 3 meters heights. This was used by both divers in the traditional sense, but was also used for scuba diving classes. There was a pair of lifeguards stationed at each pool.
The pool area as a whole wasn’t very busy; only 2 other adults were using the swimming pool. Not seeing Wilma anywhere, I walked over to one of the tables off to the side and placed my towel onto one of the chairs. I then walked to the swimming pool and placed my raft into the 2nd lane. I crawled into the raft and got the oars into the slots, and I was just about to start rowing when I heard Wilma shout out, “Arthur! I’m over here!”
I looked to my right, and I saw Wilma standing to the side of the swimming pool. She was wearing a black swimsuit with two vertical pink stripes running down the straps and sides and a solid black swim cap, and she had a pair of swim goggles running across the top of her cap. I got out of the raft and walked over to her. “Sorry that I kept you waiting.” Wilma said.
“Eh, it’s no problem, Wilma.” I responded. “I’m going to go start rowing, so…”
“Hang on a second. Can you get a stopwatch?”
I was quite puzzled when I heard that. I didn’t think she would EVER say something of that nature, but I didn’t want to refuse her, so I replied, “Let me go to the supply office and I’ll see if I can find one. Be sure to go watch my raft, OK?” Wilma nodded her head in compliance, and I walked over to the supply office in an attempt to fill in the rather odd request. When I got there and knocked on the door, a middle-aged woman responded. “Is there something I can help you with?” she asked.
“Yes. I was wondering if I could borrow a stopwatch.” I responded. Unsurprisingly, the woman looked at me funny, and then asked, “Why?”
“My… niece requested it.” I said. I then looked back towards the pool area and saw Wilma stretching out along the parameter. Content that she hadn’t left, I then turned back to the women in the supply office and said, “She didn’t give me a reason.”
“Must be an outsider.” The woman mumbled under her breath. She then looked up at me and said, “Hold on, I’ll be back with the stopwatch.” She then went back into the office, and I swear it wasn’t more than ten seconds later that she emerged with a stopwatch. After handing over the stopwatch, she said, “Here you are, sir. And don’t blame me if others look at you funny.”
Without saying anything, I nodded towards her as if to say ‘Thanks’, and I walked back to Wilma, who was still stretching out along the side of the pool. “I got the stopwatch, Wilma.” I said to her as I got closer.
“Oh, thank you, Arthur.” She responded. “Let me get into position and…”
“Eh… Wilma. I was wondering something.”
“About what?”
“The stopwatch. What do you need it for?”
“I need it so that you can time me.”
“I thought you wanted nothing to do with this sort of swimming, especially owing what you told me earlier.” I said as if to remind her not to bring her troubles out in public.
“Arthur, this is what I live for.” Wilma explained as she adjusted her goggles over her eyes. “Besides, if I don’t swim every now and again, I don’t feel right.”
“Well, if you insist.” I said. “I still don’t like your idea, though.” Halfway ignoring me, Wilma climbed up onto the starting platform, looked over to me and said, “I plan on swimming the 50-meter freestyle, which means start timing me on the signal and stop timing me when I touch out back here. Whenever you’re ready, I’m ready.”
Reluctantly, I brought the stopwatch up to my eyeline, and slowly said, “Get ready.” Wilma responded by taking the starting position; after waiting a second, I then said firmly, “GO.” And at the same time I started up the stopwatch and Wilma launched herself off of the platform and into the water; soon after she was up on the surface and doing the front crawl at a fairly remarkable rate. Wow, she can certainly swim fast. I thought as I saw her swim out to the wall. She’s a much faster swimmer than…than… I then stopped thinking for a minute, as I immediately remembered that Tony, her father, was also a swimmer. I then began to remember back to my high school days, and I remembered watching Tony swimming in a team practice, thinking about how stupid it was that he was doing this. To be fair, he was a competent swimmer, but I knew that it was all just a ploy to get the girls.
My thoughts were quickly flooded out when I began hearing splashing sounds, and that they were getting progressively louder. Oh right! The stopwatch! I thought as I put my attention back towards Wilma and her swimming. About a second later, she touched the wall and I stopped the stopwatch. While I waited for Wilma to catch her breath, I looked up at the Whitesage record boards and then looked at the stopwatch, and the difference of times was quite noted. “That was a really good race you put on!” I said. “You actually beat the best Whitesage 50-meter freestyle time by about two seconds.”
“That’s irrelevant to me.” Wilma said blankly. “All that matters is the time on the stopwatch. What does it say?”
“Oh that. It says 28.51.” Apparently, that wasn’t a very good for her, as once she heard the time, she slammed her fists into the water and screeched, “DANG IT! WHY CAN’T I SWIM ANY FASTER!?”
Everyone in the area quickly had their eyes on us. I was very embarrassed by the whole scene, but Wilma seemed entirely oblivious to all of the eyes on us. I should have refused her stopwatch request. I thought as I tried to get Wilma’s voice out of my ears. I just hope I can defuse her bad mood before another bad thing happens. Putting the stopwatch into the raft, I then said to Wilma, “I take it that the time I told you isn’t as good as you would like.”
“I don’t get it.” Wilma said, completely ignoring what I said. “How can be swimming this poorly?”
“Well, I wish I had the answers, Wilma, but as this is my first time seeing you swim, I have no idea what advice I can give you.” I said.
“I don’t think any sort of advice can help me.” Wilma said. “It’s just that, I was so good at swimming in the past, and now I can’t seem to get past the 28 second mark.” She then sighed and mumbled, “At this rate I’ll never be as competitive as Cornelia.”
Cornelia. I thought. That name sounds awfully familiar… Wait! That’s one of her friends! Maybe I can find a way to solve one of her problems. So, while trying hard not to let the beans spill, I said to Wilma, “Is this Cornelia you are talking about the girl that got promoted…”
“No.” Wilma responded as she took her goggles off. “She’s an ice skater, and a really good one. Ever since I’ve known her, she’s won just about every ice skating competition she participated in, and two years ago was even offered to travel with the Canadian ice skating teams to the Winter Olympics.”
“Did she?”
“She declined. But the point is that all she seems to do is win, and as things stand right now, I won’t even get the chance to win.”
Hmmm. Maybe this is the problem. I thought. Perhaps she’s been so fixated on winning that she’s forgotten why she swims in the first place. If I can redirect her focus towards a less competitive mindset, maybe she will rethink her priorities. I then stepped into the raft and leaned over towards Wilma, who still was rather frustrated about her performance. “Wilma, I’d hate to ask questions, knowing the mood that you are in. But I want to help you out, and I can only do so if you are willing to listen.” Wilma nodded her head yes and said, “OK, I’m listening.”
“How did you get interested in swimming as a whole?”
“Well, it was back when I was five years old.” Wilma said. “It had been a year or so since my parents got divorced…”
I winched a bit when I heard that, as I knew exactly what she was referring to. She must have seen this, as she then said, “Are you OK, Arthur?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. That divorce comment kind of struck a nerve.” I said.
“I don’t blame you. I have issues with that myself.” Wilma admitted. “Anyway, my mother had a business trip to the Bahamas that she needed to attend. It was for only a few days, but out of concern for me she decided to take me along and added a few extra days to the trip. And one of the things that we decided to do after her business stuff was done was to snorkel out in the reefs.”
“I’m assuming that you really liked it.”
“Well, if you ever talk to my mother, she’ll tell you that what she remembers most about the snorkeling activity is me hitting my head against a rock while I was swimming towards some fishes. But to me, what I remember most is seeing all of the sea-life and its surroundings in all of its shapes and colors, and being entranced by it all. It felt as if it was all a beautiful dream that I wanted to live forever.
After that, I tried to go swimming whenever I could get the chance, regardless of the time of year. Though it wasn’t the same as snorkeling in a tropical reef, the pool didn’t feel as dull as it did when I was learning to swim. In a way, it became my home away from home, and for a while I cherished it a bit more every time I visited the changing room and smelled the chlorine.”
“I see. Now, another question. Why then did you take up competitive swimming?”
“Well, I originally took up competitive swimming so I could swim more often, and because I thought I would be good at it. And at first I WAS good at it. But for some reason, I’m not good at it anymore, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ve stopped enjoying it. Even while I was changing back at your place, I was having second thoughts about getting back into the water.” After a short pause, she said, “I’m sorry that I made such a scene, Arthur. This whole idea of mine was really stupid.”
Well, I guess I could’ve figured it out on my own, but at least now I know where she stands. I thought. And now I know exactly what needs to be done to solve this problem, if only to rekindle a passion in her life. With the thoughts gathered up, I then said to Wilma, “Don’t try to take it so hard, Wilma. I understand how frustrating it is not to perform up to your standards or the standards of someone else, but I think the problem is not in regards to swimming, but rather HOW you are swimming.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I don’t mean by your technique, if that’s what you think. What I was referring to was your fixation to use swimming as a way to achieve a goal instead of swimming for the sake of enjoyment. I remember reading a quote from a book called the Art of Peace that says testing, competing with, and criticizing others weakens and defeats you. Now, this quote was more based on the regular dealings in life, but the way I see it, there are plenty of connections to athletics. By spending so much time trying to make oneself better over others in athletic endeavors, we are making some people greedy and superficial via their success, while leaving the others miserable via their failures.
It seems as if you have gotten caught up in this travesty, and look what it has done to you: all you are concerned with is victory, and in the process you have turned you passion of swimming into an end unto itself, instead of using swimming as a means to an end, which is leaving you all bent out of shape. If you can rethink of swimming for the sake of enjoyment, much like you did back in your childhood, I believe that you will rekindle that passion.”
Wilma’s face throughout that little lecture was quite hard to read; there must have been a lot of emotions and thoughts running through her head during that time. Perhaps after getting all of her thoughts in order, she said, “So, are you telling me that I should QUIT the swim team?”
“To be honest, if I were you, I would do so.” I said flatly. “But I’m not you. Provided that you ever go home, if you stay with the swim team, that’s your decision. But I would really reconsider your commitment to something that makes you frustrated more often than not.” After waiting a minute, I said, “Well, I guess we better get going back home.”
“Eh, is it OK if we can stay at the pool a bit longer?”
“Why? I don’t want to make more upset than you already are.”
“No, I didn’t mean it like that.” Wilma explained. “Sometimes I go swimming just to clear up and some of my thoughts, and after you saying all that you did, there’s a lot I need to think about.”
“So in other words, you are going to consider my advice, both literally and metaphorically.” I said.
“I guess you can say it that way.” Wilma said as she put her goggles back on. “I’ll let you know when I’m ready to go back.” And with that she dunked down, pushed off of the wall, and began swimming the front crawl again, but this time at a more leisurely pace. I then got the oars situated into the slots of the raft and began rowing. I hope that you drop your obsession with competing with others, Wilma. I thought as I made my way to the midpoint of the pool. All it ever does is make life harder than it should be. Just be happy with your passion, and let it be.
For the next half hour or so, Wilma and I went about our aquatic activities. It only stopped when Wilma waved at me from one end of the pool, signaling that she had done enough swimming for the evening. I rowed over to her and said, “You done?”
“Yes.” Wilma said. She didn’t sound the least bit tired. “I think it’s getting a bit late.”
After seeing the clock, I said, “You’re right. Let me get my stuff out, and then we can get changed.” With that I carefully made my way out of the raft, while Wilma dunked down and swam over to the nearest pool ladder. Once out of the pool, she took off her goggles, walked over to me and asked, “Do you need any help carrying your things?”
“Oh no, Wilma. I can manage by myself. Thanks for the offer, though.” I responded. We then walked over to the tables to retrieve our towels, and I waited while Wilma dried herself off with hers. She looked and seemed far more content than she had prior, which was a good sign. I could still sense there was quite a bit of angst within her; whether it was about her poor swimming time or something else was not clear.
Once Wilma was done getting dried off, we walked over to the locker entrances, where I said to Wilma, “You can go ahead; I need to drop off the stopwatch.”
“OK Arthur. I’ll see you in a bit.” Wilma responded, and she then went into the women’s locker room. I went over to the supply office, where I dropped off the stopwatch. The woman didn’t seem to notice, though it might have been that she didn’t want to notice I returned the stopwatch, owing to what happened earlier. I couldn’t blame her for feeling like that; the whole incident was definitely upsetting by any standard. But I didn’t have any time to dwell on it, and it wouldn’t do me any good to do so. So with that, I made my way into the men’s locker room and changed back into my street clothes. As before, I was out of the men’s locker room before Wilma was outside of the women’s, though I probably was waiting no more than five seconds before she emerged. Without saying anything, we made our way to the front door and left, but not before I said to the doorman, “Have a nice evening.” He nodded to me, as if to say the same thing to me.
The walk home was rather quiet and uneventful, though it was a bit chilly. This was not unusual for October in Whitesage, but it was far more noticeable after spending a good half hour or so in the pool area of the RCA center, which is always quite warm. I could only imagine how Wilma was feeling; she spent her time in the water whereas I spent it out of the water.
We eventually made it back to my place. Sven, who was sleeping on the couch when we arrived, quickly bounded off of the couch and jumped up on Wilma, his tail wagging wildly. “Oh hi, Sven!” Wilma said as he approached her. “Did you miss me?” I could notice out of the corner of my eye that she was smiling a bit, though I was sure that she didn’t notice. I then went about the house to make sure that nothing got tore up, and seeing that everything was in its proper place, I said, “I’m going downstairs to take care of some little things and then I’ll take a shower.”
“OK Arthur. I’ll be taking a shower myself pretty soon, and then I’ll go to bed.” Wilma responded. I then headed downstairs and waited for Wilma to start taking her shower. Once I heard the water running, I then called Susan. After the obligatory hello, I said, “So, how are things?”
“About as good as they can be, owing the circumstances.” Susan replied. “How’s Wilma?”
“She’s doing OK, though she still quite frustrated about her swimming times.”
“You took her swimming?”
“Yes. It was her idea. And it was also her idea to be timed in a 50-meter freestyle swim. Looking back at it, I should have made her reconsider that thought.”
“I probably would have too, Arthur. Up until she ran off, she had been complaining about not swimming as fast as she wanted to…”
“Well, apparently, a time of 28.51 is considered too slow for her. And like you, I don’t know much about what would be considered a good swimming time in the 50-meter freestyle, even though I watched Tony swim it a few times when I was Wilma’s age.”
“Oh yeah. I completely forgot that Tony was part of the Fadden Hills High School swim team. Eh, but his efforts really wouldn’t apply that well to Wilma.” After a short pause, Susan said, “So, what exactly happened?”
“Well, she raised a big stink about her performance. I decided to ask a few questions about how she got involved with swimming…”
“Oh, you mean about that trip we took to the Bahamas where she bumped her head against a rock during a snorkeling activity?”
“Yeah, that’s the example she gave to me.”
“Don’t I ever remember that one. She had a bruise of her forehead for days afterward, not to mention how much pain she was in after she hit her head. Though to be fair, after the soreness went away, she wanted to return to the water. I made sure to keep a close eye on her whenever she went swimming after that.”
“I see. Now I understand what Wilma was saying to me at the pool when she told me the story.”
“Anyway, Arthur, what happened after Wilma’s meltdown?”
“I went on a spiel about how swimming as a competitive endeavor was bad, and that she should just swim for the sake of enjoying the activity. Or, to put it more simply, I told her that it would be in her best interest to quit the swim team. Of course, I left it open-ended for her sake, since it would be her decision to quit or not.”
“Hmm. I never thought of it that way. And it would be nice for her to have more time to do her homework, provided that she had the drive to do it.”
“Well, let’s not jump ahead, Susan. She hasn’t made up her mind about quitting the swim team just yet, though after swimming at a leisurely pace for a good half hour, she seemed a bit more relaxed and agreeable than before. She even offered to carry some of my rowing goods when we were done, as I went rowing in the pool while she went swimming.”
“I see. Anything else?”
“Her little job shadow at a cyber café went well, though she insisted on working behind the scenes, since the person in charge of the café section is named William.”
“Oh. I see. I can understand why she’d do that.”
“Yeah. Anyway, is there anything significant going on back in Heatherfield?”
“Well, Taranee called me to ask about what was going on with Wilma, and I told her about where she was and the predicament she’s in. As I promised, I gave her your E-Mail address to send a message to you, and I told her to forward the message to the other girls.”
“Actually, I got an E-Mail from Taranee just this afternoon. I haven’t looked at it, though. Anything else worth saying to me?”
“No, not really. I guess I’ll talk to you tomorrow evening.”
“OK Susan. Take it easy, and I’ll hear from you tomorrow. Bye.”
“Bye.” Susan said. I then put the phone up and turned on the computer. After it warmed up a bit, I checked my E-Mail account and found Taranee’s E-Mail straight away. After opening up the E-Mail, the message read as thus:
I was told from Ms. Vandom that Will ran off here, and that I should use your E-Mail address to contact you.
I don’t know what set Will off, but if it’s me, I’m terribly sorry. I would never purposely hurt her, no matter how bad of a mood each of us might be in. If you can tell me what’s been eating at her, I promise I will do whatever I can to help.
I’ve sent word of your E-Mail address to the rest of our group so that they may communicate with you. I suspect that you’ll be getting E-Mails from them tomorrow, if not sooner.
Please be gentle with Will until she gets back home.
Sincerely, Taranee
After noting what was written, I closed out of my account and turned off the computer. I then went upstairs to check on Wilma, who by now had been finished with her shower. She was now in her pajamas, with Sven laying his head on her lap. “You doing OK?” I asked.
“Yeah. I’m just drying out a bit before I go to bed.” Wilma responded.
“I see. Well, let me get my night clothes, and then I’ll get cleaned up and ready for bed.”
“OK Arthur. I’ll probably be in bed by the time you get done cleaning up, so if you don’t see me in the main room, that’s the reason why.”
“Understood, Wilma.” I said. I then walked into my bedroom to get my night clothes and I then heading back downstairs to get cleaned up when Wilma said, “Oh, one last thing before I go to bed.”
“And that is?” I asked
“Thanks for taking me to the pool this evening.”
“Don’t mention it, Wilma. I’m just trying to make your life more enjoyable.” I then continued my trek downstairs and, once in the basement bathroom, I took a shower. Once that was done I headed back upstairs, where I saw only Sven on the couch. I then went into my bedroom and fell asleep very quickly.
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