Coach King Ch. 09bymxwtt©
Chloe got to school, almost late as usual. The student population was in a frenzy of gossip, trading rumors about the circumstances of Kayla's death. It'd hit her hard when she'd first found out, and was still trying to adjust to the idea that one of her closest friends was no longer alive. She'd been out of town with Craig, Will, Tyler and Maddie when it had happened. They'd gone on a bit of a road trip and to an Anime convention in Hartford for the spring break and hadn't returned until late Saturday night.
She went through the hallways, getting weird looks and hushed whispers as she went. Chloe had a destination in mind, and she was used to ignoring this sort of attention from her peers, so she pretended not to notice and kept walking. She reached the end of the hallway and went left, finding herself in front of Mr. King's office. With some hesitation she knocked on the door.
There was a moments scuffling before Mr. King opened the door.
"Hello Chloe, what can I help you with?" Roy asked.
"Can I come in?" Chloe asked.
"Ah," Roy looked over his shoulder, "Yeah, sure. Come on in."
Chloe entered and saw that Helen was there. That was hardly surprising, Helen spent a lot of time speaking with him in general, and with Kayla gone it was to be expected she'd seek out comfort from someone she was close to. Chloe thought it was really cool that Mr. King put so much effort into being close to his students.
"Helen," Chloe said.
She walked over to her friend and hugged her.
"I'm sorry, when I heard..."
"Thanks Chloe," Helen said, hugging her back.
Chloe let her go. They'd talk more later, she was just sorry that she'd been gone when her friend had needed her the most. Helen had been unreachable during the break, but Chloe had attributed that to the fact that she and Kayla were supposed to be travelling. When she'd returned to Riverside and her father had told her what had happened she'd been shocked. She was still trying to absorb everything. Sadly, Chloe was good at dealing with grief; she'd experienced enough of it in her short life.
"How was your break, Chloe?" Mr. King asked her.
"Good," Chloe replied.
Mr. King looked exhausted. He always seemed to be tired after weekends, and it made Chloe wonder what he did that tired him out so much. There was something more to it, and she realised suddenly that he'd been just as close to Kayla as he was to Helen. He would be sad as well.
"Coach, I was wondering if we could talk..." Chloe said.
Helen got up from the chair she was sitting in, "Alright, I get it. See you in class Chloe."
They hugged again before Helen left the small office.
Chloe sat down nervously, running her nails against the palm of her hand nervously. Mr. King shut the door and sat down behind his desk.
"What can I help you with?" Roy asked, sitting behind his desk.
Chloe took a deep breath, "Well... Alright, you know how I said I don't date?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Well, that wasn't entirely true," Chloe said.
Mr. King grinned, "Really?"
Chloe laughed nervously, "Really. Anyway, I need some advice from someone... well like me."
Roy was confused, "Like you how?"
"You know... we're both..." she said, taking an extended pause.
Roy paused for a long time. What on Earth... Oh no.
"Chloe, are you under the impression that I'm gay?" Roy asked, starting to laugh internally.
Chloe averted her gaze, "I... Well I thought since... I mean..."
"I'm not gay Chloe," he said.
Chloe looked at him earnestly, "I won't tell anyone Mr. King, I promise."
"What makes you think I'm," Roy lowered his voice to a whisper, "gay?"
Chloe took another deep breath, "Well, first of all, you're very friendly with the only openly gay people in the school."
"That doesn't prove anything more than I'm tolerant of others," Roy said.
"You haven't gone out with anyone since you've moved in town, and it's not like you'd have trouble finding a date," Chloe said.
"I just got out of a marriage!" Roy declared incredulously.
"Why did you leave your marriage? Nobody knows, maybe you came out and left her? That would explain why you left such a prestigious job to work at a place like this," Chloe suggested.
Roy was stupefied, "Chloe, who else thinks this?"
"I don't know, you're very good at hiding it. You don't follow any of the stereotypes," Chloe said.
"Because I'm not gay!" Roy insisted, trying not to laugh.
This was ridiculous. If only Chloe knew.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything," Chloe said, starting to get up.
Roy stopped her, "Please don't go, what were you going to ask me?"
Chloe settled back in her seat and collected her thoughts.
"I broke up with my... I guess you could call her a girlfriend," Chloe said.
She'd stopped seeing Ashley before the spring break, a decision that had been surprisingly painful. They hadn't been much more than physical, but still it'd been nice having someone.
"Will you tell me who it was?" Roy asked.
"Only if you admit you're gay," Chloe countered.
"Right. Anyway, I can't say. I promised her I wouldn't and I don't plan on betraying her trust," Chloe said.
Roy smiled, "That's very good of you."
"So what was your question?" he asked.
Chloe looked up at him, "I feel really awful..."
"Why?" Roy asked.
"I... When I found out Kayla died, I was sad. Very sad, she was one of the few female friends I've ever had and she was an incredible person. But I also thought, 'maybe now me and Helen.' It made me feel so bad, like I was a vulture or something... I still feel horrible because I can't get that thought out of my mind," Chloe said.
She buried her face in her hands.
"Am I a bad person?" Chloe asked.
"Of course not. People often think what they feel are inappropriate thoughts during times of grief, it isn't like you've pressured Helen into starting a relationship or something have you?"
"No, I would wait until she was ready. As long as she needed. I just thought that, you know, eventually..." Chloe looked close to tears and Roy felt like he was doing a woefully inadequate job consoling her.
"There's nothing wrong with that," Roy said.
"I do miss Kayla, I miss her so much, but when I thought of that it stuck and it made me feel so guilty. Like I've betrayed my friend," Chloe explained, holding back tears valiantly.
Roy leaned forward in his chair, "Chloe, you've done nothing to be ashamed of. You haven't betrayed anyone. What happened to Kayla is a tragedy. Helen is going to need her friends to get through it. She's going to need you to be there for her."
She's going to need me to be there for her, he thought to himself.
His words seemed to calm her somewhat, "I can do that, I help her get through this. She's so strong, I can't believe she came back so soon after the break."
"People grieve in different ways. I think Helen just needs to be kept busy. She needs to know that there's life after Kayla," he said.
"Thanks Coach," Chloe said, starting to stand.
"Sit down," Roy ordered.
She did, confused.
"Now, why did you break up?" he asked.
"I..." Chloe wasn't sure how to explain it, "I'm tired of taking other's scraps, and I'm tired of letting people use me to check if there's something 'wrong' with them. The girl I was with didn't want to be open with how she felt about me, even with herself, and I refused to put up with it anymore."
"Good for you," Roy said.
"You should come out, it's not as bad as you think. It's better not to lie to yourself," Chloe said.
Roy rolled his eyes, "There's no closet for me to come out of."
"Alright, if you say so," Chloe said.
She stood, and so did Roy.
"I'm not," he said.
"I believe you," she said.
"It was Ashley wasn't it?" he asked, shocking her.
"H...How did... I mean, no," Chloe said adamantly.
"I saw you two together while we were in Ashford," Roy explained.
Chloe's eyes widened frightfully, "You can't tell anyone. Her father would kill her."
"I won't," Roy said.
"I'm serious Mr. King, he'd kill her. Please, don't say anything to anyone," Chloe pleaded.
"I promise," he said.
She stared at him for a moment.
"Thank you," she said finally.
She surprised him then by giving him a hug. Even in his melancholy state, he couldn't help but feel a little more than happy with her arms wrapped around him. Her full round breasts squished into his chest, and the memory of seeing her naked came back to mind. He broke the hug hurriedly or things could take a most embarrassing turn. Chloe breathed in deeply, and put on a forced smile. Something she'd done for years to prepare herself to enter the hallways of Wood Creek Secondary after something particularly emotional happened. She put on her brave face and picked up her backpack.
"Thanks Coach, you've been a great help," she said.
She walked past Roy and through the door. Leaving Roy confused, aroused, and strangely amused. He shook his head and turned his attention to some papers that needed grading.
Chloe left Mr. King's office, and went to class. She sat bored, scribbling in the margins of her notebook while her English teacher droned on about the significance of 'diamonds in the jungle' in the play Death of a Salesman, confused by what had just happened. When Mr. King had hugged her she'd felt him, he'd tried to pull away but she'd felt him pressing into her. What disturbed and confused her was that she'd liked it, she'd liked having him pressed against her. Her face had felt warm and a familiar sensation between her thighs had formed, a sensation she'd only ever experienced for women.
She pushed it from her mind, blaming her thoughts of Helen, Kayla and Ashley for her state, not Mr. King. She'd misread him though, she'd been so certain that he was like her, that he hid his secret masterfully but that she'd figured it out. Things had changed now, what she'd thought she knew about him had changed. Chloe turned her attention back to the class, Ms. Thomas was still on about the diamonds in the jungle and she quickly drifted off again. She thought hard about Helen, and about what Mr. King had said. Chloe had meant it when she said she would wait, of course she would, she was still grieving the loss of Kayla herself. She could barely imagine the pain Helen was going through.
The bell rang and she went to the next class. Computer Science held her interest about as well as English had, and she found herself bored after finishing the assignment she'd been given. She stared out the window; the clacking of key's a sharp staccato around her as she continued to ponder. The bell rang for lunch and Chloe rushed to the cafeteria, seeking out Helen. She found her at their usual table, but something was clearly wrong. Maddie had her arm wrapped around Helen protectively but looked unsure of what to do. Chloe approached them, seeing the look of pain on Helen's face.
"What happened?" Chloe asked.
"I don't know, she won't say," Maddie replied.
Helen wouldn't meet their gaze, and seemed to be unaware of Maddie's arm.
"Helen, what's wrong?" Chloe asked.
Helen shook her head, refusing to answer. Chloe knelt in front of Helen, taking her hand.
"What happened?" Chloe asked.
"She said it was God's punishment," Helen said quietly, almost inaudible.
Chloe went cold, "Who said that?"
Helen looked over Chloe's shoulder, her gaze going to a point behind her. Chloe turned and saw where Helen was looking, Ashley. A surge of anger went through her, she took a step in the dark haired girls direction but was stopped by a hand.
"Don't," Helen said, her grip strong.
"She needs to be dealt with," Chloe said.
"Please, don't," replied.
Chloe pulled out of her grip and crossed the cafeteria, the laugh on Ashley's lips died when she saw her approach. Chloe's blue eyes glared at Ashley, and the slightly shorter girl looked frightfully at her.
"Leah, Janice, clear out," Chloe said.
The two girls looked nervously at Ashley, and again at Chloe, then they picked up their stuff and left the table. Chloe sat down across from Ashley, her gaze never leaving the cowering girl.
"Are you completely incapable of sympathy?" Chloe asked evenly.
"What are you talking about?" Ashley asked defensively.
"'God's punishment'? For what? Being different? For being like you?" Chloe asked.
Ashley's eyes widened, "Don't say that."
"It's true," she said.
"No, I'm not. I was just confused, you did something to me," Ashley said.
Chloe laughed dryly, "You did plenty to me too, or have you forgotten? Maybe I should elaborate? Maybe over Facebook?"
"You wouldn't dare," Ashley replied nervously.
Chloe shook her head, "Actually I would. Either you keep your mouth shut or I open mine."
"No one would believe you," Ashley said.
"Some would, those who've been with me before. It would be enough to get rumors started, enough for it to get back to your father," Chloe said.
Ashley stared at her, her eyes full of fear.
"One comment, one whisper, one negative thought expressed through any medium, and I'll end you. Do you understand?" Chloe asked.
The dark haired girl nodded.
"Good," Chloe said.
She got up and returned to Helen, "Do you want to get out of here?"
Helen nodded and they left the cafeteria, going to the parking lot to Chloe's car.
"Thank you," Helen said, hugging Chloe.
Chloe hugged her back. She'd found a new role, adopted a new position, she was Helen's protector now. Kayla had always dealt with the girls around school, and had been so effective at it that most had learned not to even try going after Helen or herself. Chloe was that person now, it was a role she could do, she'd hid and tried to disappear, but she was done hiding. Now she was going to fight back.
Chloe almost began to cry, "I'm sorry."
Helen looked up at her, "Why?"
"For everything that's happened, for thinking such awful things, for not being here when you needed me. You know, I got into Stanford? My Dad's so proud of me but I can't even feel happy about it. It's like it was your and Kayla's thing, as if I have no right to it, but I've been dreaming for years that I'd go there. Now it feels like I'm chasing you, like that's all I've been doing all year," Chloe said, tears trailing down her cheeks.
"Chloe, it's okay," Helen said.
She'd never seen Chloe like this, so upset.
"I feel so guilty, like I somehow wanted this to happen. Like I made it happen, but I didn't want this. I loved Kayla, she was one of my best friends!" Chloe sobbed harshly.
It was like it was physically painful for her to cry, as if she hated herself for doing it.
"It's alright," Helen said, brushing Chloe's hair out of her eyes.
She kissed Chloe's cheek gently, a supportive kiss, a kind kiss. Helen pulled Chloe's head to her chest, and the redheaded girl continued to cry softly for a few seconds. She pulled herself together quickly, angry with herself for the outburst. Crying didn't solve anything, action did, moving forward.
"Do you want to go somewhere?" Chloe asked, wiping the tears out of her eyes hastily.
"You mean skip school?" she asked.
Helen paused, "Alright."
The two left, enjoying a day out together as friends. Chloe accepted that Helen needed time, happy to wait if they could be like this. She realised then that Helen had not only lost someone she'd loved, she'd lost her best friend. Chloe might not be able to take Kayla's place as her lover, but she could try and fill the role of friend, even if deep down she knew she'd never be as close to Helen as Kayla had been. It didn't matter, Helen needed someone, and Chloe promised to herself that she'd be there for her.
3 Month's Later
"Why not?" Chloe asked her.
"I don't want to," Helen replied.
"Come on, it's the only chance we'll ever get," she pleaded.
Helen rolled her eyes, "I don't want to go."
Chloe had been bugging her about prom for the past week. Helen didn't want to go, she still ached over what had happened to Kayla, though things were better now. She no longer felt like crying all the time and she actually felt like herself on occasion. But her thoughts were still dominated by Kayla, and to a lesser extent her mother. The worst she'd felt in recent memory had been on Graduation Day a week earlier, her mother hadn't shown up, which had been hard, and it had reminded her of the fact that Kayla should have been there. There were times when she felt better, usually when she was with Roy, but she wasn't ready to go out and have fun at something Kayla should have been at.
"You'll regret it," Chloe said.
Chloe had been great over the past three months. Supportive, protective, strong, everything Helen needed in a friend. Helen knew how lucky she was to have Chloe around, how wonderful it was to have such an amazing person watching over her, but it wasn't the same as what she'd had with Kayla. They simply hadn't known each other long enough.
"I can't do it," Helen said.
"Okay," Chloe said, choosing to drop it before she upset her.
They separated and went to their respective classes. At lunch Chloe tried again, this time using a different tactic.
"You know what looks fun," Chloe said to Maddie who was sitting across from her and beside Helen.
"What?" Maddie asked.
"The Prom," Chloe said.
Maddie smiled, "Craig is going to look so handsome in a tux."
Helen pretended not to be listening, staring down into her textbook.
"Who's chaperoning again?" Chloe asked innocently.
"Mr. King, Ms. Hall, Mr. Forester, and Ms. Thomas," Maddie replied.
"Coach King's going to be there?" she replied, acting as if she hadn't known.
Chloe hoped that if she knew he was going to be there Helen would feel a bit more confident about going.
"He should look nice in a suit too," Maddie said.
"Maybe he and Ms. Thomas will hook up," Chloe said.
The student body had been gossiping about that very rumour for weeks now, ever since May when it was announced that they would be two of the chaperones.
"Ooo, that'd be so cool!" Maddie said.
Helen got up and started to walk away.
"Where are you going?" Chloe called after her.
Helen kept on walking.
"What did we say?" Maddie asked.
The two stayed seated, having learned that it was best to just leave her be when she took off like this. Helen continued walking and made her way through the halls, passing the main office and going to the end of the hallway to Roy's office. She knocked on his door, and waited for him to answer.
Roy's head appeared from around the door, "Helen, hi."
"Can I come in?" she asked.
Roy opened the door and let her in, she closed it behind her. Helen crossed the room, running her thumb along the championship trophy the volleyball team had won at the regional tournament the previous month. They'd continued to dominate, growing stronger after Chloe had finally put Ashley in her place. Roy watched her contemplate whatever it was that was heavy on her mind.
"Do you want to date other women?" Helen asked finally.
Roy's eyes widened, "No, why would I want that?"
"So you could have a girlfriend, so you could have a real relationship..."
"We have a real relationship, we love each other," Roy interrupted.
"I didn't mean it like that," Helen said.
"I know what you meant, and no," Roy said.
"Okay," she said.
She sat down in the chair in front of his desk.
"What made you worry about that?" Roy asked, returning to his lunch.
"Chloe and Maddie were thinking you and Ms. Thomas would hook up while chaperoning the Prom," she said.
Why is Chloe convinced I should be dating Ms. Thomas? Roy asked himself. I thought her latest theory was that I'm gay. He almost started laughing.