“Don’t ignore me. I know you saw me.”
There it was again, ringing through the locker room. Grating Gentry’s last nerve with its fast-paced sing-song. Some team members walked by, and one shoved Zach into the wall as he passed.
“Fuck you!” Zach shouted back.
“Yeah, the way you did Mr.Nilla!”
Gentry closed his eyes and turned away in irritation. He did not want to have this conversation.
“You shot that picture and wrote that letter!”
Oh, but he was having it all right. The accusation rang out like a slap to the face, and in response he could only sorely raise his gaze to meet that of his favorite rival.
“Yeah, you did. You were also in the office while it was happening, and Nilla’s e-mail had your style--- Each sentence in Nilla’s e-mail differed in length by three words when compared to the other sentence.”
Smart. That Estonian’s mind was some clock, Gentry reasoned. Ticking with cool accuracy, declaring unemotional judgments of wrong and right. Even his most heated actions were based on these judgments, there was no gray area.
“I had to use you.” Gentry thought to himself, “But I’m not sorry. I did what I had to--- If I wouldn’t have kicked him out, he would have kicked me out; and he knows damn well that if I’m not here, with you, with the swim team, I’m nothing.”
His own mind was more like a Church bell ringing through his ears, something he could never fully control. It was always chimed by someone else, controlled by everything but his own will. Hell, he didn’t know his own will. What he did know was shaped by those who owned it. And yet the clock, that cursed Estonian clock, ticked on its own, tick tock tick tock, a merciless judgment…
That was Zach’s problem. There was no room for bullshit.
As Gentry coldly prepared a rebuttal, the coach stood in the corner uncomfortably sucking on his lower lip. The whole team was staring, sensing something was very wrong but not sure what, how, or why.
“Zach. Why would I want to get Nilla fired?”
“You were in the office with me.” Zach’s voice was low now, forceful as the cheerless reality unfolded his clouded blue eyes.
“That doesn’t say anything, because I wasn’t in any trouble. You were called in because you couldn’t handle the dress code.”
“Then why did you tell me goodbye? You wouldn’t tell me that kind of shit if you weren’t---”
“People are staring at us.”
“They’ve been staring at me all week!”
The coach coughed, and the team gawked at them vacantly.
Gentry raised his head, straightened his posture and put a hand on Zach’s shoulder, “Zach… despite what you think, you’re still part of this team and we support you. Rape and sexual assault are horrible. If what they are saying about Mr.Nilla is true, then it’s fortunate that this has come to light to the community so he doesn’t hurt others. It can be said that this is a curse on you, yet a blessing to everyone else. I, for one, pray you get the help you need.”
Cut off all plausible arguments by distracting the other party from their point.
“You son of a bitch---” Zach hurled himself at him, only to be pulled back by the coach.
“Enough of that---”
Zach pulled himself out of the man’s grip and scowled back at Gentry, disbelief slapped over his face. Gentry gave a thoughtful silence, mentally counting the seconds before he dramatically turned to the team and said,
“Rape and sexual assault shouldn’t happen to anyone. Let’s leave it that. Now drop this and get back to focusing on what matters--- Nationals.”
The coach eyed the team sternly, and they nodded in sheepish agreement.
Zach opened his mouth to protest.
Silence the other party before they offer a rebuttal.
“That goes for you, too, Zach. I hope you get the help you need so that we can do our best in Nationals.”
Zach threw out his fist only for Gentry to catch it. He gave Zach a smug look, causing the underclassman to shove him aside and storm out the door.