By Mary Claire Ekstrom
Anxious excitement swirled. My life was about to change. Big.
I was entering high school.
To smooth the transition, I’d signed up for summer field hockey. As an incoming freshman, it would be a great way to re-acquaint myself with the girls in the grades above me.
Get them to remember my name.
Since I knew all of theirs’ already. This was a small private school, K – 12, so most all of the kids went straight through.
Hardly anyone left.
Still, high schoolers didn’t associate with middle schoolers.
But everybody took sports. The sweet, popular girls played field hockey. So I’d signed up for summer practices in the gym. I wasn’t there to hone my field hockey skills. No one was. Field hockey itself was irrelevant.
The coaches didn’t seem to get that.
“Next up… Ladies, we’re doing relays!” the redhead coach cheered.
Geez. She had to be kidding.
Relays being the most miserable activity of every sports camp.
You run and do something stupid in front of a group of people you hardly know, only to return to where you started. Where you are greeted with a slap and someone shouting, “Sit down.”
Of course, all of my best friends were magically put in a line together, leaving me to mingle with the three clicky, junior girls whispering and laughing behind me.
I decided to be brave and branch out. Flash my new status.
“Hi,” I said, then smiled.
Sarah, the one directly behind me, sneered, then inspected me. Up and down. Her sneer soured.
She did not acknowledge my “hi,” nor did she stop whispering to the girl next to her.
My ears burned.
Elizabeth peeked from behind her, smiling, ready for a conversation. She dove in, asking me about my freshman classes. We talked and smiled, but I couldn’t ignore Sarah’s eyes boring into the side of my head.
I knew about her from my middle school days.
Tough. Exclusive. Very popular. Sarah’s “casual, welcoming” stance consisted of planted feet and crossed arms.
Even though she was only a Junior, she intimidated me more than any Senior could.
Her eyes bored into my neck, but each time I tried to meet her stare, she rolled her eyes away.
“Alllllllrighty ladies! We are gonna start with a game of Dizzy Lizzy. We have baseball bats in front of each of your lines.”
“Your job is to sprint to your bat, stand it up like a pole, bend over like this…” The redhead bent at her hips and attached her forehead to the butt of the bat. Looking down she added, “The fun part is that you have to keep the bat in place while you spin around it TEN times. Are y’all ready!?”
“No.” I mumbled, then turned to chuckle with Elizabeth.
Sarah’s cold, hard glare greeted me.
I wilted and faced forward.
The whistle blew.
Dashing forward, I grabbed the bat. Did my ten circles and ran back in what appeared to be a spinning tunnel. Then, stumbled back in line.
My eyes followed Sarah as she ran, spun, and returned to the line.
She stopped in front of me.
Held my gaze.
Breathing hard, she said, “What are our chances of winning? I can’t see…”
I was stunned. She addressed me. In a nice tone. Maybe we could be friends. Maybe she would remember me when school started! The shock of it all caused my mouth to gape open.
I shut it, feeling stupid… and like a fish.
But, before I swallowed, I re-opened it to say, “good,” but instead of words, drool dribbled out.
A lot of it.
Like… a tablespoon.
Sarah’s face squinted together and her eyes narrowed.
Panicked, I wiped my mouth on my shirt and looked down to see the damage. A silver-dollar size puddle had gathered on the gym floor. I envisioned the other juniors returning, everyone moving up the line…
In a spontaneous attempt… to prevent a look of revolt from the other juniors… I plopped onto the floor and casually slid backward a bit. Then, I moved forward, sacrificing one butt cheek to mop duty.
My nylon shorts dampened.
But the evidence was gone.
I could deny all!
But Sarah never said a word.
That was five years ago.
Sarah never said another word to me or, to my knowledge, about me.
But I know she’s never forgotten my name.
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