Chapter 7 - Bad Blood
“Did you have to do this? I was thinking that you could be trusted / Did you have to ruin what was shiny? Now it’s all rusted / Did you have to hit me, where I’m weak? Baby, I couldn’t breathe / And rub it in so deep, salt in the wound like you’re laughing right at me” – Bad Blood, Taylor Swift
It’s been six weeks since I’ve come to East Side Academy, and in those six weeks, I couldn’t have asked for a better transition. Diana and her group of friends have been so welcoming to me and have accepted me in their group and have made me feel like I was always a part of it. They also act as a protective shield from the rest of the students at this school. No guy has approached me since the incident with Malcolm, which I wouldn’t have minded, but that also included James. I hoped every day that I would pass him in the hall, bump into him, start up a conversation with him, but it never happened.
“Ready for tryouts?” Eleanor jumps up and lands next to me at my locker with her gym bag.
“You scared me!” I say and then we both laugh.
“Come on! Grab your bag and let’s go!” she says.
“Okay, Okay!” I say, “Are you always this excited for tryouts?”
“I’m just excited for Isabella to see that you are trying out,” Eleanor says. “She’s going to flip.”
“What? Why?” I say looking at Eleanor concerned.
“Because you are going to be the best soccer player on the team and the light is finally not going to be shining on her,” Eleanor says.
“You are a really good soccer player though,” I say. “Wouldn’t she be intimidated by you?”
“Arya, while I love soccer, my sport is hockey, which they don’t offer at school,” Eleanor says, “And as much as I hate it, Isabella is a really good soccer player, she is better than me, but now that you are here, she is no longer the best on the team.” A part of me was debating even trying out for the soccer team, but I love soccer, and I wasn’t about to let my insecurities stop me. But now, knowing that I’m going to have a target on my back, I don’t know if I want to put myself through this. “Come on, Arya.” Eleanor says, “Show them why you are the best.”
She’s right, I’m not about to let some girl, or the entire soccer team, intimidate me from being where I’m supposed to be. I grab my bag from my locker, shut it, lock it, “Let’s go.”
As I walk into the locker room with Eleanor, I hear the girls already talking amongst each other as we head in.
“Mr. Quirrel is by far the best-looking teacher in this school and he’s the boys’ soccer coach!”
“I wish he was our soccer coach.”
“Mr. Sprout is still a good coach.”
“At least you’ll be able to focus on soccer.”
“Please, with Mr. Quirrel I would be impressing him with all my skills.”
“Yeah, sure. Whatever.”
As Eleanor and I turn the corner, all the girls stop their conversation to turn and look at me. It stops me for a second, but then Eleanor gives me a nudge and we put our bags down and begin to get undressed.
“I can’t believe they let you try out for the team.” I hear and then look to find the culprit of the words, already knowing who said them. Isabella just stares at me, arms crossed, waiting for a reaction or response from me. I know her. I know that styled shoulder length brown wavy hair and hazel eyes and face perfected by makeup. While I have never had a conversation with her, I do remember playing against her. She is a good soccer player. I’ll give her that.
“They made a special consideration for me,” I say. Normally when you switch schools, you have to wait a year to play any sport that you played at your previous school. It’s to stop people from switching schools just for sports. But I was able to get special permission because the reason I left was under extraordinary circumstances. I was able to get them to sympathize with me.
“Because they took pity on you?” Isabella says.
“Because they knew you couldn’t lead the team to victory without me,” I say back with a smile. Not true, but she doesn’t need to know that.
“Oh yeah, I’m sure,” Isabella says. “Good luck out there, you’re going to need it.” And then she turns around to continue getting dressed.
“Ignore her,” Eleanor says.
“Don’t worry about me.” I say, “She’s going to be sorry out on the field.” and wink at Eleanor and she smiles back at me.
We take the closer field while the boys practice on the further one. We can’t see each other as there are trees and a clubhouse in between, which is perfect. No distractions. As I walk out to the field, I see the guys jog out to the farther field, my eye landing on James immediately. His jog is effortless, his smile breathtaking and I can’t stop looking at him.
“Earth to Arya!” Eleanor slaps me on the head.
“Sorry,” I say.
“He’s cute, don’t get me wrong.” Eleanor says, “But you already have made a lot of the girls in this school jealous already, you don’t need more enemies.”
“Why would they be jealous of me?” I ask.
“Because you’re hot, athletic, and smart,” Eleanor says as if it’s obvious. “And you’re from West Side, which just makes the guys more curious about you.”
“Please, no guy has even talked to me,” I say.
“Well, I think they are a little scared after that situation with Malcolm. And our friend group probably kept them away too.” Eleanor says, “But it hasn’t stopped them talking about you. So yeah, definitely making the girls jealous. Now let’s go.”
We jog to the field and stand in a big group around Mr. Sprout while he gives us the normal beginning of season talk. “Please also welcome Arya. She’s a very good soccer player as most of you know from playing against her. We are happy to have you play with us this year.” Mr. Sprout says sincerely.
“Thank you, Mr. Sprout,” I say.
After running, warm-up stretches, and a bunch of drills where we can display our skills to have them be judged by Mr. Sprout and his assistant coach, Ms. McGonagall, we end the tryout with a scrimmage.
Isabella and I are on opposing teams. We are both center midfielders and this is just how I want it. Unfortunately, Eleanor is on Isabella’s team, but I know I can beat her too if I focus and don’t make a mistake. The scrimmage starts and on my first touch of the ball, I deke out the entire team in the center, including Isabella, and set up a play where the striker easily scores. Isabella glares at me and I just smile back. But after that, things change. No one is passing me the ball. I’m in the center and I’m the playmaker and no one is giving me the ball. I scream and yell until my throat starts hurting but it doesn’t help. They are purposely not passing me the ball. The only way I get the ball is by stealing it, I always pass, but never get it back. “Make sure everyone is included!” Mr. Sprout yells from the sidelines, “More passing!”
Despite her efforts, I never let Isabella, or anyone else, get by me. But eventually, one of my defenders loses the ball, despite me yelling at her that I’m open, and Isabella scores. She smiles as she jogs by me and the anger grows inside me. Fine. If they won’t pass me the ball, I’ll do the same. In the next play, I take the ball off the striker easily, deke Isabella, and continue up to the net, knowing I won’t pass it and will take the shot for myself before I reach the defending line. As I continue, I feel myself being swept up from my feet and I fall hard. I look up and see Isabella get up from her vicious slide tackle on me from behind and take the ball and begin dribbling the other way.
But then Mr. Sprout blows his whistle loudly and continuously, which stops everyone. I get up from the ground and turn my anger towards Isabella, walking towards her. “What the heck is wrong with you?!” I yell at her.
“I was just getting the ball,” Isabella says. “Are you scared of a little competition?”
“You slide tackled me from behind, took out both my legs, and got no ball!” I yell, “You could have broken my leg!”
Mr. Sprout is on the field, standing beside us. “Arya, are you okay?” he asks.
“I’m fine no thanks to her!” I gesture towards Isabella.
“Stop being so dramatic,” Isabella says.
“She could have really hurt me!” I yell at Mr. Sprout.
“Yes, I know.” Mr. Sprout says calmly. “Isabella, you know there is no place for that kind of play here.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Sprout.” Isabella says, “It won’t happen again.”
“Good.” Mr. Sprout says. “Now I think we’ve had enough for today.” He then calls out to the girls, “Take two laps of the track before you leave!” All the girls, including Isabella, head towards the track but I stay back.
“Are you serious?” I say to Mr. Sprout, “She could have broken my leg!”
“Arya, I know you’re upset, but what do you want me to do?” Mr. Sprout says.
“Take her off the team!” I yell, “This is a scrimmage, if she’s going to try to break my leg during a scrimmage, I don’t want to play on the same team as her.”
“I’m sure she didn’t mean to do you any harm.” Mr. Sprout says. “She’s one of our best players, I can’t just cut her. I hope you two can work out your differences and to see you at the next tryout.” And then he just walks off the field. It’s like he doesn’t even care.
Ms. McGonagall comes up to me, seeing how frustrated I am. “Arya, don’t let these girls get to you. You are a great player. They are just jealous of your talent. Give it time, I promise it will work out.”
“She slide tackled me from behind and all Mr. Sprout did was say ‘there is no place for that kind of play here’ and then just accepted her half-ass apology,” I say.
“Don’t worry, I’ll talk to him.” Ms. McGonagall says, “But she’s a good player, Arya, so she’s not going to get cut. If you two could work together, this team would be unstoppable, I guarantee it.” And with that, Ms. McGonagall leaves the field as well.
This is ridiculous, I think to myself. How can someone get away with trying to hurt another player, let alone their own teammate?
“Better get your two laps in, I would hate to see you cut from the team because you can’t follow directions,” Isabella says as she runs up behind me.
“You may have Mr. Sprout fooled, but I know you meant to take me out on purpose,” I say.
“Have fun proving that.” Isabella says, “Can’t wait to see you at the next tryout! You must enjoy playing on a team that doesn’t even want to pass you the ball.”
“You told everyone not to pass me the ball,” I say.
“Again, have fun trying to prove that.” Isabella says, “We were a team before you came here, we don’t need you. Do you really think Mr. Sprout is going to add one person to a team if they cause so much trouble and no one passes to them? Better to just get rid of the one person causing problems than ruin the entire team.”
“If that’s the logic, then he should cut you from the team,” I say.
“He’s never going to do that.” Isabella says, “I’m the best player on this team, it would cause an uproar if he did. If he needs to cut you, all he has to say is that it’s because you were on West Side Academy’s soccer team last year and therefore are ineligible to try out for our team.” Isabella smiles at me, knowing that she’s got me in a corner. She’s right, technically I shouldn’t be even allowed to play with them. “See you at the next tryout!” And she heads off to the school along with all the other girls that have finished their laps.
“You okay?” Eleanor asks as she comes up behind me.
“She’s trying to get me off the team,” I say.
“Don’t worry about it.” Eleanor says, “Mr. Sprout won’t let that happen, he’d be crazy to leave you off the team.”
“I’m a pretty useless player if no one passes to me!” I yell.
“That won’t last long,” Eleanor assures me.
“How do you know?!” I yell at her.
“Not everyone is Isabella’s minion, okay!” Eleanor yells back, “I’ll always support you and once the other girls see that, they’ll stop acting so ridiculous.”
“I’m sorry, Eleanor.” I say, “I didn’t mean to take my frustrations out on you.”
“You’re forgiven.” Eleanor says, “Just don’t give up.”
“Thanks.” I say, “I guess I better get those laps out of the way.”
“Have fun and I’ll see you later!” Eleanor says as she jogs up the hill to the school.
With the anger and frustration still inside me, I begin the laps around the track. I run fast and I run hard because I am so upset and angry, but I don’t just do two laps, I keep going, even when my lungs start to hurt and breathing becomes difficult. I want to run until all my problems are gone. I begin to cry out of frustration, and I don’t even know why, but it makes it even harder to breathe, but I still keep running at the same hard and fast pace. Trying to see if it’s possible to outrun my problems if I just go fast enough.