Author: worthwritingfor PM
Ali's trying to convince everyone she's not anorexic, and failing. Xavier lights a cigarette whenever he thinks of his dad, thus damaging his health. She gave him a ride home. That was only the beginning. HIATUS.Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Romance - Chapters: 11 - Words: 22,723 - Reviews: 36 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 18 - Updated: 02-05-13 - Published: 11-02-12 - id: 3070839
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Before school on Monday morning, I watched the track with new found interest. The coach, Coach Lewis, was rattling off times to a group of boys and girls. They jogged around the track, their breath coming out unevenly. Coach Lewis yelled at them, telling them to breathe in through their noses and out through their mouths.
I knew this must've been the cross country team. I didn't take Athletics this year, so I didn't really know how it worked, but all of the girls on the team looked pretty fit. That could be me.
I had fifteen minutes before the bell. That should be enough.
I reached the track after walking through the parking lot. I hesitated before tapping Coach Lewis on the shoulder. She turned around with a raised eyebrow.
"Yes?" she said in that deep voice of hers.
"Hi," I said, mind spinning with different ways I could start this. I settled for, "Can I try out for cross country?"
Coach Lewis laughed. "It's the middle of the season!" she said. "I can't just let someone inexperienced onto the team!"
"I'll catch up," I insisted. "I won't slow you down."
She shook her head. "I can't let anyone who hasn't got Athletics on their schedule on the team. I'm sorry."
I scrambled for an opening in that sentence. "So I'll get a schedule change! I promise, Coach, I won't let you down."
She looked skeptic.
"One tryout," I said, holding up a finger. "Just one. Then you can decide whether or not to let me on."
Coach Lewis pondered this for a moment, watching the boys and girls run laps. They were panting heavily now, and I vaguely wondered how hard their coach worked them.
She turned back to me. "One try," she said. "Meet me in the girls' locker room after school."
I grinned. "Thank you. You won't regret this!"
"I hope not."
I started to walk away, but she called after me.
"I need your name, girl!"
I told her, ignored her amused smile, and jogged back into the school.
Elle tried to force me to eat at lunch that day. She, along with Abi and Eli, had noticed my change in appetite – or lack thereof. They were trying hard to get some food inside of me. It was rather annoying.
"I'm not hungry," I insisted, slapping Elle's handful of French fries away.
"You need to eat," Elle said. "You're thinner than Abi!"
"Hey!" Abi cut in, offended.
I refused to believe that. Abi tried the hardest to keep her figure and she'd done a great job of it (or so she keeps telling us. I didn't pay much attention). There was no way I'd caught up to her.
Eli gave me a meaningful look, waving a spoonful of pudding in the air. I grimaced; I was a sucker for chocolate. And he knew that.
But I couldn't eat it. I had cross country tryouts after school. Chocolate would weigh me down.
"Too many calories," I told Eli, leaning back.
They all stared at me, eyebrows raised. I stared right back before realizing my mistake.
"I mean…" I pondered my brain for an excuse. "Just…give me an apple."
Abi grinned and tossed me the red apple on her tray.
I looked at it in distaste. "I like green better…" I tried.
Abi looked a little distracted – smiling at something walking behind me – but directed her attention to me once again. "Eat it!"
"Okay!" I hesitated before taking a small bite out of the fruit. I chewed slowly and swallowed. I gave my friends a convincing smile.
Elle clasped her hands together. "Good job!"
I rolled my eyes but continued to force feed myself the apple.
The rest of lunch dragged on slowly. My friends didn't try to give me anymore food, so I guess the apple was enough. It tasted bitter in my mouth, but I had to finish it. Otherwise, Abi or Elle would probably force it down my throat.
The bell rang, signaling the end of lunch. I grinned and tossed the red fruit into the nearest trash can. I waved goodbye to my friends and walked quickly out of the cafeteria. I could feel their eyes boring holes into the back of my head.
I reached my locker and spun the dial, opening it and aiming to grab my geometry book. But my locker was suddenly slammed shut and I came face to face with Blaire Banks.
I finally registered a pain in my right arm. When Blaire slammed my locker shut, it had scraped the length of my arm. A thin line of blood rested on the cut.
I glared at Blaire. "What do you think you're doing?" I demanded.
She looked a little bothered by the sight of my blood – heck, she should've been bothered – but chose to ignore it. She didn't answer my question, either.
I started to reopen my locker, trying to stem the blood flow on my arm.
"Well?" I prompted, throwing the ginger an irritated look.
"Watch your tone," she snapped.
I raised my eyebrows. Other kids in the hallway stopped to stare at the confrontation.
"So," Blaire continued, "are you dating Zavy?"
I blinked. "Who?"
Blaire sighed in exasperation. "Zavy? You know, Xavier King?"
I raised my eyebrows higher and laughed in disbelief. "Zavy? You have got to be kidding me!"
"It's cute," she said scowling. I tried not to laugh again. "Well? Are you going to answer?"
I rolled my eyes. "Why would you think I was dating Xavier?"
"Well, he's always looking over at you," she replied, as if the answer was obvious.
I managed to mask my surprise. "We're not dating," I insisted. I glanced around the hall and then at my arm. I grabbed an open package of tissues from my locker and tried to clean up the blood. With one last glare at Blaire, I turned on my heel and walked away.
"Where you going?" Blaire called after me, obviously irked at my having the last word.
"The nurse," I answered, just as the bell rang. Students scattered into their respective classrooms. "I can press charges you know!"
"But you won't!"
She was right. I wouldn't. I couldn't.
The nurse believed my excuse – that someone who had passed by had hit my locker, making me scrape my arm. A little farfetched, but she'd bought it.
She cleaned the cut and put a bandage on it before shooing me out of her office with a note for my geometry teacher. I made my way down the hall, knowing that if I missed any more class time I wouldn't learn anything and then Ian would be disappointed. And I couldn't have that.
But, apparently, the person who just walked out of the boys' restroom had other plans.
"Alison," Xavier said in surprise, throwing me a grin. Then his eyes landed on my bandaged arm. "What happened?"
"You," I answered immediately, but then backtracked when he raised an eyebrow. "I mean, Blaire."
"What does that have to do with me?" Xavier asked.
"Blaire confronted me before sixth period; she thought we were dating because you stare at me so much." I gave him a look.
He didn't look embarrassed. "That still doesn't explain how you cut your arm."
"Cut it on my locker when Blaire slammed it shut."
I nodded in agreement.
I stopped at the water fountain and drank as much water as I could. There was a gnawing in my stomach that I refused to admit was hunger, so I just filled myself up with water. It should hold me down for a while.
"Thirsty?" Xavier said as I lifted my head back up.
I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and shrugged.
"I think you're hungry."
I stiffened, but forced myself to relax.
"I'm not hungry," I said, wishing the corridors were shorter.
"You only had an apple for lunch," Xavier said. "I hardly think that's filling enough."
I rolled my eyes. "I don't need you looking out for me, Zavy."
He grimaced but then shook his head, hair flying in his face. "So, where you headed?"
"Geometry," I muttered, "with Blaire."
Xavier slung an arm around my shoulder, which I immediately shrugged off. We reached my class and stopped by the door.
"Good luck," Xavier said, and then walked away.
"Where's your class?" I called out of curiosity.
He tossed me a smirk over his shoulder. "Two halls over."
I blinked in confusion. "Then why'd you…?" I sighed, shaking my head. He was probably just avoiding class.
I blinked in surprise, turning to look at who'd spoken.
"…Half," I replied, narrowing my eyes in confusion.
Coach Lewis seemed impressed for some reason. "You know, Italy's home to the Roma Ostia Half-Run," she said.
I nodded. "I visited Italy during the event." I decided not to mention that I'd only seen old people running in that marathon. I wasn't sure if she'd want me to classify "old." She was, like, forty. I'd offend her somehow.
I was rather thankful she didn't comment on my bandaged arm. I didn't know if that would keep me from being able to run.
The coach tossed me some clothes I could work out in since I didn't have my own. I quickly changed and met her out on the track. The fall weather felt good outside.
"Hair up," Coach Lewis ordered, and I did so.
"Alright," she said while I started to stretch. "I want you to run a quarter mile, got it? That's one lap around. Pick a decent pace that won't tire you out quickly. I'll time you, and if I'm impressed, you've got yourself a spot on my team. Simple enough?"
I nodded and stood at the start of the line. The coach waited a few seconds before pressing a button on her stop watch and shouting, "Go!"
I took off down the straight, keeping my eyes on the ground. I don't why, but it helped. By the time I reached the first curve, I'd gotten my pace, which was pretty fast. I tried to count the seconds that passed in my head, but it just distracted me. I was panting by the time I ran half of the lap.
Coach Lewis watched me, but from the other side of the track. I couldn't tell what her expression was. I had one hundred meters left, so I quickened my pace, my breath coming out unevenly. I needed to fix that.
I passed the line and Coach Lewis pressed a button on her stopwatch. I put my hands on my knees, suddenly wishing I'd brought a water bottle or something.
I was really out of shape.
"One minute, twelve seconds," Coach Lewis said. "Not bad."
I stood up straighter, wiping the sweat off my forehead. "Did I make it?" I asked hopefully.
She hesitated and then nodded. "Nice work, Berry."
I grinned. "Thank you!"
The coach chuckled. "Come to practice at least three days a week, before or after school."
I nodded, trying to contain my excitement and relief.
"Now, go home, rest," Coach Lewis said. "Practice tomorrow."
I ran back into the school, changed clothes, and skipped to my car. Today was getting better.
I slammed my car door shut and jogged up to the mailbox. I didn't care that my hair was a mess or that my neighbors could see. I needed to check something.
I went through the bills, tossing them back into the mailbox. There was a car magazine subscription, but that was it. No letters. Nothing addressed to me or Ian.
I shut the mailbox lid angrily and stomped up to my front door. I dug around in my bag for my keys, unlocked the door, and ran to fridge. My stomach growled irritably so I took out a water bottle and started gulping it down. I drank half of it quickly.
Glancing out the kitchen window, I saw who I assumed was Xavier's dad carrying pumpkins into his house. The back of his pickup was loaded with about ten more.
Something else caught my attention out the window. More importantly, what was on the window sill.
I furrowed my brow and walked over to it. I pulled the window open and stared at the shiny green apple in puzzlement. It had a bright pink sticky note on it. I read it.
It's a start :)
I chuckled, shaking my head. I wasn't sure if the X stood for kisses or Xavier. It was most likely the latter.
Delicately, I picked up the apple and tore the sticky note off. Glancing one last time at Xavier's dad lugging pumpkins up his porch steps, I bit into the green apple and chewed slowly.
For the first time in a while, what I was eating didn't make me want to throw up.
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