Read Loving Charley Online

Authors: Casey Peeler

Tags: #romance, #dating, #college life, #new adult, #southern literatrure, #mature young adult, #teen and young adult, #pretty little liars, #teen romantic fiction, #teen 16 plus

Loving Charley (10 page)

BOOK: Loving Charley
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“Yeah, let me see what he
thinks. Char, thanks for everything. I don’t tell ya
enough.”

“Anytime. Love ya,
Tess.”

“Love ya, too.”

We disconnect, and I text
Cash the news as well as Joe and Piper. Come to think of it, I
haven’t seen Joe much, but I guess it’s because he’s giving me some
space with Cash. As suppertime approaches, the Kluft girls and I
make our way to the cafeteria. A million eyes meet mine, and I’m
pretty sure that I’m the current talk of the school.

Without missing a beat, we
all walk inside with our heads held high, acting like nothing
happened over break. I see Joe sitting with his teammates, and he
smiles. I’m glad that everything has worked out between us because
he truly is a friend for life, and I know that now. Knowing he was
willing to risk losing me in order to save me means the world. The
fact that he loves Piper just seals the deal with him.

After grabbing a tray,
picking out what mystery food I’m going to eat, and taking a seat,
I finally breathe. The eyes are no longer on me, but back to
everything going on around us. I feel relieved that the initial
shock of everyone knowing what happened is over. Word definitely
travels fast at a small school. We finish eating and head back to
the dorm. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day with new classes and
practice. We watch TV in Tori’s room and then call it a
night.

After calling Cash, I fall
asleep and dream of our happily ever after only to be awakened by
that awful buzz from my alarm clock. Time for practice already?
Rolling out of bed, I hear a light knock at the door. Cracking the
door open, I see Georgia ready to go. I tell her to give me a
second, and we are on our way. Practice is refreshing, and I take
my time getting ready for class. Coach was smart enough to give me
nine o’clock classes instead of eight. I’ll have to thank her
later. The day goes quickly, and one or two Kluft girls are in each
of my classes. We sit together and make a plan for passing this
semester, not that it’s going to be a big deal. Once our day is
over, we make our way back to Kluft, but I stop to talk to Joe. I
feel like I just need to talk to him.

“Hey, Jackalope Joe, you
got a minute?”

“Yeah, what’s up,
Squirrel?”

“Not much. I just wanted to make sure
that everything’s good. I haven’t had much time to talk to you with
everything going on. You’re important to me… and Piper.” The
mention of Piper’s name makes him smile.

“We’re good. Oh, as in you
and I or you and Piper?”

“Both. Thank
you.”

“For what?” I
ask.

“For coming into my life. I
thought that it would be you and me together, but little did I know
that you would lead me to the girl of my dreams,” he says with a
nudge.

“She is pretty awesome. After me, I
mean. You know I’m at the top of the awesomesauce list.”

He shakes his head. “So,
not to bring up the subject, but when will everything be
over?”

“As long as they don’t continue it, we
should be done within a month or two at the latest. I’m just
worried about the verdict.”

Joe stares at his feet as
we walk. “Yeah, me too.”

I stop walking. “Why are
you scared? You’re in the clear. I’ve made sure of it.”

“I know, but you know they might put
me on the stand.”

“That is highly unlikely because this
has to do with an event that occurred before you were in the
picture.”

After remaining quiet for a
moment, Joe responds, “I guess I know that, but honestly, until
it’s over I won’t be sure.”

“Well, as Cash told me,
God’s got a plan, and we’re in it. He will make sure it all works
out.”

We continue to walk until we are back
at Kluft. We make a little small talk before I go upstairs to my
room. This has been a pretty good day to a new semester. I’m
praying that it’s foreshadowing what is to come… only good
things.

Chapter 17

The only monumental events that occur
between the start of the semester and Southern States are the
moments I get to talk to Cash and enjoy my friends. Everything else
is routine and like a robot. In fact, I’m excited to see the season
end, so that I have a new routine to my day.

We spend the week up to the
meet carb loading, practicing, and cramming for any test that we
need to take before we leave. I’ve mentally tried to prepare myself
for what could possibly happen when we walk into that aquatic
center, but until I’m inside, I won’t relax.

We pack our bags and plan
to meet Coach at the gym at nine on Friday morning. The drive to
Davidson isn’t far, but we will need to get there and get our minds
right for the meet. Once we are at the gym and loaded up in the
Southern van, we make our way toward Davidson. Our ride is full of
laughter. Everyone begins to giggle uncontrollably as Coach busts a
move when a hip-hop song comes on. We also discuss how we should
behave, what happens if someone mentions something about my issues,
and how we are going to kick some ass and take names.

As we arrive on the
Davidson campus, I’m in awe of how beautiful it is. Even in the end
of the winter months, it has the warm look of spring. The buildings
are well maintained, and there’s a Ben and Jerry’s right off
campus. I’m glad that isn’t the case at Southern because I’d be as
big as a house from eating too much Phish Food. Southern is
beautiful, but the buildings are worn and need a little TLC. As we
pull into the aquatic center parking lot, Coach tells us all to
wait before we get out. Unsure of what she might say, we sit there
quietly.

“Girls, I’m proud of you no
matter what happens. There are some tough competitors here today,
but I know that we are just as good. Charley, you’re gonna kick
ass.” We all snicker. “Because you were born for this. You are at
home in the water. With the recent events, I know people are
watching you. We’re on his turf right now. So, everyone needs to be
prepared and ready for what might be said. Now, that’s out of the
way. Let’s show them what Southern girls are made of!”

Tori places her hand on my
shoulder as reassurance. As we walk toward the double doors, I hold
my head high because I am the victim, but I will no longer act as
if it controls me. I’m on edge of what might happen, but as soon as
we enter, a calmness finds my soul. We bypass the locker room and
go straight to the pool. As we approach, the smell of chlorine
increases, and moisture and warmth fill the air.

When we enter the pool
area, we see several teams already suited up and beginning
warm-ups. As we make our way to the stands, eyes begin to focus on
us. I turn to my teammates, and we do what we do best. When given
the moment to sink or swim, we choose to swim. With a glance in
Tori’s direction, we know exactly what we need to do… make our
presence known.

Silently counting to three,
we begin to shout out our Southern cheer, and all eyes focus on the
only female only team to enter the arena. Knowing we are getting
positive reactions, we let loose. Once we are at our seats, we
place our bags on the bleachers and Tori yells, “One, two, three!”
And we follow with “Southern!”

Focusing back on the task
at hand, we get ready to sit for Coach to let us know when our
warm-ups start, but as we wait on her, the team from Howard
University is behind us. One of the team members yells, “Hey,
Southern girls! Now, that’s the way to make an entrance.” He winks
as he grabs his cap and goggles.

“What can we say? We’re the
girls from Southern. We always leave our mark with our Southern
charm,” Georgia states with assurance.

Coach tells us we have
twenty minutes until we can hit the water. She also informs us that
with the lineup of events we will be here until eight tonight with
preliminaries, return to Southern, and arrive back in the morning
by eight.
Ohmygosh! Why can’t we just get
a hotel?
We must all have the same look on
our faces.

“Girls, the budget’s tight. We need to
watch what we spend.”

“But, Coach! It’s Southern
States!”

Tapping her foot, she
replies, “Well, let me see what I can do. I think there’s a pretty
decent, but cheap hotel within a few miles from here.”

“Coach, you’re the best!” Tori
exclaims.

“Well, I try. It’s not
often that we have a team that can knock a Division One school
outta the water. I might need to spoil y’all just a little bit. Oh,
do y’all have stuff to stay overnight?”

“Yes!” we reply in
unison.

She laughs. “I better call
the hubby to contact the hotel and bring me some clothes. Y’all are
going to be the death of me! Now, get ready, and I’ll see you in
fifteen in lanes one and two.”

Grabbing our stuff, we make
our way to the locker room. We hurry to get ready, and I text my
parents and Cash to let them know we are staying overnight. Knowing
that Davidson isn’t too far from home, I figure they will drive
back and return in the morning. I’m shocked when I realize they
already have a room booked.

I hear the first whisper
as I pick up my bag to exit the locker room. “You know
that’s
the girl that got
Dylan in trouble.” Closing my eyes, I try to force back the tears
and control my emotions. They will not get the best of
me.

When I walk past them,
they stop talking. I stop and look at them and give them a dose of
their own medicine. “Yeah, I
am
that girl. Got anything else you wanna know?” I
say with my bag tossed over my shoulder and my arms
crossed.

“We didn’t say anything,”
one girl states with an eye roll.

“That’s what I thought.” I
make my way back to the stands, placing my bag down and walking
toward the pool. Tori and Georgia must see the heat rising in my
face because they ask me what the hell just happened as soon as I
meet them.

“Some Davidson bitches we’re running
their traps already. So, I just asked if they had any more
questions.”

Georgia laughs. “They are
so in for it! Charley’s gonna kick their ass today in the
water.”

“Damn right, I am,” I say
as I dip my cap into the pool, place it on my head and add my
goggles. It’s time to give them another reason to talk about
Charley Anne Rice.

Coach starts us with a five
hundred warm-up, and then we complete a few short sets. Once we are
loose, we have a team meeting to discuss our events, times, what we
hope to accomplish, and the reason we are here. Afterward, we make
our way back to the stands and wait.

Grabbing my iPod from my
bag, I place my ear buds into my ears and turn up a little Florida
Georgia Line and push everything away from my mind. Taking a seat
on the bleacher, I lean back, prop myself up, and close my eyes. By
song number three, I’ve forgotten what happened in the locker
room…well, maybe not, but I’ve channeled my feelings. Just as I
relax, there’s a dip in the bleacher. My eyes shoot open, and
that’s when I see my four favorite people: Tessa, Cash, Piper, and
Joe, along with my parents. A smile spreads from ear to ear, and I
remove my ear buds.

“Hey, y’all!” I say as I
stand to give them all hugs. I save Cash for last because I want it
to last the longest. He kisses my forehead before they leave to
find a seat in the fan section.

At exactly noon, we pay
respect to our country and God, and the meet is underway. Several
individual events occur for our team members, and we are like one
driving force pulling them toward victory. When the 200-meter
backstroke is five events out, I head to the pool deck to stretch
and mentally prepare myself for the event. I look at my family and
teammates and am proud of who I am.

When the announcer calls my
event, I focus on the water, the number of laps, and what it’s
going to take to win. That’s when I notice that smart-ass girl from
the locker room in the lane beside me. This is going to be good. I
put on my goggles and wait to be told to enter the water. All I can
do is smile at her because I’m about to leave her in my
wake.

I enter the water feet
first and get ready for the sound of the buzzer. When it fires, I
explode off the wall and kick. I continue to make my way toward the
end of the pool at a constant speed. The girl beside me is hanging
in there with me, but what she doesn’t realize is that I’m holding
back.

Once we make the turn, I
push off the wall and focus on all the bottled-up emotions and take
them out in the pool. In my mind, I replay the events in the locker
room, what’s to come in court, and use that to assault the
remaining 150 meters. In doing so, I leave her at least two body
lengths behind me.

As my fingers tap the
touchpad to stop my time, I feel my adrenaline begin to decrease;
yet the excitement within my body begins to rise. Placing the
goggles on my forehead, I turn to see everyone approaching.
Hurrying to see my time, I look to the display board.
Holy shit!
Not only have
I shaved three seconds off my time, but I’ve also set a new record
for Southern.

Pulling myself from the pool, I’m
greeted by my teammates. We all embrace, squeal, and jump up and
down.

BOOK: Loving Charley
4.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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