The beep sounded, and the swimmers dove into the pool.
“Andrew. I’m speaking to you,” my dad yelled over the cheers of the crowd. “Are you in the right lane?”
My eyes popped open and I ground my molars together. Of course I knew what lane I was supposed to be in. I’d written my races and lanes on my arm in Sharpie, for hell’s sake.
“Yes,” I called over my shoulder. Please just leave me alone.
“Good.” His voice was barely audible over the sound of someone whistling. “You better not blow this heat. No scout is going to come to see you with these numbers.”
Go to hell. I closed my eyes and tried to go back to my lyrics. Focus. Don’t listen to the jerk off. Zone him out.
The crowd went wild, and my eyes popped open again. The other team’s fans started yelling and screaming and jumping everywhere. I glanced up at the scoreboard. Damn. Their new freshman swimmer beat our best time by a full second. Coach paced next to the staging area. We were the best team on the island, despite being one of the smallest schools. If we lost that standing, we could lose funding for the sport next year.
Dad came down close and leaned in close to my ear, so everyone in the audience would think he was just whispering words of encouragement, but we both knew it wouldn’t be like that.
“Don’t screw this up,” he hissed, his breath making the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I hated him. I really did. “Baxters don’t lose to the shittiest school in the district. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.” I noticed Coach watching us with a frown, and forced a smile. Nothing to see here. Just a friendly father-son pep talk.
“Good.” Dad stood up and returned to his seat, pausing long enough to wave at everyone on the bleachers. Ever the politician.
The buzzing voice on the loudspeaker announced the top three of the last race, and I popped all my knuckles while I waited. I had to win the 100 fly. I had no choice. First, I didn’t feel like taking a punch from my dad tonight. Second, I didn’t want the TTHS team’s rep going down the crapper because I couldn’t turn it out.
Right. No pressure.
I tried rolling my shoulders and adjusting my cap as the judges cleared the scoreboard, but my muscles felt like they were made out of Tupperware plastic. Oh man, I’m gonna blow this. I need luck. Lots of it.
Glancing over my shoulder, I pretended to just stretch my neck, but caught a glimpse of Posey instead. Our eyes locked and she offered me a tiny smile. My insides warmed, and the muscles in my shoulders and arms started to relax.
A bunch of the guys on the team had good luck charms. Umbardt never washed his suit, which was nasty. Lawson kissed his picture of Nickie Minaj right before he left the locker room every meet. Maybe Posey would be my good luck charm. Hell, I didn’t know. When other girls came to my meets, it annoyed me, but when Posey came, it made sitting two feet from my dad while he threatened me ten thousand times better.
“100 meter butterfly,” the crackling voice announced.
I pulled my goggles down over my eyes, pressed them against my skin to seal the air in, then strode to the block. I could feel everyone’s eyes on my back. The spectators. Coach. The guys on the team. My parents. Posey. Just a few weeks ago, I would’ve used everyone’s expectations to drive me—to keep the adrenaline pumping through my veins until I kicked the ass of every swimmer in the pool. But now those same expectations just bogged me down like rocks around my ankles.
I was so sick of being under pressure.