by Isobel Blackthorn

Indicator flashes right. Margo’s entering the glass-panelled foyer. I don’t know her that well. She lives in a retirement village and has a thing for knitting. She swims when I swim and that’s the full extent of our relationship.

The building is square. The swimming pool is square. A square pool in a square building? Perhaps it isn’t exactly square. Maybe it’s stretching to the rectangular but not quite making it.

He doesn’t like squares. Curves are his thing. I bet he lives in a round house with portholes for windows.

The building, more a concrete and iron shed, flanks the river beside the old railway line, now a bitumen trail for horses’ hooves, bicycle wheels and feet. In the space between the building and the trail is the car park, laid out with speed humps. I drive around the first hump and arc to a parking space facing the exit. That way I avoid the other humps.

Humps are worth avoiding.

Swimmers like to glide.

I do breaststroke. I can’t do freestyle. With my face in the water I fear I might drown before the next roll for air. As if my arm won’t make it in time. It’s a trust thing.

I have to break it off. He’s never going to leave her. He said so, three times. It’s the magical thrice. The irrefutable truth. Face it.

How are you meant to point your hands in breaststroke? Like praying, or palms facing out? Not sure. I do it both ways. Point, pause, pull.

He’d never recover, he said. But that was last November. Now he says she’ll kill him. He believes her, apparently. She’s even told him how she’d do it. He wouldn’t recover then, would he?

I grab a kickboard and steel myself for thigh pain. Margo bobs along in the next lane with a noodle under her arms. She’s in no rush. I pass her and pass her by again.

I love too much. I love his touch, his kiss, the smell of his flesh. ‘I’m in danger of becoming completely besotted with you.’ He said that, not me. They all say that. I bet they do.

The aqua-aerobic set churn the water in their section of the pool. Generous-bosomed women with hair neat and grey and dry. They have morning tea in the foyer after, and chat about their grandchildren.

The rest of us are swimmers. We get properly wet and when we finish a lap we turn and head back, counting.

I love you.

I want you close.

I desire you too intensely.

Maybe there’s hope.

I take a breather at the end of a lap. A bald man treads water at the deep end. I can only see his head. I saw his thighs pumping under the water on my way by. I saw his meat, stiff. There’s one in every pool. Margo sloshes past with her back to him.

He isn’t considerate. He says he’s considerate. He says I need someone considerate, like him. He likes to think he’s considerate but the plain truth is he’s the most inconsiderate man I’ve ever met. How is it considerate to betray your wife? How is it considerate to seduce a woman, to smother her in kisses as you tell her that she doesn’t want to have an affair with you?

Back on breaststroke. Suck the tummy in tight. That makes a difference. I’m a torpedo gliding through the water.

He’s no good. Point pause pull. He’s no good. Point pause pull.

If I break it off, what do I have left?

Forty is a good number. Sixty even better. Legs feel like jelly on my way to the shower. Margo’s there already, stripping beneath her towel. She beckons me over.

‘You’re precious,’ she says.

‘Precious?’

She hands me a pair of knitted slippers.

I look at her. I’m dripping wet.

She won’t mind if I kiss her.

 ∼

A Londoner originally, Isobel Blackthorn is an author, blogger, and activist currently residing in Melbourne, Australia. She has a PhD in Western Esotericism. She is the author of Asylum (2015) and The Drago Tree (2015), and the short story collection, All Because of You (2016). Her third novel, A Perfect Square, was released in August 2016. For more information see Isobel’s website or tweet her @IBlackthorn.