Unnatural Affairs. Chapter 5: Killer Moves, Dude.
I sighed deeply through my nose as I handed in my test. I legit have no idea how I did on it. Religion in Pop Culture was a fun class, but some of the material was challenging. I mumbled my thanks to the prof and hefted my bag over my shoulder as I headed out.
It’s been nearly 3 weeks since the shower incident. No other freaky shit had happened, so I guess it was just a hideously stupid prank. Our guess was it was one of the other teams just playing a prank on us, or the women’s soccer team. We were the only ones who would have been in the locker room at that time.
Still, the whispers and the strange looks were starting to get on my nerves. I normally would argue that I was an easy-going kind of person, but this kind of attention had made my mood sour as of late.
“Why the scowl, Lyn-Lyn?”
I glanced over when Loryn bumped hips, finding a little smile on her face.
“Just finished writing a test and heard yet another ‘bet they’re gonna lose the banner again’ whispers,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I swear, these people are making me want to commit bloody murder.”
“Aw, don’t let them get to you,” said Loryn, wrapping her arms around mine, “they ain’t worth it.”
“I know, I know. It’s just hard, you know?”
Loryn nodded. “Yup, totes. But seriously, Lyn, I have a good feeling about this year. I feel like barring any extreme accidents, we’re gonna kick Turner’s ass this year and win that banner.”
I finally cracked a real smile. “Loryn, you know you’re awesome, right?”
“I mean, obviously. That’s why everyone loves me,” she said with a cheeky grin.
I snorted, the tension finally leaving my body. I said goodbye to Loryn, who was heading to her next class as I headed to the pool to teach swim lessons.
Loryn was one of those people who just knew how to get under my skin, in a good way. We were frosh together, and ended up in the same res. When we both showed up for the rookie week, we had a good laugh about the coincidence and because fast friends. Loryn came from a family of four girls, which according to her meant she was ‘a-mazing at dealing with conflict’ and it was hard to bring her mood down. She was planning on going to school after this to become a middle school teacher, which I thought was awesome. I was lucky to have a good friend in her, because my first year here was… well, let’s just say I was going through some stuff.
I pulled off my shirt as I walked into the AC, waving to Hassan, who was working at the desk today. He was a really sweet guy on the Badminton team, and admittedly I used to have a huge crush on, so every now and then I liked to tease him when I went by.
He grinned as he waved back, and I snickered as I bounded down the stairs to head into the locker room. I could hear all the kids chatting and messing around in there as I punched in the password to the swim team’s locker room. Those sounds always brightened my mood, and by the time I was done changing, my mood was pretty much back to the usual Lyn Hart standard.
I stepped onto the pool, laughing as a couple of the kids immediately ran to my side. Hunter, Joy, Kevin and Morgan loved me and always raced over to tell me about their days or whatever else crossed their minds. I sat down on the pool edge as they all spoke over each other to be heard, and eventually I had to settle them down so I could start the lesson.
I hopped into the pool and demonstrated the skills they needed to learn for this week’s lesson. I always loved getting in with them and showing them how to do it right. Too often do I see the other instructors standing on the pool deck, not really engaging in teaching. I get it, it’s not for everyone, but sometimes it’s not about you, it’s about the kids. Some of these kids…swim practice is their escape, they need this. If you aren’t there to be supportive, then why are you here in the first place?
The lesson went by so fast, and it was time for our practice. I said goodbye to the little guys and quickly threw on my cap and goggles. Time to get this underway.
I looked up from my laptop bleary eyed. Kerry pulled out a chair and sat down next to me. “Yeah? Wassup?”
She sighed as she leaned back, pulling her leg up on the seat. “I know this is going to sound so utterly stupid, but I’m nervous about the meet this weekend. I just haven’t been in a great head space recently, and with all the drama surrounding us and Gunner, I guess I’m just feeling overwhelmed.”
“Hey,” I said, reaching over and taking her hand in mine, “that is not stupid at all. Don’t ever think how you feel is stupid, got it?”
Kerry gave a lopsided smile. “Thanks, Lyn.”
I smiled in return. “Always. Now, did you tell Emma about how you felt? Or Andrew?”
“No,” she shook her head. “I will, yeah. Just…I wanted to talk to someone else about it first. It’s one of those things where you know that once you talk to someone is like ‘oh, why’d you take so long to say something?’ but still take your time.”
“I totally get that. I tend to keep things all bottled up until it just explodes out, you know? Loryn is the only one who knows how to get it out of me. Remember at the Halloween Bash last year when I finally lost my shit and decked Frankie across the chin?” I shook my head in shame.
Kerry chuckled. “I have to admit though, Frankie deserved it. He was being such a dick.”
I smirked, thinking back to that night. Frankie probably did deserve it but resorting to physical violence was something I should avoid in the future.
All of a sudden, Matt popped out of nowhere. It was like he was using his twin sense to find Kerry. Honestly, it was cute. Kerry seemed to be the more sensitive of the two on the surface, but in reality, it was Matt. He was constantly checking in on Kerry and would seriously drop anything to make sure she was okay. Kerry and Gunner were in an on again off again relationship for the past 6 months, and clearly his drug incident was bothering her a lot more than she was letting on. Matt walked over and plopped down on the table.
“Did I miss anything important?”
“I was admitting to my undying love to your sister, and we’re running away together after the swim meet tomorrow to move to Calgary,” I said seriously. Kerry nodded solemnly beside me.
Matt rolled his eyes and stuck his tongue out. “How are y’all feeling about it, anyhow?”
I shrugged. “I mean, the first meet of the season. Feeling a little nervous, but otherwise same as always.”
“Ah, the Stonewall Lyn is coming back out to play, huh?”
“I hate it when you call me that,” I said with a whine, slumping onto the table. “It’s not like I’m impenetrable.”
“No, that much is obvious,” said Kerry with a smirk. Matt burst into laughter as my ears got hot. I reached over and squeezed Kerry’s arm, causing her to jokingly squeal in pain.
Someone yelled at us to shut up, and we all quieted down guiltily. Sometimes I forget that you still had to be quiet in the library. Matt slipped off the table and pulled out his own laptop, and the three of us decided to do our homework together.
My head burst through the water as I took a breath. I could barely hear them all shouting at me to go faster, that I was only close behind Sophie LeBlanc from Turner University. We both hit the wall and I pushed off, kicking hard. I could see in the corner of my eye that we were neck and neck for the final 25 meters. Sophie was faster than me, but I had more endurance. The 200 Fly was where I shined. My hands smacked against the wall and I immediately looked up to check the clock. A huge grin broke out on my face when I saw the number 1 next to my name. Sophie smiled at me and I reached over the lane rope to give her a hug.
“Good swim,” I huffed out.
“You too,” she breathed heavily.
I pulled myself out and shakily walked over to where the team was waiting, clapping me on the back. Maddie handed me my towel and I listened to Coach Jacob point out some things I did well and things I could work on, nodded when I needed to. He clapped me on the shoulder and sent me to the warm down pool.
I hopped in and swam a couple of laps lazily, to get that lactic acid moving out of my system. I stopped at the wall and watched Kerry swim her 50 Breast, cheering as she hit the wall for a turn. Despite her initial nerves, she was on fire this meet.
I swam back to the other end of the warm down pool and jumped out. I quickly threw on my swim parka and sweatpants, not wanting to get cold. The relay was the last event, and I needed to be ready to swim the Fly sprint. I walked over to where Emma, Maddie, and Tammy were, getting each other pumped up.
Emma huddled us together and closed her eyes. “Alright, you psycho bitches, we’re going to kill this relay. We’re not going to let Turner or Francois step all over us this year. You girls are seriously some of the best people I’ve ever had the joy of swimming with. Wolves on 3. 1, 2, 3!”
We all shouted “WOLVES” and hurried over to the starting block. Maddie chucked all her stuff into the box behind the timer’s chairs and waited for the whistle blow before hopping into the water. A jolt of nervous energy shot through my system as the buzzer went off, and so did the swimmers. I tossed all my stuff off too and slapped my arms and legs as part of my good luck ritual. I spared a glance over at Sophie, who gave me a cheeky smile before getting settled herself.
Maddie was fast approaching the wall, and Tammy was raring to go. She dove in the second Maddie’s fingertip brushed the wall, her form as beautiful as always. I shouted with the others as loudly as I could, before getting onto the block myself. Tammy was slicing through the water, looking as awesome as she did. I know she was exhausted from her 50 Breast swim from earlier, but it didn’t show at all as she kept pace with the others. Tammy’s hands slammed into the wall and I dove in, kicking as hard as I possibly could and fell into a mad rhythm, trying to keep pace with Sophie and Megan from Francois University. My lungs were screaming for air by the time I hit the wall for my turn, and I took a quick breath. My body was already in agony from my earlier swims, but I had to push through that for them. I hit the wall hard and Emma dove in. Maddie helped me out as I struggled to catch my breath. Emma was already halfway down the pool when I got out, trying my best to cheer for her despite my lack of oxygen. Kim Hawks from Turner was one of the best freestyle sprinters in the province, and while Emma was good, she wasn’t as good as Kim. I just hoped that we did enough to stay in the race.
Emma slammed her hand against the wall, and we all looked at the timer on the wall, holding our breaths. Turner popped up in the number 1 spot, unfortunately. But Mount Seamus showed up in the number 2 spot right after and we cheered. Maybe it wasn’t first, but yeah, beating Francois felt pretty damn good. We helped Emma out of the pool and held each other for a minute. I could feel the pride oozing off of us, and that was amazing. The points all mattered in the end, but right now, we did good.
Mondays after a swim meet were always the hardest. You were exhausted and spent the whole Sunday evening catching up on any work you were behind on. The only thing nice about them was morning practice was cancelled.
I yawned my whole way through my Asia World History course, even though it was one of my favourite classes. It was just hard when you were as tired as I was. I was just lucky since I did the readings ahead of time, because I know my notes were total garbage today.
Professor Gorgens told me I did an awesome job this weekend as I left class, and I gave him a warm smile. The guy was a bit of an egotistical jerk sometimes, but he did care about his students and made an effort to keep up with how the athletes were doing.
The food hall was a little quieter today, as students were frantically studied for their first batch of tests or they were just getting sick of the food already, which does happen. I yawned as I grabbed a couple of the premade sandwiches and some of the less questionable fruits. I didn’t really feel like eating inside right now, so I lumbered outside.
I sat down under the big tree, taking small bites out of my sandwich as I read through my textbook for my next class. It was just about October, and while it was starting to cool down, it was still nice enough out to enjoy the weather.
It felt like I was starting to doze off when I heard someone say my name. I looked up groggily and saw Ally waving to me.
“Oh, hey, Ally,” I said. “How have you been?”
Her eyes flickered to the tree uneasily before looking back at me. “Oh, good! I just finished writing my first midterm and have another one tomorrow. So, just been a little busy. How about you?”
I shrugged. “Good. Busy with swimming and school, so the usual.”
I’m not sure what was going on with Ally, but she kept looking up at the branches with some obvious discomfort. I looked up as well, wondering if there was an animal or something, but I didn’t see anything out of the norm. I looked back to her, and when we made eye contact, she gave me a tight smile.
“Is there…is there something wrong?” I asked hesitantly.
Her smile tightened even more, and she shook her head. “Nope, nothing is wrong. Why would you think there’s something wrong?”
Uh, okay. That was weird. I frowned and said, “Well, because you’re all wound up about something.”
“You seem to be.”
She made a popping sound with her mouth. “I see. Well…this is going to sound so strange, so don’t judge me please, but I don’t like the vibes from the tree.”
I stared at her blankly before nodding. “Yeah, okay. That makes sense.”
“It does?” She sounded genuinely surprised.
“Yeah, totally.” I stood up, brushing my butt off and walking away from the tree. “According to the history of the school, this tree was planted on an old mass grave. It freaks a lot of people out because of that, but I always found it a nice spot to sit.”
Ally’s face paled as she took in the tree entirely. I don’t think I totally understood what was bothering her, but I gently pushed her away until the colour returned to her face. Whatever it was about the tree bothered her, and I was going to respect that.
“Does that bother you?” I asked as I continued to lead her away.
Ally gave a slow nod. “I…it just makes me uncomfortable, that’s all. I didn’t realize that there were so many buried skeletons at this school.” She tried to look over at it one last time, but I placed my hand on her face and directed her attention to me instead.
When our eyes connected, Ally made a strange face as her cheeks turned red. I know sometimes my stare can be pretty intense, according to the several people on the team who told me, so I dropped my hand and looked away slightly.
“Sorry, I just didn’t think you should be looking at the tree if it was freaking you out that much, you know?” I said with a grin.
“Oh, uh, yes!” Ally composed herself and nodded firmly. “Thank you for that. Sometimes I just get into my own head and it’s hard to get out of there.”
“Anxiety can be a bitch,” I said with sympathy.
“You don’t even know the half of it,” she said with a small chuckle.
I walked with Ally to her next class, just wanting to make sure everything was all good before I headed to mine. Some nice-looking guy with a small scar on his eyebrow was waiting for her when we got there, and I waved goodbye to her as I walked down the steps. Ally seemed more adjusted to the student life than last time I spoke to her, which was good. I was glad that she was making friends and finding herself a nice routine to fall into.
I was just about to dash to my class when I realized I left all my things under the tree when I made Ally leave. I ran over and gathered all my things quickly, sparing one last glace at the branches before leaving.
Maybe it was the trick of my eye, but it did kind of look like there was a shadow. I blinked and looked again, only to see the clear sky through the branches. Huh.
Practice was an easy affair today. Coach Jacob liked to give us one easy day after a meet, something we all appreciated. Plus, he started the day off with great news.
“Gunner is allowed to compete again!” he announced before any of us got into the water.
Several people cheered and Kerry gave him a small peck on the cheek. Gunner looked embarrassed but determined. He apologized to all of us for his behaviour this summer and that he was going to make it up to us.
Jackie reached over and patted his shoulder. “Hey, it happens to the best of us, Gunner. My sister fell in with the wrong crowd and ended up needing rehab. The important thing is that you got clean.”
Gunner brushed away tears and gave her a hug, which caused a huge group hug. I was happy for him, really. Sure, he made a mistake. But you’re supposed to be allowed to learn from those mistakes and grow from them. He was lucky to have such a good support system, because not everyone did. Coach Jacob rubbed his head and told everyone to get into the water and to stop being so sappy. A few of us laughed as we broke up the hug and did as we were told.
It was about halfway through practice when Jackie hopped out of the pool to run to the bathroom. Normally Coach Jacob hated when we did that, but I think he was in a good mood today, so he let it slide. He read through the next set and we got to work.
It wasn’t until we were finished with the set that I noticed Jackie hadn’t returned. That was really strange. I think other people noticed too, because I saw some heads swiveling as they looked for her. Jackie’s lane partner Tammy said under her breath, “What’s taking her so long? Did her tampon get stuck or something?”
I said I’d go see what was going on and pushed myself out of the pool. I padded lightly into the locker room and called out her name, only to get no response. I felt my heart speed up a little, as I felt a pit of concern growing in my stomach.
I walked into where the bathrooms were and knocked on all the doors. Still nothing. Maybe she just had to race home for something? I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling, however. That wasn’t like Jackie at all. She always made sure to let people know where she was going, even if it was a sudden situation change.
My heart was pounding loudly in my ears now as I called out again and still got nothing in return. I shuddered as I walked towards the locker room, feeling a sudden chill. I shakily punched in the combination and opened the door to where our lockers were located.
I couldn’t help but shriek when I saw Jackie lying on the floor in a puddle of blood. She groaned as I grabbed a towel and shoved it against her stomach, where it looked like someone had cut her with something. She opened her eyes and tried to say something, but I shushed her.
“Jackie, sweetie, don’t say anything right now,” I said, trying to keep the panic from my voice. “You need to lie very still, okay?”
She gave the teeniest of nods as her eyes lost focus again. I heard someone running into the change room, most likely responding to the sound of my scream.
I move the door with my foot so the worst of the scene is hidden from view. “Don’t come in!” I shouted.
“Lyn, what’s going on?” That was Loryn.
“Jackie’s been hurt, she needs medical attention ASAP.”
I heard Loryn swear loudly. “Lyn, my phone is in there!”
“Use the phone on the deck or upstairs!” My voice cracked with fear as the blood seeped through the towel. I grabbed another one and applied pressure on the wound, praying that it would slow down or stop. Jackie was looking very pale, and her breathing was shallow.
I forced myself to look away for a second, knowing I was getting tunnel vision. The lockers were all open and the light overhead was out. There were huge gouges in the wall that looked like they were trying to spell something, but I was not in the right head space to even try and read it right now.
The door opened and Coach Jacob stood in the doorway, taking the scene in. He went very pale and had to lean against the wall to keep himself upright.
I shook my head. “Breathing, alive for now. She needs to get to the hospital, now.”
He nodded shakily. “They’re on the way. Loryn…she called.”
Thank God for Loryn. She was good a keeping calm under pressure. I looked down at Jackie and breathed a little easier when I saw that this towel hadn’t soaked through. I have no idea who did this to her, but they couldn’t have gotten too far. I felt like crying so bad right now, but the tears just wouldn’t come out. It was like my body knew what it needed to do right now, and crying was not it.
I refused to leave Jackie’s side until the paramedic gently removed me from the scene to ask some questions. I answered them the best I could, but I honestly had no idea what happened. I thought it was a stab mark at first, but as I thought about it a little bit more, I couldn’t get the visual of claw marks out of my head.
I sat on the hospital bed, my guts tied up into a nervous knot. I had to be brought in because I went into shock after I- well, after it. I checked my phone and paused when I saw that I missed a call from home. That was something unusual. Honestly? I didn’t feel like dealing with that right now, so I just swiped the notification off. If they couldn’t be bothered to leave a voice mail, then I can’t be bothered to call them back.
There was a knock at the door. I looked over as Loryn, Kerry, and Matt poked their heads in. I smiled weakly as they shuffled into the room. I took Loryn’s hand into my own as she sat down on my bed. Matt pulled over another chair and him and Kerry sat down next to the bed.
“Is…Jackie…?” I croaked, unable to get the words out.
Loryn nodded slightly. “Jackie is okay. She needed some serious stiches and won’t be able to compete for the rest of the season. Jacob and Robin are with her while they wait for her parents to arrive.”
I sighed in minor relief. “At least she’s okay. Um…did they find anyone?”
“They claim that they found a guy wielding a knife,” said Matt. “But Lyn, I’m not too sure about that. Why would some random guy attack a student in the locker room?”
That was my thought too. Also, I swear it was claw marks. They were straight across, not stabbed in. The thought of Jackie lying on the floor flashed in my mind and I had to squeeze my eyes shut as I waited out the wave of nausea. Loryn squeezed my hand as I struggled to control myself.
“Did they give you anything?” she asked quietly.
I shook my head slowly. “No, I refused.”
“Why’d you refuse?”
“I didn’t want to be drugged up if something happened to Jackie…”
There was a tense silence in the room. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything else, so I directed my attention to the window. The ticking of the clock sounded incredibly loud as time passed by. The IV pump I was connected to chugged along as it pumped some fluids into my body. I could hear Kerry sniffling in her chair, unable to say the words she needed to hear. It was like my brain was shutting down, unable to process what had happened.
Poor Jackie didn’t deserve this. Not that anyone did, but Jackie was such a sweet person. She would give you the shirt off her back if you asked and would then give you even more. This was a random attack, but why? The why was bouncing around, giving me a headache.
I felt Loryn reach over and brush her thumb against my cheek. I looked at her confused as to why she did that, then I realized I was actually crying. I don’t cry often; it just wasn’t something I did. I began to tremble and completely lost it when the three of them gave me a tight hug.
I cried and cried until I couldn’t anymore.