Did you ever wake up one day and just know you were going to have the worst day ever? Like, not just bad, but terribly, horribly, miserably bad? Yeah, that about sums up my Friday.
Normally, Daft Punk’s peppy, techno hit “Get Lucky” jolts my comatose body into the land of the living, but today I wake up to the dream-shattering sound of my dad yelling, “Kerri, shouldn’t you be leaving?”
Crap! Why didn’t my alarm go off? Where’s my phone? It’s not on the nightstand where I usually put it, so I dig through the covers searching for it, eventually throwing them all on the floor. No phone. Argh! I don’t have time for this; where is it?
I flip my carrot-colored curls upside down and peek under the bed. Nothing. My eyes scan my admittedly disastrous room, looking for the sparkly, lime green case. Nada. You’d think that color would make it stand out, but seeing how almost everything in my room is green, it’s not helping much.
I know I fell asleep using it last night so it’s got to be here somewhere. I throw myself across the mattress and shove my hands down the crack between the bed and the wall, and my fingers touch something plastic. Gotcha!
I wiggle my fingers around till I have a hold of it and jimmy it out of the crack, careful not to let it fall under the bed. Success!
I press the home button to check the time, and… nothing happens. Ugh, double crap! I forgot to charge it. Again. How could I be such an idiot? I rush over to my laptop and swipe my fingers over the touchpad to bring it to life. I really need to have a clock in this room. OMG, it’s 7:30! School starts in 30 minutes, and I have a test in first period. Thank God I always shower after basketball practice.
I dash to my closet and rake through my clothes, looking for my lucky sweatshirt — a green hoodie with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot on it, the one I wear on every game day, but I can’t find it. I have to have that sweatshirt! My eyes dart to the overflowing laundry basket in the corner, and I start rummaging through it.
A flash of emerald green catches my eye, and I yank on it, unearthing my prized possession from beneath a pile of sweaty workout clothes and a mildewing, wet towel. The sweatshirt is damp and wrinkled and smells like boob sweat and gym socks. Ew. Even I’m not desperate enough to wear this today. Why didn’t I remember to wash it? I’m usually really careful about making sure I have my good luck charms.
Oh yeah, I know why. Cuz I was distracted last night by my best friend, Mia, and her tales of relationship bliss. Insert eye roll. She doesn’t have as much time for me lately ever since she and her boyfriend started going out, so I have to take her when I can get her. We had a great time, but I can’t believe I forgot all about my lucky shirt.
Coach is always telling me I don’t need a good luck charm, all I need is hard work and dedication to be successful. I guess I’m gonna find out if that’s true today.
I drop the sweatshirt back in the basket and trudge over to the closet, tugging a random shirt and some jeans off their hangers, sending them flying. I pull my clothes on and tie my curly, orange hair up in a messy bun and rush out into the hallway. I don’t even want to look in the mirror today. Knowing my luck, it would break, and then I’d have seven years of bad luck.
A second later, I dart back into my room, our dog, Lucky, a large Irish Setter, yapping at my heels, and grab my phone and a portable charger pack, shoving them into my backpack. Hefting my bag over my shoulder, I head for the kitchen.
Please let there be something to eat! My stomach is growling like it’s possessed by a demon. There’s a box of strawberry Pop-Tarts in the pantry, and I do a happy dance and shove my hand in but come up empty. Of course. Why do they leave the empty box on the shelf just to taunt me?
With three older brothers, there’s never any food in this house. They scarf it all down the minute Dad gets home from the grocery store like they’re flesh-eating zombies, or something. I check the freezer for sausage biscuits or Toaster Strudels, just in case, but I’m not that lucky.
Scowling, I tromp back to my room and grab the box of Lucky Charms I keep tucked beside my bed for snacking. Lucky gets excited about that. It’s not the easiest thing to eat while driving, but it doesn’t matter, because I forgot I finished it off the other night. Argh! Seriously? I hurl the empty box towards my trash can, and it bounces off, spilling crumbs all over the carpet.
Giving up, I stomp to my car and shove the key in the ignition. I guess I’ll just starve till lunch time. At least I don’t have to hitch a ride with one of my brothers anymore. They would’ve left me by now, anyway. My old VW Beetle, Charge, may be a deathtrap, but it’s mine, and the day I got it was the day I became an independent woman.
No more pushy brothers acting like a second dad, telling where I can and can’t go, no more relying on them, no more of them getting all up in my business. Who am I kidding? They still do that, but at least if I get sick of it I can drive myself out of here.
When my car starts, that is.
I thunk my head against the steering wheel and turn the key one more time, but all I get is a click, and I’m about to start crying. I knew this day was going to totally suck, I just knew it.
It’s Friday the 13th, after all, and I’m the poster girl for the bad luck club.
I came out of the womb that way, and I’ll probably die young in some ridiculously horrific accident of my own making. Even my own mother couldn’t survive me. I’ve spent my entire life trying to reverse my luck, but so far, it’s not working too well.
I grab my bag off the seat and go back inside, running head-on into my dad, spilling his coffee all over both of us.
“Sorry, Dad!” I wince and yank my wet shirt away from my stomach as the hot coffee scalds me.
He shakes his head at me.
“Can you give me a ride to school? Charge won’t start.”
He sighs. “Yeah, just let me change.”
We go back inside and I toss my keys on the counter. Maybe one of my brothers will take a look at it for me.
I switch out my coffee-stained shirt for a clean one, and a few minutes later we’re pulling out of the driveway.
“Having another great Friday the 13th, so far?”
Dad knows all about my bad luck problem. He used to try to convince me it was all in my head, but after too many coincidences, I think he’s accepted that his daughter really is the unluckiest person ever.
I roll my eyes at him and adjust the radio. Every station is staticky except for that weird, disco station. Those songs are kind of catchy, but a few minutes of that and I’ve got Saturday Night Fever, like as in, I want to vomit. I huff and snap it off, crossing my arms and flopping back against the seat.
“Are you coming to my game tonight? It starts at 6,” I ask, just a little too cranky. I can’t take my irritation out on my dad, he’s too nice to deserve that.
“Of course, honey. You know I wouldn’t miss it.”
He glances at me and cocks his head. “Where’s your lucky sweatshirt? Did you spill coffee on it?”
I give a big, dramatic sigh. “No, I wasn’t wearing it. I forgot to wash it last night.”
“Aw, I’m sorry. If you want, I can come home on my lunch break and wash it for you and bring it tonight.”
My eyes light up. “Really? You’d do that? That’d be awesome, Dad. You’re the best.”
For being a single parent, my dad is pretty incredible. He’s raised four kids by himself and never misses a game. Of course, it helps that he’s a big sports fan.
He’s from Indiana, so basketball is his favorite, but he loves them all. All my brothers play sports, too. Football, baseball, soccer — dad’s always there, cheering us on in his own lucky shirt that’s just like mine.
“Did anybody feed the dog this morning?” It’s technically my brother Reid’s job, but he forgets more times than not. My own growling stomach makes me hate the idea of Lucky being hungry all day.
“Yeah, I heard Lucky scarfing it down.” I nod, feeling good about one thing, at least.
We pull up to the school only a few minutes late, and I give my dad a peck on the cheek and hustle inside.
I slide into my seat in first period right as Mr. Markum is handing out the test papers. I reach into my bag for Fuzzy, my lucky rabbit’s foot, but the front pocket is empty. My heart stops as I realize I left my car keys at home and never took the rabbit’s foot off my keychain.
My head thunks onto my desk. Why is this happening to me? Can’t one thing go right today? Fuzzy is my talisman. I stroke it when I’m taking a test for good luck and to help me think. How am I ever going to pass this test without it?
I yank the paper from Mr. Markum’s hands when he holds it out to me and slam it down on my desk. When I start to write my name, my pencil breaks.
45 minutes later, I hand in my test, doubtful that I passed, and reach for my phone to text Mia. Oh yeah, I forgot my phone is dead. But at least I brought a charger pack with me. Thank God for small miracles. I plug the phone in and wait for that sweet, little chirp that tells me it’s charging.
Nothing. No chirp, no flashing empty battery symbol, and no lights on the charger pack. You’ve got to be kidding me!
Yep, this is officially the worst day ever. I’ve lived through other miserable Friday the 13ths before, but for some reason, the universe decided that this one is going to be epic.
When the bell rings, I head to Mia’s locker, needing a little sympathy from my best friend. I flop against the locker next to hers and pout.
“Having a bad day, Ker?” She pushes her dark brown hair behind her ear and smiles at me, dropping a piece of chocolate in my hand. Mia gets me.
I sigh and shove the candy in my mouth, talking around it. “You could say that.”
She shuts her locker and turns to look at me, and she frowns as her eyes flick up and down my body. “Isn’t it game day? Where’s your lucky sweatshirt?”
I scowl at her, and she sucks in her lip and give me a pitiful look. When I tell her about all the bad luck I’m having she doesn’t dismiss me like most people would. I don’t think she really believes I’m cursed with bad luck, but she doesn’t make fun of me for believing it.
“You don’t happen to have a charger pack, do you?”
She shakes her head. I guess I’m just going off the grid today.
I manage to survive the rest of the morning, but things don’t get any better at lunch time when I realize I don’t have any money on me, and of course, I didn’t have time to pack a lunch.
Mia bails me out by loaning me five bucks, but when I get my pork chop, it’s rubbery and cold, and I’m pretty sure it’s a doggy chew toy, not a real hunk of meat. I try to choke it down anyway, because I’m just about crazed with hunger, and there’s no way I’m going to make it the rest of the day if I don’t eat something, even if it is nasty cafeteria food.
“Why didn’t we go out for lunch? This is gross.” Mia pokes at her own hockey puck pork chop and runs a fork through her liquidy, instant mashed potatoes.
“If we did, we’d probably get in an accident and die.” I grouse.
“Kerri! Don’t talk like that!” Mia scowls at me, and I roll my eyes. Can I help it if I’m a pessimist? Years of bad luck have taught me to expect the worst.
The rest of the afternoon is about the same — a bunch of little problems that add up to a terrible day. I get held after class by my Pre-Calc teacher who wants to know if I need some help since I didn’t do so great on the last test. That makes me late to English class, where I whack my knee sliding into my desk, and my fingers find a fresh glob of wet, sticky gum under the table in my chemistry lab. By the time school is over, I’m pretty sure I’m going to bomb out in tonight’s game.
Coach Kavanagh makes us warm up with a four-line passing drill, and my knee screams at me every time I pivot, but I know it’s just a bruise, nothing major, so I suck it up and play through it. She must notice me grimacing, though.
“O’Connor, what’s wrong with you?” she hollers from across the court. Her voice is as loud and deep as a guy’s, and her flat chest and butch haircut aren’t helping with her debatable gender identity. Everybody turns and looks at me. Great. Just what I need.
“Nothing, Coach, just whacked my knee earlier. I’m good.” I wave it off, trying not to limp.
She comes up to be and stares me in the eye, trying to figure out if I’m telling the truth or not. “You better be. We need you to be in top form today. I don’t think I need to tell you that Buckley High is hard to beat. You’re my star player, Kerri. Don’t let me down.”
She glares at me and smacks me on the back hard enough to knock me off balance, and I stumble into the bleachers, whacking my other knee. Fabulous.
We finish our warm-ups, and the Buckley High Buccaneers show up and start on theirs, looking fierce as they march in wearing black and red warm-up suits with a scowling pirate head logo on the breast that looks like it wants to eat somebody. These girls are enormous! I’m the tallest girl on our team, but I’d probably be the shortest on theirs.
Next to them, we look like prep school cheerleaders in our blue and white uniforms, especially since Mallory bought matching bows for everyone to wear in their hair. Gag me.
The Bucs (as their coach likes to call them) run their drills like soldiers, perfectly in sync, never missing a step or a pass, and my nerves start to ratchet up.
I watch their warm up with one eye on the door, waiting for my dad to show up. He’s usually a little early, but it’s 5:45 already. By 6 o’clock, the bleachers are almost full, and I haven’t seen him yet.
The gym echoes with the sound of rubber soles squeaking, the thump of basketballs bouncing off the shiny, wood floors, the twang of footsteps on the metal bleachers, and the hum of a couple hundred people chatting in the stands, but I can still hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears over all of that.
The scent of buttery popcorn and hot dogs fills the air, something I normally love, but today it just turns my stomach.
Where’s my dad? He promised he’d be here with my sweatshirt. He always comes to my games. I don’t have any more time to think about it, though, because the ref blows the whistle, tosses the jump ball, and the game gets started.
My knee is throbbing as soon as I start to run, and I’m distracted every time I see the doors to the gym open. But it’s never my dad; it’s always someone else.
The Bucs take possession of the ball over and over again, and one girl that’s as big as my brothers swipes it from me like I handed it to her on a silver platter. Coach calls a time-out and scowls at all of us then turns her predatory glare towards me.
“Kerri, I don’t know where you’re at, but you sure as hell aren’t here playing basketball. What was that with number 11? What do you think this is, preschool? You think you’re supposed to share, or something? Where’s Killer Kerri tonight? If you find her, tell her that her pansy-assed twin is ruining our chances of winning!”
“Sorry, Coach, it’s just, my dad was supposed to be here with my lucky sweatshirt, and he hasn’t shown up yet.”
She rolls her eyes so hard, I’m not sure they’re gonna go back into place. “Criminy, Kerri! Is that what you’re worried about? I’ve told you a hundred times, you don’t need a crusty, old sweatshirt to win games. You win games cuz you work your butt off during practice every day. Now quit being a moron and get your head in the game!”
I try my best to ignore my worries and play as hard as I can, but by halftime, we’re still down by 20. Coach doesn’t let us have our phones during the games, otherwise, I’d borrow somebody’s and call my dad. I sit on the bench and guzzle down water, worrying and scanning the crowds for him, just in case he came in when I wasn’t looking.
I’m almost done looking over the home team side when the buzzer rings. I stand up and shuffle onto the court, but suddenly a flash of green catches my eye. A man in a ball cap and a green sweatshirt is climbing the bleachers, and my heart floats up in my chest. There are white, block letters on the back of the sweatshirt, and I can only see part of it because someone else is behind him, but I’d recognize that name anywhere. O’Connor. My dad.
The ref blows the whistle, and I look away from the stands for a second. When I glance back I can’t find him any more, but I know he’s here, and that’s all that matters.
This may be Friday the 13th, and I may be having the suckiest day ever, but I’m gonna win this game if I have to sell my soul to do it. I steal the ball from the big bruiser who took it from me earlier and land a sweet three-pointer then take advantage of a foul to score a few more points.
My turn-around inspires my teammates, and pretty soon everyone is rockin’ and rollin,’ even the prissy ones like Mallory who normally don’t like to run too fast cuz it messes up their hair.
By the last quarter, we’re tied at 95, and my team is starting to slow down, but I didn’t come this far to lose now, so the moment I get my hands on the ball, I ignore the sweat dripping down my face that’s blinding me and the ache in my knees, and I barrel down the court, weaving through the other players like a vicious snake. I must look like a dangerous animal, because the other players practically jump out of my way, and as soon as I find a clear spot, I take my shot. The ball whizzes through the air in a perfect arch and swishes through the net half a second before the buzzer goes off.
The Blazers win! I’m mobbed by my teammates who smother me in a group hug because that’s the kind of girls we have on this team, and I’m roasting and suffocating, but it feels awesome, anyway. When they finally let me go, Coach Kavanagh is there with a rare smile on her face, and she slaps me on the back, probably leaving a welt.
“Way to go, Kerri! I knew you could do it. See, you don’t need some stupid, good luck charm to win, all you need to do is get your butt in gear and make it happen!”
I don’t bother telling her that my dad finally showed up, I just grin and let her wiggle my bun and smack me on the back again.
We shake hands with the other team even though they look like they want to eat us, and my own teammates start making plans to go celebrate. The crowd is thinning, and I want to find my dad before we leave, but I don’t see him. Where the heck was he sitting, and why hasn’t he come to congratulate me yet? I’m so focused on looking for him, I don’t even notice Mia heading my way till she pops up in front of me, scaring the heck out of me.
“Great job, Kerri!” She grabs a hold of my shoulders and hugs me, and I yelp in surprise. She yanks her arms back and frowns, worried.
“Sorry, you just scared me. I was distracted, looking for my dad.” I glance over her shoulder, still searching.
“I haven’t seen your dad, but isn’t that your brother, Niall?”
I shake my head, denying it before I even look. There’s no way Niall would be here tonight. He has class on Friday nights. Besides, he rarely comes to my games anymore, he’s too busy with work and college and his girlfriend.
But sure enough, there he is, sporting recently-dyed brown hair because he thinks girls don’t like gingers. He looks so different, it’s no wonder Mia wasn’t sure if it was him.
He heads straight towards me, and he looks like he’s trying not to frown, and my heart starts pounding again.
“Niall? What are you doing here?”
“Kerri, Dad’s had an accident.”
Copyright Kellie McAllen. All Rights Reserved.