I was thinking about celebrities who have done underwater photo shoots and music videos and such, and I thought up this short story idea that I figured might grab the interest of a couple of folks around here.
The water in the pool stood as still as glass beneath the California moonlight. The lights surrounding the concrete patio had all been extinguished hours ago. Most of the windows in the massive fifteen-story hotel were dark. Not a sound could be heard, save for the distant rumble of street noise. And in the darkness, at the pool’s edge, without a single fan or news reporter surrounding him, stood one of the most famous teenage musical performers in the world.
He stared contemplatively at the water. It had been an exhausting day, appearing on a popular live morning talk show, then performing to a sold-out crowd in Los Angeles. Returning to his hotel room late that night, he had been eager to stretch his legs, to give himself a respite from the bodyguards and barriers and the shrieking fans. Oh, sure, he appreciated all of it, but every guy needs to take a breather every now and then. He felt he had earned this time to himself. He could bear to unwind a bit.
Going for a swim seemed like it’d do the trick, especially now, when nobody else was around. He’d have the pool all to himself. But he had wandered into the pool area without premeditation, and his bathing suit was in his suitcase, all the way back upstairs in the penthouse suite. He’d done enough today, and he wasn’t in the mood to go back up fifteen floors just to come right back down again.
But he could really stand to cool down a bit. Even in the dead of night, it was still pretty warm out. He put his hands in the pockets of his jeans and admired the reflection of the night sky as it glistened off the surface of the water. It looked extremely inviting.
In an instant, he had a wild urge. Why not? he thought. He’d certainly done it before – that photo shoot for Vanity Fair magazine, for starters, not to mention several scenes he’d filmed for his most recent music video. And there was nobody around, he reminded himself. No paparazzi to snap his photo and post it to Yahoo News the next morning. A feeling of complete autonomy swept over him, followed by a jubilant swoop of excitement swelling in his midsection like a balloon.
"All right," he thought, "I’m gonna do it."
He could have jumped in, but he didn’t want to make any noise. Instead, he crouched down by the edge of the shallow end and slowly dunked his right foot into the pool. Water instantly flooded his shoe and saturated the leg of his jeans. The water temperature was perfect – cooling against the night air, but not frigid. Now sitting on the concrete ledge, he carefully placed his other leg into the water. He swung his legs back and forth under the surface, watching his shoelaces trailing like water weeds.
Cautious not to make a splash, he lowered himself completely into the pool. The water came up to just above his waist, soaking the bottom of his dark chequered shirt and the brown T-shirt he wore underneath. He was trembling slightly, though he wasn’t sure why. All he knew was that this felt very comfortable.
He knelt down so that the water came to his neck, and watched as millions of tiny bubbles rose from his shirt as it submerged. It almost looked like his clothes were breathing. There was only one more step to take. Smiling with anticipation, he took a deep breath and lowered his head beneath the water.
Silence pressed on his ears. He blinked his eyes open and saw nothing but a flat expanse of blue in front of him. He glanced down at his own blurred body, at his water-darkened clothes, as he waved his arms to keep himself underwater. His signature shaggy brown hair drifted in front of his eyes. It wasn’t quite as long as it had been a year ago, but it was gradually getting there, and now it billowed like a dust cloud in the water. Looking up at the wavering moonlight glinting just inches above him, he let a small burst of bubbles out of his mouth. They spiraled upwards, breaking the surface in circular ripples.
Grinning, he pushed off the wall of the pool with his shoes and swam towards the deep end, a long stream of bubbles trailing from his nose. He surfaced again more than two-thirds of the way across the pool, breathing in deeply, then turned around onto his back and hooked both arms around the steel ladder that hung from the pool’s edge. A tile sign next to him read “8 Feet, 6 Inches”.
Kicking his legs lazily, he brushed his sopping wet bangs out of his eyes and glanced up at the hotel. Only a few windows remained illuminated, but none of them bore a human silhouette. He wasn’t being watched. It was a rare thing at this point in his life.
Reveling in his freedom, he took another deep breath, shut his eyes, and pushed himself off the ladder, submerging again. He pursed his lips and exhaled a long, thick cascade of silvery blue bubbles, letting himself sink deeper and deeper until his shoes actually touched the stone floor. He was practically standing on the bottom of the pool. He opened his eyes and smiled once more, putting a hand to his shirt just to see how it felt underwater.
After a few seconds, he slowly ascended again, his lungs straining slightly as he expelled his last reserve of air. His head broke the surface, and he gasped deeply. Swimming back towards the shallow end, thinking he might do a few laps, he gasped again when he heard it.
Footsteps, just beyond the fence. And they were growing closer. He didn’t know who it was, but he wasn’t eager to be found out. Even if it wasn’t a photographer, for all he knew, it could be a member of the hotel staff. They probably weren’t too keen on people going for nighttime swims after hours – even international celebrities.
A silhouetted figure appeared through the slats in the high fence. They were heading for the gate. Any moment now, they’d see him in the pool with his clothes on…
Thinking quickly, he ducked underwater a third time, pressing himself against the wall closest to the entrance gate. With any luck, nobody would be able to spot him from this angle. But the water could still betray him – after all, it was a breezeless night, and a passerby was more likely to attribute the rippling surface of the water to a midnight swimmer than to the nonexistent wind.
Ten seconds passed. Then twenty. Then thirty. He didn’t dare resurface yet. He was a pretty accomplished underwater breath holder – he’d beaten a professional basketball player at it on national TV and everything – but he still couldn’t stay underwater forever. He was in trouble no matter what now. "Why did I do this?" he thought as he struggled not to exhale.
He brushed his drifting hair from his eyes and looked upward. No sign of movement. Two tiny bubbles slipped from his nostrils, rising in miniature curlicues and popping on the surface. Hopefully, they wouldn’t give away his position.
And then, suddenly, a hand plunged into the water, just above his head. His heart in his throat, he thought for sure that he was about to be dragged out of the pool by his collar and reprimanded for his little stunt…but the hand didn’t grab him. Instead, it ruffled his hair in a playful fashion, sending it dancing through the current again. His stinging eyes widened. Only one person ever mussed up his hair that way…
He burst up from the water, gasping for air and shaking his soaked hair out of his eyes. As he blinked away the water, a person came into view, standing at the pool’s edge – a very familiar person, wearing thigh-length jean shorts and a green tank top. That long black hair, those cute narrow eyes, those prominent cheeks…
“Babe!” he exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
She laughed. “I could ask you the same question. What, did you fall in?”
He looked down at his clothed body, still submerged up to the shoulders. “Oh yeah, that,” he mused. “Well, I thought I’d go for a swim, but y’know, my suit was all the way upstairs, and…well, I just said ‘Forget it’!”
Her expression turned to mock disappointment. “Aw, I was hoping to see you without your shirt on!”
He chuckled, feeling much more relaxed than he had a minute ago. “Well, it’s not like you’ve never seen it before,” he teased. “But you never answered my question. What brings you here?”
“You, silly!” she replied with a smile. “You said in your text you were staying at this hotel and I wanted to surprise you. Ryan said you went for a walk, so I came back down here, I heard someone in the pool, and I figured it had to be you.” She grinned down at her sopping wet boyfriend. “Glad to see me?”
“Always,” he beamed up at her. “Say, could you help me out?”
She extended her hand to his. He held it tightly…but instead of hoisting himself out, he gave an almighty tug and pulled his girlfriend right into the water with him. Her shriek of surprise was quickly silenced as she plunged under the water with a huge splash. She came up seconds later, her long hair dripping before her eyes. He laughed; he couldn’t help it.
“Oh, you’ll pay for that!” she taunted, splashing him playfully. The water fight lasted less than a minute before turning into a passionate kiss. The two teen superstars slid beneath the water, their lips still enjoined, bubbles flowing from their interlocked mouths.
As they came to rest on the pool floor, he lost in the billowing dark cloud that was her hair, she running a hand up the water-heavy clothes on his back, he couldn't help but think that even after the talk show, the concert, and the adoration of his fans, this was unquestionably the best part of his day.