“You know how to swim, right?” Briar gave him a sidelong glance as she hoisted a bag onto her shoulder. It was a large bag, but it contained mostly towels, so it wasn’t heavy. The exaggerated motion was probably just for show.
Thomas sighed and checked that his shoelaces were tied. “Yes, I know how to swim.” He wasn’t some little kid, and he had gone swimming with Briar once before.
“Just making sure.” She turned to where her dad was lounging beside the fire pit. “Dad, we’re going now.”
He just waved in acknowledgment.
Briar led the way to the lake. Thomas was right behind her, and Logan trailed a few steps back. Every so often Thomas glanced back, and he thought Logan looked apprehensive. He thought about lagging so that he was beside him, but didn’t know what he would say, and walking in silence would feel awkward.
Just as he finally thought of something to say, Briar skipped down a few wooden steps and they were there.
The lake was startlingly blue. Thomas stared at it, jaw hanging open. He had only ever been swimming in a pool, either in a friend’s back yard or at the community center. The water there looked blue because the sides of the pool were painted. But this wasn’t paint, this was real.
“Come on.” Briar grabbed his hand and started pulling him along the beach. There weren’t many people there, and nobody paid them any attention as Briar laid claim to a patch of sand close to the water. She dropped the towel bag on the sand and started stripping off her t-shirt and shorts.
“You know, it will probably be cold.” Thomas chuckled at Briar’s enthusiasm.
She grinned at him. “That’s the best part.” She stood proudly in a bright orange bikini. “Let’s go.”
Thomas shook his head but pulled off his own shirt. He deposited it and his shoes with the towel bag.
That’s when he noticed that Logan hadn’t stripped. When he looked, he realized that Logan wasn’t even wearing swim trunks. “Aren’t you going to swim?”
Logan shook his head quickly. “No. I, uh, I don’t know how to.” He busied himself by pulling out a beach towel and spreading it on the sand. “I’m just going to sit here and watch.”
“Oh.” Now Thomas felt guilty, especially since he knew Briar had insisted that they all go together. He glanced in her direction, wondering if she knew Logan couldn’t swim. She was looking at him with an understanding expression, so he guessed she had known.
“Come on.” Briar whined. She grabbed his wrist and started running for the water.
It was cold.
Thomas let out a startled cry when his feet hit the water. His first instinct was to turn around and go back to where Logan was sitting, but Briar kept pulling him further in. She only stopped when they were up to their waists and running was more of a joke than an option.
“This is freezing.” Thomas complained, wrapping his arms around himself and shivering.
“You’ll get used to it.” Briar dropped off her feet and the water went up to her neck. She grinned and started paddling away.
Thomas tried to follow her, but it was hard to swim when a shiver passed through his body every few seconds. Around him, he could see kids swimming and laughing, unfazed by the cold water. He wondered if he was just being a baby about it. Maybe he could try to block it out.
A spray of water hit his face and he gasped. Briar was laughing, arms pulled back and ready to splash him again.
“Don’t you dare.” He warned.
She did it anyway. Then she squealed when he splashed her back.
They messed around like that for a while. Whenever Briar tried to swim away to plan a new angle of attack, Thomas easily caught her with his longer limbs. She was very quickly feigning surrender, only to get him when he let down his guard. Then the whole thing started over again.
Thomas was laughing when he left the water to check on Logan. The younger boy was sitting cross legged on his towel, staring up at the sky. He jumped when Thomas sat down beside him.
“Sorry.” Thomas dug out his own towel and tried to dry his hair. “What were you looking at.”
Logan shrugged and waved his hand in the air vaguely. “Nothing really. Nature, I guess.”
“Ah.” He had figured Logan would get bored. “So, uh…” He tried to remember what he had decided to say to Logan before they reached the beach. “I never heard how you know Briar.”
“She didn’t tell you?” Logan fidgeted and looked away. “She’s my sister.”
Thomas was not expecting that. Suddenly, he felt just how distant his father was from his life. He hadn’t even known he had had another kid. And that was thirteen years ago.
Then he felt hurt, because Briar also hadn’t said anything.