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Stadium Lights. (characterization project)

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All those faces stare at me; I sit in the chair that she pulls out for me. I pull me and the chair up to the wooden table and tuck in my hair. She straightens some papers and adjusts her glasses. We prepare for what is about to happen. I look to my left; my mom sits close to me. A little too close. I wonder if she won’t be this close when all this is over.
I stop my thoughts in their tracks. It won’t help anyone by thinking thoughts like that. The table is not as fancy as they show on TV. It’s uncomfortable and rubs along my skin when I move. I tried sitting back in my seat, but it looked unprofessional. That’s what mom thought anyway. No one really knew what happened, but I wanted them to.
I stare at the judge now; she has curly brown hair up to her ears. Her glasses are black rimmed, she looks like Sarah Palin. The room smelled like dust and looking back, everyone sat.
Most of them didn’t even know me personally; they just showed up because I was always known. The small society meant that even my news was prominent. I wish so many people didn’t know about it. It would make things so much easier.

The tall, stadium lights always seemed to mesmerize me. I’d look up at them, go into auto-pilot, and just get lost in them. The light would suck me in, cuddled me, kept me warm on cold Friday nights, and made me forget was I was doing. The lights were always there, they never left. They stood perfectly still, lighting up the whole football field, and making a safe haven for me. I couldn’t help but feel so at ease when I looked into those lights. I felt supported.
The squad did their little routine; most of them didn’t even try. Some had way too much spirit, like Callie. She got on my nerves. I couldn’t stand most of them, yet they all wanted to be my friend. Was it because I was head-cheerleader, or was it because I was nice sometimes? Was it because I was dating star quarterback, or was it because I could pick you up when you were down? Popularity had nothing to do with personality at Riverview high school. It had always been this way, even before I even entered high school.
Everyone and everybody knew each other. They all grew up together and knew each other from pre-k all the way to 12th grade and even so on. Old couples who walked around town, they had lived here all their life, and knew mostly everyone who lived here. I knew everyone, everyone knew me. Or so they thought.
I’m the typical skinny, no curves to be found, white chick. I don’t have blonde hair like everyone thinks a cheerleader would have, but I fit their agenda. Tryouts were easy, I showed up, did a few cheers, and made the cut. It was simple. I had a limited amount of gymnastic skills, and a little bit too much of cheer knowledge. Why, you ask?
My mom was head-cheer leader in high school; she wanted the same for me. So, every summer since I was five I was shipped off to cheer camp. I utterly hated every minute I spent there. My mom loved cheering, she still does. But she’s a social worker now, and she hates it. Every now and then she tells me about how much she missed cheering and being in the limelight. I wish she knew that I hated cheering as much as she hated being a social worker. But I couldn’t put that on my mom. She sat in the same place, every game, and watched me cheer. Not one game did she miss, she got her fill, and it made her happy. She lived her cheering desires thru me. I didn’t exactly like this, but if I looked directly where she sat in the bleachers, I could see my mom smiling. I never got to see her smile other than that.
Josh and I were made for each other. That’s how he put it. He thinks everything was set in time on purpose. He thinks that walking into that party, the first time I had ever been wasted, the one night he actually had gas in his car, and offering me a ride home was fate. I beg to differ, but I tend to keep it to myself and just listen to his beliefs. He’d through a fit if I didn’t accept what he was saying and if I didn’t agree with him, there would be a punishment. Mom never knew about that night. I had stayed at the football field to clean up after the game. Half the lights were being shut off for the night, so I could tell it was pretty late. I grabbed my stuff before they shut off the last couple of lights and head towards the main entrance where the gates were. Suddenly, the lights turned off and I freaked. It was completely dark. I walked foreword until I felt a gate.
I knew I had to be somewhere close to the parking lot. It wasn’t far away that I saw a couple of flashlights. I shouted at them and they put the light on me. When the people holding the flashlights got closer, I realized it was a couple of josh’s friends. And by the smell of them, they were pretty wasted. I scrunched my nose, “Have you been drinking?”
“Naw, just a few beers.” He replied. I stood there, it was cold.
“Just a few shots,” one of them, Vince, shouted.
“Shud’ up, Vince. Don’t play around with the girl!”
I raised my eyebrow. “Guys, it’s dark. I got to get home.” I clutched my bag closer to the side of my body. It was getting chillier and chillier with every second. The breeze had actually managed to sneak down my jacket and sit there. I shivered. The moon was huge tonight. But it didn’t help the creepy feeling that floated just above my skin.
“Naw, you should stay with us, girl. Josh wouldn’t mind. He thinks hanging around us would be good for you.”
Good for my place in image, he meant. I crossed my arms. “Why are you here anyways?”
This time, the one beside Vince answered. I could tell he wasn’t as drunk, he probably was the one driving them home. “Because we can, who are you to ask us why we would be here? This is our stadium, you cheer, got it?”
Whoa, well someone had been given fake crack at school, now haven’t they?
I knew he was involved with drugs; he wasn’t really secretive about it either. “Andy, don’t piss her off.” They taunted. An insult to me, easily understood.
“I’m going home.” I pushed thru them this time. Only failing, when Andy grabbed my arm.
“Hold up there, Danny.” Andy demanded; his New York accent thick in the foggy midnight air. I could smell his breath. He wasn’t as sober as I thought he was. “I got a few things to show you.”
“Like what?” I didn’t know him too well, but I knew him well enough not to trust him. He liked to run his mouth.
“Like your boy, and Farah, I saw ‘em behind the stairwell.” This didn’t really affect me much.
“Okay, I’m leaving now.”
“No, you aren’t.”
I looked at his face, which was surprisingly stern. He wasn’t joking. This was the point where I knew I had to go. Yet I froze. I couldn’t move my whole body. I really hated myself then. I knew exactly what he was thinking; he knew exactly what I was thinking. No.
That’s what I thought. That’s all I thought. No. No. No. No. No. No.
I screamed a lot, but I only thought no.
I came home that night, my mom in the kitchen. Her arms crossed, her pale shoulder-length hair tucked into a neat half pony-tail. Her face was so readable. ‘Daniela, you are so in trouble.’
I looked at her for half a second and then she knew. I didn’t know exactly how, but she did. She was in front of me in only a few seconds. She touched my face so gently, It made me cry. “Mommy,” I said. I took a wheezy breath. “I’m sorry.”
And then she hugged me. She cried. I cried. “What happened?”
I told her. She gave me ice for my face. I stared at me, my child self stared at me thru pictures. I sat at the kitchen table, and they stared at me. I felt so wrong. Everything inside of me, poisoned. Nothing would ever be the same. I would never forget them, the way they hurt me.
“Daniela, could you tell us what happened when they took you?”
I told them where they took me, which was the creek. Everyone knew where the creek was. It was drug central, a bad place to go. You only went there to get high and in my case, get your body broken.
I told her that he never stopped when I said to. I told her that they were all drunk. He sat in another wooden table, his eyes with dark circles around them; he couldn’t look up from the table. He pretended to be interested in the table, scratching at it and chipping it. I knew he really wasn’t interested in chipping the table. I’m thinking everyone else knew it too.
My heart skipped a beat as the words trickled out of her mouth. “…Found Guilty.”
I couldn’t breathe, I just sat, couldn’t smile, couldn’t do anything. I was so happy inside, why couldn’t I show it on the outside. My mom cried next to me, happy tears. She wrapped her arms around me. “We did it, we did it, we did it.” She sobbed. I took a deep breath, “we did do it, didn’t we?”
The night before, Josh had walked up the steps to my front door. His face was red like a fully-ripe tomato. His eyes totally bloodshot, his hands in fists, as I opened the door. “Why?” he asked, his voice was so blank and clear, like a foggy morning. I couldn’t see through his voice, I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say.
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me! Why?” He nearly screamed. I could hear his voice tear.
“Josh, I don’t know what you’re asking me.”
“Why did you do this to me? After everything I’ve given you, why did you have to ruin everything for me? Everyone doesn’t believe you, and now they are ruining me! You had to destroy my high school career, because of what, a simple slap in the face? I take harder hits in football! Andy doesn’t deserve this, and getting the others for drunk in public? Seriously? You want me all to yourself, don’t you! If you get them locked up, I swear, I’ll-“
“You think I did this on purpose?” I whimpered.
“Don’t be stupid.”
“It wasn’t what you think it was.” I rubbed my arm.
“Sure.”
I was about to respond to that when mom intercepted and found her way in front of me. She folded her arms against her chest. “Go home, Josh.”
“Your daughter isn’t welcomed at school, she’s a failure, she should just drop out.”
“Go home, or I’m calling the police, josh.”
Josh gave her an icy stare, flicked me off, and ran to his car. He revved the engine, it sounded just like his anger. He backed out of our driveway and left.
“I’m sorry, Daniela.” She took me in her arms, warm and homey smelling.
“For what?”
“Everything I’ve ever done to you,”
I stood there, speechless. “Mom,” I began, but she hushed me.
“Go to bed, we’ve got a hard day tomorrow.” We’ve. Together. Side by side.
The first time in my life, I wanted her to make decisions for me. I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to hear. I didn’t want to feel. I wanted to wake up tomorrow, free, wake up clean and new. Wake up with my safety again, my body untouched, my slender legs unbruised, nothing. I wanted me back.



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