Just got back from my voice lesson and wanted to update. Note: Playing the piano and singing at the same time is fairly easy. Add a microphone to the mix, and you're in trouble.
So, this is the farthest I've written in this story. (This chapter...) Which means I'll probably start writing more soon. x)
Okay, so, I was bored when I wrote this chapter (apparently) so it leans on the dramatic side. *waves hand nonchalantly* ;) Enjoy Kitty's crazy dramatics! Yay!
On the upside, my dog grabbed a bird's head this morning and ran around with it before she dropped it. Oh, but that's not an upside. Never mind.
Okay, this author's note is becoming too long. Bye!!
I have a habit of not knowing what I’ve gotten myself into until it’s too late. This is one of those times. As I stand in the gymnasium, only one of thirty-or-so kids, my heart begins to pound and my palms are slick and all I can think is regret, regret.
Trixie gives me a thumbs-up from across the room. My returning smile is a bit too late. I’ve never been so nervous. Not when I sang in church when I was nine, or when I got the lead in the school play when I was twelve, or during all my failed attempts at running away. Now, this counts more than anything, and only one of us will win. These kids want it just as much as me.
There are a total of four houses with “unsortables”, which I’ve only very recently learned. I guess the fact that we had more kids in school than just us should have been enough to tip me off, but I hadn’t exactly been paying attention of late. There are about fifty kids total, but--as coach does a head count--I find only thirty-four of them have entered. Counting me. Which, technically, I don’t even count.
“Now,” Coach says, crossing her arms behind her back. She swaggers toward the front of the room with her rough, leathery hands clasped behind her back. She’s taking her time. Her freedom isn’t on the line. It’s maddening.
“There are five courses for you all to go through, one a week. At the end of every week, five of you will be eliminated. Only fourteen will remain when we’re done, maybe more, maybe less, depending on how I feel. It is my job and my job only to find the best in the bunch. Then, you’ll move on to the final competition, which lasts a total of four days and nights. As you know, you’ll be searching for an object.”
A girl with amber hair and completely white eyes raises her hand. I stare at her, my stomach rolling. It’s creepy looking.
“What will we be looking for?” She asks in a springy, high soprano.
Coach shakes her head. “That will be revealed later. Now, I want everyone to do six laps around the gym. Go! Go!”
For the next hour, we run, do situps, pull-ups, weight lifting, and jumping jacks. By the end of the hour I’m sweating and I have to peel my shirt off. Luckily, I thought to wear a tank top, so I’m good.
There are only seven people from our house who entered this year. There’s Connor, Kiev, Josh, Wadell, Trixie, Endriss, and me. I wasn’t able to convince Caroline. She said she didn’t want out. I know she was lying.
Some small part of me feels guilty for even being in the room with these honest, hardworking people, but my mind reminds me that if I drop out of the competition, I might just go crazy. Which is not desirable at this point.
Coach blows her whistle (right before I beg for mercy, I might add) and we gather around her. Connor stands behind me, placing a hand on my shoulder. I smile at the friendly gesture. We’ve all come a long way relationship-wise since I showed up.
“I’m going to split you into teams, for now,” Coach says. “There will be about three of you per-team, but someone will have an extra.”
Slowly, she divides us. Trixie ends up with Endriss and the white-eyed girl, which both fascinates and frightens me. Wadell is grouped with some boy named Tanner and a girl named Felicia. They look nice enough. I find myself hoping things work out for him. He deserves a win just as much as I do, maybe more.
I do a dance of delight when I’m paired up with Connor and Kiev. My two best guy friends. I go over and give them high-fives, glad that for now we can work together instead of against one another.
Coach suddenly stops speaking and I realize everyone is on teams--except for Josh. He stands in the middle of the gym, arms crossed over his chest, faint muscles showing underneath his tight black t-shirt.
I close my eyes, praying that he won’t be grouped with us. That we will be spared his arroangance. But mostly I just want to be spared the embarrassment of having my kind-of crush on my team.
“Josh, go with Kiev and Connor,” Coach says at last. I exhale in one big gust. Okay. He’s on our side now. We’re just going to have to work with it.
“Figures,” Connor says, whispering in my ear. His breath tickles my temple. I nod stiffly. Figures. Figures. Figures.
Josh shuffles toward us, taking his time. I roll my eyes at him.
“We’ll begin by running four obstacle courses,” Coach says, going to the center of the room. She claps her hands sharply. Everyone gets quiet.
“Talk with your team, discover your strengths. For now, we will work together.”
I turn to Connor. “Does anyone know what she’s going to make us do?”
Kiev shakes his head. “No idea.”
Josh grins. “I do.”
We all turn to him.
“What is it?” Connor demands after a moment of silence.
He shrugs. “Depends. Am I going to get payment for telling?”
We all look at each other.
“What do you want?” Kiev asks.
Josh’s eyes flick toward me, the back to the boys.
I’m already shaking my head. “No way. I don’t trust you.”
“Oh yeah?” He teases, leaning close. “Is that why you kissed me?”
Connor gives me a look of disgust. “You kissed him?”
Kiev fake-gags. “Oh, gross. She’s infected, Connor. Let’s run!”
Josh glares at me. “Come, now, Kathryn. You know you love me. You were all over me earlier this week. And you copied my look.” He runs a finger down my cheek. My fists are clenched at my sides. I hate him. I hate him so much.
Kiev looks at me. “Well, Kate?”
I shake my head, stepping away from Josh. His arm winds around my waist, tugging me close. Creep.
“Let me go!” I exclaim, worming out of his grasp. I look at Connor for help. His eyes are trained on the floor.
“Fine,” Josh chuckles, stepping away. He fake-punches Kiev. “I was just messing with you guys, anyway. Lighten up.”
I’m seeing red. My face feels hot, and my tongue is sharp, lashing out at him.
“You’re a pathetic waste of a person, Josh. You’re disgusting and evil and conniving and sometimes I just hate you.”
He rolls his eyes, seemingly untouched. “Very mature, Kate.”
Tears smart in the corner of my eyes and I turn on my heel, barreling for the gym doors. I hear Coach yelling after me. I feel the eyes on the back of my head. But I don’t care. I need out. I need to be free.
When I hurry through the halls, I don’t even contemplate. I’m just going. Out the school doors. Down the path. Towards the woods.
My breathing is ragged, the tears are flowing, and I trip. Face down in the dirt. Some of it gets in my mouth. I struggle to get to my feet, spewing mud from my mouth. It takes like dark chocolate--one of my least favorite foods.
I hear someone yelling behind me, and I run even harder. My legs are pumping. I’ve begun sweating again. I’m gasping for breath. It’s too much, it’s too much, it’s too much. My foot latches onto a root and I fall again. My mouth bashes into the side of a tree. I taste blood. My head is spinning and I can’t-
“Kathryn!” Connor pants, grabbing my wrist. I get up, squirming and crying and grasping for a way to get away. I. Need. To. Run.
“Please,” I beg, turning to him. My sobs come out in little spurts. My chest hurts. My ears are ringing. I cling to the front of Connor’s shirt. “Let me go.”
He shakes his head, grabbing my shoulders firmly. “I can’t.”
“You can!” I yell, as my knees buckle. “I have to try.”
“They’ll kill you.”
My answer seems to surprise him. Even I’m shocked by the words that come out of my mouth a moment later, quiet and strong.
“Would that be so bad?”
He stares at me for a long time.
I stare back.
“Yes,” he says, touching my cheek. “Yes it would.”
I swallow. Suddenly I can feel everything. I blush, embarrassed at my earlier stupidity. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
I’m still tense in his arms. I’m hoping he’ll let me go, but he seems to sense what I’m thinking and instead begins pulling me toward the house.
“I didn’t kiss him,” I whisper as I shuffle along next to him. “He kissed me.”
Connor sighs. “Josh is…Josh has always…” He turns to grin at me. “Josh is a pathetic, ugly wimp who alienates everyone. Don’t take it personally.”
I giggle, despite myself. “So I’ve learned.”
We go through the front door, up to my room. I sit on the bed, while Connor sits on Caroline’s. It’s slightly reminiscent of a week ago, when Josh and I did the same thing. Except this time it’s different. Connor is good, and kind, and my friend. There’s no pressure to be pretty, or smart, or have a certain amount of coolness.
“I’m going to take a shower,” I say, heading for my dresser. Connor stands to follow me but I wave him away. “I promise, I’m not going to run.”
He contemplates the situation and surrenders with a sigh, sinking back down on the bed. “Okay. It’d be kind of weird for me to follow you into the bathroom anyway.”
Whereas I might have blushed if Josh said it, I giggled. “Yeah. Awkward. Don’t know how we’d explain that to Selena without getting either of us in trouble.”
He just shakes his head as I go through the door, down the hall, and straight into the shower. It hits me right in the middle of squirting conditioner in my hair.
I might have a new crush.