Read Freeing Carter Online

Authors: Nyrae Dawn

Freeing Carter (4 page)

BOOK: Freeing Carter
8.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

My backpack sits under the hoop on the far end of the court. Each time I run that way
,
see it sitting there with the work I know I should be doing
,
I push harder
,
run harder. My cell is going crazy
,
ringing and beeping every two seconds. But instead of answering
,
I jump
,
letting the ball roll off my fingertips just right. It arcs in the air
,
hitting nothing but the bottom of the net.

Five more minutes. Then I
'
ll go over to Mel
'
s to apologize
,
then head home to bust my ass learning Hamlet and reading books that will have no
effect
on
my life whatsoever.

My muscles are tight
,
Mrs. Z
'
s words from today slamming into me.

Mom
'
s apology from last night
taunts
me.

Instead of grabbing the ball
,
I start running lines. From one side of the court
,
to the free throw line
,
and back. Three point line and back. Half court
,
and then owning the other side too. By the time I
'
m done
,
my lungs ache
,
but in a good way. My way. Not giving a shit that I
'
m in the middle of a public basketball court
,
at a park
,
I collapse on the ground
,
one arm covering my eyes.

T
he warm pavement feels good against my back
,
seeping through my shirt. There
'
s a part of me that
'
s screaming at my muscles to move
,
to make myself get up and do all the stuff that I don
'
t want to do
,
but nothing happens.

My phone goes off again. Mel
'
s going to kill me. I need to talk to her. It
'
s not her fault I was in a bad mood today. Not her fault I stayed up all night then took it out on her. In a way
,
she
'
s like basketball for me. An escape. Maybe a much moodier escape
,
but one all the same.

As soon as I make the decision to get up and go see her
,
I hear a voice. 
"
Second time in one day I could have kicked you. You sleep a lot.
"

My arm drops. Kira is standing above me
,
the setting sun peeking out from behind her.
"
I didn
'
t fall asleep in art
,
" I say. "That has to count for something.
"
She
'
d been in my art class this afternoon too.
"
And I
'
m not sleeping now. Just resting.
"
I stand up.

"
Yeah
,
you were in the zone out there.
"

"
Practice starts tomorrow. Just getting ready.
"
I look around to see if anyone else is watching that I didn
'
t know about. We
'
re both quiet for a few seconds.
I'm not
sure what to say to this girl I don
'
t know
,
I lift my arm to scratch my head instead of talking.

"
Is the team any good? At my old school they sucked pretty bad. It was embarrassing.
"

This
is something I can talk about.
"
We
'
re the best. Probably take the conference this year
,
at least. It won
'
t be embarrassing to cheer us on.
"

She laughs
,
and I wonder what I said that
'
s so funny.
"
I
'
m not the rah-rah kind of girl.
"

I take a step back
,
my eyes darting to the ground. Words lost to me. It takes me a minute
,
and then I wonder what I
'
m doing
. Why am I
letting myself
clam up
like I
'
ve never talked to a girl before
?
Raising my head
,
my eyes find hers.
"
That
'
s because you
'
ve never had me to cheer for.
"
I wink at her
,
playing the game.

"
No!
"
she shakes her head
,
laughing. It
'
s a real laugh. Not one of those fake
I-want-your-attention laughs.
"
Don
'
t do that. Bring back the guy who was so into the game. The one who obviously loves what he
'
s doing and actually cares about something. Don
'
t be a stereotypical
,
cocky teenage boy.
"

My mouth opens. Closes. Opens again
,
but nothing comes out. The urge to scratch my head again comes back
,
but I don
'
t let myself do it. Who is this girl? I
'
ve talked to her for a total of like 2.2 seconds my whole life
,
and she talks to me like we
'
re long lost buddies or something.  Am I slipping? No. Just lost step a bit.
"
I
'
m allowed to be cocky because I
'
m good. I can back it up. You
'
ll see once you watch me play.
"

For the millionth time my phone goes off. Mel
,
she
'
s who I need to see right now. I
'
ll get lost in her
,
make up for being a jerk earlier
,
and then get down to the folder in my backpack that I don
'
t want to see.
"
That
'
s my girlfriend. I better go. You need a ride anywhere?
"
The words just come out
,
but I regret them afterward. Mel will kick my ass if I
let this girl in my car
. Drama is the last thing I need.

Luckily for me
,
Kira shakes her head.
"
Nope. It
'
s a gorgeous day for a walk. Plus
,
I don
'
t take rides from strangers.
"
She winks and walks away, leaving me behind to wonder what just happened.

***

"
I
'
m sorry.
"
The words jump out of my mouth the second Mel opens the door.
"
I was being a jerk earlier. I just
...
I had a really bad night
,
but I shouldn
'
t have taken it out on you.
"
This is something I don
'
t like admitting
,
even to myself
,
but there
'
s a piece
of me screaming to break free that wants her to ask me what happened. To ask why I had a bad night so I can tell her. Actually speak the freaking words that are bottled up inside me like a shaken up coke can. Once the top is popped
,
I
'
m scared it will all burst out
,
spilling over and making my life sticky—more of a mess than it already is.

But that would mean
needing
her. Showing her I
'
m not the guy she thinks I am. Not an option for me. Probably not an option for her
,
either
,
so even if she does wonder
,
I know I can
'
t tell her. Even if I could do it to myself
,
I couldn
'
t do it to Mom.

She looks at her nails
,
studying them in mock-nonchalance.
"
You
'
re right
,
you shouldn
'
t have. Basketball starts soon
.
Cheerleading,
too
,
and on top of it all
,
you work. We
'
ll never see each other and when we do
,
I don
'
t want to spend that time fighting with you.
"

I step forward. My voice drops a little.
"
I know
,
baby
.
I said I
'
m sorry. Forgive me?
"
I wrap my arms around her neck. When she nods against my chest
,
I let out a heavy breath. I need this
...
the dose of
normal
Mel gives me. Or
,
at least
,
to pretend or make myself forget Mom
,
forget the homework.

She
lifts her face
,
giving me permission to
kiss her
. The second our lips touch it takes me
away and
makes me forget the sound of Mom
'
s voice when she said she was sorry. The look on her face when I wrapped my arm around her to help her up the stairs. Behind the bloodshot eyes
,
I saw her—the real her that hates herself for what she does.

Forget that I
can
lose basketball. The only thing that means as much to me as Mom or Sara.

Trying to push those thoughts away
,
I deepen the kiss. Mel
'
s hand weaves through my hair before she pulls away
,
kicking the door shut behind her and leading me to her living room couch.

An hour and a whole lot of making out later
,
I come up for air.
"
I should go
,"
I tell her.
"
I have a ton of homework to do. Gotta keep my grades up for basketball.
"
Keep them up
,
not pull them up
,
because Mel doesn
'
t know how badly I
'
m flunking English.

"
No.
"
She kisses me again.
"
For one second
,
forget basketball.
"
Another kiss.
"
Homework can wait. I
'
m more important.
Let
'
s go upstairs.
"

It
'
s me who kisses her this time. I know I shouldn
'
t
,
but I do exactly what she says.

***

I don
'
t get home until 8:45. My backpack still taunts me
,
whispering that I should have come home earlier. There
'
s so much work to do
in English alone that I
'
ll never get caught up if I don
'
t start now.

Mom
'
s blue Toyota sits in the driveway. She can
'
t have been home for very long since the shop closes at eight. Still
,
nervous energy skitters through my veins. Adrenaline
,
but not the good kind that makes me feel like I can fly on the court. More like the one that overdoses me until I feel like puking. Or having a heart attack. Or both. No matter how much I know she
'
s not an everyday drinker
,
or how much I know an episode like last night usually buys me some time before it happens again
,
I still think about it every day. Always wondering which version of Mom I
'
m coming home to.

BOOK: Freeing Carter
8.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Enter, Night by Michael Rowe
Uniform Desires (Make Mine Military Romance) by Hamilton, Sharon, Schroeder, Melissa, James, Elle, Devlin, Delilah, Madden, JM, Johnson, Cat
Gallant Match by Jennifer Blake
Night Winds by Gwyneth Atlee
A Mother's Spirit by Anne Bennett
Death's Shadow by Darren Shan
Leeway Cottage by Beth Gutcheon
Dead Wolf by Tim O'Rourke