You Don't Know My Name(9)By: Kristen Orlando
“Who’s there?” I push out from my tight throat, my voice bouncing off the two-story ceiling.
No one answers me. The footsteps get louder and louder. My stomach twists, and fear tingles up and down my arms.
“Who’s there?” I repeat, my voice booming.
I hear a crack and then a soft buzz above me.
“Reagan? What are you doing?”
The dim glow from the overhead light reveals Coach Hutta, dressed in shorts and a polo shirt two sizes too small, standing twenty yards away from me near the massive overhead light switch. My knees lock. I stand there frozen, my hand still wrapped around the handle of my knife, as my eyes scan the gym. I expect to see the stranger cowering in a corner or running out the back door. But he’s gone.
“Sorry, Coach. I just…” My mind races for a quick lie. I let go of my knife and feel the weight of it drop down into my bag. With my free hand, I reach into the pocket of my jeans, pulling out the five-dollar bill I was going to use to buy a brownie at lunch. “I saw one of the janitors drop some money in the hallway. I was just running after him to give it back. I saw him slip in here. Have you seen him?”
“Oh, you mean Mateo?” Coach Hutta asks, his brow furrowing over his beady eyes. “The new janitor? Dark-haired guy?”
“Yes,” I reply, my tense shoulders falling half an inch.
“Yeah, he just came into the equipment room,” Coach Hutta says, his hitchhiker thumb pointed over his shoulder at the open door. He steps toward me, his stride wobbly and wide. When he reaches me, he snatches the five-dollar bill out of my hand with a smirk and puts it in his pocket. “Don’t worry. I’ll give it to him.”
Great. Out of my mind and five dollars.
The double doors to the gym fly open behind me and a group of freshmen come running inside, their chatter and giggles drowning out the buzz of the industrial overhead lights.
“Better get to your next class, Reagan,” Coach Hutta calls out over his shoulder as he makes his way toward half-court where his students are sprawled out on the floor.
I nod even though he’s no longer paying attention. Coach Hutta blows on the whistle that’s permanently draped around his thick neck, and the chatter dissipates. I turn around and head for the door.
“Aren’t you a lucky group of students? Today we will do your favorite thing in the world. A timed mile run,” Coach Hutta announces. The class groans in unison before erupting into a series of complaints and excuses.
It was nothing, my mind whispers. You’re worked up over nothing.
I pull the strap of my messenger bag tighter against my shoulder. I breathe in deep, trying to release my rigid muscles and untie the remaining knots in my stomach. But they won’t budge.
As I reach the double doors and put my hands on the cool steel bar, those hundred pins prick my back once again. I can feel eyes on me. I whip back around, my long ponytail smacking me in the face, in time to see the edge of a man’s silhouette slipping out the back door and disappearing from my sight.
Drop it, I tell myself as I walk down the nearly empty hallway. It was nothing.
I take another deep breath, trying to calm the anxiety I feel tingling up my fingertips and toes. But the daymare comes anyway. His dirty hand over my mouth. A serrated knife pressed to my throat. His humid breath whispering threats in my ear. I can almost feel the cold steel of his blade on my flesh; tiny, warm drops of his spit in the curve of my ear. I close my eyes and try to make it go away, but the horrific scene continues to play out in vivid detail. He pushes the knife harder against my neck, nicking my skin and drawing blood. I try to run, but my hands and feet are tied. I try to scream, but only a muffled cry echoes against steel walls.
Stop, stop, stop, my mind begs for it to be over. I put my right hand over my face and violently shake my head, trying to erase the scene, as if my brain is an Etch A Sketch that can be cleared with a few shakes. The daymare finally begins to break apart.
“Are you okay?” I hear a voice say, pulling me back into reality. Luke is standing in front of me, his eyes wide, his right arm reaching out to steady my shoulder. I lower my hand from my face and silently hope he hasn’t been watching me long.