draft working title: Transfomed

Currently this is only a draft of the story I have buzzing around inside my head. I've written the early chapters simply to help get my thoughts in order and story started. I don't write that frequently, so I can't guarantee if and when new chapters will appear.

However, I really would appreciate constructive criticism because I'm trying to learn how to write in a way people want to read, so thanks in advance for your comments!!


5. My Sister Ginta’s Visits


Ginta’s training camp was in Vilinus is about 100 kilometres away. Once a month she would make the 4 hour bus journey home for a long weekend. We all looked forward to these visits and during them, she and I were inseparable. We’d stay up late chatting, long after mother had shouted for us to get some sleep. Often, although mother really didn’t like it, sis would sleep in the top bunk bed rather than returning to her bedroom. The bunk beds, in my bedroom, where for when one of our male cousins would stay overnight. Sometimes, as sis climbed the ladder to the top bunk bed, I’d tickle the soles of her feet and she would laugh uncontrollably, if I carried on long enough tears would run down her cheeks. I can’t remember how or when I found out sis is ticklish but even the threat of it causes her to flinch and giggle. She’d talk about the other girls in the squad, make fun of those she didn’t like, then immediately feel guilty for not liking them, blush and say, “Ignore that Jolitas, I didn’t mean it”. She would tell me how tiring the training is; often she would train for 6 hours a day and still be expected to keep up with her school work, including completing homework assignments on time. Given the importance placed on female education in Lithuania, to remain in the swim squad is conditional upon maintaining a good grade point average. “We want the world to admire our country, should you advance to the national team and represent Lithuania at international competitions you’ll be a sporting ambassador. So your education is as important as swim technique, do not therefore disgrace our country or yourself by neglecting your studies” the coaches would say. The strictest trainer is a Russians doctor named Vladimir, he’s in charge of all aspects of physical development; everything from the swimmers diet to their gym sessions is under his supervision. Sis hates him; she pointed him out to me in the official swim squad photo. A short old man, still muscular though through regular daily exercise, dressed in grey trousers, open necked white shirt and dark blue blazer with the pre-war Russian ‘hammer & sickle’ emblem emblazoned on its breast pocket. He stands arms folded looking very superior. From that moment on, whenever I dreamt of lunging for the finish to win gold by a finger tip, the defeated Russian, who looks so deflated, crestfallen, is always a young Vladimir!

During her weekend visits Ginta would accompany me to the pool; she wouldn’t swim on these occasions but walk along the side of the pool, as I swam, shouting encouragement as I did my best to impress her. Afterwards in the cafeteria, she’d discuss my technique and where she felt I could improve. She would remind me that Vilinus wasn’t built in a day; if I really wanted to improve, I must be patient and practice hard. She would scribble exercise routines, that she had learnt and I should follow, on small pieces of paper. Ginta’s belief and encouragement buoyed my spirits, recharged my resolve and gave me the strength to ignore the disparaging comments from the girls training at the pool and their parents at pool side. She taught me to close my ears, to focus on what I wanted to achieve, to ignore others negativity.

18th July 2002 Ginta arrives home accompanied by Viktorija, who is 4 years her senior and already she’s a household name, having won the Free Style National Championships for the last 2 years. Viktorija is a tall strikingly looking girl, confident in her ability but not arrogant or big headed. Ginta has become her protégé and despite the age gap, they get on famously both as team mates and friends. That first night, when everyone had gone to bed and only sis and I were up, sis tells me that Viktorija isn’t happy. She apparently argues regularly with Vladimir. She doesn’t like his training regime, feels it’s far too strict and strenuous, especially for the younger team members whose bodies are not yet fully developed, and she especially dislikes his ‘power’ drinks the squad are instructed to drink for 2 weeks, stopping 7 days before the meet. Although a leading swimmer, Viktorija constant brushes with the establishment had resulted in her surprise omission from the National Team due to compete at the international meet in Geneva. Ginta, always the sensitive one, thinking a long weekend away from swimming, training and especially Vladimir would take Viktorija’s mind off of her omission from the team and improve her mood had invited her home, without asking mother but knowing there would be no objection.

Mother, who Viktorija obviously respects, spends a lot of time in the kitchen chatting with her, discussing her problems, trying to put them in both context and proportion to make the situation less stressful. One afternoon I overhear Mother quizzing Ginta about Vladimir, she tries to sound nonchalant, but there is something about the intensity of her questioning and the inflection in her voice, which suggests she is anything but. Mother doesn’t understand the need for the ‘power’ drinks that Vladimir insists upon and obviously disagrees with some of his training methods. Ginta, who has yet to make her senior team appearance, assures Mother that she has not been given ‘power’ drinks. “Good” says Mother, “but if you are, refuse and contact me”. Although, obviously worried Mother refuses to answer Ginta’s questions or discuss the matter further. She does however revel that a much younger Vladimir was involved in the set-up in her day too and that she, like Ginta, detested him.

Mother and Father went out of their way to ensure that this long weekend was filled with fun; they did everything to make Viktorija feel welcome, feel safe. Each evening we all sat around the table and ate delicious food, stews which had simmered for hours, roast meats, which Mother carved, were accompanied by potatoes cooked in a variety of ways. Each meal was washed down with strong beers, which for Ginta and me were watered down by Father. As the days passed, the anxiety visibly fell from Viktorija’s shoulders, the girl that waved goodbye at the bus station had regained her smile, her exuberance and all trace of the worry she arrived with had disappeared.

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