Waking Olivia(6)

By: Elizabeth O Roark

Erin finds me and sits down uninvited. She's extraordinarily wholesome looking with milky skin, scattered freckles and big cornflower-blue eyes. The kind of girl you'd see in an ad for America's farmers. You can take one look at her and know she's never suffered. I shouldn't hate her for it, but I do.

"I'm really sorry," she says. "I feel awful. You were right, I was prying, and it was none of my business."

"Whatever." In truth, I'm too busy being fascinated by her tray to say anything else. Meat swimming in gravy, potatoes, bread, pie on the side and milk. She has at least 2000 calories on that tray. Just the sight of it alternately disgusts me and makes me ravenous in the same moment. I open my newspaper and pray she goes away.

"You aren't very friendly," she says, "you know that?"

"Yes." Hint, fucking hint.


"I don't need friends."

"Everyone needs friends."

"I don't." I continue to read my newspaper.

"You're not going to scare me off, you know.”

"Are you going to continue to babble while I try to read?"

"Yes," she chirps, digging into that disgusting pile of wet meat on her tray. I flinch, and yet I watch. "I've dealt with worse than you. You should see my brother. He's been in and out of rehab so many times it's like his second home. Maybe it's even his first home. And when he’s using or coming down or detoxing, he's the biggest asshole you've ever met."

"Fascinating," I mumble.

"He's great, thanks for asking," she replies dryly. As annoying as it is, my mouth twitches, and I would smile if I knew it wouldn't encourage her. "He's in LA at the moment, exploring his ‘craft.'" She rolls her eyes and does air quotes. “You’re probably thinking LA isn’t the greatest place for someone just out of rehab. Which is precisely what I told my parents, but they're so excited he's into something that they're trying to overlook it. Is that all you're going to eat?"

Jesus fucking Christ. This girl never stops talking.

"The leading female runners only have 15% body fat," I reply pointedly, looking at her tray. Erin isn't fat, but she could be thinner. Her extra pounds will drag the team down, and I already resent her for it. I resent that I will work my ass off and starve, and we still won't place because of the girls who had to eat their platters of meat swimming in gravy every day.

"You need food to build muscle," she argues.

"And thus the chicken breast.”

"You really ought to talk to the nutritionist. She'll tell you herself that's not healthy."

“I’m a nutrition major. I think I’ve got it under control.”

“I still think that’s not healthy.”

"Do you always talk this much?"

She grins, wide-eyed. "I do. That's why we're perfect together. You never speak and I never shut up. You're so lucky you found me."

After the ordeal of listening to Erin blabber is done, I get on my bike and head toward the far side of campus, where the old Victorian houses give way to fields and woods, the kind of places where there will be no landmarks to tell me which direction might be home. I will need to learn this town like the back of my hand.

I try to sleep with my cell phone tucked into my clothes, but it’s fairly useless. And who the fuck would I call? I don’t have any friends. Besides, when you’re deep in the woods, the odds of getting a strong enough signal to pull up the GPS are zero-to-none. Not to mention the fact that I’m a restless sleeper and half the time I discover I’ve pulled the phone out and thrown it across the room at some point.

I usually only make it a few miles before something triggers me to wake up, but a few miles is pretty far when home is new to you and you have no idea how to get back. I got lucky this morning, but I know from experience that I’m not always lucky. That means the more familiar I am with everything outside my apartment, the better.

I need to be able to stand in the woods and gauge, based on the light from the city or the stars or the sound of running water, exactly how to get the fuck out. It’s bad enough to wake up and discover that you are outside in the middle of the night, barefoot, defenseless, far from home, but multiply that by 10 for the times when you wake up and have no idea where the hell you are.

I hate this.

There’s so much that could go wrong, and there was plenty that went wrong even when I did know where I was. And it’s all probably for nothing: I came here solely to be coached by McEwan, thinking he might turn it around for me, and instead I’m being coached by some cocky asshole who probably didn’t even run high school track.

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