- turning yellow; yellowish.
“You would never know it to look at her…”
Sam cringed inside. She could feel sweat beginning to dampen her t-shirt.
She stood against the kitchen counter, silently begging her mom not to tell the story of her birth and her flavescent skin.
“But when little Sammie was born–after almost 18 hours of labor–she greets the world, screaming, yellow as a bee! From head to toe!”
Sam stared down at her Chucks, not wanting to look up. She could feel heat fill her face.
“Lo and behold, my little Sammie had jaundice!”
Her mother told the story with passion, as if she were recounting the time her child had won the Nobel Peace Prize.
“It’s not contagious,” Sam mumbled. “I’m healthy now.”
The last thing she needed were rumors.
“I know. My sister had jaundice was she was born.”
Sam looked up surprised, not by the coincidence, but by the release of such personal information.
It had seemed strange that Petra wanted to come over to her house after practice.
Captain of the soccer team, straight A student. She could outrun defenders, stop and pivot on a dime and get hat tricks past the best goalies in their Division. For all the noise she made on the field, Petra Johnson was a stealth machine off the turf.
A junior at Windale High, she was notorious for refusing invites to party with jocks and seniors. She seemed to avoid cheerleaders like the plague and even the art geeks couldn’t draw her, even though her realistic portrait drawings from her freshman year still sat in the showcase in the main hall. They had won first in the state competition for 14-18 year olds.
At lunchtime while everyone was sequestered in their clearly defined groups, Petra was usually off running laps, taking shots on goal, or just walking by herself.
She orbited outside the pull of everyone at Windale.
And yet, here she was in a freshman’s house, enduring her mother’s stories about her birth.
“Well, mom…uh, we’re going to go outside for a bit,” Sam said, moving toward the kitchen door that led to the backyard.
“Oh, yes, of course! You two have fun playing outside and I’ll make some cookies for you two.”
“We’re practicing, not playing,” Sam said, trying not to be utterly embarrassed by her mother.
“Your mom’s nice,” Petra said, as they walked out into the expansive backyard. Sam couldn’t tell if she was serious or not.
“Did your parents set this up for you?”
Sam glanced at the soccer net and nodded. “Yeah, my dad…”
The soccer net had been her parents’ gift to her when they found out she wanted to try out for the team.
“I practiced all summer long,” Sam said with sad laugh. “But as you noticed during tryouts, my shots on goal are still terrible.”
Sam had never expected to make the varsity soccer team. At best, she was hoping to at least ride the bench for jv. Although her shots were poor, all the running she’d done that summer had paid off. Her endurance had increased and so had her speed.
“Yeah…well, we’ll see if we can’t fix that.” Petra dribbled a soccer ball across the grass.
“Why would you help me?”
Petra shrugged before easily taking a shot that curved into the upper left hand corner of the net.
“You’re fast enough to be good with the right training,” Petra said. “Maybe even give us that solid midfield we’ve been dreaming about for the last few years…”
Petra was quiet for a moment, seeming to study a patch of the lush grass.
“And something about you reminds me of my little sister… she would be your age now…”
Sam felt privileged to have been given this rare piece of information. It was like receiving an insider’s stamp of approval, an the opportunity to hold a monarch’s firstborn son.
Petra gave a slight smile, something that was rumored to have last been seen back when when the team actually had a strong midfield before running toward the net to retrieve the ball. She launched it to Sam and planted herself in the middle of the net, ready to play goalie.
Sam found herself smiling as well. Maybe it was too soon, but she felt as if she had just found a friend who wasn’t weirded out by her family’s weirdness or repulsed by her desperate need for improvement.
“Now, you’re going to need to stagger your steps as you approach the ball and then get over it with your body,” she called to Sam. “Keep your eye on it, and make sure to plant your foot before you strike. ”
She nodded, backing away from the ball to time her approach.
“Think about what you’re doing and notice how your body feels as you set up,” Petra called. “After awhile, this just becomes muscle memory.”
Sam nodded once more, before taking a deep breath. She took off running toward the ball, focusing on her muscles as she staggered her steps. And, just as she was instructed to do, she leaned over the ball, putting her full force behind her leg as she impacted the ball and sent it flying toward the goal.