Team Spirit: Chapter One

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Tonya leaned over and twisted her wet hair into a turban. The change room smelled of chlorine and cleaning products. From the showers she heard boasting and laughter. She rifled through her swim bag for a t-shirt, and stuffed her trembling arms through the sleeves, in a rush to leave before the others finished showering. Trying out for Varsity had been a mistake. The team was all hard bodies, even the girls. She hadn't kept up for a minute. 

Tonya was about to go when an odd sound drew her attention to the bathroom. She grabbed her bag and went to investigate. There was a pair of leather boots under the door, knees on the floor and... Ugh! Somebody was throwing up in the toilet stall.

"Are you alright?"

"I'm fine!" The voice was feeble, but angry. 

"Can I help?"

"No."

Tonya heard more retching, then a sustained splashing sound. She stood between the sink and twin stalls of the cramped bathroom. What was the etiquette for a situation like this? Should she walk away? What if the girl passed out?

"Do you want me to call someone to drive you home?" Tonya was head-down, fumbling in the bag for her phone, when the door flew open knocking her back. She staggered as the floor seemed to tilt and grabbed the sink for balance. When she opened her eyes, a slightly green face glared at her. Tonya recognized it from the local news. Marta was Loon Lake University's first Olympic hopeful. 

 "I'm good, but you suck." Marta pushed past Tonya and went into the change room. 

When Tonya followed, Marta sneered. "Guess I won't be seeing you around."

"At least I tried."

"Why? You can't swim. I mean, look at you." Marta was staring at Tonya's belly, which was still plump, even after a summer of lake swimming and salads.

"I'm fine." If Marta only knew how far she'd come.

"You swim like my granny."

"I'm a lifeguard. I can save your granny."

Marta laughed. "Lifeguards. You're so proud you can do two lengths of the pool, towing a rubber dummy." She looked around at her teammates. Some smiled, others just stared at Marta, which gave Tonya courage. 

"Take care of that tummy now. Wouldn't want you to miss the Olympics." Tonya headed out, but suddenly Marta blocked her way. Tonya tried to step left, then right, but Marta filled the doorway. She stood a head taller, stooping to put her face right into Tonya's.

"Don't spread any rumours." 

"Why, are you pregnant?" The words popped out of Tonya's mouth.

Marta's eyes widened, then her face relaxed. "Don't worry about me, worry about you." The corners of her mouth curved into a faint smile. She stepped back to let Tonya go.

Tonya hoped nobody noticed her hands tremble as she hoisted her bag onto her shoulder. 

Outside the athletic centre, chilly October wind whipped Tonya's wet hair into her face. At the edge of the road, guys from the team were waiting for the girls. She recognised Shin immediately from team photos in the foyer. He was the tallest in every picture, and the one who usually had his arm around Marta. Tonya thought of telling him Marta was sick, and about the weird way she'd gone after Tonya for noticing, but why bother? The incident would soon be forgotten, that is, if Priya got there before Marta came out to harass her again.

Her friend was picking her up so they could collect the last boxes from her parents' place. Tonya's house was in town, on the opposite side of Loon Lake. Her parents put it up for sale the same day Tonya moved into residence. They said it was because her Aunt Helene was in the hospital in Toronto, and they wanted to get a condo there, but that made no sense. They hated the city. 

Tonya could hardly imagine Aunt Helene anywhere but behind the counter of her 'Herbal Healing Shop.' This illness had to be serious, no matter how many times her mother called it 'routine.' Tonya missed Aunt Helene and wanted to visit, but every time she suggested coming along, her parents refused. 'Stay here and study,' they said. 'Aunt Helene will get better.' 

The sound of a car horn startled her out of her reverie. Tonya dashed to her friend's dented rust monster and got in. 

"Sorry I'm late. My little jalopy was feeling sluggish," Priya patted the car's dashboard. Her heart-shaped face was framed in wavy black hair, streaked with aubergine and navy. "Aren't you cold?"

Tonya tossed her wet curls. "I like to keep things icy."

"So, how was the tryout?"

"Don't ask."

Priya cranked up the radio, set the heater to 'max,' and opened the windows as they pulled onto the highway. "Time to speed dry your hair." Priya grinned. "Let's burn some fossil fuel!"

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