Chapter 47 - Come Clean
“I’m shedding, shedding every color / Trying to find a pigment of truth beneath my skin / ’Cause different doesn’t feel so different / And going out is better than always staying in” – Come Clean, Hilary Duff
“Oh wow,” Elijah, from Greenwood Academy, says, staring over Lexi’s shoulder. They are in the center of the rink, stretching, as the guys are warming up before practice starts. Skating, shooting, playing around until the coach comes out.
“What?” Lexi asks.
“Nothing,” Elijah smiles. “Just a hot blonde brunette, with a high ponytail.” Lexi rolls his eyes, continuing to stretch. “She’s talking to George, lucky bastard. Come on, Lexi, just take a look.” Elijah points with his chin to the player’s home bench.
Against his better judgment, Lexi turns around to look. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“You need to leave, Arya,” George says to me as I stand at the player’s home bench, talking to him over the boards while he and all his teammates are on the ice.
“I just need to talk to Lexi,” I say, “it won’t take long.”
“I realize I gave you the start of our practice time,” George says, “but you can talk to him after. Coach will flip if he sees you here.”
“I can handle your coach,” I say, “just get Lexi and tell him to come over here.”
“I’m not leaving George,” I say sternly. “I’m not leaving until Lexi comes and talks to me.”
George gives me a look. “You’re going to get all of us in trouble.”
“Get him,” I say sternly. “Unless you want me to walk out on the ice myself.” George debates with himself. “You’re just wasting time George, you know I’m not going anywhere.” He just stands there, so I reach down for the door latch.
“Okay, okay,” George says and starts skating backward, towards the center of the ice where Lexi is and smiles at me before he turns around to skate up to Lexi and I watch them exchange words.
“She wants to talk to you,” George says to Lexi.
“She needs to leave,” Lexi says sternly.
George looks over his shoulder at Arya, who is just staring at them, and then back at Lexi. “I tried. She’s not leaving. Not ’til she gets to talk to you.”
“She can wait ’til after practice,” Lexi says. “Tell her to get out of here.”
“Have you met Arya?” George says.
“I’ll go talk to her if you like,” Elijah smiles.
“Bloody woman…” Lexi says under his breath and reluctantly skates over to Arya.
“You need to leave,” Lexi says to me. This is the first I’ve seen him in his hockey gear, and he looks very attractive in it. There’s something about hockey players. I understand why Eleanor only dates them.
“I just needed to talk to you,” I say, leaning my forearms on the boards. “You’re not answering my calls.”
“Sound familiar?” Lexi says annoyed. “Now get out of here. Coach will flip if he sees you here and then he’ll blame me.”
“Don’t worry about him,” I say, brushing it off. “Lexi, I…”
“Leave, Arya,” Lexi says, “I’m serious. We can talk after practice.”
“Arya, I will drag you out of here by your bloody ponytail if you don’t leave right now,” Lexi warns.
“He raped my sister,” I say.
“What?” Lexi’s face changes.
“Henri,” I say, “he raped my sister. That’s the secret. That’s what I’ve been keeping from you.”
“Arya, no…” he can’t believe it.
“I’m so sorry, Lexi,” I say.
“I didn’t even think…” Lexi starts.
“I know you didn’t, Lexi.”
“Why didn’t you tell me before?” Lexi asks.
“His dad threatened me,” I say, “threatened to ruin my dad’s practice.”
“What about the police, Arya?”
“Remember how you said it’s not always obvious?” I say and Lexi nods. “That’s why. I was not going to put my sister through an ordeal like that where they would tear her apart for everyone to see and Henri would get off scot-free.”
“Why didn’t you tell me, Arya?” Lexi asks, and I see him grip his stick, trying to hold the anger inside him. “When it happened. Before spray painting his locker. I would have beaten him up then. You know I hate him.”
“I wanted to expose him,” I say, pointing to myself, “I wanted to get justice for my sister. I wanted to do it myself and let everyone see Henri for who he truly is. I had to be the one to do it. My sister was broken, Lexi.” Lexi stares at me, coming right up to the boards to be as close to me as he can.
Then a puck ricochets off the glass, hitting it at Lexi’s head level, right next to us. It startles both of us. Lexi turns around on his skates. “Watch where you’re shooting!!” Lexi barks at the group of three players where the puck came from.
“I was!” one player calls back, “Just a warning shot!”
“You know the rules, Lexi!” another one calls. They’re talking about me, but I don’t care.
Lexi turns back to me, anger in his face, and then slams his stick on the boards hard, again and again, letting out his anger. “Stop it, Lexi.” I say to him, “You’re going to break your stick.”
“I don’t fuckin’ care, Arya!” Lexi yells in my face, leaning over the boards, and I can see the pain in his face. “That guy has been walking around the school like some soccer hotshot and now I find out he’s a rapist?!”
“Lexi, I came to you for a reason,” I say. “I’m telling you this because my sister and I are going to create a video to expose him for who he truly is. I wanted you to know before it came out, so you weren’t surprised. Everyone will know, Lexi. Everyone will know him for who he truly is.”
Lexi is starting to breathe more normally now, the anger, kind of, leaving his body. “You were protecting your sister this entire time?”
“I couldn’t put her through that,” I say, “but I couldn’t stand aside as everyone thought of Henri as some sort of sports god. I went a bit crazy, I lost control, but I had good intentions. I thought a fresh start at East Side might be what she needed. And it was, at the time. It’s different now though, Mia wants to share her story, she wants people to know what happened. She’s ready.” I’m just hoping it doesn’t blow up in our faces. What if this makes things worse for Mia? And my dad. If something happened to his practice, I would never forgive myself. But Mia wants to do this, and I have faith that it will work out. I trust my dad will know what he’s doing.
“Lexi!” the guys call out from the center of the ice, where they are starting to gather together for practice to begin. I see the coach isn’t there yet, just the assistant coach. A player skates by, hitting Lexi lightly on the back of the legs with his stick as a warning to hurry up.
“I’ll call you after practice,” Lexi says. “You can explain it all then.”
I smile at him, but then I hear the sounds of skates on rubber walking up to me from the dressing room hallway.
“Coach,” Lexi says to the tall man with just skates, a helmet, and a stick, wearing a black tracksuit. He stands with a straight face looking between me and Lexi, waiting for an explanation as to why I’m at the player’s bench talking to the team’s captain. “I’m sorry, Coach. It was an emergency,” Lexi says and then gives me a look, “she was just leaving.”
“Oh, it’s fine,” he says sarcastically, and I see Lexi mentally preparing himself to get chewed out. I guess he’s a strict coach. “I know it must be an emergency,” he says, and then looks down on me, “because I know my niece would NEVER disturb one of my players unless it was.” Lexi’s eyes go big at me. “Right, Arya?”
“Of course,” I say as I look up at him, his eyebrows raised at me. “I should probably go now.”
“I think that would be best,” he says and opens the door, stepping out on the ice, but then turns to me to say, “Good luck for your game this week, Arya. I know you’ll do great,” and then he skates to the center of the ice where all the players have congregated.
“You never thought to tell me your uncle was my coach?!” Lexi says to my face. He’s shocked, to say the least.
“He’s not my uncle anymore,” I say, “he divorced my aunt years ago. He was like a second dad to me when I was a kid, but I never see him anymore.”
“Lexi!” they call from the ice.
“I better go before I get you in trouble,” I say and then walk away.
“Everyone here?” Coach says when Lexi joins the group.
“Well Lexi is technically late,” the assistant coach, Brad, says happily. “Too busy flirting with his girlfriend. You know what that means, Lexi.” Brad smiles and the players groan.
“No,” Coach says, “it was an emergency. We’re starting practice now.”
“You’re kidding?” Brad says, “Lexi was just chatting up his girlfriend. What kind of ‘emergency’ is that?
“Are you calling my niece a liar?” Coach says, turning to Brad, who goes beet red, and all the players go silent.
“No, I’d never…” Brad starts.
“Good,” Coach says, “now let’s start practice unless you want to delay us even more, Brad?” Brad shakes his head.
Lexi laughs to himself as he sees Arya walking out of the arena. Seems like their stern coach has a soft spot for the niece he lost.