Author's note: Please pay CAREFUL attention to the dates (in bold)!
lies midway between usChapter 4: lies midway between us
February 15th, 2005
GYM NEXT DAY. Clothes stripped off, air polluted with the sour tang of sweat and blood and grease. Perfume sprayed frantically, puffs of sweetened air making asthmatics cough. Shirts and pants and skirts hang around our feet like colorful puddles. Last – minute makeup streaked on for the boys who shoot jockstraps at us while we scream and pretend to be angry. I roll my eyes and am the first one out there. I am fed up with the hypocrisy of it all, of “looking natural” after half an hour with jars and tubes of concealer and lip gloss. The rest of the girls emerge eventually, switching their hips and shaking down their long hair for the guys who watch, like art critics studying the legs of a living Madonna.
Gym goes slowly. It’s volleyball time. I duck, hands flying to cover my face, whenever the round shadow of the ball looms in my vision. My teammates groan and glare. The coach’s meaty hands twitch, like she’s thinking about using them on my face. Trudging back into the hungry, sweaty hole of the locker room, no one speaks to me. Not that they normally do, anyway; too afraid of coming under the wrath of Ainsley and her groupies.
I am stripping off my sweaty shorts, alone, in the most private place I can find among the maze of lockers, when I hear it. The click of a camera, a bright flash at the edge of my vision. I shrink into any available corner, glancing around, clutching my clothes to me. I wish for the skin of a chameleon, to blend into the chipping grey paint on the walls.
It’s Ainsley. Ten feet away, hidden away from her friends, her blond hair escaping from a harried ponytail. Her hands freeze around a sleek black video camera when she sees me watching her. She steps backwards, unconsciously. Her lips part and her hands open, the camera clattering to the floor like a sacrifice. Even her eyes widen, so I can read the horror and fear scrolled across the backs of them. I do nothing. She is caught and she knows it. She is in danger, of losing everything that is important to her.
The camera lies midway between us, its red eye blinking.
She looks at me, judging the set of my hands and the tensing of my muscles. Then she leans forward and snatches the camera, quick as a whiplash. For a moment, we stare at each other.
“I’ll tell,” I say. I clear my throat, but it comes out hoarse as if I have cried, for days.
She stares at me, her teeth biting down on her lip in a snarl.
“You tell,” she hisses, thrusting her angry eyes into my face, “and I’ll tell everyone. About your mother, you crazy little brat.”