Chapter Thirteen: Changes
During the second week back at school, Natalia found the work was starting to pile up. Exams were just around the corner. One week away, to be exact. Teachers always have to remind us of that, don't they, Natalia thought miserably.
Oddly enough, exam review for some of her classes was being done in groups. For biology she had gotten stuck in Marissa's group. Natalia had wanted to ask the teacher to change groups, but she had balked. Marissa would have loved to see Natalia chicken out.
Natalia stuck it out, even though she knew how much she wanted to skip class...she found herself leading the group in many areas. Marissa had not said anything to her, rude or nice.
Natalia was sitting in the library. Her thoughts were distracting her from her work. She was supposed to be concentrating on the unit review for biology, instead she was thinking of ways to tell Dallas why she had avoided him.
So far things with Dallas were fine. He hadn't asked her again about why she had given him the silent treatment. Instead today he had asked her to come with him afterschool. Apprently today he had another practice but it was scheduled right around the time he would be dropping her off at home.
Dallas had already told her parents that she was going to be accompanying him to practice. Her mother had of course told her not to get in his way. Like I would ever play..., she thought to herself.
Natalia finished the last of her work, as she sat in the library writing on the last group sheet, somebody sat across from her. Natalia looked up.
It was none other than Marissa. “Hey Natalia.” She said with an overly sweet smile. Natalia could already begin to feel smothered. “Hi.” Natalia said, looking back at her work. Speak of the devil, Natalia thought.
“So are you done the chart for biology?” Marissa asked. Natalia looked up. Marissa was intently staring at the sheet she had been working on. “Yea, I'm done. I was just adding some extra points.” Natalia told her. She wasn't comforted by the fact Marissa was sitting across from her. Something was up, Natalia wondered. Natalia couldn't think of any reason why Marissa would be here talking to her.
Since school had reconvened, Natalia had kept out of Marissa and Raine's way. Infact Natalia had kept herself in the library when ever she had spare time, just to keep out of any more drama. Even her friends had started to notice a difference in her behaviour.
Dawn and Clara had grown annoyed of her extreme exam preparation and had started to stay out of the library, whereas the guys either spent time studying or were at a sports practice in the gym.
Natalia hadn't minded being alone...until now. She would have loved to have her friends instead of Marissa sitting across from her. I should really smooth things over with Dawn and Clara, she thought once more. But it isn't all my fault, she thought. The other two girls had started whispering when they thought she wasn't paying attention. That had effectively kept Natalia confined to the library. She didn't need to hear what they were saying to know who they were talking about. Right now...I'd do anything to be talking to them instead of her, Natalia thought, with a pang of guilt. She should have tried to patch things up with her friends.
Marissa looked as though she was going to say something when they both heard her name being called. Natalia turned as Marissa did, only to see Raine calling her. Marissa excused her self and left Natalia sitting there.
Natalia shook her head in annoyance. Collecting her papers, Natalia grabbed her things and walked out of the library. She went to her locker, still deep in thought.
“Why won't you open!” Natalia muttered viciously. After her third attempt, the combination lock opened. Relived, Natalia put her books inside and took out her biology text book. She packed her back pack with all the books she would need to do her homework. Getting her agenda she closed the locker.
Natalia walked through the halls, meandering her way to her biology class. She was walking when she them.
“Clara? Dawn?” Natalia called out. The two girls turned around to see her. “Oh...Hi Natalia.” Dawn said. “Did you get kicked out of the library?” Clara asked, snidely.
“No, but I was looking for you two.” Natalia said. It was the perfect time to apologize to them. She didn't want the two of them to hate her. It was hard not having them around, although she could do without their whispers.
“Look, I'm sorry I haven't been very good company. It would be nice to hang out with you both again.” She told them honestly. The two girls looked surprised. Dawn recovered before Clara.
“Fine, tomorrow then, lunch in the cafeteria...no studying.” She told Natalia. “But what about exams...” Natalia started. “Nope...no books. You need to have some fun, Natalia. See you tomorrow!” Clara piped up. The bell rang.
The two girls waved to her as they walked away to class. Natalia was relived that they were giving her a chance. She walked a little more happily to biology class.
Dallas waited in the car. Natalia was going to be joining him for the first time at his soccer practice. He had made sure to grab a light blanket. Sitting on the bleachers in the evenings was usually cold, since it was January. Natalia's mother had also packed some food for the both of them. Knowing Natalia would be famished, Dallas secretly thanked her mother...he had almost forgotten the food since he was in a rush.
Dallas heard the bell ring, he looked out of the window to see if Natalia was coming. Soon enough he saw her walking through the crowd of students. She's alone again...he thought. Lately, Dallas had noticed that Natalia was becoming quiet. She didn't talk about what she and her friends had been up to. More often than not, she would just tell him about the exam review and ask him about his day. Dallas had a sneaking suspicion that she had had a falling out with her friends. He didn't say anything; it wasn't his business.
Dallas looked infront of him, at the road, as Natalia opened the door and sat in her seat. “Hello.” He heard her mumble. “Hello Natalia.” He replied. Dallas started the car, and pulled away from the school. “Have a good day?” He asked, as he always did. “Yea...just great.” She told him sullenly.
She sure knew how to pique his curiousity. Already he was starting to feel concerned. I need to stop this maddness, he thought to himself. It was a losing battle. As he drove along the road to the university soccer feild, he gave up and asked.
“What's wrong?” Dallas asked Natalia. Natalia had been staring out of the window at passing cars. Upon hearing his voice she turned to face him. “Nothing...everything...I hate school.” She said, sounding fed up. “Really?” Dallas asked, he glanced in the rear view mirror. Natalia had gone back to watching the cars out of the window. “That's not like you, Lia. You usually love school.” He told her.
“Yea, well...it's complicated.” She told him. “Okay, how?” He asked, prodding her on. Natalia sighed. “Dawn and Clara kind of left me alone...becuase they think I spend too much time in the library doing homework.” Natalia told him.
That solved one mystery. Now he knew why her friends weren't around her when she left the school at the end of the day. “Do you spend too much time in the library?” He asked her. Dallas waited for her to answer. “Sometimes...I guess...yes I do.” She told him. “But it's only so that I can get the work done and get good grades...” She said sounding annoyed. “Who are you trying to convince? Me or you?” Dallas asked. “I don't know...both?” She replied.
They were quiet. “I stay in the library...to stay out of trouble.” Natalia told him at last. “What are you talking about? You never get into trouble.” Dallas said, sounding surprised. He looked at her quickly before turning back to the road. Natalia was serious.
“I don't want to get involved with anything...the popular crowds...anything that adds unnessecary drama into my life. I wish I had never agreed to go out with Raine...everytime I have to pass through some halls...there's always people whispering when I walk past. I don't need any more tension...I just want to graduate and get into the school I have dreamed to go to.” She told him. It was the most she had ever talked to him in the entire week.
“So what about your friends?” Dallas asked. “I don't know...they want me to join them for lunch tomorrow...no homework allowed. The guys are okay with me being in the library...sometimes it's like Clara and Dawn don't want me around becuase I want nothing to do with the in-crowd.” She told him.
“What makes you say that?” Dallas wondered. “When we came back to school last week...I would find them whispering when they thought I wasn't paying attention...or when I would walk up to them; they would change the subject of their conversation. I know they were talking about 'The Ice Queen'...which apparently is my nick name...” She told him, sounding unnerved and upset.
Dallas didn't know how to comfort her. He had always seen how girl friends could be callous sometimes. He didn't want Natalia getting hurt.
“Anyway...that's partly why school hasn't been fun.” Natalia muttered. “What's the other part?” Dallas asked. “I'm stuck with Marissa in my biology exam prep group.” Natalia told him rather unhappily. “I see...she's Raine's girlfriend, right?” He asked. “That's the one.” She confirmed. “So why are you unhappy about that?” He asked her. “Because she's being nice to me...” Natalia told him.
That probably meant that Natalia suspected something, Dallas thought. It was clear that Natalia thought it was odd behaviour if that girl was being nice to her.
Dallas parked in his usual parking spot. They were twenty minutes early. “Can I ask you something, Natalia?” Dallas asked suddenly. “Sure, why not.” Natalia muttered. “What school is it that you want to get into?” He had just thought of the question. It was something he had never asked her before.
Natalia didn't answer. Instead she motioned towards the Chemistry building on the campus. “You want to go to Western?” He asked, amused. “Yea, just like my father.” She told him. So this is her dream, he thought to himself, as Dallas got out his equipment. “Don't tell me this is the only place you applied?” He asked her. “No...it was my first choice...but my dad told me to pick two more, so I picked York University and UOIT.” She told him. “What programs?” He asked out of curiousity. Natalia walked over to him. “Film...and biology...” She muttered. Two different ends of the spectrum, he thought as he handed her the blanket and food.
“Come on.” Dallas said to Natalia. He led her off to the feild.
Natalia watched as Dallas and the rest of the competitors took to the feild. They were all wearing long track pants and thick shirts. Natalia thought they were crazy to be playing outside in the cold snowy weather. The feild, of course, had been cleared of the snow.
Natalia watched as the players ran through the warm-up excercises. She unpacked the food Dallas had brought for her. The slices of pizza were still slightly warm, as Natalia bit one. She sat on one of the bleachers wrapped in a blanket. She was glad Dallas had given it to her. Natalia had never been one to like the cold.
As she finished her food, Natalia looked into the lunch bag only to find a bag of chips and a bottle of pop. He had thought of everything, apparently. Everything to keep her happy and well fed. Natalia couldn't help but feel more guilty.
She should never have given him the cold shoulder. He had been kind to her throughout his stay...but she stubbornly refused to be kind back.
Natalia watched as the large group of competitors was broken into small groups that played in the seperate feilds.
It was too late to change what she had done, but maybe she could give him another try. Maybe they could still be friends. Natalia hoped that that ship hadn't sailed already.
“Owen, you will be playing another day.” The coach said as he read off the list of names that had not been cut during the training session.
Dallas was relieved. Although they had only played for a week and a bit, the cuts had come quickly. Much more quickly than he had expected. Still he was greatful that he had not been cut.
Dallas was determined to be one of the last five players remaining. He would get a spot on the team. There was no other way.
Dallas headed to the change room, but before going in he looked towards the bleachers. Natalia was still sitting there, huddled in the blanket he had given her.
Hopefully she had enjoyed herself, Dallas thought. He quickly changed before heading to the bleachers.
“Hey there.” He called out once he was within reach of Natalia. “Hello.” Natalia replied. She looked happy to see him. “I'm glad you didn't get cut.” She told him as he took a seat beside her. “Yea, me too.” He told her.
They were quiet. Dallas thought that he would push his luck a little. “So will you tell me why you were avoiding me?” He asked her quietly. Natalia looked away. She burrowed deeper in to the blanket. “No...it was stupid of me...to have done that...” She told him. Dallas left it at that. There was no need to embaress her further.
Dallas cleared his throat, to break the silence that had once again settled between them. “So, I've been thinking...” He started. Natalia looked up at him.
“I think you need to have a life at school...no more over-studying during lunch...so maybe you should hang out with your friends, but you know on...say...the few days before a test you can study in the library. I think I have a solution that will help you balance that...and give you a head start on your dream school.” He told her before she could interrupt.
“You'll be coming with me here most days after school...so whenever you need to study, let me know. I'll drop you off at the library building, there you can study in peace; then at the end of my training...I'll pick you up to go home.” He told an awe-struck Natalia. “Not only will you get the work done; you'll be able to hang out with your friends; and as an added bonus you'll get to enjoy what this school has to offer.” he told her.
Natalia looked suprised. Dallas had never thought he could do that to her. “Really? I can study here?” She asked, amazed. “Yea.” Dallas told her.
“So what do you think?” Dallas asked Natalia. In reply, Natalia had flung her arms around him. “Thank you!” She cried. “So then are we okay?” He asked her. “Friends?” She asked him. “Friends.” He told her, knowing that this would be a good start.
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