Just Breathe, Part 11
by S. Lynne
Disclaimers: See Part 1
Authors Note: Ok, wow. It's been so very long since I've updated this story. Thanks once again to those who continue to send me such incredible feedback and encouragement. I know I've mentioned in the past that sometimes life gets in the way of the creative process, and for me, it couldn't have been truer. As a personal note, struggling over the last few years with depression, I've found writing to be an extremely satisfying outlet and again, thank you for sticking with me through this time. So, without further ado, on to the next part…
The ride to my house had been silent except for the soft music coming from the radio. I wasn't sure what to say, I'd laid out a lot that day and wasn't sure what was supposed to come next. I had a lot of questions… was I forgiven? Did she still want to be friends? Was there maybe still a small possibility that there could be something more? All of these thoughts and questions ran through my mind, but no answers were coming. I looked over at Amy; her eyes were focused on the road. I looked away, wondering if she had any of the same questions.
All too quickly we were in front of my house and she was throwing the car into park. We sat in silence for a bit, me not sure if I should get out of the car or stay and try to talk to her. After what seemed like forever, I decided to just get out of the car, if she wanted to talk, well, then she'd stop me right?
“Well, thanks for the ride,” I said, opening the door.
“You're welcome,” she replied, not taking her eyes off the road ahead. Well, that answered that question. Guess we were all talked out then. After stepping out of the car, I reached back in to grab my bag.
I stopped midway through pulling out my bag from the car when I heard her quiet voice say my name. I looked up at her, her eyes continued to stare out the windshield.
“Yeah?” I asked just as quietly.
“Look…I…”, she sighed, “We're pretty far from alright, I'm still upset that you told Rachel without asking me. But…”
She hesitated, then took a deep breath and looked directly at me.
“I want to help you figure out who sent you the note, it's terrible that someone wants to hurt you, and I'm gonna do whatever I can to help. I just…”
She paused, looking away again.
“I'm still really hurt, y'know?”
“I… I'm sorry, Amy.” I didn't know what else to say. I knew I'd said it already many times, but I'd say a million times more. Amy turned back to me, giving me a little lopsided grin.
“I know you are, Kyle,” she said, “and that's why I'm here.”
I smiled back at her and pulled my bag out of her car fully.
“Thanks again for the ride,” I said.
“Welcome. Have a good weekend, huh Greeny?”
“I'll try, short stack,” I replied.
“Did you just call me short stack?! Seriously?” She scoffed, but couldn't help but grin.
“Yup, I think I did,” I said, smiling fully.
“You better watch it, Amazon,” she said, smiling back at me.
“I'll keep my eyes low so I don't miss you,” I said back, feeling emboldened by her smile.
“You do that,” she said, shaking her head and smiling at me before restarting her car. I closed the door and waved at her one last time as she pulled away from the curb. I watched her car until it disappeared around a corner, then walked up my drive way, a smile on my face the whole way.
“So then it was all better!”
“I wouldn't say ALL better… but getting there, yeah.”
Someone raises their hand in the back, someone who hasn't spoken yet. I crane my neck to see who it is.
“This all seems… I dunno, kinda crazy, y'know? This stuff don't really happen.”
“It does all seem a little bit farfetched, huh? Believe me, I wish I were making some of this stuff up. What's the saying? Truth can be stranger than fiction?”
Some heads nod, the young man who asked the question doesn't seem mollified, however.
“It just seems pretty damn sh-er, crappy, but then it's all good? I dunno.”
“Like I said, it wasn't all good, just on its way there. We still had the issue of trust, this not-so-little mystery, and about a million unanswered questions about how Amy felt. I gotta, say, pretty damn sh-crappy pretty much summed it up. But if she smiled at me, it wasn't so bad.”
This gets a couple “Awe”s and a couple, “gag's” as well. Ah, teenagers.
“Ok, so we know things are pretty sh-crappy at this point,” I smirk at the teacher, thinking sh-crappy is gonna be one of my new favorite words. She smirks back. “But we had a plan… a pretty dumb one, but at least it was a plan…”
“Ok, Ky, here's what I want you need to get your coach to write,” Rachel said, sliding me a piece of paper across the table. We were sitting in her kitchen, working through the books she had gotten about handwriting analysis from the library. Who knew our library had seven books specifically about the science of handwriting? It was kind of ridiculous in my opinion, but Rachel had been ecstatic. She'd been greedily reading through each book as quickly as possible, taking notes and muttering to herself all afternoon. I wasn't being of much help since I didn't really think this was going to be worth it in the long run, but I was there, trying to support my crazy friend. I looked down and read the piece of paper she handed me and almost choked on the soda I had also just taken a sip of.
“Rachel! What the hell is this?” I asked once I'd finished hacking and coughing.
“Duh, it's the note for your mom,” she said, looking at me as if I was some kind of moron.
“I can't ask him to write this, it doesn't even make sense!”
“Yes it does, just read it out loud!”
I looked at the paper and sighed before reading it aloud.
“Dear Mrs. Gray, You're daughter, Kyle-Lynne Gray, stayed after school at the open gym today until 5:00pm. If I were to ever catch her looking to sneak off, I'd fill you in in a stitch! Sincerely, Coach Cline”
Once I'd finished reading it out loud, I just looked at Rachel who just looked at me as if she'd just written an award winning play.
“Rachel,” I said gently, laying the paper down gently before continuing, “it's a good note, but there's no way Coach Cline would ever write ‘I'd fill you in in a stitch!'”
Rachel crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at me, her smile faltering slightly. Uh oh.
“And what makes you think he wouldn't?” she asked calmly, too calmly.
“I, um, he just wouldn't,” I replied lamely.
“Let's take a look at this KyKy,” she said, reaching for the piece of paper. I watched as she placed the paper with the note she'd written for Coach Cline, then placed the original threatening note next to it. Rachel had asked me to bring it over and leave it with her at the beginning of the weekend and I had been more than willing to part with it. I'd been keeping it in my backpack since it had arrived, afraid that if I were to leave it in my locker or worse, at home, someone would likely find it. I even slept with my backpack on the bed next to me, just in case my mother decided to raid my room and go through my stuff while I slept. Maybe I was overdoing it in the paranoia department, but I told myself it was better to be safe than sorry, right? Right.
“Here's the original piece of trash we found in your locker…' If I ever catch you looking at a girl at this school, I'll fucking kill you, you dyke bitch!'.”
I shuddered and closed my eyes, hating to hear the words again. Rachel must have noticed my reaction because she reached across the table and put her hand on mine. I opened my eyes to see a sympathetic look in her eyes.
“I know it sucks to have to do this, but we've got to figure it out who sent this and deal with it,” she said softly. I just nodded.
“Now, let's look at the note for Coach Cline again,” she read it aloud again. I was still confused, it just didn't make sense. Rachel rolled her eyes at me.
“So what I've got from reading these books, the best way to analyze for a handwriting match is to have the person in question write the exact same thing in the original note,” she stated.
I lifted my eyebrow in response. She smirked.
“Exactly, it's not like we can have your coach write that crazy shit out,” she said, “so I had to try to get the closest thing possible. This book,” she continued, picking up a thin paperback with letters scribbled all over the cover, “says that words like ‘you' and words with complex endings will help. The ‘itch' at the end of bitch and stitch should help us figure out if it's a match or not.”
Rachel smiled proudly at me and put the book back down. I felt terrible. I knew I was just playing along for Rachel's benefit, but she was really getting into it. I was absolutely, irrevocably sure that Coach Cline was not the culprit, but I couldn't tell Rachel that. She'd worked really hard and I couldn't take that away from her.
I sighed loudly.
“Alright Rache, if Coach has me committed for having him write this, you're gonna need to do some research on how to get me out of the loony bin.”
The brilliant smile Rachel gave me in return was almost worth the embarrassment I was sure to experience come the first day of tryouts. Almost.
“You're kidding me, right?!”
Amy was holding Rachel's note in her hand, her mouth gaping open and looking up at me.
“I wish I were,” I replied, tying my shoelace as I sat on the bench in front of my gym locker.
“She wants to get him to write this? How are you going to get him to write this? ‘Stitch'? Seriously?”
I sighed. I knew Amy would have the same reaction I did.
“Yeah,” I said, switching to tie my other lace, “but Rachel made some good points about matching complex letter order or something like that. I couldn't say no, she was so excited about it.”
“I just hope Coach doesn't think you're nuts,” she said, handing me back the piece of paper. I didn't need it anymore, having memorized what needed to be written.
“My thoughts exactly,” I muttered back already resigned to the face that my coach would probably be looking at me different from now on. I shoved the sample note into my backpack, which I then shoved into my locker before closing it and spinning the lock.
“You ready?” Amy asked.
“As I'll ever be, I guess,” I replied. As I was about to leave the locker row, Amy grabbed my hand. I looked down at our linked hands, knowing a blush was creeping up my neck into my cheeks, then looked at Amy, who was smiling.
“Don't trip, Amazon, it's all gonna work out,” she said, squeezing my hand before letting it go. I smiled back.
“Thanks, short stack,” I said, earning a swat to my stomach and a scoff as we made our way out to the courts. The smile stayed on my face until I saw Coach Cline sitting at the registration table, waiting for Amy to get there to help with the check in process. I watched as Amy jogged over and sat next to him, getting herself ready for the first few girls in line. I took a deep breath, knowing this was going to be the only opportunity to get the note. I slowly made my way over to the table, dragging my feet the entire time. Once I reached the table, Amy looked over and gave me an encouraging smile before Coach Cline spoke.
“Kyle, what's up? You ready to get started?” he asked, not even looking up from the forms he was thumbing through.
“Um, yeah,” I said, “Uh, Coach, I need a favor…”
“Oh my God, Rachel, you should have seen the look on his face when Ky here told him what should be in the note,” Amy said, laughing. I just frowned deeper. We were sitting in my room on the floor, Coach Cline's note sitting next to the original note. Rachel had insisted that we all get together that same evening while she looked over the note and compared it to the original note sent. We'd been sitting on the floor for about twenty minutes in silence before Amy had felt the need to break the massive amounts of tension thrumming through the room.
“He looked like he swallowed a frog or something, then furrowed his eyebrows and said, ‘stitch? Are you freakin' kidding me, Kyle?' I almost lost it!”
“Yeah, well, I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm totally crazy,” I said. Rachel looked up from the two notes with a small smile.
“Nah, remember, you're note was supposedly for your mother, so she's the crazy one, right? But we already knew that, right?”
“Yeah, I guess,” I said, putting my face in my hands. I was not going to get past this embarrassment anytime soon, I just knew it. Amy patted me on the back.
“You did great, Amazon. How you managed to keep a straight face through the whole thing is beyond me, I couldn't even do it!”
Amy was right. As I had told Coach what needed to be in the note, I saw Amy bite her lip hard to keep her from laughing out loud. I had to quickly look back to Coach, otherwise I knew I would lose not only my nerve but the nervous laughter I'd been working so hard to suppress would have bubbled to the surface quickly, causing my sanity to once again be called into question. Eager to take the attention off myself, I turned back to Rachel and the notes she was studying so closely.
“So, Rache, what's the verdict?”
“Well,” Rachel sighed loudly, a frown forming quickly, “it's pretty obviously not a match. The ‘you' is all wrong, and look how choppy his writing is, the letters don't even connect like they do in the original. I don't even need to compare the ‘bitch' and ‘stitch' to know that the note's not from him.”
I had to bite back my “I told you so”; Rachel looked thoroughly disappointed and disheartened.
“Rachel,” Amy said, reaching over and putting her hand on her knee, “you know what? It's ok, we've eliminated him as a suspect at least, right?”
“Yeah,” I agreed, “he's totally knocked out of the suspect tree.”
“The suspect tree?” Amy asked, looking at me as if I was crazy. Ok, seriously? How many people are going to think I'm nuts this week? I just shook my head and tried to indicate with a look that I would try to explain it later. Amy must have been satisfied because she didn't bring it up again.
“I guess,” Rachel said, sounding dejected.
“And…” I started, trying to think of something to encourage Rachel, “and…you're pretty much an expert now on comparing handwriting, right? That's pretty awesome, right?”
I looked at Amy, nodding for her to help me out.
“Oh yeah,” Amy chimed in, “it's totally sweet. It's like…like…something you can use, in like, a job or something.”
Amy just shrugged. Ok, that was kinda lame, but at least she tried, right?
“Thanks guys,” Rachel said, finally looking up from the notes, “it just sucks. All that work for nothing but knocking him out of the tree. Now where are we? Nowhere really.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Amy mouth the word “tree” with a confused look on her face again. I smirked. We were all silent for a while, each lost in thoughts of what we could do next. For my part, I had no other ideas. If I were honest with myself, I didn't really want to pursue this anymore. I hadn't gotten any other notes, I figured that maybe it was a one-time thing and decided to voice that opinion.
“Hey guys, what if we didn't figure out who sent it?”
Both Rachel and Amy looked at me slightly confused.
“What do you me, Greeny?” Rachel asked.
“Well, I haven't gotten anything else, maybe I won't get anymore and we don't have to really do this?”
Rachel frowned at me. Amy crossed her arms and furrowed her brow. Oh shit.
“What the hell are you talking about, Ky?”
“Yeah, Amazon. What the hell?”
“I just – “ I tried again, but was cut off by Rachel lifting her hand up to stop me.
“Oh no, Greeny. I don't think so! We are in this to figure this out!”
“Exactly!” Amy agreed, “whoever sent this… this trash, deserves to get the shit kicked out of them!”
I looked on, incredulous.
“But you guys, I –“, I tried again.
“No buts Amazon!”
I opened my mouth once again, but couldn't even get a word in before Rachel attacked me, putting her hand over my mouth.
“Not another word out of you,” she said. I just nodded.
“Good, now that we understand each other,” Rachel said, giving me a stern look until I nodded again and she removed my hand, “we need to come up with a game plan to figure this crap out.”
We sat in my room for the next hour, trying to figure out ways to figure out who had sent the note, but of course, we got nowhere. As I listened to Amy and Rachel go back and forth in what I figured was a futile effort, I continued to think that since this note was the only one sent, I probably was in the clear and really didn't need to worry about it anymore.
I wish I had been wrong.
To be continued…
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