They'd like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look--my feet don't hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I'm rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I'm not a goddess?
Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you'll burn.
--Margaret Atwood


Chapter Two - I'm Rising

I was every bit deserving of my punishment. And though I knew that I'd been late, I was still ticked. No--not ticked, pissed.

Somebody had informed me that practice had been canceled. I should've known that there was no reason for a canceled practice. Ashley had been adamant on the cause, though, stating that the field had been infested with some sort of bug and we weren't going to be allowed to use it.

I believed her, of course--because I was an idiot, and I was tired. I didn't want to swing a lacrosse stick around for two hours after a Monday school day; I really, really didn't.

"You should've checked with me first, Liz. This isn't cool." My coach said; we were in his classroom and he was talking to me from his desk. Coach Hudson was a good man. He was considerate, logical, and always tried his best. I was sympathetic for his case--our team sucked.

It wasn't as if we weren't trying. For west-coasters, lacrosse is a somewhat new sport, and so were the teams. Since there was a lack of students who had tried out, Ashley and I had made the JV team easily. Coach Hudson wasn't a bad coach--he was just new, and that always seemed to bother him.

"It's alright, girls. We'll beat 'em next round. And besides, they have a better coach, so I apologize for not being the best." He'd say after every game we lost.

We've lost eight out of our past nine games. And the three other wins were team forfeits.

Yeah. We play like a bunch of camels.

"I know," I sighed, unable to come up with a plausible excuse. "I promise this won't ever happen again." I think. I added silently in my head.

He nodded slowly and stood up. "Well, alright. You still owe me an extra two laps around the track next practice." He said, and smiled as I cringed.

We already ran two miles worth of laps around the field each practice. Two laps made a hell of a challenge.

I nodded and grabbed my backpack. I was going to get Ashley back for this.


I stood by the vending machines, waiting for the goldfish to make a successful plop to the bottom. It was five-thirty, I was tired and moody, and I had to walk home.

I hate Mondays.

I grabbed the chips out of the machine and made my way past the field to the front of the school. As I was walking, I noticed a hoodie-clad figure up ahead of me.

Uh, is that Laguna?

I slowed my quick pace to a walk, carefully picking Goldfish out of the bag. If I wanted to do this 'stalking' thing correctly, I had to start sometime, right?

Right?

He was one of those guys who constantly listened to their iPod. I had to admit, I was not the type of person that did that sort of thing. If he didn't stop now, he'd have a blown left ear before he turned thirty.

He adjusted the speaker in his ear and took a swig of his--

Water?
How boring.

I pegged Laguna as the type of person who'd havean energy drink, or a coffee; because he was simply tortured, and needed something to alleviate his mood.

I supposed he wasn't that kind of person, though. I wondered why I didn't know this already. I mean, I'd been his classmate since fifth grade--it was appalling that I knew almost nothing about him. He seemed to know a few small things about me.

Why not return that sentiment? I was only doing this in an attempt to learn more about him.

I continued to watch him surreptitiously, mindful of my footsteps. It would be a little awkward if he caught me now--we were in an area that I'd have no reason to be in. With that thought I paused, confused at my surroundings. Where was I? This wasn't an area of school that I was particularly familiar with, and I was starting to sweat--a lot.

There were a few things I was absolutely sure of; these were the rules I stuck by in these situations:

1.) Don't panic. Even the slightest noise could cause unwanted attention.
2.) Start walking backwards.
3.) I don't know what I'm talking about.

I stopped quickly and threw my Goldfish away, prepared to have both fists ready—in case, you know, some suspicious looking people happened to want a fight. After I'd dumped the chips into the garbage, I backtracked—literally—and headed towards the light, in a figurative sense. I wasn't in a dark place, per se, I was just very nervous.

Laguna kept walking ahead, completely unaware of my presence. That was a good thing, I supposed, but I was secretly hoping he'd stop and go somewhere familiar, so that I could follow him for a longer time.

I never meant stalk—I was just curious. And sure, curiosity could hypothetically kill the cat, but I wasn't a cat. So I had the system fooled.

I continued away, heading for the back of the school so that I could cross over into my neighborhood.

My plans had been disrupted.


Back at home I lounged on the couch—like the Romans did back in the day, with some grapes on the table in front of me. I'd started to reach for them, but when I realized that my arms couldn't reach that far, I had stopped, entirely too lazy, and went back to lazing around.

Mondays were reserved for personal pity parties and Star Trek Voyager episode watching, plus the occasional fatty snack and a phone call from Vivi. I'd had yet to hear back from Vivi, and I still didn't know where my mom had hidden the Gushers from me, so I'd decided that I would sit on the couch and watch Star Trek. But as soon as I turned on the TV to check for my recorded episodes, I'd found that they had all been deleted.

Oh, motherfucker.

"Julia!" I screamed the name so loud that I'd actually jumped, and I waited for a reply. After a few seconds I heard a feeble 'yes?' from somewhere down the hall, and immediately I formed a plan.

I was all for planning and schemes.

My sister appeared to my left, and I stared at her. "Did you delete my episodes?" I asked, calmly, and finally grabbed a grape from the table. She shrugged, in that annoying 'Who gives a –s-h-i-e-e-e-t' kind of way. I was already thinking of how I could kill her without the police being notified.

After a short silence I frowned. "Um, why?"

She shrugged again, as was the universal senior move #37 and began walking away. That had irked me a little bit—I mean, I'd had one of the worst days today—it was Monday, and I had a right to be a little mad.

Of course, instead of using flawless vocabulary and personal insults, I'd decided to attack with my fists. I hit her arm in a fit of anger, expecting no kind of reaction. I had done this a few times, and Julia had always claimed that I was "a weakling" and an "idiot."

Julia turned to me. "Dad wanted to go out to dinner with us, but once he realized I couldn't go, he cancelled. I guess it sucks to be the child not liked." She said and I stared at her. After a few tense seconds of no talk, she backed out of the doorway and left, and the stupid smirk on her face only made me feel worse.


After the semi-fight with Julia I went to my room to sulk. I had this really annoying CD on repeat that I wanted to burn, but as I was reaching into the CD player to grab it, I'd thought better and went back to sit on my bed. I had this weird thing; I mean, it's not that weird, but if I went and told anyone at school that I had to listen to cheesy massage and nature sounds CD's I would probably be out-casted for a while.

So while I was sitting on my bed and listening to the not-so-relaxing sounds of Aromatherapy: Music for Rejuvenation, the phone rang.

I also have this thing—Jesus, I keeping calling all of my strange quirks 'things'. Anyways, I have this 'thing' where I don't like to talk on the phone all that much, unless it's with Vivi or my mom.

After the sixth ring I realized that I had to pick up the damn phone.

"Hello?" I asked awkwardly, wincing as my throat made an embarrassing gurgle noise. I heard a very quiet chuckle on the end—although who the hell chuckles?

I coughed awkwardly. "May I ask who's calling?"

There was a small pause and a short sigh. "It's Tyler."

I grinned, clutching the phone more securely in my hand. "Ty? That you? Where've you been for the past few months?" I asked, attempting to sound casual but turning out to sound overly emotional. Of course, Tyler would be the kind of person to chuckle, though I'd call it more of a giggle. He was cute like that, with his curly blond hair and baby eyes--he reminded me of a man-angel. Whatever that was. And as for the glitch in my voice--that catch, or whatever, (which was incredibly embarrassing to emit) was caused by loss of one of my closest friends for three months, (i.e. Tyler).

He chuckled (There's that noise again!), and replied with a short and blunt response: "I've actually been in Egypt."

I was speechless for all of three seconds before I hounded him with questions. "Since when were you in Egypt? How'd you get the cash to go there? Isn't it dangerous to go to Egypt, you know, with all their anti-law stuff?"

He laughed, full out laughter, and I could almost feel his cheeky grin on the other side of the phone (figuratively--on the other side of the phone, I mean. He wasn't literally standing next to me on the other side of the phone.) "I was kidding, dipshit. I was in DC for like, eons." He replied sarcastically, supplying me with the answer for his insufferable giggling (which, astonishingly enough, did make him sound like a pubescent girl.) And, I was very offended by his term of whatever he was calling me. Dipshit? Hadn't I had enough suffering for today? I waited for him to quit it with the Santa laughter and get to the point. When he failed to stop laughing, I cut in.

"So," I began, dragging out the o's with abounding amounts of awkwardness (though, I always managed to make my sentences stream together awkwardly). "why are you calling me?" I winced after I said it; I felt like I'd been unnecessarily sharp. But I'd gotten to the point, and I was glad that I had done so.

"Well, damn, cut off my happy laughter." He joked. I didn't laugh. He coughed. "Right. Um, I'm starting back at River Blossom tomorrow. In case you were wondering. Or caring." He mumbled hotly. I snickered, then caught up on the news. I was slow, I had my limits to what news I could take in quickly.

"Oh. Oh! Yes! Words cannot express my happiness!" I said. It had sounded like I was kidding. Sadly enough, I wasn't, because I was thankful I wouldn't have to spend every moment of my day near Ashley anymore.

After Tyler's announcement his mom had called him down for dinner, ("pizza!" she'd called.) He bid me farewell and I promised I'd show him around school tomorrow. After he hung up I felt a lump in my throat again, though this time, it was a lot smaller--

but I still wanted pizza (not that I would get any).


I stood behind Barbie. She clucked like a chicken, balancing on her four inch heels as she placed books in and out of her locker. If I had any sense of pride, I would kick her ass to China, but this morning I was feeling complacent--or happy, or whatever.

Three minutes later and a minute left to get to class turned my happiness into surly hatred. Why the hell was she taking so long to get a text book? Sure, she was talking with her friend about how beautiful John goddamn Breter looked today, but that did not give her the right to take up my time.

Bitch.

Her boyfriend appeared beside her and I recognized him as the kid who used to tease my sister in middle school. He was, what, a senior now? Goddamn, I hated this Barbie bitch even more. I'll just nickname her 'Satan', and her lackey/boyfriend 'slave'.

"AHA-HA. I'll see 'ya later, Amy!" She screeched, and then latched on to her boyfriend to finally, finally, leave.

And just as I was about to go forward towards my locker, another kid flew in front of it to chat with his friend.

Goddammit!

Instead of waiting, I grabbed the boy's shirt from behind and shoved him away, ignoring the shocked "Hey!" I heard behind me. I leant down to the bottom (where my locker was) and swiftly opened the door to get my math book. After shutting my locker loudly enough to ruin my hearing forever, I briskly walked upstairs to my math class and ignored the stares from the kids who had been watching my anger in silence.

At lunch I avoided my locker and went straight to the vending machines, those lovely life savers, to grab some Goldfish before I faced the Third Reich. A slap on my ass alarmed me, as it should've, and I turned around prepared to slap and punch. I was met with a clear gaze of blue and fuzzy blond hair, and before I could open my mouth Tyler had me wrapped in a hug.

"Lizzie, I love you." Tyler said into my shoulder. I smiled, eternally thanking God.

"Okay." I said, and began walking away towards my lunch group. Tyler caught up to me without a pause, and wrapped an arm around my waist, his smile smug. I elbowed him in the side and kept walking.

"You're not gonna ask how my day was? If I met anyone? If I had sex in the janitors closet?" He asked, again wrapping his arm around my waist. I assumed that pushing his arm away wasn't going to do anything, so I let him keep it there, not that it bothered me too much. After his questions set in, I rolled my eyes in some-what disgust, though I thought his questions were cute--like-able. He wasn't annoying like Ashley.

"Nah. I'd rather not know." I said, smiling at him. He grinned back and we continued on our way to the lunch group. As we were walking I passed Laguna.

It was almost like those soap operas. I mean, I thought I heard some music in the background (suspiciously sounding like Barry White) and a group of birds flew up from behind him as if perfectly synchronized. In the back of my mind I faintly wondered why he had no black on. Wasn't he always dressed in black?

Tyler pressed a kiss on my cheek, quickly ending my inner monologue. As I watched Laguna, a vague look of confusion swept over his face; but in a flash it was gone and I was left with a cold feeling in my gut.

After we had passed, Tyler stopped and released me from his vice-grip. "Who was that?" He asked, so casually, as if he were wondering what the weather was like up in Los Angeles. I shrugged, grabbing his hand.

"Just some kid."

I hoped Laguna didn't think that way about me.


In the end, after all my futile attempts at arguing, my father had tricked me into working for him at his sporting goods store. Or better known as Sam Sport. Cheesy store name? I think so. Sam was my dad's name, though. I'm sure he thought it was a genius idea, bless his soul.

We were standing at the counter, and I was staring at the cash register with contempt. It wasn't something particularly worthless--the machine--it was just somewhat making my life much more difficult than I wanted it to be.

"Alright, so you scan the item like this," He demonstrated smoothly, grabbing a random packaged helmet. "And," he continued. "if it's something bigger, like a bike, then you need to go ask Marty for help." He said, not exactly telling me why I needed to go get Marty. I assumed that Marty was good at selling bikes, or something.

I nodded and he grinned in achievement, slapping his hands down on the counter. "Okay! I'll just leave you to it then!" he shouted, way too excited for a Saturday morning at seven. And what did he mean by 'leave me to it'? What the hell is it?

As I was contemplating the value of the word 'it', Tyler walked in. He was all fresh-faced and angel-like, which wasn't something I was in the mood for this morning. No cupid no. I'm tired, and I don't want to listen to your romantic escapades.

Of course, resistance is futile.

"I met the hottest babe last night." Tyler said, wasting no time. He promptly launched himself onto the counter and grabbed one of the bags of chips I had stashed inside my bag, which was still resting on the counter. I opened my mouth in anger, but he cut me off. "--and so I was like, 'I know that place,' and she was all 'Oh, me too, you sexy man beast you. Do me on this grassy knoll right here.' and I was like, 'okay.'"

And he then proceeded to stuff his face with my Doritos.

I smacked him in the head, snatching my Doritos bag away from him. "Alright, that's disgusting. I hope you get genital herpes, you molester." I said, moving my chips and purse to a safer spot behind the counter.

It took him three seconds before he pounced on top of me. I almost fell, but I grabbed the counter at the last second and I remained standing. He had his arms wrapped around my middle, his nose in the side of my neck. It was creepy, but cute. And wasn't Tyler always cute?

"Wow, I almost died." I said, slapping his leg. He made an animal noise, something between a cat's meow and a lion's roar and left me alone to go look at the snowboards.

I really did appreciate the friendship we shared.

I played with the buttons on the cash register for a few more minutes until I heard the bell for the door jingle, signifying a customer. I checked the computer clock, which displayed 7:21 brightly and clearly.

Alright, who was coming into a sporting goods store at 7:21?

I checked to my left where the door was and spotted Laguna's long hair and the skateboard in his arm and sighed, hoping the first thing he noticed wasn't me. Of course, I wasn't, but Tyler was.

"Hi, do you work here?" Laguna asked Tyler. Suddenly, I was very afraid.

Tyler looked at Laguna, and I knew that Tyler remembered him from yesterday. I always hated Tyler's impeccable memory. "Yeah," he said, grinning. "What do you need help with?"

And then he proceeded to lead him away from where I could see them, not before Tyler looked behind Laguna, to me, and grinned.

He also winked.

Shit.


A/N: I know this chapter most likely wasn't very interesting, but I'm trying to add character development. Uh, in my last chapter I said that I 'know that Laguna isn't a very interesting game' but I meant to say 'name'. Hopefully I didn't sound like too much of an idiot.

And sorry about the long update! I have that problem sometimes...

Thanks for reviewing, it really does help me. :) 333