(Life after Camp Kumoni)
By Anistasia Allread
Edited by Nick B
“What?” Erika asked self-conscious.
Julian’s eyes sparkled. “You’ve got some cheese on your cheek.”
“I am so proud of you, Krystal,” Erika told her friend as they left the gym. “Cheer leader, Rachel is going to be disgusted and proud at the same time.”
“I'm just worried about looking okay in those short skirts.” Krystal bit her lip.
“You'll look great.”
“There you are.” Tricia rushed up to them, “Quick, we need your help.”
“Help with what?”
“Getting into your school records, come on.” She grabbed Erika's hand and pulled her down the hall with Krystal hurrying to keep up.
This time of the afternoon, the school was quiet. Most all of the students had gone home as well as the teachers. The Janitors bopped to their head phones as they swept, mopped and emptied trash cans. The halls were so empty that it seemed eerie, yet serene.
Tricia stopped just before the office door and peered into the corner of the window, “Good she's left.”
“Who?” Erika asked.
“The receptionist. I thought she would never leave.” Tricia opened the door.
“She left Victoria in there alone?”
“Yeah, this is our one shot.”
“What are you doing?” Krystal demanded.
“Looking for Erika's… Eric's transcripts,” Victoria snarled. “Help me.”
Erika and Tricia dashed over to the massive filing cabinet.
“Keep watch, Krystal,” Victoria suggested.
“Martin, right?” Victoria confirmed.
“I looked under the 'M's but didn't find it. Is there any other place it could be filed under?”
“Not that I would know of.”
“I'll check the 'E's for Eric,” Tricia volunteered.
“I'll look round,” Erika shrugged. “They left you alone here in the office after hours?”
“Not exactly,” Victoria muttered.
Erika spotted some files that were stacked on a side desk and began thumbing through them.
“I used the old tissue in the door trick.” Victoria smiled.
“I stuffed some tissue into the bolt hole of the door catch.” Victoria explained, “It didn't quite work, Tricia used her ASB card to get it the rest of the way open.”
“What do we say if someone finds us in here?” Krystal asked.
“Lie,” Victoria stated. “We tell them that we misplaced a homework assignment and were looking for it.”
“Why would our homework assignment be in the office?” Krystal asked.
“Fine, you come up with something,” Victoria snapped.
“I'm not finding anything in here,” Tricia commented.
“Nor out here,” Erika added. She walked back to the offices and checked the one of the closed doors. It opened easily. The desk was neat and tidy, with nothing on it but a computer. The next one she tried opened just as easily. The desk was piled with folders. “I've hit the mother lode,” she called to them.
Victoria joined her in the office. “Wow, why would all of these be in here?”
Erika walked around to the other side of the desk. A note pad and pen were laying there. Names of what looked to be students were listed in one column, another had words scratched in next to the names: Moved, Home, Sick, Unknown.
Victoria started looking through the files.
“I think this is a list of students who haven't been at school,” Erika told Victoria, “Have you seen Betty Smith?”
“No.” Victoria shook her head. “It says 'moved' next to her name.
“Are you on the list?” Victoria asked.
Erika's heart skipped a beat. She scanned the list quickly. “Not so far.”
“Bingo!” Victoria called. “Here is your transcript. No wonder I couldn't find it.”
Erika joined her out in the main part of the office with the file.
“Now, all I have to do is change your name and gender.” Victoria spoke mainly to herself, as she looked over its contents.
“Then I bring it in to school with me tomorrow?” Erika asked.
“No, it's going to be a little trickier than that.”
“Why?” Tricia asked.
“It lists her teachers in here. I mean, Eric’s teachers, I'll have to change some of the names to make it so they aren't recognizable. I'll have to take this home and scan it into my computer.”
“How long will this take?” Erika asked.
“A couple of days. Don't worry, it will be fine,” Victoria promised.
“Can we leave now?” Krystal asked.
“Yes,” Victoria and Erika said together.
Erika walked in the door behind Tricia.
“We need to get you out of those grubby try-out clothes and back into your skirt and boots,” Tricia instructed.
“Because we're going to the game.”
“So, you have to be presentable when you go to a game. You'll be on the field wearing a short skirt carrying pom-poms next game.”
“Oh, yeah.” Erika gulped.
“So how are you going to explain to your parents you're staying after school for practice? Are you going to tell them that you made Rally Squad?”
“Hell no!” Erika blanched at the idea, “I'll tell them that I joined the gaming club.”
“What is the gaming club?”
“A group of nerds that get together and play RPGs after school.”
“Were you a part of their club last year?”
“No.” Erika shook her head, “Even they avoided 'The Plague'.”
“I'm so sorry.” Tricia wrapped her arms around Erika and held her in a tight embrace, “It must have been horrible.”
“What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?”
Tricia tightened her hold on Erika and held her for a long moment. Erika pulled back and blew her breath straight up, which caused her bangs to flutter about her eyes.
“I really need to get a bang trim,” she sighed.
“I'll do it,” Tricia offered.
“I don't know. Sasha cut them a certain way.”
“I'll just tale a little bit off until you can see a stylist.” Tricia avowed.
Erika relented. “Just a little bit.”
“I'll go fetch some scissors while you change.”
Erika pulled her school clothes out of her duffle and went into the bathroom and changed back into the skirt outfit with nylons and boots.
“Ready?” Tricia asked.
Tricia entered and sat Erika down on the toilet. “That outfit is hot.”
Tricia combed through Erika's bangs then raised the scissors.
“Only a little bit, they are supposed to be in my eyes,” Erika warned.
“I've got it,” Tricia assured with a smile. “Close your eyes.”
Erika resisted a chill as she heard the ‘schnick’ of scissors being closed on the hair in front of her face.
Tricia worked at it, trimming here and there, then combing through the hair then snipping a little more.
“Okay, open your eyes,” Tricia instructed.
Erika opened her eyes to see Tricia smiling nervously back at her. She turned and looked in the mirror. She breathed a sigh of relief.
“It isn't a Sasha job, but it will tide me over until I can somehow go and see him.”
“We all should make appointments and drive up and see him.” Tricia suggested.
“We need to get a driver's license first,” Erika reminded.
“Samantha is getting hers soon.” Tricia began freshening her makeup, “What should we do about dinner?”
“I don't know.”
“We can rummage around here for something, or we can get some nachos and hot dogs at the game.”
“I'm not hungry at the moment.” Erika confided.
“Let’s get something there.”
The sky was the color of molten gold, turning to silver and dark blue as the girls walked towards the school’s football field. The nights were still warm this early in the season, but it would only hold for another week or two before the crisper air of autumn would urge them to shift and snuggle deeper into their jackets. The leaves on the maple trees had mottled to yellow and gold. Although there were still plenty of leaves on the tree, the walkways beneath them were starting to become speckled in a loose carpet of dead foliage.
The two girls showed their ASB cards to get through the gates and joined the crowd of spectators and fans as they mingled and meandered towards their seats.
“Let’s check out the student seating first,” Tricia suggested, “We can walk around later.”
The two followed another group of students as they made their way up onto a section of stands on the opposite side of the field. The marching band, dressed in their red and white uniforms was already in their reserved place, playing sixties rock songs. Samantha; dressed in her white with red cheer outfit smiled and waved at them as they started up into the stands. Melinda followed her look and waved to Erika. Unsure of what else to do, Erika waved back.
“Should we sit closer to the top or the bottom of the stands?” Tricia asked.
“I have no idea. What difference will it make?”
“Towards the top allows you to see more of the game and gives the guys something to watch as we strut up or down the steps. If we sit closer to the bottom, we'd be able to hear more of the school's gossip and be able to study the cheerleaders and Rally Squad. You're going to be doing what they are, next week.”
“Is there a positive to either one?” Erika asked.
“You'll be with me.” Tricia winked.
Tricia led the way up the steps. She stopped about ten rows up and started scooting past students who were talking passionately about politics.
“Aren't you Samantha's friend?” a guy asked.
Erika looked around and found the good looking senior smiling at her. “Yes,” she nodded.
“Come sit in front of us,” he invited, “We'll keep others from bothering you.”
“Thank you.” Tricia grinned as she made her way to the bench seat in front of the guy.
“I'm Julian,” he introduced. “This is my friend, Stan.”
“Hi,” Stan greeted.
Julian's name and face finally connected in Erika's brain. Julian Rock was a Senior Senator of the student counsel and Captain as well as star of the swim team. His broad shoulders and ropy body under his sweat shirt was recognizable now. Julian was one of the more popular guys at school, who happened not to be on the football team.
“I'm Tricia and this is my friend, Erika,” Tricia introduced, “We both just started this year at Washington High.”
“Juniors?” Julian asked.
Erika found her voice. “Sophomores.”
“How do you know Samantha?” Julian inquired.
“We went to summer camp with her,” Erika spoke up.
“No, just a summer camp.”
“Erika tried out and got on the rally squad today,” Tricia bragged.
“You did?” Julian raised an eyebrow.
Erika felt her face heat up with a blush. She nodded.
“So I'll see you out there next week?” Julian's eyes darted down to the cheerleaders then back at Erika.
“I don't know yet, I'm not a very good dancer,” Erika admitted.
“As cute as you are? All you'd need to do is stay vertical.” Julian's eyes sparkled with mirth.
“You in sports?” Tricia asked.
Julian nodded, “I'm on the swim team.”
“More like he's the Captain of the swim team,” Stan bragged joining the conversation.
“Stan here is a diver,” Julian told them.
“Tricia is a diver,” Erika exclaimed.
“Really?” Stan took a second look at the blonde clad in pink.
Tricia nodded. The two girls sat sideways on the bench in front of the two guys and talked until the announcing of the National Anthem.
“These benches can be uncomfortable,” Julian looked from one to the other, “If you would feel more comfortable, you can lean back against my legs.”
“Thanks,” Tricia said before Erika could refuse. “We might take you up on that.”
The snare drums began a roll as the teams lined up for the kick off. The roll progressed and grew louder until the kicker's foot hit the ball. With that impact, everyone in the stands stomped a foot on the floor of the grandstands and began cheering.
Erika's attention during the first quarter was divided by the game, Julian's friendly chatter and watching the cheerleaders and Rally Squad going through their routines and cheers, getting the crowd involved in cheering, chanting, and even singing.
“You’ll be doing that starting next week,” Tricia teased.
Erika rolled her eyes.
“Getting hungry?” Tricia inquired.
“Yes, I am. Those nachos look very good.”
“I’ll split one with you,” Tricia offered.
“You two going to get some food?” Julian looked from one to the other.
“Yes, do you want something?” Tricia asked.
“I’ll go with you,” Julian looked to Stan, “Save our places?”
“You want anything?” Julian asked his friend.
“A Coke would be good.”
Julian turned to the people sitting along the bench between him and the aisle. “Coming through,” he called.
The students looked to see who was speaking, then stood up or twisted out of the way as Tricia and Erika fell in behind Julian.
“So how are the Warthogs doing compared to the football teams at your old schools?” Julian asked as they walked towards the concessions stand.
“Any team is better than my old school’s team.” Tricia shook her head. “They had the record for having the most yards lost due to penalties in a single game. They were so bad, that they would start fights on the field and then get their butts kicked.”
Julian chuckled, “How about yours, Erika?”
“I… Well, I’ve never been to a foot ball game before,” she admitted. “I didn’t really pay much attention to it before.”
“Getting on the rally squad, you’ll have to learn real quick.” Julian smiled. The swimmer ordered two hotdogs, a bratwurst, a bag of popcorn, an order of nachos and two large Cokes.
In the distance they heard the whistle to start the second quarter ring out.
Erika handed some of her money over to Tricia, who ordered an order of nachos a large diet Coke and a hotdog.
“You should talk to the cheerleaders, uh, Rally Squad and see if they could come to a swim meet,” Julian stated as they started climbing the grandstand steps. “I think it might be a bit noisy for the divers though, they need to concentrate before their dives.”
The students all parted for the three as they scooted by with their food.
“Thanks, J.R.” Stan smiled taking the Coke.
Julian handed him a hotdog. “We miss anything?”
“Nah, they have possession, but Tyler is about to blitz the ‘QB’. I can feel it.”
Erika munched on her nachos while Tricia worked on the hot dog, becoming almost unnerved as everyone in the stands jumped to their feet, cheering.
“Told you!” Stan cried. “Told you he’d blitz!”
Erika looked up at the two guys behind her.
Julian looked down and chuckled. Tricia looked from the cheering crowd to Erika and smiled.
“What?” Erika asked self-conscious.
Julian’s eyes sparkled. “You’ve got some cheese on your cheek.”
“Here, I’ll get it.” Tricia took Erika’s chin in her hand and leaned forward. Everything around Erika became distant and inconsequential as Tricia’s tongue flicked the cheese off of her cheek followed by lips that closed over hers in a loving caress.
To be continued…
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