Monday after school, Maria and Daisy climbed into Coach Peggy’s car. They drove silently to Surfside Academy where Mr. and Mrs. Langley were waiting for them.
Everyone knew that Coach Peggy loved her kids, and that she felt all their victories and all their losses deeply, just as if they had been her own. Therefore, at this particular moment she was feeling victimized. The unfair treatment Maria had received was all over Coach Peggy’s face, even more so than Maria’s face.
Oddly, Maria herself did not feel victimized at all. She only felt mildly annoyed that she had to go through with this confrontation. Had things been left in her hands the whole ordeal would have been swept under the rug and never spoke of again. However, Andy, her family and friends wouldn’t have it that way so now here she was, confronting.
Mr. Langley noticed the fire in Coach Peggy’s eyes the minute they met up in the parking lot. It was enough to warn the Langley’s that they needed to pray before they entered Coach Timber’s office.
“Coach Peggy,” Mr. Langley touched her arm gently as they walked from the parking lot. “May we have a word of prayer together before we enter the office? I am feeling some anxiety and could use God’s help right now.” His gentle tone was hard to resist.
“Well okay, if you really need to,” she conceded. Coach Peggy did not normally pray, but who could resist such a gentle request.
The Langley’s, Coach Peggy and the girls stood in the parking lot, in a semicircle, facing each other as though they were chatting about something. Mr. Langley prayed a simple prayer asking for God’s assistance in the situation. Surprisingly, when they looked up, Coach Peggy felt refreshed, but Mr. Langley felt even more agitated. While he prayed, his daughter’s run-in with Alison flashed through his brain in a new way. He no longer thought of the event as some kind of big misunderstanding. It suddenly looked like a deliberate act against Maria. “Did God suddenly change his view point during prayer? Did God do that? Was this really a malicious act against Maria? Why would someone do that to her?” Mr. Langley pondered as they continued to walk inside the plush air conditioned office of Coach Sam Timbers.
Coach Timbers had a large office, his own kitchen and a fine set of gym equipment. He also had a scenic walking path that led from his private office to the rest of the school. Every year something new was added to his extravagant set up. This all made Coach Timbers look more like a college recruiter than an athletic director of a private high school.
The sight of his office was dramatically different from the little, one room office that Coach Peggy had always called home. Her office was just a small room off to the side of the gymnasium. It did have a microwave though. She had brought it from home herself. She could warm up her coffee in it quite nicely. Unlike Coach Timbers, Coach Peggy did not need a lot of “fancy stuff” to be a great Coach. Her passion for coaching came from a combined love for kids and sports, plain and simple.
Coach Timbers came out to greet them and led them all inside. He shook hands politely with each of them. He seemed completely unmoved by all that had been reported to him over the phone the day before through Coach Peggy.
They sat in big comfortable arm chairs and received coffee from Coach Timber’s young personal assistant.
Alison and her parents were already seated in the room with coffee. The McNeil’s were dressed in matching uniforms, consisting of tightly fitting black dress pants, black vest and white dress shirt. They both worked nights and would be going straight to work after this meeting was over. Mr. McNeil was a bouncer for a popular casino in town, and Mrs. McNeil was the bar tender of the same casino. It was clear by the bored expressions on their faces that they did not think this meeting was important at all.
“How can I help you, Coach Peggy?” Coach Timbers asked a bit too happily for her liking.
Coach Peggy dug right in anyway and explained exactly what had happened at the cross country meet. Maria then showed her bruises, and Mrs. Langley explained the hospital trip and the police report.
Alison’s parents were still and quiet until Mrs. Langley mentioned the police report. “You made a police report at the hospital?” the McNeil’s asked excitedly.
“I did,” Mrs. Langley stated frankly. “It was a mean and violent act against my daughter that could have resulted in serious physical injury. I am glad that the x-rays showed no permanent internal damage, but surely you can see that it was mean and completely unnecessary for your daughter to ram her shoulder into my daughter like that. I can’t imagine why any teenage girl would do such a thing. I yes I did. I made a police report.”
When Mrs. Langley paused, her husband took over, “Your daughter clearly has no understanding of proper conduct in sports.” Then Mr. Langley turned and looked directly at Coach Timbers, “You should not have girls on your team who behave so badly Coach Timbers. She should be suspended from all athletic events.” He took a moment then continued, “And it cost me $250.00 to have Maria checked out at the hospital. I do expect to be reimbursed.” Mr. Langley stopped for a moment to give them a chance to reply.
“Making police reports was really not necessary you dark skinned monkey! You didn’t need to do that!” Mr. McNeil banged his fist down on the arm rest of his chair angrily.
“Hey, watch it with the name calling!” Coach Peggy interrupted.
Mr. McNeil ignored her interruption and continued, “If you want money, I can give you all the money you want. But you don’t need to include the police in this! We can work this all out, without the involvement of the police!”
“The color of my skin is the color that God Himself picked out for me. If you don’t like my dark skin you can take it up with God! My wife did the correct thing in making a police report!” Mr. Langley defended.
Coach Timbers struggled in his chair and coughed a bit clearing his throat, “Well, I will explain all of this to Mr. Adams.” He shot Mr. Langley a icy gaze when he mentioned Mr. Adams that Mr. Langley did not fully understand.
“Who is Mr. Adams, and what does he have to do with this?” Mr. Langley questioned.
The McNeil’s sat back in their seats at the mention of Mr. Adams, trying to relax. “You don’t know who Mr. Adams is? He owns most of this school that’s for sure.”
Coach Timbers cleared his throat again, “I don’t think he is involved of course, Mr. Langley, but he is heavily involved in all our sports programs, and Alison being one of our strongest athletes, he would be very disappointed if… I were to… ummm… if I were to suspend her from athletic events.”
Mr. Langley’s eyes narrowed with understanding. “Do you mean to say, that you condone violent illegal behavior from your athletes, Coach Timbers? Do you keep them on your teams when they break rules and deliberately hurt opponents?”
Daisy shyly spoke up for the first time, “I know who Mr. Adams is. He’s Gary and Glenn’s Dad. Alison is Gary’s girlfriend. Mr. Adams is the one who owns the Casino’s on the highway plus a whole lot of Surfside property.”
Then Maria quickly added, “Gary and Glenn are the twin brothers that removed all the cone markers last year during the boys distance run and messed everybody up. They are still on the team this year.”
Coach Timbers rubbed his sweaty forehead, “That bit of shenanigans is very old news girls, no need to bring it up now.” Then he turned back to Mr. Langley and repeated, “Mr. Adams is heavily involved in our sports program. I can’t really do anything without his approval.”
Coach Peggy, Mr. and Mrs. Langley and the girls all stared in disbelief at what they were hearing.
“I guess it is a good thing we had Maria’s injuries all documented and reported then. If you won’t do anything then we will have to go to the sports officials and report you and your athletes. The lack of concern for the health and wellbeing of my Maxwell students is inexcusable, Coach Timbers!”
“Now, now, you don’t have to do that,” Coach Timbers said nervously.
“Yes,” piped in Mr. McNeil, “We don’t need any officials or any police. We can just handle this between ourselves.”
“Well then handle it for crying out loud!” Coach Peggy raised her voice to an uncomfortable level. “Alison should be suspended, and the Langley’s $250.00 needs to be reimbursed! I don’t want to see Alison playing competitive sports anywhere at all! If I see her on the field, running with my students or any other students for that matter, we will turn you in. Do you understand?! This is all very suspicious behavior, and frankly, I am getting more upset by the minute by it!” Coach Peggy exclaimed furiously.
Coach Timbers turned to the McNeil’s. “You see my situation, Alison. Perhaps it is best if you took a little break. You could still come out to practices, but maybe just skip the competitions with the other schools for a while.”
Alison jumped up rudely. “What? I’m not skipping any competitions! That girl was in my way! That’s why I hit her!” Alison hollered and pointed at Maria.
“I was behind you, Alison. How could I be in your way? How could you ram me in the stomach like you did if I were in front of you? I was behind you, and you turned sideways and shouldered me right in the stomach for no reason at all,” Maria stated clearly.
“Well, I’m telling Glenn and his Dad about this! Then you and your stupid boyfriend will be sorry you didn’t just move out of the way!” Alison threatened.
Mr. Langley did not completely understand where the boyfriend part fit into all of this so he tucked that piece of information away in the back of his mind. He would ask the girls about that later. He responded to the part of Alison’s little speech that he did understand, “Alison, you can tell anyone you like about this, but the bottom line is this; your conduct was unsportsmanlike and dangerous to my daughter. You should not be allowed in sports. Actually, if you tell people, I think they would agree with me, that you don’t belong in competitions at all,” Mr. Langley concluded.
Mr. McNeil shifted in his seat and snickered at Mr. Langley’s rebuke, then said, “Well, sports are for the fit and the strong. If she can’t take the game, maybe she should be the one to leave sports.” He smiled the same irritating smile that the girls often saw in Alison as well as Gary and Glenn. Daisy and Maria then realized where the mean streak came from in these kids.
“My daughter is an excellent runner. She follows the rules and practices hard every day. She’s a very strong girl, but she’s not a bully. She wins her races by being first not by fighting and knocking over the other runners. And, I might add that even though she was knocked over by your bully daughter, she still won the race fair and square.” Mr. Langley smiled proudly at his daughter’s accomplishment then he continued, “Now, I think we’ve come and said what we needed to say so my family and I will be going.” Mr. Langley gave a nod to Coach Peggy.
“I will be checking on your progress in this matter, Coach Timbers.” Coach Peggy eyed him suspiciously.
Mr. Langley glanced at Mr. McNeil. “I do expect my $250.00 by the end of the week.” He then stood and held his hand out to his wife, “Time to go dear.”
Mrs. Langley took his hand and stood up next to him. “Yes, let’s go home.” They walked out hand in hand with the girls following closely behind them. Coach Peggy took up the rear.
Maria leaned in to speak in Daisy’s ear as they exited, “Daisy, didn’t Alison say that she was going to tell Glenn and his Dad about all of this?”
“Yea, that’s what she said,” Daisy whispered back.
“Why would she tell Glenn? Isn’t Gary her boyfriend? Why wouldn’t she tell him?” Maria wondered quietly.
“Who knows what that girl is thinking,” Daisy mumbled.
Then Maria held her arm out next to Daisy’s arm and studied them both. “Am I really that dark?”
Daisy wrapped her arms around Maria’s neck and hugged her tight. “Your Filipina descendants passed down to you a beautiful shade that the rest of us try to achieve by buying outrageously expensive tanning products. You’re beautiful Maria. Don’t let what they said bother you. People often resort to name calling when they can’t come up with anything intelligent to say to make their point with.”
Maria looked at her arm again and smiled. “Yea, I guess so. Andy loves my color. He says so all the time.”
“Nobody can argue with Andy,” Daisy giggled.
“Yea, nobody can argue with Andy. I’ve tried.” Maria smiled.