Night Class by Valeri Beatrix

 

EPISODE ONE: Ball Busting

"Mine! Mine!" I yelled. 

In a burst of speed, I approached the net for what should've been a textbook spike to center court. Instead, a noise like a popped balloon rang through the gym when my hand made contact with the ball. On instinct, my teammates shrieked at the sound, covering their ears as they ducked out of the way. Only I remained standing, gaze  trained on the deflated orb as it tumbled to the ground with a thud. What the hell?

A whistle blew.

"Well, I guess that's it for the day. Hit the showers." Coach Ward bellowed. "And remember..."

"Champions aren't born. They're made!" Everyone yelled with more enthusiasm than usual.

We had an hour left to train, but no one cared as they leapt to their feet and cheered. It was September 5th, the first day of Fall Semester, but practices started in August: four hours a day, five days a week. This was the first in which we'd been allowed to leave early. 

"Way to go, bionic woman." Taylor Cohen said slapping my spandex clad butt. She was the shortest yet most powerful hitter on the team. Well, until now.

I received the same treatment from the rest of the girls as we shuffled our aching legs to the female shower room. I glanced back in search of the ball, but someone had already picked it up.

"Looking for this?"

I turned to see my best friend, Paige, holding the blue and yellow remains. In its present state, it resembled a rubber beanie more than anything.

"Wow, it totally deserves a eulogy." She said pressing it against her flat chest. "Here lays, uh...old blue and yeller, the first, non-human casualty of the Pike-Spike!" she said, holding it closer. "Gone, but not forgotten."

"Oh, shut up!" I snatched it back as we entered the shower facility. At my locker, I tossed my rubber victim inside. After peeling off my sweat drenched uniform and undergarments, I deposited them in the designated hamper and went straight to my favorite stall.

Rosedale Academy was one of the most exclusive—and pricey—prep schools on the East Coast. As such, they spared no expense with anything, including the bathrooms or "Clean Rooms" as was their official name. Whenever I entered those in the Student Athletic Complex, I wondered if I was the only one to fully appreciate the craftsmanship of heated travertine tiles, polished granite countertops, and Duravit toilets with automatic closure systems. 

Yet if I had to choose one thing and demolish the rest, my choice would be the showers . I stepped inside and smiled at the shining, silver nozzles waiting to ease my aches away. After releasing the water from its valves and raising the temperature as high as I could stand, I positioned myself in the middle of the stall. Bursts of liquid poured over my body and cropped brown hair like a monsoon.

What happened in there, Z?

I gazed at my hands: slender fingers attached to palms, calloused from years of smashing balls into the faces of my opponents and other strenuous activities. I'd broken many a nose with my aim, but never busted balls...at least not on the court. I stretched my fingers then balled them into fists. Nothing about them had changed, but in that moment...they were different. I was different. 

"Zhara, I'm heading out." Paige banged against the glass, startling me. "Don't be in there all night, ok."

"K." I called back, but it was another thirty minutes before I stepped out. Clean and re-energized, I padded towards the lockers then stopped. 

Footsteps, as faint as the flutter of moths wings echoed down the aisle. I sniffed the air. Nothing.

"Taylor, is that you?" 

She was the only person who stayed as late, but she didn't answer nor did anyone else. That was enough for me. As being naked offered no defense, I rushed to the locker to retrieve my clothes: a black tank, jeans and cross-trainers. With my duffle bag of supplies firmly on my back, I left the complex and walked to the car in long strides.

A number of vehicles still lined the parking lot, but I didn't care. It wasn't safe for me or anyone to be out alone after dark, especially not at Rosedale—a school built in the middle of nowhere. In the morning rush, I'd forgotten about practice and parked near the main building which was about 10 car-lengths away. Adjusting the bag on my shoulder, I walked faster. 

Again, footsteps caught my attention and stopped me. I turned around.

No one there.

I sniffed the air again. Nothing, but the smell of asphalt, exhaust and freshly mowed grass. Still, I slid my hand into the pocket of my duffle bag, relaxing when it grazed over cool metal.

I checked for my ride—an easy-to-spot Volkswagen in a sea of Mercedes'—five car-lengths away. Only a few more steps and... a whisper of air danced across my neck. In an instant, my hand snatched the cold steel from the bag and aimed it at the would-be assailant behind me.

"Don't move." I breathed, letting my gaze drift beyond the barrel then up and up into the face of the stranger who towered above me. 

"A gun? On a high school campus? Is that really necessary?" he asked, stepping toward the dim beam created by the lamppost. The shadows danced off the angular planes of his face. 

Not an hour before, I'd praised the school and the luxurious comfort of the bathrooms. Now I cursed them for not budgeting more of those dollars toward better lighting. 

"Guns are necessary with things like you around, yes."

"Like me?" he cocked his head to the side. "What sort of thing would that be?"

"A blood-sucking parasite." 

"Ouch." He laughed—an attractive sound that cracked my stern gaze. 

Sensing this, he stepped into the light and pushed a strand of hair away from my face. 

The gun rested against his chest and anyone else in his position would be a wisp of smoke by now. Yet I hesitated.

Was it the eyes—hooded and violet? The supple lips parted in a knowing smile? The cool hand lounging against my cheek? I couldn't say, but the active part of my brain knew further delay would leave me dead. 

"Silly girl, do you really think this will hurt me?" He asked, running a finger along the steel.

Snapping back to my senses, I grabbed his wrist, twisted it and stepped into his body. With the barrel of the gun lodged in his neck, I disengaged the safety.

"Silly ass-hat, do you really think I use basic bullets?"

"Alright, Zhara. Let's not get carried away." 

I spun to the voice behind me, but kept the weapon at his throat. "Headmaster Drake? He's....he's a..."

"About that, perhaps we could talk more in my office." She suggested.

"Perhaps she could put that gun away first."

"Perhaps I could blow your head off."

"Right, well, this is exactly how I expected things to happen." The Headmaster clapped her hands together. "If you've nothing more to say, to my office we go."

Before I could speak, he stepped to the side. "After you?" 

"In your dreams."

(c) Valeri Beatrix 2015