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the aftermath of the stolen pendant

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After a disappointing first half, the girls walk tiredly back to the changing rooms. Kat stands out, however, furiously moving past everyone else as Zoe chases after her.

“Kat, wait! Just hear me out.”

“Why, so you can lie again?”

They have now made it to the changing room. The other girls on the team stay out of this argument, minding their own business. Zoe and Kat stare at each other in the middle of the room.

“Okay, I admit it, it was me,” Zoe confesses. “I didn’t steal it. I found it in the girl’s changing room. I was going to give it back to you, I really was. And then I didn’t, and I’m really sorry.”

“Why?” Kat’s tone is cold - she is understandably not willing to let Zoe off the hook that easily. Zoe sighs and swallows, trying to reflect. But really, looking deep within herself, she can’t seem to find a logical explanation.

“I don’t know. I heard you bad-mouthing me to Ruby, saying you thought I was a thief. So I kept it.”

“I never said that.”

“I heard you!”

Kat thinks back to the day when she lost her pendant. But then before that, how rude and cold Zoe was being towards her during her first few days at Phoenix.

“Okay, my mistake for thinking that you wanted to hurt me after you completely iced me from the moment we met.”

Zoe looks down to the ground, not wanting to look Kat in the eye. She knows how she acted and she’s not proud of it. “Look, can we . . . ?” She nods her head to the room across the hall. Kat looks to where she just indicated and nods herself.

The pair leave the other girls in the changing room to get some privacy. Zoe closes the door behind her in the other changing room and sighs.

“I’m really sorry, Kat.”

“Why did you treat me like that? I hadn’t done anything to you and you acted like I’d killed your dog or something.”

“It wasn’t you, Kat. It was -”

“Oh, let me guess, you?”

“Yeah.”

Kat scoffs at this response, which, in her opinion, is weak. A cop-out. Zoe grimaces, knowing that it was the wrong way to explain things.

“Okay, not like that,” she says, taking a step closer to Kat. “All of this, from me being so cold to you, to me keeping the pendant, it was my fault. You didn’t deserve it.”

“But why?” Kat’s voice is desperate now, pleading.

“I . . . I’m such a rubbish person.” Zoe sits down on one of the benches, running her hands through her hair. Kat remains standing up, not wavering until she figures out what’s really been going on. She folds her arms over her chest.

“A couple of years ago, there was a girl, Jack, on the team.”

“That one on the Archfield team?”

“Yeah,” Zoe says softly. “She was the one who actually started Phoenix. But, I don’t know, it felt like she would get everything she ever wanted, as long as she put a little effort into it. And I . . . I was jealous.”

Kat softens a bit, uncrossing her arms.

“My mum . . . she has MS. And for years, I was taking care of her without any help. I would have to come back home after school and be the mum because mine wasn’t able to move off the sofa. And when I’d see Jack at school, laughing, never having to worry about what food she was going to have that night, or whether her mum was going to need to go to the hospital, or how bad of a state the house was going to be in when she came home, I was angry. Really angry.”

“I didn’t know that,” Kat says quietly, sitting down next to Zoe.

Zoe shrugs. “How could you? I didn’t tell you. The problem was, I was paranoid. I thought that she was somehow out to get me because it felt like the entire world was at that point. With girls, it was worse, though, because I was fighting directly against them for opportunities. And so when we both got offered a trial for Archfield, I was horrible to Jack. And when she got the spot over me, I was even worse.”

“What do you mean, worse?”

“I, um . . . I stole some money.”

Kat looks at her, shocked. Zoe quickly goes to clarify: “Only for a bit! I gave it back after a few days. I never wanted to keep it.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I wanted something to go wrong for her, so that I could tell myself I’m not the only one who has problems.” Zoe sighs and buries her head in her hands. “I told you, I’m a horrible person.”

“You’re not a horrible person, Zoe.”

“That’s why I kept your pendant. Because hearing you and Ruby talking about me made me think of everything I’ve done and . . . I hated that what you guys were saying was at least partly true.”

“Wait, so let me get this straight,” Kat says with a small smile on her face. “You stole something because you didn’t want to be a thief.”

Zoe finally looks Kat in the eyes and when she sees the other girl’s grin, she can’t help but smile as well. They both laugh softly. “Shut up.”

“I have a point, though.” Kat’s face returns to a more neutral state. “But I have to know, why did you keep it? You know how superstitious I am, and you watched me for days stressing, losing all of my confidence. Did you feel like you had to compete against me that much?”

“What? No!” Zoe sighs, wanting to gather her thoughts so she can properly tell Kat what she was really feeling. “I was scared of giving it back to you, because I knew how much it meant to you.”

Kat frowns at her, confused by Zoe’s explanation.

“With every day I kept it, I got more afraid of telling you it was me. If I confessed, you would hate me.” This is the most vulnerable Zoe’s gotten with anyone. Her voice has dropped and she can barely look at the other girl.

“I wouldn’t have hated you. Been confused? Yes. A bit betrayed? Yes. But not hate. And then we would’ve talked about it, like we are now.”

Zoe sighs and nods, realizing that Kat’s probably being honest - she’s not as intense or impulsive as Zoe is. “I’m so sorry, Kat.”

Kat just smiles at her, nodding - she knows how genuine Zoe is being. “Just know, I never wanted to take your place on the team. I . . . I really admire you a lot. You know, as a player.”

“What?” Zoe is a bit shocked by this revelation.

“The only girl on the boy's team that’s winning every game in this area? You’re kind of a legend. When Duncan brought me here, I was so excited.”

Zoe groans. “And I screwed that all up.”

“I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting that harsh of a welcome,” Kat says, chuckling to herself.

“You know, everything I’ve been telling you these past few days, I meant it. You’re a fantastic player. Probably better than me.”

“Hey, no competing, remember?”

Zoe bites her lip and blushes. “I felt horrible every day I had your pendant. But I wasn’t telling you you were good because of that guilt. It’s true. We’re so lucky to have you on the team.”

Kat smiles. The two girls lock eyes. There’s more to be said, they know it, but Mike knocks on the door before either of them can say anything else. They both quickly snap their heads to the noise. He opens the door slightly to poke his head through.

“Are you two alright in here?” Mike asks the pair, frowning. The girls nod.

“Did you sort out whatever was going on out there?”

Zoe and Kat look at each other. Zoe nervously waits for Kat’s reaction to the question, but when she only offers a smile, a grin spreads over her face and some of the tension she’s been holding this entire conversation is released.

“We’re good, Mike,” Kat says.

“Just, when you go back out there, play with . . . oh, what’s it called . . . girl power? Is that right?”

Zoe and Kat burst out into laughter. Satisfied that they’re alright now, Mike just smiles and heads back into the other changing room. Calling out over his shoulder, he says, “We’re heading back out there in a minute!”

“We’ll be there!” Zoe calls out after him.

Now alone again, the girls smile softly at each other. Kat puts a hand on Zoe’s leg and rubs it gently before standing up and leaving the changing room. Zoe sits there for a minute, first sighing in relief and closing her eyes while tilting her head back, then smiling to herself. She finally pushes herself off the bench to play the second half, now in a much better headspace after having apologized to Kat and mended things. She shakes her head slightly in disbelief as she walks out.