He’s had his head up against the window the whole journey, rolling his eyes and keeping himself stubbornly turned away from her with his cheek resting on his fist. His eyes must be glazed over in a daze though because he doesn’t catch onto the sign of the parking lot or the families climbing out of cars as they drive on through. The weather isn’t exactly water-park worthy but seeing as his level of enthusiasm is at an all-time low, Annie can’t help but think it wouldn’t make an ounce of difference.
When she pulls into a space she pauses for a moment, jutting her chin out because he’s so purposely determined to ignore her and what is going on even though they’ve been driving for two hours without a stop. It would have been a shorter drive but there was traffic; the traffic being one of the few things that actually prompted him to speak.
“Hudson, we’re here.”
He licks his lips and drops his hand to turn his head whilst finally speaking up.
“Oh look, we’re at a water-park. Do you mind telling me what the fuck we’re doing at a waterpark?”
“I’m trying to help you.”
“Hmm, there should be a real big emphasis on the word trying.”
“I figured seeing as we’re working on channelling our energy into different kinds of adrenaline which… you know… don’t involve sex, drugs and alcohol, I’d bring you some place like this. I didn’t want to deal with the queues at a theme park and it’s cheaper here anyway, so. Look, yeah, emphasis on the word trying because I really am trying with you Hudson, so please, just give me a reason to carry on.”
“Are you comparing coke to going on a kid’s water slide? Seriously, your technique is fascinating.”
“No, I’m just saying, if you want to be able to recreate the feeling and rush of being on the verge of something exhilarating then this is just a more physical, less damaging way of experiencing it.”
He tilts his head back and groans before looking back down at her, a smirk slowly widening into a grin.
“Did you bring your bathing suit?” When she sighs and looks out the window without answering, he starts to snicker. “Hahaha, you did, didn’t you? Because you totally thought it would entice me and you also secretly love playing things a little dirty. You know, growing up as a goody two-shoes and losing your virginity to a gay guy makes you have to lower your standards just a little bit every now and, then right? The dirty drug addict with a love addiction is everything your mom wouldn’t want for you.”
She takes a steady breath and focuses on the small patch of dirt that has flicked up onto the windscreen.
“Just give me one reason.” She looks at him then, fully focused and wide-eyed, showing him that as much as he pushes she won’t break because yes, he’s right on some level, she’s been broken before.
He tilts his head and grins again, pointing up ahead without taking his eyes from her stare.
“I’ll race you up the top of there?”
She follows his finger and sees where he’s pointing; a curved blue slide towering above everything else, with a tube falling straight back down towards the ground.
She beats him up the stairs of course, mainly because she’s smaller and she can skim her way past small kids and just generally shorter members of the public, but also because the front of his flip-flop catches on one of the steps half way up, flinging him forward so he has to steady himself and try not to bash his teeth on the edge of the metal ahead of him.
He looks up when he takes a breather and she’s dashing up effortlessly, almost making the losing seem worth it when he catches a glimpse of her mostly-nude body from the perfect angle. She’s wearing a red polka dot bikini, the kind with the tied loops hanging down against her hips, her pale skin cutting through all the railings above so he can point her out more clearly.
When he reaches her at the top, she has her hands on her hips haughtily. She turns around with a jump in her step when he starts to draw closer, turning to step up onto the podium where an assistant is guiding one other person to the edge of the drop. When the mop of blonde hair standing before them disappears in splash, a scream blazing and fading, Annie replaces them, leaving Hudson to take his place on the opposite shoot.
“You really wanna’ bet this is gonna’ get me high?”
She looks at him pointedly, hands on the rail that will help her slip down into the slide. Surprisingly, she doesn’t look hesitant or scared; she looks ready – ready to prove him wrong, he gathers.
“High on adrenaline.”
When the polo-shirt wearing worker ushers them forward, the clatter of footsteps following up behind them, Hudson lowers himself, watching Annie do the same. She looks a little less sure now, smiling tightly and pulling her shoulders back with a sense of false confidence. He flicks his eyebrows up and shakes his head, listening to his heartbeat which is for some strange reason, throbbing in his ears. His hands are shaking against the cool metal bar above his head, but it’s a different kind of shake to usual, one which he knows will release when he does.
Someone counts them down.
He knows his scream is pathetic; a strangled throaty cry which distorts itself as he drops down faster and faster, his stomach flipping, blue filling his eyes, noise filling his ears. There’s a shriek coming from somewhere, a background squeal but his brain doesn’t register it as Annie until his body starts to curve and the bright white light starts to flood his vision. He gasps, throwing his hands up in the air as much as they’ll go with the force and speed pulling them down.
He swallows water, inhales it through his nose and burns his eyes before closing them tightly, kicking his legs in order to work out some form of direction. His foot touches skin and he remembers who’s there with him. He reaches his hand up and he can feel the cool breeze against his skin so he propels himself forward until he’s up and out and blinking away droplets catching on his eyelashes and dripping from his brow. He shakes his hair which is now drooping down in a wet flop, spraying it like a dog. When he finally sees with clear vision, he’s treading water and looking right at her.
Annie’s hair is flat and pulled back by the weight of the water, her cheeks are red and flushed and her shoulders are glistening as she mirrors him; panting breath, wide eyes and a questioning smile.
“Was that enough adrenaline for you?” She’s practically shouting, the rush of the water still cascading beside them, rippling and bubbling.
“I wanna’ do it again!” She grins when he shouts back, her shoulders shrugging upwards as she attempts to clap under water.
They do it again three times until he’s searching for his next thrill; a slide that twists and turns and sends you flying towards the end. She watches him from the sidelines because there’s a bigger queue and there’s only one person allowed at a time. It looks painful when he hits the water so she flinches but bites her lip as soon as he surfaces and finds her.
He knows she’s proud of herself, distracting him and all that, so he doesn’t stop her from acting smug when they stop for lunch at one of the tacky restaurants on site. She sits with a towel around her shoulders, crossed over and tied in the centre of her chest. When she catches his eyeline which is one of the other reasons for keeping quiet, she rolls her own eyes and kicks him under the table.
He also doesn’t complain too much when she drags him to one of the ‘rides’ which involves swirling around on a donut shaped piece of rubber.
“Take it as… an adrenaline hangover cure. After all that blood-pumping, heart-racing goodness, we can take a breather. It will be fun, come on.”
“The hangover cure is just more adrenaline, you just don’t stop.”
She pouts and dips her chin, his eyes dropping to rake over her whole body. He succumbs, holding out his hand instinctively whilst still being fixated on the freckles which mark her ribcage. She has to tug him forward towards the queue, making sure he follows and drops down into the ring behind her. He ends up using her to his advantage, nearing close enough to latch his feet onto the back of her donut, closing his eyes and letting her drag him forward across the water, around the twists and curves of the man-made river. He lies back, eyes closed, face up to the sun which has started to break through the clouds.
When she looks over her shoulder, she grins mischievously, cupping her hand in the water, lifting it with speed to flick what is still left in her palm up behind her. He lurches forward, glaring at her.
“Oh so, you want to play like that?”
She doesn’t face him again, though, she carries on grinning before pushing her hands into the water to break free from the chain he’s created. She’s drifts forward, curving around a bend before him, holding her arms out wide as she watches him attempt to stay afloat whilst steering. He doesn’t have the energy or the usual high motivation to go any further whilst sat down, half of his body in water, and half of his body out, as the gap between them grows wider, so he lets it go until she’s stood up on to dry land, unexpecting and unaware of the idea growing in his mind.
He grabs her, really grabs her, flinging her up over his shoulder because as much as she thinks he’s let himself go, he still has the strength and the ability to control her and anyone physically. She flails her legs and arms and scrapes her nails down his bare back shrieking as he nears the edge of a mostly empty pool nearby. He judges the drop carefully before wrapping his hands around her waist, throwing her forward.
When she surfaces, dripping wet, her jaw dropped open, he feels the same sense of achievement as he had earlier; finding her waiting at the end of the slide, watching him. She shakes her head whilst tugging at the bikini strap around her neck.
“Oh, you are so–.”
He jumps in, using his hand on the edge of the pool to guide him, the waves he creates making her voice die down, his lips finding hers to cut her off completely. And yes, as his fingers run through the hair at the nape of her neck, he knows he still has to work on his impulse control, but the way she responds makes him wonder if she minds all that much in the moment.
The pool is shallow enough for him to find his feet on the bottom, but she still has to work to keep afloat, so he cups his hand beneath her to motion her legs up around him. She tastes of sunscreen and the mint that had been in her cocktail at lunch, and the chlorine which is lingering in the water and for once he can feel it all and taste it all and he knows he’ll remember it for days; weeks, months to come.
A whistle blows.
“Excuse me, you can’t be doing that in here. This is a family-friendly area.”