Raw: On the Line by Layla Harding

Saturday marks the official launch of Layla Harding’s debut novel Cut, the heart-rending story of a girl called Persephone.

Her father is a nightmare. Her mother is a drunk. And Persephone is a practicing suicide. She’s been at home with danger all her life, and now – one way or another – it’s time for her to leave.

At the weekend, we’ll publish Layla’s own account of the writing of Cut but today we want to showcase her talent for you. ‘On the Line’ was first published in the YA collection Heathers.

On the Line | Layla Harding

Ten seconds left. Down by one. Time for one more play. God, I think I missed at least four questions on the physics test today. What does that put it at? B-minus? It needs to be at least a B. B saves the average. Dammit.

Timeout. What are we going to do, Coach? Just need two to win. This girl can’t guard me. I should be paying rent for all the space I’ve taken up in her head. Pound it inside, I’ve got it. Get on my back, girls. This is my time. Jesus, I stink. The new deodorant Mom bought sucks.

I know that face. That woman in the stand taking notes – I know her. Shit, it’s a college coach. Has she been there the whole time? How many rebounds do I have? Five or six in the first half. Probably that many this half. Points? Twelve. Defense has been there. My girl hasn’t put up jack tonight. Thank God Coach ran man tonight. Zone is worthless.

Crap, Coach is talking. What did she just say?

Three pointer isn’t going to be there. Their perimeter defense has shut down our outside shot all night. Hasn’t kept the guards from chucking them up, though. Dumbasses.

Get it inside. Get it to me. Make it or get fouled. Go team. Did I hear my parents fighting again last night?

Holding! Jesus! How does the ref not see this? I’ve got her posted. Get it in. GET IT IN!

Punch me in the back one more time, bitch, and see what happens. Here’s an elbow in the chest for you. Now back the hell off.

My car needs gas. Should have stopped on the way to school this morning. The late night guy is a creeper. Night manager at a gas station. Nothing sexy about that.

Don’t put up that shot. You don’t have it. Diva off the court, diva on the court. Get it inside. Give it to me. Yeah, you see it. She’s going to block that weak ass hit. Look at me. I’m open. Can’t work any harder than this.

Did I put my laundry away this morning like Mom asked me to?

Here it comes. Back off, bitch – you can’t handle this. Ball in my hands. Dribble, drop step, spin, put it up. Shit, that hurt. Please call it intentional. No such luck. If she gave me a black eye I’ll be waiting for her after the game.

Can’t have a black eye for the dance. Why hasn’t Josh asked me yet? He’s probably going to ask that asshole cheerleader, Heather. She may have a killer rack, but I have killer biceps. I could kick her ass. Hell, I could probably kick his ass. Pussy.

Free throws. Seventy-five percent for the season. That’s not going to be good enough.

Vision is blurry. Everything is blurry. Is my eye swelling? Focus. Did I see another pimple this morning? All this sweating is hell for my complexion. Screw it.

Line up for two. Whistle. Give me the ball.

My parents were definitely fighting again last night. All they do is yell at each other. If they get a divorce I’m living with Mom. Maybe it will get me out of taking finals. Emotional stress.

Two shots. One will tie it. Two will win it. Just need two to win it.

Bounce. I have a paper due in English tomorrow. I haven’t even started it yet. No sleep tonight.

Bounce. If we lose, it’s early morning conditioning tomorrow. I hate early mornings. Coach is a sadistic bitch.

Bounce. One will tie it – overtime. Two will win it. Two will win it.

Spin the ball, find the seams. Cramps. Shit, please say my tampon is holding. Does it matter if we win if there is blood all over the back of my shorts? Josh will never ask me to the dance.

Bend the knees. Elbow under the ball. Line up the shot. Shoot with my legs. Up, release, follow through. Nothing but net. Breathe. The gym explodes. Get the ball back. Silence.

Bounce. Josh is an asshole. Why did I ever think I liked him? Is he even here tonight? If he is, he’s probably watching the cheerleaders.

Bounce. My parents are definitely getting a divorce. Maybe I’ll live with Dad.

Bounce. Grades – they’re going to be in the toilet this semester. I’m never going to get into college.

Focus. Get all of this shit out of your head.

Spin the ball, find the seams. Parents are fine. They’re sitting next to each other. Are they holding hands? I probably only missed a couple on the test.

One more. Just one more.

Bend the knees. Elbow under the ball. Line up the shot. Shoot with my legs. Up, release, follow through.


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