Calum and I went swimming today at an artificial beach a few miles from the hospital, nor wanting to be holed up inside on such a beautiful day. We stayed there for a few hours, but not before enduring the awkwardness of trying to shop for swimsuits. I’d mastered some parts of the human existence, and being able to passively observe the behavior of some who’d been in my galaxy helped tremendously, but I was as good as a deer in the headlights when confronted with the seemingly easy option of whether the pink or green one-piece looked better.
“They fit me exactly the same, you know,” I had said to Calum as he held the two up side-by-side, acting as if the choice was a perfectly normal one. And, in truth, it was, although strangers gave us a lot of weird looks, wondering why this weird boy was voluntarily shopping and not being completely bored out of his mind. Or maybe they were making assumptions that we were boyfriend and girlfriend, rudely thinking that dirty things would ensue in private and wondering why we weren’t looking in the lingerie section.
“Yes, thank you, Caption Obvious.” Calum rolled his eyes, only pretending to be annoyed. “My arms are getting tired. Pink or green?”
“Which one do you like better?”
“He looked slightly taken aback for a moment, like the suggestion of surprise was only thinking about crossing his face for a moment before deciding not to. “Pink, I suppose.” He set the other swimsuit back. “I don’t think green would compliment your… complexion very well.”
He hasn’t taken very long after that to find something that fit him, seeing a few scars on his chest and the small identification number permanently inked under our right collarbones that he had preferred to keep hidden, and head to the beach that he’d wanted to show me. They’d had beaches on Gehenna-Altaris, apparently.
“But… what do I do?” I was standing at the shore of the beach, looking at the other side of the little artificial lake, multiple ropes and buoys separating the deep, disabled people only, and shallow sections. A breeze was blowing gently, but I still shivered, wrapping my arms around myself.
“You walk in, of course,” Calum answered as if it was the stupidest question in the world. He took my left hand, making me drop my arms, and led me waist-deep into the water.
What… what is this?
I’d dreamed of beaches once or twice, but this was nothing at all like I’d imagined one to be like. The water was crystal clear, so I could see my body all the way down to the sandy floor, but the weak current was running all over my body, activating nerves I never even knew I had, bobbing up and down in the slightest way. And the sand in my toes… and the little droplets that were sprayed from the kids playing further in…
“Ophelia? You okay?”
Calum’s voice jolted me out of my catatonia, and I slipped on the sand, plunging underwater for a moment before coming back up with water burning the insides of my nose and stinging my eyes. “Yes, Calum, I’m just fine. Perfectly fine, thank you very much.”
“Come on. Let’s go a bit deeper.” And he took my left hand again, leading me in until I was in up to my boobs and resisting the urge to shiver. “Do you want me to teach you to swim?”
“I think I know how to swim already, thank you.” An awkward silence passed between the two of us, and I felt bad for accidentally being rude. “Calum, do you have any kind of feelings for me?”
“What-” he sputtered. “Ophelia, I don’t swing that way; I see you more of a sister, what-”
“People were giving us weird looks at the store today. I just wanted to make sure.”