Waking Olivia(7)

By: Elizabeth O Roark

I made a mistake taking a bat to Mark Bell, and I made a mistake coming here. Maybe staying will be the next big regret. In fact, I'm almost sure it will be.



The next morning I'm ready to put Will Langstrom in his fucking place. His words from yesterday are still pissing me off almost 24 hours later. Asshole. I’ve had a full night’s sleep, so let’s see him try to complain about me now.

Everyone is chattering, the combination of nerves and dread making their noise a little more high-pitched and a lot more annoying—Erin in particular, whose breathless discourse is directed entirely toward me. Will eventually saunters up, and when he smiles that crooked smile they all titter like he's the lead singer of their favorite boy band. I guess if he weren’t such a dick I’d be swooning too. Everything about him is perfect—the ice blue of his eyes, the slight curl of his hair, the ever-present hint of scruff, his mouth and the way his lip quirks upward when he’s trying not to smile. I see the edge of a tattoo peeking out from his shirt sleeve and wish I could see the whole thing.

"You're running six at race pace," he announces. "I marked the route earlier. I'm going to drive along today to assess. Everybody stop at the turn-around point and we’ll reconvene there."

You’re going to have to assess my ass from a distance. I plan to run nowhere near the rest of these losers.

When the time comes, I take off so fast and so hard that I don’t see the other girls. I don’t even hear them. I feel buoyant, as if I can fly, and there isn’t a soul in sight. This is my favorite way to run—the absolute freedom of not thinking or remembering or feeling anything at all

I notice nothing but the hash marks he's left on the road, only vaguely aware of the miles ticking by. I get to the turn-around point and I keep running. Yeah, I know he said to stop, but I’m in my zone, my best place. Fuck him. He’s not even a runner.

I don't even look over when I hear an engine purring beside me until I realize it’s Will shouting at me to stop. It’s possible, based on how pissed off he is, that he’s been shouting for a while. And now that he’s yanked me from my happy place, I'm pissed too.

He pulls the car over to the side of the road and marches toward me. "When I tell you to stop you need to listen," he growls.

"I was running. That's what you do when you're not 'trying to lose the baby weight,’" I snap.

“Get your ass back to the turn-around point and stop showing off,” he snarls, marching away.

I get back to the turn-around just as Betsy, the one who led yesterday, comes in. She is winded, the way she should be at the end, not the half. She leans down, hands on knees.

"You okay, Bets?" Will asks her.

"Yeah," she says, standing. Then she turns to me. "It's not a race, you know."

"He said race pace.” I laugh. “So yeah, it kind of was."

"Look," she snarls. "You're not D1 anymore. You weren't D1 material, so stop pretending you are."

Here's the unfortunate thing about a hard workout, about the adrenaline, when someone pisses you off: it's like you've got a Greek chorus behind you, egging you on. "Only one of us is breathing heavy," I say, stepping up so we are face-to-face, "so who's pretending?"

"That's enough," says Will. He places a hand on my shoulder and pushes me backward just enough so that he can move between us. "You two are on the same team. Try acting like it."

He blames me.

He didn’t say it, but he obviously blames me, when she’s the one who started it. I'm only two days into the season and I've already had it. I’ve had it with Betsy and her half-assed running, with the rest of them who are actually slower than Betsy, and with Will Langstrom, who is the single biggest asshole I've ever had to run for.

When he sends us back to campus, still scowling at me, I leave them both in the dust. I take all my anger and adrenaline and apply it to a single goal: leaving Betsy so far behind me that when this run is over she will hate herself a little. At this very moment, as she makes a futile attempt to keep up with me, she feels useless, weak. I know because I’ve felt it too. I know she will come in angry at me and angrier at herself, and that the anger will fester, linger, for days, because this is what happens to me when I lose.

I get back to the track long before any of them. Not D1 material, my ass.

Will has parked and is stalking toward me. "You did that just to piss her off," he says.

"What do you care? You wanted fast. You got fast."

"No, what I want is a team. You can run to see yourself succeed, Olivia, but don't ever run to see someone else fail."

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