You and I
Author's note: Dedication J., I see your eyes everywhere I go, a pair of startling stars blinking... Show full author's note »
Let the Games BeginThe training for the Special Olympics passed so fast; it seemed as though it was over in the blink of an eye. It was almost too difficult to believe that I was already sitting at the games, my legs dangling off the bleaches at Wesley University and the sun on my face.
Travis was sitting beside me, licking an ice-cream cone, the chocolate dribbling down his face like hot fudge. He was smiling widely, his two hands fisted tightly around the cone as he let his legs dangle from his seat.
“You sure you don’t want a bite?” Adrian asked me, shoving his strawberry ice-cream in my face.
“I’m good,” I assured him. I turned to watch a few CLP students race forward on the field, their legs moving wildly as their arms pumped at their sides.
“Come on Case, just one bite.” Adrian repeated, waving his cone before my eyes.
“I’m really all–,” I began, shaking my head.
That’s when he shoved the ice-cream into my face, the strawberries squishing against my mouth. It was so cold, and I knew that Adrian would keep the food pressed to my lips until I succumbed.
I licked hungrily at the ice-cream, swallowing down a mess of strawberry chunks.
“Good, right?” he asked, taking a bite from the place where my lips had just been.
“Perfect,” I agreed, wiping at my mouth with my hand.
“Now it is,” he said, grinning cutely.
A horn suddenly blew, drawing our attention back to the field. Another group of students had lined up at the starting line. It was the four hundred meter.
“Who’s in this one?” I asked Adrian, my tongue still licking my lips. That really had been a good ice-cream. I hadn’t wanted to spoil my appetite; it wasn’t even lunch time yet.
“Uh, I’m not sure. You might have to go down closer to see. I’ll stay with Travis if you’d like.”
“Thanks.” I padded across the bleacher and took off down the stairs; the students had already begun to run.
Without so much as a single thought, I bounded down the steps as fast as my feet could carry me, the wind whipping my hair in my face. I didn’t know why, but I had the gut feeling that Jamie was out there. I could hardly explain it; indeed, I didn’t even need a reason for what I was doing. All I could hear was the sound of my panting breath, thudding in my ears like a drum, and the throbbing pulse of my heart in my neck.
It seemed to take forever for my feet to meet the bottom bleacher. When I finally did, I slammed against the railing and screamed madly. “Go, Jamie!” I yelled, picking him out easily. I pumped my fists into the air as Kyle always did, wiping away strands of hair from my face with my opposite hand.
Although Jamie didn’t turn to find me in the crowd, I knew he’d heard my scream–he suddenly picked up his speed, his legs pushing even harder and his arms moving like a powerful set of wings. I watched with eagerness as he pulled neck-and-neck with a muscular boy. It was going to be incredibly close, that was for certain.
Come on, come on! You’ve got this, Jamie! Don’t let up! I nearly fell over the rail, trying to keep my eyes locked on the bright white finish line. I didn’t want to miss the result.
As Jamie and the other boy entered the final one hundred meters, the entire stadium seemed to break out into pandemonium, people screaming and pushing at each other to get a better view. I could no longer hear my own voice, and I was yelling as loud as I possibly could. It was tormenting, watching the boys take turns pulling ahead of one another.
“Go!” I continued to scream, my hands cupped around my mouth, funnelling out the sound. I desperately wanted him to hear me cheering him on, but it was clear that I’d become one of a million voices. Not a single voice could be distinguished from another. The voices simply rose together in giant swells like roaring waves. Eventually, the wave would come crashing down, and it was going to be awfully soon.
Jamie suddenly revealed another burst of energy as he threw his body forward. I gave out an excited yelp. My excitement was, unfortunately, short-lived.
Pushing himself too hard, Jamie plummeted forward as though he’d tripped over something, face-planting in the sand like a load of bricks, his body rolling on the ground from the impact.
My hands automatically slapped over my mouth in complete shock. No! Oh my God, Jamie! Get up! Get up!
A horn blared out across the stadium like thunder as the other boy threw himself over the finish line. The other side of the stadium rose up in a giant wave and broke out into a wild cheer as they clapped their hands loudly. Our student body stood up as well, cheering nonetheless.
I was too stunned to move for a few minutes. Mrs. Bailey was running out across the field in a tracksuit, falling down beside Jamie to check his leg. Finally, shaking free from my reverie, I leaped off the bottom bleacher, racing over to Jamie. A million thoughts exploded inside my head as my heart seemed to leap into my throat. He was obviously hurt; he hadn’t stood up yet. I shouldn’t have screamed so loud! I pushed him too hard! This is my fault! I had to blame someone, and I was good at pointing an accusing finger at myself.
Mrs. Bailey turned, hearing me panting beside her.
“Is he all right? What happened?” I choked out, clutching my sides as worry creased my forehead.
“He’s going to be fine. Calm down, Casey,” she said, dropping her hands in the air slowly, trying to tell me to relax.
“It’ll never go away!” Jamie yelled, his hands clutching his left kneecap.
“What? What’s going on, Jamie?” I asked, still freaking out.
“Oh, for goodness sakes!” Mrs. Bailey cried, shaking her head disapprovingly as she stepped aside for me to see.
“It won’t come off!” Jamie complained, fingering the clump of dirt that covered his knee. He spat on it and then smoothed it over the dirt, scratching and pulling at it.
I couldn’t help it: I laughed shakily. Jamie wasn’t hurt; he’d received a small cut, sure, but he was only really concerned about the dirt collected on his knee.
“Casey!” he whimpered, suddenly noticing me, though not stopping to pick at his leg.
“Jamie, you frightened me half to death,” I scolded, falling down on my knees beside him in the middle of the track.
“I thought you were injured!”
“Oh, I’m okay.”
“Clearly,” I muttered, shaking my head, both relieved and slightly annoyed. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up in the washroom,” I said, sticking out my hand.
“Sure,” he said, climbing to his feet.
I wrapped my arm around him to keep him steady, saying, “You ran great! You could have won.”
“How far is the washroom?”
“Not too far,” I laughed, walking alongside him. The race was already a forgotten thing, as far as his mind was concerned.
Suddenly, Kathleen pulled up beside me, wrapping an arm around the boy on the opposite side of me.
“Oh, hey,” I said, surprised.
“I’m one of Jamie’s partners,” she explained, her voice breathy from running. “I’ll take it from here.”
“Huh?” I said, annoyed.
“Let’s go, Jamie. I bet that dirt doesn’t feel so good.”
“But . . .” I began; still holding on to Jamie’s other arm.
“Let Kathleen do her job,” Mrs. Bailey said to me, brushing off her pants. “Besides, Travis has to get over to softball soon.”
“Um, right,” I said thoughtfully, sad to see Jamie go off with someone else. I couldn’t help but feel jealously gnaw at me as Kathleen helped the boy over to the washrooms. She knows how much he means to me . . . No, this is good for you, another voice inside my head whispered. I felt as if he was being ripped away from me, like I was losing a friend, brother, and son, all at once. I also felt incredibly stupid. I wasn’t any of the aforementioned things. I was just me–an ordinary teenager with far-out hopes and dreams that couldn’t become reality.
Travis was finishing the bottom of his ice-cream cone when I pounded back up the bleachers to meet him and my partner, Adrian. The latter looked at me sadly, his eyes revealing how much he sympathized with how I felt.
“It’s going to be all right,” he said, helping me sit down to catch a breath.
“No, I don’t want to hear it!”
His head snapped back like I’d struck him with my fist, and I turned the other way, ashamed. “Sorry,” I mumbled, wiping at the tears forming at the corners of my eyes. “Kathleen just walked away with him. He wanted to be with me!”
Adrian slung his arm around my gently, leaning his head against mine, his soft curls pressed against my cheek.
“You have to have faith that everything will work out,” he whispered against my face. “It doesn’t matter what you and Jamie want–it won’t change anything,” he said, his words harsh but conveyed in a respectful tone. “I’m not saying this to hurt you; the truth always hurts. I won’t lie to you.”
“I know,” I sniffled, wiping at my face again. I probably looked ugly right now, my eyes puffy and red, tears smudging my make-up.
“You have done all that you could. No one cares as much as you do. You just have to tell remind yourself that you did make a difference in every single one of these students’ lives, and that no matter what happens, what you have done can never be erased. Their lives will have been touched forever.”
I smiled slowly at the thought, chewing on Adrian’s words. He was right as much as I didn’t want to admit it. I had fulfilled my purpose; it was time to move on and see where the rest of my life would lead me.
“What if I forget along the way?” I asked suddenly, my head turning slightly to peer into Adrian’s beautiful eyes.
“You won’t, and you know why? You’re not the kind of person to forget.”
“You really think so?” I asked, my one hand tracing circles on his arm.
“No, I know so,” he replied. Then he bent his head down to kiss me on the lips.