“Hustle it up ladies, let’s go, let’s go.”
Coach Kline blows his whistle making the ones closest to him flinch away from the shrill sound.
His grey sports shirt hangs from his beer gut, the white and blue basketball shorts a little too short and tight.
His 70′s porn stash is comical.
I’m sure he uses a hair comb and probably puts sunblock on it like a nasty pervert.
That kind of vibe reeks off him.
Clapping his hands we all turn off the track and make our way back into the locker room, filing in one by one.
The white washed cinder blocks pave the way and blue tiles cover the floor.
The wolf emblem painted on the wall screams for school spirit but I can’t say I have any for this shitty place.
At least not yet.
Sweaty and gross from the forced physical exercise and the sweltering heat I know I’m ready for a shower.
August being one of the hottest months and living on the coast line doesn’t help.
Only week three of the first of the school and I still haven’t fallen into the blur of the crowd.
I still find a way to show up as the new kid.
If it’s not stumbling over teachers’ names or something to signal me out, it’s the questionable glances, the snide comments and the gossip at who I am and why Percy and I are inseparable.
None of them bothering to mind their own damn business but hey this is high school.
Trudging into the locker room I grab my clothes and try to figure out this dumbass lock that the school issues, before giving up for the 15th day in a row and head for the showers.
The locks are far too complicated and even though it’s meant to be simple it just isn’t.
Percy explains it and I swear I can get it when he watches but I still can never get my gym locker to work right no matter how hard or how long I try.
I’ve been late to class a few times already because of this, making me have two tardy slips and it’s not even been a month of school yet.
Swallowing my irritation, I can’t wait to be through with school, out of high school and done with shit like this.
Who can’t get a fucking lock to click right?!
Of course it’s me.
I hate gym the most, not just because of the physical activity which I loathe entirely but it’s the only class we get separated in.
Percy’s being my cousin, my only friend at the school, not that I’m looking to make more, it’s just easier to have someone in your corner, he tries to help me.
He really does give it his best shot.
Stepping behind the fluorescent beige shower curtain that is half the size it should be, I turn the water on and undress in what they call privacy.
Quickly changing and hiding from the view of the rest of the girls I try to focus on moving this along.
Soaping up and rinsing the dirty sweat from my body the rest of the girls leave, the room filling with silence and while I like being alone this is a bad sign.
I’ll be late again if I don’t hurry.
I finish my shower in three more minutes and turn the chrome knobs to shut it off.
Reaching out for my towel I find nothing.
A flare of panic invades me.
Nothing on the stool at the base of the outside panel, nothing on the little hook next to the opening.
Pulling the shower curtain back and pushing it to my chest I look around, seeing none of my clothes and no one around.
Where the fuck is my clothes?
I feel the panic start to course through my veins and eat me alive.
Maybe someone saw them on the floor and took them back to my locker?
Hoping like hell that’s the case I rip the shower curtain from it’s clear white rings and wrap myself in it.
Scouring the locker room, I find no trace of any of my things.
Nothing’s left in my locker, no gym bag, no shoes, bra, panties, hair brush, nothing.
Knowing someone must have taken it, most likely the snobby girls who’ve sent hateful looks my way since day one.
I check the trash can’s, praying like hell that maybe they just tossed them away but my luck is shit.
Briskly rounding the corner I look everywhere for something, even pulling on random lockers hoping to find one that’s open so I can borrow some clothes for the day but of course my luck is worse than my life at the moment and I find nothing.
Hitting my head on the locker, cursing my existence I know what my only option is and it isn’t pretty.
Tucking the shower curtain around me even tighter and making sure the top, middle and bottom is secure enough I make a run for it.
Moving as fast as I can I run up the short patch of steps and up to the first level of the school then haul ass down the vacant hallway until I get to the boys locker room and pass through the doors.
Thankfully no one is in, class is in session and I’m sure Percy is wondering where the hell I am.
Praying for some stroke of luck, some type of small blessing that these lockers are labeled just like ours I move through the rows looking for Percy’s name.
The second row and I find the winner.
Fighting with the lock, again.
I can’t get it to open!
Tears sting my eyes and stain my cheek, feeling the hopelessness sinking into my bones.
Crying, wrapped in a shower curtain, after I broke into the boys locker room has to be an all time low.
What else could possibly top this?
I look up, going to curse God for letting me still be alive but I catch a break in blue and silver.
At the corner of my eye I notice a locker with no stupid lock hanging from it and what looks like clothes stuffed inside.
What could possibly top this?
Stealing from an innocent stranger.
Holding my breath I slide in front of it and pop it open, snatching the clothes out and giving it a once over.
A shirt and basketball short, even a pair of sliders, thank God!
Big, but it will do.
Taking my new finds to the boys’ showers I get dressed in a mad dash to cover myself in real clothes even if their not mine.
Knowing my jacket is in my real locker safely stashed away I don’t mind going braless until then.
Having big boobs suck.
If I don’t wear a bra it’s very evident.
Not that they hang super low or anything it’s just, big boobs big problems.
The immediate problem solved, I feel a tug at my conscience.
I can’t steal this stranger’s clothes.
My uncle is the deputy sheriff for crying out loud.
But I need them.
So I’ll borrow them?
Wear them home, clean them and return it.
Feeling better about that outcome I go back to the locker, taking the scrap ripped page from the top shelf and the pen that’s thrown at the bottom to write out an IOU.
“IOU gym clothes. Sorry.”
I was going to put my name down but I think it might go over better if I just return them with out anyone knowing.
Poking it through the top I leave it hanging from the little hook so I’ll know he’ll see it.
Closing the locker I memorize the name painted on the front so I know who to return these too along with a thank you note and probably a gift card or something.
I feel like shit for taking these.
Even with the pure intentions of returning it I still feel like a thief.
“I’m sorry D. Henley.” I whisper in the silence, leaving the locker room and this little debacle behind me.
When I get my real locker the bell rings and classes all drift into the halls.
Filling with kids my age, the side eye glances make me so uncomfortable.
My arms at my chest I rush the door of my locker opening and slip into my jacket to hide my free range tatas.
“Where the- what are you wearing? What happened?” Percy gives me a worried look.
His straight blonde hair sways in his face, his warm brown eyes study me, looking for any sign of concern.
“Those freaking plastic Barbie’s I think stole my stuff. I had to use a shower curtain to cover up with then I thought I could wear your gym clothes but I couldn’t work your dumb lock. Luckily I found these in a random persons locker.”
I ran my fingers in my long honey colored hair, tucking a lock of it off my face while I got ready for the last class of the day.
“Wait you ran through the school naked and broke into the guys locker room. Who’s clothes are you wearing?” His eyebrows scrunched together.
The bell rang telling us to move along.
Shaking my head and mentally pushing myself Percy and I walk to class.
Him some what in front of me while she goes on about what work I’ll have to do.
The next hour and half passed slowly, snail speed slow.
They walk home like every day before, the kids at school who drive race past us.
“You know I can walk to and from school alone. I know you miss driving, you don’t have to give it up for me.”
The sun beat down on us, making us sweat and fan our faces with a folder.
Looking forward in the road we could see the heat hissing from the pavements.
Percy has a car, a driver’s license and a parking spot at school that he paid for.
“It’s fine Van. Walking is good for the both of us.” He nudged me with his elbow.
I knew he was just being nice.
He missed his car and driving.
But since I wouldn’t get in another vehicle to save my life, he decided to go on with my crazy to help me feel about being alone.
I wasn’t always like this.
But five months ago my life changed.
One day we went for a drive, just going to the movie theater and it started to rain.
The passenger side tire blew, we hit a puddle, hydroplaned and went off the median and down into the river below.
Dad died on impact.
Mom got Morgan and I out of the car but got dragged by the current and drowned.
Morgan died of pneumonia in the hospital a week later.
I woke two week after to find my family was all gone.
Percy and his dad, Uncle Jonah being all that’s left for me.
One car wreck was worse than Armageddon at my doorstep.
It was just... my world that ended.
Life goes on though.
The people around you go back to laughing and smiling, planning future’s and being happy but not for me.
I haven’t smiled or laughed since then.
In the court assigned therapy that I’m forced into that’s the thing we are working on.
But how can I laugh when Morgan’s laugh was so infectious and now it’s lost forever?
How can I smile when mom’s smile lit up the room and always made me feel warm?
What’s there to laugh at without dad’s ridiculously corny jokes that made me groan and roll my eyes that I now miss more than anything else in the world?
“I’m sorry you had a shitty day, would pizza make it better?” Percy punches the code in at the front door letting it unlock and fall open.
The crispy cool air conditioning hits us like frosty snowman blowing a kiss our way.
Uncle Jonah’s house is nice, now that it’s mine too as they like to remind me.
Smaller than my family’s home but it was just Percy and uncle they didn’t need much.
A simple white brick two story with a pool in the back and a nice porch in the front that my uncle had a swing put out for me.
It’s in a nice neighborhood, not stuffy like a cul-de-sac or bougie like a gated community.
Our house is the only one down the dead end lane but other houses are scattered up the road, we can see them from the front porch.
“Pizza makes everything better.” I roll my eyes and head up stairs.
Throwing my bag down and stripping out of a stranger’s clothes I get on my PJs.
Snapping into a bra and some panties makes me feel human again.
My black Odyssey t-shirt hangs off my chest and gives me no figure.
My simple black boy shorts sit long enough down my thigh that it covers the self harm marks that sprinkle at the tops of them.
Tossing the stranger’s shirt and shorts in the washer I make sure to add extra soap so they smell nice an clean when I return them.
I give the blue and black sliders a shine and pat them dry.
“Do you think I should buy a gift card to like a store or just for I don’t know like a gas station that’s gotta be a safer bet right?”
Percy hits pause on his game, sitting up on the grey sectional the frames the living room.
The flat screen hangs on the wall in front of us like a homing beacon for our attention.
“Whose clothes do you take? I probably know them well enough to help.”
He pops a Cheeto in his mouth, holding out the bag for me as I plop down next to him.
“Uh.. fuck I think I forgot.” My mind draws a blank on the name tag making Percy laugh and shake his head.
Fun fact about head trauma, memory loss is a big part of it.
Either short term or long term and the degree of how bad is a needle in a haystack.
Mine is pretty good. It’s not like I’m ten second Tom from 50 first dates or anything. It’s just harder for me to keep little bites of information when I used to have the memory of an elephant.
I forget conversation easily now, studying is harder, I forget things I need if I don’t make a list and learning someone’s name is ridiculously hard for me.
That’s not all either, I have random bouts of uncontrollable anger, nightmares and sickening migraines.
Hitting your head on the car window going 75 miles an hour causes problems.
Who knew right?
I was also under water for a while, something about the lack of oxygen made some things fucked up in my brain.
“It will come to you, don’t worry. Where was the locker from mine?” He munched down on a handful of chips.
Using my hands I demonstrate how the room is set up.
“I don’t even know. Your locker being here, I think his locker is facing out and maybe the fourth one?” I take a handful myself and let him think.
“I say get the gas card, it’s probably Noah’s, Patrick or Zack’s locker. Wait no you said it didn’t have a lock on it?” His brown eyes widen with worry as he realizes who’s locker it must be.
Nodding my head he throws his controller down and stands up.
“Was it D. Henley?” His voice pleads for me to say no but the name sounds right and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what it is.
“I don’t know, maybe? Maybe not.” I raise an eyebrow at him and why he looks so afraid all of a sudden.
His face visibly pales and all color drains.
“Nobody saw you right?” He bends down in front of me, coming eye level.
“Of course not, I was wrapped in shower curtain.” I don’t understand what the worry is over.
He grabs a hand up his face and threads it in his hair, sighing.
“Forget about returning them until I find out who took them from and never tell anyone what happened. Not even dad okay?”
Nodding he stands back up, walking from the dinning room to the middle of the living room.
“Did I like break into the mayor’s kids locker or something?” My curiosity kicks in.
Percy stop’s, giving a dry chuckle.
“More like the devil’s kid. Damon Henley is Lucien Henley’s son, the gang leader of the biker clan dad is always fighting with. If he gets an arrest on one of them then something always happens, either the case gets thrown out or evidence goes missing, witnesses go missing, they always get out of it.”
He shakes his head, before I could ask anything else Uncle Jonah steps through the door with three extra large pizza boxes and a tired smile twisted on his lips.
“Hey guys, how are my troopers doing?”
His voice is light but I can hear the tiredness and stress hanging at the ends.
Just like my own dad Uncle Jonah does his best to hide the adult problems from his kids.
I feel even worse.
Now we have to do damage control before I piss off a biker gang.
Just what we need.”