Nelson sat on the edge of the pool, moving his legs dangly inside the water. He stared at the little waves he created, watching disappear with a blank expression.
"Hey," a soft voice spoke.
Nelson knew it was Cris' voice, but didn't turn to his manager. "Hey," he said in an absentminded voice.
"How you are feeling?" Cris sat next to him, also putting his legs inside the water, adding more waves.
The swimmer thought before answering. Still without looking at his manager, he sighed. "Vulnerable. Do you think that's a good word?"
"It's... an honest one," Cris said in the same soft tone.
Nelson chuckled. "Guess that's the best way to describe me now. An honest and normal guy..."
"You say that likes it's a bad thing. I like that, you know?"
"Glad to know at least someone does..." Nelson said nothing else. Cris kept quiet too, waiting. "How did you know I was here?"
"I'd like to say it's one of the powers we get as managers. Find our swimmers and be at their side whenever they need, but sadly I haven't unlocked that skill yet," Cris said in his usual cheerful tone, shaking his head. Nelson turned to him and couldn't help but chuckle. The manager closed his eyes and showed a bright smile. "You finally laughed!"
"You always know how to make me laugh." Nelson laughed and smile. "Then is your job here done?"
"Not at all. You won't get rid of me that easily." The manager's smile became bigger.
"I'm relieved to know that." Nelson stared at the water again, but this time, there was a smile on his lips.
Cris looked at Nelson from the side. Before he noticed, his cheeks were red and turned to the water too. "It wasn't that hard to find you," he said before the silence took over again. "With a quick search, I found out this was the only pool without any practice schedule right now."
"Did you check my room? I could've gone there."
"We don't know each other for that long, but I know you wouldn't go to your room to clear your head. You'd go to a place with water, even if you didn't enter. Just being near water calms you."
Nelson was about to reply, but he gave up and let out a sigh instead. "Guess I'm that easy to figure out..."
"Again, you say that as if it was something bad."
"It's not? Well, guess we disagree on this then."
"It's not something bad," Cris repeated in a firm voice. "I like guys that are honest and don't keep any secrets."
"Glad someone does." Nelson took a deep breath and looked at the ceiling. "Was the interview as bad as I remember?"
"Not at all." Cris shook his head and showed a gentle smile. "The TV guys were happy. Everyone enjoys a heartfelt interview like yours. I liked it too."
Nelson sighed. "That doesn't make crying in the local news any less embarrassing."
Cris' lips twitched but he managed to suppress his smile. Despite giving his best, the manager couldn't keep the happiness out of his face. "Not that I wanna kick you while you're down, but it was national TV."
"Great, great. Even better." Nelson rubbed his eyes, letting out a hollow laugh. "Can't imagine what everyone's gonna say when they come back from London and watch that."
This time Cris couldn't hide his smile. "If it helps, they'll probably watch it today."
"Just what I needed. I thought it was sugar, spice and everything nice. Not a dash of humiliation."
"Don't be like that. It doesn't make you any less of a man showing emotions."
"I know that, but to cry—"
"The reporter asked some delicate topics. About the accident, the coma, all the work you've being doing to get back... Crying after talking about all that doesn't make you weak. It makes you human."
Nelson turned his head and looked Cris in the eyes. "Thanks... I needed to hear that. But it wasn't only that... I... I... don't know how to explain..."
"Try. I'll listen to whatever you say." Cris' voice was barely above a whisper.
"I... wanted to be there in London with everyone," Nelson admitted, not looking the manager in the eyes. "Even if I had to trade places with someone. I wanted to be there, giving my all for a gold medal. Don't get me wrong. I'm rooting for them all, but... I felt envy... maybe even hatred... because it happened to me..."
Cris put a hand on Nelson's chin and gently made the swimmer meet his eyes. "I said that you're honest and doesn't hide things. But I forgot to say that you're a good guy too," he said with a gentle smile.
"Thanks... I guess..." Nelson tried to turn his head, but Cris didn't let him. "But what does that have to do with—"
"There's nothing wrong with those feelings." Cris didn't smile. There was no happiness on his face. There was only a strong determination in his eyes.
Nelson blushed. "It still feels wrong..."
"We all have dark thought here and there. But you didn't say nor do anything wrong or bad. To anyone. Never. You did nothing wrong."
"Thank you for saying that." Nelson closed his eyes and leaned to rest his head on Cris' chest.
The manager gently wrapped his arms around the swimmer. "Whenever you need me, I'll be there."
Nelson didn't break the hug. He stayed as he was, feeling the warmth coming from his manager. He's so small, but seems so reliable, the swimmer thought, listening to that heartbeat.
"I feel better after this," Nelson said when he broke the hug and stood up. He ran a hand over his face. Can't believe I almost cried again, he thought with a yellow smile. "Thanks for putting up with me."
"Anytime." Cris smiled and stood up too. "If there's anything else you need, let me know."
"I'll hold you to those words." Nelson showed a sly smile. But when he finally noticed what his manager was wearing, he was taken aback, the smile vanishing from his lips at once. "What are you wearing?"
Cris tilted his head and looked down at his own clothes. When he looked back at Nelson, he had the sly smile. "What do you think?" the manager asked, turning around to show his clothes from every side.
"I... ah..." Nelson had no words. He cleared his throat and averted his eyes many times before finally managing to speak. "Are you... wearing something... under that...?
Cris wore the Brazil's delegation jacket. But with the zipper closed to the top and only his bare legs appearing around the hem of the clothes, it seemed as if the manager wore nothing but the jacket.
"Are you interested in what's under my clothes?" Cris' smile became even slyer. He walked closer to Nelson, leaning his body forward when he was close enough. The manager placed a hand on the hem of the jacket. "If you are interested, I can show it to you."
"I...ah..." The swimmer blushed and looked away. But no matter how much he tried, his eyes ended up on his manager.
Cris lifted the hem a little. It was not enough to reveal if he wore something underneath, but it was enough to make Nelson's breathing shallow and rapid and his face even redder. "Or better yet." Cris let go of the hem and took the swimmer's hand, bringing it to the zipper near his neck. "If you're interested, you can check for yourself."
Gulping,the swimmer's hand froze. He looked between the manager's face and the zipper.Before he could stop himself, his trembling hand moved. Very slowly and underCris' sly smile, Nelson pulled the zipper all the way down.
YOU ARE READING
The Swimmer and the ManagerRomance
The Prado Maranhão Aquatic Sport Club, a place where those who aim at the top of the water sports gather. Nelson, once called the future of Brazil's swim, is near the end of his recovery after a serious accident that almost costed his life. But with...