East Side Academy

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Chapter 8 - Save Me

“This time won’t you save me, this time won’t you save me / Baby I can feel myself giving up, giving up” – Save Me, Nicki Minaj

James

“Who’s that?” Samson says to me as we are walking towards the parking lot, pointing towards the soccer field. My eyes follow to where he is pointing, and I see a girl with a long brown blonde ponytail sprinting around the track. “I didn’t know there was track practice tonight,” Samson says.

I stare at her, already knowing in my head that it’s her. I look and see that she is wearing soccer socks and cleats. Soccer tryouts are over, but she’s still here. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Samson,” I say and start heading down the hill to the soccer field.

“What are you doing?” Samson asks.

“Don’t worry about it!” I call to him without turning around.

I make it down to the pitch and she’s still sprinting around the track like she’s running for her life. As she makes her way around the corner towards me, I drop my bag beside me and run up beside her.

“Is there a reason that you’re running around the track like a madman?” I say to her. She doesn’t look at me or respond to me, she just continues running like she hasn’t even heard me. I look at her as we continue running and I can see the frustration on her face, and I think she may have even been crying at some point. I can hear her struggling to breathe and I know she can’t last much longer like this. “You need to stop running, you are going to wear yourself out,” I say seriously. She continues to ignore me like I’m not even there. Pushing herself beyond exhaustion. “Hey!” I yell at her loudly and it seems to have broken her trance because her face changes, “You have to stop before you seriously hurt yourself!” She starts slowing down as if I had finally given her the permission she needed to stop running. When she comes to a stop, she leans over, gasping for breath, with her hands on her knees. I stop with her and just stare at her, waiting for her to be the one to say something first. She eventually regains her breath and stands up straight to look at me, hands on her hips. She’s beautiful. And with her hair tied up, sweating and breathing hard, I’m only more attracted to her.

“What are you doing out here?” she asks me breathlessly.

“Trying to keep you from killing yourself,” I say and she chokes out a laugh.

“I wasn’t trying to kill myself,” she says, as her breathing becomes normal.

“Could have fooled me.” I say, “Soccer tryouts are done and almost everyone has left. Do you want to tell me why you were out here just sprinting laps like there’s no tomorrow?”

She just looks at me. I can see that something, or someone, has hurt her and I just wish she would tell me so I could help her. “Running helps clear my head,” she says.

“Well, you were running like a madman out there.” I say, “You must have had a lot of thoughts then.” I look at her, hoping that she can see that I am someone she can trust, that I am someone that fully understands what it’s like to try and deal with problems on your own.

“Have you ever tried to outrun your problems?” she asks.

I laugh. “Many times,” I say.

“Well that’s what I was trying to do,” she says.

“Unfortunately, no matter how fast you run, they always seem to catch up with you,” I say.

“I know.” she says, “It felt good and I also didn’t want to face all those girls again.”

“The soccer girls?” I ask and she just nods. “What happened?” She looks at me, debating with herself if she should tell me anything. “You don’t have to tell me, but it might help.”

“They don’t want me on the team,” she says.

“Why do you say that?” I ask.

“They purposely didn’t pass me the ball during the scrimmage and then when I did get it, Isabella slide tackled me from behind and almost broke my leg.” she says, “And the coach did pretty much nothing about it.”

“Isabella is a good soccer player…” I start.

“Look, I get it.” she says, starting to get annoyed, “I know she is a good soccer player, but it doesn’t change the fact that she almost seriously injured me!”

“I know, I know,” I say, putting my hands up. “What I was going to say is that I know she is a good soccer player, so you must be an amazing player if you got under her skin like that.” She smiles at the compliment and it makes me smile as well.

“Well she’s trying to get me off the team and I wouldn’t be surprised if she succeeds.” she says, “Especially if she can get the whole team to turn against me.”

“Isn’t your friend Eleanor on the team?” I ask.

“Yes, but there’s only so much one person can do,” she says.

“You’d be surprised.” I say, “Just don’t give up. It’s exactly what Isabella wants you to do. If she wants to get you off the team, make it very hard for her to do so. Those other girls will come to your side when they realize how ridiculous Isabella is being.”

“You think?” she asks.

“I know.” I say, “My name is James by the way.”

“Arya,” she says and puts out her hand and I shake it. Her hand is so small and the skin so soft in comparison to mine. “Thank you for coming down here. And for listening to my problems.”

“Anytime.” I say, “Do you need a ride home?”

“I have my bike but thank you for the offer,” Arya says.

“Okay, I’m going to walk you up to the school to make sure you don’t start trying to run away from your problems again,” I say.

She laughs. “I think I’ve worn myself out for the next week and a half,” Arya says as she stretches her arms in the air. Her shirt rises a bit and I can see a bit of her stomach and have to force myself to look away. “I will most definitely be feeling this tomorrow.”

“Ever consider trying out for track?” I ask as we start to walk up back to the school together, picking up my bag along the way.

“Not interested.” Arya says, “I hate the pressure of a race. Soccer you can always make up for a mistake, a game lasts 90 minutes, but you don’t get that kind of luxury with a race.”

“I get you.” I say, “Look, I know it was a while ago, but I’m sorry for the way my friend Malcolm acted towards you when you first transferred here. He’s not a bad guy, I just think he didn’t know what to do when a girl turned him down.”

“You do not need to apologize for him.” Arya says, “I will admit that I might have gone a bit crazy on him when he was hitting on my sister, but I’m just protective of her. I don’t want some guy to play her.”

“I understand more than you know,” I say. I think of my two younger sisters. Ever since my dad passed away, I’ve become extremely protective of them. I feel it’s my responsibility to take care of them and I probably would have reacted the same way as Arya if I saw a guy I didn’t trust hitting on them. “I have two younger sisters.”

“Do they go here?” Arya asks.

“No, one is in Grade 8 and the other is in Grade 1.” I say, “I’ll have to deal with having Rachel here next year.”

“Don’t let your friend Malcolm near her,” Arya says jokingly.

“Ha!” I laugh, “He wishes.”

We stop at the school doors, and I don’t want to say goodbye. I just want to continue talking to her, it just comes so easily with her. “I don’t want to keep you any longer,” she says, but a part of me believes that she doesn’t want to stop talking to me either. At least that’s what I’m convincing myself is true. “I’m just going to grab my bag and head home. Thanks again for everything, including stepping up for me against your friend.”

“I just did what was right.” I say, “I guess I’ll see you around then?”

“I hope so,” Arya says and flashes her smile before she opens the doors of the school and disappears.


“You’re late, James. Where were you?” Uncle Terry asks me as I come into his home office. He is sitting at his desk, going over a bunch of different files, and doesn’t even look up when I walk in.

“I’m sorry, Uncle Terry,” I say as I shut the door behind me. “I just got held up with soccer tryouts.”

“Look, James.” Uncle Terry says, finally looking at me. “I know you are under a lot of pressure with school, work, and taking care of your sisters and mom. And now you are throwing soccer into the mix again. I need someone I can rely on. You and I both know that you need this job if you want to earn enough for university. If soccer is too much of a distraction, then maybe you should take a break from it. The likelihood of getting a scholarship for soccer is so slim, James.”

“No, no,” I say quickly. Soccer is everything to me, I can’t just quit. “I can manage. It won’t happen again.”

“Your schoolwork is the most important thing, James.” Uncle Terry says, “That’s how you’ll get into a good school.” Uncle Terry is my dad’s younger brother. He’s a good guy. Ever since my dad has died, he has always been there for us and tried to support us in any way he can. But there is only so much he can do with his wife and young girls to take care of. I think my mom was tired of relying on him as well. That’s when Uncle Terry offered me a job to work at his construction company. I took my dad’s old car when I got my license and now, I can save up for school to help lighten the financial load on my mother.

His construction company is pretty much just him and a couple of guys he trusts to work under him. His office is just a room in his house that he converted for him and me to work in. His company mostly does septic tank installation, road grading and they have a contract to snowplow for the town. With the number of people that live on the lake in this town, there’s always work for him. He keeps all his heavy equipment on his farmland, including bulldozers and tractors.

Yes, Uncle Terry is a good guy, but he can be hard on me sometimes. I know it’s because he wants the best for me. But anything to do with high school, outside of schoolwork, he considers a distraction. I think he wants me to have a better life than my dad and him. “You don’t need any distractions.” He says.

“I know. Trust me, I can do this.” I say, fully confident that I can juggle work, school, and soccer at the same time. I’ve been doing it for the past two years with no problems except for maybe a lack of sleep.

“Your dad would be proud of you, James.” Uncle Terry says.

I feel a knot in my stomach when he mentions my father, something that happens every time someone mentions him. I had to deal with talking about my dad to a therapist for a year, six months after he died in a car accident, and while I’ve come to terms with it, I still don’t like talking about him. No matter what happy memories I try to conjure up, I still end up thinking of that night and that he’s not here and that he’s never coming back. Unfortunately, therapy can’t fix everything. “Thank you,” I say.

“Just don’t be late again. Three strikes and you’re out.” Uncle Terry says as he turns his attention back to his work.

“Never again,” I say.

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