The Storm Breaks
“Faster than the speed of sound...a stronger player than even Pele...it’s Super Clay!” Patrick declared out loud, weaving among defenders in the falling snow, “Ever adept to changing field conditions, he knows how to use his head well!”
He absurdly dove flat to the ground and attempted to head the soccer ball to the girls’ goal. Perhaps predictably, it only got a few feet before Andrea reached it and cleared it away. Amy chuckled hard on the other side of the hotel’s lawn. Everyone had been playing goofily for the duration of the game, and she was loving every minute of it.
“Monica, feed me!” she waved her arms at her fellow striker, who had gained control of the ball now. Monica obligingly kicked it to her. Amy trapped it, then bent over and put her hands on the ball, aiming for the trees that were the boys’ goal. “Three fifty one, three fifity one, hut-hut-hike!” she barked out, tossing the ball high between her legs like a football. It sailed high over Kyle’s outstretched hands and through the tree for a goal. “Oh yeah!” she exclaimed, doing a victory dance in celebration.
"“You got it, you got it!” laughing, Monica raced over and high fived her, “Pretty inventive too.”
“It just hit me to do that, Monica. I haven’t had this much fun in a long time,” Amy admitted happily.
“Hey, great job,” grinning, Patrick also high fived her as he ran by, “You’re starting to get better, I think.”
“I feel better than I did yesterday, Patrick,” she jogged to keep up with him, “It’s great you guys can just let it go like this at times. I feel a lot less pressure when we just play crazily for the fun of it.”
“Being a Sidekick is about having fun above all...sorry, gotta go, BEEP BEEP!” Patrick imitated the Roadrunner and peeled off sideways when the ball came back to him. “Craig, go long!” he called to the Sidekicks’ co-leader, snatching the ball up, rearing his arm back, and flinging it down the lawn to him. “Klein’s wide open, and he’s got the ball at the thirty!” Craig called out himself, snagging the ball out of the air, “He’s running hard, he’s at the twenty-five, the twenty, the fifteen, the ten, the five...”
“But no score!” laughing herself, Beth tackled her brother to the ground in front of the girls’ goal, “And Klein coughs up the ball! I said, he coughs up the ball!” she started tickling him under the armpits. “Beth, Beth, no, stop!” he broke into riotous laughter from it.
“You heard her, Klein coughs up the ball!” Amy couldn’t resist diving down and joining Beth in tickling Craig. Kicking his arms and legs frantically, he finally flailed the ball away from his body. Dylan caught up to it first after a few yards. “Clear a path, everyone, here comes my world famous bicycle kick!” he declared, then pretended to ride a bicycle forward, making everyone break down in hysterical laughter. Dylan kicked the ball to the girls’ goal, but Judy caught it in midair. She hefted it up and held it in front of her, studying everyone else. “Oh, places, places, it’s bowling night now!” snorting hysterically, Beth pulled Amy to her feet and gestured her to join the others, now bunching together in a triangle. Judy reared her arm back and rolled the ball towards them like a bowling ball. Once it tapped Beth’s foot at the front, she keeled over backwards, as did everyone else around her like a set of bowling pins. They rolled around on the snowy ground, laughing hard, laughter that got harder as Judy rushed forward and swan dove on top of them with a Tarzan yell. “This was great, all of you were great,” she commended the rest of them, wiping tears of delight from her eyes.
“Who even won?” Kyle asked, trying to get his hysterical breaths back to normal.
“I don’t know, I lost count fifteen minutes ago. Let’s call it another push,” Beth suggested, rising back up and dusting the snow off her coat and boots. “What next?” she asked the others, “Want to go sledding now?”
“Might as well while there’s still enough daylight,” Judy agreed, pulling off her glove and glancing at her watch, which Amy saw read quarter to two, “The trays are in the hotel’s restaurant, right?” she asked.
“Yeah. I’ll get them,” Kyle volunteered, “And I’ll see if there’s any old mattresses we could borrow as well.”
“In the meantime, I’ll go get more food like I promised, if that’s OK,” Dylan offered.
“Yeah, sounds good,” Beth agreed, “Just be real careful, Dylan; I didn’t see any snowplows go past here all day so far.”
“Don’t worry, Beth, I’ll take my time going and coming. Be back when I get back,” Dylan bustled towards the parking lot, rifling through his pocket for his keys. He stopped, however, and looked back. “If you vote again, Beth, I’m still a yes for Amy joining us,” she said, giving the newcomer a firm nod.
“OK, we’ll keep that in mind,” Beth nodded herself. Dylan turned and continued towards his car. Amy now got back up and dusted the snow off herself as well. “I can tell you enjoyed that,” Monica leaned over her shoulder with a grin.
“More than probably anything I’ve ever done in the last year at least, Monica,” Amy agreed, watching everyone else start ambling towards the hill at the far end of the property, “We ought to just play silly the rest of the weekend too; that’ll get me unwound and relaxed for when we do try serious competition if I make it-assuming I get to play if I make it...”
“You’ll play if you do, Amy,” Monica assured her, “We may play boy against girl on our weekends together, but we’ve played mixed in actual competitions we’ve done in town so far. So you’ll get in.”
“Good,” Amy’s gaze was distracted by movement to her right. Laurie, having dismally watched the game unfold without her from a bench, was slouching towards the hotel door. “In the meantime...Shawn,” she called to the bespectacled boy, who fortunately was close by, making him turn. She pointed at Laurie and gave him a thumbs up. Shawn gave an encouraging nod to her. Amy jogged over towards Laurie. “Hey,” she called out, “Want to tell you something.”
Laurie instead sped up her pace and did not turn around to look at Amy. “Laurie, listen, this isn’t anything bad,” Amy pleaded, coming to a stop alongside her, “I think you ought to know that...”
“When I want to talk to you, I will look at you,” Laurie snarled, still not doing so, “If you don’t mind, since I can’t go sledding, I just want to go back to my room and pretend you and this whole weekend isn’t happening.”
“Laurie, I don’t want to be angry, but I think you’ve been totally out line with me and everyone else here all weekend,” Amy said sternly, her blood pressure starting to rise at Laurie’s continued harsh attitude towards her.
“Oh, have I been out of line!?” Laurie finally turned to her, “Even though they dragged you in here the instant they saw you because I was no longer of any use to them...”
“Laurie, I said stop it!” Amy bellowed. She took deep breaths to try and regain her composure before continuing, “I’m sorry everything that’s happened to you happened, believe me, I am, but don’t take it out on me! And for your information, I was coming over to try and cheer you up a little...”
“And what could you tell me that could possibly cheer me up!?”
“That Shawn has a crush on you,” Amy pointed at him, watching hopefully from across the lawn, “That’s he’s apparently had feelings for you for a while now, and that it would make his day if you...”
“You think I’d have feelings for him!?” Laurie barked coldly, “For the record, your Highness, that’s another reason I’m upset with you: stealing the boy I do love!”
“What, Craig? You have...?”
“A year and a half I’d thought he was the most handsome boy around, a year and a half I spent trying to get the nerve to tell him I loved him. But no, you have to swoop in and steal him away from me just like that!” Laurie angrily jammed a finger into Amy’s chest, “It’s not enough for you to swoop in here and steal my spot on this squad, you have to steal Craig away from me too!”
“Laurie, it’s his choice! I don’t want to cause any trouble here...!”
“Well too bad, you have, no matter how blind everyone else is! Now get out of my way!” Laurie pushed past her. Furious, Amy grabbed the redhead’s right crutch and pulled it away from her arm, making her start swaying. “Now you listen to me, Laurie Hurst, and you listen good!” she snapped, “I am tired of you taking out all your pain on me just because you see me as a threat to...!”
“Pain!? You don’t have any idea what pain I’m going through!” Laurie bellowed back, “You don’t know what it’s like having been the best soccer player in this area, to have the world in the palm of your hand, and then have it all taken away in one moment because of one stupid jerk who didn’t think!” she gestured at her cast, “You don’t know what it’s like to be a cripple, to not be able to do the thing you love most in the world, to not be able to run up and down a soccer field and feel like you’re flying! You don’t know the agony of knowing that the most important person in my life can never see me play again, or ever do anything with me again, all because of...I don’t even know because why! I don’t know why this had to happen...oh Dad...!”
She broke down sobbing hard. “Laurie, listen to me, please,” Amy said softly, gently slipping the crutch back into her hand, “Maybe you’re right and I don’t know the pain you’re going through. But I can understand it. It’s horrible to lose someone you care for; I was just as bad when my grandmother died two years ago. Let me help you, I can give you a path through this...” she gently put a hand on Laurie’s shoulder.
“I don’t want your help!” Laurie roared, shoving Amy’s hand away, “I don’t need anyone’s help! I’m stronger than you or anyone else thinks! Now get away from me if you know what’s good for you!” she raised the crutch menacingly over her head.
“Laurie, come on...!”
“Hey, are you bothering Laurie!?” Andrea slapped a hand on Amy’s shoulder and spun her around, scowling.
“Andrea, don’t you get unreasonable here too! I was trying to help Laurie...!”
“Looks like you were harassing her to me. And I’ll defend my best friend to the bitter end,” Andrea put an arm around Laurie.
“Thanks, Andrea, I knew I could count on you,” Laurie flashed a small smile at her. “You heard me, walk away!” she threatened Amy, raising the crutch again. Amy shook her head grimly. “You’re both not thinking here,” she begged both girls, “I’m trying to...”
“Amy, please,” Kyle stepped outside the hotel door, trays in hand, “It’s best if Laurie’s alone right now.”
Amy sighed softly. “You think over what I said though, Laurie Hurst,” she pointed a finger at her, “One day, you may regret turning my advice aside and turning Shawn down.”
“I don’t want him, I want Craig, you filthy harlot!” furious, Laurie swung her crutch at Amy’s face. Amy just jumped out of the way in time, only to have a livid Laurie plow hard into her chest and knock her down. “Laurie, no, no!” horrified, Kyle tried to pull her off, “This isn’t worth...!”
Roaring, Laurie shoved his hand aside and slugged Amy hard. “Not so tough now are you, you little tramp!” she bellowed angrily, landing another blow, “I’ll give you more than...!”
“Stop it! Stop it right now, Laurie Hurst!” a furious Beth rushed over and yanked Laurie up off Amy. “What is your problem!?” she demanded to the redhead, “That was totally out of line...!”
“Who in hell do you think you are telling me I was out of line after you bent over backwards to give her my spot in the group, Elizabeth Klein!?” Laurie retorted back coldly, “And by the way, who died and made you in charge of the Sidekicks anyway? I’m the best player here, so technically I’m in charge...!”
“I said stop it!” Beth shouted right in her face, finally bringing Laurie to silence, “I’ve had enough of you, Laurie. You’ve been acting like a total jerk all weekend, and this was the last straw...!”
“I’m the jerk!? You and everyone here conspired to shove me out the moment I got hurt! Just admit it, all of you, you did!” Laurie yelled at the rest of the Sidekicks, who were approaching themselves, most of them scowling harshly at her, “All of you invited me along this weekend to set me up...!”
“Laurie, why don’t you go inside and cool off?” Kyle begged her, “You need a...!”
“Nobody tells me what to do, Kyle, not even you!” Laurie snapped at him. “Well, we’re going to settle things right now,” she drew a line in the snow with her left crutch, “It’s now officially her or me,” she pointed accusingly at Amy, “If it’s me, cross the line now. Let’s see what you think about me. Make your decisions.”
Andrea walked over and stood beside her friend. She glanced hard at Kyle, who looked back and forth between Laurie and Amy, then shook his head grimly and joined the two girls. The other Sidekicks, however, stayed put around Amy and put their arms supportively around her shoulders. “Laurie, go home,” Beth told her icily, “You’re clearly in no mental condition to be here right now.”
“Fine, I’ll go. But it’s your loss, Elizabeth,” Laurie snarled coldly at her, “It’s all your loss,” she raged at everyone else, “You’ll feel sorry you treated me like this some time down the road, and just maybe I won’t forgive you for it. And Craig,” she turned to him, “You’ll come begging for me once you realize that...”
“Laurie, my sister said go home,” Craig said sternly, “And I could never love a bully like you. I prefer sweet girls like Amy who actually try and help others,” he put his other arm around her.
“And by the way, just for this, Laurie, I’m switching my vote on Amy joining us to a full yes,” Judy told her furiously, “Shawn, how about you?” she turned to him. Lowering his head, Shawn nodded and gave a thumbs-up. Laurie sputtered in fury. “Come on, Andrea, I can tell when we’re not welcome,” she muttered at her friend, hobbling towards the cars. “And you can all burn in hell!” she shouted over her shoulder at the rest of the Sidekicks in parting, “And I hope you break every bone in your body and spend the rest of your life a worthless cripple!” she roared at Amy.
“Just go, Laurie!” Monica shouted, pointing hard at the cars. Laurie spat on the ground and continued on her way. “You’ll regret treating her like this,” Andrea growled at the group herself, bustling after Laurie. “Come on, Kyle, we’ll have fun with Laurie at our house,” she called to her boyfriend.
“Coming, Andrea,” his head heavy with guilt, Kyle trudged after them. “I’m sorry, Amy, guys,” he apologized to them, “I never wanted her to do this. I’ll try and talk sense into her...”
“Do what you can, Kyle, but if she’s lost, she’s lost,” Craig shook his own head. He extended his arm for the trays, which Kyle handed to him before walking off after Laurie and Andrea. “You all right, Amy?” Craig asked her worriedly.
“Yeah, I’m all right, Craig, she didn’t hurt me bad,” Amy rubbed her nose, which only mildly stung. “Shawn, I’m sorry, I tried,” she turned to him, hearing him sniffing next to her, “I tried everything I could...”
“I know, Amy. It’s my fault more than anything...”
“Your fault!? Why!?”
“If I’d been strong enough to tell her before her accident, maybe she would have been...”
“No, Shawn, don’t think that,” she rubbed his shoulder sympathetically, “If this is who she is, then it’s for the better it didn’t work out. You’re better off.”
“But I still care for her, Amy,” Shawn sadly watched Andrea drive Laurie away, “I still have feelings for her. I hope she can see... you know...”
He lowered his head. “It’s her call, buddy,” Craig told him softly, “Only she can make herself whole again now. If she can’t, that’s no reflection on you at all.”
“Craig, you should probably know, she said she was in love with you,” Amy confessed to him, “Did you have any idea that...?”
“No, but I’m glad I didn’t. Especially seeing who she is now,” Craig mumbled, “And don’t you blame yourself for her acting that way either, Amy,” he assured her, squeezing her close, “You did nothing wrong at all.”
“I know, Craig, I just can’t help wondering...I’m glad to be here and all, but if my being here made her worse...”
“Amy, don’t worry about that. Don’t worry about anything,” Beth assured her, “Laurie brought it entirely on herself this weekend. All of the rest of us are glad to have you here with us, and we’ll all support you unconditionally going forward, against Laurie or anyone else.”
“Yeah, Amy, we’re all in your corner, and don’t you forget that,” Patrick patted her on the back. Amy managed a small smile. “Thanks again, guys,” she told them, “Well, since we were going to go sledding, shall we get started, then?”
“Glad you were able to get an ironclad reason to leave,” he said over his phone inside his van, which was parked in an alley in downtown Coalport, “Your friends suspect anything?”
“Not a thing, Uncle Nevin. I should be there in about twenty minutes.”
“Good, because we’re ready to go,” he glanced at the back of the van, where the rest of his gang were donning black leather coats and ski masks, “The job’ll probably take about a half hour or so, then we can go back for that pretty girl of yours and head off deep into the mountains where they’ll never find us...”