Amy Comes to Coalport
Her footsteps thudded down the alley, echoing off the wall like bullets. Behind her, she could hear it coming. She dared to look back, and there it was: a huge dark mass rapidly gaining on her. Gasping for air, she strained to run harder; if she didn’t get away, she was dead...
"Got to move faster...!” she thought frantically, hearing its breath close to the back of her neck, ”You’ve got to get out of here...!”
But the end of the alley seemed farther and farther away no matter how harder she ran for it. And it was now that she slipped and fell hard on her chest. Before she could get up, the figure, with no visible face as far as she could see, jumped on her. She just had time to let out a hard scream before it raised a knife over her and brought it down hard...
...at which point Amy Newberry bolted upright in bed with a loud gasp. Breathing heavily, she glanced around, but her room, faintly bathed in the glow of the first light of dawn that crept in through the edges of the curtains, was deserted. “Just a nightmare,” she mumbled softly to herself, slumping back down in bed, “Why do I keep having these...?”
There came a sudden knock on the door, which opened in a flash. “Amy, is everything OK in here?” her mother stuck her head in, looking worried, “I thought I heard you screaming in here...”
“Uh, yeah, just a nightmare, Mom,” Amy told her quickly.
“Oh, OK. Well, it’s probably time to get up anyway; it’s seven o’clock now, and you don’t want to miss the first day of school,” Mrs. Newberry advised her, stepping back out and closing the door. Amy sighed softly. “First day of school,” she mumbled, her hand reaching down to roll her soccer ball back and forth across the floor, “First day in a dead end nowhere town, alone. First day of the rest of your life...”
She rolled down to the floor and folded her hands on the bed. “Heavenly Father, if you couldn’t keep us from moving, at least make this new home bearable for me,” she prayed softly, bowing her head, “I don’t want to be alone and forgotten here. Please make this go well for me somehow, please let me fit in here. Amen.”
She quickly dressed in a sweater, jeans, and her high tops, then pushed the blinds open to show Columbia Street in the small town of Coalport. The houses all up and down the street were decorated for Christmas, now just three weeks away, but Amy felt anything but festive at the moment. After all, leaving behind the only home one ever knew was bound to take the steam out of the holidays for anyone...
With a sigh, she walked to the mirror and stared at the figure with long curly blonde hair and blue eyes staring back at her. “Are you pretty enough?” she asked herself uncertainly, fingering the crucifix around her neck, “Normal enough? Athletic enough? Do you have any hope of fitting in here? Don’t blow this on yourself, Newberry; you’ve just got to find some way to fit in here in this dead end town...”
Shaking her head, she exited her room and headed downstairs. Her parents were bustling around the kitchen, phones to their ears. “...just got here and you’re shouldering this on me?” her father sounded frustrated already, “Look, I took this job because I’d be free from all the...good morning, beautiful,” he broke into a smile at Amy’s arrival and gave her a kiss. “Call you back, then,” he told the caller and hung up. “Ready for your first day?” he asked his daughter, who plopped down in the nearest chair and lethargically poured herself a bowl of cereal.
“Guess so,” Amy mumbled, chewing slowly.
“Whole new town out there to see, lots of new friends to meet...”
“Just maybe?” he raised his eyebrows.
“Dad, I...I...” Amy stammered softly, trying to think of the best way to word her feelings without coming off harsh or obstinate, “I...I’m not angry at you and Mom, I understand why we moved, I appreciate that we’ll have more money and all that, but...I don’t belong here, I just don’t...” she slumped her head down miserably on the table, “I’m a city girl, and there’s no way I’m going to fit in in a small town like this. They’re not going to like me as an outsider...”
“Amy,” her mother had also hung up and now put a hand on her shoulder, “I know this is going to take time. I’m not fully comfortable here yet either; I spent my whole life in Philadelphia too, after all. But you’ll find your place here if you’ll give it time and give yourself a chance. Don’t crawl into a shell and assume you can’t fit in here.”
“But how can I?” she lamented, “It’s too cold for soccer, and I’m not a standout in anything else...”
“You haven’t given up on believing in God, have you?” her mother asked, leaning against her, “Don’t give up now, and maybe he’ll point you in the right way.”
“Well...I don’t know anymore...”
“Amy, sometimes things happen we’re not comfortable with that help point us in the right direction,” her father hugged her, “This may end up being the best thing that ever happened to you. And your mother and I will be here for you as long as it takes you to adjust, I promise.”
“Thanks Dad, I appreciate it,” Amy mumbled gratefully, “Because I’m going to need a lot of help, probably.”
“Even the best of us do sometimes,” Mrs. Newberry told her, “Thank you for not hating us for moving, too,” she hugged her daughter as well.
“I’m, I’m trying,” Amy confessed, “I love you and Dad too much to hate you for this, and I’m trying to understand...”
“You’re doing OK, honey. Might as well eat up, or you’ll be late,” Mr. Newberry told her, giving her a final pat on the back. He and his wife walked away, conversing too softly for their daughter to hear. Amy resumed chewing away on the cereal. “Hope they’re right,” she mumbled to herself, shooting another wary glance out the window, “Because I just have a bad feeling about everything here, that something terrible’s just going to happen...”
“Class, I’d like you to meet a new student that’s come to join us. This is Amy, and she’s from...” the economics teacher turned to her at the beginning of fifth period.
“Philadelphia,” Amy said out loud, her eyes scanning the class. The other students’ expressions ran the gamut from interested to bored.
“Well, if you’ll take your seat, Amy, we’ll get started, the teacher gestured her to an open seat on the right side of the room. Amy trudged over and sat down, glancing around again. A few of the other students gave her brief smiles, then turned away. Others didn’t even look at her. Amy sighed sadly and slid down at her desk, not really listening as the teacher started droning on and on about economics, which she had little interest in. The same scene had been repeated in all her classes so far: a few brief smiles, then nothing. No one had reached out to her so far, and she was afraid that was how it was doomed to be.
The economics lecture rolled on and on. Amy paid no heed, her mind drifting back to Philadelphia. The classroom faded away around her; she was now in the middle of Richmond Street on a warm spring day, kicking her soccer ball around in her old backyard with her best friend Vicki. They were happy, they were having fun; everything was perfect. Especially when some of her other friends came running over to her yard and started playing with them. It had been perfect, she knew now. And now it was gone forever. She’d never see Vicki or any of the rest of them again, she knew deep down. Isolated. Alone. Forgotten...
"I just don’t belong here, it’s as simple as that,” she rued in her mind, “No one’s going to reach out to me; I’m too much of an outsider. How am I going to get through this in one piece...?”
She continued flashing back in her mind to home all through the class, barely taking in anything the teacher had been saying, until the bell finally rang to end it. Relieved, she glanced at her schedule. Lunch was up next. And by now, she was getting hungry for sure...
Just then there was a tap on her shoulder, making her turn. “Hi there,” said a girl with long curly brown hair and brown eyes, who’d slid into the seat next to her, “Welcome to Coalport. It’s Amy, isn’t it?”
“Uh, yeah, Amy Newberry. And you’re...?”
“I’m Monica Carpenter. I’m glad you could come here,” she smiled warmly. “You’d said you’re from Philadelphia?”
“Yeah. Talk about the culture shock,” Amy confessed, glancing out the window at Coalport’s decidedly non-grand skyline, “I guess you’ve been here your whole life...?”
“Yep. What brings you to Coalport?” Monica asked.
“My Dad was laid off from the foam factory in the city he worked at. He grew up here long ago, and looked for a job up here, and got it as a manager in another plant. He just started today. Well, I’ve got to get to lunch...” Amy rose to her feet.
“I have lunch next too. Why don’t you sit with me?” Monica asked her.
“Well...OK, I guess that’ll be all right,” Amy nodded. She appreciated having someone to talk to, especially someone as friendly as Monica seemed.
“Great,” Monica beamed, gathering up her books. “Come on,” she waved Amy to follow her out the door. “So, tell me more about yourself, Amy Newberry,” she asked her eagerly, leading her down the hall.
“Well, not really too much to tell. I’m just an ordinary sixteen year old feeling out of place going from the big city to the small town,” Amy confessed, shrugging, “I’ve played soccer since I was eight, I helped out at church back in Philly since I was twelve...”
“Wonderful, wonderful, this is perfect!” Monica exclaimed happily, “My dad’s a minister in town, and I play soccer too. We’re going to get along great...if you want to be friends, of course...”
“Well, I think I’ll consider it,” Amy found herself cracking a small smile. She was starting to like Monica already. “What position do you play?”
“Midfielder. How about you?”
“I’ve done both offense and defense over the years. I don’t think my coaches knew what to do with me over the years. I guess you could say I’m a jack of all trades-although I was never quite good enough to be a starter, even though I tried hard. But not much you can do with soccer during the Christmas season,” Amy shook her head, “So I’m still stuck for...”
“Wait a minute now, that gives me an idea,” Monica came to a stop, beaming even wider, “You’re in luck, Amy Newberry, because I’m part of a special group of friends here in Coalport who’ve played soccer together our whole lives. We often get together for long weekends to play and have fun together. I can talk to the leaders and see if we can set up something this weekend-since there’s an in-service day tomorrow, we can make it a three day weekend. And we’ll see if we can convince them to let you formally join our group. How does that sound?”
“I...I appreciate it, Monica. But it’s December, and where...?”
“We’ll answer all your questions soon enough,” Monica reached the cafeteria and scanned it, apparently looking for someone. “Aha, there,” she exclaimed, looking towards the far corner, although Amy couldn’t quite see exactly who she had locked in on. “Come on, let’s get our lunch,” Monica gestured her towards the line, “Then I’ll introduce you to some people who could be a big help for you fitting in here, Amy...”
Five minutes later, now holding trays of chicken nuggets, among other not quite delicacies, the two of them approached the table near the rear wall, Monica heading towards a boy and girl, each with black hair, near the end. She tapped them both on the back, making them turn. “Oh hey Monica, how’s it going today?” the girl asked her.
“Actually quite good, Beth, because I may have a new Sidekick for us. I’d like you and Craig to meet Amy, she’s new in town, and she’s a lifelong soccer player too,” Monica gestured her forward, “Amy Newberry, this is Beth and Craig Klein, they’re leaders of the group I told you about.”
“Well good to meet you, Amy,” Beth shook her hand, “Welcome to Coalport. Come on and have a seat with us.”
“OK,” Amy sat down next to her, Monica plopping down on her other side. “Hi there,” Craig reached over to shake her hand as well, a warm smile on his face, “Amy’s a very pretty name for a girl to have. Where’s you from?”
“Philadelphia. My dad got a management position at a plant here,” Amy related to them, “So, I hear you might have a group...?”
“I’m so glad you asked,” Craig leaned forward, his eyes locked in on hers, “Beth and I are unofficial co-presidents of the Sidekicks. We and our close friends that we’ve played soccer with all our lives are a sort of mini-squad, I guess you might say. We have our own uniforms and everything. And if you love the game and play it well, we’d be glad to have you join us.”
“Well...I’ve never actually been a starter in my career...” Amy gulped; if she was going to lose the chance to fit in on a technicality by not being a good enough player...
“Well that’s all right; we’re be glad to have someone who plays prettily as...I mean, who lovely...” Craig stammered, unable to break off eye contact with her.
“Let me take it from here, Romeo,” Beth, trying to suppress a chuckle, pushed him backwards. “Tell you what, we’ll give you a tryout of sorts,” she told Amy, “If you prove yourself worthy, we’ll induct you as a Sidekick. Sound good?”
“I guess so,” Amy nodded, also unable to break off her gaze with Craig. He was, admittedly, a bit handsome, she thought. “So, Monica said we’d have a place to play and all...?”
“Yep, we have a special place we go to for weekends that we all get together on. We’ll give you a ride there later on after school-and since it’s a three day weekend coming up, we can make the best of it,” Beth started nodding.
“Yep, sure can. I’ll spread the word to the rest of the guys, sis, and you tell the ladies,” Craig told her, “Where do you live, Amy?” he asked her.
“319 North Columbia,” she told him.
“OK, give Beth and I an hour or so after school, and we’ll pick you up for the weekend,” he offered.
“OK then. I appreciate the invite,” Amy found herself smiling, “I was kind of expecting that it was going to take a while to fit in here...”
“See, it’s already better than you’d thought here,” Monica put an arm around her, “Let me see your schedule; I want to see if we have any more classes together.”
“Uh, here,” Amy dug it out and handed it to her. Monica scanned it. “Nope, nothing else,” she frowned, but quickly brightened again. “Tell you what then, Amy, wait for me at the front door after school, and I’ll come home with you and keep you company till we’re ready to go for the weekend.”
“Come on, you’re clearly worried about being alone here, so don’t be,” Monica pressed her. Amy thought it over, then nodded. “OK, sure,” she shook Monica’s hand, “I’ll wait for you.”
“Great. Let’s eat, then,” Monica turned back to her meal. Amy started eating hers. “Thank you, God, for this opportunity,” she thought, glancing skyward, “Please let this lead the way to something good...”