“Hold Still!” Allison giggles as she and Rebecca, a girl I vaguely remember from the tryouts, try to zip me into the uniform Coach Hadley- no relation- gave me after our meeting with Paige in Smith’s office. The fact that their stuffing me into this Varsity uniform would probably be a lot less to take in if it weren’t the absolute whitest piece of cloth I’ve ever come to witness, the characteristic of the Captain get-up similar to that of the walls of the hospital I’d been in at the beginning of the month.
Allison and Rebecca where as shocked when I’d come into the locker room with the thing as I was. Come to the think of it, me being the new captain of the varsity team isn’t as shocking as Paige telling everyone at school she’d beaten me up. Sitting across from Mr. Smith and Coach Hadley in the office then, Paige fidgeting beside me, I hadn’t expected that was what they’d arranged the meeting for. The look on Mr. Smith’s face, that of pure disgust and horror, I’ll never forget. Coach Hadley wasn’t fuming but she wasn’t ecstatic either; no, maybe she was ecstatic- finally, she had a reason to kick Paige off the team.
“What?!” Paige exclaimed, her perfect eyes bulging enough that I’d honestly thought they were going to fall right out of her perfect sockets, in all perfectness.
“Violence is not tolerated at Freedom High, you know this as well as I do, Ms. Dalton,” Mr. Smith had said.
I just sat there, still paralyzed by Coach’s accusation. Neither of the guys had told me about Paige and her rumor. It wasn’t that hard to believe, really- popular-ish girl challenges more popular cheerleader, cheerleader gets revenge. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have sworn it was the synopsis of another High School film. I felt bad for Bleach, I really did. Without her position as the coveted head cheerleader, on the varsity team no less, she couldn’t get a scholarship to some fancy college, and, let’s face it- Paige isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. One time, down by Mary Jane’s Meadow, Tyler told me her parents weren’t sending her away unless she had a full ride. No cheerleading, no full ride.
“You can’t have a Pep Rally without the head cheerleader,” Paige had whispered- to herself.
“We won’t,” the two administrators had said in unison, both turning to me.
“Violet,” Coach smiled.
Paige registered the meaning behind the small word around the same time I did.
“She is not the new captain,” Bleach raged.
So here I am, staring at myself in the full length mirror, imagining the outcome of a girl on crutches hoping into Freedom High’s gym in the middle of a Pep Rally, in a cheering uniform.
“They’ll think it’s a joke.” I turn back around but Allison and Rebecca are already gone, the crowd outside howling at their arrival. Howling, huh. Squawking is what I’d expected out of a bunch of Eagles.
“No turning back now,” I mutter.
The part of the floor that’s still kind of inside the gym but partially visible from the gym is growing stickier by the second because the football coach was showered in Gatorade around here. The bottoms of my crutches are starting to get stuck, so I’ll have to move soon.
“Here goes nothing.”
The crowd is quiet when I finally hop out, my head down and my eyes focused on the confetti splattered on the floor. Variations of red, white, black, gold, and violet are everywhere, as well as the numbers of the best players on the team- Tyler’s the most common of all. I hear whispers floating over the packed bleachers. After a long time, I look up.
Red streamers adorn all corners of the gym, along with encouraging posters and declarations of love for the players. White balloons are tied on banisters opposite the sequin-covered footballs that line the opaque windows. On the walls, the jerseys of older players who’s numbers have been retired and signed have been mounted.
I see the guys’ reactions first. They’re seated up front, arranged by their positions and dressed in their white jerseys. They stand jump up with the crowd, applause, yells, howls becoming their backdrop. Everyone’s screaming- even the stoners. I can’t help the smile that morphs my face.
Before I know it, I’m on the ground, my leg twisting at an abnormally comfortable angle. Tyler and, strangely, Francois are at my sides, tickling and yelling and howling like two baby werewolves who’ve just found their mother after a long day of hunting. Suddenly I’m up again and they’ve replaced my crutches, my arms stretching over both of their shoulders, my feet off the ground.
“Kiss her! Kiss her! Kiss her!” the crowd roars. I’m blushing and protesting but the crowd is cheering and twirling red flags in the sweaty air, hungry for a show. Lips meet cheeks, said cheeks burn darker. Francois holds on for a little longer than he has to, but my minds still swirling at the fact that Tyler’s lips are soft, lighter than feathers, curved at his upper lip.
Best friends shouldn’t be thinking of these things.
“Alright Eagles!” Allison screams, leads the rest of the cheerleaders out onto the floor, her blue hair drowned in gold confetti.
“Let’s go kick some ass!”
We’re losing by one.
Silence runs cryptically through the poisonous air, the howls having faded when the St. Agnus Panthers starting catching up to our lead. A fog overshadows the overworked field, rain starts to pour.
I switch the pressure from my left crutch onto my left.
Black sneakers crash on the smooth, wet green grass in rhythm as the wolves break away from their huddled formation of a pack, blue, green, black, golden, and brown eyes overthrown by black beads as sweat trickles down the muscular bodies of the Eagles about to perform the last play of the night. White jerseys are smudged in well-deserved sweat, marks of opened turf scattered along the numbers of those who have fallen in hopes of scoring touchdowns.
The numbers sixteen, four, and thirteen are called. Knowing Tyler and his messed up game tactics, the actual numbers one should pay attention to are fifteen, three, and twelve. I don’t recognize the last number.
The golden-haired boy watches in forced dismay as his fellow teammates are blocked by monsters in green jerseys, but it’s all a part of the show. The Panthers aren’t expecting the blocking of the guy who’s supposed to block Tyler. Casper has the green jersey-ed muscle man blocked on all directions, leaving our quarter-back full accessibility to either Big Ricky or the other player.
Time is winding down.
A flick of green catches my attention. An ambitious Panther wasn’t payed attention to, the same panther who was then charging at Big Ricky. My eyes steal a glance at the golden-haired boy and time freezes. His toned muscles are strained, grey eyes focused on Big Ricky’s hands.
His eyes find mine in the darkness. I lose myself in their tired swirls, eventually focus on telling him what I hope will save the game.
“Fake right, throw left,” I mouth.
He bites his lip, questioning my judgement. I don’t know anything about football, but I know when a guy’s about to get tackled.
Taking another breath, I mouth it again. Still, he doesn’t move. Our eyes are locked and the distance between us is gradually shortening while the clock starts ticking.
“I love you,” I mouth.
Tyler fakes right, throws left. The ball falls into the player I hadn’t recognized but know realize is Francois’s hands and he runs hurriedly down the field until he lands the touchdown.
The end-of-game buzzer sounds.
Days later, the boys and I are still enjoying the free lunch Mr. Smith’s been giving us. I watch as the entire team devours another day’s worth of French fries and chocolate chip cookies, stuff myself with another set of oranges. Coach Hadley has me on an all-fruit diet until I get off of my crutches because, and I quote, ‘we wouldn’t want our star cheerleader getting bloated, would we?’
I can’t stand it any longer. I ready myself, put my crutches in place. “I’m going to get some cookies,” I declare hurriedly.
The boys erupt in reassuring laughter, and so I make my way to the now empty lunch line and get a cookie. The cashier smiles and tells me how she won’t let Coach or Mr.Smith know, to which I tell her how very grateful I am.
Halfway back to the table, someone latches onto one of my crutches midair, sending me back an awkward step.
“Oops, Don’t trip,” Bleach says.
My right leg is still up at her disposure, the cast gleaming a yellowish color in the cafeteria light, when she drops my crutch and I fall onto the floor, in the middle of a pool of milk I saw a freshman spill earlier.
Looking up, I realize Paige isn’t only accompanied by her idiot minions, but by Francois as well.
Paige Dalton, as does every other traditional bully, seeks satisfaction. All she wants is to see me squirm here, on this dirty, milk-filled floor, and curse her out. She wants to know that what she does affects me.
I, being the daughter of a low life mother and sobering up father, will not give her this satisfaction.
As if nothing just happened, I gather myself, ready my crutches, and get back on my feet; well, my foot. I wiggle my cast a bit before hopping back to the boys, the cookie still in my pocket.
“What happened?” Tyler asks, immediately eyeing my now wet skirt.
“I got my cookie.”
Good morning, beautiful. It’s September, which you probably already know.
Are you excited for Fall?