‘It is not always the tears that measure the pain. Sometimes, it is the smile that we fake.’
The hallway was filled with loud teenagers, the noise and the chaos were perfect, like that in a typical movie scene. Random couples were making out in the corners, a bunch of jocks throwing a football up it the air and showing off to the cheerleaders, geeks sharing notes and so on.
Astrid rolled her eyes at the guy who was flexing his non-existent muscles as she tried to make her way to her locker praying that her first day at this school would get over quickly. She was happy at the fact that she was enrolled in a different school and not in Talia’s. After successfully reaching her locker and grabbing all her stuff, she checked if her hoodie was intact, covering her head and to some extent her identity and sauntered off to her first period.
Her plans were pretty simple and foolproof. Maintain a low profile. Mind your own business. Graduate. Move on. That’s all. Easy.
As always, she was wrong.
It was P.E. next. All the students were assembled inside the gymnasium. Astrid had to admit, her gym clothes were pretty decent and comfortable comprising of a simple white t-shirt and navy blue shorts that reached a couple of inches above her knees. She wore a bored expression on her face as she stood leaning against the wall, hands crossed over her chest with one of her legs perched up. She felt rather exposed without her hoodie but luckily for her, no one seemed to pay much attention to her. In their eyes, she was nothing but the new kid who had socialising issues. The loner kid.
She did not mind at all. In fact, she was rather satisfied with it. Her plan was working after all. A few people did approach her at first but because of her curt replies and sometimes, the lack of it made them establish her as the new social pariah. Her blank face went well with her piercing cold gaze and pale skin which made people steer clear of her.
She raked her eyes over every one of them, noticing every distinguishing feature and behaviour and saving it in her memory. Her father had always told her. Even the most insignificant detail is important. Never take them for granted. She had already memorised half of their names and it was only a matter of a few days when she would know them all.
A loud whistle made her snap her eyes to the centre of the stadium where a tall man with salt and pepper hair and an equally tall and built woman with her dirty blonde hair pulled back into a tight bun stood, their stance rigid. There was some distance between them and by the look in their eyes, the fierce competitiveness and rivalry made it clear that they were not exactly on good terms with each other. All of them had gathered and the way boys and girls were standing separately did not go unnoticed by Astrid.
“I wonder what those two are going to make us do today.” The girl standing next to Astrid muttered in irritation, loud enough for her to hear.
“What do you mean?” She did not let her curiosity slip in her tone.
“They both are our coaches. Mr.Randy and Ms.Terry. Ms.Terry always tries to prove that girls are better than boys in terms of both physical and mental strength. But he doesn’t agree. So basically, P.E. is all about them trying to prove their points to each other and in the process, torturing us.”
“Interesting.” The slight smirk and the glint in her eyes went unnoticed by the girl.
“Three laps around the gym. Last three to finish will do another three laps. Go.” He blew the whistle again and all the students broke out into a run, some trying harder than others in the hopes of not running extra.
Running was something that Astrid was good at. Both physically and metamorphically, from her problems. The feeling of the wind brushing through her hair and against her face, the slight burn in her muscles were her favourite things about running.
She sprinted with ease, quickly catching up with the boys in the front. From their built, Astrid was able to make out that they were good at sports. Probably, football. But then, she was better than them. All those training sessions with her father paid off.
She caught up with the boy running far ahead of all of them. She had to admit, he was good looking. Better than good looking. Chocolate brown hair longer on top and shorter at the side, bottle green eyes, lean muscular frame and chiselled features. He met her gaze which held shock as she sprinted past him and completed her rounds with him not far behind. The surprise in Mr.Randy’s eyes brought out a smirk on her face. Ms.Terry, on the other hand, looked overjoyed. She had finally found the girl she needed to shove her point deep inside Mr.Randy’s head.
“Ash, are you hurt? Your game was not up to level”, she heard Mr.Randy tell the guy who was still slightly shocked but curious about the girl who had beaten him. He wanted to know more about her.
Astrid rolled her eyes at his comment and noticed Ms.Terry do the same. Their eyes met and the coach gave her a full-blown smile. The other students were almost finished and the three girls who finished last, groaned out loud as they pulled themselves up for another three rounds.
“What is your name ?” Ms.Terry asked her. By this time, Mr.Randy and the guy, Ash were also within earshot and with no doubt listening to their conversation.
“Are you new?”
“That explains why I have not seen you here before. That was some nice sprinting that you did there. Good job.”
Astrid simply shrugged at the compliments and noticed Ash’s eyes on her. Asher could not help but stare at her. With her pale skin, raven hair tied up, her bangs messed up from all the running, he could not believe that a thin frail girl like her was faster than him. He knew he sounded like a hypocrite but he could not help it. On the other hand, he also could not help but find her red highlights totally badass and the feeling to get to know her more was rather overpowering his hypocrisy.
So far so good. Though everyone was pretty amazed at the fact that she had beaten Ash, some just ignored it, some labelled it as a lucky day for her, some assumed that something was not right with Ash.
Ash or Asher was apparently the King. He had it all -the looks, the grades, the body, the money. All swoon-worthy, according to the girl who was gushing about him so hard that Astrid concluded that she had nothing but a lump of charcoal for a brain.
Dodgeball. That was what they were playing. It came as a no surprise to Astrid when Mr.Randy said it was the girls against the guys. She just stood at the corner and watched as the girls got out one by one, some deliberately just so they could sit on the bleachers to ogle and giggle at the boys. A few balls came in her directions which she dodged with ease. She noticed Asher’s eyes on her and she held his gaze as if challenging him. He was the first one to look away.
Soon, everyone was out except three including her and around five boys. A guy who looked like a surfer boy with sandy blonde hair and brown eyes looked at her and smirked. Astrid kept her complete attention on him as he pulled back his arm to throw the ball at her. The ball was fast but his eyes widened in shock and anger as she caught it with ease.
She could hear some girls and guys cheering on for her, some booing at Ryan when he walked out of the game, glaring at them. The game proceeded on for a few more minutes as Astrid dodged the balls coming in her direction and took out another guy. Now it was just Asher and her.
This brought back memories. Astrid could remember the days when she used to play dodgeball with her father.
Never swing from your shoulder. Turn your body and swing from your core.
That was what she did. She threw the ball with all her might when Asher was least expecting. He wanted to know how strong she was. And she showed him.
Pain blossomed in his stomach like fire where the ball hit him. Astrid watched, a part of her feeling guilty as she watched him swear like a sailor rubbing his stomach while another part of her was rather satisfied. Ms.Terry was ecstatic. Mr.Randy, on the other hand, was fuming. Everyone’s eyes were on her and she muttered colourful words under her breath.
So much for not getting any attention.