Heatstroked

byPuckIt©

--Summer 1984--

When May rolled around again, just before school was out for the summer, my conniving bitch of a sister managed to con a car out of my parents hiding behind me.

Dad had grinched and grumbled, but admitted that we'd saved money with our membership. Without me at home, the thermostat could be turned up, the television was turned off, and the grocery bill wasn't near as much. He paid up our membership with only the stark warning if he was paying for me to use the pool, I'd better use the pool. Hardly fair since Jan was the one who never did more than dabble her toe in it.

However, Dad was not going to part with more money for swim lessons. Which meant I wouldn't be allowed in the pool until noon, two hours after Mom had to be at work in Lubbock, and four hours after Dad had to be at work in Plainview. Therefore, at least according to Jan's manipulative argument, Jan needed a car so she could take me to the pool when I could use it.

Dad, being Dad, got the last laugh if Jan's plan was to have a car so she could drop me off and motor around town. Every morning he bought her exactly one half gallon of gas.

Not that it really slowed Jan down all that much. Jan was getting ready for her senior year in high school and a lot of her friends had cars too. More often than not, Jan was gone with one of them in their car while I stood at the window in the social room and watched out the window as Becki taught the swim class. Maybe Jan did have friends after all.

Yes, Becki was back, and looking cuter than ever with her sun streaked hair, her tanned skin, and, best of all, her bikini. About the only thing that gave me pause was seeing her interacting with the kids in her class every bit as friendly as I remembered and coming face to face with the realization I hadn't been anything special. She hadn't treated me any different than she was those kids.

When the doors were opened and those of us not in the swim class were allowed in the pool, I followed the herd immediately immersing ourselves in the cool clear water. Becki's eyes crossed mine a time or two, but beyond the same friendly smile she gave everyone she wasn't having to actively get onto for breaking the pool rules, Becki didn't show any sign of recognizing me. Not even a wave.

As disappointing as that was, I was still excited it was summer. I was still excited to be back at the pool. I was still excited to be around so many people somewhere other than classes. And I was still excited to see Becki again, even if she didn't remember me.

Or so I thought that first day, although it turned out Becki remembered me very well.

The novelty of having a pool available had worn off for some. Only about half as many were there as had been the year before for opening day. As June of that second summer wore on, the numbers dwindled even further. Those of us remaining could actually swim a little. Especially as it got later in the day.

By July, more often than not, I would be the only one left for the last half hour or so. It was almost like having my own private pool. With Becki as my own private lifeguard. I was a fifteen year old male virtually alone with a bikini clad lifeguard who was without a doubt the cutest girl I'd ever laid eyes on other than on television or in a movie or magazine. It doesn't take a psychology degree to work out my daydreams as I splashed around swimming laps, for some definitions of "swimming."

Even so, I was startled the day when Becki stood up on her raised stand, peeled her whistle over her head, and dove off into the water to swim over to where I stood.

Of course, she didn't rise up from the water, put her arms around my neck, and profess how much she enjoyed watching me right before she kissed me with swelling background music of "Endless Love" or one of the other Hollywood hits.

"Hi, John." Becki said as she poked her head out of the water three feet away from me.

"You do remember me!" I blurted.

"Of course, I remember you," Becki laughed. "You were one of my first students in my class last year. That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about. Either I'm a worse teacher than I thought or not being able to practice has caused you to pick up some bad habits."

"Um, probably the second," I said, my ears and cheeks burning. "You're a great teacher. But, well, this is really the first time I've been able to use what you taught us. And I may not be remembering it too good."

"It can get kind of packed in here, can't it? I'm glad Grammy and Grumps are making money, but... Well, anyway. Would you like me to work with you a bit since it's just you and me? See if we can't fix those bad habits before they get too set?"

"S-sure."

So what if it wasn't the fantasy I'd built in my head. Becki was offering to spend time with me doing something. I would take that. Oh, yes indeed, I would take that and smile.

The early afternoons the rest of that hot dry summer were fun, laughing and splashing and playing with the other members who came to use the pool. But, that last half hour or so on the days when I had the pool and Becki all to myself were idyllic. I might have forgotten some of my first year lessons, but I know she covered more with me than she ever taught in those classes.

By mid-August, Becki wasn't so much teaching me during those precious times when we were left alone so much as we were playing. But, even there, Becki was teaching me. There was no way I, or anyone else in dust dry West Texas, would have ever thought to come up with the games she taught me to play in that pool during that wonderful summer.

Becki seemed to enjoy our special times almost as much as I did. Enough at any rate that when the pool was closed for the fall, and for Becki to go back to California, on that last day she wrote her home address on my arm.

And kissed me on the cheek!

Clothes shopping for school was a surprise. I knew I'd lost even more weight, but hadn't realized just how much until I was trying on jeans in my old waist size and they fell off me. I wasn't a slender reed by any stretch, but neither was I the chunky monkey I had been.

Again, I had an in with my classmates who'd seen me around the pool that summer as our sophomore year started. Calling them "friends" would probably be an exaggeration, but we were at least friendly, smiling and waving at each other.

Once again, not one of my teachers assigned us to write about our summer. It was so patently unfair. I had so much I would have loved to write about, but they didn't ask me to. I did have someone I could have written it to, but she had been there with me.

That didn't stop me from mentioning it to Becki in the letter I wrote her. I may have even gushed just a little bit. And I probably went way overboard on just how pretty she was, just how much fun I had with her, and just how much I missed her and getting to swim with her.

I didn't do something right at any rate because her return letter mentioned her boyfriend in three of the six paragraphs. Becki even included a photo of them standing on a beach in front of a sunset or sunrise with surfboards under their arms that weren't wrapped around each other.

I loathed Chaz on first sight. And not just because he had his arm around Becki's shoulders with her pressed tight against him. He was the perfect surfer dude with curly blonde hair and abs that should have been selling something. Toothpaste companies would have lined up to have him say he used their brand.

I cut the picture in half. The half with Chaz went on my dartboard. Becki's half, I bought a frame and placed on my nightstand.

It was a month before I managed to write to Becki again. I could have saved myself some time and effort by sticking a stamp on one of our school newsletters.

When Becki wrote me back, her letter was filled with all the fun things she was doing and names of people she was doing them with. She hardly mentioned school at all. She didn't mention Chaz either. But, she enclosed another picture. This one of her and about seven other people, and Chaz was in the photo.

The disgusting part was that the other four guys were just as handsome as Chaz. I guess an argument could have been made the two girls were just as pretty or maybe even prettier than Becki, but I didn't care about that so much. Was there just something in the water out in California or something? Were they all actors and models?

I cut Becki out of the center of that photograph as well and bought another frame. This one went on my desk. The remainder, Chaz and the other people I didn't know, went in the trash.

Seeing those people Becki was around did do something for me I didn't recognize at the time. I stopped even pretending I had a chance to be anything other than a friend, and as a result I learned how to become a friend. We wrote back and forth several times that year, usually about every other week.

Every letter she wrote, Becki included another photo. But, it was never of just her. There was always at least one other person with her. I cut out Becki, threw away the rest, and bought another frame.

--Summer 1985--

When May rolled around, it was Becki who first wrote that she was looking forward to coming back to Texas and seeing me at the pool. I knew she didn't mean anything romantic. When I wrote back, I told her just how much I was looking forward to the summer. How much I was looking forward to the pool being open. How much I loved to swim.

"Oh, yeah. And I guess getting to see your smiling face won't be too awful or anything."

Jan was late taking me to the pool that first day in June. Hard to blame her I guess since she looked like death warmed over after the hard celebrations that had gone on for the whole weekend after her graduation. But, she had a car and I didn't, so I harassed her until she finally dragged herself out of bed about one to take me.

There was a different feel as I walked in. There were only maybe a dozen or so people in the pool area, a far cry from the numbers we'd had even the year before, much less the first year it'd been open. Becki glanced over and spotted me as I walked in the door. As I waved, she lifted her whistle and blew a shrill note while pointing at me. Naturally, everyone in the enclosure craned their neck around to look.

"John Fitzgerald, come here," Becki said, lowering her whistle. "No, don't pretend you don't know what you did."

I slunk over to the raised stand where she sat, my ears and cheeks burning, aware of every eye in the place on us.

"I just walked in," I said. "How can I already be in trouble?"

"That's exactly why, mister. After the mean thing you wrote to me last, I thought you had decided not to come after all."

"Mean thing? What mean thing?" I made the mistake of stepping between where Becki was sitting, dangling her legs over the edge of the raised tower, and the pool. "Becki, I never meant to be mean. Surely you have to know it wasn't on purpose."

"Uh huh," Becki said as she lifted her foot to plant it against my chest. "Go swim."

I came spluttering to the surface amidst howls of laughter from the onlookers. Becki was beaming down at me, a huge grin stretching from ear to ear.

"How awful is it to see my smiling face now, John?"

"Still the best thing to happen to me since last August," I laughed. "I will pay you back, though. You have to know that."

"Unh uh." Becki wagged her finger and arched one eyebrow. "No messing with the lifeguard while they're on duty."

"Okay." I tossed my drenched towel at the edge under her stand and followed it with my sandals. "But, you aren't always on duty."

I didn't have a chance to be alone with Becki that day before Jan came back to get me shortly before closing, but there would be other days. Oh, yes. There would be other days.

That summer between my sophomore and junior year was probably my second all time favorite. In a decision I still think was the wrong one, Willard and Eunice opened up the golf course on a pay by play basis. The townsfolk got out their calculators and figured out if they didn't play ten games of golf a month, it was cheaper to let their memberships lapse if they didn't have any interest in the pool.

The novelty of the pool had worn off and only about a dozen families, including mine, had kept their memberships active. But, even the ones who had kept their memberships didn't come to the pool as often as they had the first two years. Most only came for an hour or two once a week after opening day.

I had that pool, and Becki, to myself more often than not across that summer. We swam together and laughed and played. Most of all, we talked. We talked a lot. When Becki would let me, I would sit quietly and listen to her. I loved listening to her talk to me and could have sat and listened for hours. But, she rarely let me get away with it for long before she would ask me a question.

After I expressed an interest, Becki even started teaching me about being a lifeguard. I knew I could never actually be one. But, it was fun to learn.

Especially fun was when Becki taught me the rescue swim. With her arm across my chest, and her soft body supporting mine, Becki did the side stroke from one end of the pool to the other. Even better, she had me try "rescuing" her.

Maybe I might have picked it up a little faster than I did, but come on! I was sixteen years old. Becki was so cute it hurt. She was wearing a bikini while she let me put my arm around her and support her body with mine while I dragged her through the water.

I think that must have been a tipping point of some kind, Becki teaching me the rescue drag. After that, it was just no big deal for us to touch each other while we were horsing around. Well, not for her. It continued being a big deal for me every single time so much as our fingers brushed, much less when she pressed herself against my back pretending to try to dunk me. Or when she gave me increasingly frequent hugs.

Whenever anyone else came, of course Becki would get out and climb her raised stand and be the lifeguard until they left again. But, after they left, she would dive in the water and surface as Becki, my friend and the girl, had I only realized, I was falling deeper in love with every passing day.

That summer, I became convinced that my family hated me. I'd passed my driving test and had my license, but not one of them would allow me to borrow their car. Not Dad. Not Mom. And not my bitch sister Jan.

I had the opportunity to see Becki away from the pool twice that summer. Both times, Jan had to drive us. It would have been even more mortifying if I'd asked Becki for a date instead of just inviting her to hang out in Lubbock, as friends of course, and see a movie. That was bad enough.

Worst was Jan laughing at me and teasing me about it. Like her claiming Becki wanted me to hold her hand during the movie. Or that Becki had wanted me to kiss her when she hugged me goodnight. Like my stupid sister knew anything.

Becki flipped my entire world upside down on the last day as the pool closed when she drew back from our goodbye hug, raised on her tiptoes, and kissed me on the mouth. That tender caress of our lips went on and on until Jan, the stupid bitch, honked at us.

"I'll miss you, John." Becki said, pulling back with a smile. "Write me."

"Every week." I promised, still in a daze.

Jan was laughing so hard I'm surprised she didn't wreck backing us out onto the road.

"I told you!" She crowed. "I told you she wanted you to kiss her back in July! But, did you listen to your sister? No. When are you going to learn I'm older and wiser than you?"

"You're a wise something all right." I said sullenly. "Shut up and pay attention to your driving."

But, was Jan right? Had I screwed up by trying not screw up? What might the summer have been like if I'd kissed Becki earlier?

I wrote to Becki that very night. I stripped away my skin and opened myself up brutally and honestly. I wrote that I was happy being friends if that was all we were. But, why had she kissed me if that was all she wanted to be?

Becki's reply broke my heart. She admitted that she felt closer to me than she ever had to anyone. She wrote that she had half fallen for me through my letters but hadn't realized it until I'd been late on opening day. She wrote that she had fallen for me completely as we swam and laughed and played. That whenever we'd touched it was like electricity running through her body.

And yes, Jan had been right. Becki had wanted me to hold her hand during the movies. And Becki had wanted me to kiss her when we dropped her off afterwards. That, in fact, Becki had almost kissed me several times in that pool but had chickened out.

Then she wrote that kissing me that last day had been a mistake. It was a mistake because we lived so far apart. Two whole states were between us.

"I want us to be more than friends," Becki wrote, "a whole lot more. I ache to feel your arms around me. I want more than anything to hear your voice, your laugh. My lips almost hurt, I want you to kiss me again so much.

"But, that's just me being silly with you there and me here. All we can have is these letters between us. At least until next summer when we can see if we both still feel the same."

Becki enclosed a picture that made me laugh even as it made me want to cry. It was the first picture she'd ever sent me that didn't have someone else in it. But, it didn't have much of her either. Just her nose to her chin with her lips puckered for a cheesy kiss.

That was the last letter I got from Becki my junior year, although I wrote to her every two weeks without fail.

In all fairness, I did get discouraged a time or two. It's entirely possible if any girl in my school had shown the slightest interest in me, I might have moved on. I doubt it based on what happened later, but anything is possible I suppose. As it was, I re-read her last letter at least once a week and kept writing to her, carefully editing out anything that might be taken as censure for not writing me back.

I didn't find out why she'd stopped writing until the first Monday of June.

--Summer 1986--

My parents didn't gift me with a car as they had Jan. Oh, no. Instead, Jan had landed herself on academic probation by partying too hard. As punishment, Jan had to stay at home for the summer rather than vacationing with and partying with her new college friends and act as a chauffer for me. Just who was punished?!

As a result, I wasn't in any mood for her crap and dragged her out of bed by her hair at eleven thirty on the first Monday in June. That may have been a mistake since the fight after lasted forty-five minutes.

"Take the hint!" Jan spat at one point. "If she didn't write you back, it's because she's not into you. God, John. You are so stupid!"

"Maybe," I said coldly. "But, she can tell me herself. I could be out there right now if you would move your ass. Part of this is supposed to be you take me where I need to go this summer. Either you take me, or I tell Dad you wouldn't and I get your car."

"Asshole!"

I was thirty minutes late for opening when we arrived. Would Becki be pissed? I'd promised her I would not be late again. Would she be happy to see me? Or was Jan right?

Becki wasn't there.

Instead, some guy I'd never seen before with a fake leg, an eyepatch, and more scars than I'd ever seen outside of a horror movie was sitting up on the raised stand, glaring at me with his one eye. Nobody else was there.

I turned and walked back inside.

"Hi, Eunice." I said. "Where's Becki?"

"Oh, my goodness, John. Becki's not able to come this year. I thought you knew. When was the last time you heard from Becki?"

"Mid-September, I guess. What's going on? Why isn't she coming?"

"September, you say! Oh, my word! I am so incredibly sorry, John. You can't have heard any of it, then. Why don't we go back to the social room so we can talk?"

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