Tottering on the springy edge, her chipped orange nail polish glares hatefully up at her in contrast to the dirty white of the board and sloshing blue of the pool. Glancing back over her shoulder, she sees Maria seated on the edge by the ladder; blocking the way back down along with her best friend Gayla. The dark-haired girl smirked at her and turned her head to whisper something to her pig-tailed companion. Biting the inside of her cheek with great venom; she carefully gulps back every insult and juts her chin at them.
She’s not scared. She just doesn't want to jump off the high board. That really wasn't a big deal her dad had told her last summer when she was teased for not joining in on the diving contest. It was okay to not want to do something, it just meant you’d do something else instead (like practice her dolphin stroke, she really wanted to be the fastest out of all of the kids). Maria’s mean smirk glares at her in the afternoon sun as the Puerto Rican girl crosses her arms.
“Well?” She prompts snidely, “Are you gonna jump? Or are you a wuss like Talia down there?” She demanded, pointed finger finding poor Talia seated at the edge of the pool with only her feet dangling in the water as she kept her nose jammed in Lily’s Ghosts*. The girl below was a weirdo. She didn't say much, she ate a bologna and potato chip sandwich for lunch everyday and she staunchly refused to ever put more than her calves in the water when they came to the pool on Thursdays and Fridays. She didn't want to be grouped in the “weird kids” category with Talia. She was in that group for school and didn't want to be in it for summer camp too, thank you very much.
Narrowing her stare at the dark-haired girl, she said to her “I’m just getting ready.”
“Sure you are!” Gayla piped up from behind Maria, her pig nose flaring as she peaked around her friend.
Putting some menace into her tone, she clenched her hands into fists and snarled “I am!” Before turning herself back to the stretch of aqua water underneath her. Her mouth goes dry again and she feels herself breakout in a sweat that isn't from sun’s beaming light. Squeezing her eyes shut, she takes a breath and tells herself it isn't fifteen feet, but only a foot or so above the water. She can deal with that.
“What a baby!” Maria scoffed from behind. “Ten minutes and you haven’t done anything but stand there!”
She isn't going to take that, she decides. Slowly twisting around, she walks herself down the bouncing board and reaches out to pull the Puerto Rican’s ponytail. “You shut up,” she hissed. “You dared me to jump and here. I. Am. If you can’t wait for me to jump then go away! You brat!”
Maria’s eyes go wide for a brief moment. Not long enough, though, because she yanks her hair back and shoves her. “Loser! Jump before I push you!” Stumbling back, her heart stutters and she’s left realizing that she’s far from in control. Either she jumps. Or she’s pushed. If she jumps, she wins. If she’s pushed, Maria and Gayla win. She really doesn't want them to win. Summer camp’s her reprieve from school and if she gets put in the “weird kids” group, it won’t be anymore. so taking a quiet breath, she steadies herself and walks back to the end of the board. She will do this. She has to.
Closing her eyes again, she thinks of her favorite things; brachiosaurus, edmontosaurus, Jurassic Park, Land Before Time, the color orange and her pet iguana Potter who likes salad best for dinner like her and--
“I’m going to push you freak. If you haven’t jumped by ten...it's your loss. One,”
She opens her eyes, fear evident to all of those below her.
She can’t do this.
Maria took a step and the board bucked beneath her toes.
She doesn't want to be pushed. She doesn't want to lose.
Five. They’re already on five?
Fingers clawing desperately at her thighs, she gazes sadly at the pool.
Catching on just before Maria can finish her slurred count, she brings her hands together and leaps. Keeping her chin tucked into her chest, she keeps herself taunt as she braces for the sting of slapping water. It never comes. Instead she slices into the water diving deep and then deeper, so deep she touches the rough surface of the bottom! Awed by this accomplishment, she opens her eyes--be damned if they sting when she surfaces. Looking about, she spies feet sloshing not far away and a stray pair of goggles someone undoubtedly lost. Grinning to herself, she swims over to them and picks them up. The need for air now pressing, she begins the push up and with a giant, gasping breath breaks the surface filling her oxygen-starved lungs.
Pushing back her slick locks, she looks up at the diving board to see an unhappy Maria glaring over the edge. Elated and vindictive, she waved up at her as she stuck out her tongue. Take that. She had won this round. And she would win the next if she had anything to say about it. Adrenaline pumping through her, she takes herself to the ladder next to Talia and swings herself up on it and out of the water. Dripping on the hot pavement, she stares down at the other girl and wonders if Maria and Gayla ever challenged her to dive off the high board.
Probably, she decides. But Talia hadn't come out victor, she bet. Hand on hips, she looks around with new eyes. She’d climbed up a diving board jumped off it into the pool, only to swim up into a new world. A new world she was going to enjoy while she was queen.