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Swimming Introvert

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Waverly Earp loves dawn. She loves being the only one awake, her and the birds alone in the sky. She loves the way she can feel the warmth seep into the world. She loves how, when the sun is just cracking over the horizon, she can speed it along by flying higher and higher, laughing as the earth drops away but the sun doesn’t move down an inch, instead revealing more and more of itself, just for her. Dawn is her favorite part of the day.

This morning is no exception. In fact, this day is especially brilliant, because she is on vacation and for the first time in her life is flying over the ocean. It’s unlike anything she’s ever seen before, and she’s having a hard time convincing herself that this is real, that she’s still in the same world, that one planet can hold such wildly different places in it at the same time.

Somewhere, the beautiful caribbean beaches will change and morph until they eventually turn into the solid dirt and snow and looming trees of her home. It’s unbelievable to her, that if she just keeps flying, eventually she will reach Purgatory, without having to cross through some portal out of this seemingly magical dimension.

Lost in this train of thought, she almost doesn’t see the girl in the water. If it wasn’t for the new-born sun glinting off her fiery red hair, Waverly doubts she would have noticed her at all, which would have been a tragedy because she has never seen anyone so beautiful.

The girl is oblivious to her surroundings, which must be easy to do when you’re twenty feet underwater. She is clearly out performing her own sun salutation, twirling and stretching with no apparent destination in mind. Waverly finds herself entranced by the way the other woman’s body moves, the way she doesn’t have to struggle to keep herself under but instead works with the water, seems almost like a part of it.

Slowly sinking through the soft morning air, she watches as the ginger basks in her personal undersea world. As she gets closer, Waverly can make out more details, like the way her short hair floats around her like a halo made out of the flames of a hearth, or the fact that she has never seen such a smile that perfect before. She feels at home just looking at her, like she has known this person her whole life and trusts her more than anyone, which should be ridiculous but instead fills her center with warmth.

 

The mystery woman’s eyes are closed, so she doesn’t realize she has an audience. Instead, she continues her relaxed morning dance, unhindered by a need to come up for air. She lets the slowly warming water hold her as she twists her limbs gracefully to a tune flowing straight from the ocean through her mind. She loves the aloneness of being submerged, can feel the pressure of society getting less and less the higher the pressure of the water gets when she dives deeper than any other human could follow.
She’s not diving right now, though. She’s letting herself drift—just far enough from the surface to drown out all noises of the above world. Sometimes she thinks about disappearing into the water and never coming out again, but the thought of pre-packaged food and her stupid, lovely cat always draws her out again.

Besides, it’s not like she hates the world of air. It’s just that there is always so much going on, everything is so loud and jarring and heavy. And there are usually lots of other people. People who judge and say rude things and think that just because Nicole likes to be soft sometimes, she is somehow worth less as a person.

When she can get away from everyone else, she actually finds that she loves it outside of the water. There are so many different places, so many different kinds of plants and animals and so much varying geography. Her favorite thing apart from swimming is when she is rock-climbing. Everything seems to melt away except the feeling of the rough rocks on her hands and the sun shining on her back.

Plus, there is a definite end goal in mind, a challenge to face and conquer, or not, completely on her own. There’s no one else to rely on, just herself and the strength of her body and mind pitted against an ancient monolithic being. She smiles wider at the memory of the adrenaline rush that always accompanies the final push as she crests the top and knows she’s defeated her enemy this time.

 

Waverly is now hovering about mere inches above the surface of the water, lying down on the imaginary cushion of the air, her legs crossed upward and her face resting on her hands. The tip of her braid is trailing in the water, but she hasn’t noticed yet, being very focused on something else.

Someone else. She knows it might spoil the magic of this moment, but she feels so drawn to this other person that she can’t help but introduce herself and hope to become friends. The thought of leaving now and never seeing her again is infinitely worse than the possibility that she might be disappointed by who she meets. It’s even greater than the fear that she might disappoint the other girl.

So, when the lady in question (who Waverly was almost convinced was a siren at this point but honestly didn’t care) opens her eyes and sees that she is not alone, she puts on her best customer-service smile and tries to look as nonthreatening as possible; which, let’s be honest, is an incredible amount.

Nicole was not expecting to see someone when she opened her eyes, and she was definitely not expecting to see an angel floating above the surface of the water, smiling a friendly grin that put the brilliance of the sun to shame. And yet, after blinking once, the figure is still there, and even more beautiful than before, if that’s possible. Nicole briefly considers fleeing, but she’s surprised to notice that her usual anxieties when meeting other people are nowhere to be found. Instead, she feels intrigued over terrified when the shining person waves in an indication to come up and say hello. It’s probably because she’s still not sure this isn’t a dream, but she decides it’s best to pursue this dream as long as she can.

With a movement of her arm she carries herself upward through the water until she is almost at the dividing line between air and water, between her domain and this angelic being’s. She hesitates, scared to enter what feels like someone else’s territory, but then she sees that the tip of the girl’s hair has slipped into the water, and it calms her somehow. This isn’t a vision, it’s a person, one who has already made some kind of “first contact” by breaching the water’s edge with her braid.

She pushes herself the rest of the way up until her shoulders are suddenly sparkling in the morning light and water is streaming off of her everywhere. The light material of her dress clings to her as the disorienting feeling of transitioning back to breathing air overcomes her for a moment. Then, one rasping breath later, Nicole is able to focus on the figure in front of her.

“Hi! Sorry if I interrupted your moment, I just wanted to introduce myself.” A hand is thrust in front of Nicole and she realizes that she is still very befuddled, because everything is too shiny and sudden and there might be water in her ear and she doesn’t really know how to act or what to say.

“I’m Waverly, by the way. Waverly Earp.” Nicole looks up at her and it’s still a little hard to look directly at her because she is so bright—is she emanating her own light or is it just the sun reflecting off of every part of her body??—and realizes she hasn’t taken the proffered hand yet.

She does so now, trying to hide the fact that every nerve in her body seems to be vibrating by shaking it with deliberate slowness and carefully controlling every movement she makes.

“I’m Nicole Haught. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Her natural shyness is starting to catch up with her so her voice comes out lower than she intended, but the flashing smile she gets in response seems to say that it’s okay. In fact, everything that Waverly is doing seems to be designed by nature to make Nicole feel welcome and not awkward like the usual case is. She feels a smile growing on her face that she has no control over.

 

Dimples. She hadn’t noticed those when Nicole was underwater, but now Waverly can see them and she also can’t seem to look away, or form coherent thoughts. Of course, it’s easy to look away from her dimples when she looks into her eyes, which are a deep brown and the most mesmerizing things she has ever gazed at. Oh no, she’s staring, isn’t she. Focus, Waverly. Don’t be the creep who just stares at someone. Don’t be a Tucker.

The brief thought of Tucker Gardiner is enough to snap Waverly out of her trance, and she blurts out the first thing that comes to her mind.

“Do you want to go get donuts?? I, um, I saw a shop and they have vanilla dipped, th-those are my favorite!” Why. Why is she cursed to be such an utter dork. Before her soul can slip too far into despair though, Nicole laughs softly and smiles again.

“I would love to. Lead the way, Waverly Earp.”