*Thank you to Thewinedarksea for editing this story for me*
Clammy metal dug into my feet as I ascended the narrow metal staircase that folded upwards on itself for seventy feet. I looked out and saw the rest of the water park spread out before me. We were almost to the top of the largest water slide in the park.
Jacob and his girlfriend were in front of our group, chatting away and flirting with each other in that gag-inducing, loving way. They couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Jacob had decreed that we all go down the scariest slide. He also demanded that he be the first of us to take the plunge, which was a nearly vertical pipe that stretched to the ground and tapered off like a “j”.
Brandon and his girlfriend were in the middle of our group, followed by the two stags, Ramon and me. We finally made it to the last stretch of stairs that led up to the top platform. I couldn’t see the slide platform yet, only the panty-clad asses of my friend’s girlfriends, which I tried not to stare at, but failed. I at least tried to hide my gaze, unlike Ramon. Like clockwork, every minute, I would hear the clack of metal as the slide’s drop doors were thrown open, and then there would be a scream that faded down into the pipe.
A moment later, we rose one more step. Looking forward to the drop was unnerving, so I looked off into the distance and enjoyed the view. In any direction I looked, I could see the mountains at a distance. They were at that distance where the brown of the mountain merged with the blue of the sky on the horizon to create a perfect blending of earth and sky. The water park was located on the desert outskirts in between two cities where they hadn’t yet developed enough to fully touch. I saw clouds gathering around the mountains to the east and thought they added to the skyline perfectly.
“Dude what are you doing? Trying to back out?” Ramon said. I snapped back to my immediate predicament and saw that Ramon stood at the top of the platform with several open stairs between us. I could sense the looks I was getting from all the people behind me so I hurried up to close the gap. A couple of minutes later, I watched as Jacob stepped into the tube. The worker asked if he was ready and when Jacob said yes, he pressed a button, and the bottom fell out from under him.
I watched as each of my friends disappeared, and then the young lifeguard motioned for me to step forward. My time was up. I willed my feet forward into what reminded me of those pneumatic tubes they used to send stuff back and forth in large office buildings. The plastic door revolved shut, and the lifeguard gave me the thumbs up. I went to make the gesture back, but before I could finish, he pressed the button, and the floor dropped out from under me.
Many rides scare me. I have a fear of heights, and being flipped and flung aren’t my go-to ideas for fun. While I might be the target audience for terror-inducing ride designers, I had never been one to scream on a ride. I have always experienced my terror in polite silence. Not this time. I screamed the whole way down. The slide launched me down faster than I thought was possible. After about ten seconds, I slid into the curved ending. The abrupt relief at having my weight supported again was ruined when the dark tunnel opened, and I was shot out into the air. The sunlight stung my eyes like I had been in the tunnel for hours and not seconds. I flailed around briefly in the air and then smacked into the water and sank. When I finally emerged, my shaggy, dark hair clung to my face and blocked out my vision. A lifeguard had to help guide me out.
My waiting friends laughed at how I had almost drowned. This wouldn’t be the first or last time I questioned my choice of friends. I was glad we had saved the slide for last and we’re almost done for the day because I couldn’t wait for it to be over. The girls decided to go sunbathe for a bit while we went to the snack shop to get something to eat and drink. As we walked towards the food shops I checked out the girls and women around me. Being nineteen left me open to checking out the older high school girls frolicking around and enjoy the voluptuous mothers. Like how a starved man would eat anything, I had varied tastes since I had never been with a girl. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but I just wasn’t good at talking to girls.
We entered the snack bar and ice-cream shop and sat down. I noticed a cute blonde girl working the ice-cream counter. Ramon followed my gaze and smiled when he saw her. “I bet I can get her number.” We all encouraged him to go for it, especially me, but not because I believed he had a chance. As Ramon walked up to the cute girl, I noticed she had a light tan but still seemed too pale to be working at a water park.
He leaned over the counter to talk to her. She leaned forward on the counter and I caught a glimpse of her cleavage through her partially unbuttoned blue polo shirt. Ramon leaned forward and started to whisper sancaktepe escort in her ear. I hoped that she wouldn’t fall for his dumb lines. I shook my head in disbelief when I saw a smile light up her face, and she started to whisper back to Ramon. She turned around to grab Ramon his ice cream cone and bent over into a cabinet. Ramon took this opportunity to look back at us and grab the counter and start to violently hump against it in the direction of the poor girl. He was in the middle of adding spanking to his depravity when she started to turn around; he stopped mid-thrust.
She had only been bending over to grab some ammunition because when she turned around, she started to throw handfuls of rainbow sprinkles at Ramon. “Hey girl, what’s your problem!” he shouted as the sugar rainbows pelted his body. We laughed at how this may be his worse strikeout yet. Since he was still wet many of the sprinkles clung to him and left little dissolving rainbows all over his body. Ramon slumped down in his chair, trying to wipe the sprinkles off but just smearing them around his body. He muttered to himself about her horrible customer service.
Once we were done teasing Ramon about his rejection, I got up to get some food from the snack counter. There was a small line of people in front of me and I kept on glancing over to look at the cute blonde girl. The way she genuinely smiled when she helped a customer warmed my impression of her even more. I found myself smiling too, and pretending like each of her smiles were just for me. I wanted nothing more than to approach her, but my mind kept coming up with excuses not to. I doubted she would give me the time of day thanks to whatever perverted things Ramon had whispered in her ear. Also, the only thing I could think to say would be that someone who works with something so cold she sure was hot. Like that would work, I thought, but that was all I had.
I was next in line and taking the last step to the counter when the girl at the register excused herself and asked the girl at the ice cream counter to watch her register. I tried my best not to stare at the beautiful rainbow-slinging girl as she walked towards me. I failed. I tried to study the menu but couldn’t help but notice the graceful way she walked to the register. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she was an athlete or dancer. When she got closer I saw that her name tag said Amanda and had a heart next to it.
“Hi, what can I get for you?” Amanda said in a welcoming voice that made me think that maybe I might have a chance, but before I could say anything she added, “Hopefully, you don’t want anything with sprinkles on it.” Her smile took on a more mischievous look. There goes my chances. I decided to just order my food before I did something stupid and ended up being a double rainbow with Ramon.
“Look, I’m sorry about my friend and whatever he said. He is kind of like the mascot of the group.” To my surprise, she laughed. Her laugh was the kind of laugh that infects you and makes you want to do whatever it takes to hear it again. She laughed in a carefree way that drew looks from some of the people around us, including my friends. Her light blue eyes that had moments ago seemed icy were now a cheery sky blue.
“I forgive you for your mascot’s behavior, so what do you want?”
“Can I have a hot dog with—”
“You don’t want to order a hot dog.” She still had that friendly customer service smile and voice, so I was confused when she said this.
I waited for her to say more but she didn’t so I gave in and said, “And they are?”
“Well,” she leaned slightly forward and gestured for me to do so too. “One, the hot dogs don’t sell at all and the same ones have been back there all day.”
“Yeah, so I couldn’t let a cute guy like you get sick. I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight.” My brain started to go into overdrive, did she just call me cute? I noticed she looked me over and remembered I was shirtless in front of this beautiful girl. While I wasn’t the most athletic of my friends, my body was decently toned after taking weightlifting class at school and playing basketball with my friends. Her gaze lingered on my body. I felt like I was too revealed in front of her. “So, what’s the other reason?” I asked.
Amanda leaned even more across the counter towards me. I knew if I looked down I would be able to see down her shirt. I wanted to look but managed to maintain eye contact instead. She gestured for me to lean forward more so I did. She placed her mouth right next to my ear and said, “Because I get a break in fifteen minutes and we could share a pizza.” Her breath brushed against my ear and her words gave me goosebumps.
“Will the pizza be safe?” I joked.
“The pizzas are baked fresh and one could be ready by the time I go on break… if you wanted to eat together?” While ümraniye escort before she had been so confident in giving me signs that even someone as oblivious as me could read that she was interested, this time she sounded timid in flat-out asking me.
“Yeah, of course, I do.”
Amanda pulled herself away as her coworker returned, “That will be $13.50. Can I have your name?” she asked.
“Ryan,” I said. We finished the transaction, and I walked back to my friends. They all stared at me in shock. Not only was I the only virgin in the group, but I had also never had a girlfriend, so I didn’t blame them in seeing me be picked up by a girl that put all their conquests to shame. “What happened?” Ramon demanded. His brow furrowed in anger, but the look was ruined because a dissolving pink sprinkle was still stuck between his eyebrows.
I told them what had happened and they said they didn’t believe me. “No fucking way,” was what Brandon said. Jacob suggested that maybe she was using me as her pizza sugar daddy. After ten minutes, Amanda walked into the back room. Five minutes later my pizza was called out but she still hadn’t come back yet. After another five minutes of waiting my friends started to say I lied and made up the whole story. Jacob demanded a slice of the pizza and started chanting the word pizza repeatedly. The others joined in with him and I had decided I needed to make some new friends when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and there she was.
“Sorry to interrupt,” she said, looking first at my friends who were still mid-chant and then down at me, “Are you ready?”
“Yes, very.” I got up and followed her towards an empty table near the front door. To my surprise, she walked past the table and held the door open for me. “We aren’t eating in here?” I asked.
“And let your friends steal our pizza and stare at me?” I looked back at them with her and they pretended like they weren’t just staring at her.
“Ok, anywhere is better than in here,” I said.
I followed her outside. “Sorry it took so long, I ended up getting stuck working in the back.”
“That’s fine, I know how work can be,” I said.
“Did you think I was going to stand you up?” she asked.
I had been so worried about that exact thing that I couldn’t help but laugh at how perceptive she was. “Yeah, I did.”
“Maybe I can make it up to you.” Before I could respond, she said, “We’re here.” Around the side of the snack bar was a chain-link fence with a gate labeled “employees only.” She pushed it open with her hip and led me inside. It was a squared garden enclosed between the two buildings and had a high wall that went along the side opposite the hedge. There were two stone tables with attached benches. Flower beds lined the sides of the garden. The scent of fresh flowers was a pleasant scent change after smelling chlorine all day.
Amanda placed the drinks down and motioned for me to sit. She went back to the gate and slid the latch so no one would enter and then sat across from me. We both grabbed a slice of pizza and started eating. The pizza had cooled down, but it was better than what I was expecting after hearing the hot dog warning.
While we ate, I snuck glances at her. Every time she got even a smudge of pizza on her face she would immediately wipe it off with a napkin. I didn’t know what to say so I focused on trying not to look like a klutz and drop any of the pizza on myself. A couple of times she caught me looking at her and pretended like I was studying the plants behind her. Her golden hair, slightly bronzed but still pale skin, ice-cold eyes, and warm smile all complemented with the lush greenery and vibrant flowers growing behind her like she was a dryad. She broke the silence and asked, “So what do you think of my garden?”
Play it cool, was what I told myself, but “You’re beautiful,” was what I blurted out. Shit, was that too forward?
“What did you say?”
“The garden, it’s beautiful. I have been coming to this water park since I was a little kid and I never knew this was here.”
Nonchalantly, in between bites, she said, “I know.”
Now it was her turn to look away from me. “That you have been coming here for years.” I started to think that maybe this beautiful girl taking too much interest in me might be too good to be true and was getting a little creepy. She looked back at me from absently looking at one of the flower beds and started to laugh. “Oh god, I sound like such a creep, don’t I? My family owns part of the water park. I have been coming here my whole life and have been working here for the last two years since I turned.” Our gazes met, “I have been seeing you here most of my life,” she added.
I was relieved that she wasn’t some crazy stalker but confused by what she was saying. “You have been seeing me, but I don’t remember you.”
She broke eye contact and looked tuzla escort towards the gate. The silence stretched between us. “To be honest, I used to be awkward-looking and overweight when I was younger. I don’t blame you for not noticing me.” I could hear the pain in her voice and I regretted my choice of words.
I studied the profile of her face as she continued to look away. Her light blue eyes and cute, upturned nose started to tug at my memories. “Wait, I remember you now,” I said. I had frequently seen her around the park throughout the years from when we were both kids. She had been overweight as a child and because of her shortness, the weight had looked worse than it would have if it was on someone taller. “You weren’t that overweight, and besides, you’re beautiful now.” I tried to add to make her feel better, but I felt shallow for saying it.
Amanda turned back to me and her eyes teared up. “I was fat enough for the other kids to make fun of me, call me a beached whale and clap whenever I went down a water slide and it didn’t break from my weight.” I remembered just how mean other kids were to her even though she always had a smile for anyone she talked to. I panicked for a moment. Did I ever take part in her torment? I racked my memories, searching for a dreaded moment, praying I wouldn’t find one. “You remember what happened on the slide?” she asked.
“I remember how nice you were to everyone, even if most kids picked on you, and I remember how you disappeared one summer after what happened on the-“
“Waterslide,” she finished. Tears pooled in her eyes as she relived her torments. When I thought she was about to start crying she confused me when she smiled and said, “Not everyone was mean to me.”
I thought about the waterslide incident for the first time in years. I was twelve or so and waiting in line for a waterslide. There were two girls in front of me. Amanda was next to go down and between us stood Vivian, a popular girl who was a grade or two above me whose body was already starting to develop rapidly. When Amanda stepped up to the water slide, Vivian reached down with one hand pulled Amanda’s bikini bottoms off and with the other pushed her forward. I could hear her cry out as she rushed down the pipe.
The echoes of her fading cry swept away all the happiness that had been building up inside me that day and I didn’t know how to feel at what I just saw. It happened so fast and viciously that I didn’t see Amanda’s exposed bottom, and I doubted anyone else did either, but when the other kids saw Vivian holding the pair of bikini bottoms up in the air they all started talking excitedly about seeing the whale’s ass, each kid trying to outdo one another in exaggerated descriptions.
Vivian smiled as she dangled the pink bikini bottoms off one finger like a trophy. The lifeguard grabbed her roughly by the arm and started to pull her towards the stairs. “Slides closed,” he said, which caused kids to groan. I felt sorry for the girl; I had seen her be bullied around the park before, but I never knew what to do about it. I had always been too afraid to stand up for her. I wished I could help her. When the lifeguard and Vivian started to pass me, I knew what I had to do. I reached out and tried to grab the bikini bottom out of Vivian’s hand but she curled in her finger and held on.
“Hey,” Vivian yelled at me as if I was the one doing something wrong. I pulled again but she held firm so I reached down and pulled at her bikini bottoms. I didn’t fully undo the knot but enough of it had come undone for her to let go of the girl’s bikini bottom to focus on covering up her body. I dove headfirst into the slide and rocketed down after the girl. Thanks to the rules I had never gone down one of these slides face first. It was amazing being able to see the darkness racing away from me instead of just looking down at my feet. I felt like I was flying. Despite the severity of my mission, I started to laugh. I hit the water open-mouthed and face first.
I emerged from the pool spitting out water and looked around trying to find the girl, but today the park was crowded for the 4th of July celebration. I didn’t know which way to go and was about to go in a random direction when I heard other kids laughing and the girl’s cry from the direction towards the entrance to the park. I ran to catch up with her.
I made it to the park’s entrance but didn’t see the poor girl anywhere. I scanned the crowd and It didn’t seem shocked as if they had just seen a half nude crying girl run by so she must not have made it to the entrance of the park. I doubled back and looked around, but I couldn’t find her anywhere. I ran around for twenty minutes looking for her but had no luck. I leaned against the chain-link fence between the snack bar and boat rental buildings as I caught my breath. I was about to walk away when I heard a stifled cry. There was a gate in the middle of the fence and I opened it. The girl was sitting in the shadows in a corner with a raft draped across her lower body. She looked up at me and shouted between sobs, “Go away!”
I closed the gate behind me and held up her bikini bottoms. “I got these back for you.” I approached her like you would a wounded animal and took a couple of small steps forward.
“It doesn’t matter, they already saw me naked.”