Author’s note: This is an updated and edited version of my previously published original story.
Emily’s senior year in high school was supposed to be a breeze. She was 18 now, on her way to independence, most certainly on track with her college career, and caught up on all her credits, which left her with only a few classes she needed to attend for the rest of the year. And yet, her one mistake of skipping out on her gym credits the year before was really stomping on her parade.
Now, she was required to take the last gym class of the day if she wanted to graduate and not only did she have no friends in the class, but she didn’t know anyone either. Well, that wasn’t entirely true.
There was Harper Fletcher and her friends. Harper was only a few months older than Emily but they could’ve been decades apart with how much confidence and success she exuded.
She was the school’s softball captain and star player. Anyone who didn’t know her would have to have lived under a rock or never attended school. She even made the district newspaper one time because she nearly won the softball team the nationals. Everybody said the other team cheated.
She was also popular and pretty, so really, you couldn’t ignore her if you tried. As for Emily, that was even more so. In all her time as the yearbook’s Chief Editor, she couldn’t recall even one year where she hadn’t covered something without Harper in it.
Every school event, every interview, every shoutout, and almost every picture, there she was. So yeah, Emily knew her, but until now, she’d never actually shared a class with the Queen Bee athlete.
On the first day of class, Emily saw her in the corner of her eye; walking out the gymnasium doors with her friends onto the big football field. Instantly, she regretted her stupid decision to take a culinary class back in junior year in an overly optimistic way to “improve her cooking skills.” The class was a waste of time and evidently, a waste of credits.
She couldn’t believe the bite on her ass – it was goodbye smooth sailing and hello suffering. Emily wasn’t exactly an athletic person, and now, having to be subjected as a loner as well as having to be in the blinding presence of the school’s biggest celebrity only rubbed the salt in the wound.
As always, Harper radiated beauty and confidence and it made Emily grunt in vexation. It wasn’t that Emily had a dislike for the girl. In all honestly, that wasn’t the case at all. It was just that they were polar opposites – like water and oil. Not to mention she cast an even darker shadow over Emily’s already non-existent presence in the class.
The period was just warm-ups and stretches until the last bell that day, but anyone would’ve thought they’d underwent some intense cardio circuit with the way Emily sluggishly crawled back to the girls locker room.
“What a shitty first day,” Emily bemoaned. She lamely hoped she would eventually see the bright side of things. Soon.
A couple of months later, and before Emily knew it, love was in the air. It was almost Valentine’s Day, a sickening excuse for mass PDA and torture porn for all the singles left on the holiday. But even so, Emily had a job to do.
Every year for Valentine’s Day, the yearbook club would make a page for the school’s “cutest couples.” Hundreds of couples would submit their application to be on the page and then the school would vote for the top 20. It was just another way to entice more people to buy the book.
At the same time, the club also helped the student council with their Valentines sales by making posters advertising reminders to buy roses and chocolates before the big day.
It was still a couple of weeks before the holiday, and as far as Emily knew, the club was still in the middle of handling the application process and making those posters. The application bit was the easy part – all filing and organizing. The posters, however, required a little field work.
What they usually did for the posters was snap candid photos of anything remotely romantic and print out 24″ x 36″ images of them. As long as the theme was the same, anything could be used, really.
However, the yearbook club didn’t own the equipment to print large images with most of the school’s funds pouring into the sports programs year after year, so they’d send them to a printing company to be expertly enlarged and finely laminated before there return to their possession. Real professional shit.
In addition, the posters would be plastered with “important” information at the request of the student council regarding their flower and cocoa sales.
“Exactly as we’ve written for you. Word for word. No deviations, please,” as the student council would pompously command every year the holiday came around.
Emily herself wasn’t tasked to scout for pictures nor was she in charge of overseeing applications. She just monitored, really. She trusted the other members and her Managing and Photo editors who were also her best friends for bahçeşehir escort the success of that process. Emily still had the actual yearbook to manage.
But enough of that, that was just another day to Emily. What was and had been stressing her out was her dreadful gym class. It was a big downer considering it was her last period, so she always ended the day on a sour note. She really tried hard to be positive, but as the days went by, she found herself more sweaty and isolated than the first.
Emily wasn’t a shy girl in the slightest but she wasn’t overly outspoken either. Her journalism skills relied more on her stubbornness and guts, not her social tactfulness.
She had a close circle of friends along with some close acquaintances and that was her bubble and she stuck with that bubble. If every once in awhile there was an easy opportunity to make a new friend, Emily was all for it. However, this class was really pinning her to be some kind of anti-social nerd.
It was really hard to insert herself amongst her gym peers since it seemed everyone had already formed their cliques, and being seniors, nobody cared for new additions.
“What the hell,” Emily thought. It was beginning to feel like she was some new student who’d transferred in in the middle of the year. How was it possible she didn’t know a single person in the class besides Harper and her friends? It seemed almost ridiculous.
Whatever the case, she couldn’t change her situation, so she supposed she might as well deal with it.
It was just one lousy class.
But after some time, things began to look up. And eventually, even sharing the same space as Harper Fletcher didn’t unnerve Emily anymore.
She hardly ever noticed Emily, yeah, but still, she felt better. The class steadily started to become less of a pain and everyday she managed to quietly get it over with. Before she knew it, Valentine’s was almost around the corner.
“There’s that face, again. Em, if it sucks that bad, maybe you could appeal to find another alternative? Maybe do some volunteer work in exchange like picking up trash around the school or helping out the lunch-ladies?” Cassidy, the yearbook club’s Photo Editor and Emily’s best friend, jested as she nudged Emily’s arm.
“Hardy har-har. It’s not funny, that class is such a joke. All we do is warm-ups and whatever sport of the day Mr. Hannigen decides to throw at us so he doesn’t actually have to do his job. Yesterday, it was ping pong.” Emily uttered, rolling her eyes at her short haired friend.
Cassidy was a troublemaker and jokester by birth. Even her appearance was wild with her rose dyed messy pixie hair and nose piercing.
She snorted a hearty laugh, one that was unsympathetic to Emily’s peril, which earned her a harsh jab in the ribs. She yelped in between her uncontrollable laughing.
Julia, who was walking on the other side of Emily, patted her on the shoulder with a reassuring smile. “You’re gonna be fine. Want to hang out afterward when class lets out to make it up?” Julia was always the sweet angel of their trio. Being the Managing Editor in the club, Emily could always trust her to help her out.
Emily glomped on her and pouted; hugging her in a tight exaggerated embrace. The girls mousy brown hair floated lightly around Emily’s forearms. “No, my love, that’s ok. This poor soul has things to do after, anyways. At least you love me, though!” Emily cried dry tears as she shot Cassidy daggers. Cassidy only laughed louder as Julia blushed with that shy smile of hers.
“Anyways,” Cassidy continued, wiping away some tears, “how’s hanging out with Harper Fletcher? You guys best friends, yet? Buying each other lattes?”
“Shut up,” Emily retorted, “we don’t even talk like we haven’t since the start of the year. Stop asking about her, I don’t even care anymore.”
“But it’s Harper Fletcher! The big shot, the wowser. Hey, you think if you touch her you might be able to deadlift a car?” Cassidy joked with a smug grin. Emily rolled her eyes. “At least tell me if she’s a bitch or not.” She chuckled.
Emily slowed down a little and thought about it. Harper Fletcher a bitch? She’d hardly considered her attitude until now.
In her experience and from what she saw…no. Harper didn’t come off as one. Whenever she saw her in class with her friends, she was always smiling and laughing, and whenever she overheard her conversations, she was never gossiping or bad mouthing anyone.
Now that she thought about it, Harper was kind of an okay person. So, why was she so anxious and uncomfortable around her?
The tardy bell rang its first warning signal; interrupting Emily’s train of thought. “Shit! I gotta run, catch you guys later!” She exclaimed as she sprinted down the hallway into an adjoining building where the gymnasium was located. Cassidy and Julia waved her goodbye and headed off to their respective classes, not before Cassidy could yell out one more tease in ear shot, however. bakırköy escort
“Say hi to your girlfriend for me!”
Emily groaned. She was so gonna get it later.
Stumbling down the concrete steps to the football field, nearly late but just in time, Emily was huffing and puffing. She was in the middle of putting her short straight black hair in a pony tail when she saw Mr. Hannigen trudging towards the center of the field with his clipboard – ready to dish out today’s dumb activity.
In the corner of her eye, she also caught a glimpse of Harper with her friends, all huddled together near the benches; laughing and such as popular girls do.
Emily couldn’t help but think about her earlier conversation with Cassy. She was starting to feel a little bad about regarding Harper in a bad light. She didn’t even know her, so who was she to judge?
Of course, she’d never thought about her badly, and yet, where was all this unprovoked iffiness coming from? Was she really just irked by her because she was the archetypical popular and pretty girl?
Emily shook her head and tried to push the thought away. “Let’s just get this over with.” She sighed.
“Alright, kids. Gather round!” Mr. Hannigen huffed, his double chin glistening with sweat. “Today is a special day because today…” he paused for effect, “…is football day.”
Half the class rejoiced with wolf whistles and cheers while the other groaned. Emily was part of the groaning crowd.
“You’ll all be split up into your own teams which I’ll assign. I think it’s time you kids learn some new faces, so before you even think about complaining, I’m telling you right now there’s a mile run waiting for ya and 300 sit ups if you do.” Mr. Hannigen finished.
The entire class groaned this time.
“Great,” Emily sighed to herself. At the very least, she hoped she would get grouped with some of the lazier kids in the class. She didn’t like feeling like the deadweight when it came to this crap.
After Mr. Hannigen gave a little explanation and tutorial of the sport, not that it mattered much to Emily because she couldn’t play for the life of her anyway, it was team assigning time. She crossed her arms and stood amongst the others as they all waited for Mr. Hannigen to go down the list of names on his clipboard and call out their team color.
One by one he called out in his blubbery voice; throwing a colored jersey to each student as they came up. As always, Emily was at the bottom of the list, her last name being Zurick. So, she just watched the grass as she waited her eventual turn.
“Emily Zurick! Blue team!” Mr. Hannigen shouted; making Emily jump at the grating sound of his voice.
Slowly, she walked up to grab the jersey and glanced around for any others wearing the same colors. Her chestnut brown eyes casually swept the field and she almost chocked when she laid her eyes on the blue team.
There was a lump in her throat – she could feel it – as she saw Harper Fletcher stretching; a blue jersey over her tall frame.
“Hurry it up, miss Zurick, we’ve got a game to play.” Mr. Hannigen grunted. Emily snapped out of her spell and made an effort to walk as normally as she could towards her team; trying to conceal the all too familiar shaky feeling in her knees she’d only get during presentations or when she embarrassed herself.
It was just going to be a practice game today, or so Emily believed Mr. Hannigen was saying at the moment, but she wasn’t really paying attention. She was much too concerned about being on the same team as Harper. Speak of the devil? Karma? She didn’t know, all she knew was that she wasn’t prepared. At all.
“Just play it cool, Em. It’s whatever. She won’t even notice you. Just pretend you don’t see her.” She tried to reassure herself.
Emily blinked twice and shook her head, trying to focus on the class. They were going up against the green team. Judging from the several people on each team who she’d noticed were very competitive from their days together in the class, Harper included, she wasn’t going to be ok.
So much for not being a deadweight.
It became very apparent how aggressive the game was going to be the moment it started and Emily was beside herself with anxiety. She didn’t know what else to do but awkwardly stand in place and slightly jog up and down the field with her team to look like she was doing something, but really, she was just trying to get out of everyone’s way.
Harper, however, was on a roll. She was schooling even the bigger guys and in no time, her team was already way ahead on the scoreboard. Emily supposed since she was also on the same side, it’d be “their” team but she really wasn’t contributing much to put it that way.
After about 15 minutes, the green team began to catch up; being just a few points behind. At this point, Harper was sweating and breathing heavily, but the confident smirk on her perfect face said she was far from calling it quits.
Emily başakşehir escort had to admit, she looked kinda cool all sweaty and stuff with her ashy brown hair pressed against her forehead and temple like that and her jaw taut with arrogance. Emily herself had worked up a sweat too. She couldn’t keep up the act anymore though and needed a break desperately. Hunching over, she rested her palms on her thighs while she tried to catch her breath in the corner.
She thought she was going to die.
She didn’t care anymore about the game or about being a deadweight, she just wanted it to be over. As she sucked in another gulp of air, a sudden voice yelled at her from over all the commotion.
“Hey! Catch the ball!” A guy on her team hollered.
Emily glanced up in confusion, a bit dizzy, but saw the impending image of a spinning football heading in her direction. A perfect arch heading straight for her.
Emily panicked and started to dash back and forth in an attempt to, well, catch it. She darted towards her right, her arms held out like a cradle, then her left, then all the way back to the right before slamming into something hard but fleshy and getting the wind knocked out of her.
There was a loud and quick outcry of oo’s and ouches as Emily fell on her back with a sharp thump; a heavy form collapsing on top of her. Instantly, she saw stars and spots of blackness and god it felt like her lungs had been punched out of her chest as she lay there in a warped world.
There was a heaviness pressed against her hips and crotch as well as her entire torso as a body laid on her. In her dizzy state, she could sense a pair of strong arms almost enveloping her head, as to not crush her completely, and cool quick breaths grazing the bridge of her nose and across her eyelashes. Other than that, everything else was a numb daze.
Holding her head, she felt the figure above her gently pick her up by her arms and sit her up so that she was kneeling. The figure was saying something, but all Emily could hear were murmurs and a high pitched ringing. It took awhile for her to regain herself, and when she did, Harper was in her face, her expression so worried and guilty looking.
Like a radio tuning, Harper’s muted voice slowly became louder and louder until Emily was wincing at the volume.
“Oh my god!! Are you ok? Can you hear me? I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you there! Hey, you alright?! I hit you so hard, oh my god, I’m so sorry!!” Harper frantically shouted. Emily squeezed her eyes shut and scrunched up her brows at Harper’s loud voice before grasping at the front of the girls jersey; trying to find balance.
“I-I’m ok. Really. Just…” No, she wasn’t ok. It felt like she’d been hit by a truck and her head felt so heavy on her shoulders.
The feeling was too much and she tapped her head against Harper’s soft and firm chest; resting her bruised skull. Not really comprehending the fact that she was laying her head on Harper Fletcher’s CHEST. She could distinctively hear people calling Mr. Hannigen over and someone else to go get a nurse. Ugh, she felt like shit.
They stayed like that for what seemed like forever, and it was crazy, but despite all the commotion, all Emily could hear was Harper’s rapid heartbeat and hurried breaths as she lay there in her arms. Blinking awake, Emily finally lifted her head.
“Can you get up?” Harper asked, almost whispering.
“Yeah,” Emily grunted as she was helped to her feet. She wobbled a bit before standing up straight and looking Harper in the face. The girl’s brows were upturned in a worried bend and the way she was looking at her…so full of guilt and concern. Her hazel eyes hid nothing. If Emily hadn’t still been dancing with the birds in the smog, she probably would’ve been embarrassed by their eye contact.
Harper gripped Emily’s elbows a little tighter; unintentionally pulling her closer to her. “You feel ok?”
Emily couldn’t feel a lot of things at the moment, but she did feel bad for making Harper worry. So, with as much effort as she could muster, she lifted her head to look up at the girls 5’7″ frame and smiled weakly for her sake.
“I’m fine. Thanks. Sorry.” There was a slight pause then, like the world had stopped. The girls just stared each other in the eyes without interruption. Then, reality came rushing back in again as Emily’s nose started to bleed. A whole new wave of screaming and urgent demands to take Emily to the nurse arouse, and like that, class was dismissed.
A whole trip to the nurses office and phone call home later, Emily was checked into the hospital with a mild concussion and bruised arms and legs. It was a bit embarrassing for her to explain to the nice doctor that she was basically made into a human sandwich with the football field and Harper’s muscles, but hey, it wasn’t as embarrassing as being made into said sandwich in front of her entire class. In short, Emily really didn’t want to show up to school tomorrow.
But who was she kidding, her editor responsibilities awaited.
Emily traipsed onto the school grounds the next day with a bandage patch on the corner of her forehead and a dreary frown on her face. She spent the entire school day having to tell people she “fell” in gym class while trying to elude any further questions about the incident.