A new woman has joined the health club as a water aerobics instructor. Her name is Paisley, and Kai is immediately smitten.
Kai looked carefully around the pool. One of the elderly ladies who was also very overweight, was foundering. Paisley hadn’t missed it either. She hopped in the pool, making it look like she needed to cool off, working her way to the woman’s side. Kai was off the tower and at the pool in seconds.
Paisley encouraged the woman to the side of the pool, asking for a bottle of water. Kai nodded to another lifeguard, closer to the office. A bottle of water flashed across the heads of the people in the pool. Kai caught it, opening and handing it to Paisley in one smooth movement. He squatted by the pool assessing the woman from a foot away.
“How are you feeling, Mrs. Springer?” he asked calmly.
“Light-headed,” she said in a gasping voice.
“Think you’ll be okay if you stand by the side here? I’ll stay with you, keep an eye.”
She nodded, sipping the water, her face flushed.
“You take it easy. If you need to get out, you let me know, I’ll come in and help you out.”
“You’re a sweet boy, Kai.”
“Can’t let you pass out on me, baby. Boss Lady will think I’m slacking.”
Mrs. Springer managed a tight, exhausted smile. Kai nodded to the others letting them know he had it under control. The younger guard took the tower. Kai sat cross legged by the pool, talking to Mrs. Springer.
Paisley kept class going, glancing at the two of them every now and then. Mrs. Springer’s color improved and Kai allowed her to participate in a limited way, cautioning her from time to time when she worked too hard.
“I know you want the weight off, Bessie,” he said quietly. “But your doctor said to take it easy. Don’t make me look bad, sugar. Boss Lady will yell.”
Bessie Springer smiled, gasping slightly as she exercised. Kai stayed close, watching her until the cool down was over and class ended. Paisley finished with a flourish, taking a bow. The class applauded enthusiastically, and made their way to the ladders or the shallow end of the pool, where they could walk out. Mrs. Springer walked with her hand on the edge until she got to the end of the pool where the pavement met the water’s edge. Kai followed her around, greeting her there with a strong arm and a PVC wheelchair. He put up an umbrella, making her sit there until her daughter came to pick her up.
“I know she has a doctor’s permission form,” he said quietly to her daughter. “But I’m very concerned. I really can’t allow her to continue if she’s going to get faint and light-headed during the warm-up. She needs an individualized program, inside where it’s cool. If you talk to the director, she can set you up.”
“Mom wants to be out here with her friends,” the daughter protested.
“Look, I’m not trying to be a hard ass. I love Bessie to bits, and I don’t want to see her do this to herself. I’m sure there’s some nice people inside too, maybe a few she knows. She can’t be out here in this heat and sun.”
She started to protest again, but Kai held up his hand. “I’m gonna have to say no. I know my boss will back me up on this. If I have to, I’ll call her doctor myself, and have him veto it. I won’t be responsible for her death. And that’s what’s gonna happen if your mom continues to workout in the pool.”
The daughter blanched, nodding. Tight lipped, blinking hard, she helped her mother to the car, talking quietly and earnestly. Kai let them out the locked gate, so they could get to their car more easily. He helped Bessie into her seat, closing her door for her. As he locked the gate behind himself, he exhaled sharply, running his hands through his hair.
“That could have been a bad one,” a soft, Southern-tinged voice said behind him.
Kai turned around to find Paisley a couple feet away. She had a towel around her waist, her wet suit clinging to her body like a red, slinky skin.
“Yeah. I’ve been telling them for a couple weeks that I didn’t think she should be out here. Today I flat told them no. I don’t like being a hard ass….”
“But you don’t want her to die on your watch.”
“Not a lot, no.” He flashed a lopsided grin, holding out his hand. “Kai Marcelo. Head lifeguard.”
“I’m Paisley Saunders, but I expect you know that.” She took his broad palmed hand in a firm grip.
“I do. Nice to meet you, Miss Saunders.”
“Call me Paisley. What does a head lifeguard do?”
She gave him a Lauren Bacall look, chin tilted down, eyes raised to meet his. If she intended to stop his heart, getting his full attention, that did it. Her eyes were an incredible shade of green, dark and liquid, like pine trees reflected in deep water. Kai concentrated on breathing for a moment, because his lungs seemed to have forgotten how to expand on their own.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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