Kristen Chapter #18: Changes

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Published on 23.02.06 11:37 Age: 15 yrs

Letters : 6535 Words : 1110

By: Nemo

Kristen is out of uniform, and will need to pay a forfeit

“Okay, folks,” Beth said. “I hate to spoil the party, but I guess that’s why they pay me the big bucks, right? We have a lot of work to get done, so let’s get back to business.”

Kristen and Janet both muttered apologies, and the assembled lifeguards quickly turned their attention to Beth.

“And as I recall, the last order of business was the fact that our rookie here, Kristen, is out of uniform,” Beth said. “We were all waiting for her to decide whether to pay the forfeit or take a demerit.”

Kristen’s face turned pale and her knees almost buckled. In the confusion and excitement of meeting Jannie again, she had forgotten all about this. “Oh, no,” she whimpered. Her mouth was dry. “A forfeit? I—I’ve heard some of my friends talk about forfeits. But it’s always in something like a strip poker game. They—they play for forfeits after somebody has already lost all their clothes.”

Beth gave Kristen a strange little smile, and nodded. “Sure, I suppose this is something along the same lines. And since everybody here has already lost all their clothes, we go directly to the forfeits.”

Kristen winced. “Can’t you tell me what it is? I mean—my friends have told me about some of the penalties, and some of them are, uh, awfully nasty,” she said.

Beth sighed. “I won’t tell you what it is, Kristen. This forfeit comes from me—from Beth. Okay? You have to decide: do you trust me?” Beth fixed Kristen with a steady—and strangely sympathetic—gaze. “So, what’s the decision?”

Once again, the other lifeguards whispered words of encouragement to Kristen: “It’s alright. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.” Kristen looked at Janet, who gave a reassuring smile and nodded.

“Okay, that’s enough from the peanut gallery,” Beth said sharply. “Kristen has to make up her own mind.” Once again she looked directly into Kristen’s eyes. “Well?” she asked.

Kristen’s face was a mask of anguish. “How—how can I promise to do something if I don’t even know what it is?” she moaned.

Beth studied Kristen’s frightened eyes for a few seconds. “Jeez,” she sighed wearily. “Okay. Forget it. I’m not going to ask you to do anything for me if it’s going to be this traumatic.”

Kristen was startled by the intensity of the disappointment and desolation on Beth’s face. Beth had seemed to be on top of every situation, and the sudden look of discouragement and resignation on her face now was unexpected and almost frightening. The other lifeguards noticed it, too, and turned concerned eyes toward Beth, who seemed to slump a little.

“Wait, Beth,” Kristen said. “Wait!”

Beth looked at Kristen, but her eyes seemed dull and tired.

“I—I want to pay the forfeit,” Kristen said. She forced a smile, but there was a pained and frightened look in her eyes.

Beth frowned and shook her head. “Don’t worry, Kristen. I’m not going to give you a demerit,” she said, her voice flat and lifeless. “It’s a stupid rule, anyway. I know why you don’t have your hat on. It was an innocent mistake, so forget it. The whole thing never happened.”

For half a second, Kristen felt elated by the news that she would not get a demerit, but that emotion was quickly overwhelmed by a guilty awareness that she had been the cause of Beth’s obvious unhappiness. She stepped forward and put her hand on Beth’s arm. “No, Beth, you don’t understand,” she said. “I want to pay the forfeit. I trust you—I trust you, Beth. And I want to pay the forfeit.”

“How can you trust me, Kristen?” Beth asked. “You barely know me. We only met on Saturday.”

Kristen tightened her grip on Beth’s arm. “I know you better than you think, Beth,” she said. “I do trust you. I have to trust you. We’re lifeguards, right? Both of us? I trust you with my life!”

Beth looked into Kristen’s eyes. She could see that Kristen was still frightened, but she wore a brave smile. Beth smiled and gently patted Kristen on the shoulder. “It’s okay, Kristen. It’s okay. Trust is important. But don’t worry about that forfeit. It was just a silly little thing, anyway.”

“You have to let me do it,” Kristen said. She was shocked by the words from her own mouth—she should be rejoicing that Beth was letting her off the hook. Instead, she was practically demanding that Beth make her do something embarrassing and demeaning. “I’m sorry that I was so hesitant to answer, but this is all new to me. But—but I never said I wouldn’t do it. So you have to let me pay the forfeit.” Kristen flinched a little as these last words escaped her mouth.

The other lifeguards nodded and made murmured comments: “She’s right, Beth. She never said she wouldn’t do it.”

Beth rested her hand on Kristen’s shoulder. “You really mean it, Kristen?” she asked. “You don’t know what I’m going to ask.”

Kristen nodded.

“I don’t want you to change your mind if you don’t like it,” Beth said.

Kristen shook her head. “I trust you with my life,” she whispered.

“Okay,” Beth said, smiling warmly. “Here’s what you have to do.”

Kristen winced, prepared for the worst.

“You have to play for our team in this year’s first beach volleyball game,” Beth said. “After the first game, it’s completely up to you. But you have to play that first game.”

Kristen was so relieved she laughed out loud. “Oh, that’s not bad at all!” she said. “It ought to be fun!”

Beth laughed, too, and shook her head. “Well, you sure didn’t feel that way on Saturday. Remember? Skins vs. skins?”

Kristen searched her memory, trying to remember how she had felt on Saturday about playing volleyball in the nude. “I guess a lot of things have changed since Saturday,” she said brightly.

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