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I’d never given much thought to the effect I had on others. It was always about my image, how I saw myself. I built an image from the rumors. They were my security blanket. Until I met her. And it changed my life.
She didn’t talk much. Actually, not at all. I noticed that, unlike the others around us, she never spread the lies about me. She was the only one. I met her six years ago, when we were both sophomores. Sure, I’d seen her in the hallway. But it took me awhile to get up the courage to talk to her.
Chapter 1- I was sitting at my desk, lighting up. A girl rushed past. Probably some hypochondriac who thinks they’re asthmatic, I thought.
“Did you hear? McCallister got into another fight last night!”
“And that’s surprising? I’m surprised his father doesn’t disown him or something.”
I laughed softly. What else was new? The same girl I had seem rush past the room came in. I vaguely recognized her; straight A’s, 4.0 GPA, star of cross country. The complete opposite of myself. I didn’t even know what a GPA was. The whispers increased, but unlike me, she ignored them and began taking notes. My notebook was filled with meaningless scribbling, mostly song lyrics. Wow. No wonder I was failing.
After class, I headed down the library, as always, to freeload off their Internet and listen to my Ipod. I set up my laptop in the back of the room and placed my headphones in my ears. She came in, looking hastled, and sat at the table next to mine. I tilted my screen more my way. Her eyes slid sideways, and I saw her give that look. The look that everyone had where they looked at me. Delinquent. Addict. Player. They hissed their way into my thoughts, ruining what I had thought was a going to be a pretty decent day. I slammed my screen shut, making her jump, and stalked out, a question running through my head. Why?
I decided to skip math, and headed out to the parking lot. It was a miracle my probation officer hadn’t had them suspend my license for that last speeding ticket. My truck was in its usual place, in the back next to the exit. When I got closer, I noticed a thin scratch from my driver side to the rear. It had been keyed. I swore softly. Probably Darren and the rest of the football team. He was such a cliche. The typical quarterback picking on the innocent. Not that I was innocent, by any means. I probably had three volumes in my permanent record. And not with community service, either. I climbed into the truck bed and turned on my Ipod again. At least now I could get peace and quiet.
Chapter 2. Galina
I didn’t expect to see him in the library. I mean, I didn’t believe any of the rumors that were always flying about the school, but Talon McCallister wasn’t the type of person you’d see in a place filled with books and broken computers. I didn’t know what to do, so I did what I normally do; ignore it and stay dead silent. Its not like anyone like him would talk to me anyway.
After he stalked out, I relaxed a bit. At least I didn’t have to worry about getting punched. The bell rang, and I gathered up my books and went to my next class.
After school, I walked to my locker, to discover that Kia and Logan were already there. Kia was already talking a hundred miles a minute, like always, and Logan was rummaging around in her bag, probably looking for her homework or something. I don’t know why these two are my friends, I just know that they do all the talking for me.
“Galina!” Kia called when she saw me.
“Hey Kia, Logan.” I said, walking up and opening my locker.
“Hey, did you hear? Darren and his ex are back together!” Kia said, spilling the latest gossip. I stiffened, but she didn’t notice, and kept on talking. Darren. Just his name made me shiver. Darren was the school bully, but no one knew it. Everyone was convinced he was the greatest guy who ever walked the planet, that he was going to make it in the big leagues, maybe even NFL, when I knew the only big leagues he was making were in his head.
I shook it out of my head, none too soon as Kia grabbed me by the elbow and started dragging me down to the locker room to change. As Kia and Logan rambled on about their days, how much homework they had, and their other activities, I silently pulled on my running shorts and shirt, the orange one today. My parents had this whole routine for my running wardrobe, as with everything else, and Thrusday’s were orange, or red, depending on how the landry went that week. I tied up my sneakers and hoisted by bag onto my shoulder, and we walked out to the tree where our team always met. The boys came out, and started joking around like they always do, flirting with Kia and Logan. “Hey Ata!” They said to me. Ata was short for Atalanta, the fastest runner in greek mythology. Last year I was able to outrun most of the boys every meet, with the exception of the top three on varsity, so they started calling me Atalanta, which was shortened to Ata, and the name stuck.
Coach walked up to us, and we started our practice. Three warm up laps around the fields, then we went on a forty minute workout in the woods. Coach had a rule that the team ran together, but after last year, he changed that so that Kia, Logan and I had to run with the boy’s team. It was hard to keep up, but coach wanted the three of us to be top ten at the state meet this year.
As we ran, Kia and Logan talked with the guys, and I just listened, like always. I interjected a comment or two when I was spoken directly to, but other than that, I just focused on the running.