The medicine seemed to do the trick. She actually slept through the night without throwing up. The next morning breakfast made her hurl and she quickly went to John for another dose. “Emmy are you doing OK? Rachel had down that you needed this last night too.”
Emmy just nodded,
“You let me know if we need to get you seen, OK? Remember we’re counting on you to monitor your health.” She nodded swallowed the pill when he brought it back. As she did Rita and her two friends walked out of the hall. Rita stared at Emmy again and Emmy simply looked away. After they passed Emmy threw away the cups and headed outside to wait for the bus.
Outside Rita and her gang had taken the only bench while everyone else stood up and waited. There were several other students already waiting so Emmy just leaned against one of the concrete pillars holding up the roof of the porch.
After some snickers from the group Rita got up and came toward Emmy and the group followed. She leaned on the other side of the pillar. “So superstar, what are you on?” Emmy’s play at the team scrimmage had been the talk of the school. This wasn’t the first time Rita had teased her by calling her superstar.
“Oh, nothing just a stomach ache.”
“Sure, just a stomach ache. We’ve all just got a stomach ache.” She shoved an elbow into one of the other girls who didn’t laugh at the attempted joke. The four girls had surrounded Emmy and she noticed that everyone else seemed have gotten out of the way. Molly had taken off inside.
“So here’s how this is going to go.” Rita got in her face. “Whatever they’re giving you pretend to take and just hold it under your tongue. Then you bring it to me.”
First off Emmy thought that was completely gross, and secondly there was no way she was passing drugs to these girls. Getting caught doing that would be the end of the basketball team for sure. “No.”
The other girls all looked at Rita and said “Oooo.” And the girl was taken aback by Emmy’s answer. This was a girl who wasn’t used to hearing the word no. Emmy walked away pushing past her.
“Hey, you don’t walk away from me. You might be the big basketball star at school, but here you’re nothing.” She grabbed Emmy by the shoulder and turned her around. As she did she let a great right hook fly that caught Emmy square on the cheekbone. The cheap silver ring on her finger cut Emmy just under the eye. Rita had twenty pounds and five inches on the 7th grader who went down hard.
Live in enough foster homes and you learn how to fight and Emmy had learned a thing or two. Emmy hit the ground and got right back up. She ran at Rita, tackling her, she started punching her with everything she had. Thankfully the other kids started yelling “Fight, fight, fight…” and John ran out of the building with two of the security guys followed by Molly, who’d gone to get them, smelling trouble for Emmy. Before they could get there Rita flipped Emmy over and hit her again.
The security guys pulled Rita, off of Emmy before she could so anymore damage. Rita kept swinging hitting one of the security guards in the nose. They finally got a handle on her and restrained her arms behind her back. As they did Emmy smiled at the blood flowing from Rita’s nose and lip. She had to admit that hitting her felt kind of good. John saw her and he stood there shocked, he’d never seen Emmy smile.
The other security guard, the one whose nose wasn’t gushing blood and slightly crooked, hauled Rita, still yelling and kicking, back into the building while John turned to Emmy. “What is going on?”
Emmy didn’t speak she just reached down for her backpack. “Emmy, what happened?”
One of the other girls spoke up. “Rita hit her first and she was defending herself.” Several others including agreed.
“Emmy why did she hit you?” Emmy knew that she was in serious trouble for hitting her back. So much trouble that she might have to sit out of basketball so she decided to be honest.
“She wanted me to give her the medicine.” Suddenly John understood and he felt bad for Emmy.
Samantha had come out just in time to see the aftermath and hear John questioning Emmy. She gave John the “I’ve got this” look and then put a hand on Emmy’s shoulder. “Wow, she did a number on you.” Emmy touched her hand to her face and came away with blood. “Lets go take a look at that.”
“Ma’am I’m fine, if I’m not in trouble, I really need to get to school.”
“You’re not in trouble, but let’s help John with the paperwork and I’ll drive you maybe we can get you there on time. OK?” Emmy didn’t like it but she nodded.
In John’s office she gave her side of the story while Samantha listened. Emmy was holding a tissue to her cheek. Thankfully Rita had gotten her twice on the same side.
After filling out the paperwork, John asked again if she wanted to have someone look at her cheek. It had already stopped bleeding so she said, “I’m fine. I’ve got to get to school.”
“Then lets get going.” Dr. Brown stood and walked with Emmy out to her car. School was about ten minutes away and Emmy didn’t say a word the entire time.
Samantha pulled up outside of school and parked. Emmy jumped out and ran in. It was only five minutes until the bell and she had to stop by her locker to get the book for her first class.
Walking through the front door of course the first person she saw as she entered the building was Coach Miles. “Taylor!” she motioned her over to where she was standing
“What happened to your face?”
Emmy touched it trying to downplay it. “Just goofing off”
“You know we’ve got some important games coming up, why don’t you keep the goofing off to a minimal.”
“Now go to the office and get an ice pack. I’d like you to be able to see for practice today.” She wanted to just head to her locker but coach watched her all the way in.
In the office, she saw Dr. Brown and Mr. Woodson walking to his office, she was afraid they were talking about her. The lady in the office asked what happened and she got the same answer Emmy had given the coach. As did every kid and teacher that asked throughout the day. It might have hurt like crazy, but it kept her mind off the nausea all day and by practice she realized that she’d actually kept her lunch in her stomach.
“Mrs. Miles” Mr. Woodson flagged her down as she was leaving for the day. “Did you see Emmy Taylor today?”
“I did this morning, sporting a huge shiner. Is she in some kind of trouble?”
“Dr. Brown the counselor from St. Thomas stopped by to see me this morning. She was letting me know that Rita Sanchez would not be coming back to school. She’d been involved in another fight this morning and was being moved to another facility.”
“Can’t say we didn’t see that coming.” Mrs. Miles had Rita in Social studies and the girl simply refused to do anything in the class.
“Problem is Emmy is the one she was in the fight with. Mr. Case called this afternoon checking on her. Seems it happened right before school and Emmy was so afraid she’d be late to school that she didn’t want to get it looked at.” Coach sighed.
“Why wouldn’t she tell me what really happened?”
“What do you mean?”
“I asked about it and she said she was goofing off and then stood there while I lectured her about taking care of herself because we had some big games coming up.”
“According to Dr. Brown, Emmy hit back and actually held her own. Rita looked even worse. Maybe she was afraid she be in trouble for fighting.” It made total sense, but Coach was still feeling bad for the kid.
“Before practice will you take a look at it and make sure she doesn’t need to go to the doctor. Mr. Case said he’d be gone by the time she got back today, but wanted someone to take a second look at it. He said it bled a lot initially but stopped so he didn’t think she needed stitches.”
“Sure, she usually stays after school. I’ll go get my stuff and then look it over.”
Walking out to her car Stephanie shook her head. Emmy was the most frustrating and yet amazing player she’d ever gotten to coach. On the court she was brilliant as a player and a leader. She called out plays, talked on defense, and directed traffic on the court. But as soon as the buzzer sounded all that turned off. The kid was as respectful as they come, but rarely made eye contact or spoke. The other girls always included her so it wasn’t any kind of hazing or shunning the new kid. Stephanie knew there was definitely something different between Emmy the player and Emmy the kid.
Back inside she went into the coach’s office and changed for practice. Outside the boys had the gym first and the girls that stayed after were up on the stage doing homework. Emmy was usually among them.
“Is Taylor here?” Coach asked the three on the stage.
“No coach she left today.”
“Ok when she gets here tell her to find me.” They all nodded and went back to their work. Coach was a little surprised. Emmy always stayed after school. Knowing now that she was from St. Thomas she figured it was hard to get a ride back so she just stayed. If she’d gone home, Coach wondered why Mr. Case wouldn’t have seen her himself.
Emmy had another appointment after school. Like Tuesday, the traffic gods were smiling and she made it back to practice with fifteen minutes to spare.
Walking into the gym Coach Miles immediately saw her. It was almost like she’d been waiting for Emmy. “My office.” Those were words that Emmy hated to hear. Obediently she followed.
“Have a seat.” Even worse words. Every bad conversation she’d had in her life with an adult had started this way. Coach took the seat beside her “Let me take a look at that eye.” Emmy turned so she could see it. The cut was bad, but wasn’t deep enough to need stitches. Checking her eye for any damage “Is your vision blurry?”
Coach pressed around making sure the bone wasn’t broken. “Sorry, I know this isn’t comfortable.” Satisfied that nothing was broken and no permanent damage done she walked over to the little freezer in the corner and pulled out an ice pack. She took her seat again and handed the pack to Emmy.
“Emmy, Mr. Woodson asked me to take a look at your eye. Seems like Mr. Case was worried.” She stopped and let that sink in. Emmy hadn’t wanted anyone to know that she lived at the home. She never told anyone or hung out with any of the other kids that lived there.
“Why didn’t you tell me the truth this morning?”
“I’m sorry Ma’am, I didn’t want you to know I’d been in a fight. I was afraid I wouldn’t get to play anymore.”
“Emmy you didn’t start the fight. You defended yourself. “ Coach leaned in and tried to catch Emmy’s eyes. “That is an important distinction. I’m proud of you for standing up for yourself. This wasn’t your fault.” She shook her head but coach knew she didn’t believe her.
A knock on the door stopped the conversation. The boys’ coach stuck his head in and saw Emmy’s face. “Wow what did you do?”
“Nice one isn’t it.” Coach covered for her “Keep that ice on there until practice starts.” Emmy left quickly and went to change for practice.
Out on the stage. The others were waiting for Emmy. “What did coach say?”
“She just wanted to make sure I could still see OK.”
“You can can’t you?”
“Whew, we really do need you tomorrow night.” Coach had worked hard in the off-season to schedule a game with the team that beat them so badly in the tournament. They didn’t have a lot of dates left; apparently everyone wanted to play them. So the only date coach could get was Thursday, which would make it the second game of the season.
“Emmy I know you weren’t here last year to experience the humiliation but we need to beat these girls.”
Maisy added, “They are big and mean.”
Bridgit was the most animated “Last year in the eighth grade game they elbowed Katie Martin in the face and just about broke her nose.”
“Emmy tomorrow you are going to run circles around them.” Maisy smiled and Emmy smiled back hoping she could do that for her coach and team.