A/N: This is a sort of companion to The Protector. You don't need to read it first, this is perfectly understandable without it. It's got a different main character and everything. But in case anyone was to read this first and then get confused, TP is chronologically first. Don't bother reading it right now, I feel like it's horribly written and it'll turn you off to this story, which is much better.
For people who read TP, this is a bit different. It's got soccer in it, but you don't have to play or even care for soccer to read this. I wanted to balance it out in this story because there was a lot of it in TP and I think it might have bored some people. For people who like soccer, it's still here, but I'm not going to go into much detail.
As If It Was a Battle Cry
The first day of soccer tryouts was very hot and humid. The weather was the same every year for tryouts, even if the previous week had been rainy or cool. Piper should have been used to it, since this was the fourth time she had experienced it, but she always clung to a small hope that the weather would yield and tryouts would not be so miserable.
Piper fought her way through the crowd of her potential teammates to Kelly, the other captain of this year's team. "How many returners do we have this year?" Kelly asked Piper, who glanced at the crowd of girls with contempt.
"Not as many as I'd like." Piper replied. Piper wanted this season, her final season playing soccer for Camden, to be the team's best season of all four of her high school years. However, the team lost quite a few players after last year due to graduation, and the team would definitely be lacking in experienced players. It was not looking to be the undefeated season Piper had hoped for.
The first day of tryouts was sometimes hectic and always exhausting, even for Piper, and it was something else that she thought she should be used to by now. The intensive running drills were a ploy by the coach to jump-start the team's conditioning, as well as weed out those who could not hack it. Anyone who was not dedicated would simply fail to come to the rest of tryouts, having been scared off by the events of the first day. As a captain, Piper was expected to excel in these drills.
The coach ended practice at five, leaving Piper and Kelly to announce plans for the rest of the week. Kelly let Piper do most of the talking, adding in a comment here and there. When Piper finished everybody was free to leave.
"Opinions?" Piper asked Kelly as they picked up the cones scattered around the field.
"There's a lot of freshmen…" Kelly replied, watching the mob of younger girls pile into their cars.
Piper shrugged. "There's always a lot of freshmen. But half of them won't come to next practice." The two of them tossed the cones into the coach's trunk. They said their goodbyes and Piper drove home.
Piper usually did not go to sleep until midnight, but soccer practice left her so worn out that she immediately crashed into bed. She woke up the next morning before noon, rather sore and tired. After a quick shower Piper wandered into the kitchen for some food and met a couple of fridge-raiders.
"What are you doing here?" Piper asked her friends Mel and Ally as they dug through Piper's fridge.
"Your mum let us in." Mel replied, opening a can of soda.
"I have to tell her to stop inviting lunatics in." Piper sighed. "Maybe she's just happy that you clean out the fridge so she doesn't have to do it."
"See?" Mel grinned. "We're useful."
"Anyway, we've come for the report on this year's team." Ally stated from her seat on Piper's counter.
"I can't tell you, you're on another team!" Piper protested. Mel and Ally both attended Cross High School, which was far enough to separate Piper from two of her best friends but near enough that she was still able to see them on an almost-regular basis.
"And?" Ally prompted, munching on a bag of chips. Her legs hung over the edge of the counter and she swung them around in random patterns.
"And it's not looking too good." Piper stole a few chips from Ally. "I hate that you guys start a week later than us. It practically encourages you to spy on our team."
"Who needs to spy when we have an insider?" Mel returned, her dark bangs falling carelessly over her eyes. At this time of year her hair would usually be lighter than its current color from a summer of outdoor recreation, but Mel spent most of her summer indoors trying to earn credit for required freshman courses at Stanford and did not have much time for fun.
"And who would your insider be?" Piper feigned. She knew that Mel was referring to her but acted otherwise just to see what Mel would say.
"Kelly." Mel joked. "She can't resist me."
They continued to banter as they ate. Mel had to leave for work around noon but Ally hung around and watched TV with Piper.
"You know what I figured out yesterday?" Ally asked during a commercial. Piper looked over at her for the answer. "We're seniors." The statement seemed ordinary, but the way Ally said it revealed a multitude of deeper thoughts.
"I was just thinking about that." Piper told her. The two of them, plus Mel, had been through so much together. They had known each other since middle school and this year seemed like the end of a journey. All of them had grown and changed greatly since they met and here they were, almost adults. Even Mel, the once hopeless delinquent, was already accepted to an excellent college and had even completed some of the courses. The three of them would separate in less than a year for college and Piper was not sure how to deal with it.
"One more year." Ally sighed. "We'll make it amazing, won't we?"
Piper turned away from the TV to see Ally looking at her with an expression on her face that Piper had never seen. The look told Piper that Ally was just as unsure about this year as Piper was. "We will." Piper assured her. Ally's worried expression was replaced by a small smile.
Ally looked at the clock and stood up. "You have to get to work." She said softly.
Piper stood as well. "If it wasn't for you, I'd never be there on time."
"I know." Ally replied. She hugged Piper before leaving. "We'll be fine." She said, more to herself than to Piper. Piper hugged Ally back, aware of how different her relationship with Ally was than her relationship with Mel. Piper and Mel never hugged; the most they ever did was high five or slap each other on the back. Piper and Ally were more affectionate with each other, even though they did not hug often until recently. Moments like these softened Piper, who used to be resistant to the friendly gestures girls made.
"Can I go with you?" Ally asked. Over the summer while Mel was at Stanford, Ally had taken to hanging out at the bookstore where Piper worked. She usually sat on one of the sofas and read books and magazines, occasionally helping Piper organize shelves for amusement.
"Yeah. Just let me get my pin." Piper grabbed the pin with her name on it and her car keys and drove with Ally to Page Three, the bookstore where Piper worked. Piper knew there was a Page One, Two, and Four somewhere, but she always wondered what would happen if the chain went nationwide. She imagined that, twenty years from now, she would be on the other side of the country and run across a Page Five Hundred Thousand, Two Hundred Ninety Seven. The thought made her smile.
"What are you smirking at, goofball?" Ally asked from the passenger seat.
Piper did not bother to explain the joke. She knew that Ally would simply roll her eyes and turn up the radio. To tell the truth, Piper thought the country music Ally liked was crap, but put up with it anyway. "This music is so pathetic." Piper teased.
"It is not!" Ally protested. She started to sing along with the radio. "How do you like me now, now that I'm on my way, you still think I'm crazy, standing here today…." Ally's voice was purposely off-key and she missed half the notes.
"No, make it stop!" Piper dramatically complained as she pulled into Page Three's parking lot. Ally laughed and continued until Piper parked and hurriedly shut off the car. "It's over." Piper sighed, sounding like a victim of some disaster.
"You love my singing." Ally smiled. "Come on, admit it."
"You caught me," Piper guiltily replied. Ally wrapped her arm around Piper's as they walked to the door of Page Three. Piper opened the door for Ally only to be dragged inside with her, barely escaping being hit by the door as it closed.
"You have to put your nameplate on," Ally whispered to Piper. Piper dug into her pocket and fished out the pin, then attached it to her shirt.
"It's official. My name is Piper." Piper announced to no one in particular.
Ally rolled her eyes. "I'm going to look at the magazines. Hunt me down whenever you get a break or something."
Piper wandered the store looking for customers that needed help until her manager found her. "Piper!" John called as she passed the check-out area. "Can you take over this register for me? I need to make a call." Piper handled the register for an hour, spending most of the time drawing pictures with the sharpies for sale in a nearby container. The sample paper was only so big and once she filled it up she used her arm as a canvas, drawing a blue and green landscape with a red sun and purple clouds.
John eventually returned, having forgotten that he left Piper to fend for herself in the check-out area. Piper was released from her duties as cashier and she wandered off to find Ally in the quiet store.
Ally was found slumped over the arm of a sofa, asleep. Piper took a moment to look at her. Ally's brown hair had a reddish shine to it and it was held back by a clip at the back of her head. Piper felt an unusual feeling pushing through her chest and ignored it.
"Hey," Piper said in a soft voice, gently shaking Ally's shoulder. "Hey Al, wake up."
Ally slowly opened her eyes and took a deep breath as she awoke. She blinked a few times and sat up. "Nice arm." She mumbled. "You should take a picture."
"I'll let you do that later." Piper replied. "I wanted to see what you were up to."
"I had a weird dream." Ally informed her. "The couch was floating through the sky and you were singing me country music and Mel's mom told me her secret recipe."
"Mel's mom?" Piper frowned. Mel's mother died years ago. Piper and Ally barely knew Mel the time but they both remembered that Mel was so upset that she fell into a bad crowd and almost overdosed at age 13. None of them liked to discuss it, especially since Mel almost completely recovered by high school and never had a problem since. Usually the three friends pretended it never happened.
Ally looked away uncomfortably. "I don't know why I dreamed about her. We're way past that, you know?"
"Yeah." Piper responded. Ally did not say anything more. "I've got another hour, and then we can go to your house so I can model my arm. Sound good?" Ally nodded and flopped down to lay on the couch.
Piper spent the next hour rearranging books in the children's section. When her shift was over she left with Ally. At Ally's house Ally took pictures of Piper's arm.
Ally had a big photo album full of memories. Piper's arm was to go into it, adding to the collection of parties, soccer games, and other random events. Sometimes Piper, Mel and Ally would get together and take out the album to look at the new additions and the old memories.
"I think I'm going to make copies of the album when we graduate." Ally thought out loud. "Or maybe after, so that I can put pictures of that in there. And then I'm going to give you and Mel one."
"That would be great." Piper smiled. She checked her watch. "I've got to be home for dinner. And I've got practice tomorrow, so maybe we can do something after that?"
Ally nodded. "And school starts the next day…"
"I know." Piper sighed. "We'll be okay. Let's just have fun."
"Okay." Ally said.
Piper arrived home with some time to spare before dinner. She stood in the kitchen while her mom finished everything up.
"How was your day?" Piper's mom asked.
"Well, I had to fight off some robbers when I woke up." Piper told her. Her mom mostly ignored this comment, instead taking the opportunity to talk about Mel and Ally.
"Did they have a good summer?" her mom asked.
"Mel didn't really talk about it. It was probably really boring, all that work. And Ally only hung out at the bookstore and at her aunt's house the whole time, nothing special." Piper explained. Down the hall Piper heard some bangs and someone singing. A few seconds later Piper's sister walked down the hall to the bathroom. Piper laughed.
"What is it, dear?" Piper's mom asked, unconcerned with what just happened.
"It's just so funny that at our house," Piper took a breath to continue, "you hear a bunch of bangs and noises and it's normal."
"We do live with a ten year old." Piper's mom referred to Cathy, Piper's younger sister.
Piper grinned. Only at her house.
A/N: Review? It gives me great incentive to get the next chapter out. And I like hearing what you think.