When we get back to the gym, I see a man who I assume is Coach Jackson, putting up a volleyball net.
The final bell rings.
“Alright, listen up!” Coach Jackson says loudly, leaning on one of the volleyball poles.
“Since this is y’all’s first day, I’m gonna let y’all play volleyball for fun. Trill and Lucas are captains, so they’re picking teams. Y’all go play.” He walks lazily back to the corner of the gym where he immediately pulls out his phone and begins tapping the screen.
I sigh, already cringing from the various forms of “y’all” he used in the announcement.
Trill stands on one side of the net, while Lucas, a tall Latino boy, stands on the other side. They begin selecting kids I don’t know for each of their teams. I only recognize one girl from volleyball tryouts, and she was one of the first to get picked. Lucas picks Soph, and she runs off happily to join his team. There are four of us left when Trill chooses me for his team. I’m just glad I wasn’t the last to get picked.
Trill begins assigning us different positions. When he gets to me, he asks, “What do you want, Lisha?”
“Um, attacker is fine,” I say, and everyone laughs. They probably think I’m too short for that position.
“You sure you can do that?” says Trill, “‘Cause I’m plannin’ on winning!” He smirks.
I don’t plan on saying anything back to him, but I feel the need to defend myself.
“J.U. is my dad, so yeah, I’m pretty sure I can,” I say as I grab the ball from him and walk away.
When I reach my place at the service line, I turn to see Trill staring at me with his mouth wide open.
“Nothing, I just didn’t really know who you actually were. Your dad is a legend around here!” He says, surprisingly.
I smile. That got his attention. No one’s going to prejudge me now.
Everyone takes their positions as we get ready to play. I see that both Trill and Lucas are setters, which makes sense because of their height.
I spin the ball around in my hands a few times. It’s nice and firm, just the way I like it. I take a step forward, toss it high, jump, and strike it over the net. It hits the ground, inches away from going out, but it’s in, just where I wanted it.
My team cheers, probably surprised at how good I am.
We continue to rack up points. Occasionally a ball will get returned, and Trill sets it to Tru, who spikes it over, but it’s mostly me and my good attacking skills. I silently thank my dad for teaching me well, although I know he cannot hear me.
In the end, Lucas’s team only scored twice, and that’s because the other kids on our team weren’t as enthusiastic about playing, and tried to slip their phones out whenever possible.
I hear some people murmuring about how “J.U. is such a good player”, and I tense up at the word ‘is’, because now it’s ‘was’.
“You have ten minutes to get cleaned up before the bell rings!” Coach Jackson yells. I start walking towards the restrooms when Coach Jackson stops me.
“I heard some people say you’re J.U.’s daughter. That true?” he asks.
“Yeah, oh, I mean yes sir,” I say, correcting myself.
He pats me on the shoulder. “I can tell. Tell him to come by here sometime, we’re looking for an assistant volleyball coach.”
I don’t know what to say, because I don’t want to give him the bad news.
“Okay, I will,” I say, and jog to the restroom.
I’m about to enter when I hear something that stops me.
“Did you see her? She is so stuck up!” say I voice I don’t recognize.
“She’s not like that! She’s new, that’s all. Just try talking to her, Lilli.” I think it’s Soph talking now.
I wait until I see them exit, to go in and wipe up. I grab my bag and head back out to the gym.
Soph is sitting on the bleachers next to Lucas. He says something, and she begins to laugh uncontrollably. Self consciously, I think it’s me, so I head over to the door where several other kids have lined up, waiting for the bell to ring.
Since everyone else is on their phones, I pull out mine. There are several texts from Eli:
What class are u in???
Where r u?
Did they take your phone?
Are you mad at me???
Lisha, this isn’t funny!!!!
I smile. He’s probably so confused. I’m about to respond when the bell rings. I follow Soph’s directions upstairs and see the classroom for Biology, F210. I’m in the right place. I don’t see any familiar faces, not that I would know anyone.
I take a seat at the very back, hoping no one would really notice, but a girl approaches me. She has long blonde hair with the ends dyed pink. Even though we’re all wearing the same uniforms, hers somehow looks better.
“Good job in Gym today! You’re really good at volleyball,” she says, and I immediately know she’s the other voice from the restroom, Lilli.
I decided to be short. “Thanks.” I take my pre-labeled Biology binder out of my backpack as she continues to stand there.
“You should totally try out for the volleyball team,” she continues.
“Already did, and I made the team,” I reply, wishing she would leave me alone. I learned a lot of lessons about mean girls from my binging over the summer.
She looks at me slyly and heads back to her seat.
I breathe a sigh of relief. I already know she’s going to be a problem this year.
Mrs. Bee, the biology teacher walks in, and the room goes hushed. She begins explaining class rules and the syllabus. I’m jotting some notes down when I feel a tap on my shoulder.
I turn around and surprisingly come face to face with Eli, and once again, I am confused.