Never the Same

I walked up the stairs leading up from the football field to the bleachers just before the homecoming game began. I looked up and scanned the crowd as I got to the top stair; everyone was pumped, hugging each other in greeting and screaming their lungs hoarse for our near-unbeatable football team. With the exception of one close game, our school's football team had won every game that season and taken everything that had been thrown at them; but tonight we were playing the Eastland Eagles, the number one team in the district and our archrivals. The crowd was eating it up, and I couldn't help grinning at the contagious energy in the stands. On the outside, I looked like any other fifteen year old girl would at the homecoming game: my curly, dark brown hair hung loose around my shoulders, surprisingly tame in the hot October air; I wore red shorts with a white and red Westbrook High Warriors t-shirt, rolled up and tied just below my rib cage to reveal a large black W painted across my bare stomach. I licked my thumb and fixed the slightly smudged war paint on my cheeks and wiped it on my shorts. Physically, it would be hard to pick me out of the sea of red, black and white I was about to be swallowed into. But inside, I couldn't feel more alone. Nonetheless, I took a deep breath, held my head high, and started across the bottom of the bleachers to find a seat.
I couldn't shake the feeling that everyone was staring at me as I walked calmly across the bleachers. Would they be there? I wondered. Well, of course they'd be there-it was the homecoming game after all. But would I run into them? As if on cue, I had made it about a third of the way across the stands when I spotted Jamie; she was sitting with a group of people I'd seen her hanging out with lately but none of whom I could name. She was trying to keep up with the conversation, with her legs crossed, shifting uncomfortably in her super-short black skirt and a fake-amused smile across her face. She looked just like the same old Jamie-that is, until her eyes locked onto mine, and the fake-enthusiasm in her eyes quickly dropped into genuine disdain. I just averted my eyes and continued on my way.
Not much further down the row, I came across Isabella and Tyler standing halfway up the section I was passing. With one of Tyler's muscular arms wrapped around Izzy's tiny shoulders, the two looked like the poster couple for high school sweethearts: good looking, happy, in love, as they always were. Tyler was the first to see me and gave me a casual, friendly wave, which I was grateful for. But then Izzy saw me, and obviously jabbed Tyler in the ribs with her elbow, snuggling up even closer to his side. I awkwardly dropped my wave and smiled understandingly to answer his apologetic shrug, and finally settled into a seat by myself close to the far end of the stadium, just far enough away to successfully avoid all of them. As I settled down into my spot, I looked down at the field for the first time: it was almost six thirty, and our team was standing in a huddle on the edge of the field as the varsity cheerleaders were running out onto the sidelines. I recognized a few of the red-and-black-clad bubble brains, who were bobbing up and down over-enthusiastically and rustling their matching red and black pom poms. But as if something was pulling at them, my eyes immediately found and landed on one cheerleader in particular-Holly, my Holly, was standing in the heart of the cheering commotion, curly red ribbons tied up in her equally curly blond half-ponytail and yelling out one embarrassing cheer after another. At the end of one cheer, she was smiling and screaming, getting the crowd pumped and loud, until she looked up toward my section and caught my eyes. We just looked at each other for a long second before Holly turned away to talk to the cheerleading captain and school snob, Melissa McNally. My heart sunk as I turned to look away. With any of the girls, I knew that I could've easily returned their icy glare with one of my own, but the glares hurt too much for me to make a solid attempt. As I saw all of my friends, in different world that they pretended they wanted to be a part of and giving the cold shoulder to the world we had, a sudden flashback of last year's homecoming game overtook me.
The memory was all too vivid; I remembered the four of us sitting the freshmen section of the bleachers, decked out in our spirit wear and screaming with everything inside us. It was our small group of friends, plus Tyler and our two close guy friends Matt and Ricky. We were bubbly, happy-go-lucky freshmen without a care in the world. We were all complete and total opposites of each other, and we wouldn't have it any other way. I could remember everyone: Izzy was wrapped around Tyler, tall, beautiful, and starry-eyed; tiny little Jaime was bouncing off the walls, flirting with every guy around and constantly coming up with more random things to yell out to keep herself entertained, always entertaining us in the process; Holly, with her signature ponytail and basketball shorts, was joking and goofing around with her best friend Ricky while they heckled the cheerleaders and watched the game with intense interest; and I floated through it all, happily engulfed by my own little part of the world, laughing in genuine happiness and jumping from conversation to conversation. That world, those people, were all I had ever needed to be happy...
The vibration from my cell phone pulled my head back to reality. I pulled out my black flip phone, which was folded over the side of my shorts, and pushed it open with my thumb. I let out a relieved sigh when I saw a text message from my cousin Tammie.

NEW MESSAGE FROM TAMMIE: R THEY THERE?

A wave of appreciation crashed on top of me. Tammie was as close to a sister as I had ever had, and she knew all about my situation.

REPLY: YEAH, BT THEY'RE AVOIDING ME. =[

NEW MESSAGE FROM TAMMIE: HANG IN THERE, I'VE GOT THE CAR TONIGHT, I CAN BE THERE IN TEN MINUTES.

REPLY: ITS OK, I'LL SURVIVE. THANKS ANYWAY.

I shut my phone and looked on sadly, thinking about the picture in front of me and longing for the memory I'd just had. But, realizing that there was nothing I could do, I sighed deeply and tried to focus on the game.

The game ended in a whirlwind: the offensive lineman scored a touchdown at the final buzzer in overtime. Everyone was screaming, jumping, bumping into each other, and finally shoving each other out of the way to rush the field. I ran out to the field in celebration with everyone else, happily jumping and hugging people I knew. Finally, after ten or fifteen minutes of following the crowd, I made it out of the parking lot and began my walk home. With my headphones in and music blaring, I started off down the sidewalk, oblivious to the rest of the world.
Not more than halfway through my walk, I became aware that my phone was vibrating furiously. I pulled it out, expecting it to be my mother, who was out of town for a week on business with my father and called to check in on me and my older sister Rachel every night. But when I looked at my phone, it wasn't my mother calling-it was Holly's mother. Curiously, I flipped it open and put it to my ear.
"Hello?"
"Katherine?" Mrs. Mitchell's worried voice came through the other end. "Oh, thank heavens you answered!"
"Mrs. Mitchell? What's the matter?"
"My dear," she said, her voice growing more and more frantic, "there's been an accident. Holly's in the hospital."





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BriarRose This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 14, 2009 at 7:57 pm
i loved how true this seems, especially the beginning. its awesome
 
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