12 Stories in 12 months
Prompt: The Celebration | Word Count: 2500 words |Genre: YA Fiction
by Julie Blankenship
It was never good to catch their eyes. The contempt was palpable but the 1000-yard stare as they look right through you was disconcerting. I kept my eyes focused on the pavement directly in front of my feet with only an occasional glance up to check for obstacles. Darcy Watson and her groupies gathered off to the left at the base of the steps. The backpack bounced against my hips as I made the slight course correction to give the Wilson High School elite a wide berth. The group tittered at some shared witticism. Though to quote a tried and true axiom, ‘they hath more hair than wit.’ The head shake was stifled as the survival instinct kicked in. I knew better than to do anything to bring attention to myself. I approached the five short steps up to the doors of the school.
Spring break had been a little slice of heaven. My dad had taken most of the week off from his practice to take the family camping up by Pueblo Colorado. Meals cooked over a fire, exploring the cliff dwellings, hiking and of course the constant quizzing about emergency scenarios and how to respond. My father had been a ER doctor for ten years before he decided to buy into the local General Practice Group. Medical school was my future, I had the grades and drive to make it happen. It was also in my genes. My great grandfather had been a Chiropodist and a Masseur in Belgium in the late 1800’s, my grandfather an Obstetrician and my dad a GP.
The ornamental pears were in bloom in the school courtyard and the air buzzed with the spring weather. Literal buzzing. I flapped my arms and took a step back as an enormous bumble bee dive bombed my head and circled back around. I forgot I had already stepped up on the first stair and my arms wind milled as the weight of my back pack pulled me back and down. I felt the air rush out of my lungs as I landed. I gasped for air like a fish out of water. As the pain began to register I heard the raucous laughter.
“Did anyone get that?”
“Please say someone caught that.”
“Text me if you did.”
“It’ll go viral.”
“That totally made my day.”
The laughing crowd flowed and eddied around me. A hand reached down to me.
“Are you okay?”
I looked up to see Matt Haycock looking down at me. He was one of the popular kids. Tall handsome basketball player type but he didn’t run with social elite. He flowed easily between the athletes and the academics.
“I’m still assessing.” I wiggled my feet and bent my knees.
“Well, I’ll sit right here until you finish your diagnosis.” Matt sat on the steps. His smile showed off his dimple and perfect blinding white teeth.
It only took me a minute to know I was not seriously injured.
“I think I’m just a little bruised.” I started to push myself up but he reached out, took my hand and helped me to my feet. I looked up at him. He must be over six feet tall cause I only came up to his nose.
“More than your ego then,” He chuckled.
“My ego has taken a terminal hit. If I’m lucky I’ll only get a million ‘likes’ by the end of the day.” I shifted my backpack into place and started back up the stairs.
“It happened too fast. I doubt anyone got a good angle,” he said falling in step beside me.
“Really I’m not worried it will be a one-day wonder. Tomorrow someone else will get their 15 seconds of fame.”
“You’re a good sport.” He held the door open for me.
“I try to stay under their radar.”
“Why is that?”
“Oh, you know…if they think you are chum the sharks circle.”
The tardy bell rang and I gasped.
“I’m never late for class,” I exclaimed.
“Punctual, that’s nice to know.”
I looked at him a little confused. “What?”
“Off to class… you’re already late.”
“Hey, thanks,” I said over my shoulder as I hurried down the hall.
“My pleasure,” he quipped back.
Mr. Beasley looked up at me in surprise as I entered the biology class.
“You are never late,” he said as he peered over his glasses.
“Sorry a little prat-fall on the way into school.” I explained.
“You okay?” He glared out at the classroom to dampen the scattered giggles and chortles.
“I’m fine. Although if you have a pillow I could sit on? No, I thought not.”
I decided to embrace my notoriety and did the royal wave as I walked down the aisle. I made the mistake of looking around as I made my way to my seat. Darcy was looking daggers at me. I wasn’t sure what had caused the animosity until class was over. Darcy was at my seat before I had a chance to gather my things.
An envelope lay on the center of my desk. Darcy’s finger pressed on it hard enough to turn her nailbed white.
“You will find some excuse not to come, do I make myself clear, nerd?” Darcy glared down at me.
“I’m sure it will be clear once I open the envelope. Note that I am duly warned as always.”
I watched Darcy head out into the hall before I picked up my backpack and the envelope.
Maybe if I tossed it in the trash, I could claim I lost the invitation to what ever this was I wasn’t supposed to attend but still got invited to. There was a garbage can out in the hall. I stepped up to it.
“Hey Ann, you got an invitation to Darcy’s party.”
Matt stood beside me, alternately looking at me, the envelope and the trash can.
“Looks can be deceiving.” With a flick of the wrist I tossed the envelope.
“Wait, why did you do that?” He fell into step with me as we entered the sea of humanity making its way between classes.
“It’s a little game Darcy and I play.”
“Sounds intriguing,” he said.
Someone greeted Matt and he knuckle bumped them.
“Did your schedule change?” I asked.
“No,” he answered, “why do you ask?”
“I’ve never seen you in this hall after my biology class before.”
“Just thought I’d check on you. Make sure you are okay.”
“Well, thanks.” I looked up at him with a half-smile. “Mr. Beasley let me down, no seat cushion.”
Matt laughed as we stepped up to my English Lit. class.
“You didn’t tell me about the invitation.”
“She invites me and I’m supposed to find an excuse not to go. Simple as that. Thanks again.”
I found my seat and was surprised to see Matt standing at the door looking at me. I felt the blush rise up my cheeks as I watched the other members of the class ping pong between looking at me and then him.
“Later,” he mouthed.
My blushed deepened as I felt the eyes of my class on me.
Matt was popular, social, he fit in with almost any crowd but also wasn’t one to go along because everyone else was doing something. I knew of him but until today I didn’t think he had ever given me a second thought. My focus was on the future and checking all the boxes to have a good foundation for the schooling I knew was ahead for me. The social whirl around me was almost a blur which had suddenly come into focus.
I never went to any of the things that Darcy invited me to. Mr. Watson was a Real Estate magnet. They had a big beautiful home up in the hills. A two-acre yard with tennis court, swimming pool and a patio with a sunken fire pit. A cliff over looked the property with a winding road to the top. They were constantly throwing parties. The connection was through Darcy’s mom who was the Business Manager at the General Practice Group my dad was partners in. Therefore, the invites kept coming and I had to invent reasons I couldn’t attend. Everyone was happy.
My last class of the day was Physical Education and today we were playing soft ball. Academics were fine but my father expected me to have some physical skills. He always felt it was important to be well rounded. Thus, the hiking, mountain biking, one-on-one basketball games and periodic game of catch. My gaggle of male cousins and I played our share of sandlot baseball.
I stood on the pitcher’s mound and looked at the sweet girl I was getting ready to pitch to. She could barely hold the bat on her shoulder. I moved off the pitcher’s mound toward home base to toss an easy lob to the hitter. The girl shook her head.
“Too close,” the girl shouted at me.
“Its okay it will be an easy pitch,” I shouted back.
“You’re too close.”
“It will be okay.”
My first pitch went wide. The second pitch was met with a loud crack.
“She’s awake. I think she’s okay.”
I looked up into Matt’s face. Where did he come from and why am I laying on the ground?
“I told her, you heard me tell her she was too close.”
The girl was dancing around the periphery of my vision. The teacher was blowing the whistle to try to get everyone to calm down.
“Any blurry vision?” He leaned forward till he was just inches away and stared into my eyes.
“Of course, you’re blurry if you’re that close.” I pushed against his chest.
“How many fingers am I holding up?” He waved two fingers in my face.
“Stop that, I’m okay. Let me sit up.”
He grabbed my hand and gave a little pull.
“Are you always this accident prone?”
“What are you doing at a girls’ softball class?”
“It’s my study hall. I snuck out to watch you play.”
“Watch me?” The heat rising in my face set my head pounding.
He helped me stand up and then poked me in the forehead.
“Ouch, why did you do that?” I batted his hand away.
“That ball hit you dead in the center of your forehead. I think I better make sure you get home okay.”
The teacher excused us to head in to see the nurse.
The groan escaped me as I saw Darcy making a beeline toward me across her family lawn. I glanced back over my shoulder to see my Dad and Darcy’s mom deep in conversation on the driveway beside our car.
“Hey Darcy, Happy Birthday.” I handed her a small gift-wrapped box. “It’s a gift card.”
“What the hell are you doing here?” Darcy seethed, we both had false smiles pasted on our faces as we glanced over at our parents.
“Your mother was so kind to check the school calendar for activities and with my father about my schedule. She made him promise to bring me personally.”
“You suck,” Darcy’s smile broke.
“Not to worry, I’m only here until my father’s leaves and I can sneak away without being seen by your mother.”
Darcy looked like she would like to let a few more expletives fly but her mother walked up.
“Hey, mom. I was going to take a few friends for a ride in my new car.”
“That’s nice. Are you taking Ann?” Her mom put her arm around my shoulders.
“No, Ann was just looking for her boyfriend. I think I saw him over there.” She pointed vaguely across the yard at a group of people.
“Boyfriend?” Mrs. Watson and I asked in unison.
My face flamed as Matt separated himself from the crowd and headed in our direction. He had been insinuating himself into my schedule all week. He greeted Mrs. Watson as Darcy ran off with her friends to take a ride in her birthday present from her dad.
Matt took my elbow and was steering me toward the group of people. “I want you to meet some of my friends.”
We both turned our heads as Darcy screeched out of the driveway and swung onto the road.
“Just for a minute,” I said. “I need to be gone before Darcy gets back.”
“Seriously?” he asked.
“Its her birthday and it’s what she wants. Her mom works for my Dad so she has to invite me but I can usually get out of it.”
“I’ll drive you,” he volunteered.
I saw Darcy’s car taking the switch back up the cliff and knew she was going too fast.
One minute, Matt was introducing me to his basketball buddies and the next we all turned when we heard the car smash through the guard rail. The car was still air born as I yelled, “Call 9-1-1, somebody call 9-1-1.”
My reflexes kicked in as I ran toward the cliff. The sound of the impact as the car crashed into the bottom of the cliff stunned me for a second. I knew time was critical. I scooped up a pile of towels as I passed the pool.
“Ann what are you doing?” Matt yelled in my ear as he ran beside me.
I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and handed it to Matt on the run.
“Call my dad, my passcode is 362-266 he is under ICE.”
All the emergency quizzing fell away as I looked at the car laying on its side. Darcy, Max and Vicki hanging from their seat belts surrounded by billowing airbags streaked with red. Then I heard a groan and dropped the towels. I hoped help was on its way but in the mean time I had to stop any major bleeding and make them as comfortable as I could without moving them. I could hear Matt filling in my dad on the situation and giving him a blow by blow of what I was doing. Then my dad was by my side helping me until the paramedics arrived and pulled me away.
I watched as my dad helped the paramedics get Max and Vicki into ambulances. Mrs. Watson was standing beside Darcy’s gurney holding her hand brushing hair out of her eyes. She shot me a grateful look.
“They are all going to be okay, kiddo.” My dad gave me a quick tight hug. “You did great.”
All I could do was nod my head.
“I’m going to run to the hospital with the Watsons,” Dad said.
“I’ll see her home sir.” Matt chimed in.
I forgot Matt was standing there.
The ambulances trailed away.
“Ann, that was the most incredible thing I have ever seen. I thought you were crazy. Everyone else bolted for the house and you ran straight toward the crash.”
“I didn’t even think,” I said.
He pulled me into his arms and kissed me on the forehead.
“I think I’m going to enjoy being your boyfriend.”