Aveny’s ability to tolerate tap water improved. It still singed her skin with its chemical acidity, but she could handle it. She had to. Otherwise, Brand would wonder why she often came home – or woke up – smelling like fish. Quick, ice cold showers were tolerable.
Public pools were not. Not yet, anyway. The combination of so many strong chemicals seared her skin and burned her nostrils.
So, she reluctantly joined the gaggle of moms who loathed swimming – or, more likely, swimsuits – on the bench during the city pool’s weekly open swims.
“Mom, look at me!” Tali called. “Look what I can do!”
This was what Aveny did now: she rotated back and forth, watching her children’s various tricks and spouting affirmations after each feat. She praised Tali’s doggy paddle and Brecken’s underwater somersaults. She marveled as Luca plummeted straight down to the very bottom of the deep end and rocket propelled himself back up and out of the water like a breeching whale.
Smile and nod. Ohhh and ahhh.
“Look at my hair!” Tali cried. She dove under the water then emerged, holding her head slightly back so her long dark mane cascaded down her back in a solid silky waterfall. “Feel it,” she demanded. “It’s so soft.”
Aveny squatted at the edge of the pool and traced her fingers along Tali’s luxurious locks. It tingled. She remembered doing the same as a child – how perfectly straight and soft her hair felt right out of the water. “Oooh,” she cooed appreciatively. “It’s so soft. You’re like a mermaid.”
“No – I’m a narwhal,” Tali explained, arching her back for a mock dive. Aveny watched her swim away with one arm out front like a horn and her feet awkwardly pressed together like a giant fin.
What kid wants to be a narwhal instead of a mermaid? Aveny thought.
Then she chuckled to herself, Maybe a kid whose mom thinks she’s a seal.