Chapter 2 - No Speedos, please

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Chapter Two

The average person tells four lies a day, or 1,460 a year for a total of 88,000 by the age of 60. And the most common is: "I'm fine." – adapted

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There is nothing more ridiculous than a man wearing a Speedo. That was something I'd decided as soon as I'd realized why Speedos are so silly. I couldn't understand how people were still on the men's swim team. If the school made any other team wear Speedos—soccer, lacrosse, basketball, even mathletes—everyone would quit before you could say, "embarrassing."

It wasn't that the guys on my team couldn't pull them off; I mean, they had chiseled abs, solid leg muscles, and egotistical confidence that suggested their attire was barely noticeable, but let's be honest: anyone wearing a Speedo is far from invisible.

So there I was, 5 AM, surrounded by underwear-clad teenagers at swim practice. This was always the lowest point of my day. That could also be said for the majority of my team, except they hated it because they were forced to wake up at four in the morning to do push-ups, swim a hundred laps, and smell like chlorine during school. Wimps. I hated it for an entirely different reason.

That entirely different reason was a living, breathing nightmare who stood a few yards away from me with her brown ponytail, cropped sweatpants, waterproof clipboard, and obnoxiously loud whistle.

"Alright Hawks, listen up!" Coach Arielle Linden bellowed at us. "It's early, I know. The next person who whines about this glorious hour gets to come even earlier tomorrow. Let's say around 3:15 a.m."

Kristen Smithson, my oldest and closest friend, stiffened next to me. We both knew how serious Arielle was about threats. Myself more than anyone else on the team, because Arielle is my sister, and I've had her fiery wrath around me since the day I was born.

Once, when I was eight, Arielle called the police because I took a piece of gum from her overly organized backpack, just like she'd said she would. She had one-hundred percent follow-through. I would exaggerate that statistic and say one-hundred-and-one percent, but the math doesn't work like that.

"Now before y'all start warming up, please introduce yourselves to your newest teammate." Arielle gestured to a guy next to her. I'd spotted him out of my peripheral vision when she'd started booming at us, but there were so many boys on the team that I had neither realized he was new nor bothered to care.

"This is Aaron Ryans. I expect y'all to welcome him to our team and make him want to stay." Despite her stern, icy tone, she smiled at us, a gesture as rare as finding a tiger in your ice cream cone. "This boy is our ticket to beating Hall this year."

Kristen rolled her eyes and I defensively folded my arms across my chest. This boy was the third supposedly-special talent that Arielle had recruited in four years. Aaron Ryans was a sign that the first two needed to work harder—that their times (which actually were fast enough to beat those scrooges from Hall) weren't fast enough to please her. My jaw clenched; her strategy was working.

I grabbed my goggles and strode to Lane 1, my home for the last four years. Lane 1 was reserved for the fastest swimmers, which was why I wasn't surprised to see Aaron standing next to me.

Well, I told myself, if we're going to swim together for the next ten weeks, I might as well introduce myself. "I'm Madeline," I said. I checked to make sure Arielle was out of earshot. "Sorry, you're her latest project."

He gave me a slow nod. "Aaron." His response startled me. I wasn't used to people being so quiet. I blinked back at him. Aaron was almost handsome, and he would have been if it weren't for his dark scowl and harsh, grey eyes. He had the appearance of a beast that could not be tamed, or of someone that belonged in maximum security. There was something else about him, though; a gentleness that I couldn't quite place my finger on. I could tell there was more to him than looks alone.

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