Eboni attended Layne School. She lived in a friendly neighbourhood in the city of Nelda. It was a small town, and the residents all knew each other. Layne School was for grades seven to twelve, and was in the north eastern section of the town. At the furthest house, it was a twenty five minute walk. The elementary school was next to the junior high/high school and was situated towards the middle of the city. There were about three hundred students at Layne.
Every school day, Eboni and her sister Kylan woke up and got ready. They left the house at the same time, giving their parents the allusion that they were going together. When Kylan was around the corner from their house, she took off into a very fast paced walk and met up with her friends. Eboni walked slower, and she usually reached the school in twenty minutes. Eboni’s friends came from the other direction, so she didn’t have anyone to walk with.
Eboni was relieved that she didn’t have to spend the time with her sister. Kylan was very mean, often calling her older sister down. She was told that she was fat, ugly, had no friends, would do nothing in life, and that she was not loved. Eboni had two close friends and they both lived by the school. The three were in grade twelve. Nayeli was five months older than Eboni, and Nya two months younger than Eboni.
That day they had a rugby game. Eboni was trained for the spot of the prop. Her job was to engage with the hooker and push the scrum over the ball for the play to begin.
At practices, the coach worked the girls hard. During one practice, it was raining heavily outside and coach said that they would have an indoor practice. Eboni had no running shoes. She was wearing open toed sandals. She didn’t have phys ed that year, and had no need to have a pair of runners. Eboni attended practice and once everyone was changed and ready for practice, Eboni approached her coach. She was given a verbal lashing about being prepared and was told to sit at the side of the gymnasium and watch practice. After fifteen minutes, the coach came over to Eboni and told her that she was useless to the team without proper gear and to go home. Eboni felt rejected and in her mind, tried to rationalize why the coach was so hard on her. The end result of her thoughts were that the coach hated her. She couldn’t explain it.
Eboni always had running shoes in her locker in case of an indoor practice again. Coach made Eboni practice hard, giving Eboni the allusion that she mattered to the team. However, when it came time for games, Eboni was rarely played.
Eboni’s mother had taken her to the sports store and bought rugby cleats. She also got spandex shorts and a pair of rugby shorts. The spandex shorts would save someone from embarrassment if their shorts ripped during play. Nya and Nayeli had bought some gear as well. They had gone to a sports store, Nya and Nayeli going together and Eboni went with her mother. It was a costly trip, buying the two pair of shorts, cleats and a mouthguard. They then had to buy the jersey and socks from the school.
That day, they showed up ready for their game. Eboni had her backpack and gym bag, and had changed into the uniform at the school, as was required. She boarded the bus and found a seat behind Nya and Nayeli. They got to the game site and everyone piled out of the bus. They took their place on the outside of the field, the water bucket and water bottles set up on the bench. Eboni placed her bags behind the bench and joined the circle. The coach instructed everyone on their jobs, Nya was given time as a second row, and Nayeli was the left position, called a prop. The right position was given to a senior. Eboni was disappointed. Coach approached her. She asked if Eboni would mind lending her cleats to one of the girls who was playing on the flank. Bewildered by the request, Eboni agreed. She handed her cleats to the girl and she put them on. “Fit great.” Kerah said.
“What do you mean?”
“They were expensive.”
“I know. That’s why I haven’t gotten any.”
“What, get some? Yours fit.”
Eboni was blown away. Kerah walked onto the field and took her position. “Unreal.” Eboni said. Eboni approached the coach to tell her that she will not supply her cleats to someone who refuses to purchase their own because they can borrow from Eboni. Kerah was getting a lot of play time, using the cleats and not allowing Eboni to play.
Eboni sat and watched the first half of the game, with her uniform socks on. The coach called a few girls in to switch them up. Coach looked at Eboni and shook her head. Eboni had seen the look and shake and bit her lip. She told herself in her head that she was being oversensitive. Coach spoke. “Nayeli, Nya, Kerah, you three are staying in.” She called a few more girls that had been on the bench and sent them in. Eboni sat and watched.
The time wound down and the game was at half time. Coach congratulated everyone on a great first half. The coach corrected some mistake plays telling the girls what she expected. The score was six to zero. She outlined the plays and gave everyone their role. Coach listed off the players that would start and Eboni was called to play the right prop. “Eboni, you are right prop.” Eboni felt happiness. “But I want Kerah to play, and she’s got your cleats.” Eboni was shot down. “I’ll give you a chance.” Eboni wasn’t as excited as she anticipated another disappointment. After their huddle broke up, Eboni went to get her cleats, but Kerah said that she was using them. Going to the coach, Eboni told her of the problem. Coach sighed heavily as though she were frustrated. She told Eboni that she would play her later on and that Kerah would borrow the cleats to go onto the field. Eboni was hurt.
The girls went to the middle of the field and began play. The ball went out and they were to throw it in. The coach had called for a C11, for when the hooker gets the ball, they are strategically positioned to maintain control. Eboni played a C12 and ran into the girl in the position who was to take the ball. Eboni heard her coach lose it and the opposing team tried to take possession, but the girls ran the ball up the side of the field, tackling everyone in the way. They scored a try. Coach gave the ref a sign and the game was paused. She pulled Eboni off the field. “Give your cleats to Kerah. Kerah, you’re up. Nayeli and Nya, you two are still playing. Here’s the plan.” Eboni hung around the back of the circle, knowing that she did not need to be there because she wasn’t being played. Eboni sat down as the girls ran onto the field. She wanted to know the time and reached for her bag. She went to take out her iPod and couldn’t find it. She looked for her wallet and found it lying on the ground, about a foot away from her bag. The two twenty dollar bills that were sitting in it were gone. Frustrated, Eboni approached the coach.
“Someone stole my iPod and the money out of my wallet.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“It’s not like I don’t, it’s that I’m a little busy.”
“Fine.” Eboni walked back to her spot on the bench. She took her wallet out and saw that her prepaid Visa card had been taken. She had been given it as an early birthday present from her Aunt in BC. Eboni was really disappointed. One of the girls had stolen from her. She had hoped to be able to think high thoughts about everyone, but apparently that was not the case. She asked another player for the time and she was told it was near four o’clock. They were fifteen minutes into the half. Eboni watched and put on her shoes. She knew she wasn’t playing anymore.
The bus ride was happiness. They were going to the championships. The game was two days away. They had beaten every team within a two hour drive of the city.
As rugby season neared a close, the team was to play the championship match for the province, and everyone on the team was played except for Eboni. Eboni cheered hard for the team, the excitement of the team contagious.
She watched in anticipation on the side lines, waiting to be played. Once again, her cleats were played, but not her. When the game finished, and they won, there were tears of joy.
The local television channel was doing a story on the undefeated team. They filmed part of the game and interviewed a few of the players. They had set up close to where Eboni was sitting. The reporter interviewed the girls on the bench, all except Eboni. When the game ended and the players ran to the bench to celebrate, there were more interviews. Nya and Nayeli were all over that. They spoke to the camera crew, giving an account on how the win was great for the school and the members of the team. “The boys didn’t do nearly as well.”
“Are you graduating this year?”
“That’s a nice part of your final year in school. Congratulations.”
Nya grabbed Eboni and pulled her into the shot. “We won.” She squealed and put her hand up for a high five. Eboni hit it with no real enthusiasm.
That day, Eboni could only offer her hardest bite of the lip. She smiled, though it was fake. She bumped fists with everyone, though she didn’t want to associate with any of them. She plastered on a fake face. Everyone was so excited, and Eboni felt so low. The bus ride back to school was noisy, everyone chatting and cheering at what the team accomplished. Eboni tried her hardest not to cry.
When they got to the school, coach asked Eboni to stay behind. Eboni was curious to hear what coach had to say. “Why are you not happy about our standing? You walk around looking unenthusiastic, depressed actually. Can you not be any happier?” Eboni was shocked. She was getting in trouble for not being happy enough?
“Um.” Eboni weighed out telling coach about what she felt. She decided against it. “I’m happy, but disappointed.”
“Yes. I was hoping to be played more.”
“But Kerah is a better player and needed your cleats.” The coach pointed out.
“So my cleats get time but I don’t?”
“I didn’t cut you from the team because you were going to be the only cut. You’re lucky you’re getting the time you are.”
“Listen to yourself. You sound so heartless.”
“I’m only being truthful.”
Eboni looked at her, fighting the tears. “Good season coach.” She left, walking down the hall, out of the school and home. Once outside, Eboni felt a tear fall. After the one fell, there was no stopping the rest of them. Eboni walked slow, tears falling. It had not been a good day.
When she did get home, she had dried her face and went upstairs. “Oh, Eboni. There was a clip on the television about your team. Your girlfriends were interviewed.”
“Was there any footage of me?”
“No. How was it playing the last game for the high school team?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I wasn’t played.”
“Don’t be, it’s not your fault.” Eboni walked up the stairs.
“We had pizza. It’s in the fridge.”
“I’ll have some later.”
Eboni went to her room. “Hey. Heard you guys won. Undefeated, eh?” Kylan stood in Eboni’s doorway.
“So, did you play?”
“Just heard your conversation with mom.”
“If you heard it, why did you ask me?”
“To see your reaction. Hey, can I borrow your iPod? I want to go for a run, but mine is charging.”
“It was stolen.”
“Dude. That sucks.”
“No kidding. Anything else gone?”
“Cash and a prepaid Visa card.”
“Why are you sorry? It’s not like you took it.”
“I don’t know. It’s what people say when they feel bad.”
“You feel bad?”
Eboni closed her door and changed into her pyjamas. She ventured down to the kitchen and opened the box of pizza. There was one slice. Eboni’s mom came into the kitchen. “Thanks for the one slice.” Eboni said.
“One slice? There were four when I put it in the fridge. Your sister probably ate them. There should be a box of cheese sticks and chicken wings. The wings are your favourite, honey garlic.”
“Just going through some stuff.”
“Okay.” She left. Eboni was surprised. She expected her mom to at least offer an ear or even a shoulder to cry on. She took the cheese stick box out and the wings. She opened the cheese sticks and saw that there were six of them with a marinara sauce. She popped them in the microwave and opened up the other container. When the microwave signalled the end, Eboni took the sticks out and put the wings in. She sat, a bottle of Pepsi and a glass sitting beside her.. Eboni couldn’t hold the sticks because they were so hot. She poured herself a glass of Pepsi and took out the chicken wings. When everything had cooled down, Eboni ate.
“Did you eat the cheese sticks?” Kylan demanded.
“Piggy. I wanted some.”
“You apparently ate the pizza that was for me.”
“I left you a piece.”
“Well, I’m leaving you with some bones.”
“The chicken wings too?”
“They were yummy.”
“As I said, piggy. Oink oink.”
Eboni put the packaging in the garbage, finished her glass of pop, put the bottle away and went up the stairs. She really didn’t care what her sister thought of her. In the back of her head, Eboni heard a quote that had been shared with her: There’s always a little truth behind every “just kidding” A little knowledge behind every “I don’t know” A little emotion behind every “I don’t care” And a little pain behind every “it’s okay.”
Eboni sighed and got into her bed. She lied and looked at the ceiling. Tears fell. “Why do I cry so much?” She asked in a whisper. She cried as long as she could, getting everything out. She hoped tomorrow would be better.
That next day, the grade twelve survey had come out prior to printing the yearbooks. It had questions to answer about school and the graduating class. The forms were given in home room class and were to be handed in within two days. Eboni was tied up in her biology class. The group all sat in the hall at lunch time and read the questions aloud.
“Ugliest person?” Nya asked.
Helleh giggled. “Eboni.”
“That’s not nice.”
“But it’s true.” Helleh insisted.
“I’m not voting on that question. I think it’s inappropriate.” Nayeli said.
“Most likeable?” Nya asked.
“Hmm. I’m going to say Nya.”
“You realize that everyone is in a little group like us, doing this exact thing and voting for their friends. It’s going to be the most popular people in the school who will place.” Nya said.
“But it’s fun.” Helleh responded.
They went through the list, answering all kinds of questions. “If you were stuck on an island and had to cannibalize a person, who would it be and why?” Nya read aloud. “Interesting question.”
“Eboni. She would feed the most.”
“Ha ha. That’s funny and true.” One of the girls said.
“Guys, come on.” Nya said.
“Why? We’re just having fun.”
“At her expense.”