Water Music

Water Music

by Georgette Gouveia


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Daniel and Dylan are the top swimmers in the world; Alex and Alí, the top tennis players. They play for God, country, family, and the need to escape their troubled pasts. In their quest to be the best, they also harbor a secret: Each is in love with his rival.

The four hit it off at the Summer Olympics in New York and reconnect on an island vacation that gives new meaning to doubles,
round-robin, and preliminary heats. By then, the shifting professional fortunes of each couple have begun to signal a change in their personal relationships as well, one that will lead to new alliances and betrayal and engulf them in tragedy.

Told from their alternating viewpoints, WATER MUSIC is about power,
jealousy, dominance, and submission. It's about how the past informs the present and the future and how the choices made by nations, our families, and ourselves color our lives. Ultimately, it's the story of how we come to accept those choices and learn to live with loss through love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781938416460
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group, LLC
Publication date: 01/14/2014
Pages: 226
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.52(d)

Read an Excerpt

Water Music

From The Games Men Play Series


River Grove Books

Copyright © 2014 Georgette Gouveia
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-938416-46-0



GO AHEAD, SAYS THE VOICE IN HIS HEAD. JUMP IN. YIELD TO your greatest fears and overcome.

Submit to your darkest desires.

Surrender to the water's embrace.

He's standing on the deck, adjusting the tight white bathing cap—yet again. It feels like a second helmet around the coarse auburn curls that are just too thick no matter how often and close the stylist shears them. He shifts his goggles for the umpteenth time. The lights in the blue and white Shanghai Oriental Sports Centre flash with a pinball brilliance. The place reeks of chlorine and heat. The cheers are deafening. But all he hears is the beat of his own heart and that voice in his head.

"Be with me now, Mama," he whispers as he crosses himself. "Give me your courage, your love, and your strength."

He flaps his arms across his broad chest, and his muscles quiver like so much loose flesh. He stares at the water.

Go ahead, Dylan.




* * *

"GO AHEAD, HONEY. JUST LIKE MAMA TAUGHT YOU. DON'T worry. I'll watch you. I won't let anything happen."

His mother—a blond goddess in a white halter swimsuit of her own design—is encouraging his skittish nine-year-old self to jump into the deep end of the pool at their home in Malibu.

"Oh, for Chrissakes," his father is saying, disgusted. "Jump or get the hell off the diving board. Look at your little brothers."

Jordan, four years younger, and Austin, barely a year, are chirping and splashing in the attached kiddie pool.

"But you, you have to have all the attention," his father sneers. "You're such a mama's boy."

"Shut up, Tony," his mother says. "It's all right, Dylie. You just take your time."

Dylan, though, is afraid. What if he fails? What if he sinks? What if he drowns?

"He's never going to do it," his father, seated in a lounge chair on the opposite side of the pool from his mother, yells. "He doesn't have the guts."

With that, Dylan stares at his father as if his gray eyes could bore twin holes into his skull, leaps high in the air, and does a perfect swan dive off the board. He sinks like a stone and, panicking, thinks, That's it. This is the end.

But then he stills his mind and fights for control and air. He centers himself, floating on his back, and begins churning down the length of the pool. When he climbs out—exhilarated and shaking—he realizes that he's been so focused on his effort and triumph that he's unaware of the commotion around him. His parents are screaming at each other, his brothers are shrieking, and Rosa, the housekeeper, is yelling in Spanish.

"You could've killed him," his mother is saying.

"He made it, Diana, didn't he? What are you busting my balls for?"

"That's right, speak to me that way in front of my children."

"Your children? Well, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they weren't my children."

"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you? That would justify the way you treat me, wouldn't it? Rosa, take Jordie and Austie into the house. Go on, babies. Rosa will give you some juice. Dylie, let Mama see you're all right."

"Yeah, that's right. Coddle him all you want. But let me tell you, he'll never be the swimmer you were. You'll never make an Olympic champ out of this kid."

* * *

AND YET, HERE HE IS IN THE FINALS OF THE 400 IM—THE decathlon of swimming—at the world championships.

Be with me now, Mama, he thinks as he bends down to scoop up some water, splashing his arms and chest so it won't sting as much when he hits the pool. He takes another scoop, rinses his mouth, and spits it out quickly. Standing at the edge, right foot in front, toes pointed, he leans in. When the starting buzzer goes off, he knifes through the air, staying underwater as long as he can.

He loves being underwater, where it's as quiet as the grave. Loves exploding to the surface in the butterfly, sculpting huge arcs in the air. He loves the backstroke. Loves the way he can look up at the canyon clouds or a starry night, although here it's just an arched white ceiling with lots of lights. He loves the way he pushes off the wall on a turn. Loves bobbing up and down in the breaststroke. He loves giving it his all in the freestyle. Loves pushing himself to the point where his lungs burn and his body feels like a thousand knives are stabbing it. Loves the way the last 50 meters are like coming home.

But mostly, he just loves swimming, loves the purity of it, because no matter how aware you are of the swimmers undulating beside you or the crowd willing you to the finish, there really is only you and the water and the beat of your breath and your heart as you count the strokes.

He hits the wall one last time, rips off the goggles and the confining cap, and looks up at the clock and the standings. His heart is beating so fast that he doesn't think he'll ever catch his breath.

He sees his name, Dylan Roqué, just below that of Daniel Reiner-Kahn. One and two, with one 1/100th of a second separating them. He's feeling—what? Elated, annoyed—he hates losing to anyone. Yet he's satisfied. It was a near-perfect race. Nothing's perfect. That someone was better is understandable. That Dani was that someone is, well, unsurprising and gratifying. Dani is, after all, what God would've been had he been a swimmer.

Dylan bends over a lane rope where "God" is leaning against the wall, his arms spread like the wings of a condor, eyes closed, soaking it all in—or maybe just waiting for his prey. Daniel opens his eyes and grins at Dylan.

"Congrats. That was amazing," Dylan says.

"Congrats yourself," Daniel says, still breathless. "That was pretty special."

Daniel's green eyes meet Dylan's gray gaze. Together, they are the color of the sea. They embrace—their bodies seal-skin slick, at once hot and shivering, their nipples erect—and Dylan is aware of not wanting to let go and needing to.

Ivan Ivanesivic, who has finished third, necessarily breaks the spell.

"Dudes, that was awesome. I am so jazzed to be part of this trio."

Having learned English as a second language, mostly from American websites and music, the Croatian feels the need to use as many slang terms as possible in each sentence.

"Someday I tell my grandchildren about this, no?"

"Someday you tell your grandkids, yes," Daniel says, laughing, rubbing Ivan's stubbly head before he swims across the lanes, bobbing like a dolphin.

"Yeah, dude," Dylan says, patting him, "good job."

When they get out of the water, the poolside reporter, Kendra Kimball, grabs Daniel and Dylan and begins arranging them in the camera shot. Dylan feels as if he's in a dream. It's still so loud and he can hardly hear Kendra, who's saying something about "the greatest race." Daniel's laughing and Dylan starts giggling, too. The rest passes in a blur: wrapping a towel around his waist, stripping off his jammers, always a sexy moment to him; showering, more water; dressing; the medal ceremony, complete with roses and teddy bears; the anthem.

That always gets him, and he sings full out. He loves to sing, does it well, but has to fight not to let his emotions overtake it, whereas Daniel just stands atop the podium, eyes fixed on the flag, hand over heart, smiling but betraying nothing. Dylan wishes he were that cool. Then Daniel pulls him and Ivan up to the top step, and Dylan feels the electric thrill of Daniel's arm wrapped lightly around his coiled waist. More giggling.

After, they find their families in the stands. Daniel gives his flowers and teddy to his mother, Dr. Daniella Reiner—blond, freckled, glamorous. Dylan gives his to his aunt, Deidre "Dee Dee" Norquist, so like his mother and yet, so unlike her, which is what saves this moment from being truly heartbreaking. His brothers, Jordan and Austin, are there, too.

"Hugs and kisses," Daniella says to Dylan as she embraces her son. "I am so proud of you both."

"Yes, it was wonderful," Aunt Dee Dee says, whispering in his ear, "your mother would've been so pleased."

Dylan's eyes pool. "She is, Aunt Dee Dee. She is."

"So what did you think?" Dylan says to his brothers.

"It was absolutely, positively all right," Jordan teases.

"Austin, can you tear yourself away from your iPhone long enough to give me a hug?" Dylan says, feigning exasperation.

"Are you kidding?" Jordan says. "He saw the whole race on it. I mean, why should he watch the real thing when he can experience it secondhand."

"Check it out," Austin says. He's created an edited version complete with graphics and music.

"Spielberg would be so jealous," Daniel offers.

"You joke now, Dani," Austin counters, "but someday when I'm a famous filmmaker, you and Rebecca Grossman will be eating your hearts out."

Daniel and Dylan exchange quizzical looks.

"Who's Rebecca Grossman?" Dylan asks.

"Oh, she's the girl who unfriended Austin on Facebook," Jordan offers, "right after she dumped him, saying her family thought we were too weird for the two of them to date."

"Really?" Dylan says. His heart aches for his brother. "Well, that's quite an achievement. We're finally too weird even by California standards."

"Who cares what those Nob Hill snobs back home think anyway?" Dee Dee says, throwing an arm around Austin.

"That's right," Austin says, "although I may have to date down to the sophomore class at St. Francis. Still, women are like the trolley. Miss one, another will be along."

"Hey, is that what you say?" Dee Dee says, chucking Austin lightly on the back of his head. "There are ladies present."

"Yeah, it's been a big week," Jordan adds. "Austin got dumped, and Dad forgot to send the child support—again."

Dylan looks at Dee Dee, alarmed. "If you need money, Aunt Dee Dee—"

"It's not for you to worry about, sweetie. The lawyers are working it out. And this is not the time or the place," she adds, motioning to Daniella and Daniel, who are chatting between themselves.

"How about we all go out to dinner," Daniella offers.

At the restaurant in Jin Mao Tower, Austin keeps pushing the buttons on his iPhone, Jordan keeps pushing Austin's buttons, and Daniella talks to Dee Dee about creating some paintings for her Manhattan office.

So Dylan guesses no one notices him blushing as Daniel strokes his thigh under the table.

Dylan grabs Daniel's hand and holds it.




Thwomp, thwack. Forth, back.

Alí ran to the sound—he had always run to it, been comforted by its hollow, rhythmic predictability—slipping through the green borders and hedges that made the outer courts at Wimbledon look like secret gardens. Quietly, he sat down courtside and watched two figures in pristine white playing. The fairer man served, scything the space, and just as quickly the darker one returned, as if he knew where the ball would be even before it left his opponent's racket.

Alí marveled at the way they moved the ball, and each other, around the court. Up and down. In and out. Side to side. Changing the pace and direction at a moment's notice, slugging it out from the base line, grunting. Two gladiators in heat.

Even though it was only practice, Alí sensed that there was something more important at stake than even a Wimbledon championship.

It was as if they were continuing some competition, some conversation left off and picked up across continents and time.

And one thing more: It was if they were aware of an audience of one—himself—for after a while, the darker player, all molten sensuality, stopped, ran a hand threw his mop of thick, black hair and, grinning, pointed his racket at Alí and asked: "Do you want to hit?"

His companion looked at Alí as if he were examining the bottom of his shoe.

"Allons, Alex," he said. "We're playing here."

"It's all right," Alí said to Alex, ignoring the other man. "I'd like to watch."

"So you can learn all our secrets, no?" Alex teased.

"Something like that," Alí said.

"You're the qualifier who's made it to the round of 16. Brilliant," Alex said. "What do they call you?"

"Alí, short for Tariq Alí Iskandar."

"Alexandros Vyranos and that's Étienne Alençon."

"I know who you guys are," Alí said, laughing. Everyone knew the No. 2- and No. 1-ranked players in the world.

"Are we going to talk or play?" Étienne said, hands on hips.

"Why don't we let Alí hit with one of us?" Alex offered.

"Because we're already playing," Étienne said.

Alex and Alí locked on each other. It was hard to tell who was playing whom.

"Sure you don't want to play the grouchiest guy on tour?" Alex asked.

* * *


Alí sees his nine-year-old self, racing passed barricades and bombed-out buildings along the Tigris River into the Green Zone, only this time he slips not merely onto a cloistered court but into another world.

Some fifty miles south of here along the Euphrates and half as many centuries ago, Alexander—his family's namesake, for that is what "Iskandar" means—dwelled in a palace that overlooked the famed terraces of Babylon and a rectangular garden that was divided into quadrants by rills and fountains, crowned with white pavilions and filled with peacocks and pomegranates. There ladies of the court in blue and purple silks would stroll, their faces hidden by veils and parasols, their laugher echoing with the music of the burbling rills.

Saddam Hussein's former palace and gardens in Baghdad are not as handsome. But then, Alí thinks, Saddam is no Alexander, no matter how many coins with the Macedonian conqueror's exquisitely sculpted profile he has robbed from the museum in Kuwait.

Alí wonders if the Americans have those coins now. They probably eat off Saddam's cobalt blue–banded Renaissance Gold Wedgwood and sit on his golden throne, too. Alí giggles at the notion of Saddam's hairy butt on the run from his gold-plated toilet seats. It's a far cry from Alexander in his caftan and crown on the Peacock Throne, he thinks mischievously.

As for Saddam's palace, it overlooks no Hanging Gardens but a kidney-shaped pool and a tennis court, the kind Alí and his family have seen on TV.

There, two American soldiers bat a ball over an imaginary net. Alí watches them, his large eyes the color of nutmeg.

"You want to play?"

One of the soldiers hardly notices him, but the questioner looks at him with a face of enchanting sweetness.

"Here," he says, holding out the racket, "want to try?"

"Leave the kid alone," the other soldier says. "Someone might get the wrong idea."

"Don't be ridiculous. We invaded his country. The least we can do is spread a little cheer. Here, you try," the kindly soldier says, holding out the racket again. "Do you speak any English? It's all right. You don't have to be afraid."

"I'm not afraid," Alí says.

And in truth, he isn't. He's been fascinated by the Americans from the moment they rode into Baghdad, even though the bombing scared him and his four siblings. His parents, who hid them in a closet in the basement, made him, the oldest son, recite over and over again what the children were to do should their parents be killed.

Still, the Americans seem so big and healthy, well-scrubbed and friendly, full of smiles and chocolates, like this soldier. Alí ran out into the street with the other boys to greet them. His mother had been afraid for him. But his father let him go. He believes now that the Americans are here, things will change for the better.

Alí notices a cross gleaming next to the kind soldier's dog tags.

"I'm a Christian, too," Alí says, pronouncing the word with a slight French flavor.

He produces the small cross he wears on a string around his neck and keeps carefully tucked inside his thin shirt. It's not something he would reveal to just anyone, having once had a cross carved between his shoulder blades by some older boys, who grabbed him on his way from school, held him down in an alleyway, and slit his shirt open up the back, chanting, "Christian, Christian."

His father's shop, too, where he peddles carpets similar to the ones Alí's uncle sells in Paris, has been spray-painted with crosses. After that, his parents keep him, his two older sisters, and two younger brothers close, and his mother and sisters always wear their burkas outside. Still, after the Americans arrived, they had reason to hope—at least in the beginning.

So Alí feels no fear—well, maybe just a little—as he steps forward and takes the soldier's racket. He traces the arabesques around its frame and plucks the strings as if it were a violin. His mother is a music teacher.

"You ever play before?" the kind soldier, Private Michael Smeaton, asks.

Wide-eyed, Alí shakes his head.


Excerpted from Water Music by GEORGETTE GOUVEIA. Copyright © 2014 Georgette Gouveia. Excerpted by permission of River Grove Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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