Emmy woke up feeling awful. She’d made it to the bathroom before the vomiting began. She showered and barely made it out front in time for the bus. In class, she had a hard time concentrating. She skipped breakfast and lunch hoping the nausea would subside. It didn’t and school passed slowly.
The bell finally rang and outside the van was waiting to take her back downtown. Today the appointment went better and she made it back to school with time to spare. She walked into the gym and several girls were already there. They all said hi as she came in and she smiled and said hi back.
Having finished her homework during the appointment she found a spot on the floor in the corner and laid down using her backpack as a pillow. She must have fallen asleep because Maisy, another 7th grader and closest thing Emmy had to a friend, came over and tapped her on the shoulder. “Emmy, the bus is here and coach wants us to get on.”
“Oh, thanks.” Emmy gathered her backpack and followed Maisy to the bus. She caught coach watching her. She knew that she’d disappointed her being late yesterday. Nodding and smiling she would make coach proud tonight, when she finally got to play.
At the game the 7th and eighth graders climbed up the bleachers to watch the 6th grade game. They cheered as their team took a big lead early on. As the fourth quarter started the 7th graders went back to get dressed for the second game.
Coach had rules about only putting on your uniform at the gym. Since they had to change in front of everyone in the locker room Emmy wore a t-shirt under her uniform so her teammates wouldn’t see the scars.
She slid her uniform shirt on over top and changed into her shorts. She was tying her shoes when she heard the buzzer out on the floor. Within moments the 6th graders and Coach Miles came in. Coach checked the room, making sure everyone was dressed and then gave the all clear to the other coaches.
“Ok girls here we go. First game of the season lets get started on the right path. Tonight Maisy will be starting as the point, while Emmy serves a mini suspension for being late to practice.” Maisy looked at Emmy nervously. Emmy smiled and nodded.
Maisy had been the starting point guard on the 6th grade team last year before Emmy had gotten here. This year she’d felt much more comfortable as a shooting guard. She had developed into quite a shooter, at least at practice. Emmy’s presence and ability to drive should create a lot of open shots for Maisy.
As they left the locker room Emmy put a hand on her shoulder and told Maisy, “You’ve got this. Just don’t give her an inch.” She smiled back.
Coach overheard the two and was glad anytime Emmy took a leadership role. She’d been reluctant, but as the starting point guard and potential leading scorer, if she played anything like she practiced, Coach Miles needed her to be a leader off the court as well as on.
She knew Emmy felt like an outsider since most of the others had come up playing in the YMCA Leagues and AAU teams together. The others seemed to have accepted her and realized that if they were going to go further this year they were going to need her.
Last year they’d lost badly in the first round of the state tournament. The team had been good and had a great season but just got a bad draw and ended up facing the eventual state champion in the first round. They played that team again early this season and were hoping for a better outcome. With Emmy on the team they had a much better chance of keeping it close, if not winning.
Emmy took a seat at the end of the bench, unsure how mad Coach still was. Coach looked down and saw her there and shook her head. “Taylor, right here.” She pointed to the seat beside her. Everyone else had to scoot down so she could take the spot.
The tip went to the guard from the other team and she scored quickly. They pressed and Maisy got past her, but she recovered to back tip and steal the ball from Maisy.
By the end of the quarter they were down by ten points. “Taylor, you’re up.” Emmy hopped up and ran to the scorer’s table to check in. Maisy patted her on the shoulder. “Go get her girl.”
Then the team sat back and watched. Emmy scored off the inbound play then stole the ball and scored again. After two more possessions the opposing coach called time out. Their ten-point lead had quickly been cut to two.
The time out didn’t help. Maisy joined Emmy on the court and two more steals and a three from Maisy and the Lincoln Bruins were up by five at half time. As the team headed to the locker room everyone patted Emmy on the back including Coach Miles. “That’s why we need you.”
Coach Miles smiled as the opposing coach stared her down heading to the locker room. She knew what he was thinking, that she’d sat Emmy to lull their team into a false sense of security. While she hadn’t done it intentionally that seemed to have been the effect.
After the half-time talk about adjustments they were going to make they all put their hands in and then headed back out. Emmy headed to the bathroom instead. Coach noticed, “Emmy you OK.”
“Yeah just need a restroom break.”
“See you out there.” Coach walked toward the door but hesitated. She heard Emmy throwing up. After several minutes she stopped and coach could tell that she slumped down on the floor. Coach Miles was even more concerned now that Emmy was into something. Pregnancy, drugs and all kinds of eating disorders presented themselves like this. After coaching for so many years at the middle school level she’d seen her fair share of athletes go down the wrong road. She hoped with all her heart that wasn’t the case this time.
Hearing the horn sound Coach left and Emmy quickly pulled herself off the floor. Grabbing a drink from the sink on the way out she hesitated and took a deep breath before leaving the locker room.
Coach always went with the same starters for the beginning of the second half so as the half started she took her place on the bench beside the coaches. Stephanie looked down at her “You feeling OK.”
“Yeah I guess I ate too much junk before the game.” Coach nodded. “Be ready they aren’t going to give in”
Emmy watched as the second half started. Their top player took control again. She scored six quick points. Emmy was quickly at the scorer’s table to check back in. “Remember don’t let her go left.” Coach whispered in her ear as the officials motioned her in.
Emmy’s defense worked and soon the girl was so frustrated that she was throwing the ball away. The opposing coach was forced to take their player out when she started yelling at her teammates and the kicked a chair during a timeout. In the end both the 7th and 8th grade teams won big.
After the games, she checked to see who was riding home with their parents. Coach made them all ride the bus with the team to the game, but they were allowed to ride home with a parent. Everyone, including the parents were excited for the first game and tonight everyone had a ride, except Emmy.
Sitting at the corner of the bleachers with Maggie, the equipment manager, she looked tired. Coach Miles wished that she’d been riding the bus back tonight, hoping to have a little time to talk to Emmy, but her son Jake was playing in the varsity scrimmage across town and if she hurried she’d get to see the second half. She patted Coach Jameson on the back as she asked if he was good to go. He nodded and motioned for Emmy and the equipment manager to load up.
Emmy helped them get all the equipment on board and then she walked to the back of the bus and sat down. Maggie said good game and waved. Her parents were there to pick her up too.
“Looks like its just you a me kiddo. At least its a short ride.” Emmy leaned her head back and closed her eyes as the bus began to move.
“Taylor lets go, off the bus.” Coach yelled from up front. She must have fallen asleep again. As she stood up a wave of nausea hit again. Thankfully her stomach was empty and she was able to hold it all in. Barfing on the bus would have been awful. Tonight she’d have to ask Rachel, the night supervisor, for some of the anti-nausea medicine the doctor had given her.
In a home with kids suffering from all kinds of addictions all medicine was locked up tight. Most of the time it was more trouble than it was worth to go get some, but after throwing up for two days and playing most of both games Emmy was afraid that she might be getting dehydrated. Thursday was one of their most important games of the regular season and the team would need her in better shape than she was in right now.
When she got off the bus the van was sitting there waiting for her. It was the same driver, Bill, that had taken her to her appointment today. He smiled, “How’d it go?”
“Good, we won.” Emmy sat down in the back. He started the van and pulled out of the parking lot. Ten minutes later he dropped her off at the front door. “Thanks.” She closed the sliding door and walked up to the front door. Just like at school, or a jail Emmy often thought, you had to press a button by the front door before someone at the desk would let you in. Bill waited behind her until she pulled the door open. Through the front doors Rachel was waiting at the front desk with a smile.
“How did the game go?”
“Good.” Rachel Stewart was in her mid-twenties and tall, about 6 ft. Emmy guessed. She was the nighttime supervisor for the middle school girls at the home and probably one of Emmy’s favorite adults.
Every evening there was a time when the middle school students were allowed to use the gym. Emmy was there everyday from the moment their time began until the high school girls chased them out. Rachel had played sports in high school and she often rebounded for Emmy.
At St. Thomas there were four supervisors in all. They each had either high school or middle school girls and day or night. John was her supervisor in the day and Rachel at night. There was another woman Maria that did the high school day shift and George did the high school nights. Each supervisor was in charge of about twenty kids each and there were 40 kids total living there at a time. In addition to the supervisors there were two security guards there all the time. During the day there were others there as well.
There were three ladies that worked in the kitchen. A man that worked in the library/technology room in the afternoons helping out with homework. Then there was Dr. Brown the psychologist who did group and individual counseling sessions with all the kids.
“Could I get some of that prescription Dr. Hatcher gave me?”
“Sure, are you feeling OK?”
“Just a little nauseous.” The look of pity on Rachel’s face was why it was so important that no one know about her condition. She felt Emmy’s head but didn’t ask too many questions. Satisfied that she didn’t have a fever she went back into the locked room to get the medicine. That was the other thing about getting medication, when you asked for it you had to take it right in front of the supervisor.
In one of her group sessions a kid asked about it. Dr. Brown said that they had a problem with kids passing medication to others. Once they even had someone selling their ADHD medication at school. In order to prevent any further problems residents, that’s what they called the kids at the home, weren’t allowed to have any kind of medication in their possession. Not even a Tylenol.
As Rachel came back out the door to the study room opened and one of the other middle school students came out. She made eye contact with Emmy. Rita Sanchez was no stranger to Emmy. They’d both been at another group home little more than a year ago. Rita hadn’t lasted long there either.
If Emmy’s life had been rough Rita’s had been even rougher, or at least more violent. Her mother and father had been gang members and she’d been born into the life. Drugs and murders were just daily life to her. She’d lost her father to a retaliation killing when she was eight. Her mom was so strung out on anything she could get she sold Rita to some guy for a fix. Cops had found her during a drug bust. She’d been beat up and was high on something. If nothing else Rita was a fighter, literally and figuratively.
Emmy had been at the other home for six months and Rita had gone after her twice. Once because she’d eaten the last waffle and once because she thought Emmy had ratted her out about something. Emmy hadn’t, she knew better, but Emmy was quiet and withdrawn, and that made her an easy target. After the second fight with Emmy, Rita was transferred somewhere else and three weeks later Emmy had gotten another chance with a family.
Rita walked on and Rachel returned with two little cups. One had the pill and the other a drink of water. With a thank you, she swallowed the pill and then placed the cup in the little garbage near the desk. “Get some sleep OK? You look tired.”
“Yes ma’am.” She wasn’t really old enough to be a ma’am but she knew it was a sign of respect from Emmy. Plus it was much better than what some of the others called her. Emmy walked toward her hall and Rachel watched.
The home was set up as a series of halls off a main building. Directly behind the desk were the offices, conference rooms and computer lab/study room. Then there was an open courtyard followed by the cafeteria and gym. On the left of the desk was a hallway that lead to all the high school rooms and on the right the middle school ones. Emmy walked through the door on the right. The hallway had five rooms on each side and behind the doors each room was shared by two kids. Emmy’s room was the first on the right.
She shared a room with another 7th grader named Molly. She had been at the home for two years and had yet to experience a foster family. Molly’s father had been driving drunk when he wrecked and killed himself and her mother. In the accident Molly had lost her right arm above the elbow. Because of her missing limb she’d been at the home while she recovered and went to physical therapy to learn how to use a prosthetic. Now no family wanted to take her in. Being unwanted seemed to be a common theme among the kids here.
The middle school residents were divided up into two groups the medical group and the behavior group. Emmy and Molly along with seven others were in the medical group. There were a couple with genetic disorders, cancer, and one 8th grader that had been paralyzed.
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon they were supposed to take part in a group session with Dr. Brown. Emmy hated going to these. She never shared and listening to all the stories just made her heart hurt for the other girls. Thankfully once basketball started she got out of a lot of them because she was at practice.
She still had to go to her one on one session once a week with Samantha. She had them call her that rather than Dr. Brown. She was hoping to make more of a connection and it worked for some. Emmy wasn’t one of those. These sessions were rearranged around Emmy’s schedule and she had not been able to get out of any of these.
Samantha really did know what she was talking about and truly understood what these kids were feeling. She had grown up in a children’s home in New York. But for most of her sessions Emmy didn’t talk so Samantha told her stories about how she’d gotten through and even gone to Syracuse University on a full scholarship.
As the counselor she had access to all of Emmy’s files and already knew all her deepest darkest secrets. With all this info already in her file Emmy didn’t see any need to rehash it. Thinking or talking about it wasn’t going to change it.
In her room a small night-light was on and Molly was in bed reading. “Did we win?”
“Yes all three games.” Emmy didn’t even change she just laid her backpack on her desk and fell into bed, kicking her tennis shoes off on the floor.
Molly wasn’t sure why Emmy was at St. Thomas. She hardly ever spoke and Molly didn’t ask. In a home like this there were a lot worse roommates you could have. Her last roommate had had some mental issues and screamed out at night and often accused her of things. After that, Emmy’s quietness was ok with her.