AN: I know, I know, I said I hate authors notes, but I cheated you guys and you deserve some sort of explanation. Props to Anna for calling me on using chapter 8 as filler. Since I felt guilty about that, and since I really wasn't happy with the chapter personally, I have gone back and reworked it a bit and tried to add in some more actually plot to the chapter. It's up to you if you want to go back and re-read the new version, but I tried not to add anything too crucial so it isn't 100 necessary.
I know I also promised that this chapter would be up much sooner than it actually was. The chapter was honestly written when I posted 8, but I needed to research a few details before posting (some of which I just gave up on and eliminated) and with all the things going on in my life I just didn't have the will or desire to get it done, so I apologize for that. Hopefully you'll all find this chapter better than the previous one and I can get some real interaction going between the characters soon which I know you've all been looking for
Chapter Nine: Come See
Saturday morning found Claire sitting alone in her bed. The week before she'd been forced to wake early for detention but this week was different. Now she sat awake staring across the room, waiting for the minutes to pass by.
Her stomach hurt, and she was tired but couldn't sleep despite that. Detention had been a week ago, so her feelings shouldn't have felt so raw by now, but the mere notion of it being Saturday was enough to bring it all back.
She smiled to herself, remembering that Bender must now be on is way to school, ready to crack jokes and get everyone else in trouble. Would he talk to his new detention companions like he had with them? Now that she thought about it, he hadn't really told them much at all. He had given them a glimpse of what his life was like at home, but after that he merely sat back and listened, save for when he yelled at her.
With a sigh she flopped back in her bed to stare at the ceiling briefly before getting up. Walking over to her dresser, she took down the jewelry box and sat on the floor with it.
Under the red velvet liner she found the earring John had given her; a silver lightening bolt. She rolled it between her fingers and wondered what she should do with it. She couldn't just get rid of it, it was too important of a gesture for that, but keeping it just meant having a constant reminder of what she was willing to give up to maintain her popularity.
'No' she told herself. 'It's not about that. What would my parents think if I started dating him? Besides he's a playboy... All those girls in his wallet. Why would I want a guy like that? Besides, he hasn't exactly approached me about all of this.'
It was a stretch, flimsy excuses at best, an attempt to convince herself that she wasn't so shallow. She could do what she wanted, regardless of what her friends thought. She spoke to Allison, didn't she?
But what else had she done? Shot down Brian, strained her friendship with Andy, and avoided Bender at all costs. She could have at least said hi that day in the parking lot.
With a growl of frustration she tossed the box aside, cringing when it clattered against the wall, it's contents clinking together as they spilled out.
"Claire, honey? Was that you?"
She sighed deeply. "Yeah, it was me. Sorry."
"Alright... Are you okay?"
"I'm fine Dad."
She waited to make sure he was finished talking before getting up and going in to the shower, carefully stepping around the pile of jewelry. At the very least she could use this time to get ready early for a change.
"All right Champ. Rise and shine. Today's the big day."
Andrew nodded unethusiastically and sat up. His father greeted him the same way before every match. How many more days could be "big days" before the term became meaningless?
"So, ready to knock 'em dead?" His father asked while they made their way downstairs where his mother would have her "special wrestlers breakfast" waiting for him.
"Yeah, sure Dad."
He was actually looking forward to today's match despite his recent feelings of regret over having spent so much of his life doing something that no longer truly brought him joy. They were playing against Maine North High and he was matched against Mike Moyer, a wrestler who'd come close to beating him and nearly cost him the championship last year. Now he had to prove that his win then had been deserved.
"Hi." He greeted his mother who was busily cleaning dishes.
"Oh, hi Dear." She greeted quickly. Andrew wasn't sure if she was talking to him, or his father. All too often she lumped the two of them together as one person.
He had known for a long time that his father was "living vicariously" through him, but he wasn't sure when the line between them started to blur. "Andy's win" became "our win." His mother was no longer proud of her son, but rather, "both her boys." It was like his life was disappearing completely. His only opportunity for change was to get into a good school that was far from home, and the prospect of that helped drive him to do well now.
Every day he stayed after school for practice. Once home it was time for homework and studying. On weekends that he didn't have a meet, he and his father would go to the gym themselves in an attempt to "get ahead."
He liked meet days, since afterwards was the only time he ever experienced any freedom.
He and his father ate together quickly. It was always a brief meal so that it wouldn't sit heavily in his stomach. Afterwards he'd shower and they'd rush out the door to get to the school early.
"It shows good initiative." His father would say. Andrew suspected that the elder Clark was also hoping to catch a recruitor or college coach there to chat with "casually."
When they got to the school, a thought occured to him. Only a floor away there was undoubtedly a new group of students, Bender included, making fun of Vernon and desperately trying to pass the time.
"Hey, Andrew." His coach greeted, coming out of his small office. "Early as usual eh? That's what I like to see."
Andrew waited for his father to inevitably answer for him.
"Of course he's early. The boy gets so excited he practically drags me out the door before sunrise."
The two older men laughed while Andrew slowly stepped away, hoping to get away from the conversation. The two of them could go on and on, bs-ing their way through compliments about him in an attempt to make themselves feel better. The couch wouldn't say "Andy's good," but rather "Andy's well trained," essentially taking credit for his wins. His father would find some way to do the same.
Andrew didn't even notice the quips at this point except on days like today when he was feeling particularly self pitying. It was easier to disregard it and play along.
A small group of students looked up as a muffled cheer came through the walls. Richard Vernon looked up from his seat and smiled almost sadistically.
"You hear that? The three of you could be down in the gym right now, enjoying yourselves like the rest of your fellow students. But instead you chose to come here and spend the day with me, thinking about what you've done."
"I believe I recall you asking me to come today." Bender smarted. The other two boys, whose names were unknown to him, snickered.
"Oh yes. I hope you enjoy Mr. Bender's humor here today. After all it's because of him that I've chosen to stay in the library with you all day. Apparently he though it would be fun to break the glass of the Foreign Language room door last Saturday."
"I told you it wasn't me."
"Yes, yes. I remember now. Andrew Clark, a school letterman representing his school at this very moment, did it on a whim. Do you really expect me to believe that?"
John shrugged and leaned back casually. He already knew that none of the administrators would believe what he said, so he just had to ride it out. After the events of the past week, he could see that the vice principal was tired of dealing with him.
Another cheer rang out and he sat quietly, listening. He could care less about the actual wrestling match, but he was certain Andrew was down there. Was Allison somewhere in the bleachers watching him? Was Claire?
His face darkened visibly at the last thought. He was still upset by the way she'd ignored him in the lot the other day. Not only that but there seemed to be some history between she and Andrew. Afterall they'd been considering going to some party togther the weekend before, right?
It didn't really matter, and worrying over it would do him no good. But still there was something about her, or what they'd shared, that made merely thinking about her... special.
He snorted out loud, prompting Verson to look up at him briefly before returning his attention to his Ridgid catalog. Bender was starting to go soft, using pathetic words like "special" to describe a girl, a chick. Hadn't his friends coined the term "hang and bang" to describe his usual routine with women? Granted it was a bit of an exaggeration, but still, it wasn't that far from the truth.
Allison shifted uncomfortably in her seat, the flat wooden bleacher she was sitting on was beginning to bother her even more than the crowds. Everyone around her was so loud... And so close. She wasn't used to being in such close proximity with so many people, and she was starting to regret coming.
But, she couldn't help going to the match that day. Even though she tried to deny it, if only to protect her feelings, she wanted to see Andrew again. Not because he was popular, in fact she would have preferred that he not be. Not because he was good looking either, although, she thought with a smile, it was an added bonus. No, she wanted to see him because she hoped that maybe, he wanted to see her.
It wasn't that he'd necessarily made an extra effort from the beginning or anything like that, but he was the first to speak with her; to really speak with her that is. She knew she could have been idealizing her memories, but she was certain he had been looking at her from the start. What sparked his interest in her didn't matter, it only mattered that it was there.
So now she was stuck, in the very back row, leaning against the gym wall, feeling like everyone and everything was closing in on her. Not only that, but she felt like she'd been there forever and Andy still hadn't gone up yet. She could see him sitting on the bench, smiling and talking to his teamates. He had a nice smile. He was wearing the blue tights John and Brian had teased him over and she giggled silently over it.
He wouldn't know she was there, but that was okay. Maybe it was for the best even. She didn't want to appear too eager after his earlier rejection.
She glanced along the bleachers to observe the rest of the crowd again. She recognized a few people from her classes, but didn't know their names. Further to the front were the overzealous parents and the "popular kids" she couldn't help but know. How she had longed to be part of a group like that in the past. Back when she sought the attention of everyone around her in the hope that her parents would look to see what all the fuss was about, and realize that they had a daughter.
Allison returned her attention to the bench where Andrew was talking to the coach. The previous match had apparently ended while she had been day dreaming, and from the look of the crowd, Shermer's wrestler had won.
"Oh my god! Look at these boots!"
Claire and the rest of her friends rushed over to see the black leather pumps Jennifer was looking at. In less than a minute, one of the sales clerks was there to help them.
"Would you like to try them on Miss?" He offered.
"We all would." Claire informed him, glancing around to make a head count of her friends. "We'll need one six, two sevens, a seven-and-a-half, and an eight-and-a-half."
"Right away ma'am."
The five girls sat on a nearby bench and carefully removed their shoes, then waited for the man to return, this time with several other employees.
"The six?" One offered, holding up a shoe box. Mary raised her hand slightly and held her foot out to him. He prompty knelt down and opened the box, while the others found their matches and began helping the girls with their boots. It was demeaning work, but girls like this came by all the time, carrying around Daddy's cash that they were happy to give away to a good looking employee or two who made that extra effort.
"All right folks, up next is the match you've been waiting for. From Maine North, we have Mike Moyer. And from Shermer High School, the rising star who became a letterman in his sophmore year, Andrew Clark!"
Andrew stood and walked to the center of the gym, soaking in the crowd's attention while sizing up his competition. Moyer had gotten a bit bigger, but then again, so had he.
They both positioned themselves and the ref started the match. Instantaneously Andy's mind switched into a somewhat automatic mode and he lunged at his opponent while the auditorium filled with cheers.
The two grappled, shifting about the boundary circle and struggling to attain the advantage. They were about equally matched in strength but Andy was certain there was a difference in skill and he had to take advantage of that.
Suddenly he found himself on top of his opponent, holding him down while the ref began the count. Ten seconds later he was standing triumphantly while the crowd cheered, their cries of admiration surrounding. In the front row of the nearest bench he could see his father smiling proudly.
As Allison stepped through the front door of her house, her mother rushed by with two pieces of luggage. Apparently they'd be leaving for their trip soon. The two women stopped briefly to make eye contact as each considered their next action.
"Where were you?" Her mother finally asked.
Allison was about to tell her mother the truth, but stopped herself. She was always afraid that is she started doing "normal" things like going to school games, they'd expect her to transform into the adorable socialite they'd always hoped for. She didn't need her mother to slip back into her old, chastising habits of pointing out all of her flaws that made her unpopular. Granted she wasn't in grade school anymore, but she didn't think she'd take the criticism any better now.
"Out." She moved passed the older woman quickly and retreated to the safety of her room to comtemplate if, perhaps, she was changing, and better yet, what for?
Claire waved goodbye to her friends as they walked down her drive to their own cars to head home. Juggling her bags she managed to open the front door and walked in, heading straight to her room.
As she tried to enter, the door pushed against something and she shoved it open, rushing in to put her newly purchased things on her bed. As she turned around her eyes scanned the floor to see what had blocked the door and rested on her fallen jewelry box.
Claire stared at it blanky and felt warm tears slowly begin to slide down her cheeks. She wiped them away quickly and smiled to herself.
'Why am I crying?'
The tears continued to form as she sat on the floor, feeling a mix of confusion and grief. There was a heaviness in her chest that she felt with each breath and she fought against it. A strange feeling told her that she had finally found out something was missing inside her, and that somehow she had known all along but never realized.
She was still crying as she picked out everything she would need for next day. Clothes, makeup, magazine to bring up appropriate topics... Things she worried about everyday that no longer seemed important. For the first time in a long while she wished she could just get up and not have to worry about so much.
Deciding to go the sleep early she slid into bed, the perfect outfit hanging off the edge of her dresser, but she didn't know if she'd have the heart to wear it.