Victoria had spent the majority of the day just catching up with what had been happening at school since the operation, and she was pretty sure she still hadn’t gotten all the info. First, apparently Derek her sort-of boyfriend decided he wasn’t all that interested in dating some coma chick so apparently he was hooked up with someone else.
That stung a little bit but she had to admit their relationship hadn’t been very serious in the first place. Honestly he had been a convenience to keep people from bugging her about why she wasn’t dating, but he was pretty easy on the eyes. The part that hurt the most was he that was with TT.
Which brought her to the problem of Traci Thordon. Apparently TT had decided to jump in and take over EVERYTHING while she was out. “It wasn’t enough to steal Derek; she needed to lead the Squad too.” Victoria was muttering to herself, “I really wouldn’t mind so much if it wasn’t for the fact that she doesn’t have any damn talent.”
That wasn’t quite true, but she knew that at least Maria or Jenny had better skills and more original ideas. TT was just a bully. She was approaching the gym for practice and realized that despite her big talk earlier in the car she still had yet to come up with one single routine that didn’t involve aerials.
“Damn. What am I going to do? Why do I always have to open my big mouth?” This habit of muttering to herself was getting out of control. When she opened her locker the answer literally fell on her. She had stuffed her rollerblades in there last fall when it got too cold to skate anymore and had forgotten about them. Yes, and maybe change it to roller skates instead since there had been a few movies about roller derby lately that had done a little something to capture the imagination of the public. As she changed into her uniform Victoria smiled to herself. This was going to be awesome.
“Toria, holy shit! I knew they had done some spinal operation on you but DAMN! What’s THAT?” The ever-tactful Jenny had walked in before Victoria had put her shirt back on and was pointing at her newly acquired prosthetic. “That’s MAJOR but it looks cool as hell. Does it hurt?”
Victoria pulled her cheer jersey over her head, “No it doesn’t hurt at all. I don’t even notice that it’s there really. Listen Jenny, don’t tell anyone about this OK? I mean I suppose they’ll find out eventually but it is; well as you pointed out it IS pretty shocking. I’m having a hard enough time getting back into the swing of things as it is ya know?” They were walking into the gym.
“Hey, no problem Toria, you’ve gotta let me take a closer look at that thing sometime though.” She grinned, “Swimming practice is gonna be quite the shocker isn’t it? Can you even swim with that thing? Damn! It looks so wild, like something out of a movie. No wonder you were out for so long. What’s with the blades anyway?”
“It’s my way of adding some sass to our routines without getting off the ground.” She grinned at Jenny, “I have some interesting ideas for if the team wants to use them. I figure we could get skates though, skating has been making a comeback lately and I figure we can use it to our advantage.”
“Oh. My. God. You can’t be serious. Roller skates? I couldn’t help but overhear you two; come on what is this crap? We aren’t trying out for a remake of Grease, fucking hell, where do you come up with this shit?” TT obviously wasn’t impressed and was making her displeasure clear. “I’m serious, this is middle school garbage.” She folder her arms, daring them to defy her.
“Hey, if you don’t like it I don’t care. I just thought it’d breathe some life into these stagnant routines you guys have been stuck with these last few months. It doesn’t matter to me if you guys don’t want to use it. After all, I’ve been out of the loop for a quite a while now, and I can’t take over again. I have other priorities.”
As the words left her mouth, she realized they were true. Despite wanting to go to state with the team, she was more interested in getting into a good college, making something of herself and making a difference in the world. No matter how small that difference would probably end up being.
TT crossed her arms and opened her mouth, about to go off on a tirade when Jenny cut her off. “Hey that’s fair. I LOVED ‘Whip It’ maybe mixing some skating in would be cool!” She threw Victoria a conspiratorial wink over her shoulder. “Let’s get out there. It’s good to have you back V!”
“Yeah. Why don’t you go to the back until you get the routine down. You can make suggestions after we run through the initial warm-up and practice.” TT was asserting her authority again but Victoria didn’t really mind.
“Sure. Sounds good, it’s just nice to be back at practice again.” She walked to the back, slapping palms with some of her closer friends and grinning like hell at everyone. It really did feel good to be back. She stood with a couple girls who looked like they were probably Freshman, Sophomores at the oldest. They looked at her like she was a Goddess or something.
“That’s V!” One of the girls whispered to the other. “Holy shit, we get to train next to V!”
“Sssshhhh.” The first girl blushed bright red and Victoria carefully pretended not to notice. Turning to the girl on the other side who looked like she was trying not to look intimidated she smiled.
“Hey I’ve been out of commission for a few months as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Can you give me the basic rundown? Take it easy on me OK?”
“Sure. Umm.. well it starts out with our standard moves for the fight song from last year…” Victoria was only listening close enough to get the gist and instead watched the others while she stretched. It sounded like TT had made a routine out of the most successful parts of the cheer squad’s routines from the last three years that didn’t involve throws. Just as expected, not an original bone in her body.
Grinning to herself, Victoria mentally mapped out the motions in her head. Things fell in place with supreme ease, something that would normally have surprised her if she hadn’t done all these routines before. The look on TT’s face when she didn’t miss a single beat was going to be priceless.
Victoria was standing in the front courtyard of the school with her rollerblades slung over her shoulder debating whether or not she should go back in to pee AGAIN when the low rumble of a tuned sports car exhaust interrupted her thoughts. A flat black convertible with shocking bright orange wheels pulled up to the curb. Victoria wasn’t the only one watching; half the cheer squad was on the lawn or sitting on benches waiting for rides and enjoying the weather, and a car like this tended to pique people’s interest.
When Eugene gave her a cheery wave from the driver’s seat Victoria did a double take. This was not the kind of car she thought he’d be driving. Maybe an aging Volvo or a Honda Civic; not a Porsche. There he was though, looking pretty damn fine with a little stubble on his chin, wearing an expensive looking pair of Ray Ban’s and a dress shirt with the top few buttons undone. He grabbed a blazer off the passenger’s seat and leaned over to open the door for her.
Feeling a little ostentatious she tossed her school bag and blades on the floor and slid into the leather seat while a group of curious students watched from the bus stop. Victoria couldn’t help but feel smug when she picked TT out of the crowd. She didn’t really resent her taking over the cheer squad or stealing Derek, but it was satisfying to see her black look as she was leaning against the side of the bus enclosure.
Despite driving a sexy sports car and looking a little like a movie star Eugene was all business as they pulled out of the school’s front gate. So much for the brief fantasy that this was some kind of date. Doctor Arlington was a medical geek through and through in spite of his startling car and change of appearance.
“So, have you noticed any other side effects? Did your diags go OK this morning? Do you have any discomfort? I was especially worried about the area around your connection node as I know that’ll get some stress. That’s why I made sure the cord for it was the lightest one the industry had to offer.”
He paid very close attention to traffic and driving as he talked; never looking at her and instead focusing completely on the road and his car. He shifted smoothly from gear to gear with a surgeon’s precision and delicacy. The car’s engine was much louder than Victoria had anticipated; a throaty growl that competed with the wind noise and the sound of him talking but didn’t quite drown either out. She gave herself a mental shake and focused on what he was saying.
“No, other than drinking a million gallons of water I haven’t noticed anything unusual. The machine was super easy to use this morning but I didn’t have time to finish all the diagnostics.” She paused, knowing she wasn’t really telling the whole truth but before she could decide whether or not to come clean something caught the edge of her eye.
“OK, I don’t want to be paranoid, but I think that truck is following us.”
“What truck?” He glanced in the rear view mirror, “The black Durango? Just because they’re behind us doesn’t mean anything, you’ve been watching too much TV.”
“Fine, I didn’t want to talk about it because.” She hesitated; there was no way she could tell him she’d murdered some people, even in self-defense, “Well because it’s too weird. But look to your left. There’s another one over there. They are part of a group of three that tried to take my dad’s car off the road this morning.”
He glanced at her, taking his eyes off the road for the first time. “I saw the news report. It said the guy lost control of the vehicle, they didn’t mention anything about road rage.”
“Look, it wasn’t road rage. They used a three point bracketing technique straight out of a military training manual.” Her voice trailed off, military manuals? Where had that come from? “Uh, I mean. Well, just trust me these guys are professionals and they mean business.”
Just as she finished speaking, another truck cut through traffic towards the Porsche on the right hand side, tires screeching. Before they could get close, Eugene downshifted and put his foot to the floor. The car’s growl changed to a scream of rage and it shot forward like a rocket.
“Holy shit!” Victoria grabbed the door handle as they swerved around a semi-truck to pass on the minimal shoulder. The car was still accelerating, the g-forces holding her to the seat. “We’re going to make it!” She was exhilarated and not scared at all. At least until the gunshots started.