“Like I said,” Connelly smiled and nodded, “Balloons.” He and Ivan then followed after Alister.
Sue and I looked at each other and then went into the gym with all the other students, leaving the jocks to help Sam to the dressing room.
“Wow,” Sue breathed. “He was so fast.”
I nodded. “I didn’t even see it.” I spotted them across the room sitting by themselves. They were already suited out. Part of me wanted to go congratulate them, but Alister really did scare me so I opted for smiling at Connelly and setting my things down before running to the dressing room.
When we got back however, the jocks were back with extras, and Sam was zeroing in on Alister again. Obviously, a cracked rib wasn’t enough of a hint for him. Sam was yelling, but I was in a crowd of blabbing students and only caught a little of what was being said. A few cuss words, death threats, a few more insults thrown in by Connelly and Alister (one of which involved how steroids made a certain part of a boy’s body smaller than normal), and then the word ‘freak’. Mira and Ivan tried to break it up and threatened to tell the Coach.
“Oh, you gonna go run to the Coach and your mommy?” Sam mocked. His groupies all laughed. “I’m the best player on the football team, he’s not gonna do anything to me!” He laughed victoriously.
Alister looked more dangerous than ever and made to come down the bleachers, but Mira grabbed his hand. She instead steered him around and they all started heading to another set of doors, but the jocks followed after them. I started hurrying to catch up. When they got to the bottom of the bleachers the jocks were ready and one of them threw a punch Alister’s way, but again, he was too quick. He blocked, and threw a gut punch that sent the player reeling backwards. They tried to continue towards the doors, but Sam called after them. They ignored him.
“Don’t walk away from me when I’m talking to you, freak!” Sam rushed forward and grabbed Alister’s shoulder, jerking him back around. Then Sam went flying backwards into his friends, hands covering his face. Alister backhanded him, and blood was clear on his hand as he wiped it on his black workout shorts.
Sam’s friends were hauling him to his feet, and though they were all giving Alister deadly glares, no one stepped forward to avenge their leader’s embarrassing failure. After it was clear no one was going to challenge him, Alister turned his back on them and they all left the room. I stood there for a minute in disbelief, then returned to the bleachers with Sue.
“And you’re supposed to go to their house tonight?” Sue said.
I just nodded. Whatever good Connelly and Aubrey had done to make my stomach feel better was outdone by Alister’s fight. “I don’t know if this is such a good idea anymore.”
“What? Why not?”
“Because of what just happened?” I gave her a look that said ‘did you not just see what happened?’. “He’s probably going to be in big trouble now, in a bad mood, and he’s mean to me on the best of days.”
“No, you can’t back out now! He just started being nice! If you do this, you’ll ruin all your progress.” I considered this, then finally gave in.
“Fine. I’ll go,” I said and we both smiled.
Connelly and the others didn’t return to class until after gym when we were due to practice. He spotted the worried and questioning look on my face and smiled. “We’re fine.” He came to me and we took our stances as the music began. “We just had to calm Alister down before he went back in there and finished them off.”
“That was amazing,” I said, unable to hide the awe in my voice. “I’ve never seen someone stand up to Sam, let alone almost the entire football team. And win.”
“They’re lucky,” he said, and I let out a laugh.
“It sounds so funny to say a football team is lucky they didn’t go after one guy,” I said and he chuckled with me.
“So, does this retract your wanting to come tonight?” he asked after a minute. The look on his face showed he really hoped not.
“I only thought it might not be good to be there when everyone will be mad at Alister.”
“I understand.” He nodded, then added, “But all of that will have been finished by the time you get there. Everything will be happy when you arrive.”
“I know you want me to come, but are you sure your parents will be okay with me coming over now? After they find out about this, I mean?”
He smiled sincerely. “I’m certain they will want you over. But I don’t want to push you if you truly don’t want to come.”
“No, I want to,” I said. “I’ll come.”
He smiled in relief and I smiled back. “When would you like me to pick you up?”
“Oh it’s fine. You can just give me your address after class. I can use the GPS on my phone.”
He shook his head. “I insist.”
Again I fought a blush. “Okay, uh, how about six?”
“Six it is. Oh, I’ll need your address then, before you leave. And your number, just in case I get lost.”
After class, I wrote down my number and address for him on a small piece of paper, but I couldn’t help thinking, Was this just an excuse to get my number? – No, stop it, Kota. Just friends… friends have each other’s numbers too, duh!
After practice when Connelly and his family had left, Sue and I retold what had happened between Alister and the jocks to the boys. Of course they had already heard a little bit about it from the students who had also seen it. They laughed, because they had never liked Sam either, but then as I had known they would, they became worried because I was going over there after that. I told them what Connelly had said, but they didn’t care. All they knew was Alister’s odd hatred for me and now evidence that he could inflict serious damage without much effort.
Luckily, I had a reason to leave quickly after class. Since Sue didn’t have a car of her own, and since I didn’t need mine tonight, she drove me home and then went to work. I went straight to work on my homework, then when that was done, I started rushing around until ten minutes ‘til six o’clock.
Unsure what to do while I waited, I decided to browse online, but no sooner had I sat down and clicked my browser icon than I heard a knock on the front door. Descending the stairs, I found my mother at the door. And Connelly.
“Kota? You didn’t tell me you were going out tonight?” She turned to me like it was a sweet surprised, but I knew the underlying tone.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I only just decided on it today,” I said, coming up beside her. “I told you about the dancing lessons I’m doing at school? Well, this is my partner. Connelly.”
“Oh! Well, nice to meet you, Connelly. I’m Lucy.” They shook hands.
“Pleasure to meet you,” he said, smiling and glancing at me. “My mother is actually the dance instructor and my siblings and I are helping teach.”
“Oh, how remarkable, and for someone your age,” she said, smiling. “Okay, Kota, well just don’t stay out too late. Remember curfew is at eleven.”
“You’re lucky,” I said as we descended the stairs.
“Because if my dad was home and knew you were taking me somewhere, you would be questioned to his satisfaction.” I laughed. “Just a tad protective.”
“Everyone seems to be, when it comes to you,” he said, taking the lead as he opened the passenger door of his ’69 mustang.
I glanced over at him. “How did you know about the boys?”