The following week was hell.
That boy Jake caught up to me again in the hallway the next day, and I snapped at him. "What do you want? Come to rub it into my face? Just say it, I can tell you want to."
"'I told you so'?"
"No, I wasn't going to say that at all. You left your folder on your desk back there. Although you'd deserve it, considering how rude you're being to me when all I'm trying to do is help you." I was taken aback, and didn't respond right away when he thrust the folder at me.
I snorted in fake contempt, muttering "Whatever," to distract myself from realizing that he was right.
I tried with all of my might to avoid Gill, and it took every ounce of self-restraint to keep myself from seriously harming Lucy. When she tried to talk to me at the end of the week, I yelled at her, screaming something along the lines of “You were supposed to be my friend!"
Mrs. Crow, our gym teacher and our cheer leading coach pushed us into the locker room while everyone else ran laps.
“What the heck is the matter with you two?” She asked.
I said nothing while Lucy tried to play victim and win Mrs. Crows sympathy. I couldn’t even listen to her; I was sure I was going to throw up.
“Well?” She asked me, staring me hard in the eye.
I shook my head, glaring at my shoe laces as if they’d caused all of my problems.
“You’re both suspended from the team for a week. I’d make it a month, but I can’t afford to lose your girls’ talent. I expect you to work past this, and be able to work as a team at the next practice you attend.”
“I don’t mean you any disrespect Mrs. Crow. You didn’t kiss my boyfriend, and god knows what else. But I refuse to take this any longer than I have to. For the last eight years, I’ve put up with her drama, and all the crap she’s started, but not this. This is the line. Either she’s off the team, or I quit.”
Mrs. Crow was taken aback. She hadn’t expected me to make such a demand, and I knew the decision was hard for her. Lucy and I were the best on the squad; our talent was equal. The only reason Lucy hadn’t made cheer captain is because she got a little too close to the edge of the mat and stumbled during her routine. Lucy held a grudge for a little while, but she got over it after she saw what I got her for her birthday.
“Well?” I demanded. Coach was floundering, and I could see the wheels turning in her head to see if there was a way she could keep us both. “You know what, never mind. I quit. It’s not that important to me anyways.” I stood up, leaving Lucy particularly happy and Mrs. Crow shocked and stricken into silent grief. “I know, ten laps around the gym.” I called before I exited through the door.
Everyone stared as I came back into the gymnasium, wondering what had happened. Some of them tried to be discreet about it. Most of them were hoping they might see me cry—not everyone took too kindly to me, understandably. The reputation I'd made for myself to keep my throne next to Lucy didn't exactly score me any brownie points with the general population.
I ran my laps quietly until Brittany caught up with me in the locker room, just before the bell. “What was that all about?”
“Don’t act like you didn’t know.” I snapped.
“What, about Lucy and Gill? Honest to God, I didn’t know a thing. I thought Gill wasn’t even interested in Lucy,” she said.
“What guy isn’t remotely interested in Lucy? She’ll sleep with anyone who has a penis, just about. It doesn’t surprise me that Gill turned to her. He knew he wasn’t getting anywhere with me. Still…
“You know, I wouldn’t have cared so much if Gill had broken up with me first." I continued in a babbling rage, cutting off whatever Brittany was about to say. "But he’s cheated on me before, and then he promised he wouldn’t do it again. God, I was so stupid to believe him. And then, you know, he hit me! I mean, he full on hit me! I have a bruise on my cheek. It takes me almost ten minutes to try to cover it up in the mornings.”
“I’m really sorry Nikki. I never thought Lucy would ever do anything like that. I could’ve expected it from Gill. But Lucy?” She shook her head. “Wait a minute, did you say he hit you? Nikki, that’s domestic abuse. You have to report him to someone. Don’t let him get away with that.”
“No, I’m fine, really. Besides, I kneed him so hard he cried. Probably won’t ever be able to have kids. Lord knows, I've only done him a favor.”
“No way! He cried?” I nodded rather smugly. She laughed so hard, the water she’d just drank shot out of her mouth like a hose.
“So what did Mrs. Crow say to you?”
“She asked me to work past whatever Lucy had done to me, and I told her either Lucy’s kicked off, or I quit the squad. And she didn’t respond right away, so I quit and walked out. And, well, you know the rest.”
“Oh, Nikki, that sucks! I was going to try out for the squad this year, too.”
“That’s okay, you still can. I was getting bored with it anyway. Hey, you should give this back to the library for me, will you? It’s on the way to your next class, and I can’t afford to be late again.”
“Yeah, sure, anything for you.”
“Thanks a bunch,” I said as I handed her the book.
Things only got worse from there. This new kid in my third hour bumped into me, sending all of my stuff sailing through the hallway. Just one more thing to put me on the edge, and I was holding on by my pinkies. What little control I had over my temper was slipping away.
“I’m so sorry. Here, let me help you with that.” He offered, scrambling to retrieve one of my books that had skidded away from me.
“Whatever,” I growled. “Will you try to watch where you’re going next time?”
“Yeah, I’ll try,” he muttered.
“I’m sorry, that was rude of me. I shouldn’t have said it. I’m just…” I sighed and stood up.
“Rough day?” he asked as he handed my things back to me.
I nodded, thinking how that was an understatement. “Thanks for the help.”
As I was walking away, I heard one of his new friends come and say, “Dude, you’re so lucky she didn’t rip your head off! That’s Nikki Chrime.”
“Okay, she’s Nikki Chrime. Why exactly am I lucky?” Their conversation faded away as the distance between us grew, and I wondered how the new kid would react when he heard of my reputation.