“Lemme get this straight,” Laurie said as she pulled books out of her locker, “you want my permission to go to the movies with your boyfriend instead of getting the stuff for the party we’ve had planned for two weeks?” She slammed her locker shut and leaned against it. “How the hell are we supposed to get the drinks if you’re not there to flirt with the guy at the liquor store?”
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t flirt with him! He’s just sweet on me.”
She made some odd motion with her head. “Whatever.” She took a long look at Chrissie, and I could tell that the two of them probably wanted me to leave. “Okay, fine, I’ll get the drinks, you go smooch your boyfriend in a dark movie theater.”
Chrissie elbowed me. “Look at that, you got permission! My brother never lets me kiss my boyfriends at the movies.”
Laurie wrapped her arms around Chrissie’s waist. “Hey, your brother likes me, remember?”
I just sighed. “Okay, you guys go do whatever it is you wanna do. I’m gonna go spend time with my boyfriend before class starts.”
“See you at lunch!” Chrissie exclaimed with big wave.
I waved back, with this nagging feeling that there should be something off about Chrissie referring to Laurie as her boyfriend.
Grant was busy drawing the webcomic when I got to Art. Mr. Yates hadn’t arrived yet, so nobody was really doing anything class-related. I slid into my seat beside him and gave him another little kiss on the cheek. “What was that for?” he asked, his tone amused.
“Do I need a reason?”
He smirked. “I guess not.”
I pulled my notebook out of my bag. “What page are you on?”
He flipped through the binder of scripts that he had. “Chapter… Four, page eighteen.”
“Oooh, I like this one.”
He gave me a look that said he wasn’t surprised. The page in question was Brenda and Joey on a Ferris Wheel, having been tricked to being there together by Allana, who knew there was more than just mild attraction between the two. This wasn’t when they actually started their relationship, but it was a catalyst that would lead to it.
There was a clicking sound from the hallway, getting closer. Not a second later, a woman I'd never seen before walked into the room. She was a good six feet tall, but then I realized she was wearing heels. Maybe in her upper 30s, lower 40s. Bright red-orange hair, and piercing blue-green eyes, with a winning smile. She was dressed in a dark red dress that would be better suited to a ballroom than a classroom, with a navy blue half blouse left unbuttoned over top of it.
“Good morning, class,” she said, “it's a pleasure to meet you all. My name is Mrs. Morfran, and I'm your new Art teacher. I'm told Mr. Yates found better prospects elsewhere, but I don't know much more than that, so I can't really tell you anything.” She wrote her name on the dry erase board at the front of the room. “Now, I know this isn’t the start of the semester, but it's our first day together and I have but one question for you all.” She wrote in big letters on the board, under her name, How many of you are artists?. She then spun back around to face us, and the smile on her face turned into a shit-eating smirk. “Well?”
Grant raised his hand, as did a couple others.
She shook her head. “No. None of you can be considered artists quite yet, because none of you have found beauty.”
I didn't understand that at all. Beauty was a sub --
“Beauty, as you all should be aware, is subjective. In the eye of the beholder, as the old saying goes. While this is very true, the path to beauty begins with one very important step: Change.”
I was starting to wonder if Mr. Yates was going to run in here and save us from this crazy lady who'd hijacked his classroom. Seriously, what the hell was she getting at?
“True art is change. Transitioning one thing - say, a blank canvas - into another - an image, perhaps?” She very quickly took three markers and began to do… Something. I couldn't really see from where I was sitting. Eventually, she stepped away from the board and my jaw almost hit the floor. Where was once blank white space was now a very detailed flower, made to look kinda like it was made with watercolor paints. “Transform what's before your eyes into what's in your heart.”
Okay, crazy or not, Mrs. Morfran was very much a legit art teacher. How she did that with three markers in so little time was… Jesus, I didn't know how to describe that. I suddenly felt like my meager drawing skills weren't going to be enough to pass the class.
Hell, Grant's art was amazing and he might not even be able to pass now… Shit…
Art just got way more interesting than it had been.
I walked into the locker room and saw everybody getting ready. Swim class, finally! I’d been waiting since the semester started for this, just as an excuse to wear the bikini I bought at the beginning of the school year. I knew Chrissie was just as excited as I was, and we’d picked mirrored sets.
“Yo, Ash!” Kristie called. Chrissie was standing beside her, and the both of them were already in their bathing suits. Kristie’s was a very simple black and white set, in sort of an X like pattern. Her top was black on the left and white on the right, while the bottoms were white on the left and black on the right. “C’mon, we’re almost ready!”
I giggled. “Jesus, the boys aren’t gonna be out there any earlier than we are, gimme a second!”
“Still, girl, hurry up!”
I sighed. Kristie could be a little… Well… She kinda had a school slut reputation, but I knew better. She dressed the way she did to lead guys on, only had half as many boyfriends as people liked to claim she had. Plus, she had a huge crush on Charlie, so any guy she had dated was just a warm up for the one she really wanted.
I pulled off my clothes in the restroom stall just off from the locker room. I didn't know why I did that, but I always had. I was really self-conscious when I was younger, and I guess I just never grew out of it. Nobody criticized me for it, thankfully.
I slid the bottoms on. Pink and white horizontal stripes were the design, going from top right to bottom left. After that came the top, which was easy thanks to being a clasp rather needing to tie it together. Once again, the pattern was pink and white stripes, but here they were making a V shape. The stripes on the right went top right to bottom left, the stripes on the left went top left to bottom right. It served as a kind of attention marker, in a way. And it was cute, like me.
Like I said before, Chrissie's bikini was the mirror image of mine. We'd done that on purpose, because we bought them together. Her's was still pink and white, but her top had an inverse V shape, pointing up instead of down, and the stripes on her bottoms went in the opposite direction. Naturally, the similarities in our bikinis caused some heads to turn our way, but that was the point.
Kristie asked me, “Which guy do you think will look better in a Speedo?”
I smirked. “Well, you only have eyes for Charlie Wilkins, so he's obviously your choice.”
She turned beet red. “Hey!”
I continued as if I hadn't noticed her discomfort. “I’d havta say… I'mma go with my crush, Grant.”
Chrissie came between Kristie and I, throwing her arms around both of us. “Ladies, you're both wrong. Clearly, the hottest guy in a Speedo is Laurie.”
I rolled my eyes. “Ugh… Can you not say that again?”
The two of them just burst into a giggle fit until everybody filed out to the pool.
“C’mon, you pantywaists!” Coach shouted at the guys. I sorta winced, because Coach was loud when he yelled. He turned to Kat and I and said, “I hope you’re not writing down everything I say.”
Kat just giggled. “Don’t worry, only the good bits.”
I wasn’t even writing down anything he was saying. This article was about the team, not the Coach. He was still an important piece of it, so I wasn’t going to smear his record by bringing attention to the fact that he was relatively foul mouthed. Plus, not like anybody didn’t know.
Coach just nodded. “Good.” He turned back to face the team. “You girls need to move! Move like your boyfriends are waiting to hump you!”
I nearly choked my drink. Wow. I didn’t think Coach would ever go that far. He was much milder during Gym than he was for the guys on the football team. It reminded me of Ms. Hansen, the other Gym teacher who also coached volleyball. I'd had to do an article on one of her practice sessions, too, and she was brutal there.
I specifically kept an eye on Grant, for obvious reasons (wink wink), but I watched Wheeler and Charlie, too, to see how well they were doing. If I was honest, the team wasn't doing very well. I didn't quite understand why, since I knew the team was usually better than this. They also looked like they were down a player, but I figured he just ditched today or something.
“Your boyfriend is probably doing the best, y'know,” Kat said, with a hint of amusement in her voice. “He’s the only one that isn’t total shit.”
Defensively (these guys were my friends, after all), I said, “Wheeler and Charlie are doing just fine.”
“Well, yeah, but the team as a whole is just kinda… Yeah, not great.”
I leaned back in my seat. “It’s only been a rough couple weeks. They’ll be back to full strength soon.”
She sighed. “Yeah, you’re probably right. At least, they better be.” She nudged me with her elbow. “Hey, why don’t you tell Laurie to try out? Bet he’d do great.”
I honestly didn’t know why Laurie wasn’t on the football team. She loved to play football, and had with the guys for years. Of course, I’d played with them more than once, and I didn’t feel any need to join the team. Maybe Laurie just wasn’t interested.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. I knew Grant’s would be in his locker, but I still felt the need to text him something funny about what I was seeing him and the guys doing. u look hot in ur uniform I sent, with a heart emoji after hot. He wouldn’t see it until after practice, but I was certain he’d get a good kick out of it.
I looked down at what I’d written for the article and realized I’d mentioned Grant way too many times. I mean, sure, if Kat was right, he was the best player on the team, but I’d written his name probably eight times, and the only player close to that was Tim Hyun, who’d been mentioned twice just because he’d been injured on the field six times this season.
Crap… I quickly crossed out his name a few times to cut down on how often I mentioned my boyfriend over everybody else. This was an article about the whole team, not just Grant. I was surprised I let myself do that, but then again, it was Grant I was writing about, so it made some sense. Maybe I could mention poor Tim a couple more times.
Coach Brandt shouted, “Alright you limp-dicked sissies! You’re makin’ me wish the cheerleaders were out here running these plays! We’ve got a game tomorrow and I damn well better see you kick ass on the day, understand me? Go hit the showers.”
Kat stood up. “What say we go bombard the players with questions as an excuse to go into the boys locker room?”
I smirked. “Hmm… Half or fully naked guys standing around for us to look at while we ask them questions about their practice… I’m game.”
“Tell me, Mr. Harrison, how it is you felt when the coach dumped new plays you were unfamiliar with on top of you?” I asked Grant, who was standing there with just a towel wrapped around his waist and an embarrassed look on his face.
“Seriously?” he asked.
I giggled. “Hey, this was Kat’s idea, and I just took advantage.”
Both of us glanced over in Kat’s direction, where she was half asking questions, half flirting with Tim Hyun. At one point, she lightly poked him in his probably still sore rib, and made him double over in pain.
“Yeah, I can see that,” Grant said. He sat down on the bench beside the locker row. “Um… To answer the question, Coach drops this kind of thing on us all the time, especially after a bad game. He’ll introduce plays that he knows we can do, even if we don’t know if we can do them. He never pushes us too far, even though he can seem a little… Abrasive. Sometimes he throws us really difficult plays when we’re not prepared to run them, but that doesn’t happen often.”
I quickly jotted down what he’d said. He was actually the last member of the team that I was interviewing. Kat and I each took half the team, though she seemed to purposefully leave Wheeler, Charlie and Grant for me. I’d thank her for Grant, but Wheeler spent the whole time trying ask me what Grant and I were doing to celebrate that we were dating while Charlie was pretty much just talking about girls he liked.
Suddenly, there were loud footsteps coming into the locker room that sounded like somebody dropping a sledgehammer on the ground every few seconds. I turned around and saw Coach and a much taller man standing behind him.
“Well, well, well… No wonder your team lost to us last week, Gene. They’re busy fucking girls back here.”
I felt myself blush. Even Coach wasn’t that bad.
Coach, thankfully, stood up for us. “Kathy Myers and Ashley Johnson, editor of the school paper and head reporter. You wanna suggest my boys are performing… Untoward actions with these two young ladies, Barry, you’re making a big mistake.”
Kat was suddenly beside me, nudging me in the elbow. When I turned to her, she kinda motioned toward the big guy with her eyes. I could tell she wanted me to ask him questions for the article, or maybe even to just ask him to shut up about us. I was kinda insulted that he said that about us.
Coach, instead, decided to introduce the guy to everybody. “Team, ladies, this is Barry Waters, coach of Weston High’s football and swimming teams. He came by to observe us on the field prior to our big rematch tomorrow night.” Coach turned to him. “And came by late.”
Mr. Waters folded his arms across his massive chest. “And what I see today is nothing!” he shouted with a hint of laughter.
I felt a surge of disgust for this asshole. Our team was fantastic, and they worked their asses off. Why the hell he thought he could come in here and call them nothing just sent me over the edge. “Excuse me, Mr. Waters, but like Coach Brandt said, you came in after they finished running their practice plays. You didn’t watch them work and sweat and tire themselves out. They’re not nothing, and they’re gonna whup your ass tomorrow night!”
The locker room fell so silent that I almost though a tumbleweed would roll past. I looked around at everyone else in the room. The guys all looked like they were about to shit their pants, Coach looked somewhat annoyed, Kat looked amused and/or impressed, and Mr. Waters looked like he was about to burst into laughter.
“What?” was all I asked.
Finally, Mr. Waters did burst into laughter. “This one’s got bigger balls on her than the rest of your team, Gene! Put her on the field and you’d probably win tomorrow!” He smacked Coach on the shoulder. “I’ll see you on the field, Genie!” He then turned around and walked out of the locker room, still laughing.
Coach sighed, then looked at me. “Good job, Johnson. I think you just gave us the biggest advantage we’ll have tomorrow.”
“Now he thinks we’re a bunch of wusses that need a woman to win our games. We’re gonna show him just how wrong he is!”
The team roared a cheering… Noise, I guess, that sounded like monkey grunting. It was a weird sound, but I felt like I'd heard it before at some time. I probably had, since the guys probably did it all the time. Plus, I'd followed the football team for the paper since freshman year, so I should have heard it more than once.
Guess on top of school journalism, school spirit was probably one of my strong suits.