The Oddities of Being a Hero

Truth be told, Oliver knew he made a mistake the moment he hit the water. The impact upon landing produced a loud smack, and he cringed, knowing the delicate skin on his bare bottom would be sensitive to the touch the next day. Kicking wildly, he could feel the useless rag of a towel loosening from his waist, exposing a rather uncomfortable amount of skin to the world.

“You got ‘em?”

“Yeah, let’s go.” Barely audible above the rush of liquid clogging his ears were the muffled cackles of a job well done. Panicked by the eerie laughter, Oliver fought away the bubbles that surrounded him, propelling himself toward the glow of the fluorescent lights above. But just as his head broke the surface of the water, he heard it- the dreaded sound of hasty footsteps against the wet, tiled floor.

Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t. Desperately clawing his way to the edge of the pool, a quick glance confirmed his fears. The pile of clothes he had abandoned only moments ago had been heart-wrenchingly diminished, undoubtedly stolen by the people who had led him here in the first place. In their haste to leave, they managed to leave behind one lonely sock. Dammit. Gathering the remainder of his hopes, he crossed over to the double doors that determined his fate, but even his arms, bulging from years of football, couldn’t persuade them to open. So they won’t even let me leave with my dignity? Oliver scowled, kicking the offending door, but the only response was the irritatingly calm rippling of pool water behind him.

Peter, that jerk. If it weren’t for that stupid bet, I wouldn’t be at this darn pool right now. Naked… alone… Opting for a seat on the cold tiles, he shivered, running his hands up and down his arms. Cold… Oliver willed himself not to think about the football captain from the rivaling school, whose unbridled rage at a humiliating defeat had led him to place a bet on their next match. Loser had to dive into the public pool with only a towel (recorded in HD, to be posted on Youtube). Of course, only he was gullible enough to believe that was all they would do. He shook his head and sighed at the memory. Now that I think about it, maybe tackling his best friend was a bad idea. A glance at the clock on the wall told him that it was 8:48 PM. Great. On a normal Saturday night, he would be playing Call of Duty, but right now, the most he could hope for was that there wasn’t a hidden security camera pointing directly at him.

A sudden peal of feminine laughter disrupted his wandering mind, and a sliver of light peeked out from beneath the door leading to the girls’ locker room. ‘He sat up with a start, his heart pounding’ as he suddenly recalled that lifeguards had lessons on Saturday evenings. Female lifeguards. The corners of his mouth lifted up in an involuntary smile. He looked around, and his eyes fell upon a stack of lifesavers in the corner. These will have to do.

No sooner than he had safely ‘shielded his private parts’ did the door fling open. Three pairs of feet emerged and their owners, lips still frozen in the remnants of laughter, let out shrill squeals upon the sight of him. Pool noodles cascaded from ‘trembling limbs’ and they ‘scattered in panic’ from the sheepish, red-faced Oliver.

“Um, hello?” he croaked half-heartedly, calling to nobody in particular. What seemed to be a heated discussion, administered in whispers, dwindled down to silence as he spoke. For one excruciatingly long minute, Oliver kept his legs locked together and hoped for the best. Finally, a lone figure, apparently the leader of the pack, emerged from the depths of the room and purposefully strided toward him.

“You do know it’s after hours, right? The pool closes to the public at eight.” The girl’s lips curled up in a slight smirk, and Oliver willed himself to keep his composure under her gaze.

“Well, I-I…”

She let out a chuckle. “Let me guess. A dare? A bet?” Head bowed, he could only muster a nod in response. “Well, judging from your appearance, I believe you’ve suffered enough for the day.” Thrusting a towel into his arms, she led him to the safety of the locker room and with the assistance of her friends, a cleansed Oliver emerged moments later, restored in all his glory.

Stepping out into the crisp, autumn air, Oliver heaved a sigh of relief. Though donned in a tattered hoodie and shorts that had probably belonged to someone twice his size, he felt oddly comfortable.

“So, stranger… now that we’ve rescued you, will you finally tell me your name?” The voice of his savior came from behind him.

“I’m Oliver,” he smiled warmly. “It’s a shame we haven’t really gotten to know each other.” A hint of a mischievous smile betrayed his intentions. “Is it possible for me to get your number?”

“It hasn’t been half an hour since I’ve seen you fully clothed for the first time and you’re already asking me that? I’ll admit it- you’ve got guts.”

“Is that a no?”

“My name’s Natalie,” she replied with a grin. “As for your request… we’ll see.” With that, she walked away, leaving him to contemplate just what that meant.

“Natalie…” He took one more look at her retreating figure. Natalie, ‘you saved my life.’ “Thank you.”

10:00 PM.

As Oliver walked home, his thoughts wandered to Peter and the video that was probably making its way through the student body at that very moment. Maybe it was the beauty of the night sky, or perhaps something else… but Oliver realized that he didn’t really mind it at all.

Carol Deng
Age 15, Grade 10
Stuyvesant High School
Gold Key

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