The next few hours passed in a languid haze. It was rare for them to go into the water, a last resort for when the heat became truly unbearable. Instead they drank Diet Cokes and flipped through their mother’s Vanity Fairs and Vogues, brushing past the text heavy articles and lingering on the models reclining on a Scottish heath in wool and tartan, tripping along cobblestone streets in Madrid wearing trench coats and printed silk scarves. The pages were film stills of a life each girl felt she would one day lead, though this was something they were unable to articulate to one another, instead cooing, ‘Oh, how pretty,’ or ‘I love Chanel’ as they crossed and uncrossed their ankles.
Throughout all of this, they monitored his movements. They compared him to boys in their year and found them wanting; he was over six feet, with a long, hairless torso. Their eyes followed him as he chatted with the lifeguard, as he dived into the deep end and sliced through the light blue water with precise, confident strokes, the muscles of his back moving like a tangle of fish just below the skin of a river.
Linda did not find him particularly attractive. She had fallen in love with Sean Connery at a young age, and had since been drawn to friends’ fathers, history teachers, the men who did renovation work on her house, softball coaches. She loved their thick calves, the dark mat of hair on the back of their hands. But it was never made known, obviously never acted on, and she had gotten used to the script of teenage boy adulation: a remark about their eye color, or how their hair fell across their forehead.
“I was thinking we could have people over to your house Friday?” Emme said a little after four, just as the mothers and children were starting to trickle out of the white wooden gates. Only the teenagers and the older men half-asleep in their chairs lingered.
“No,” Linda said. “You always ask, and the answer is always no.”
“Okaay,” Emme said, teasing the word out like a piece of taffy. “But your parents aren’t there, and we would help you clean up afterwards. I know you think we wouldn’t but we definitely would, and everyone would come, because Patrick was going to hold one but then his sister started making herself throw up at summer camp, which is ridiculous, I mean what kind of an idiot becomes a bulimic when she’s sharing a bathroom with ten other people? But anyways, his parents had to come back from St. Thomas.”
“But if we had people over to your house, we could invite him,” Emme said, tipping her blond head towards Kiel, lying in the sun like a seal.
“I don’t care about inviting him.”
“Yes you do,” Emme said, her eyes narrowing.
“No, okay? I don’t. And I’m not going to have my house trashed just so you can have sex with some boy in my parents’ bedroom,” Linda said, the last few words coming out in an angry rush.
“Fine. Fine,” Emme said, shrugging her shoulders.
“You two are a lot of fun today,” Lauren said. She was sitting cross-legged at the edge of her chair, and Linda noticed a tanned roll of baby fat puckered above her bikini bottom.
“I think I’m going to go home,” Linda said, dropping her magazine to the concrete. She was tired of the heat, tired of Emme’s voice.
“Okay, go home. But next time you come here, maybe bother to shave your legs?” Emme said, looking at the dark stubble brushed along Linda’s calves. “I know your parents abandoned you yet again, but I’m sure they left you with enough money to buy a razor.”
Emme put on her sunglasses and leaned back in her chair like a queen, though Lauren stayed hunched forward, her mouth agape; even she knew this was too much. Linda felt her cheeks burn, and her pitching arm flushed with heat. She was overwhelmed with the desire to break Emme’s jaw, shattering the bones that looked as delicate and small as a house cat’s. Her heart beat against her breastplate, the sensation similar to being on the mound, the feeling that plagued her every game: that she couldn’t do what she wanted most, that she could never pitch fast enough. The catcher would often rise, shaking her gloved hand, her palm puffed and stinging. It was not enough. Linda wanted to snap her fingers back and crack the ball right through the glove’s leather.
The other girls on her team believed she was cold, selfish, a bird preening before the awed men and women in the bleachers. It was not conscious on her part, this neglect of her teammates; it just never struck her to care about anything beyond the line between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. All her anger was released in that stretch of muscle, on that patch of dirt.
Linda rose from her chair and dressed in silence. There were other ways to show anger. There were other ways to make someone hurt. She walked to the other side of the pool, rubbing the sweat off her brow with her forearm. The boy, Kiel, looked up at her she approached.
“Do you want to come back to my house?” she asked.
“Sure,” he said, like he’d been expecting her, a waitress offering him a glass of water.