Last Bit of Sky

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Chapter Eight

He’s a swimmer?

Admittedly, he had the body for it. He was tall and slim but muscular with not an ounce of body fat in sight. Despite her hatred for him… oh, who was she kidding? She didn’t hate Damon (this, it turned out, was the enemy’s name), she was terrified of him. Terrified of what he could do. What she really hated was the fact that she allowed him to have that kind of control over her emotions. She didn’t want to be terrified of him and she hated that she couldn’t help feeling that way. Well, whatever her feelings toward him, Alanna couldn’t help but notice that he was good-looking. A year ago, she would have been attracted to, rather than afraid of, him. He had dark hair that was always messy, in a comely fashion, and striking blue eyes. Why do I know the colour of his eyes? Crap, I noticed them in class, didn’t I? Damon also had a hint of a British accent and those always made her weak in the knees. Alanna hadn’t realised that she’d been paying him such close attention. Well, she’d nip that in the bud!

“I see we’re staring at the gorgeous Mr. Cunningham again?”

Alanna turned to look at Maria and was surprised at how hard it was for her to do so. Maria had dragged her down to the swim meet and Alanna was starting to think that it wasn’t just so they could demonstrate their school spirit.

“Fine, fine. He’s good-looking. I admit it. You happy now?”

“Quite.”

Maria smiled broadly. She’d been watching Alanna for a few weeks and realised that even though there was something that was holding her back, Alanna was in fact attracted to Damon. But she also realised that whatever was preventing Alanna from acting on it must be pretty serious as the latter still refused to even speak to him unless she had to. Maria was starting to think that it was more than a bad breakup. She’d noticed that whenever Damon left the room, Alanna looked relieved as though she had been holding her breath, waiting for something bad to happen. Alanna was scared, not angry; and Maria couldn’t imagine what had happened to her to make her as closed off and afraid as she was. But there was hope and she wasn’t going to let it die.

’’Yes, I am! That’s the first positive thing you’ve said about him. Maybe there will be others,” Maria continued.

“Don’t hold your breath.”

“He stares at you in class when you’re not looking, you know,” Maria said confidentially. It was true. She had noticed him gazing fixedly at Alanna several times.

“Yea? Probably trying to figure out why they admitted a psycho like me.”

“You’re not a psycho!”

“You know that. I know that. But after I black-and-blued his shins on the first day of school, I doubt he knows that.”

“You what??!!”

Alanna had forgotten that Maria was still in the dark about this particular incident. She sighed and quickly updated her on her pointy-toed assault on the swim star.

“I can’t believe you did that! I mean, his shins?”

“I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m not really tall enough to kick Goliath over there any higher than that.”

“He’s hardly a giant. But then again when you’re a munchkin like you, half the population probably seems gargantuan,” Maria said with a laugh.

“Ha. Ha. Ha. I’m going to get me some popcorn.”

“But you’ll miss Damon’s race!”

“And your point?” Alanna responded as she walked off in the direction of the popcorn vendor. But she paused at the base of the stands and watched until Damon had won his race-100m butterfly- and emerged from the pool before continuing on to get her snack. When she got back to her seat, Maria had a smug little smile on her face.

“I saw you,” she said.

“Saw me what?”

“I saw you watch Damon swim. And he saw you too.”

“What? What do you mean he saw me? The stands were packed. There is no way he did.”

“As soon as he got out of the pool, he starting scanning the stands and he spotted you just as you turned to go grab your popcorn. He only looked away when the coach came to congratulate him.”

“You’re seeing things. And even if you’re right, I don’t care. I’m not interested in Damon.”

“You know, he is a really nice guy. He teaches kids to swim at the Y, for free.”

“Hmm…you seem to know a lot about him. Maybe you’re the one with the crush.”

“Nah. I actually found that out so I could tell you. You two will be friends by Christmas if I have anything to say about it.”

“Note to self: staple Maria’s mouth shut.”

“You love me too much to maim me.”

“Keep it up and that could change.”

“Fine, fine. No more Damon talk… for now. Let’s watch the rest of the meet.”

Alanna leaned back in her seat-it was the top row of the stands, so there was no one behind them- and ate her popcorn. She loved salty snacks. Everyone she knew loved chocolate or candy but she loved popcorn and tortilla chips. She watched as her college dominated the swim meet, losing only three races that day. The final race of the day was the 4 x 100m men’s medley relay. Damon was swimming the final leg, the freestyle portion, of the relay. Alanna found herself leaning forward in anticipation; the popcorn a distant memory as she watched the progress of the race intently. The rest of the crowd was on the edge of their seats as well. St. Aloysius’ second leg fell to third place on his return trip. Maria was screaming as he touched the wall and his teammate dived in for the butterfly event. He managed to put the team in second place and as he pulled in to the wall everyone knew that the win was now riding on Damon’s shoulders.

Go, go, go! Alanna wanted Damon to win. And she realised it wasn’t just for the school’s sake. She felt a bit guilty about how she had treated him in recent weeks. She was still terrified of him but she knew it wasn’t his fault. He wasn’t responsible for what had happened a year ago. They’d never be friends but she didn’t need to make an enemy out of him. As he took the lead and then outpaced everyone else, finishing two strokes ahead of his nearest competitor; Alanna leapt to her feet with the rest of the crowd. As the cheering died down, she turned to Maria, “You’re right. I have been too hard on him. We won’t be friends…”

“But...”

“We won’t be friends,” she said firmly, interrupting Maria. “But I will make an effort to be civil. He’s not responsible for my fea…feelings towards him, so he shouldn’t have to suffer because of them.”

“Well, it’s a start anyway. Hey, wanna go to a party tonight?” Maria asked.

“It’s on campus,” she added after seeing Alanna’s hesitation. “I know how you feel about going off-campus after dark, don’t worry.”

“Sure. Sounds like fun.” And she actually meant it.

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