I heard Van yell, “Hey get off her.” I looked up, and through the players milling around, I spotted him rushing down the hall. I shoved my helmet into the space above my locker and took off after him.
Van was facing down Riley, our team captain. “Come on guys,” I said, “we had a win…” Then I noticed Gail standing between the two guys. “Wha?” I started.
Later, I told the coach that Riley threw the first punch. Riley was blaming Van, and Van was blaming Riley. The coach went into to his second favorite rant. “You boys are into something far greater than individuallty….” In the end the coach made the two shake hands, and sent them out separate doors.
I was waiting for Van down the hall from the coaches office.
He had that twisted grin on his face, “Hey, where were you, backup?”
“You didn’t need any help. Were you two really fighting over Gail?” I asked.
Van glanced over at me, and said, “Riley’s an asshole.”
“I’ll give you that, but what was going on?”
I was about to walk down the hall when I heard voices. I stood at the corner, listening to the conversation between Van and Matt.
“Well, what happened was,” Van began, “Riley and some guys were ganging up on Gail.”
“That’s it?” Matt asked. He sounded oddly disoriented.
“Yeah, that’s it. Why do you care anyway? I thought you were done with her.”
“I’m not sure anymore, man. But in the locker room it sounded like you liked her. Do you like her or not?”
Van bit his lip and hesitated for a long moment. “It’s not like that.” he finally said. “She was … in shit with Riley.”
“What makes you think she wanted you to help her?!” Matt suddenly snapped, his eyes furious.
“Man. You’re in deep. Riley and the guys were holding her down on the damn wall, I had to do something. Shit! Calm down, if you still like her …”
I rubbed my head in distress. This was getting out of hand. Then again, I was always best at eavesdropping. That’s how I found out about my dad’s job. But still, Van liking me?
Van nodded beyond me and said, “Oh, looks who’s coming.”
I turned around in time to face Cerri. “Hiiii, Matt. You gonna give a girl a ride home?”
“Sure will,” I said
“Helloo, Cerri,” Van said.
“Oh, hi, Van,” she said, without taking her eyes off me. “I just saw something interesting,” she continued, “The police are in the office asking about Gail Petterson, and they didn’t look happy. She’s the new transfer isn’t she?”
I glanced at Van, he had suddenly gone pale.
Van said, “Did you hear what they were talking about?”
“Nope,” she said. She put her hand on my arm, winked and said,” I’ll meet you at your car after the bell.”
We watched her walk away. Van said, “What a great body wasted on an airhead.”
I shoved him. “You’re just jealous.”
Van sobered. “What do you think the cops want with Gail?”
“I have no idea, but she has been acting kinda strange,” I said.
Van glanced at his watch. “I’ll take a detour past the office and see if I can learn anything.”
“Later,” I said.
The officer looked about twenty as he wrote in his small pad. “It’s Gail, right?” he asked and I nodded. “Are you aware that your father is breaking several laws?”
I looked at him for the longest minute and said, “No.” in my sweetest voice. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I looked over his shoulder, focusing on the fake plant in the corner.
Suddenly, someone walked up. They were outside of the office but I could see them through the glass. Whoever it was, was staring at me. Was that … Van?
I mouthed his name and the officer looked at me strangely. “I’m sorry. I have to get to class.” I mumbled.
“You’ve been excused from class. Are you aware that your father could go to jail and you could go to foster care because of what he’s doing?”
“Sorry.” I mumbled, running from the office, running from the truth. I started to run past Van but he gripped my arm.
“Gail, are you okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine!” I yelled at him and he dropped his arm like lightning had just hit.