2: A Grand Day Out
Cinnamon led the way off the bus. The cat was wearing a thick wool jumper in several shades of dark green over a mint green tank top and shorts with paler stripes down the flanks, her tag was freshly etched with her name, and a lead was clipped to her collar, the other end held by Ian. He'd opted for jeans, a shirt and a pullover in subdued hues, a sizeable bag hanging from one shoulder.
Together they wove through a half-full car park to a vibrant sprawl of a building. Glossy automatic doors parted before them, and a wave of warmth washed over them. Cin's ears perked, her gait picked up, and her tail lifted. She fidgeted impatiently throughout check-in, and took off at pace the very instant it was over, almost dragging Ian with her.
The changing facilities were long rows of cubicles, a mixture of single and family ones, alternating with equally long rows of small and large lockers. Finding a vacant family cubicle, they ducked inside, locked the door, and changed, Ian into dark shorts that tied at the front, Cin into a simple, sleek one-piece that shaded vertically from white to pale pink.
Stepping back out they selected a large locker, packing everything bar two towels in, including the lead. Then Ian locked it and wrapped the plastic bracelet the key was attached to around his wrist, swivelling the latter to rest in a recess between band and skin. They stepped to rows of open showers to rinse themselves off then, towels slung over their shoulders, headed for the park proper.
It was huge, a yawning space crammed full of light, colour, noise and people, all swimming in oceans of clear blue water. There were racing slides, extensive shallows, a deep wave pool, four long flumes curling and twisting from a tall central platform to splashdowns on one side, a kids area and a water coaster weaving through it all.
"Where do we even start?" Cin breathed, eyes so wide they had a job fitting on her face.
"Chairs," Ian stated, heading for an open, tiled area where a couple of dozen plastic examples were arranged, facing the pools. He placed his towel on a vacant one, and directed the cat to do the same. "Gives us somewhere to catch our breath when we need to." He cast around. "I think we should start with a little race, then try the flumes, then have a breather, then maybe the wave pool or the water coaster, and I might even try that little obstacle course I can see over there."
"Right!" Cin surged excitedly for the racing slides, a laughing Ian close behind.
They had to wait at the top with a compact, pleasantly plump woman in a generous, bright yellow bikini and a chocolate labrador AnthroPet in steel-blue trunks whose ears kept twitching nervously. Holding the queue up were a wiry man and his two sons, all clad in colourful board shorts and arguing vigorously over who got to use which slide. The cat fell to staring at the flumes, debating which to try out first, only to be jarred from her reverie by a sharp, stinging tug on her tail.
She yelped and clutched at the base of it, then whirled round to see a whooping father and sons start their plunge down the racing slides as the woman and the dog paused in their move to the top to stare at her in shock, the latter even jumping slightly.
Ian crouched close, hands going to her shoulders. "Cin?"
"Someone yanked my tail!" the cat exclaimed, indignantly, glowering at nothing in particular.
"Any idea who?"
Cin's gaze briefly played over the lady and the labrador, then fixed on the father and sons, now splashing to messy halts in the long, shallow troughs at the end of the slides. "Must have been one of the brats."
"For what it's worth," the dog ventured, "the only one I saw go near you was the father..."
"Trying to stop one of his kids, maybe?" Ian suggested, scratching the top of the cat's head lightly.
"Then bolting when he failed." Cin sighed, relaxing. She nuzzled the man's cheek. "I'm good. Let's forget the brats and race."
Ian hugged her briefly, then once the labrador had beaten the woman to the bottom he and the cat got into position, side-by-side.
"Ready..." He gripped the sides.
"Set..." So did Cin, her intent gaze fixed on the finish line.
"Go!" They chorused, shoving off together.
While Ian stayed sitting, Cin took a risk and lay back, clasping her tail to her belly. It paid off, as she quickly took the lead, but it also meant she had less control, so she weaved and shook a little, and even lifted from the slide for a second as she flew over the second bump. At the end, she span out as she hit the trough in a billowing splash, surfacing just in time to grin triumphantly at Ian as he slid to a halt beside her.
"Best of three?" he suggested.
"You're on!" She sprang from the water and bounced up the ramp.
She sat for the next one, and Ian won by a full three feet, so she tried lying again for the third. She span and tumbled at the end, hitting the trough almost face first, but she won, just, and did her best to rub it in while spluttering out water and rubbing sodden fur from her eyes. A laughing and gracious Ian kissed her forehead and helped her up.
"Need a moment?" he asked.
"I'm fine," Cin insisted. "Flumes, now!"
She eagerly led the way to the central platform, and up to the second of its three levels, where a trio of flumes began. Since it was currently vacant, and the light was green, they headed for the leftmost, named simply 'Mega-flume'. Ian insisted on going first, climbing in, sitting on the raised platform just long enough to take a breath, then a push and a rush and he was gone.
Cinna watched the lights above the tunnel, waiting for the red one to dim and the green to glow anew, butterflies beginning to flutter in her stomach. When she got the go-ahead, a minute later, she was quick to set herself on the platform, but a couple of long seconds passed before she shoved herself forward and let the water take her.
Ankles crossed, hands crossed on her chest with her tail pinned under them, the cat hurtled down the curling and rolling tube, feeling like her stomach, butterflies and all, had been left at the top. It caught back up with her about halfway down, breathless anxiety becoming breathless thrill, and when she reached the pool at the end she was grinning.
She tried to surge into standing, but overbalanced, and thumped into someone. Straightening up, she found it was Ian, who drew her to the side of the pool, away from the exits of the flumes. He perched on the lip, his hands sliding to her hips, fingers trailing over her rear, and gave her an indulgent smile.
"Enjoyed that, then?"
She nodded heartily, her hands resting on his chest. "Once I'd gotten over the shock! Give me a second, then we'll try the next one."
She settled more closely against him, and he rested his chin between her ears. Whoops preceded the arrival, from all three flumes in rapid succession, of the wiry man and his sons. Ian tensed, but resisted the urge to clasp Cin more protectively, and to look as they passed by, only permitting himself a cursory glance. He still thought he saw the man's lip curl in their direction.
Only once the trio were gone did he and the cat move, her ears pulled back a little the whole way up the platform. They perked on seeing the next flume, the 'Sidewinder', was available, and she waited with some impatience for Ian to reach the bottom of it. When the light was green she didn't hesitate to go.
This one didn't weave as strongly as the first, but there were passages where the current shimmied rapidly from-to-side, including a powerful one just before the end. She enjoyed it quite a bit more than the first, to the point she cheered as she hit the pool, and this time managed to stay on her feet.
She and Ian went straight round to try the third, but this one gave her pause. The name alone - the 'Void' - was unnerving enough, but that it plunged into darkness within a few feet was worse. They had to wait this time, and when their turn came the cat decided to get it over with and go first. The instant the green light came on she entered.
It was dark almost the whole way down, too dark to see anything, and it writhed and flexed in a manner she found almost violent, and by the time she was hitting the pool she actually felt faintly nauseous. When Ian appeared a little over a minute later his expression spoke volumes, and he was a touch unsteadily in joining her.
"Strike that one from the re-ride list," he stated firmly.
Cin nodded. "A little too intense for me. I want to ride the Sidewinder a couple more times, then a break feels like a good idea."
"No argument here."
The second go on the cat's favourite flume so far was even more fun than the first, but the third was marred when, on heading round to the platform for it, they passed through a thick knot of people, and her tail was given another heavy yank. She fumed but moved on, aware there was nothing she could do.
Luckily, the crowd had dispersed by the time they came round again, so they made it to their chairs unmolested. Rather than settle in them, though, they chose to sit in the shallows nearby, gentle waves lapping over their legs, Cin's back against Ian's chest, his hands resting on her lower belly, hers trailing in the water.
He pressed quite a firm kiss to the top of her scalp, just behind ears at low mast. "I'm sorry, Cin."
She tilted her head back to look at him. "Why apologise? You're not the one pulling my tail."
"No, but I should be doing more to stop it," Ian sighed. "It's my job to look after you."
Cinna's expression warmed markedly, then she cuffed the side of his head. "Don't be daft. Only way you could stop it is to keep a constant guard on my backside, and what fun would that be for you?"
"Oh, it wouldn't be a complete bore," Ian couldn't resist teasing. "The view would be agreeable, if nothing else."
Cin sniggered, and playfully clipped him again. "Hush, you. Don't give people the wrong idea."
Ian pouted. "But I thought you loved me?"
The cat favoured him with a knowing smirk, then stood; that this put her backside very close to his eye level and only a few inches away was purely coincidental.
"I think I'm going to try the wave pool proper," she decided.
"All right; I'll watch from the edges." Ignoring a temptation to kiss one of her cheeks, Ian instead just lightly patted it as he got up.
He followed Cinna deeper into the water, stopping when it got to his waist, settling against the side to look on as the cat swam close to the deep end. She rode the swells well, sometimes dipping under one, to pop up again past it, other times rolling along one as far as she could, and once or twice letting it carry her back a little.
After about ten minutes she started toward him, and too late he saw the wiry man and one of his sons heading out into the deep pool. Her path and theirs crossed in the midst of many other people, there was a shout bordering on a scream, and then Ian was rushing out to catch a spitting mad cat around the waist and haul her away.
Ignoring the many faces turned their way he returned to the edge and held Cinna tightly, letting her seethe against him, her claws pricking his chest. It took a while, but she finally sagged, her head pressed into his skin, hot tears pricking her eyes. A moment later a staff member came over, crouching close.
"What happened?" they asked, not unkindly.
"Someone keeps pulling her tail," Ian explained. He nodded towards the wiry man and his son. "We think it's that boy."
"Can you prove it?"
Ian sighed. "No, unless someone saw it this time."
Nodding once, the staff member raised their voice. "If I could have all of your attention, please." Once all eyes were on them, they continued calmly. "Did anyone see what happened just now?" A sea of negatives and shaking heads. The staff member frowned, and looked back to the man and the cat. "I'm afraid there's not much we can do, except keep an eye on you as best we can. If we can catch them in the act, then it's instant banning from the park."
"All right." Cin managed a small smile. "Thank you."
"Happy to help." The staff member moved away.
The cat rubbed her face quite firmly against Ian's, then eased out of his arms. "I want to try that swirly basin flume."
"All right," he agreed. "Then I'm gonna try the lily pads."
Hand in hand they made their steady way to the central platform, and the lowest of its tiers, where a flume called 'Spin Cycle' started. While Cin joined the short queue, Ian headed to the raised, tank-like pool it ended in. When her turn came the cat didn't hesitate, pushing herself into what proved to be a short, fairly steep sweeping curve of a tube.
It rushed her into a large, swirl-painted bowl with an opening in the middle, that Cinna swept around three times, slipping lower each time until, just a little disorientated, she dropped into the pool below with a heavy splash. While underwater, she spotted Ian looking in through a broad perspex panel, and waved to him.
Hauling herself out via a ladder she hastened to meet him by the lily pads, that were thankfully close by.
"Well?" he asked.
"Dizzying, but fun," she replied. "Still prefer the Sidewinder, though."
"Fair enough." Ian climbed onto a solid platform, from which a series of plastic lily-pads ran across the water, anchored to the pool floor by poles that let them move side-to-side and spin; above them a pair of parallel poles ran, rope hand-holds suspended from them. "How far do you think I'll get, hmm?"
Cin made a show of examining the course, wading alongside it. "Oh, I think...four pads, maybe?"
"That far?" Ian grinned. "I'll try not to disappoint."
He grabbed a hand-hold, and swung out, feet reaching for the first of the pads. It shifted away, he slipped, and fell back first into the water, a small wave splashing over Cin.
"I'm disappointed," she told him, deadpan.
Ian threw a playful glare at her, retaking the start platform. This time he managed to make it to the second pad before losing his balance.
"Slightly less disappointed," Cin reported, still deadpan.
Ian's next attempt got further, to the third pad, but as he was trying to align the fourth with his foot so he could get to it, he spotted the wiry man stealing up behind Cin, out outstretched. He jerked his head, and she whipped round, catching the man's hand, her claws extending just enough to prick his skin.
"You?!" she spat. "Why the hell...?"
He didn't get a chance to reply, as the staff member who'd spoken to them earlier arrived, with backup. They escorted the man and his sons from the park, leaving Cin to heave a long breath.
Ian hugged her. "If you want to leave..."
"What, and miss the best bit?" She shook her head. "How long have we got, do you know?"
"About half a hour, so time to ride the water coaster."
"Good!" Cin led the way.
They grabbed rubber rings from the end of the coaster, then walked the path to the start. Ian went first, then Cinna got into her ring in the small pool at the start; when the operator gave her a nod she used two bars to pull herself over a small rise, then off she went. It was a zippy, entertaining ride, her ring threatening to spin but never quite doing it, jets of water sending her surging over hills, and the final drop ended in a splash that left her gasping and crashed over a waiting Ian.
She bounced out laughing. "So good!"
"Best ride here, I'd say," Ian concurred. "Let's do the Sidewinder once more, then we should be set for the last hour."
They actually managed to ride it twice before the announcement they were waiting for came over the tannoy.
"Attention, please: for the final hour of operation this park is costume optional. Thank you."
Cin and Ian hastened back to their chairs, but the cat hesitated; then she saw the plump woman nearby, shedding their bikini top, and the uncertainty vanished. She wriggled out of her costume, set it with her towel, then stood nude in the shallows, a certain giddiness overcoming her. Ian kept his shorts on, but the labrador joined the cat in wearing just fur and a collar.
"This is so surreal," she laughed.
"Hard to believe it's even a thing," the dog remarked.
"Maybe the owner's a naturist?" Ian suggested.
"Someone told me it's thanks to a survey, but how true that is..." The plump woman shrugged. "Anyone feel like a race?"
"Now there's no tail-puller to ruin things, yes!" Cin happily agreed.
The foursome returned to the racing slides, most of the other people they passed either partially or fully nude now, and lined up at the top, Cin on the far right. The plump woman counted them down; on go an eager cat lay back again, but started to twist halfway down, lost most of her momentum, and came in dead last.
She tried to be angry about it, but between the rush of sliding naked and the innocent delight on the face of the labrador, who'd won, it was pretty hard. They raced four more times, and she finished third once, second twice, and finally last again. Her mostly mock frustration at not securing a win was entirely mollified by a firm hug and kiss on the side of the muzzle from Ian.
While the woman and the labrador decided to ride the water coaster, Ian and Cin headed for the flumes. Finding the two they liked were on green lights they decided on another race, Ian taking the Mega-flume and Cin the Sidewinder, dropping into them simultaneously. Without a suit the sensations were heightened, leaving her more breathless than her first run come the end. That she won barely even registered.
Spin Cycle didn't feel very different until she dropped into the tank, a markedly stronger rush with nothing between her body and the water surging and crashing around her. Ian got a brief view of her nude form hanging gracefully underwater that made him wish they were allowed to bring cameras into the park.
Cinna found the water coaster such great fun in the nude she rode it three times in quick succession, and was genuinely giddy when Ian got her to finally leave it be. Rather than rest as he suggested, though, she headed into the deep wave pool, riding the swells with palpable glee for even longer than the first time.
When she finally withdrew it was to sit sideways on Ian's legs in the shallows, panting and blissful.
"So, tail-pullers aside," Ian asked, stroking her hip, "good day?"
"Wonderful day!" She rubbed her face against his and kissed his nose and cheek. "Thank you so much for this!"
"My pleasure," he assured her, pressing his lips to her scalp. "Want to do this again, some time?"
The cat nodded energetically, starting to purr. "I'm in grave danger of loving you, you know."
Ian laughed, and held her closer. "Likewise, Cin. Likewise."