Chapter III: part 4
“WHERE WERE you at lunch?” Julie asked in a monotone voice as she placed her clothes in her gym locker. I winced at how tense the atmosphere had become.
“No excuses, Kida.” She turned toward me with a neutral but suspicious expression.
“Tell me the truth.”
I sighed internally. Why does everyone assume I'm lying? Blowing a huff of air out from
between my lips, I leaned against the locker and looked shamefully down at my feet. “I was with Vincent.” Both Julie's eyebrows shot up, and the corners of her mouth curled up slightly, but not in a really that's so cool sort way but more of a you seriously ditched us for some guy kind of way.
With a short, exhalation of breath, she shook her head and turned around. Right as she began walking off, I grabbed her arm and pleaded, “Julie—Ju...please just let me explain. I didn't ditch you, okay?”
She turned around abruptly with an incredulous look on her face. “Really,” she emphasized. “You didn't? Because I could've sworn the part where you told us you would meet us at lunch and never did because you decided to go off and have lunch with 'I can't stand that guy' Vincent without informing us would in fact be considered ditching!” There was a short pause. “Or am I wrong?”
Of course she wasn't wrong, and she had every right in the world to be angry at me. I did ditch her. It wasn't intentional, but I ditched her nonetheless. If it were me in her shoes, I'd be pretty hurt right now. “Okay. I deserved that.” Putting on the best pouty-face I could, I stuck out my bottom lip and blinked my eyes sadly. There was no way she could stay mad at this face.
She crossed her arms and tried to look upset, but of course it didn't work. She threw her arms in the air defeated and rolled her eyes. “Alright, alright,” she laughed. “I forgive you.”
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!” I cried squeezing her in my arms.
Patting my back awkwardly, she giggled and pushed me away. “Hey now! I said I forgive you. Let's not push it. Besides, I'll be expecting a full explanation tonight at work.” She winked. “And I mean every detail.”
With a huge smile on my face, I rolled my eyes playfully and began following Julie out to the track. “Don't worry. I will.”
But I knew that I wouldn't. There were certain things said in that conversation that not even Julie knew.
“Don't tell Jeff.”
Her smile turned to a frown, and she nodded her head gravely.
“AW MAN! It's raining!” Julie pouted. It said this morning on the forecast that it was supposed to rain today, so I wasn't surprised. All of the athletes were standing under the awning waiting for Coach to give instructions. Out of curiosity, I held my hand out into the rain and watched the cool water runoff my burnished hands, which looked as if I were covered in a layer of ice. I twisted my hand up and down, observing the way the water reflected like diamonds off my skin.
That's when a sudden pain stabbed at my head, and the image of blood running off my hands flashed before my eyes like an evanescent memory. In the matter of a few seconds, I found myself on both knees squeezing my head in anguish. “Kida!” I heard someone shout, but it was distant...muffled... “You okay?” This time it was louder.
Looking up, I saw Julie standing above me, her face wrinkled with concern. I stood up and brushed my knees. No one was looking. That was good. “I'm fine. My head just—” Then I noticed a boy standing across the field underneath the concession stand awning leaned against the wall. Although the rain was coming down pretty hard by now, I could still make out the figure to be Vincent.
The race! I forgot all about the race...
“You're head what?” I jerked my head toward Julie, startled, and she sighed frustratingly. “Kida, what is with you?”
“Nothing, nothing. I said I'm fine. Just a little head-ache.” She cocked her eye-brow in disbelief. Obviously, she knew I was lying, but I couldn't tell her that I just had some sort of premonition or whatever it was that I saw. She'd definitely think I was going crazy, and to be honest, I wasn't sure that would have been a complete misinterpretation.
“Okay, guys. We're going to go run inside the gym today, so let's go. Quickly!” All the students started running through the rain, giggling, but my feet didn't move an inch. I was staring at Vincent to see what he'd do, but he didn't move either. Is he looking at me right now? I couldn't tell.
“You coming or not?” Julie asked annoyed.
“You go on ahead. I left—my uh—” What did I leave? “I left my head-band in my bag.”
She rolled her eyes. “You sure you don't want me to wait?”
“No, go ahead,” I said too rushed. She knew something was up, but didn't say anything.
“Alright, see you in a bit.” Then she took off running through the rain toward the gym.
I waited a few minutes to see if Vincent would say anything or at least call me over, but he just stood there like a knot on a log leaned against the wall. So I decided I'd make the first move.
“Vincent! That You?!” I thought I saw him nod his head, but he didn't say anything. “Ugh,” I groaned. “Come over here!”
Vincent shook his head and gestured for me to come over.
“No way!” I shouted. “You come over here!”
Still he only shook his head and crossed his arms. I could imagine the smirk he had on his face right now. I cursed under my breath and prepared to run through the rain. On the count of three, I sprinted through the water so quickly that I barely even got a drop of water on me. It was pretty amazing. I felt so much faster.
“Pretty fast,” Vincent remarked as he looked at his watched impressed. “I hope you didn't forget about our race,” he said smugly. His lips curled up slightly amused, and he glanced up at me through his long lashes.
“Race? But it's pouring down rain!”
He shrugged nonchalantly, and stepped away from the wall. “So what? It's perfect. I run better when it's raining anyways.”
I looked at him incredulously. “And I suppose you're going to race in those?” He was still wearing his suspenders and loafers.
“Sure, why not?”
Looking at him dumbfounded, I remarked, “You're insane if you think you can beat me in that outfit.”
He grinned, and I detected a bit of determination in his tone. “Oh, don't worry. I'll win.”
I wasn't sure why he was so confident, but the way in which he said it caused a nauseous feeling to form in my gut. Something in the back of my mind was telling me—screaming at me—to just go back to the gym. Forget Vincent. But the little devil on my shoulder convinced me that there was no way I could back out. There was absolutely no way that Vincent could beat me.
No way that I could lose.
“Shall we?” Vincent gestured toward the track with a half-grin on his face.
“We shall,” I smirked.
When the rain first pelted against my skin, I thought my body might go into shock from the impact of the cold temperature. After all, it was just under 60 degrees, and here I am outside in the ice cold rain wearing shorts and a t-shirt. As sheet after sheet of water pounded on top of me, I prayed that I wouldn't start going into hypothermia.
It came as no surprise, though, that Vincent didn't look the least bit affected. “You okay? Your lips are turning blue.”
“I'm f-f-fine.” I stuttered. He looked at me with a worried expression. “You s-sure you want to race today? The rain's coming down pretty hard!” Although we were standing not three feet apart, the rain was coming down so hard that I had to scream to hear my own voice. A part of me hoped that he'd notice my desperation and agree to race another day, but when I saw the grin on his face, I knew he wasn't going to let me off the hook that easily.
“Now or never,” he yelled back.
Great, an ultimatum. Just what I need at a time when I can't even function properly.
“F-fine! We'll r-race now! B-but I still don't s-see how you're g-going to race in that outf-fit!” I expected some sort of smart Alec remark, but he simply nodded courteously and took his spot on the starting line. After stretching out my arms and legs, I felt my body go completely numb. This was good. Even though I couldn't feel anything, it would be much easier to run this way as opposed to being freezing cold.
“Alright, so here are the rules,” I began confidently. Vincent raised both eyebrows questionably, probably confused at my sudden change of attitude. “Twice around the track.”
“Because one would be over too quickly. Neither of us would be tired, so there's a chance that it would be too close. Two at least gives opportunity to one of us tiring out and slowing down.” I shrugged because I thought it was obvious.
“Okay,” he said. “You count us down then.”
For some reason, at that moment, my hands started shaking, but I wasn't cold anymore. I'd never been nervous before a race, so it was an unknown feeling. Taking a deep breath, I placed myself in sprinting stance on the starting line. I looked straight ahead at the track, barely able to see the end of the 100 meter line, and a sudden warmth swept over my body.
No...this wasn't nervousness. This was excitement. I'd never been more ready for a race. My lips involuntarily formed a tight smile. “Ready,” I prompted, but Vincent's stance didn't change a bit. He just stood there, slouched as usual. “Set,” I warned, sort of giving him a perplexed expression, but still he only stood there with a smirk on his face.
I smiled, pleased at the fact that there was no way this guy would beat me. My legs relaxed, ready to release. My hands clenched the track below me. For a moment, it seemed like there was nothing else in the world but the rain and I. To be honest I completely forgot about Vincent. Everything began to fall in slow motion. My senses heightened so that all I could hear was the sound of the rain surrounding me. All I could see was the track up ahead, like tunnel-vision. This was it.
“Go!” And with that I felt my body almost sprint on its own. It was as if I was having some sort of out of body experience. The rain was pelting so hard against my face, but I didn't care! I was running so fast, I might as well have been flying! Muscles that I never even knew I had stretched and manipulated in new and exciting ways. It was like I was experiencing the wonders and complexity of my body for the first time.
However, I was so caught up in the moment that I'd forgotten I was in a race. My breath caught at the realization, and I thought I'd lose my breathing rhythm. Vincent...where is he?
The rain was coming down so hard that I could barely see ahead of me. Glancing to my right, I was absolutely shocked to see Vincent running just as quickly if not faster. Actually, he was a few feet ahead of me. How was that possible? At that point I don’t think I’d ever run faster.
Yet there he was...beating me. But instead of being worried, I became excited. This was the biggest competition I'd had since about two years ago, and I was right at his heals. It was in that moment that I realized I've never felt more exhilarated by a race. I wanted to win. I was going to win.
We had just completed the first lap, when Vincent suddenly sped up, the distance between us growing greater. How was this possible? I was going so fast that everything around me was a blur. Even the rain appeared to be frozen.
Pushing my body to the limit, I managed to gain a few feet closer, but it was just impossible. I couldn't even see him anymore. There was no way I could win, and the thought of losing was overwhelming.
By the time I reached the end, the rain had settled down, and I could see Vincent standing on the finish line. But he wasn't smiling in triumph like I imagined. His face was full of apology, and I don't know why, but seeing him looking at me as if he pitied me made me want to cry. I could feel the tears forming behind my eyes, but I convinced myself that it was just due to the rain and cold weather.
That's when my body suddenly started to feel the impact of the race, and I felt myself shutting down. The feeling of a hundred different pains and emotions consumed me. My lungs felt like they were going to explode. My muscles ached and pained as if I'd been stabbed with a thousand tiny needles, and that’s when I fell onto my knees.
I glanced up and Vincent and noticed he wasn't the least bit tired. He won. But how? How could someone move at such a speed? I thought that I was going fast, but he...
It was inhuman.
And I was still questioning whether or not my speed could be considered normal. Gathering up the strength, I managed to stand up, awkwardly trying to keep from collapsing. “How did you…do that?” I managed between breaths.
His facial expression didn't change. “Do what?” he asked sadly as he swept away a piece of wet hair that was sticking to his forehead.
I took a few deep, burning breaths. “You know what. How did you run that fast?” His lips were shut adamantly, and his face hardened. How was it that he wasn't even affected by this weather? He only stood there, calmly.
Right as he opened his mouth to speak, a voice yelling from the side grabbed my attention. “KIDA ROBERTS?” My head jerked to the right quickly, and I saw Coach standing behind the fence looking at me with a skeptical glare. “What are you doing out here?” she asked angrily.
I pointed in front of me and began defensively, “Vincent he—”
But I was shocked to see that Vincent was nowhere to be seen.
“I could've sworn he was right here,” I said quietly, half to myself.
“Who was here?” she asked.
I wanted to say something, but my mouth remained open, completely at a loss for words. There was no way he could've disappeared that quickly. A million different questions began rolling about in my head, and suddenly, everything began to spin. The impact of the race was finally starting to have its affect on my body. A feeling of nausea formed in my stomach, and my knees began trembling. “I think I'm going to—”
Everything went black.
The last thought that ran through my mind was...
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