Fallen Fourth Down

Page 12

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After changing into my running clothes, I headed to the field where everyone was waiting for the coach. The guys had been sent ahead, but we would be running the same course as them. I dropped down to the grass to stretch. When the other girls came out, some of them began stretching like me, but they sat away from me. A burst of laughter sounded from further down the field and everyone looked. A group of girls were coming towards us. Someone groaned a few feet from me, “Juniors. Honestly. Why do we have to run with them?”

I bent over my leg, reaching for my toe. The seniors kept their distance from me, so the juniors wouldn’t be a problem. A lot of them were just in awe that I was dating Mason Kade, but I heard my name, “Sam!”

I paused and cursed. Kris was waving at me. Dressed in running pants and a tight top, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, she bounced over to me. Literally bounced. She dropped down next to me. Bringing her feet together in front of her, she cupped them and bent over, but turned to me. She was beaming. “Hey! Did Logan tell you I was joining the team?”

Fuck no. I smiled at her. “He didn’t. I didn’t know you were a runner?”

“Oh.” She shrugged. Her knee was lifted and pressed to her chest as she hugged it for a moment. She did the same with the other one. “I like running. I’m not in your league, but when he found out, he suggested I join the team. I’m new, all for a team spirit, you know.”

Still smiling, still forcing it, I commented, “I’m surprised you didn’t do cheerleading.”

She laughed and spread her legs. She reached for her right ankle, cupped it, and began to lower down over her leg. “Oh, you know, I did think about it. I can be peppy and annoying, I know, but I would’ve joined to try and make friends. Not to inflate my own balloon, but because I’m dating Logan, I don’t have to try at being popular. Being his girlfriend makes a lot of girls super nice to me, if you know what I mean.”

My smile widened, and I showed my teeth. “That’s funny. They tried to kill me last year.”

She chuckled, switched legs, and continued, “Yeah, so there’s that. But, to be honest, I doubt my sister would come to see me if I was cheerleading for the football game or something. She’ll come to a cross-country meet, though. I know that.” She shook her head, wearing a fond smile. “She likes to stalk around in the shadows. She and I are completely different.”

“Kris!” One of the girls she walked out with waved. “Come here. I need a partner.”

“Oh.” Her chuckle faded. “I joined the team to hang out with you, but do you mind if I run with those girls? They’re in my grade and the friendships are new. You know how those things are.”

My eyes widened. She had expected to run with me? “Uh, that’s no problem. I run alone.”

“Oh yeah. Logan said something about that. Okay. Good.” She hopped to her feet and pretended to punch me in the shoulder. “I’ll see you later, if you don’t make us eat your dust too early.” Without waiting for a response, she went over and dropped next to her group of friends. They moved so they formed a circle, all of them facing each other, and it wasn’t long before they were counting out loud at the same time.

The same girl from before groaned again. “Fucking juniors.”

I grunted in agreement and went back to stretching. After I finished, I started jogging in place until Coach came out. As he did, everyone stood and he gave us our instructions. It was the same every day. We were told which trail to run, which we always knew because it rotated, and we were told to clock our times when we returned before another stretching period. He looked at me. “Strattan, stay behind a second.” He blew his whistle and the girls started off.

I waited until everyone cleared out. “Yeah, Coach?”

“The boys took off ten minutes ago. See if you can take ‘em and let me know if they give you a hard time.”


He grunted and started walking away. “Because their egos have grown the size of a planet. I need ‘em crushed.”

“Oh.” I grinned. “Will do.” I started off. The girls weren’t too far ahead, and I was beginning to hit my first stride as I came up to the last ones. I felt the urge to lengthen my stride and lose myself, but I kept it in check as I concentrated on slowly moving up the group. Kris was at the back of the line with her friends. They were still laughing together, but I knew that’d end in another half mile. Kris’ cheeks were slightly pink, and she waved as I came up next to her. Giving her a small grin, I continued forward. I wasn’t pushing it. I was maintaining my normal pace. It wasn’t long before I passed the majority of the girls. There was another group at the front. I’d been running with some of these girls over the last two weeks in August and before school started, so they didn’t react when they saw me edging past them. Two more girls were in the lead, but they were staggered, one behind the other. Both of them were seniors and I knew one, Tori, was hoping for a track scholarship. Both wore grim expressions. Their lips were flat. Their shoulders were slightly bent, their head down a tiny bit, and they were breathing easy.

After a few strides, I passed both and the path was clear for me. I had the guys to catch up to. They had a good start on us so I wasn’t surprised when it took me almost a mile to catch up. Clearing a hill, I saw their heads go down over the next hill. My blood was pumping, but the sight of them sent a surge through me. This was the ultimate competition, going head to head with the males. Bending forward a bit, I kept my hands loose and continued going down on my heels and pushing off with my toes. When I began the incline for the second hill, my head went low and I kept going. They were halfway up another hill as I cleared it.

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