Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sink or Swim

           My pulse raced as Kyle Mitchell sat down at a poolside picnic table with my four-year-old son Billy and me. We were finishing a snack—peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apples.
"Mrs. Forbes," Kyle said, with a smile that highlighted his big brown eyes, "I've never seen anyone take to swimming so quickly as your
son Billy." Billy blushed, and I said, "Thank you."
The two sat across from me at the table in the warm sunshine.
"I like the water!" Billy said, laughing, as he and Kyle bumped fists.
A handsome hunk of a man, Kyle was Billy's swimming instructor here at Preston's newly built Municipal Pool. A non-swimmer, I'd signed Billy up for swimming lessons as soon as I'd heard about the opportunity: Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Three p.m. Six weeks.
"Well," Kyle said, still smiling, while my heart fluttered, "Billy is doing fine. After a week, he treads water well and is mastering the freestyle stroke. "I just want you and your husband to know."
"My dad left us," Billy announced matter-of-factly. "Mom says not to be mad."
I thought my face had burst into flame, and I could hardly find my voice. "It's...been several years," I finally said.
"I'm so sorry," Kyle said, frowning. "My mom raised me—no dad in sight. I know life's not easy for a single mom."
Kyle told Billy to keep up the good work and said he had to talk to other parents. I held my breath as I watched Kyle stroll away—bronzed body sheathed in a white muscle shirt and blue swimming trunks. Eye-candy, indeed.
Poolside gossip among mothers had already clued me in about Kyle Mitchell. He was a graduate assistant at our local college, working on his PhD in recreational therapy. Single.
Me? I worked at home as a web designer and consultant and, luckily, could sneak way to watch Billy learn to swim, a skilled I'd failed to acquire because—well, because of an accident I didn't like to recall.
Wednesday, as I sat in the bleachers watching Kyle guide the kids through their lessons, I caught him glancing up at me several times, smiling. I felt tingly. I smiled back. I wondered if something was going on between us. Don't think about it! I told myself. I wasn't into dating. Like I wasn't into swimming.
After Wednesday's session, Kyle slipped onto the picnic table with Billy and me again. "Great job, champ," Kyle said, Billy and he bumping fists. Then to me Kyle said, "Open swim at 4:00 after Friday's lessons. Would you two like to join me? Sort of a date?"
My eyebrows jumped. My heart began to beat at panic speed. Before I said anything silly like Yes, of course!, I quickly said, "I don't swim—I wouldn't be any fun. Besides, Billy and I have things to do Friday afternoon."
"What things?" Billy said.
I looked at Kyle. I thought my face was on fire again. "I'm sorry—I really should go."
I left with Kyle looking totally disappointed and with Billy pouting. "You should've told him about the accident," Billy said, when we got into the car. "Maybe you wouldn't be afraid of the water anymore."
Ah, the wisdom of kids!
Then I wondered if I were ready for such a change.
After Friday's lessons, I waved Kyle over to Billy and me at the picnic table. As soon as he was seated next to Billy, I said, "I want to apologize for being so rude the other day. And I have something to tell you."
Gathering my courage, I explained that one winter when I was Billy's age I was ice skating on my grandparents' farm pond with my cousins—seven or eight of us. It was my great Grandma's ninetieth birthday.
The ice broke.
I fell though into seven feet or water and was under a minute or so before being pulled out and rushed to the hospital—twenty miles away—where I was treated for hypothermia and frostbite. I concluded with, "I've never tried to learn to swim. I've never stepped into a swimming pool. My tiny high school didn't even have one."
"It's a true story," Billy said. "Grandma told me."
Kevin nodded solemnly. "I understand."
"I'm sorry," I said. "I know I've been foolish all these years."
"Look," Kevin said, a big smile marching across his handsome face, brown eyes flashing. "I have the perfect solution. Private lessons. With me as your teacher, you'll no longer be afraid. Guaranteed!"
I blew out a big breath. I loved the way Kevin made my confidence soar. I looked at Billy. I loved the big smile plastered on his face. "Sign me up," I said.
"We can all swim," Billy said, and, all of us laughing, we bumped fists.
The End