“Swimmers take your mark”
I saw the swimmer in front of me mount the block. I looked up to see if I could catch my dad and coach for one last good luck glance. When my eyes finally found them in the stands my heart stopped.
“Swimmers take your mark”
Someone poked me from behind and I realized it was my turn to mount. Everything happened so slowly, I was on autopilot for the race coming in dead last. When all was said and done I hurried to the locker room, not caring about my scores, I knew they weren’t enough to qualify for the Olympic team.
I pulled out my phone and saw a voicemail from my boyfriend Greg. I thought it must’ve been a last minute late night good luck call but instead I was met with moaning.
Everything was breaking down.
The drive to the new house felt longer than it actually was. Jenna and I were silent as my mom pulled into the garage of our smaller and duller home.
“We’re here!” Mom exclaimed, feigning excitement in the hopes it would raise all of our moods, but it didn’t.
Some family friends had been kind enough to move our boxes into their corresponding new rooms so that Mom wouldn’t have anything else on her plate to worry about. I had hoped my father would’ve given us some space and time to unpack before he butted himself back into our lives but the mail sitting on our kitchen table proved otherwise.
“Why don’t you kid’s go unpack”
I could tell she was choking back tears. She had been almost every time she spoke for the last 3 weeks following the Olympic trials. Still, neither Jenna nor I argued as we grabbed our personal bags we’d taken in the car and climbed the stairs to our new rooms.
The walls were barren, obviously, but staring at them I realized I had no desire to unpack my decorations and simply put that box in my new closet. There was a mirror on the closet door that I caught my reflection in. I was skinnier than I had been 3 weeks prior.
I was weak, broken, and I hated it.
Looking at the girl in the mirror in front of me I knew I needed to bury her in this summer and emerge as someone tougher, someone stronger.
So right then and there I knew two things.
One, I was going to put my full focus into my Hopkins application. Swimming was only supposed to be apart of my life hopefully to help pay for college, but it had become a giant monster that pulled apart my family.
And two, I was never going back to the person I was before. Junior year Riley was officially dead and Senior year Riley was here to stay.
“Do you really need to be touching up your lip gloss at every light?” I asked Jenna as she reapplied her lip gloss for the fourth time this morning.
“Just cause you don’t care about your appearance doesn’t mean I need to” she snapped giving her lips a quick pop for good measure.
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes as I pulled into the parking lot of Light Ridge High.
“RILEY LOOK OUT” Jenna screamed and I slammed on the breaks.
The group of football players all looked at my black Honda civic- an “I’m sorry I’m leaving your mother for your swim coach” present- disgruntled with one particularly unhappy curly haired one snapping at me.
“Learn how to fucking drive”
I could feel Jenna shrink with embarrassment as I maneuvered around them and to our designated parking spot.
What an amazing way to introduce yourself to your new classmates.
“Thanks a lot Riley, I was already gonna get enough shit for being a freshman and now I’m gonna get even more being the sister of the girl who tried to take out the football team!” Jenna screamed before getting out of the car and slamming the door behind her.
I found myself feeling hurt and had to quickly remind myself that that was something last year Riley would do.
and you’re not last year’s Riley.
A new school meant a new layout, I had hoped an extra 15 minutes before school started would’ve been enough time to find out where my first period class was but it appeared I had severely underestimated that as I frantically rounded another staircase as the warning bell rang.
“Fuck” I whispered to myself abruptly turning around and slamming straight into a brick wall.
“Wow I thought this morning you were just a bad driver but now I’m thinking you’re just bad at existing” the most unhappy football player joked with a half smirk.
“You should probably open your eyes if you have any chance of not falling down in place”
I opened my eyes but only enough to glare at him.
“You wouldn’t happen to know where room 310 is would you?” I asked against my better judgement.
I in no way wanted anything to do with this ass but I figured he was my last hope of actually making it to class on time.
“Never mind I’ll find it myself” I said shoving past him.
He reached out and grabbed my arm and I turned around ready to slap him.
“Don’t touch me” I snapped and he let go.
“No need to get so defensive. I’m in 310 for first period as well, it’s just up these stairs” he said pointing to the stairwell behind me.
“Thanks” I grumbled before hurrying up the stairs and into my bio classroom.
No fucking way.
There were only two seats open in the back of the classroom right next to each other.
“No fucking way” he cursed under his breath behind me.
“You both can take a seat” our teacher said as the bell rang.
I offered an apologetic smile and quickly made my way to the back of the classroom with my head down.
I unpacked my things and forced myself to take a deep breath.
Teachers randomize lab partners and seats all the time. No need to stress over a first day of school seating arrangement.
I opened my eyes and looked over to find the football boy was already talking with the pretty girl in front of us who- judging by the stickers on her hydro-flask and the massive bow on her backpack- appeared to be a cheerleader.
“Welcome to AP Biology! My name is Mrs. Rogers and I will be your teacher for the duration of the year” Mrs. Rogers started.
Everyone settled into their seats and gave her their attention.
“You all should get comfortable now as those of you who have had me in the past know I’m not one to change seats”
“Feel free to take a moment to introduce yourselves to your lab partners”
I turned towards football boy and forced a smile
“Noah” he returned.
After a couple seconds of other people finishing up their conversations Mrs. Jones called our attention back.
“Now that you all are acquainted you can briefly discuss how energy moves throughout our ecosystem” she instructed.
I pulled out my notebook and pencil and felt Noah’s eyes on mine.
“May I help you” I snapped in a low voice.
“Can I borrow a pencil?”
It was going to be a long year.
“Is that couch cushion taken?”
I continued typing on my laptop, assuming that was directed towards someone else?
The voice cleared their throat.
I looked up at them raising my eyebrows.
“Can I help you?” I asked tilting my laptop screen slightly.
The boy looked flustered and ran his hand through his black hair.
“I was just curious if you were saving the other seat for someone or if I could sit there and finish up my Comp Sci project. If not I completely understand I was just curious, I didn’t mean to bother you....” he babbled.
“It’s not taken, you can sit there” I interrupted offering him a small closed lip smile.
The boy looked relieved and took a seat.
Usually sharing a couch like this with a teenage boy meant I had a third of the couch and he had two thirds, but surprisingly this one had a concept of personal space and kept to himself on his side of the couch.
“Do you usually spend your lunch period in the library?” the boy asked me.
I looked up from my computer and contemplated it.
Old Riley didn’t. In fact old Riley didn’t let anyone know she even knew what a library was.
“I haven’t always but I thought it would be good to try this year” I answered.
The boy nodded and looked at me awkwardly for a second.
His mouth moved like he was trying to say something but no words came out.
“I’m Riley” I said offering him my hand.
He smiled and shook it, looking grateful that I said something to continue our exchange.
“Aaron Nave” He replied and I smiled, this time with teeth.
“Do you usually spend your lunch in the library Aaron Nave?” I asked and he blushed.
“Would it be lame if I said yes?”
I laughed and shook my head.
“Yes but I’m not one to care about what’s lame or not” I assured him.
He smiled back, revealing a dimple on either side of his face.
“How blind are you?” He asked gesturing to my glasses.
I took them off and handed them to him.
“See for yourself”.
He removed his own glasses before putting mine on.
He crinkled his nose and squinted his eyes a little.
“You’re pretty blind but not as much as me” he said handing me back my glasses.
I let out a small laugh and placed my glasses on my face.
I looked at him again and then realized I recognized him from the period before.
“You’re in my advanced gym class” I said and he instantly groaned.
“Unfortunately, my parents made me take a class that was out of my comfort zone for my senior year” he explained.
Wonder what it’s like having parents that invested in your life.
“That’s... interesting” I offered and he smiled his face cringing a little bit.
“I’d much rather have taken robotics but they said after school was enough” he explained and I smiled.
“Robotics eh? You’ll have to show me sometime” I said before the bell rang.
“How was your day?” I asked Jenna as she climbed into the car.
She didn’t answer, absorbed in her phone.
Great conversation sis.
I looked out my window to see Aaron jogging over to my car.
“Hey Aaron” I said offering him a smile.
He handed me a scrap piece of paper.
“Just so you can schedule a tour of the robotics space” he said with a wink before turning around and heading back towards the school.
I unfolded the scrap.
′thanks for lunch, Riley
I smiled and quickly made him a contact.
“Can we go home or did you forget how to drive again?” Jenna whined.
I sighed and shifted the car out of park.
First days are always tough.
“Riley! It’s so good to see you” Mr. Martin said as I walked into the Harrisville library.
“Good to see you to Mr. Martin”
“I’m glad you’re able to still work here after having moved away last year. I was worried I was gonna lose my best Calculus tutor!” he exclaimed and I laughed.
“You couldn’t get me to leave if you tried Mr. Martin” I joked and he smiled.
“I have a new client for you, he’s not one to show up usually but his parents are paying regardless” he explained and I nodded.
I was used to working with kids who’s parents had forced them to come to tutoring, I tried my best to help every kid who came for tutoring regardless of whether or not they wanted to be there but I had learned to not take it too personally when a tutee simply doesn’t care.
I accepted the student overview sheet and did a once over.
17 year old senior
needs help on ALL concepts
comes in monday, wednesday, friday
Sounds like a winner.
I took a seat at my regular table and pulled my laptop and water bottle out of my bag and placed them on the table. I opened up my laptop and begun working on my English paper due at the end of the week.
After about 30 minutes of waiting I decided Ward would not be showing up tonight and the world would survive if I used the restroom.
I finished my thought on my paper and then stood up making my way to the restroom. As I entered I quickly averted my eyes from the boy and girl going at it on the sink counter top.
“Oh Ward” the girl moaned.