Waking Olivia(5)

By: Elizabeth O Roark


"I go by Finn," I growl.

He acts as if I haven't spoken. "What the hell was that?" he demands. "I don't know what they did at your old school, but when I ask for 10 miles, I want a little effort."

"This is complete bullshit," I argue. "I kept up."

"You think we brought you on the team because we hoped you could keep up?" he asks. "We need a leader out there. You ambled down the road like a new mom trying to take off the baby weight."

God, what a dick. "I was tired."

"You've done the exact same workout that everyone else here has, so you've got no reason to be tired," he says, “unless you’ve already violated Peter’s rule about drinking the night before a practice.”

He has me by the throat. The story I used at UT is not going to fly here, so I make the very questionable decision to go with the truth instead, something I’ve never found pays off.

"I ran a little this morning before I came out," I tell him quietly.

His mouth grows tighter. "And why exactly would you do that?"

For just a moment, a millisecond, I meet his eyes, though I don't want to. There's a part of me that wants to beg him not to ask, not to question, not to try to take my secrets away from me. I look away because I refuse to beg him or anyone. "I ... I couldn't sleep."

He's silent for a moment, his jaw tense but his eyes uncertain. "You're on my watch now,” he finally says. “You run when I tell you to run and that's it. Don't do it again.” He turns and walks away.



I ignore everyone in the locker room. These people aren't my friends now, and they won't be my friends in two years. I've done all this before, and I know exactly where it got me.

"I'm Erin," says the girl changing beside me.

"Hey," I say tersely.

"So you're here from Austin?"

"Yeah."

"Is it true that you got kicked off the track team for beating up Mark Bell?" She doesn't even try to disguise her delight about this juicy morsel of gossip. Funny how everyone looks down on me for what I did, but they don't look down on themselves for being so fucking delighted to hear about it.

"Yeah," I say, packing my bag. "So I've heard."

"So is it true?" she whispers as if this is some special "just us girls" moment of intimacy with half the team standing there with their ears cocked.

"Yes."

"So why did you do it? He must have done something to you, right?" she asks.

"Yes," I say, fixing a look on her along with the other little listeners, who no longer feign disinterest and are watching us avidly. "He asked me too many fucking questions."





4





Will



“So how did it go?" asks Peter, but he can tell the answer by taking one look at my face. He chuckles. "You're just like your father, Will. Incapable of hiding your thoughts."

It's taken the better part of two years for the mention of my father to stop hurting, and it will be a good two decades before I can appreciate the comparison. I did what he wanted. I gave up my career as a climber to take over the farm, but he wasn’t alive to see it happen and it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. My father still would have found fault.

”It could have gone better,” I sigh.

"How are the new freshmen?"

"They hung in there. Evans was solid. The other one I'm not sure about."

He nods slowly. "What about Finnegan?"

There are a million things I could tell him. That hostility came off her in waves, that she looked at the rest of the team like she wanted to shank them, and that her running was disappointing if not flat-out infuriating. I should tell him that she's troubled. What could possibly compel a girl to run before track practice? I need to tell him this because if it continues it will spell disaster. She'll either go into shock or have a fucking heart attack right in the middle of a race. But for some reason, I think of how lost she looked when I asked her about it, young and lost and destroyed.

"She's going to be a lot of work,” I reply.

I’ve only told him half the truth, and it wasn’t the important half.





5





Olivia



In the dining hall, I get a salad with grilled chicken, no cheese, no dressing, no bread. The world's leading female long distance runners only have about 15% body fat. Nothing matters so much as weight in distance running. Every pound you run with adds two seconds per mile. It might not sound like much, but an extra 10 pounds over a six-mile course equals two full minutes, the difference between a win and a loss.

I watch the football players with envy as they load their trays with cheese fries and burgers and baked potatoes and pie. Just once in my freaking life I want to eat like a football player. I spend my life in a state of continuous hunger. It's been that way for so long that the depth of my hunger scares me. Sometimes I think that if I took off the leash, I'd eat until I exploded and that I would never stop.

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