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Saturday afternoon at the swim arena garnered a packed house. People were clamoring to see the new team member and if the girls were going to make it to the state championship again. Spencer peeked from the locker room and into stands with apprehension.
“I never expected there to be so many people.”
Michael watched her with amusement. “This is nothing, you should see states. Now that’s a crowd.”
Spencer closed the door with a thud. “I’m so nervous.”
While she’d swam in front of many crowds before, California University was a much larger school than any other she’d been to.
Michael held out her arms and Spencer happily walked into them allowing herself to be held.
“Don’t worry Spencer you’ll be great.”
“You think so?”
“I’m positive,” Michael comforted.
Spencer looked down at the slightly shorter girl. “Thank you.” She placed a light peck upon Michael’s lips.
Michael was the most supportive girlfriend that Spencer ever had. Spencer wanted to make it a point to be more loving toward the girl that seemed to be trying so hard with her.
The coach knocked twice as was customary to announcing his presence in the women’s locker room. “Okay girls, bring it in!”
The girls all grabbed a bench and prepared to listen intently to the plan of attack for this meet.
“For some of you this is nothing new just another race in the new season. For others it’s a debut.” He smiled at Spencer. “And unfortunately there are some that this is your last season….”
The coach turned his eyes to Ashley who smiled back somberly. She and the coach had developed a special bond over the years. He seemed to be the only man that could and would ever tame the wild Ashley Davies. He gave her advice in and out of the pool. She listened mainly because he held the key to her swim career in the palm of his hand, but also because he had proven time and again he was truly on her side. She trusted the coach and respected him as a father figure. He looked out for her and she won matches for him.
“No matter what stage in your career I want you to give it your all out there. We made it to states last year, I have my eyes on nationals this year. Are you with me?”
The girls screamed their agreement in unison. After a quick prayer the girls lined up and began filing out. They looked great in their matching red and gold suites. More gold then red on their meet suits then the mostly red ones they used for practice.
Spencer’s race was later in the meet and relays were last so she assumed a seat on a bench and prepared to cheer the other girls on. To her surprise Ashley took a seat next to her. The backstroke was first so Michael was focused on her warm up routine. Spencer wanted so badly to say something to the girl next to her, but as she searched her brain nothing came out. She opted for silence instead.
Her discomfort only lasted a moment as she heard her name being screamed by a small group behind her. She turned to find her mother, father, and two brothers waving like mad. Her father Arthur sported a giant red number one finger on his hand.
“Is that your family?”
Spencer turned her attention toward Ashley. “Yeah, they come to all my major meets. Embarrassing, I know.”
“No, not at all. We should all be so lucky.”
Spencer didn’t have a chance to reply as Ashley returned her attention to the pool. Her attention didn’t remain on Ashley long as the first race was underway.
To Spencer’s surprise the quiet and often reclusive Ashley was incredibly audible if not supportive during the race. It was like she became another person.
“Let’s go Mike!”
It seemed that even people Ashley hated she would cheer on during the race. That was how dedicated to her team she was. Nothing outside the pool mattered when they were at a match.
Michael returned shortly after wearing a big smile.
“Congrats babe!” Spencer enthused.
Michael was surprised when Spencer greeted her with yet another kiss of the day. “Wow. Remind me to win races more often.”
Spencer smiled. Maybe it was the excitement of the race but she was finding herself feeling oddly affectionate. Michael seemed to happily bask in it until it was Spencer’s turn at bat.
“Go get ‘em babe!”
Spencer smiled as she stretched and set her mind on the race.
Ashley and Michael sat next to each other in uncomfortable silence as the arena buzzed around them. “So you guys are like a couple now, huh?”
“Hardly. If I wanted her, I’d have her by now.”
Michael’s jaw tightened as she tried to keep a cool head in front the entire school.
“Please Ashley. You’re just mad because I beat you to the punch. And I’m thinking of having her in your lane.”
Ashley whirled on Michael. “Don’t you dare.”
“Try and stop me.”
Ashley had to think quick. Not only was Michael thinking of disrespecting her lane but she was only doing it to mess with her. She really didn’t care about Spencer.
“Well let’s just see who can get her in the lane first,” Ashley tried.
“Excuse me? I don’t know if you witnessed that exchange earlier, but we’re dating. It’s just a matter of time now.”
“Can’t handle the competition?”
Ashley knew about Michael’s competitive streak. Especially when it came to her. Saying they didn’t get along was an understatement. Ashley knew that if she could get Michael to agree to this silly competition then it would be clear to Spencer how Michael really felt. What Ashley couldn’t figure out is why she cared. She’d work that out later though.
“I can handle whatever you’ve got.”
“Not when we were together,” Ashley shot.
Michael faced her with a disgusted look in her eyes. “Fine. If I get Spencer in lane ten first you don’t swim at the all-star race. And if you get her there first then I don’t swim.
The all-star race was an annual meet for the top swimmers at the top schools. It was invitation only and often the participants got asked to be on national or Olympic teams for the US and other countries. It was a swimmers dream come true. Ashley had been asked once but she didn’t fit the GPA requirement that the university has for their swimmers to participate. She would never allow that to happen again. Ashley was positive that she would be asked back this year so this wager was a risky one. Was she willing to do this for Spencer, a girl she barely knew? That doesn’t matter, is what Ashley told herself. There was no way that Michael would beat her, so there was nothing to worry about.
They shook hands then turned back to the pool, eyes fixed on one blonde swimmer.
Spencer won her race and was beaming when she returned to the bench.
“Way to go, Spence!”
Spencer gave Michael a massive hug and kiss. “Thanks babe. That felt great.”
“What do you say we celebrate tonight?” Michael said with clear innuendo in her voice.
“Hmm, sounds good.” Spencer smiled before turning to Ashley. “Ready for our debut?”
“I was born ready, newbie. Just sit back and witness greatness.”
Spencer shook her head. “Whatever. See you later Mike,” she said before returning poolside.
“Okay. Good luck.” Michael turned back to Ashley. “Tisk, tisk Davies. That’s no way to treat a lady. How ‘bout you come back here tonight and take a gander at lane ten. I’ll show you how to treat a lady.”
Ashley rolled her eyes and joined Spencer and Julia by the pool.
“Alright guys, you ready?”
“Let’s do it,” Spencer chimed.
Ashley made eye contact with Spencer. “Now that’s what I like to hear.”
The proximity of Ashley’s body sent a shiver down Spencer’s spine.
Ashley winked at Michael over Spencer’s shoulder.
“Swimmers to their marks.”
Julia was up first with Ashley finishing. Spencer felt like the butterflies in her stomach had turned into bats trying to slam their way out. This wasn’t just her race here; this was relay, a team effort. A bad race messes up two other swimmer’s records. Spencer didn’t know if she was equipped to handle that.
Whether she liked it or not the whistle was blown and Julia was in the water. Spencer did a few last neck rolls then got into position. Julia had fallen behind so Spencer would have to make up her time.
Just great, she mentally complained.
Julia returned and Spencer was off. Left, right, left, right. It was a sensual dance between Spencer and the water. Everything fell away as Spencer had one goal in mind, win the race. She quickly caught up with the other racer before pulling ahead.
Ashley watched with intense focus as Spencer made her return off the far wall and was making her way back. When she saw Spencer approaching she slid on her goggles and got into position. Just as her hand hit the platform Ashley was springing above Spence’s head into the water. The couple seconds Spencer had on the others gave Ashley an almost unfair advantage in beating the other team. The whistle was blown and the last member of the other team came up looking bewildered. Michigan had never been beaten so badly.
The entire team greeted them with cheerful enthusiasm. Before either knew it Ashley and Spencer were sharing an embrace.
“Great race.” Ashley said once they’d pulled apart.
“Thanks you too.”
The campus newspaper requested a picture. Spencer and Ashley stood with their arms around each others shoulders with Julia standing close by. The three wore toothy grins as the picture was snapped. Afterward Ashley kept her arm around Spencer’s shoulder as they returned to the bench.
“Did you see that Mikey?”
“Yeah, Mikey did you see that?”
Michael smiled sweetly at Spencer as she contemplated smacking Ashley. Something she knew she couldn’t do.
“I did. Congratulations!”
Spencer freed herself of Ashley’s grip as she went to hug Michael. Michael returned Ashley’s wink.
“My family is over there. Come meet them. Later Ashley.”
The two went hand and hand toward the Carlin family. They each hugged Spencer and after she introduced Michael they each offered her the same affection.
Michael didn’t know it but to Ashley that prize right there was far better then any all-star race could ever be.
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