The List: Chapter Two

Before you begin reading (or if you haven’t read chapter one), make sure to catch up here.

 

There was nothing that made me more anxious than math and Harry Reynolds. It was no secret I hated both, and it was no secret they hated me.

Harry Reynolds had annoyed me since middle school. He seemed normal, but all he ever talked about were comic books and engineering cars. Teachers went on about how smart he was and how they could see him going into Yale, blah blah, but besides his talent of bragging, his head was always stuck inside a history textbook. The kid was a genius, but it was like there was nothing else in his life.

“It took me a while to do number two. I was so close to having a panic attack, and then I remembered what the hell a derivative was!”

I felt my eyes roll around in their sockets. His back was turned from the front, and he was talking to another guy behind me. He looked at me and cocked his head to its side.

“Why are you rolling your eyes?” He asked, “If I’m doing something you don’t like, why can’t you just tell me?”

I glared at him, hoping he would just look away and stop this conversation. I had no patience towards him. There was no reason to cause an argument right before a test, anyways.

“Harry, it’s fine,” a girl in front of him said.

I looked over. She sat a few seats over on the side ahead of the both of us. She had long and straight silver-like hair. Her honey eyes were staring at Henry’s.

“It’s not even worth it,” she said.

Harry took one last opportunity to glare at me before returning his focus to the front of the classroom. He squeamishly changed his position in the chair, and he looked back at the girl who had seemed to calm him down. She already turned around waiting for the exam that the teacher was passing down. Her silver-like hair went down past the middle of the seat she sat on. I looked back at Harry who was smiling uncontrollably now.

Headass.

Forty-seven minutes later, I leaned back in the desk’s chair. I looked at Russel, who wore a blank face and wasstaring across the room. I was worried about him. Russel had to score close to perfect to bring his grades up to play our next game. I knew how important it was to him, and I hated seeing Russel not getting what he wanted. Russel seemed generally happy with his life, but I knew he dreamt of more. His family was lower-class, and they lived in a smaller area where not many kids at our school would expect a student to live. He worked hard. With the living standards Russel was born into, he made the best of it.

There were few people I genuinely cared for; Russel was one of them. Seeing him succeed gave me hope for myself. We were so close, practically brothers. I was surprised that Coach didn’t say anything to me. I kept my grades up enough to pass by.

Everyone was gazing at the clock in the back corner. Only a few more seconds and class would be over.

I peered into my phone and looked at my Snapchat messages. I got five new snaps from Jasmine, one from Esther, and two from Forrest. I view Esther’s first.

I never knew what to expect from Esther. She looked perfect in every snap she sent me. She usually wore her giant gold hoop earrings. Those were my favorites. I thought she told me once they were good luck because her mom made them herself. The earrings complimented her features every day. From the jet-blacklong hair, brown eyes and dark skin, the gold hoops became essential.

On the snap, her eyes were looking left, her red lipstick shined bright and her gold hoops hung from her ears. I smiled and I was about to reply.

“How did you do on that test, Russ?” Harry asked.

When I looked up, Harry was  smiling at Russel’s desk.The only reason Harry was talking to Russel was so he could brag about his perfect scores and grades again.

I clicked out of Snapchat and told myself that I’d reply to our streak later.

“I think I did well,” Russel said.

He tried to play it cool by tossing his mop-like hair over his shoulder. It was no use. I saw right through his statement, and I could tell Harry did too.

I laughed and stepped in front of Russel’s desk, eye-to-eye with Harry—“I bet Russel did amazing.”

Harry scoffed, “I guarantee he couldn’t figure out how to factor number two.”

The bell rang and everyone else began to maneuver away. I stood with Harry near the front of the room, and people piled towards us. I wanted to go back to my seat because I knew Harry was about to make another stupid comment.

“In fact,” he said, “I guarantee he failed and that he won’t be able to play the next game. Sucks to suck.” 

He gave me a sly smile.

I felt my muscles tighten as I looked at his oval-shaped face. My nose scrunched up in disgust that I couldn’t hide. I knew Russel would’ve punched him, but by the red look of distortion on his face, I knew he was holding back like me. Harry was much scrawnier than the both of us. He wouldn’t last a minute.

“Jesus, Harry, give it a rest.”

It’s the same girl from earlier who made Harry stop talking. It seemed as if she was the only one who had that power over him. Her honey eyes met mine for a split second before she walked to Harry. She wrapped her arm around his back and gently maneuvered him to the classroom’s door. She didn’t dare to look back at me or Russel.

Once most of the class filed out, Russel was the first to speak.

“Harry bugs the shit out of me.”

I was waiting for the familiar Russel rant. There was nothing bigger than his deep, yet honest opinions. I nodded absentmindedly.

“—I mean, who does he think he is? He never takes that big stick out of his a—“

“Watch your mouth, Mr. Lancaster.”

Our teacher, Mr. Whelan, looked up from his desk. He was watching us for who knows how long, and I wonder if he witnessed the entire scene, not saying a word.

I didn’t look, but I knew Russel’s hands were fidgeting again. I couldn’t imagine the state of mind he was in. The game was tomorrow, and Coach Frank had to know if Russel could play or not. He was furious when he found out Russel failed the last two tests. Russel didn’t say anything, of course. Coach Frank was laid back, but Russel and I both knew if a player was struggling academically, he would take them out immediately. The only reason he gave Russel a chance was because sponsors from the University of Washington were supposed to watch the next games. Russel was one of the best players, and Coach knew that.

“Congratulations Lancaster,” Mr. Whelan slapped Russel’s paper down at the edge of his desk, and Russel practically leapt to see what his score was.

All he needs is a B, I thought.

I watched Russel, and I didn’t ask. He licked his lips first, exhaled a breath of relief and smiled.

“86 percent.”

His smile was as bright as the ice on the hockey rink. It looked like it was just cleaned up when we arrived for practice that afternoon. Some of our teammates went up giving Russel pats on the back and shouts of encouragement. I looked at his back: Number 18,. not that his number really mattered. I liked to believe no one was number one on the field, nor Prima-donna wise. We were a family. Play together and lose together—teammates.

“Alright—everyone in the center!” Coach Frank shouted.

Coach Frank was like my dad. My real dad died when I was seven. He never lived long enough to know my mom’s affair, and I, myself, was too young to understand. I tried to forget my real dad existed. I tried to think my dad was Coach because he had been a true father figure to me. Besides the game results and our overall performance scores, which Coach obviously cared about, he seemed to care more about the players’ well-being. Scholarships were becoming more and more important this year, and scouts were always at the games watching. I knew a large part of me depended on Coach Frank to help me succeed. He was another person, besides Russel, whom I knew I could trust deeply.

“First of all, what the fuck, Eli?” Coach Frank heatedly shouted.

He crossed over a few of the others and grasps Russel’s shoulder.

“So, I hear you get to play?” He was grinning in contrast from Eli.

I looked at Eli, who looked completely relaxed now, like the situation never happened. Coach Frank gave Russel a hug. I stared at both of them for a few seconds before I reverted my full attention back to Coach.

I felt bad for Elijah Anderson. Coach Frank would always pick on him. Eli was a great hockey player, and I knew he was going to do great things. I think Frank went after him because he was trying to push him to be better. After all, he was only a freshman, which meant he had an immense amount of time to improve.

“That’s all for practice today, boys! You look incredibly tired, and I think some of you put in phenomenal work this afternoon.”

His eyes looked directly at Russel and me. Then, he looked at Eli.

“You can use a bit more work.”

He smiled quickly then laughed. Eli stiffened, but forced a fake-nervous laugh out anyways. Everyone saw through it.

“What are you waiting for?” Coach asked, “I’ve just released you all! Don’t any of you have essays to write?”

Some of the guys start mumbling things I tune out as they all walked back to the locker rooms. I looked at Russel. He waved at me, but he’s already skating quickly out of the rink too. I skated to Coach. He’s still standing in the middle of reading something off his clipboard he had since the beginning of practice. The man and his clipboard were practically inseparable.

Sensing my presence, Coach Frank looked at me.

“Can I just practice a couple more hits?” I asked.

I’ve stayed late before. Coach was lenient; he’d let me stay all night if he could. Usually at midnight, however, a late-night Zamboni driver would come in to clean the ice. It’s always a volunteer, so for the most part they’re nice about it and would let me stay. Although, the last driver was such an a**. Students were encouraged to volunteer, but the ones who ended up volunteering were usually older and retired from employment. They’re quiet, but I am notified to stay off the ice for at least ten minutes to clean it for the day. After this, they let me continue to skate. The last driver, however, kicked me out. It made me mad, and I might’ve made a scene but I wasn’t about to do that so close to a game. Coach Frank knew I needed personal time on the ice, which also helped on my worst days.

“When the Zamboni driver comes, you leave,” he told me.

I never realized I was holding my breath until I let it fall when I saw Coach glide off the ice rink. I was so nervous. I had no idea if the last volunteer reported me. I assumed so because Coach seemed to know. Either way, it seemed to me that Coach Frank didn’t care or had let it go.

]Whenever I made rounds on the rink, my mind was in its own place. I lost track of time, and I thought about the highlights in my day. Some good, bad, beautiful, and awful. Hockey helped me think. Playing the game made me forget all my problems.

I knew I had lost track of time again when I heard the engine of the Zamboni machine. I knew Coach told me to leave immediately, but I didn’t want to. I never wanted to leave the rink. Something was telling me to stay. My feet weren’t moving, and my body gave up on me.

Honey eyes bored into mine, and I didn’t look away. The volunteer looked about my age. Her hair was in a bun as she drove the Zamboni machine through the rink’s entrance. When she saw me, she stopped the engine. Her nose is scrunched up in confusion. She cocked her head to the side.

“Hey…” Her voice trailed off in the dark.

Blinking, I couldn’t help but stare at her with wonder. I was expecting the woman from the other day to be on the Zamboni driving seat again. I was waiting to see the scary toothpick smile again, like some kind of wicked witch. It was a recurring nightmare; it was also a shortened way of saying that I was glad to see a new face volunteering.

“I didn’t think you out of all people would be here,” she was saying, “I was told, actually, that like— no one would be here.”

I watched her for a few more seconds. She looked uncomfortable in my presence. She expected the rink to be vacant.

“I can go if you want me to—” I stopped mid-sentence when I noticed her hair.

One of the darker shadows glowing on her face skidded and I could see more of her in the pitch black. Silver-like strands stuck out from her bun. I looked back at the honey eyes I’ve stared at multiple times in math class. I was looking at the only girl who could shut Harry Reynolds’ mouth.

I pointed at her.

“Aren’t you…”

“December?” She asked, “Yeah, we’re in the same math class.”

“Sorry I just didn’t know who you were. It’s also kind of dark in here…”

She didn’t say anything. I was staring at her in the dark sitting in the Zamboni. I sighed. It was really uncomfortable for me, and I wondered if it was normal.

“I’m sorry,” I broke the ice, “I think it’s really cool you volunteered to clean the rink tonight. I can’t remember the last time a student volunteered. I think it’s truly cool you wanted to! I’m going to go… you know, get out of your hair and all that!”

“No, no! I’m just gonna go around the rink really quick. You can stay all night, if you want,” December said.

“I’ll think about it.”

“It’ll be quick, I promise.” December said.

The Zamboni’s engine roared to life, and I skated out of the rink. The cold air pressed onto my cheeks when I opened the back door. I sat in the open view and watched December drive around. I took off my blades.

I didn’t know if it was her first time cleaning up the rink or not, but for a beginner, she was doing a decent job. The Zamboni glided through the ice gracefully in the same pattern protocol, like every night before. I kept watching December. She looked at peace as she drove, breathing evenly with the machine, like the two were one. The machine turned off and was parked at the side. She smiled at me.

“I’m all done! You can use the rink, now!”

“Thanks, but I think I’m actually done for the night,” I told her. I didn’t know why she rushed to clear the ice for me.

“Okay,” I heard her say. I couldn’t grasp her tone, whether she was mad at me or not.

I left the rink and went down the corridor hall, back to the men’s locker rooms. I threw my skates into locker 13. My mom used to threaten to take my skates away when I told her I wanted to tell dad the truth. My skates were second on the list of things I genuinely cared for.

I stripped off my jersey and I put back on the black I wore before. I locked everything up, and I turned out the lights. When I went back out to the rink, the lights were off and the Zamboni gate was closed.

December was gone.