The Name Game
Esmerelda Shorte goes to the most prestigious private school in Connecticut. The teachers are perfect, her friends are perfect, and nothing could go wrong...
Until the day her teacher takes her class on a fieldtrip to Baskerville High, a school for delinquent kids that have been kicked out of normal school, and gives them a year long assignment.... to become somebody else.
The breeze blows at my hair and my notebook, turning the pages and blocking my vision as I struggle to watch the game. The sun is beating on my back like Iâ€™m a bug under a magnifying glass.
On a normal day, I wouldnâ€™t be out in the sunshine watching a soccer game, not under any circumstance. Sports have never really been my thing. When you go to a private school, you spend most of your time studying, doing projects, things like that.
But this time, it is my project. And here I am, stuck here, all because of the fake dipwad sprinting across the field like a dog after a ball.
I clutch at my pencil and glance down, writing down yet another feature that I will have to master by the time the year ends. Be graceful.
Iâ€™m not graceful in the least.
The people around me rise to their feet and start chanting his name, their fists raised in the air as if their meaningless shouts will improve his game.
Heâ€™s nearly to the goal. He lifts his foot back, preparing to kick at the ball. A tangle of legs block his way.
He stumbles backwards and trips over somebodyâ€™s foot, and seems to fly a few feet before hitting the ground flat on his back, his hands clutched to his head. Somebody from his team kicks the ball towards the goal. It makes a clean swishing noise in the net.
The game is over. They won.
I stare towards the field and wait for Ashton to regain his footing, but he doesnâ€™t move from his spot as the rest of his teammates start to pack their things from the bleachers and head back to their cars, preparing to leave.
The shuffling of feet leaving the field fills the air. I sit for only a few more minutes as the other kids exit the field, and then I jump up from the bleachers and make my way to him, lying there, staring up at the sky. When I lean over him, he catches my eye and sighs as if heâ€™s frustrated, but says nothing.
I stick my tongue out at him.
â€œEsmerelda,â€ he says irritably, standing up. He brushes the strands of grass from his shorts. â€œWhy are you here?â€
â€œIâ€™m here to study you,â€ I say, holding out my notebook. Just for his sake, Iâ€™ve used my worst handwriting possible. I realize with a pang of disgust that it will never be as bad as his. â€œYou know, so I get a good grade on this.â€
He scoffs and rolls his eyes, crossing his arms. â€œYouâ€™re really doing that? I thought you were too good for stupid projects like that. Is that not why you were giving me such a terrible look, back in class?â€
â€œHey,â€ I stand up as tall as I can and glare up at him, but heâ€™s still much taller than me and Iâ€™m not intimidating at all. â€œThat was a week ago, and that hate stare was a mutual thing. You canâ€™t honestly believe I would stoop so low as to refuse your presence.â€
He smirks, looking down at me with an ease in his face as if heâ€™s already won the argument. â€œYou insult like a priss.â€
â€œAt least I have intellectual arguments, rather than the slang that you use in your conversation.â€
He pats me on the shoulder almost pitifully and turns around to walk away from me. Frustration bubbling in my head, I reach forward and grab his wrist.
â€œWait!â€ I say. He pauses and turns just his head to look at me, his fake eyes sparkling.
â€œYes, princess?â€ he asks sarcastically.
I take a deep breath, trying to suppress my anger. I canâ€™t snap at him. â€œI really would like a good grade on this, Ashton. So if you would please. Please just do this for me.â€
Itâ€™s a quick, short word. I glance up at him, confusion blossoming across my face. Itâ€™s certainly not the response I was anticipating.
â€œExcuse me?â€ I ask.
â€œYou can call me Ash,â€ he repeats, smiling ever so slightly. â€œDoesnâ€™t mean weâ€™re friends, though.â€
â€œIâ€™m calling you Esme.â€
I look at him, puzzled. Nobody has ever given me a nickname before. But he just tilts his head a little bit, as if heâ€™s studying me, and then nods in consent.
â€œYou look like an Esme. Meet me tomorrow, here, okay? Bring your cleats and your wallet. Weâ€™re going shopping.â€