CHAPTER 2: SCHOOL DAY SALES PITCH
Daisy slapped her hand around the bedside table trying to find her buzzing alarm.
Grandma Rose came into the room, grabbed the clock and kissed her forehead, “Breakfast is ready. Come on to the kitchen and eat with us.”
In the kitchen, Daisy chugged two glasses of water down before she sat at the table.
“How do you want your eggs this morning, darling?” Grandpa Joe stood at the stove ready to serve.
“Just scramble ’em”
“Two scrambled eggs coming right up,” he boomed military style.
Daisy yawned, took her plate and slid into her usual spot next to Grandma.
Joe and Rose Greene were a retired Army couple who periodically traveled with the Red Cross. They were early birds, who planned their whole day at the breakfast table every morning before Daisy was even completely coherent.
Daisy Ray ended up with her grandparents as an infant when her parents, Daisy and Raymond Greene, both died in a sudden car accident. Daisy Ray was just six months old at the time and never really knew them. Her grandparents were great, but they traveled a lot and often left her in the care of Connor Bailey’s family across the hall.
As Daisy ate her breakfast, Grandpa shook his head silently at the newspaper. Grandma Rose chattered cheerfully about her plans for the day. She was working on a huge fundraiser for needy children in some remote place of the world that Daisy had never heard of. Rose would be out all day and part of the evening. She wanted Grandpa Joe to go with her and help hook up some electrical equipment. He just kept grunting at the paper and nodding. Grandma considered that to be a yes, so she moved on to her next question.
“Daisy Dear, what are you doing today?”
“The track team is practicing after school today so I’ll be staying at school pretty late. After that, I might go to the boardwalk, if Connor goes.”
“Honey, don’t forget to squeeze some homework in between all that running. Can you get your own dinner tonight too?”
“No problem,” Daisy replied as she left the table to take a shower and get dressed for school.
Showering was the quick part. Getting dressed was a whole different ballgame. Daisy was the type of girl who got lost in her closet trying to pick out the right shirt, so she had to give herself plenty of time to accomplish the task. There was no time for hanging out at the breakfast table.
Once she was dressed, she grabbed her book bag, sport bag and bicycle helmet and ran down the stairs to the parking lot where her ten-speed bike was locked. She raced out of the parking lot so fast she almost ran right over Connor getting into Maria’s car.
Maria was 18, and the only one among them who had her own car. Andy was sitting in front with her, and Connor was getting into the backseat with Maria’s brother, Mark.
Maria waved and shouted through the music coming from the radio, “Hey Daisy, want to ride with us?”
“No thanks. I’ve already got my bike out and everything. Plus, I think my bike is faster. You have to go through all those lights,” Daisy pointed down the street. There were traffic lights all the way down the road with no green one among them.
She took off, and Connor shut his car door. Maria slowly backed out into the steady stream of traffic. Everyone in the car was now silently wondering about Daisy’s comment.
Any comment about being faster would torture their competitive natures, and Daisy knew it. She smiled as she raced down the road.
Back in the car, Mark broke the silence, “Do you think she’s right? Will she beat us?”
Connor leaned slightly forward to get a good look at her from the side mirror. They had already passed her. “If she turns up here at DuPont Street… she might get ahead. It’s a one way street and faster by bike. But, I don’t know if she knows that way yet. She’s still new to the school.” He watched her curiously from the side mirror.
Sure enough, when she reached DuPont Street she turned. Connor leaned back into his seat with a very slight corner smile. He was glad she knew the way. However, he was now thinking he might just have to ride his bike to school tomorrow.
Andy and Mark began to squirm in their seats. They could hardly sit still now.
“Man, Maria, can’t you drive any faster?” Andy complained.
“Oh brother, look who’s being the baby now. We’re just going to school. Who cares if she’s first? Besides, you guys creamed her last night in Halo 3 anyway,” Maria gave them each a scolding side glance, hoping they would calm down.
Andy just mumbled to himself, “I have a bike.”
Mark picked up on it, “Yea, me too. Should we ride bikes tomorrow? We’ll beat her for sure if we’re on bikes!”
Maria rolled her eyes, “If you guys want to ride a bike that’s fine with me, but I’m driving. I didn’t get this car for nothing.” She then turned left into the school parking lot and parked right next to the bike stand where Daisy’s bike was already locked up. Daisy was already long gone.
They jogged up the steps and disappeared into different directions until lunch time.
At lunch, the seniors all rushed out of class into the parking lot because they were allowed to eat off school property if they wanted to. Connor passed the lunch room on his way out. He peeked in to see Daisy Ray sitting down with some new cross country runners. He figured it would be good for her to get to know them, so he kept walking out with Mark and Andy to find Maria.
Maria was waiting by the car for them with a teasing smile on her face. “Hey guys, guess you wanna forget about bikes and ride in my car to lunch now, huh?”
They all laughed now that the slightly disturbing morning event was over with. They piled into Maria’s car, thankful that they had access to wheels.
“So, where should we go for lunch today?” Maria asked.
“Jeremiah, Jason and Susan are going to the pizza place. Let’s catch up with them. We need them on the team,” Andy mumbled as he searched the front seat for something.
“How can we motivate them?” He sat up and squinted into the noon sunshine, “Where the heck are my shades, Maria?”
“I put them in the glove compartment. Look in there.”
He put his shades on, then turned to look at Mark and Connor in the back, “So are we going for pizza or not?”
“Pizza is good” Mark agreed. “Provided of course, that Susan doesn’t suffocate us with cigarette smoke. She’d make a much better candidate for the team if she quit smoking.” He sighed at the waste of a potentially good runner. He hated smoking. “What a waste,” he mumbled to himself.
“I heard Jeremiah and Jason joined the wrestling team this year,” Connor pitched in.
“Ah, running is better than wrestling,” Andy defended his sport.
“Not everybody thinks that,” Maria corrected.
“What!” He was shocked at the disloyal comment coming from his girl’s mouth.
“You’ll have to convince them to cut back on the partying if you expect them to be any good at running. Remember all those wild parties they threw last year?” Connor shook his head and chuckled lightly.
“You got in so much trouble every single time you went to one of those crazy parties. I’m surprised you dare to mention them now!” Maria eyed him from the rear view mirror.
“Yea, you’re probably right,” he grinned sheepishly in the back seat.
“I want to talk to them about running on the team no matter whether they party or not. I think running would be good for them,” Maria declared cheerfully. She had a natural-born concern for the wellbeing of others. She always liked helping people out. She did not see the party lifestyle as a healthy one. If she had an opportunity to help someone out of it, she would certainly do her best.
They pulled into the pizza place parking lot and strolled through the front door. Standing at the entrance, their eyes roamed the crowd in search of Jeremiah’s table.
Jeremiah spotted them and waved them over. “Come sit with us!” he hollered from his table.
“Target located,” Andy said as he stuck his sunglasses in Maria’s bag.
They moved to Jeremiah’s table and scooted in. Connor ended up sitting next to Susan. He remembered her from a few of the wild parties he’d attended last year. He hoped she didn’t remember him, but it appeared that she did. She was friendly in an exaggerated sort of way; all giggles and wiggles throughout the whole meal. She kept bumping him and elbowing him every time something was said that she thought was funny, which was pretty much everything.
If you were at a party and had downed a few beers, Susan’s behavior would seem fun, but now… sober… eating with his real friends, Connor found her noisy and bothersome. He couldn’t seem to relax next to her. He tried to ignore her elbowing and focus on his pizza instead, but it was difficult.
At the end of the meal, Andy saw his chance. He cleared his throat and gave the speech he’d come for, “Listen. You three are good sprinters, and we four are distance runners. We hate sprinting, and you hate distance, but together we could make an awesome team. We really need you guys on the team. Maxwell High School needs you guys sprinting for it. Come out for all the practices, and we will be a mean winning machine!” Andy hit the table with his balled up fist right at the end of his little speech for emphasis.
Mark, Maria and Connor jumped in with their two cents, “Yea, come out and practice with us. We need you.”
As Andy’s last action, he took the bill and paid for all the pizza on the way out. He was hoping that would encourage these guys to add track to their long list of afterschool activities this year.
When Andy got back to the car, his friends were speechless. They could not believe that he paid the whole bill! But their speechlessness was soon lost when he smiled and stuck his hand out saying, “Pay up guys! That was just a show for them, not for you. You guys each owe me five bucks.” He roared laughing at the stunned looks on their faces.
Maria snickered as she drove back to school.
Connor and Mark began punching Andy’s seat and his arm yelling, “You’re such a scam artist! We’re not paying you a cent!”
Daisy Ray’s lunch period went a little differently. Willie Coleman and Grace Withers were the only tenth graders on the cross country team besides herself. They were in most of her classes as well so she was getting to know them faster than the other runners. They sat together and talked cheerfully about their teachers and homework assignments. Since they were new to the school, they were still trying to figure out who were the best teachers and how to get around the school the fastest.
They’d had a similar conversation last Friday. It was Willie who’d tipped Daisy Ray off on the quick back road out of the school. DuPont Street was a one way back street that led right out of the back gate straight to the main road. Daisy explained to Grace and Willie how quickly she had gotten to school in the morning because of that tip. Willie knew the street because he lived on it.
When Daisy shared her little story with him, he realized how closely she lived to his house. He was surprised that they’d never met until now.
“Very odd,” Daisy and Grace both agreed.
Then the bell rang for them to go to their next class. Daisy and her new friends moved through the rest of the day enjoying the new experience of high school life.