Hey all, I'm sorry for how untimely my updates have been, life can get a little overwhelming sometimes, you know? I know I sound like a broken record every time I tell you that these chapters don't end where I want them to. I just wasn't feeling some of what I wrote quite enough to post it yet.
I'm really trying not to screw up this moment that I have in my head between the two of them, and I know I'll get it right when I'm in the right frame of mind when I write it. But I promise it'll be within the next two updates after this one. Thank you for hanging in there with me. School is starting up again for me tomorrow unfortunately, but I hope to do a better job at taking time to write more this term.
This update is dedicated to one or two even possible three? persistent Anons on tumblr who have been without a doubt very encouraging about updating this story. Until next time, I hope this doesn't disappoint. :/
Paige stood in front of the refrigerator with the double doors cracked wide open for longer than she knew she should. Her mom always nagged her whenever she caught Paige doing this because she didn't have a clear idea of what she was looking for.
"You're letting all the cold air out." She would always say when catching Paige in the act.
Paige let out a sigh when she realized there wasn't anything in the fridge catching her interest. She closed the doors and turned her attention to the fruit basket that sat in the middle of the kitchen table. She grabbed for the red apple that sat at the very top of the pile of assorted fruit. Taking a look at her wrist watch she saw that swim practice was going to be in less than half an hour.
"Mom?" Paige called out, hoping her voice rang loud enough throughout the house so she wouldn't have to call out again.
She waited and listened for a few seconds. The house was quiet.
Maybe she's up in her room.
Taking a bite out of her apple, Paige made her way down the hallway and stood at the bottom of the stairs.
"Mom?" She called out a second time.
"Yes, hun?" Her mom called back, shortly before showing herself at the top of the stairs.
Oh thank god, I really didn't want to climb those stairs after that bike workout.
"Practice is at 5:30 remember? It's 5:00 right now. We need to leave. Being on time would be nice for once."
"Oh right. Okay, yeah. Go grab your things; I'll meet you in the car."
Paige had her head leaned up against the cool car window. She had forgotten her headphones at home in her rush to jump in the car. She figured if she got to the school early enough she could avoid an Emily interaction until after practice, and maybe even then, she could avoid one altogether until tomorrow when they had their first class together.
"So how was your first day? Meet any friends? I meant to ask when I picked you up earlier, but you know how those inconvenient work calls go. Thank goodness for Bluetooth right?"
I don't want to talk about today. I'd like to block it out. Maybe I should just go back to homeschooling. But I can't tell her that..
"Well, I survived. So I guess that means it wasn't a total nightmare."
"I think it would really be a great idea for you to try and meet a good group of friends. It's not healthy keeping so closed off to the idea of socializing with people. What did Dr. Thorpe suggest? Did she think it was a good idea for you to meet people too?"
Dr. Thorpe was Paige's therapist. She'd been going to see her since her incident. She was reluctant, at first, to talk to her about anything. The first few sessions Paige would only answer "yes" or "no" or stare off blankly when she was asked a question requiring an answer with more than two or three words. Her parents insisted that it would be a good idea for her to see her. They hoped it would help giving her someone to talk so when she often refused to talk to them. Not that they were ever around for her to talk to, and when they were, they were preoccupied.
"Yeah, something like that."
It was quiet for a few minutes and then Paige's mom broke the silence once more asking,
"Did you meet anyone today? Talk to anyone?"
"There was this one girl. She's on the swim team with me, that's how we met." Paige replied.
"So this girl, what's her name?"
"Is she nice?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Would you care to maybe string more than two or three words together at once? I know you can form sentences just fine."
Paige let out a frustrated sigh. She just wanted to be out of the car already. It annoyed her when her mom would randomly take the time to take an interest in her. It always seemed forced or like her mom felt obligated. If she made more of an effort to talk to Paige all the time, and maybe ignore a few work calls every so often, it would be different.
"I met Emily at the practice I was late to because of the flat tire. She is one of the captains of the team and she is a senior. Yes, she's nice. We actually have some classes together too."
"I'm really glad to hear that. Maybe you should invite her over sometime." Paige's mom suggested.
Paige thought back to the night Emily had dropped Mark's goggles off.
Would there be any other nights spent together?
"Is the school a better fit for you than your old one? I know the swim program doesn't compare to Jefferson's, but do you like the school?"
"Yeah, it's alright. Better than being home 24/7."
Paige wasn't sure if it really was better than being home all the time. She didn't know how she felt. Everything was so confusing, a little bit overwhelming, was she jumping ahead of herself?
Paige's mom pulled up to the front of the high school. Paige would finally be able to escape the 20 questions game her mom was playing.
"So practice is over at 7:00, see you then?" Paige asked.
"Right, 7:00 I'll be here, but text me when you are changing into your street clothes okay?"
She's going to forget.
"Okay. Bye mom."
Paige hopped out of the stationary car and just when she was about to shut the door closed her mom said,
"I love you hun."
Paige replied with, "you too" without hesitation, like it was a reflex, just before slamming the door shut.
She couldn't remember the last time she'd told anyone the exact three words "I love you". Was it sad that she didn't even tell her parents she loved them? Did she anymore? She didn't know. She didn't feel like they loved her.
Emily sat in her car. The clock on her dashboard read 5:30. She was always early to practice, being a captain meant she had to set a good example and always needed to be on time. She usually showed up half an hour early. But not today. Today, she was going to be a little late, coach wouldn't care. She had pushed herself a bit too hard running earlier. This practice was going to be hell for her. Her legs were fatigued. But besides her body screaming at her, she still didn't know how to go about facing Paige. She thought it would be better to avoid an awkward forced conversation until they had to see each other throughout the day tomorrow. Having multiple classes together and practice made it nearly impossible to avoid the girl. She didn't really want to avoid her. But she didn't know what to do. Avoiding her seemed like the best option, for now.
Am I being immature about this? I mean, nothing happened. But it sure as hell seemed like it would have. Is Paige even gay? I can't get a clear enough read on the girl.
A few songs on the radio later and the clock read that it was just after 5:45.
Well, it's now or never.
Emily pushed open her car door, threw her swim bag over her shoulder, and locked her car. Crossing her arms so they were hugging her body tightly, she walked briskly to the side gym entrance.
Paige took her place on the starting block. Today coach had them working on sprints. Short bursts of every bit of power and energy they could muster. Then she mentioned finishing out practice with easier paced laps. It would be their last practice that consisted of conditioning. Coach would post the final list of the relay teams and individual events at the end of the following practice.
"Give it your all." Coach had said right before practice had started.
Emily wasn't anywhere to be found. Paige was trying her best to not think about her. Where she might be. Why she wasn't at practice yet.
She was already letting her mind wander again.
Paige waited for the whistle to signal her to push off. A few moments passed and now she was anticipating the whistle.
It had been longer than the intervals they had been repeating for the last twenty minutes. She lifted her head up to look at Coach Fulton. It was at that moment that Paige knew exactly why the whistle hadn't gone off yet. Coach Fulton's attention was now directed to a girl she seemed to be having a conversation with. Emily had finally made an appearance. About twenty minutes late to practice, but she seemed fine. She hadn't disappeared off the face of the planet like Paige might have feared and coach didn't look mad.
Paige, of course, relaxed and allowed her thoughts to travel again.
Paige couldn't help but admire Emily's natural beautiful from the complete opposite side of the pool. Her perfectly tanned skin, amazingly toned body, killer smile, and a genuine one of a kind laugh that Paige swore she could almost hear from where she stood on the block. She already had the sound memorized. Even though Emily was too far away for her to see them, Paige couldn't forget about her dark brown eyes. Anyone could get easily lost in them. Especially Paige.
Just then the whistle blew without any forewarning. It took Paige by complete surprise and she didn't leave the block with the rest of the girls in the other lanes. They were already a few strokes in by the time she leapt off the block and joined them in the water.
Slicing through the water effortlessly, she cut it with all she had. She kicked her legs with everything she could muster. She was going to catch up even if it killed her. Kicking and stroking. It was just her and the water. Propelling herself forward she just wanted to get to the wall. She kicked and she stroked, until she made it to the wall at such an extreme force she practically smacked her head against the tile.
Whew, close call. Nice save.
She didn't know what place she came in. She didn't care. Paige gripped the wall and pulled off her goggles. Lifting herself out of the water just in time to hear her name being called.
"Paige. Can I see you for a minute?" Coach Fulton asked.
Goggles in hand, walking her way over to where Coach Fulton was standing, Paige noticed Emily was now walking to the complete opposite length of the pool. More than likely getting ready to join in on the exercise.
Paige watched Emily walk away longer than she was willing to admit and of course Emily took a look over her shoulder at the exact same moment Paige had found herself staring at Emily's butt.
Paige diverted her gaze immediately.
Emily found interest in catching Paige in what seemed like a moment of curiosity, or was it admiration?
Was she checking out my ass?
Emily turned her head back around and caught herself smiling to herself. She knew she couldn't avoid Paige forever. Showing up late to practice was a decision she made to give Paige some space. It was an attempt to not make things more awkward between the two of them.
She didn't want to avoid her forever. Emily didn't want to admit it, but she'd take any opportunity given to her even just to be in the same room as Paige. It was a game of push and pull with Paige. One that was starting to wear on Emily. Maybe she just needed to go for it, pull her in and follow through for once on her impulses.
What's the worst that could happen?
Paige continued walking towards Coach Fulton and was bracing herself for a scolding. She knew she shouldn't have allowed herself to be so easily distracted.
It was all Emily's fault. Can I blame her?
"Yeah Coach?" Paige asked nervously.
"How in the world did you manage to beat every single girl to the wall when you gave them a fairly generous head start?"
Paige was relieved, but her face still flushed red with embarrassment. It was partially from the realization Emily caught her checking her out and because Coach had witnessed her moment of utter distraction.
She decided that it needed to be less obvious the next time she found herself distracted because of all things Emily.
"Oh. Umm, I'm not sure. I just knew I needed to catch up."
"Well, nice job. You did more than catch up. You're a really strong swimmer Paige, I have a feeling this is going to be a very successful season for you, but Paige?"
"Stay focused on the exercises next time. No more zoning out."
"It won't happen again. I'm sorry."
Paige knew she couldn't say for absolute certain it wouldn't happen again. Emily was a distraction. They were on the swim team together and Paige was bound to zone out again because of Emily. It was inevitable.
Practice was finally over. Emily managed to avoid Paige for the remainder of practice, which had been damn near impossible, but Emily figured Paige was trying to avoid her just as much and both of their efforts had succeeded.
When the end of practice whistle blew and coach had reminded them practice would start immediately after school tomorrow, everyone filed into the locker room. Emily decided to busy herself in the office, organizing the contact cards everyone had handed back in at the beginning of practice that she had missed. She figured this would allow Paige enough time to get to her locker, change, and leave before Emily finished with the cards.
When Emily finally emerged from the office, the locker room was empty and the only sound she could hear was the dripping of water from the third shower stall to the right. She knew exactly which one it was because it had leaked like that since she was on the swim team as a freshman. It amazed her that it still hadn't been fixed to this day, something as simple as a small leak. But at the same time, the locker room just wouldn't be the same to her anymore if one day it happened to stop dripping at its three second intervals.
Drip, one-two-three, drip, one-two-three, drip, one-two-three, drip.
There was something soothing about it to her. Some days after tough practice she'd sit in the locker room by herself, close her eyes, and just listen to the drops of water splatter to the tile floor. It helped clear her head. She'd focus solely on the drops of water and she'd forget about anything else that was clouding her head at the time. It acted as a temporary weight being lifted off her shoulders, but after a few minutes passed, she'd come back to reality and realize that she couldn't escape it forever through three second interval drops of water.
Water was her safety. Whether it was swimming in the pool, going to the beach, taking a prolonged shower, getting caught in the rain or just listening to a minor leak from a shower head faucet, water made her feel safe, and water set her free. She'd opt to live in water if she could. When she was a little girl she wanted to grow up to be a mermaid, but it wasn't until she was older that she realized that would never happen. So in her mind, competitive swimming was as close as it got to living up to her dreams of being a mermaid and living in the water.
Emily walked back to the third shower stall to the right and turned the dripping faucet completely on. The water would be the perfect temperature by the time she went to grab her shower towel and return for a relaxing hot shower before she drove home and faced the overwhelming amount of homework she had to complete by tonight.
With music blasting through her ear buds and her hoodie pulled up over her head Emily was blocking out two things as she zoned out and made her way out to her car. Music blocked out any other sounds taking place around her and her pulled up hood blocked her peripheral vision, two things that would alert her if anyone was approaching her from the side, or from behind. This too was something her dad always warned her of when walking in the dark to her car. It gave someone the chance to take her by complete surprise, but tonight she decided to ignore his warnings. After all, she did park under the parking lot lamp so she was visible to anyone if they happened to look her way.
Swinging her bag around to the front of her she unzipped the side pouch and began to dig for her keys. Not being able to find them as fast as she had hoped she would, she dropped her bag to the ground and crouched down so there would be less weight to hold up as she searched for them. Turns out, for once, that she didn't put her keys in the side pocket of her bag, she had thrown them in with the rest of her belongings in the main compartment and they were hiding under her damp rolled up swim towel.
Standing up, just as she started to zip her bag up, she felt a tap on her shoulder and without taking much time to think Emily quickly swung around grabbing hold of the person's shoulders and swiftly swung her left leg behind the right knee cap of the stranger while pushing them backwards.
This caused their one leg to buckle and the added force from Emily pushing back knocked them off balance sending them down to the pavement where she wanted them. At that moment she was happy to have recalled some of her father's self defense teachings, but knew she probably executed it completely wrong.
She threw her hood back and ripped her ear buds from her ears just as she raised her voice asking,
"What the hell?!"
To her surprise she was now looking at a very shocked and speechless girl who was still lying sprawled out on her backside staring at Emily with slight fear in her eyes.
"Oh my god. Paige. I'm so sorry. I didn't know it was you. I couldn't see and my music was too loud and shit, did I hurt you? We need to stop running into each other like this I could have seriously hurt you. Are you okay? Did you hit your head?"
Paige sat up with her legs still stretched out in front of her.
Emily bent down and started looking over and running her hands up and down Paige's limbs and body to check for any sign of injury, no matter how minor.
Paige wasn't sure what to say. She was still trying to figure out how she ended up on the ground. It happened so fast and she wasn't expecting Emily to push her. She didn't even have time to cushion her fall.
By this point Emily had hold of Paige's right arm and was in the process of gently turning it over so her palm was face up. A tiny rock had lodged itself almost directly in the middle of the palm of her hand and a few scrapes lined her lower part of the palm of her hand just where her wrist turned into her now injured hand. Emily looked up and met Paige's eyes with a look of concern and worry.
"No. You're hurt. I hurt you Paige."
"I just have a few scrapes; it's not that big of a deal. Trust me, I've been hurt worse. I'm fine. Please, just stop."
Emily now had a look of hurt all over her face and she slowly released Paige's hand allowing Paige to bring her arm closer to her own body.
She hates me.
Was all Emily could think.
Paige picked the rock out of her hand and inspected the wound a little closer. It wasn't too deep, worst case was she'd have a tiny triangular shaped scar resting in the middle of the palm of her hand.
"Can I at least help you up?" Emily asked.
"It's fine. I can do it. My hands are bleeding a little bit now; I don't want to get blood on you."
Great, she's bleeding.
Emily stood and Paige followed shortly after.
With her left hand, which wasn't scraped as bad, Paige reached back and started to smooth out her hair, in the aftermath of the fall she had rested her head on the pavement for a few short moments and now it was a bit wet and tangled.
"Shit, you did hit your head didn't you? Paige, I'm so sorry I'd never hurt you on purpose I had no idea it was you and my dad taught me some self defense things awhile back and you took me by surprise when you tapped my shoulder and I freaked and—"
Emily was rambling. Paige thought it was cute but she needed to cut her off because she could tell Emily was upset. She knew Emily didn't mean to push her. Now she knew Emily hadn't heard her call her name or approach her from behind.
"Emily I'm fine. I didn't hit my head. I swear. I'm okay. I promise. Take a breath."
Emily stopped talking and looked back at Paige's hand. The one that was now down at her side. The one she'd touched and held numerous times before, mostly by chance. The one that had a rock lodged in it just moments ago and was now bleeding. All she wanted to do was hold Paige's hand, clean it up, and stop it from bleeding, but that's not what Paige wanted. So Emily respected that and started to look around on the ground for her car keys to distract herself.
Paige spotted them before Emily did so she walked over to where they were resting on the pavement, picked them up, and held them out to Emily.
Emily smiled softly and retrieved them from Paige's less injured left hand.
"Thanks." Emily said.
"No problem." Paige replied.
Emily turned back to her car, but just as she unlocked it and reached for the door handle she realized that Paige was still standing right there behind her probably staring at the back of her head as she was about to open her car door.
Emily released the door handle and turned back around to face Paige.
"Paige, what are you still doing here? Practice ended forty five minutes ago. Have you been out here by yourself that long?"
"Yeah, umm, I've just been over there-"
Paige pointed to the bench by the sidewalk in front of the school.
-waiting for my ride. I think it's safe to say my mom forgot when I needed to picked up. I can't reach either of my parents on their phones, which isn't a surprise, but I figured they'd realize eventually that I'm not home. At least I'd like to think they would."
Paige started to kick at the ground with her left foot. It was a nervous habit of hers. Emily staring at her right now made her nervous. But Emily staring at her at any point in time made her nervous. This wasn't new.
"Paige, why didn't call or text me?"
"It's not your responsibility to be my taxi service. Honestly, I figured everyone had taken off by now. I would never have you drive back here to come get me. But I saw you walking to your car and I called your name, but you didn't hear me and then I ended up on the ground. Which, now tells me that you could definitely kick my ass if it ever came to it and I was avoiding you earlier and I shouldn't have been I'm just—I'm sorry Emily. I can't explain why, just know I'm sorry. I've been acting dumb and I realize this and I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize. You have nothing to be sorry about. I was avoiding you too, but for my own reasons. I should be apologizing a hundred times over to you. I didn't mean to push you. I mean I did, but only because I didn't know it was you and—"
Emily stopped herself from continuing to ramble. She took a deep breath and asked,
"Can I just give you a ride home? Please? That would make me feel a whole lot better about all of this."
"Yes, but only on one condition."
Emily's eyes narrowed as she responded with "Okay, and what would that be?"
"You need to teach me how to knock someone over flat of their back before they even have time to realize what the hell happened. Like seriously what was that? Are you secretly a black belt in karate or something?"
Emily started to laugh. Paige was joking with her again.
This is a good thing right?
"Okay fine. Well, I can try and no, my dad taught me basic self defense a while ago. I actually don't even know how I remembered it. I actually broke like a million of his rules tonight that I'm supposed to follow when I walk to my car alone at night. But seriously, I see you shivering from here will you just get in the car?"
"Wow, Emily Fields, such a bossy pants. Fine, I'll get in."
"Watch it; I can kick your ass. Remember?"
Paige laughed, grabbed her swim duffle and walked around to the passenger side of Emily's car.