The day goes surprisingly fast. I ace my Spanish test, manage not to make a fool of myself playing lacross in fitness, and Mr. Monroe completely ignores me during class. Overall a successful day!
By the end of History, my stomach is churning. Whether from excitement or fear, I cannot say. Henry walks me out of class, and Jackie joins us.
"I'm so happy you are joining the team, Ada!" She says for the fifth time. I want to ask her what event she does, but I can't even get a word in. "I mean, it's an okay team, but we have had the same people on it for the past, like, three years. I'll bet having a new team member will boost everyone's performance!" Henry, who is walking on the other side of me, glances sideways, meeting my eyes as if apologizing for his sister. But I don't mind. I'm starting to realize that it is part of her personality to be overly-enthusiastic. It reminds me of Aunt Sandra.
Which is not all a good thing. Over the past few days, I have been able to overlook Jackie's scar and my Aunt's cancer. But even though they are easier to ignore, that doesn't mean they aren't not still there. I see the way people look at Jackie when they think no one is watching them. They look at her like she is a charity case.
It is the same look Henry gave me when he asked about my Aunt's cancer. Like he felt sorry for me. I could only imagine the kind of looks people gave Aunt Sandra when she went out in public. Such a small town, everyone knew everyone's business, no matter how private one tried to keep it.
"Ada?" The sound of my name brings me back to the conversation, and both Henry and Jackie are looking at me. We've stopped walking.
"Oh, sorry. I was, um, not paying attention," I grin.
"Well obviously!" Jackie giggles. There is a moment of silence, and I pounce, the morbid thoughts slipping away.
"So what event do you participate in, for track and field," I ask her. Her eyes widen, then she giggles. Again.
"I can't believe I haven't told you yet! Haha, I am the manager, not a player. I am probably the most uncoordinated person you will ever meet!" I give her a small smile, humoring her, and she walks off. As I look after her I notice we are right in front of the gym door. There are two locker rooms, right next to each other- the girls locker room and the boys locker room. The girls locker room door shuts softly as Jackie disappears inside of it, leaving me and Henry outside.
"Well, see you out there," he says awkwardly, and turns left. I turn right.
The practice goes well. I do mediocre in the 4x100 and the pole vault. But I really excel in the 50 and 100 meter sprints. My feet seem to hover over the ground as I run, pushing past the others who run next to me. The coach, Coach Jackson, is waiting at the finish line with a stopwatch in his hand. As soon as I touch the white spray-painted line, he clicks the button and stops the timer. His eyes widen.
"Laney," he calls me over, not bothering to time the other runners. I jog over, feeling the muscles in my thighs loosen up. "Who did you train with at your other school, kid?"
I want to see what my time was, but he is covering the result.
"I didn't train with anyone, Coach," I reply.
"Ada, you couldn't have run a 100 meter sprint in 10.2 seconds and never have trained before. It's improbable!"
"I didn't train with anyone, Coach," I repeat myself. I hate repeating myself. He gives me a look of disbelief, but drops it.
"I'm putting you in with the next highest age group, Ada. Your qualifying times will be more than satisfactory." He walks away from me then, and my eyes follow his back. He didn't know. Across the track I see two girls staring at me, the ones I had just run against. They are in deep concentration doing cool-down stretches, but I noticed them looking at me before. They had heard my time. They didn't know. No one really knew.
After my father left us, my mother's drinking increased substantially. She lost her job at the hospital and our only source of income. Her only source of money for her alcohol addiction. So, naturally, I went out and got a job. It was a small, easy first job at a deli on the main street. It was located downtown on a busy corner, and was one of the most popular and inexpensive places around, so there was never a dull moment. Not even when I was just folding lettuce and ham into an Italian roll. The only problem was that it was three miles away from my house. Plus, the police station was right down the street, and I figured they wouldn't take too kindly to a 14 year-old girl without her liscense driving past their station everyday.
So I took up running.
Actually, at first it was a light jog. It was hard on me, never having been athletic before in my life. My bones and joints screamed in protest every night when I iced them, and the soles of my thrift store sneakers began to wear through. But my mother did not find it worth her while to drive me to work everyday. Rather, she wanted to stay home and drink herself to depression.
After about a month my daily jogs became runs, and a month after that sprints. Of course by then I was making a regular income, something to file for taxes. Though I had to spend most of the money on food, electricity, water and Mom's alcohol, I had some money for myself. I still remember the day I got my first pair of running shoes.
They were black with purple stripes, and they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. They were the most beautiful things I have ever seen to this day.
Obviously they did not fit me anymore, but I had secretly stored them away in the back of my closet after my toes starting bursting through the fronts. And now they sat in my suitcase at the little yellow house, waiting to be thrown into the back of a new closet.
So, no, I had never trained with a personal coach. I didn't have to. I needed no one but me.