“What? You’re a guy?” Marcelo exclaimed. He covered his mouth, looked the boy from head to toe and then laughed. But when Nelson held the open palm, the smile vanished. He clicked his tongue and pulled his wallet. “Damn. Just lost 50 bucks… I was so sure that was easy money.” He sighed and shook his head. “So you’re Cris Prado Maranhão, huh?”
“Yep, Cristiano Prado Maranhão, but you can call me Cris. It’s nice to meet you. And sorry for the bet,” the boy said to Marcelo, still smiling. He then turned to Nelson with a serious expression. “As of today, actually tomorrow, I’ll be your personal manager.”
“Please to meet you,” Nelson said. “Hope we get along.”
“I’ll leave you two alone to start the partnership bonding or whatever,” Marcelo said and walked away with a disappointed expression, mumbling something that sounded a lot like 50 bucks.
Cris’ expression softened with a smile as he moved on the couch to sit right in front of Nelson. “You’re welcome for that money,” he said, eyeing the note with the Jaguar.
Nelson looked between the note and the boy and chuckled. He pulled his wallet to put the money away. “Thanks for this. Easiest money I’ve ever made. I’ll treat you something.”
“Yay.” Cris’ his smile broadened. The next second, the smile turned sly. “But aren’t you too confident?”
“Huh? Confident in what?”
“That you won’t fall for me.” Nelson showed a puzzled look. “You’re not the first man who said that wouldn’t fall for me,” he added.
Nelson opened his mouth and then closed it, not sure how to respond. He leaned back on the couch and stared at the smiling boy. “Is that so? How did it end?”
“In the best way possible.” Cris showed his tongue in a mischievous way.
After a moment of silence, Nelson smiled and chuckled. “Good for you, I guess. But even with your record, I’m confident I won’t fall in love with you.”
“’cause you’re not into guys? I’ve heard that before too. More than once.”
“There’s that too,” Nelson answered. “But even if I was, or even if you were a girl, I’d do my best to not fall for anyone. Right now, I need to give my all in my goal.”
“So you’re one of those who says romance gets in the way of swimming, huh?”
“That’s… not the best way to say.”
“But it’s the truth, right?” Cris said, shrugging his shoulders. “I’ve managed people like you before. Hope you don’t go blaming me if you don’t get the results you expect.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not one of those crybabies,” Nelson said, chuckling. Then his smile vanished and his expression turned serious. “But for real, it’s more like I can’t lose focus. Not after everything…”
“Yeah…” The party went on, no one noticing the two men in silence. “I need to recover the lost time. If I waste even a second, I might lose this opportunity of a lifetime,” he said, opening his arms to indicate everything.
“Recover lost time. Waste even a second,” Cris repeated the words, shaking his head. “I really don’t get swimmers. Aren’t you, like, barely 18? You’re the same age as me, but you talk you’re your life is almost ending. Enjoying being young isn’t wasting time.”
Nelson smile. How many times I’ve heard that before? “I get what you mean, but I don’t think giving my all on the pool is wasting time,” he said. “I think that… maybe I can make into history… leave my mark…”
Cris stared at the boy with a puzzled look. “Guess that’s something you’d want to bet your youth… Still, I don’t get you guys. I’d rather fall in love than to be in a pool for hours and hours.”
This time Nelson laughed. It even attracted some people’s attention. “That coming from a Prado Maranhão seems too strange.”
“I’m not like them,” Cris said abruptly in a hard and low voice as he stared Nelson. The boy bit his lips and breathed hard, all the joy from before gone. “Just because I’m from that family doesn’t mean I need to love water or any sport related to it.”
Nelson kept the stare, never blinking. “I apologize. I never meant to offend you.”
Cris sighed and looked at the floor as he rubbed his eyes. “Sorry for snapping at you. You didn’t offend me, it’s just… I’m sick of people looking at me as if I’m a freak just because I don’t wanna work with anything related to swimming.”
“If I may ask, then why are you a manager?”
“Money,” he said right away with a serious expression, so fast Nelson was silence for a second and then laughed. “What’s so funny? Is it not a good reason to work? You know that’s what most people do.”
“Sorry, it’s just that you’re the first person who’s so honest about this,” Nelson said, trying to suppress the smile. “My last managers said they were doing this ‘cause they loved swimming and wanted to help Brazil’s next generation of swimmers. But I’m sure the money helped a lot more than those feeling.”
Cris opened his mouth and then closed it with a sigh. “I’d rather be honest than using a lame reason for working with you. If you’re okay with that, then great. Just hope you don’t have a problem with me being gay.”
“Has it been a problem before?”
“The last person I managed was this religious girl. After she found out that we liked the same fruit, she kept giving subtle hints about me joining her church and saving my sinful soul from the eternal flames of hell. It was so fun.” Cris raised both thumbs up with a forced smile. “The guy before that said he had no trouble whatsoever, since he was 100% straight. According to him, even if I looked like a girl and tried to seduce him, he’d not care, as long as I helped him. I took his word for it and started working in a girl’s swimsuit.”
“He kept insisting he didn’t care, though I did catch him stealing glances at me here and there with a strange growing bulge between the legs. I was starting to get suspicious, but when I caught him in a five to one to one of my pics, I was really suspicious,” he said in a fake intrigued expression.
Nelson laughed. He’d look really good in a girl’s swimsuit, the thought crossed his mind as he pictured Cris in the standard swimsuit. “The way you said it was affecting his performance. I don’t want that for me.”
“He was a jerk with talent. But the real problem was his ego. It was much bigger than his talent. It’s already a dangerous combination for some athletes, but in his case it was. He didn’t even realize that. He missed practice here and there and blamed it on me, saying I was the one who should tell him those things. There was a lot more, but the high point was his performance at the Pan American. One of the worst results ever,” Cris said, shaking his head. He tried to show a disappointed expression, but Nelson saw his tiny smile.
“I think I know who you’re talking. That guy was an idiot”
“Don’t worry. You don’t seem like a jerk, so I won’t try those things with you.”
“Thanks, I guess. But I told you already. If it doesn’t make any difference, I have no trouble. I need all the help I can get right now.”
“You mean your contract?” Cris asked in a low voice.
“Yes,” Nelson admitted after a while. “I think you already know, but my contract ends in the WAC. It was probably gonna be renewed after London, but then there was the accident… Right now, I need give everything I have to be at the WCA next year. That’s the first step to be in Rio in four years.”
“That’s… a huge goal in your current situation,” Cris said, staring Nelson in the eyes.
“Yes, it is. So if you’re willing to help me, then I gladly accept it.” Nelson offered his hand.
Cris looked at the hand for a moment and then smile before shaking it. “If you’re okay with me, then I’ll do everything I can to help you reach that goal.”