Finding BlissBy: Dina Silver
I checked the clock before tucking the last few strands of my long auburn hair under my swim cap. It was a quarter to three, which made my mother officially forty-five minutes late. At least Jacob Denny could tell time. He was my boyfriend then, in the seventh grade, and he’d come to watch me swim the hundred-meter butterfly with his older sister that Saturday. As the swimmers in the heat before mine were exiting the pool, the coach raised a finger and looked in my direction, indicating I had one minute before I needed to get up on the block. I scanned the entry doors for spectators and sighed because they remained closed and vacant. I paced the pool deck for another thirty seconds and then took my place at the head of lane number four, bouncing and shaking out my arms and legs before taking my position.
Just then, one of the large exterior doors at the opposite end of the pool flew open and my mother entered with another woman I’d never seen before. Every whisper in that arena was magnified, and their boisterous arrival was like sounding a bullhorn in a library. They were hanging onto each other, laughing and shushing as they made their way through the humid chlorine-infused air. No one moved but them. Everyone—in the bleachers and on the pool deck alike—was mesmerized. Not even the eighty-two-year-old security guard got up off his folding chair to stop them.
And then she spotted me.
“There she is!” Mom hollered to her friend and pointed. “I made it, sweetie!” She waved frantically at me across the length of the pool, and then held up her thumb like it was a cigarette lighter at the end of a concert. “Where’s my camera?” she asked her giggling friend, and then smacked the woman on the arm, causing her to crack up further. Mom moved closer to the pool and shuffled through her large purse. “Got it!” she screamed waving it in the air.
I glanced over at my coach; his arms were crossed, and his eyes were fixated—like everyone else’s—on my mother and her friend. The rest of the swimmers, who’d been in starting position only seconds before, were now standing up straight, leaning back on their heels, and shifting their gaze from me to the spectacle at the end of the pool. I lowered my chin and rolled my eyes over to where Jacob and his sister were seated in the bleachers two rows up. His mouth was agape.
The woman with my mother was stumbling in place as she applied lip gloss and watched my mom position the camera in front of her face with one hand while still waving at me with the other. “Good luck, Chloe!” she screamed.
She blew me a kiss and then took one more step before slipping on some water and tumbling, camera first, into lane three.
I checked the locks, pulled the shades, then fell asleep on the couch after putting the Reed twins to bed. Two hours later, I awoke to a crunching noise and nearly had a heart attack at the ripe age of twenty-one. Tyler, the Reeds’ eldest son, was seated on the coffee table in front of me, eating a bag of chips inches from my face. I shivered when I realized it was him. Although we’d gone to the same high school, we’d never officially met.
But I knew exactly who he was.
As far as my hometown of Glenview, Illinois, was concerned, Tyler was the most physically gifted athlete on the planet, and had gone on to be the starting quarterback for Notre Dame after high school. He stood six foot three inches, had a body like a Greek god, and an ego to match. All of which were on display among the many photographs that peppered the walls and built-in shelves of the Reeds’ home. Pictures of him kneeling on the field next to his helmet. Candid shots of him screaming with victory, fists clenched in the air. Newspaper clippings of his accomplishments framed with little placards on the matting. Chin held high in every shot, with his emerald green eyes gazing at me through the glass, mesmerizing and inviting. He was known for his good will as well. Tyler worked with inner-city kids in Chicago, coaching sports clinics and teaching the importance of physical fitness. His reputation had preceded him…and intrigued me.
Most of my income during my college years had come from babysitting and working as a summer girl for Tyler Reed’s siblings, Sammy and Sarah, who were twelve years younger than he was. His football schedule kept him in South Bend at summer school and training camps, so we’d never crossed paths. It wasn’t until eleven o’clock that night, lying bleary-eyed on the Reeds’ couch, that I finally got my chance. And despite every sensible bone in my body, I’d already developed a full-blown schoolgirl crush on him.
Many women were attracted to him, so my fascination with a good-looking football star wasn’t all that surprising. However, as an ambitious college-educated woman with hopes of revolutionizing the field of divorce law one day, falling for the handsome hometown hero was not what I’d have imagined for myself. I was much more practical than that. Besides, I was sure he had no idea who I was.