“Over here, Cris,” Mari shouted and waved her hand when she saw her cousin.
The manager saw and walked towards her, passing by the friends and family members that came to see the competition. With difficulty, he was at Mari’s side.
“Did you talk to him?” she asked, not even waiting for him to recover his breath.
Mari waited for him to go on, but Cris became quiet.
“So…? How was he?” the woman asked when she grew too impatient. “What did he say after you told him about his contract and the other swimmer?”
Cris let out a worried sigh.
“The same… I mean, when I told him, he seemed a little shocked, but it didn’t look like it’s gonna affect him today… He knows what he has to do…”
“Let’s hope so,” Mari said, drinking her soda without taking her eyes from her cousin. Then she narrowed her eyes. “What else happened?”
“What?” Cris looked at her, resisting his urge to look away. But when his cheeks warmed up, he knew he had failed.
“I can tell something else happened between you two. C’mon, little cousin, spill the beans.”
Cris chuckled and flashed a smiled as he looked away. “Nothing much… we just kissed a little…”
And it was a great kiss, the manager thought, hoping he could keep that to himself for a little longer. That moment belongs only to us…
Mari grinned and nodded as she closed her eyes.
“And you wished it was more than just a kiss. I get it, little cousin. I totally get it. But, please, keep it in your skirt until later. When you two can break a bed.”
“If there’s something to celebrate later,” the manager said in a low voice before he could stop himself.
“Ah, c’mon, Cris. Don’t you go getting all depressed because of what Marco said,” she said looking her cousin in the eyes. “Nelson only needs to show that he still has the potential to swim at a high level.”
“You don’t have the confidence he can?” Mari asked, her voice low and serious.
Cris bit his lips.
He believed in Nelson. All the confidence the swimmer had wasn’t just for appearance. But part of him couldn’t shake the fear of the worst outcome.
“I do believe in him… but what if anything bad happens?” he said, not looking Mari in the eyes. “Things don’t always go the way we want… That guy that Marco’s here to watch… he might win. I don’t know…”
“Cris,” Mari said and grew quiet as she waited for her cousin to look at her.
It took a while, but the manager finally turned in her direction.
“You’re being too pessimistic. Don’t just think about the worst case scenario. You’ve been by Nelson’s side more than anyone. You told me that even though he still nowhere near what he used to be, he’s getting better and faster.”
“Yeah, but what if—”
“If there’s someone faster? There could be. Even in a municipal tournament. But instead of worrying for something you can’t change, think of something you can do,” she said, interrupting him.
“Like cheer for him. It’s the only thing you can do for him right now.”
Cris opened his mouth to reply. But instead of words, he let out a heavy sigh.
“I know that. And I don’t get tired of hearing, believe me,” she said, flashing her cocky smile.
Cris couldn’t help but show a tiny smile.
Before he could say anything, the people around them became louder.
“Look, they’re coming.” Mari pointed and made Cris face the pool.
From the other side of the pool, the swimmers came out from the locker room one by one.
“Look at them. They’re surprised by the crowd,” his cousin said, not hiding her joy.
“It’s like they’ve never seen so many people interested in swimming,” Cris commented as he tried to locate his boyfriend.
“I’m ready to bet all my money that this crowd is because of Nelson.”
Cris couldn’t disagree. But he was too anxious to say anything.
Where is he?
And then his boyfriend finally appeared.
Nelson was the last one to come out of the men’s locker room.
The moment he stepped into the pool area, the crowd cheered louder.
He, like the other swimmers, seemed surprised by all the spectators.
But the next moment, his surprise gave room to a smile as he waved to the crowd, making them grow louder.
Mari laughed at the scene. “Just what you’d expect from a professional swimmer. He knows how to please the fans.”
Cris let out a real chuckle, but when Nelson looked at his direction and smiled at him, he blushed.
“Haha, you’re such a girl in love, Cris,” Mari made fun of him, poking the manager’s cheek.
“Shut up,” he said, but he didn’t dislike.
“Even so, you better make sure people know that he’s your man,” Mari said, indicating something with her chin.
Cris looked in that direction.
Three girls around his age were cheering louder than the rest of the crowd. And thanks to the red signs filled with hearts they held, it wasn’t hard to figure out for whom they were supporting.
“Look, little cousin. That girl in the middle wrote ‘I love you, Nelson’,” Mari said in a low voice, looking at him through the corner of her eyes. “Are you gonna let her say that to your man?”
“Why are you trying to make me cause a scene here her?”
“Because it would be fun,” she said with a serious face.
“I won’t make a scene nor pick a fight with that girl. I’m not that kind of boyfriend,” he said turning away from his cousin and the girls.
“Oh, really? That’s funny coming from someone who crashed a wedding party just to make out with his boyfriend and make sure no one would flirt with him,” Mari said with a serious face.
“That was… I was a kid back then…”
“And is that same kid who described the taste of his boyfriend wiener because he overheard a girl from his class talking about how handsome he was?”
Cris blushed and looked away. But that wasn’t fast enough to hide his guilty smile from his cousin.
“I’m not the same person…”
“The same person who—”
“Fine! What do you want me to do, huh?” Cris snapped, but still kept his voice down. “Make a scene here? I don’t think Nelson is ready to have people finding out that he’s dating another guy.”
“Yes. He’s not ready,” Mari said, her smile turning sly. “But you’re dress as a girl today”
Cris pressed his lips.
“You’re like a demon standing on my shoulder and telling me to go to the dark side,” the manager mumbled.
“Yes, I am. Now go on. Do it. No one will ever know,” she leaned closer to whisper in his ear.
With his face red, Cris turned in his boyfriend’s direction.
“Go, Nelson! Win this for me!” he shouted above the noise of the crowd.
The people around him noticed and looked at him. However, the rest kept cheering the same way, as if nothing had happened.
But Nelson had heard. With his face red, he waved awkwardly at his boyfriend.
Then he followed the other swimmers to begin the tournament’s formality.
Cris turned to his cousin with his cheeks burning.
“Are you happy now?” he asked in a hushed and embarrassed voice.
Mari, on the other hand, didn’t seem bothered by the stares they received.
All she did was laugh.
“Yeah. Especially because of that,” she said, turning to the girls with the signs.
They were staring at Cris with nasty looks. They whispered something between themselves and walked to the other side.
“Did you see their faces? That was priceless!”
“Glad you enjoyed my embarrassment,” Cris muttered, still trying to ignore the stares. I like to embarrass Nelson, not myself…
“Always, little cousin. Always,” she said, patting him on the back.
Cris gave up and turned back to the pool.
The swimmers were already standing on the starting block.
It’s time, the manager thought, holding his breath.
Cris couldn’t help but remember all what he and Nelson had gone through.
From the moment they met until they became more than just friends.
Please, let him win, he prayed in his heart. Please, let him swim his best today…
I don’t care about our celebration later… I just want him to do his best so we can continue as swimmer and manager…
Cris only had eyes for Nelson now.
With his heart beating wildly, the manager watched as the whistle blew and the swimmers jumped into the water.