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Author's note: Kathleen Tate's name was named after the beautiful girl who encouraged me to write this book. Kathleen S, my big sister, whom passed away two years ago in a car accident. This is really truly for you. I wish you could have been here to see it finished. Kathleen's disorder that causes her to faint isn't something that I just decided would be a good trait to give, I actually have this condition. I know what she feels when this happens and I know how people react, Fainting Goat Girl was one of my many nicknames I've picked up in my many episodes. THANK GOD I haven't peed my pants at school, but it happens! I just wanted to write this book to show people how it feels, and that I'm not a freak, I'm a human.
I opened my eyes to see the tiles of the ceiling spinning. Right away I assumed the worst had once again happened and would have to face the embarrassment once more. I could hear the laughs and whispers of the large crowed that had gathered around me. I could feel the freshman's math teacher supporting my head, his strong hands keeping my neck straight as an arrow. I winced at the wetness of my jeans, the sting of the acidity and the heat. I knew I was blushing from my neck up because I could feel the pulse of my blood rushing through my cheeks and ears. I sat up slowly, trying to clear my spinning mind. My eyes burned with tears as I put my face behind my hands. I peeked out from my fingers just in time to see Neil Clark turn the corner of the crowded hallway. He disappeared for a moment behind a red head's shoulder but reappeared closer this time.
Neil was laughing at something Adam Kosinski ,his best friend, had said. He had stopped laughing when he seen the group of kids standing around me pointing at my wet jeans and laughing. Of course! Neil Clark, captain of the football team, the guy I've dreamed about every night of my life since second grade, would just happen to notice me the one day my body decides to just ca-put out on me. He pushed through a line of kids to see what was going on. I seen his forehead crease in shock and probably disgust at the sight of me sitting in a puddle of urine.
I couldn't just sit there any longer with his beautiful eyes staring at me sympathetically. I stood up quickly, and began to run. I gasped as my head spun again from the jolt of standing to fast and slipped in my own mess. I head kids laugh as my sneakers made a loud squeak on the tile floor and I grabbed onto the closest thing near me. Neil's arm shot out and stabled me just as I reached out. I looed up in horror as he held me. I came to my senses and ran, bumping into Neil's shoulder in my frantic escape.
My shoes squeaked embarrassingly as I ran down the hall. I felt like a lab rat in one of those mazes that raced to the finish to get sweet sweet freedom. As I ran, kids, teachers, and staff all turned to watch me race down the hall. I was told to stop and explain myself for running but I didn't. I couldn't face anyone. Some students looked at me with sympathy, while most just giggled behind their hands. Diane Messing ran into me and screamed at the sight of my pants.
“DISGUSTING!” She screamed wiping her hands off as I apologized even though she hadn't got anything on her.
I HAD to get out of this place. I left Diane to her hissy-fit and ran once again. I could feel the narrow hall becoming thinner and thinner as I could see the light of the doors at the end. My chest grew tight as the walls closed in around me and I almost let out a strangled scream. I could feel my sobs building in my chest and throat, begging me to stop and break down crying. My legs screamed in pain as I strained them. I seen the clear doors at the end of the hallway with the sunlight streaming through. Right now, they looked like heaven. The football bleachers were just yards from the door that would provide prefect isolation. I began to sprint until I crashed through the doors, the cool air hitting my face. I let the tears fall from my eyes now, feeling the release of emotions and sickness. I didn't stop running until I had reached the farthest set of bleachers from the school. I threw myself into the shade and safety of the massive seats.
I laid on the cool grass listening to my echoing sobs. Why me? Why couldn't I just be normal for once? I pulled myself together enough to stop letting out painful yelps as I cried. I felt numb as I rolled over onto my back. The grass I was laying on scratched against my pale skin. I stared up through the slats of the bleachers, watching dust dance between the beautiful beams of light. I closed my eyes and began to think of a plan. Thank god this happened on a day when my mother was picking me up! I would just wait here while my pants dried, and until school let out. I could then risk running to my mom's car out front. I tried to even my breathing, calm myself down. I ran my fingers through my sweaty hair. God why was this episode so bad today? I closed my eyes tight making colorful specks form behind my eyelids
I could hear as the birds and the squirrels chatted in the nearest tree. The leaves rustled in the light breeze, the creak and moan of old limbs as they too bobbed from the wind. Suddenly there was something apart from nature, unfamiliar, I could hear footsteps. They were muffled by grass, but I could hear them getting closer. I scrunched up my eyes closed hoping the passerby wouldn't notice me. Dear God, please keep me hidden.
I heard the footsteps turn from muffled grass steps to the clang and creaks of someone walking on the bleachers above me. They grew closer and closer, and soon they stopped right on top of me.
I slowly opened my eyes. There were feet, right in front of my face on the lowest row.
The feet stopped and someone sat down exactly above me. The bench moaned under the weight and there was a soft exhale as if they were waiting for something. The feet definitely belonged to a boy, for they were too large to be any girl's. They wore fancy athletic shoes that some of the athletes wore for the gym and practices. They began to tap against the metal making soft clangs. I bit my lip trying to muffle the sounds of my hard breathing.
Then something made of gray cloth fell through the crack of the bleachers above me and landed on top of my head. I instantly swatted at it as a reflex and they landed in the grass beside me.
I sat up slowly and hoped I wouldn't make a sound. I rubbed the tears from my eyes expecting the boy to turn and reach for the piece of clothing, but he didn't.
I unfolded the thick cloth and discovered they were sweatpants with my high school's logo and name down the leg. I was stunned at the sight. This boy was a football player! He had to be! He owned the pants that were only issued to varsity players. I stared at them in my hands and shook my head confused. Why in the world was someone out here in the middle of the day with sweatpants?
“You can keep them.” The feet's owner said. I jumped at the sound of his voice.
“Keep them?” I stuttered.
“Yep. I also have the keys to the athletic bathroom so you won't have to change inside, and I have my car keys so I can drive you home.” The boy said. His voice was very familiar. I felt my throat tighten in surprise and gratefulness.
“Really?” I whispered. The feet lifted up off the bleachers and swung up, as his head popped out from under his seat. I looked over into his eyes and was stunned. I wiped away my tear stained face and looked at him smiling small.
“Really,” He said, his brown hair standing on end, and his face flushed from handing upside down. 'Well, I'd asked for him to notice me all year, and guess what... he did!' I thought wryly. “People can be so mean. I'm sorry about what happened.” He said frowning slightly. The crease of sympathy was back on his forehead.
“Neil, it's fine. You would think I'd get used to the laughter after it happens.” I whispered twisting the sweatpant legs in my hands. Neil's eyebrows rose. I shrugged and sniffed brushing my hair from my eyes.
“Get used to the laughter?! You shouldn't have to! People shouldn't laugh! It's not something people should joke about! You could have gotten seriously hurt.” Neil said repulsed.
“They don't care! We're in high school! Other people's misfortunes and embarrassment are the drugs and entertainment of teenagers. They could care less about me or my feelings.” I muttered miserably. We both stayed silent until Neil spoke.
“Does this happen often?” Neil asked, his face getting redder by the minute from hanging upside down. I smiled small and shrugged.
“Yeah,” I sighed, “Mostly on days when I forget to take my medicines or I don't eat enough salt to keep my blood pressure up.” I whispered looking down at my wet jeans annoyed.
“Oh,” Neil whispered then added, “Let's get you cleaned up, then my car is parked right beside the bathrooms. I'll take you home.” He said smiling helpfully.
“Thanks, but you know you don't have to do all this for me. I don't want you getting into trouble for skipping class.” I said getting up from the ground. My body left an imprint in the grass making me smile a little.
Neil met me at the end of the bleachers, black and orange duffel bag hanging off his shoulder.
“Na, I was going to skip anyway. Mrs. Roomer was going to give one of her 30 page speeches about the uses of the word power. Power is your friend!” He said and pumped his fist into the air. He laughed as I smiled up at him. He seemed pleased with himself that he got me to smile. Mrs. Roomer was the psychology teacher, and every week she gave a speech on a strong life changing word that made everyone fall asleep. I don't know how those speeches were included in our psychology topics, but most people think she just loved the sound of herself talking endlessly.
“Power?” I laughed timidly.
“She's crazy!” Neil laughed. He looked over at me and shrugged his muscular shoulders.
“It's a bit... ironic don't you think? She teaches psychology, but she's as mad as a hatter?” I laughed as we walked side by side to the athletic bathrooms near the empty concession stand. Neil laughed and put his hands in his Letterman’s jacket pockets.
“Actually I never thought about it. She really is!” He said smiling.
We had reached the bathroom and Neil sat outside the door on a wooden bench.
“I'll be right back.” I said walking into the cold bathroom. I examined the concrete room for the best spot to change and seen the child diaper station. I pulled on the cord and the table came down letting me put the sweatpants on the corner to free my hands. I peeled off my wet jeans grimacing at myself in the mirror. My mascara had run in large dark streaks down the side of my face. My light lipstick was smudged on my cheek and nose, and I had a grass imprint on the left side of my face. I looked lovely!
I quickly used towels to dry myself off, and then damp ones to clean my legs. I balled the pants up and tossed them aside. I slid Neil's sweatpants on, rolling the ends up four times so I wouldn't trip over them. I ran my fingers through my tangled hair, wiped away the running mascara, and fixed my lipstick before leaving the bathroom. I come out of my door and Neil stood.
“Thank you again, I don't know how to tell you how much this means to me. No one has ever done this before. I usually just stay under the bleachers until my mom gets here at four.”
“Uh, it's really no problem!” he paused, “Can I ask why the bleachers and not the office or just calling your mom to pick you up?” He asked.
“Because, I don't like to tell my mom I fainted again. She'd just yell at me for forgetting my meds again. I mean she'll obviously find out when the school calls, but by then she's usually relaxed. It's easier that way. If I called her now in the middle of work she'd have to leave. Leaving would mean she'd get in trouble. Her boss is kinda an ass so he's not real fun when he's pissed. It makes something not really a huge deal in to a major deal. She's more likely to kill me if I call her now then if I just not tell her.” I laughed and rolling my eyes as he led me to his truck.
He walked me to the passenger side, and opened the door. I had to hold his arm to get up into the large truck cab. The truck was huge! It was a beautiful black diesel engine truck. It had an extended cab and a lift kit on it so it sat high off the ground. He smiled at me as he shut the door and ran around to the drivers side. He swung the door open and practically jumped in.
He started the truck and put his seat belt on before turning to look out the back window to back up. He had turned his body in his seat and put his arm on the back of my seat, which momentarily brushed against my shoulder. He began to back up the truck, He pulled out into the lane and began to exit the parking lot. I watched the houses pass as we made our way downtown. Neil coughed making the awkward silence, even more awkward.
He reached out and turned the radio on. He hummed along to the music and I bit my tongue so I didn't sing along like I normally do. He glanced over at me and we made eye contact and we both looked away nervously. The radio went to a commercial and the cab began to feel a bit small. I tapped my nervous fingertips on my knees.
“So...” I started softly, but lost my confidence once he looked over at me. “How's football?” I blurted out loudly like a fool; however, I had hit the bulls-eye. The only thing guys liked to talk about more than themselves is the sports they play.
“Pretty good, we actually have a good team this year. We might actually win a game finally.” He relived and eased back into his seat now that the silence had been broken.
Our football team is awful. When we do score, it's usually at the other team's end zone, if that gives you any clue as to how horrible they are. It's been ten years since the varsity team had won a game. We got close to winning last year but Erik Borough accidentally tripped Francis James who was running for the last minute touchdown.
“Wow, that's surprising! Must be the new captain, opening a can of whoop-ass on the defense line.” I said smiling. Neil was the team captain, the only guy on the team that actually knows what he's doing on a football field. Neil was the best player we had, and he was good. Without him we wouldn't have ever scored one touchdown last year. Now that Neil was team captain he was rounding up the football players on the weekends and having mini games down at the park for more practice. He's even been working with a couple of the guys one on one to get them prepared for this season. It was beginning to look like we actually had a chance!
“You bet! They need it! Coach Cramer's a nice guy and all, but face it, he's proof that just because you watch football every Sunday, doesn't mean you know what the hell you're doing as a coach!” Neil said shaking his head. I laughed out loud because Neil was right about Coach Cramer. He acted like he was Joe Paterno, when in reality, he should be coaching any team, including pee wee football! Coach Cramer had been on the team in high school that got us to the championships. After he graduated he started coaching and we never won another game again. It was only fair to say that he never really had much experience since he never actually played in a game... he was basically the water boy.
“I think you should pull Norman out of offense, he has a good arm but he's slow. He's be a perfect lineman on the defense. He's built like a house and would stand up perfectly up against the Hornets Offense next game.” I said. Neil looked over at me like I was an alien. His eyes searched my face until a small crooked grin formed on his lips. I sighed, “I have three brothers, ask me anything about baseball, football, hockey, NASCAR, and some soccer and chances are I know about it.” As Neil smiled over at me I laughed.
“I can't believe it! A girl knows more about football then Cramer! What's the world coming to?” Neil asked laughing.
“I don't know everything, but I do know some.”
“Do you mind if we pull off to get something to eat? I haven't ate since this morning.” He said.
“No problem! I'm not in any hurry.” I replied as he pulled into the small diner on the edge of town.
“Want anything? My treat!” He asked.
“Um, a milkshake?”
“You got it! Vanilla right? I know you hate chocolate.” He said.
“Yeah,” I nodded. His door slammed and I watched in shock as he casually walked inside.
He knew I hated chocolate?
Neil had come back from the diner with his food an our milkshakes. He had bought me a burger and insisted I ate because of me fainting earlier, and I caved in. We sat in the parking lot eating and talking about football strategies until we had finished. I watched Neil laugh as he told me about John Nickers running into the goal post. I was sitting right here and I still couldn't believe it was happening. I was with the guy I'd squealed over since second grade and we were laughing and talking about football together as if we'd been friends forever.
Once we had finished eating Neil backed out of the parking lot and we drove back towards town. He turned the radio up as one of his favorite songs came on. I watched him as he hum to the music. His eyebrows lifted at the high parts and dropped at the low parts making him look like he was surprised and then unamused. I smiled, trying to contain a girly giggle. He looked over and stopped humming when he seen my amused expression.
“What?” He asked smiling. I let out my laugh as he smiled at me, “What's so funny?” He asked again laughing, and his voice raised and octave higher.
“Your face!” I sputtered out.
“Wow! You're cool! You find my gorgeous face funny?” He asked over my peals of laughter.
“Only when you hum! Your eyebrows move with the pitch! You look so goofy!” I laughed tears falling from my eyes. He reached over to get me and I screamed laughing.
“Goofy? Wow, first my face, now my eyebrows, gees, you're really mean....” He said as he drove with one hand, the other trying to poke me in my side. I slapped at his hand making him laugh and try to poke me even more.
“Stop you're going to crash!” I gasped through my laughing as he poked me in my side hitting a sensitive tickle spot. I jumped and he snickered.
“I'm not going to crash I'm an expert driver.” Neil said swerving all over the empty back road to be smart. I laughed and he stopped reaching for me.
“I swear, if someone saw us laughing like that they'd probably think we're high.” He said looking in the review mirror to see if there was any car behind us. I caught his eyes and I couldn't help but say, “Yep... as high as your eyebrows.”
Of course this sent us back into a fit of laughter. I was laughing and wiping my tears at the same time.
“Oh my god,” He groaned laughing, “I haven't laughed this hard at something so small in my life.” Neil said as he composed himself. I took some deep breaths and finally could stop laughing.
“Laughing is good for you. It's like the medicine for everything.” I said smiling.
He smiled as we turned down my road. I wasn't worried about him missing my house. Everyone in town knew where I lived since my dad was the sheriff. Which could be the only reason why guys didn't want to date a girl who's father owns one handgun, two shotguns, a taizer, and a huge can of pepper spray, not to mention has free range of the county jail.
Neil inched his way up the driveway. He threw the truck in park.
“Here let me help you down, it's a little high.” He said jumping out of the truck. I undid my seat belt as he opened my door. He extended his hand, and steadied me as I jumped down. He was smiling as he shut the door behind me.
“Neil, thanks, you have no idea how much this means to me.” I whispered shaking my head. I folded my arms self consciously suddenly aware of what just happened. Neil Clark now knew everything about me... and I liked him even more for coming to help me.
He shrugged, “No problem really! Um... hey...I only live like a block away, so I could pick you up in the mornings... so you wouldn't have to take the bus.” I stared at him. He was kidding right? Was this a joke? Was Diane going to pop out of my bushes with a camera screeching “PSYCH!”
“Um, yeah! That would be great!” I finally managed to stutter out. Wow, way to be smooth!I groaned in my head. Neil smiled and put his hands in his pockets shyly.
“Great! I'll be by at like eight, eight-thirty.” He said smiling as he backed up to his truck. He ran into the grill and awkwardly looked back. He smiled and turned around to walk to the door.
“Okie dokie!” I said and turned away quickly before he climbed in. OKIE DOKIE?! What am I a six year old? He waved and shut the door. I turned to hide my horrified face. Delayed reaction much!? Oh god he thinks I'm a total doofus.
I mentally kicked myself as I walked into my house. I didn't even notice my mom until she cleared her throat. She was sitting in the kitchen at the table with a glass of water. I could already tell by the way she was sitting straight up in her seat she wasn't happy. I smiled innocently and sashayed into the kitchen like nothing abnormal was going on.
“Mom! You're home early!” I said smiling. Oh that was smart! Way to point out the fact that you are home early too numbskull.
“Yeah, I got work done early. Funny you should mention being home early! Why aren't you in school, and what are you wearing?” She asked, her eyes narrowing. She scanned my borrowed baggy pants that had been rolled up. I shrugged and tugged them up so they didn't fall down.
“Okay, don't be mad.” I started but my mom put her hand up to stop me. I sighed and walked to the table.
“Kathleen. You have must learned by now when a teenager starts a sentence with, “Don't be mad” chances are, parents are gonna be mad, so just remember that the next time you're in trouble.” She said using air quotes around, “Don't be mad.” to emphasize her point.
“Anyway,” I said rolling my eyes, “I woke up late this morning, and I was --” My mom cut me off.
“Whoa! Why were you running late? Your alarm went off when I was walking out the door for work!” She asked. I rocked back and forth on the balls of my feet. Oh busted.
“Well, I sorta hit my snooze button like two times.” I said softly shrugging.
“Only twice?” She asked her eyebrows raising.
“Does it matter?”
“Yes, if it was only twice you wouldn't have been late.” She said lifting her glass of water to her mouth.
“Okay! So it was like six times, but the point is, I ran out for the bus and forgot to take my medicine, and eat. I fainted right after third period, wet myself, and ran from the school.” I said trying not to cry as I relieved the scene of everyone laughing at me. Oh man, what is everyone going to say tomorrow?! No doubt they'll be laughing about it still. My mom sighed and stood up.
“You have to remember your medication!” She said pulling me into a hug. I inhaled the comforting smell of my mother's perfume.
“I obviously didn't do it on purpose!It just happened! I'll try to do better, I won't have to wake up as early tomorrow.” I said as she went from out hug to the freezer to pull out ice cream.
“Why? Two hour delay? I don't remember that on the calendar.” My mom said looking over her shoulder as she scooped massive amounts of ice cream into bowls.
“Um no... I got a ride.” I said casually as I unloaded the dishwasher.
“A ride? From who? Andrea finally get her license?” My mom asked.
“No, she failed her test again.” I sighed and my mom laughed.
“What did she do this time?”
“She refused to turn left and the man told her to go so she panicked, hit the gas, and ran over a stop sign.” I said smiling. Andrea was my best friend, and she's failed her driving test over five times. The first time she put the car in reverse instead of drive and backed up into the man's brand new car, the second time she parallel parked halfway in the middle of the sidewalk, the third time she ran a stop sign and almost got hit by a garbage truck, and the forth time she blasted the horn and gave a guy the finger when he cut her off.
“Geez, maybe it's good she doesn't have her license!” My mom said softly thinking to herself.
“Tell me about it! We're going to have to buy a tank if she ever gets it, there's no way I'm driving with her on the roads.” I laughed. My mom sat down and began to eat.
“So who's picking you up then?” She asked pinching the bridge of her nose trying to get rid of a brain freeze. I debated on telling her the truth but I figured she would at some point notice Neil Clark sitting outside in a massive truck.
“Neil.” I mumbled.
“Who? Talk louder.” She said cupping her ear.
“Neil Clark.” The kitchen fell silent except for the soft hum of the refrigerator.
"The Neil Clark?” My mom asked shocked.
“Yes...” Silence. “Mom?” I asked.
She sat back into her chair staring at me. A smug smile broke out onto her face,
“Oh honey! That's great! We should have him over for dinner! You know how much your father likes him!” My mom squealed. I groaned clutching my head already embarrassed for the future.
“Mom! He's just giving me a ride to school! It's not like he declared his burning love for me and threw himself at my feet proposing for crying out loud!”
“I never said anything about a proposal! We should still have him over for dinner. If you are going to be spending that much time with him I'd like to meet the boy!” She argued pointing her spoon at me.
“Oh my gosh, mom! No! He's just giving me a ride to school because I'm on the way! We're not dating!” I said rolling my eyes. “At least not yet...”I added in my mind.
“Well, whatever you say, if he didn't like you he wouldn't have offered a ride. He is the boy you like right? Wait is he the one that gave you the Valentine back in the third grade that you kept under your ma mattress for weeks?” She asked.
“Kind of, but everyone likes him. He's the quarterback, captain, all-American, boy next door. Of course he's really hot too, but he dates the pretty popular girls. AND NO! That never happened I don't even know what you're talking about.” I said scooping a huge glob of ice cream up into my mouth. It technically was under my pillow... not my mattress.
“Honey! You're pretty and popular! You're beautiful, and you have a bunch of friends! Why wouldn't this guy like you! You've got it goin' on.” My mom said rolling her eyes.
“Come on,” I groaned, “ You know that's not true, I'm not popular like Diane Messing! I'm not some hipster, I'm a weirdo nerd! My definition of popular means something totally different than yours I guess!” I explained.
Diane Messing, even her name sounds popular, like a movie star's. Of course her size is like negative ten, and she has long gorgeous locks of blonde hair that might have something to do with her pretty image too. Diane Messing was the real-life Barbie, she competes in beauty pageants, her teeth are bright white and straight as a stick, she has a nice tanned glow, not too dark, not too light, and she has enormous blue eyes framed with lashes so gorgeous you would think they're fake. To sum it up short, I'm jealous, and she's that girl every guy wants and every girl wants to be. It didn't hurt that her dad owned like six car dealerships and was practically bathing in money.
“Diane Messing is only popular because she's rich and buys people's affection, you my darling sweetheart, are popular because people like you.” My mom said pointing her spoon at me. I stood up and put my bowl in the sink.
“She's still queen of the school.” I said rolling my eyes, and she's got three crowns to prove it. Homecoming Queen, Snow Queen, and Prom Queen, she could rule a country too for all I knew.
“Well, you're Snow White, and she'll eventually will be a hag.” My mom chuckled.
“Nah, I can't be Snow White.” I sighed.
“Short people freak me out.” I joked.
“Not everyone can be freakishly tall like you honey.” She laughed.
“Thanks mom.” I sighed.
“Your father will be home soon, I'd go change if I were you.”
That night I tossed and turned in my bed, the sheets tangling around my restless legs. It was useless, there was no way I was going to be able to sleep. I groaned and rubbed my face with my hands. I sat up in the darkness and tried to find my glasses.
Today's events kept playing in my head over and over like a broken movie projector. I could still see Neil's face as we laughed and his goofy eyebrows as he hummed. If I fell asleep I wondered if tomorrow when I woke up, all of this would have been a fairytale dream. I knew one thing, if it was, I was going to cry my eyes out. I smiled remembering the laughing fit and the way he reached over to poke and tickle me. Was it possible that Neil Clark could like a girl like me?
I rolled out of bed scratching the back of my head and yawning. I looked around and sat down in front of my computer. As I waited for the computer to boot up, I glanced over at my alarm clock. The bright green numbers read four-thirty. I groaned and rested my head on the back of my chair so I could stare at the ceiling. I watched as a disturbingly little black dot began to move slowly. There was a bug on my ceiling... I shivered in disgust and looked around to find something tall enough to squish it, but I found nothing.
“You're lucky. You shall live another day...” I whispered up at it. It was crawling away from my direction and the direction of my bed so I didn't let it freak me out too much. I was too tired to go downstairs and find the broom.
The screen of my computer came on and the light burned my eyes. I squinted as the blue screen lit up my room. I typed in my password and I sat there looking at the background image on my desktop. It was a picture of Amanda and I from our freshman year at the local pool. Andrea's face was so sunburned she had lines from where her glasses had blocked the sun's rays. In the background you could see Neil doing a back flip off the diving board into the pool. Sometimes I wished I could go back to those days. Being a senior you look back at many things you've done and wish you could change.
A loud ring interrupt my thoughts. An IM window had popped up.
Neilbobeil: Can't sleep?
I smiled and typed back a response. Well look at that! I wonder what was keeping him awake?
Katiekat: Yep, staring at the ceiling. Actually... there is a rather large bug up there and it's kinda
creeping me out.
Neilbobeil: Me too. (Staring at the ceiling and sorry about the bug, throw something at it...) Every time I close my eyes all I can think about is my obnoxious eyebrows thank you very much ;)
I let out a laugh forgetting that it was almost five in the morning. He was thinking about the ride and everything we'd done together today! I felt my heart knock against my ribs excitedly.
Katiekat: They aren't that bad, it was just funny!! ;)
Neilbobeil: Ha! Thanks :)
Katiekat: You're welcome. So is that the only reason that you can't sleep?
Neilbobeil: Not the only reason, just thinking about some stuff...
Katiekat: Me too.
Neilbobeil: How mad was your mom when she got home?
Katiekat: Not much, she was already home when we got here, she was upset that I forgot my medication and for not eating but after I told her what happened she was fine.
Neilbobeil: Perfect! Did you tell her I was picking you up from now on?
Katiekat: Yep! No problem!
Neilbobeil: Hey, I just remembered I have practice tomorrow. I can take you home after! If you want to
stay and watch. It's a short practice.
Katiekat: Sure that's totally fine, I'm up for some football :P
Neilbobeil: Alright, I gotta go, my mom just woke up and caught me. Night! Erm... actually. good
Katiekat: Good morning Neil! Hahahah! :)
Neilbobeil logged off at 4:50 am.
I wanted to jump up and down and squeal! I couldn't help but feel like this was more than friendship. I shut off my computer after checking my email. I squealed softly and ran across my room and took a flying leap onto my bed. I fell asleep with Neil making multiple appearances in my dreams.
As soon as my alarm went off I jumped out of bed. I was so tired but my excitement was overpowering my drowsiness.
Neil was going to be here in one hour. I had one hour to take a shower, pick out my clothes, do my make-up, do my hair, eat, and take my medication. I decided the best way to get all this done was to run everywhere.
I ran into the bathroom and turned the shower on. I began to wait until the warm water kicked in, but it never did. My mom had used up all the hot water once again. I couldn't wait for the tank to reheat, so I grit my teeth and jumped in. I screamed as the icy water pounded against me. I felt like I had fell through the ice at the North Pole. I took the shortest shower I had ever taken in my life.
I ran from the bathroom towel wrapped around me and hair dripping wet. I wish there was like a drying off thing you could walk through like the big driers at the car wash, that would have been so much easier than towel drying. I struggled trying to get my still damp legs and arms into my clothes. At one point I relized I had my head in the sleeve of the shirt and had to take it off and try again. Why was it that when you're in a hurry you seem to never do anything right?
I finally was fully clothed and I darted back into the bathroom knocking over my little stand of bathroom supplies. I ignored it and began putting my makeup on. I bounced around while doing my hair as if that was going to quicken the process of blow drying. I finally was finished in the bathroom and ran downstairs.
I was running around the house like a chicken with it's head cut off when the doorbell rang. I screeched to a halt and looked at the clock. It was eight o'clock already. I cursed to myself for not waking up earlier. I bolted to the door and let Neil in.
“Hey! Come in, I'm almost ready, I got to get my shoes on.” I said when he smiled as the door opened. He nodded and walked in and I turned to the coat closet. I was star struck by his wide sleepy eyes and wasn't watching where I was going. I felt my foot get stuck under the large area rug before I could stop myself from taking another step. I flailed out and let out a little shriek as I tried to catch myself before I face planted on the floor. Instead of my hands bracing my fall my hand landed on top of a stray sock I had found and slid out from under me. I landed on the floor with an embarrassingly loud thump. I felt my forehead stinging as Neil let out a yell. I wanted to die. I wanted to roll over and become invisible, perhaps absorb into the floorboards and never return until he left. I rolled over onto my back and stared up at the ceiling in shock.
“Oh my god! Katie are you okay?” Neil asked running over his face horrified.
“Um... I'm not sure. Is my head bleeding?” I asked holding back tears. He nodded and I groaned. Oh my god. I'm laying in the middle of my foyer, bleeding, after I face planted from tripping over the only rug we own, with Neil looking down at me like I was an idiot.
“Do you have a band-aid? It doesn't look too bad.” He asked helping me back up. I began to have the strong urge to start laughing break out in my chest, but I knew it was only because I didn't want to cry.
“Yeah I think in my bathroom.” I said. He followed me up into the bathroom. I blushed as he walked in. One of my bras was hanging of the side of my full length mirror, and on the table that I had knocked over, was an open box of tampons that covered the floor because of in my mad dash this morning. Of course things got even more embarrassing when I opened my medicine cabinet, and my birth control pills fell out.
“Sorry about the mess, I was in a rush this morning and knocked everything over.” I said and scrambled to kick tampons out of the way. I searched the cabinet for band-aids. The only box I could find was the Tinkerbell band-aids I used when I cut myself shaving.
“Oh my god... this is going to be so embarrassing.” I moaned and showed Neil. He laughed and took the box from me.
“But Kathleen!” He held the box up to his face, “they're flutterific!” He laughed. He gave me a big silly grin and a thumbs up and I smiled as he pulled a band-aid out. After tearing the paper off he used a piece of toilet paper to wipe the blood away before sticking the band-aid on my forehead.
“How do I look?” I asked after he was done. I watched him as he tried not to laugh.
“Um, Flutterific?” He smiled. I chased him out of my bathroom. I got my shoes on and we walked out of the door.
“I got coffee and breakfast in the truck. Did you take your medicine?” He asked as I climbed into the truck.
“Yes mother, I did!” I smiled, “and thank you for breakfast.” I said as he handed me a coffee and a breakfast sandwich.
“No problem!” He said as we pulled out of the driveway. We passed the sheriff's department and I seen my dad waiting for us to pass before pulling out behind us in the cruiser. I slid down in my seat hoping he didn't see me.
“Oh my god. If he pulls us over, I'm going to kill him.” I said. Neil looked over at me confused. I nodded at the cruiser. Neil glanced in his review mirror, just as the siren and the lights flashed on. “Yep, I'm gonna kill him. Don't even bother getting the license and registration. He's just being an ass.” I sighed. Neil pulled over with a smile on his cute face. My dad got out and slowly walked up to the driver's side. Neil sighed and rolled down his window.
“Dad, I'm gonna kill you!” I yelled before he even got close to the truck. Neil chuckled softly.
“Son, are you aware you're carrying precious cargo?” My dad asked Neil once he came up to the driver side flashing his badge. I grit my teeth and glared at him.
“Yes sir, I do.” Neil Replied. My dad leaned against the window frame and looked over at me.
“Hi Princess! What's wrong with your noggin?” He asked.
“Tripped over the rug.” I mumbled.
“Again?” He asked confused. I groaned as Neil chuckled softly.
“Yes dad. Can you let us go? We're going to be late for school.” I said. Neil took a long drink of coffee.
“Fine, be careful Neil or I'll make sure to get you.” my dad said to him and winked.
“No problem sir, I'll take good care of her.” He said nodding. My dad walked away and we waited for him to pass us by.
“Your dad is... great.” Neil said.
“Yeah, he's a real charmer.” I joked.
We pulled into the school parking lot. Heads turned and watched us as we drove by. Diane Messing stood by her Malibu Barbie Car. Of course, the only parking place was right beside her. Neil groaned.
“I'm not in the mood for this today, she drives me crazy.” Neil muttered. Diane bounced over with her beauty pageant smile. Neil got out of the truck to help me down. I watched as her smile fell off her face.
“Kathleen?” She asked her face looking as if she smelled something awful. She better watch that I heard it causes wrinkles in the future.
“Hi Diane!” I said smiling as Neil stood beside me.
“Hi?” She said confused as she looked from him to me.
“Hey Diane, I'll see you in psychology.” Neil said and directed me to start walking. I could help but smile a little. Poor Diane...
Fourth period bell rang and everyone filed out of the class into the hall. Kids were joking, yelling, laughing, and of course, staring at me. In second period Diane and one of her follower clones named Debbie whispered about me all period.
“Why was she with him?” Diane asked. I could feel her piercing blue eyes stabbing me in the back.
“I don't know Diane. I don't know why he wants a girl that pees her pants. He'll for sure get rid of her soon. He's totally going to ask you to Homecoming!” Debbie whispered back. I'm not gonna lie, the pee part hurt my feelings, but I knew they were only picking me apart to help Diane's ego. I wasn't even Neil's girlfriend and I already had Diane's claws sinking in to the back of my neck.
A freshman bumped into me and I was brought back to reality. I ignored the stares and turned the corner of the hall, my heart stopped. Low and behold, Neil Clark was leaning against my locker smiling. He had his long legs crossed, and his shoulder leaning up against my locker. I couldn't help but smiling back.
“Hey! What are you doing here?” I asked as I switched my books in my locker.
“I figured we could walk to science together.” Neil said grinning. His green eyes sparkled and I felt a light headed.
“That would be great.” I replied shyly. He grabbed my books from my arms. My mom was somehow right. He was walking next to me, inches away, carrying my books, and walking me to class. This was the dream!
“So how's your day going?” I asked. He glanced down at me after parting a large group of guys to walk down the hall. They gave him fist bumps and low fives as we walked through.
“Flutterific.” He said. I smiled and pushed him slightly and he laughed.
“How long are you going to torment me about my band-aids?” I laughed almost forgetting the embarrassment of this morning.
“I'll stop,” he laughed, “My day's been pretty good. Yours?”
“Great, but I've had a lot of stares for some reason... I think it's the band-aid. They're jealous.” I whispered shaking my head sadly. He let out a airy laugh and nodded.
“Yeah, it happens.” He said nudging me with his elbow. We reached the classroom and he even held the door open for me.
“What a gentleman.” I snickered as we sat down at the nearest lab table. Thank god Miss. Keats didn't have assigned seating. He took the seat in front of me and slid my books to me.
“Thank you!” I smiled. He winked and the bell rang signaling class had begun. Miss. Keats walked in and began class. She's my favorite teacher. My older brother was best friends with her younger brother and we seen a lot of each other over the years. She was the teacher that had labs that you blew stuff up or caught stuff on fire, which of course made her the favorite science teacher.
Neil was distracting me through class. When we took notes he let his tongue stick out while he wrote, he liked to flip the corners of our textbook as we read, and he kept stealing glancing at me when I pretended I wasn't watching him. When Miss. Keats asked him about ionic bonds he knew the answer right away.
Miss. Keats passed out lab papers and as she explained them she reached out and squeezed my shoulder giving me a wink before walking back to her desk letting us begin.
Neil opened our lab drawers and began taking out the supplies as I read them off the lab sheets. He gave me my pair of safety glasses and turned the Bunsen Burner on. He put on the most ridiculous pair of goggles he could find from the seventies. When he slipped them on over his head the band made his hair stick up and I couldn't stop chuckling to myself every time I looked at him.
“Add four ounces of hydrochloric acid.” I said. Neil carefully measured the acid while I added the other material.
“Okay,” he started, “if we did this right it should foam up and turn blue.” as he took the beaker from the burner and placing it on the table. Using the tongs again her added the acid. We waited in suspense as the liquid began to bubble. Finally it began to spew blue foam. Neil and I let out a celebratory yell and gave each other a high five. The class watched us with jealous glares, many their beakers showing no sign of bubbles or blue foam.
Miss. Keats came over and gave us an A on the lab and sat down next to me while the rest of the class finished the project. Neil offered to clean up while we talked.
“How's Dan?” She asked me.
“Pretty good, he likes New York.” I said smiling.
“New York?” Neil asked from the sink.
“My brother an her brother are going to school at Julliard. They've been best friends since they we're born so, Miss. Keats and I are like family.” I said smiling. He seemed surprised at the close relationship I had with her. Miss. Keats told us about her brother's new girlfriend. She was interrupted when a beaker exploded and the table's student scientists were covered with green foam. She rushed over and helped them clean up, luckily, no one had been hurt. Neil and I began talking abut the game on Friday.
“Nervous?” I asked spinning my pencil between my fingers.
“Not really. I know most of the guys are, we might actually have a turn out for the game.” He laughed.
“That's good though!” I smiled and he shrugged.
“It's hard to focus when everyone's screaming at you. It's bad enough Cramer's been on them. Apparently he doesn't approve of the tutoring I've been doing.” He replied as he played with the tongs and picking up things around us.
“Why would Cramer be pissed off about that? You're doing him a favor!” I said.
“I think he's mad I'm undermining his authority. By the way are you coming?”
“I wouldn't miss it for the world. My parents are coming too, you know how much my dad loves football.” I laughed.
“Good at least I'll have someone cheering me on.” He laughed.
“People love you. If you weren't on the team, no one would show up! But yeah, I'll make sure to scream extra loud.” I laughed. We talked until class ended.
“Lunch?” He asked.
“Yep!” I said smiling. We stopped at our lockers leaving our books behind.
“Hey, do you mind if I eat with you?” He asked.
“I don't mind, I was planning on eating in the courtyard today though since Andrea won't be here till after lunch.” I said.
“No problem, that sounds great.”
We went through the lunch line together, and pondered over which of the school food would kill us faster if we ate it. I picked our spot underneath the shade of one of the trees in the courtyard. Neil looked around smiling.
“It's pretty nice out here. The guys are always sit in that back table in the corner.” He said as he ate his fries.
“Why aren't you sitting with them? Not that I'm complaining or anything, but just being nosy.” I said taking a bite of my hamburger.
“Well, because, I like you.” He said, his ears turning pink. I was taken aback by his bluntness. I knew he might have liked me, but he liked me enough to actually say it out loud. I watched as Diane walked over to us, killing our moment, and not letting me respond.
“Neil! You're eating out here? It's so... dirty!” Diane said looking me up and down. I stopped chewing my food, hurt by her words.
“Hmm.... then you should feel right at home then!” Neil said. I clapped my hand over my mouth, but let out a snort of laughter.
“What do you mean Neil? All the guys want you inside! The girls and I are sitting with you today!” Diane said ignoring my snort and Neil's remark.
“I'm fine, I'm gonna eat out here today. I'm sure the guys understand.” Neil said rolling his eyes.
“But Neil!” Diane shuddered.
“No! I don't want to! I'm trying to eat! Please just leave me alone for once in my life.” Neil groaned. I tried to stay out of the fight but Diane glared at me and I glared back. She huffed and walked away. She kept looking back at us as she wobbled across the grass in her heels. I think she expected Neil to get off the ground and come running.
“Anyway, like I was saying,” Neil began, “I like you, and I can't really explain what kept me from talking to you before. I didn't have the balls to do it until I seen what you go through, and something just clicked. I had no idea how nice, and incredibly funny you were.” Neil said pushing fries around on his tray. I couldn't believe the words that had just come from him.
“But... I'm not popular. I'm not a Diane Messing. I'm the girl that faints and people laugh at.... the one that they scare thinking I'm like those goats that just fall over....” I rambled.
“Katie?! Are you kidding me?! I like you because of the person you are. You could be a huge b**** at the people who laugh at you, but somehow you stay the beautiful person you are. I like you because you aren't Diane Messing. We've gone to school together since first grade, I know you more than you think I do.” He said lying in the grass, using his elbow to prop himself up. There was a soft wind that spun into the courtyard ruffling his hair and made him squint.
“I'm just surprised. I never thought I'd be sitting here and having this conversation to the guy I've had a crush on since second grade.” I whispered not meeting Neil's eyes. My heart pounded as I took the leap off the cliff called friendzone.
The only sounds were the tree leaves ruffling above us, and a couple of Freshman singing a Broadway show tune across the yard. I struggled to find words to say to fix what I had just blurted out.
“So...” he began, “second grade?” He asked smiling. I laughed and covered my blushing face.
“I fell of the monkey bars at the park, and you were the only one to help me up. You dusted my knees off, and ran off to go play pirates with Billy Cohen. After that... you became my no way in hell crush. You know, the person you crush on, but know that there's no way in hell they'd ever like you back.” I said struggling to get my confession out. I buried my red face into my hands. Neil smiled and pulled my hands down revealing my blushing face.
“You want to go out tonight? Head into Toledo and catch a movie or something?” He asked.
“I'd love to.” I smiled. He leaned back and tossed a grape at me. I laughed and tossed it back at him and he caught it in his mouth. He yelled and put his arms up in a touch down signal, and we tossed grapes at each other until the bell rang.
And that was the day all my dreams came true.
I sat on the warm bleachers and watched as Neil and the football team started their drills. Cramer stood at the sidelines screaming at a linebacker about how much of a sissy he was.
By the end of the day almost everyone in school had known about the date Neil and I had tonight. People wouldn't stop staring at me all day. I found it still hard to believe that I'm going on a date with Neil Clark.
My phone beeped informing me that I had received a text from Andrea.
Andrea: Where R U?
U Still @ skool?
You: Yes, I'm on the
bleachers waiting for Neil.
Andrea:U no U dont have
2 use wordz like dat
You: I know, but I prefer
not talking like a hoodlum.
Andrea: Wat da hell is a hoodlum?
You: Just get your butt over here!
The team took a break when I finally spotted Andrea. She clumped up the metal bleachers in her knee high leather boots. Neil had hopped over the fence and climbed up the bleachers as Andrea sat down next to me.
“Damn girl.... Look at those muscles.” Andrea said. I bumped into her giggling.
“And they're all mine for now.” I whispered just in time for Neil to hear the end of my sentence.
“What's all yours?” He asked before taking a long drink from his water.
Andrea and I said at the exact same time. I looked over and smacked Andrea on her arm as she roared with laughter.
“She's kidding.” I said my face red.
“YO! Neil! Stop talking to your new girlfriend and get your ass back down here!” A defense player yelled as all the players wolf howled and whistled.
“I got to go, it will only be a few minutes.” Neil said and jogged back down.
Andrea was loving the sudden attention, while I turned as red as a fire truck.
“So how did all this happen? I don't remember you having a date with Neil Clark two days ago.” Andrea said smiling.
“I didn't...” I said.
“Well.... how did you get one?”
“When I fainted yesterday and I ran. He followed me out here and gave me pants to change into. He ditched class, got some food, and he took me home. Then he said he could pick me up and drive me home from school.” I explained.
“That's it?” She asked.
“Pretty much. We ate lunch today, I asked him why he ate with me and he just told me he liked me and asked me out.” I said smiling. Andrea whistled low.
“Dang I wish I could get my no way in hell crush to talk to me like that!” Andrea whispered.
“Well I don't recommend peeing your pants, it worked out for me, but I doubt it would for you.” I laughed. Andrea let out a snort and hugged me.
“I'm sorry that happened yesterday I should have been there. They wouldn't have laughed if I would have been there to tell them off.” Andrea said.
“No! It's fine! I mean if you would have been there this wouldn't have happened.” said smiling and waved to Neil when he looked up at us.
“Oooo! Does this mean I made this happen?” Andrea squealed.
“Ha! No!” I laughed.
“Aw! Come on! Yous said you couldn't have had this happen if I was there!”
“But it's not like you dragged us together and made us talk. He that made that decision.” I replied.
“But I helped a tiny bit right?” She said holding up her fingers to show me how much.
“If I say yes will you leave me alone?” I asked laughing.
“Yes ma'am.” She replied.
“Okay, Andrea, you helped a tiny bit.” I sighed.
“That's right. You're welcome.” Andrea said as her phone buzzed. She growled and gave me a one minute finger.
She started talking in French, which told me it was her mother calling. Andrea's mom and dad were from France. They moved when Andrea was two to three houses down from mine and we've been best friends ever since.
I watched as the boys ran a drill. Jake French missed the pass and Cramer stormed onto the field screaming at him, he pushed the kid and he toppled over.
“This is the s*** you put together? If you're going to teach someone something how about you do it right!” Cramer screamed at Neil. I watched his back stiffen and he just shook his head at him. “One more move like that French and you're benched for the season. You too Hotshot.” he yelled pointing at Neil. Neil walked over to Jake and gave him a hand up. I shook my head in disgust. This was supposed to be a man that inspired people.
I jumped as Coach Cramer blew his silver whistle and yelled, “How about you little pansies take a few laps around the field for your glorious Captain expert teaching.”
Neil stopped walking back to the field and turned around.
“With all due respect sir, if we were to be punished for crappy teaching we never would stop running laps with you as our coach.” Neil said. The field got quiet, even Andrea stopped talking on the phone in Neil's bold move. Cramer stood there baffled by Neil's bold speech. A few of the guys moved over toward Neil as if banning together.
“Fine, practice is over. If you think you can do better then.” Cramer said tossing the clipboard he carried at Neil's feet and walked off the field. Neil looked up at me and nodded once.
“He's done Andrea, I'll talk to you later.” I whispered. She nodded and began yelling in French again. As I reached the fence Coach Cramer slammed the door of his office shaking the players. Neil ran over.
“I'll be right out, I'm gonna finish up talking to these guys, go over where we will go from here. After that I'll take a quick shower and be right out. Here's the keys if you want to wait in the truck with the AC on.” He said tossing me the keys.
“Okay, hey... you were great out there.” I smiled. He put his hand over mine before he ran off to the locker rooms with the team. I started walking toward the truck and to my horror, a Barbie was leaning against the black truck.
Diane Messing, was really starting to piss me off. I'd only been “with” Neil for two hours and she was already making my life hell. I wasn't even his girlfriend, we were just going on one date. I sighed as she stopped leaning against the truck and folded her arms. I had to stop in front of her since she was blocking the door.
“Can you please move?” I asked nicely. She laughed softly shaking her blonde head.
“What are you even doing here?” She asked me raising her drawn on eyebrows.
“I am here because I was watching the practice and Neil wanted me here. You on the other hand, have no reason to be here other than to make Neil mad.” I sighed still trying to be nice.
“Whatever, you're just lying to yourself. He really doesn't want you.” She laughed.
“Oh really? Because... I'm the one with the keys... and a date with him tonight.” I smiled dangling the truck keys in the air. Alright... the claws were coming out, but she deserved it. Diane's eyes narrowed.
“I swear, if you get in my way, I will make your life a living hell.” She whispered walking closer to me until she was in my face. I didn't even flinch. What was she going to do to me? Wac me with her fake boobs?
“Bring. It. On.” I said taking a step closer. Diane flinched and I smiled.
“Will do b****, and just remember... I don't play fair.” She whispered.
“Good lord? What are we playing Candy land? Get the hell out of my way now!” I said smiling. She smiled and stepped out of the way, but making sure she slammed her boney shoulder against mine. I rolled my eyes and climbed into the truck as Diane stomped toward the field and Coach's office.
It didn't take long for Neil to come out. I could still see Diane's car in the parking lot when he came out the door. I debated on telling him about Diane, but I've seen enough movies and read enough books to know not telling him wasn't the best option. I unlocked the doors and Neil climbed in.
“Hey!” He said taking the keys from my hand. His hair was still wet but he looked just so cute.
“Hi! You just missed Satan's spawn. She was holding your truck hostage.” I joked as he turned the truck on.
“Diane? Yeah I heard the guys say she was out here. She leave you alone?” He asked resting his arm on the back of my seat to back out.
“No, she's going to make my life a living hell, and she won't play fair. I guess we're fighting over you. Feel special.” I laughed.
“GOD! I can't stand that girl! She literally stalks me! My mom found her kneeling in the bushes one time at me sister's pool party waiting for me to walk out.” He said shaking his head.
“Don't worry I'm tough. She doesn't know who she's dealing with. Only the armatures hide in the bushes.” I smiled. He snorted and ran his hand through his wet hair.
“No, I guess she doesn't. Cause I want to help.” He laughed. I smiled as he rolled the windows down and we got out town. “She's just jealous you know.” He said as we whizzed by corn.
“Yeah, but still she shouldn't act like a two year old.” I said putting on my sunglasses. He began laughing uncontrollably. I looked at him confused.
“Are you embarrassed to be seen with me? Those glasses are huge!” He laughed.
“Large sunglasses are in.” I said taking them off, they were supposed to be big...
“Ah! There she is!” He laughed. I just rolled my eyes and put them back on.
“So what movie are we seeing?” I asked.
“Well, I was going to let you pick.” He smiled and slowed down as a squirrel ran into the road.
“Oh I have no idea.”
“We'll figure it out when we get there, I don't even know what's playing.” He said.
“Me either! I haven't seen a movie in like six months.” I said watching Neil drive.
“ I just took my sister to that new princess movie, I can't remember the name of it. I don't remember much of it actually, I fell asleep.” He laughed.
“Aw! How could you!” I laughed.
“Like I really wanted to sit there and watch woodland creatures sing?” He asked laughing, “Maddie didn't notice so it's all good.”
“Still! You better not fall asleep on me!” I laughed.
“I could never do that.” He smiled looking over at me irresistibly.
We finally reached the theater and seen that the parking lot was packed. We had to park a mile away from the door and walk because there was no more parking spots left.
“Man, I hope they're not sold out.” Neil said.
“If it is, we can do something else.” I said smiling. We walked into the air conditioning of the large theater. The wonderful smell of popcorn and butter filled the air.
“They're sold out!” He said taking my attention away from the snack counter. I frowned, disappointed in the news. This was supposed to be the perfect date!
“I'll be right back.” Neil said walking over to the ticket booth. I could see them talking and Neil taking his wallet out. Yay! We got tickets! As Neil walked back to me he had a small smile.
“Good news or bad news?” He asked.
“Bad?” I said unsure.
“The only movie that's showing with no people in it is a foreign film so, we won't understand it, but on the bright side the tickets were a dollar and we have the whole theater to ourselves.” He laughed. I put my hand up to my forehead and laughed.
“Alright let's do it! We can tell people we went and it's gonna sound sophisticated.” I laughed as we walked to the showing room.
It was completely empty.
“Oh man, where should we sit? This place is packed!” Neil yelled the walls echoing, he walked along the front scoping out the middle of the room. I laughed and we chose finally the seats in the middle. We had ten minutes until the show so Neil ran out and got some popcorn.
It was creepy, sitting in a big movie theater, by yourself. It's dark, and dead quiet, except for the occasional explosion from the movie next door. I could feel my skin get goosebumps. I looked around the large room to make sure there was no monsters hiding in the shadows.
“I'm back!” Neil called as he walked in and I about jumped out of my skin. I let out a small scream and Neil began laughing.
“Oh my god! Don't do that! You scared the crap out of me!” I yelled as he snickered jumping the seats instead of taking the stairs.
“Sorry scaredy cat!” He laughed sitting down next to me with his arms full of candy, popcorn, and soda.
“Are you feeding an army?” I asked as he handed me candy bar after candy bar.
“Well, I didn't know what you liked so I got one of everything that didn't have chocolate.” He laughed.
“That's so sweet! By the way! How did you know that I don't like chocolate? Are you hiding in my bushes at my pool parties?” I asked laughed.
“NO!” He yelled pointing a long piece of licorice in my face. I laughed an bit the end off.
“Then how?” I asked opening a huge bag of gummy worms.
“In fifth grade. Ally Beerman brought in brownies for her birthday and you told her no thanks, and that you didn't like chocolate.” He said.
“And you remembered that?” I asked.
“Yep,” he laughed taking a huge bite of a chocolate bar, “I remembered it because I thought you were crazy.” He snickered like a five year old and took a giant bite out of the bar.
“I'm not crazy! I just don't like chocolate.” I said. The screen flickered to life and an old time film flashed on.
“It's in black and white?” He asked looking around.
“I guess, it's a French movie too.” I said pointing at the title. Neil laughed and shrugged.
The movie started on a beautiful girl crying. Neil let out a laugh.
“Jacq!Jacq! Where for art thou Jacq!” He said in a high pitch voice. I snorted as a huge Russian guy barged into the room pointing at the woman.
“What are you blubbering about woman?” Neil yelled in a deep voice and I started laughing as the movie turned from a foreign tragedy to a Neil's interpreted comedy. Starring, Daffodil Macaroni as the crying French woman who cannot find Jacq, her beefy French boyfriend in a Russian village aptly named Hairy Men Town. In the end, Jacq, who we later found out, Jacq was really Mario, the beefy Russian guy. Apparently, according to Neil, the war does strange things to a man. I was crying with laughter by the time the end credits rolled. As we walked out of the theater Neil established he was going to grow a mustache like the Russian man's in the movie, he was moving to France because he wanted a poodle, and I would have made a better Daffodil Macaroni. I was still laughing as we walked through the parking lot, Neil still talking loudly in a french accent about the poor state of beard. He stopped and laughed when he seen the tears running down my face. He grabbed my hand and I rested my head on his arm.
“Ah, foreign movies are great.” He said.
“I have to admit, your version was probably a million times better than it really was.” I laughed.
“Mario was my favorite. I'm serious about the mustache.” He said looking over at me.
“I still don't understand why you named the Russian guy Mario.” I laughed as he helped me into the truck.
“It looked like Mario!”
“Well, I couldn't exactly tell if it was a man or a woman!” He laughed shutting my door. It was official, I had totally fallen in love with him.
“It's Friday!” Neil yelled as I jumped in the truck, he drummed his hands on the steering wheel. It had been three days since our date and we were always together. We hadn't kissed yet, but I felt like we would sooner or later.
“I'm pumped!” I said showing him my football shirt and all of the parade beads I had found in our school colors of Black and Orange.
“You look great!” He said reaching behind my seat. He pulled out a brown bag and tossed it to me. I looked at him in his home football jersey and faded jeans.
“Open it!” He laughed. I opened the brown paper bag and pulled out his away jersey. I froze as I held it up. On there front a fierce tiger snarling stared back at me. I glanced over at Neil who just stared at me smug. I turned the jersey around and felt my chest grow tight. On the back of the jersey was Neil's number in bright orange, and his last name upon the shoulders. I almost couldn't hold it up I was in so much shock. Only the players girlfriends were permitted to wear the spare jerseys. Neil had given me his jersey.
“I want you to wear it from now on, every Friday.” He said smiling. I instantly pulled the jersey over my head. It was big, but it smelled like Neil and I rolled the end up so it wouldn't hang to my knees.
“Oh my god... thank you.” I said. I reached over and hugged him shocked. My lips grazed his cheek as I chickened out on kissing him. He acted like nothing had happened when we pulled back.
“I figured you would expect it! The guys always let their girlfriends wear their jersey on game day!” He laughed. I was his girlfriend, he had said it! Neil Clark was my boyfriend. Strange how much had changed in just four days. I had gone from the fainting girl who sometimes pees her pants, to Neil Clark's girlfriend.
“I never even thought about it, I'm just...” I laughed as we drove to school. He just reached over and took my hand. He backed out of my driveway, a smile on his face.
The school was a massive blob of orange and black. As Neil and I walked in hand-in-hand people yelled “Go Tigers!”. Many fist bumps and good lucks were thrown our way, and waited to be returned.
“You're like a superhero, Neil. I'm surprised you don't have your own parade! What's next, are you going to start shaking hands and kissing babies?” I laughed. Neil bumped me his shoulder into me and laughed.
“Oh come on! I'm not that important!” He laughed taking my books from me as I put them in my arms.
“Yes you are.” I smiled up at him.
“Oh really? To who?” He asked moving his arm like Vanna White down the hall.
“To me.” I mumbled and he fell silent. His buddies crashed into him smashing him against the lockers. I had just enough time to jump out of the way. They were all yelling and grunting like cavemen and they picked him up onto their shoulders and literally carried him down the hallway.
“So much for no parade!” I yelled after him and he just laughed until they turned the corner. I picked up our dropped books and someone slammed my locker shut really hard. I looked up from my books to see white cheer leading shoes. I sighed and stood up straight coming face to face with Diane.
“Hey bimbo.” I said as Diane smiled at me. She tossed her blond hair over her cheerleader uniformed shoulder and laughed. She scoped me up and down, looking at me with jealousy. Her eyes pierced to the point where I shifted from the glare.
“Oh aren't you funny? Make sure to not get loser all over my jersey.” She said and knocked the books out of my hands again.
“Oh don't worry, but to be safe I'll make sure to stay far away from you. Heaven forbid I get slut all over it! What would your parent's think.” I said frowning at her and gave her a puppy dog look. She took a step back in shock at my boldness. No one has ever taken on Diane like this. I don't know if it was the new feeling of dating the most amazing guy, the pep of the whole school, or just the fact I was tired of her s***, but I was sick of her, and couldn't hold back.
“I'm not a slut.” She said her face getting red. She put her hands on her hips, her head wobbling around on her skinny neck.
“Oh really? Then how much did you get paid for laying on you back in Bobby Jones backseat then, whore?” Andrea asked from behind me. Diane's piercing blue eyes flashed away from me. Her nostrils flared and jaw clenched.
“I did not have sex with Bobby Jones.” She yelled. The hallway was silent and everyone heard her and began laughing. I burst out laughing and Diane screamed and stomped away.
“Oh my god! Andrea, that was perfect timing, thank you.” I said as Andrea helped me pick up my books again.
“I've been waiting to use that since she got caught last month.” Andrea laughed.
Despite Diane's claim of not having sex with Bobby, she had been caught red handed by Mr. Cooper, the janitor. Apparently the two had snuck off to the parking lot during a school assembly and were found having a go in his back seat of the car.
“Used what since last month?” Andrew asked walking up behind Andrea. He wrapped his thin arms around her waist. I smiled at them, it was impossible to not to. Andrew and Andrea, even their names seemed to fit, Andy and Andie.
“Her razor,” I said seriously. Ha! I had found the opportunity to get her back from telling Neil about me owning his muscles. Andy got a confused look upon his face and I started laughing. Andrea smacked me on the arm. “That's pay back for the other day when you did it to me.” I laughed. Neil came running down the hall. He jumped into our little group and hid behind us. I laughed as he peered out from behind Andrea. Andrew and him gave the guy nod, as if they always acknowledged each other that way.
“I think I lost them.” He said out of breath. He bent down and put his hands on his knees. I laughed and put my hand on his back.
“Where did they take you?” I asked.
“They carried me to the gym. I escaped out the gym doors after they set me down, and ran back around the school through the Home EC. Door.” He laughed. I shook my head and Andrew clapped him on the shoulder.
“We better go, we have like two minutes left.” Andrea said.
“I'll meet you here after third okay?” Neil smiled as he walked off with Andy. They had first period shop class together. It was nice seeing my boyfriend and my best friends boyfriend already bonding.
“So, get a smooch yet?” Andrea asked when we sat down in math.
“No, but I feel it coming. We almost kissed this morning, but I chickened out and hugged him instead.” I whispered when Debbie sat down in the row in front of us. Andrea rolled her eyes.
“It's been four days! You guys are weird. An hour after Andy took me out we were making out in the back of Rio's Pizza.” Andrea said. I laughed and noticed Debbie was listening. Andrea caught it too and leaned over to me. We normally didn't care that Debbie listened in on our conversations, but since Neil was now my boyfriend, and Diane was her best friend, things have become complicated. I had nothing against Debbie personally. She was actually a really nice person when Diane wasn't around to pollute her brain, but just to be safe we ended our conversation. Andrea glared at her, angry for having to end our talk. Suddenly she sat up in her chair and leaned over close to me.
“I feel so bad for Debbie.” Andrea said loud enough to be heard. I looked at her confused but I seen her right eye twitch in a wink. AH! She was planting a trap!
“I know! I can't believe Diane said that!” I whispered back, watching Debbie's head struggling not to turn around and ask us what she had said. I seen Andrea searching her mind for a story to tell me.
“Poor thing, I would never betray you like that.” Andrea said softly.
“Well, I just feel so bad, I mean, her best friend just giving out her big secret!” I whispered. Debbie gasped and pulled out her cell phone. She turned in her seat, horror on her face. Andrea's head snapped back to the front and we pretended we didn't notice she'd heard us.
“How did you find out?!” She asked, tears in her eyes. Andrea looked at me shocked that we had accidentally stumbled upon something.
“A freshman... told me she was talking about it in the girls locker room. But, surely it's just a rumor.” Andrea said worried about what we'd done. Debbie shook her head, a soft sob escaping her chest.
“It's not?” I gasped. What is she keeping from everyone? What did Diane know that could hurt Debbie this bad?
“I haven't told Noah or my parents. Diane promised me she wouldn't tell!” Debbie cried. Oh my god... What had we done? Oh god, Debbie! Stop!
“Why haven't you told Noah?” Andrea asked totally clueless as to where this story had turned.
“Because! He's not going to want a baby!” Debbie cried out making the whole class freeze.
“Debbie?” Mrs. Obernski asked looking up from her desk surprised at the sudden outburst.
“I need to be excused.” Debbie wailed running out of the classroom. The door slammed behind her echoing in the hall and room.
“Oh my god.” Brittney Putterman whispered loudly. That's exactly what I had been thinking...
Andrea and I walked down the hallway. People had begun to form groups at their friend's lockers and whisper. It was definitely the walk of shame for Andrea and I. I couldn't believe what had happened moments ago. Had we ruined Debbie's life? Did we perhaps take this war between Diane and I too far by bringing her into this.
“It's not our fault. We didn't do anything wrong.” Andrea whispered to herself. She had tears collecting in her eyes and she was doing breathing exercises.
“I can't believe we did that. I just wanted to teach her a lesson for listening in on people's conversations. I just thought maybe we'd get her pissed off at Diane.” I whispered my heart feeling heavy with guilt.
“We didn't do anything wrong!” Andrea repeated a little too loud, making some freshmen jump. I looked over and seen she had tears in her eyes. Andrea was tough, but she wasn't heartless.
“Andrea, it will be fine. No one will blame us. We could just tell her that we were talking about her... shaving her toes. We never actually said she was pregnant, we didn't mean no harm...” I said. Neil was at my locker and I could feel my throat tightening up. His smile came off his face and concern replaces it. He nodded to an empty classroom and Andrea and I followed. What was Neil going to say about what we did?
“What happened?” He asked grabbing my shoulders.
“I take it you heard about Debbie?” I asked wincing. Neil looked back and forth between Andrea and I.
“I didn't think you were friends, it's only a baby. She's not dying of anything.” Neil said confused. His green eyes narrowed as I started crying.
“We did it!” Andrea said bursting into tears. She wailed and leaned up against the door. I looked at Neil worried.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa... I'm missing something here. Last time I checked you needed a male to impregnate a girl. Unless one of you are hiding something from me, please explain...” Neil laughed.
“She doesn't mean like that. Debbie's in our math class and we knew she was listening to our conversation so we were trying to teach her a lesson by telling each other how bad we felt for her, and didn't understand how Diane could tell everyone in the girl's locker room her secret. We didn't know she was pregnant! Honestly we didn't mean to do anything bad! She turned around and told us loudly that she didn't want to tell Noah because he wouldn't want a baby.” I said in one breath. I avoided his eyes, ashamed with our actions. When I finally looked at Neil his eyebrows rose up.
“Wow.” Neil said with a small smile.
“It's not funny! Andrea wailed.
“Actually it is, because Diane has told people. How do you think I heard?” Neil asked. Andrea lifted her head in shock. How was this possible?
“You mean we didn't ruin her life?” Andrea cried into a tissue.
“Um, I think she and Noah took care of that. I thought you two had murdered someone or something.” Neil said hugging me and drying my tears.
“Thank god, I couldn't live with something like that on my conscious.” Andrea said snapping back into her old self. She stood up straight and tossed the tissue away. “What a b**** though!” Andrea yelled now. I rolled my eyes. Just a few minutes ago we were the ones at fault, and she declared we'd done nothing wrong. Now that we were free from blame she was judging Diane. To be fair, we hadn't known about the secret and if we had, we never would have said anything.
“Debbie's going to be mad.” I whispered as Neil rubbed my back. How could Diane do such a thing to a friend? If a friend tells you something like that in confidence you don't go around telling everyone!
“Well that's Diane's problem. We need to get to class guys, we have like a minute.” Andrea said fixing her make-up in a compact mirror. I let out a groan as I came to the realization I had the two girls in my next class.
“I have Diane and Debbie in my next class!” I said.
Andrea wished me luck and walked out, adding if there was a cat fight, tape it on my cellphone so she could watch it later. Neil walked me as far as he could but then had to run to his next class or else he wouldn't be able to play tonight if he was late. I walked into my second period just as the bell rang.
Sitting at my table was Debbie. She looked up at me eyes rimmed with red. I sat down and gave her a small smile.
“Hi Debbie.” I sighed feeling horrible for her.
“Hi, Kathleen. I'm sorry for freaking out on you guys.” She whispered not meeting my eyes.
“I'm so so sorry that we talked like that. I wasn't thinking it was a rotten thing to do. We didn't even know about it, if we had we wouldn't have done it.” I said as class started.
“No it's fine. You guys were right, Diane did betray me. She always has and I just let her get away with it.” She whispered. I risked a glance at Diane whom sat at the table next to us. Her eyes were red and mascara smudged, you could easily see she'd been crying. I noticed people around the room glared at her. She looked over at me. With her red eyes she looked possessed, and to make things worse, the look she gave me could kill.
I invited Debbie to eat lunch with us, it was the least I could do. She seemed thankful since most of her friends had exiled her from the popularity table. I told Neil during the next period that her, Andy, and Andrea would be joining us today. He just smiled and held my hand across the table. I knew he was fine with it.
The whole school was buzzing about Debbie being pregnant. In science Miss. Keats had to cancel our lab today because all everyone did was talk about her and Noah's reaction. Since we were once again working with acids everyone would have to be on their guard but with the gossip flying around people became careless of safety and worried more about what so and so said about it.
Neil filled me in before class that Noah broke the backroom stall in the boys locker room after finding out Debbie was pregnant. Neil apparently tried to help him but Noah then fell to the floor crying. The Coach Cramer came in and picked him up off the floor and carried him into his office. No one had seen him after that and we figured he'd gone home.
It was awkward in science. We all sat there in silence reading from our books as punishment. Neil and I kept looking up and smiling at each other. Every once in a while he would kick my chair by accident or flip his page loudly to get my attention. I smiled over at him and he tried not to laugh.
When the bell rang everyone ran to the door to hear the latest gossip. Neil and I were the last ones out.
“I feel awful still.” I said to him as we walked hand in hand. No one stared at us now as we walked down the hall. We were the least thing people wanted to talk about so we took the opportunity to enjoy the lovely freedom.
“Don't feel bad Katie. You did the best thing for her right now, you welcomed her into your friends, showing her she's not alone. That's something that she need right now, knowing not everyone is going to be like Diane or is going to shun her.” Neil replied. I shrugged. I wasn't up for eating so Neil said he's meet me at our tree. I walked outside to see Andy, Andrea, and Debbie all laughing in the shade.
“Hey Katie!” Andrea said. I waved and took a seat beside Andrea making sure there was room in the circle for Neil when he came.
“So what did she say after you walked up to her?” Andy asked picking their conversation back up. Even here I couldn't escape the gossip.
“She said that it was no big deal and that she had only told a few people.” Debbie replied.
“Are you kidding me?” Andrea asked loudly. Debbie shook her head and looked down in the grass. I scooted over and rubbed patted her back. She smiled up at me thankful and I just continued to comfort her.
“So how are you going to tell your parents?” Andy asked.
Andrea elbowed him, “Andy! Stop you've already asked enough questions! It's none of your business!” She yelled. Debbie cracked a small smile.
“It's okay. I'm sure the school's already called them. I don't think they'll be too mad.” She said.
“Well if they are and you need to let them cool off you can always come spend the night at my house.” I said. She leaned over and hugged me. This day was strange. Here I was welcoming one of my enemy's friends into my friendship.
“Thank you, all of you really. People keep treating me like I have a flesh eating disease. You're the only ones that are acting like I'm normal.” Debbie smiled. Andrea and her started a conversation about prenatal care and I watched as Neil walked across the court yard to me. He sat down next to me stretching his long legs out and pulling lightly on my ponytail.
“Four down, four to go.” I sighed counting down the periods before school let out.
“It won't be too bad. We can crash at my place until the game.” Andrea butted in smiling. Neil pulled on the back of my jersey pulling me into his shoulder. His arm wrapped around me and I could feel my face burning red.
“I'll bring the beer.” Andy joked. I glared at him.
“She can't drink you dumb ass! She's pregnant.” Andrea said smacking him in the back of his head.
“I was kidding!” Andy said. I always say Andrea was in an abusive relationship; Andrea abused Andy all the time, but he loved her so much it never bothered him. We all laughed at Andrea's retort.
“I don't drink anyway.” Debbie laughed.
“Neither do we.” Andrea laughed. I looked up at Neil, as if asking him, who shook his head.
“Good.” I laughed. He smiled at me.
Debbie called her parents on the way to Andrea's house. We had settled on her coming over after school and giving her parents some time to talk things out. She felt like that was the best option so we were going to have a movie marathon. Neil couldn't go because he had warm-ups after school, so it was just the three of us.
“Yes, I am.” I heard Debbie say in the back. Andrea insisted that Debbie road in the back because the front seat had an air bag. Andrea had begun to hover over Debbie like a mother hen, instructing her on proper things to do while pregnant and things to stay away from. I was driving Andrea's car while she road in the passenger seat since I was the only one that had legal license. Andy was in the back seat next to Debbie and hadn't said a word the whole way. Andrea hadn't talked to me since we started for her house. I chewed her out for driving to school by herself when she had no license.
“Mom?” Debbie asked, “I'm sorry.” She cried and Andrea reached back and put her hand on Debbie's knee. I heard her laugh softly, “I love you too. Thank you, I'll be okay. Yeah, we can talk tonight after the game.” She said and hung up. She cried a while before telling us what her parents had said. “My dad is pissed, but my mom is okay. I mean she's not hunky-dory about it but she's not going to kill me. She's gonna help me get to the doctors and she said and she said that things happen and just because they happen doesn't mean that she'll love me any less.” Debbie said smiling.
“Damn, I love your mom!” Andrea laughed, “If I told my mom I was pregnant she'd go all French whoop ass on me.”
“You should know her parents are from France.” Andy finally spoke seeing the confused look on Debbie's face.
“Oh,” She smiled. I pulled into Andrea's driveway and we all piled out. Her parents were still at work so we had free range. I paused on the side-walk to see if my mom was home but our driveway was empty. I followed Andy inside while Andrea showed Debbie around. Andy and I instantly went to the kitchen and raided the fridge and cupboards for all the soda and junk food we could find and went down to the family room in the basement.
“Andrea told me what happened with you guys in math.” Andy said flopping down in his usual lazy boy chair. I sat down in the massage chair and turned it on high.
“I still feel horrible about it.” I whispered.
“I don't think you did any-” he cut off as Debbie and Andrea made their way downstairs carrying three DVDs.
“Keep track of the time.” Andrea said as she uncovered the plasma and popped the DVD in.
“I set my alarm.” I said setting my phone on the coffee table.
“Good.” Andrea said kicking me out of her chair. I plopped down next to Debbie on the couch.
“What are we gonna watch?” Andy asked.
“I don't know I just grabbed the three nearest on the shelf as we came down. There was no label on it.” Angela said hitting play. A French film popped up on the screen but it was far from the French movie Neil and I had seen.
“What the hell?!” Andy asked when a pool boy dropped his pants. We all screamed and covered our eyes as Andrea ran and tried to turn it off. Andrea finally hit the right button the the disc popped out of the player. We fell silent and looked at each other before we busted out laughing. Andrea didn't want to watch a movie after that display and we agreed. I grabbed the UNO cards from the game closet and we all sat around the coffee table.
“I can't believe I picked up a porn tape, out of all the places my parents could hide it, they decided to put it on the DVD shelf. What if Adrian decided to watch a movie?” Andrea shuddered.
“That would have been awful.” I laughed. We then agreed to not talk about it ever again and began our game of UNO.
I rubbed my hands together while Andy ran back to Andrea's car to get hand warmers. The stadium was packed with High School students and people from town. It had begun to drizzle once the sun had set and it had lowered the temperature down to a chilly forty degrees. After a horrible summer it was definitely starting to look like fall! The rain pricked my face like needles as it blew into our shivering bodies.
Neil was standing on the sidelines arguing with Coach Cramer. Cramer yelled something at him and Neil gestured out at the field. Finally Neil just ran onto the field. Cramer was yelling at him to come back but he was trading places with Jason. They high-fived as they ran passed each other. I cheered loudly as Neil was sent in. I kept turning to Debbie and Andrea screaming; “That's my boyfriend!!!” Over and over. It was like I couldn't hold in my pride.
When Neil had said the team was pretty good this year he wasn't kidding! It was the third quarter and we were in the lead by one field goal. The teams were huddled in a time out and I watched Neil jump up and down staking his arms and legs out. They huddled together and I heard them yelling as the other team broke. They lined up against the opponent and Neil's shoulders squared out.
The fans were going wild as the teams slammed against each other, the line standing in a dead halt. Neil lined up his pass to Adam Kosinski who had been taken off defense and replaced Nick Norman, meaning Neil actually had taken my advice and we were now leading in the game. I watched as Neil lined up his arm and let the ball fly. The stadium held their breath as the ball flew through the freezing rain. Adam was running and leaped into the air, snatching the ball from the sky. The stadium became crazy as his feet came back onto the ground and took off. Neil took off after him to run with him to the end zone. This was it. We were finally going to win! Adam dodged a Bomber player as he leaped after him. The kid was left behind as Adam ran. He looked back but his feet never stopped.
“GO! GO! GO!” I screamed climbing onto the fence. I was still screaming as Adam ran right into the end zone. The whole stadium began screaming and stomping their feet on the bleachers. I watched Adam drop the ball and Neil embrace him in a best friend hug.
“TOUCHDOWN TIGERS! TOUCHDOWN TIGERS!” The announcer screamed. I seen Neil scan the crowd and I climbed the fence waving like and idiot. He waved back and I blew a kiss. He reached up as if he caught it acted as if he tucked it into a shirt pocket. Debbie and I laughed and they lined up again.
“You guys are too cute.” She laughed.
“Believe it or not, you just witnessed their first kiss.” Andrea teased.
“Shut up!” I yelled laughing.
The Bloomfield Bombers called time out and everyone got in their huddles. I could hear Coach Cramer and Neil arguing.
“I think Cramer's getting pissed off that we're finally winning for once, no thanks to him.” I said. Andy agreed with me and the huddles broke. I watched the clock. It was now quarter four and we had three minutes left. I heard the cheerleaders screaming their stupid chant.
“TIGERS GO! TOUCHDOWN TOUCHDOWN! TIGERS GO!” It never ended, they just repeated it over and over, on and on.
The teams lined up and you could see the defensive line's tension. Neil called he play and Cramer threw his hat on the ground. Something was wrong... something wasn't approved by Cramer. Neil's not going to follow the play he wanted.
“He's not following Cramer's play!” I yelled. The fans all whispered about my observation. Slowly a chant erupted.
“Neil! Neil! Neil! Neil!” I watched as the players broke, slamming into each other. Neil faked left and seen Adam was down. I gasped as he broke free from the line and ran. He ran like the wind. The stadium was on their feet screaming. Three guys were trailing him but he didn't look back. His long legs barely touched the grounds and his jersey flapped in the wind.
“He's gonna do it!” Andy screamed slamming his fists against the fence. “HE'S GOING TO DO IT!”
A pursuer dived for him but just missed. No one was going to be able to stop him! I watched the clock whittling down. He just made it into the end zone as the clock hit zero. Andrea and I collided in a hugs.
“WE WON!” Andy screamed and he pulled the gate open as the team and fans rushed the field.
“He's done it! The Tigers win! The ten year losing streak is over!” I heard the announcer screaming. I heard nothing after that. I jumped the fence pushing my way through the people and hitting the green. Neil turned and seen me. I began to run down the field.
My sight was set on the one man standing in the end zone. He threw his helmet off and ran to meet me. I screamed as he picked me up and twirled me in the air. We locked eyes and everything disappeared he leaned in, and we kissed just as the dark clouds above burst, letting the pounding rain come pouring down.
“God! I'm so proud-” I said when we broke but I cut off and kissed him again. He broke free and spun me around again just as the team and fans surrounded us. We were pushed apart but I didn't care. It had happened. We had won the game, and I had kissed Neil Clark.
Dad plopped the Sunday paper in front of me and I screamed. My mom and dad were laughing softly behind their hands. In huge print our local paper announced the Tiger's big win. The cover of the year it screamed in bold across the top. I lifted the paper off the table and seen the headline and picture. Neil was lifting me off my feet, his fist in the air, and our first kiss forever documented.
I laughed and ran from the kitchen to the phone in my bedroom. I stumbled up the steps trying to take two at a time. I flew into my room and quickly dialed Andrea. I heard the line pick up.
“Andrea!?” I squealed.
“What time is it?” Andrea asked sleepily.
“It's eleven! Get out of bed! I'm running down to our house!” I yelled into the phone. I threw the phone, not even hanging up.
Running out of my room, I slid down the banister that launched me into the foyer. I didn't care that I was dressed in Spongebob boxers, and an old Tiger tank top I didn't care that I had no make-up on and my hair done up like Pebble Flintstones. I launched myself off the porch running down the sidewalk barefooted. Andrea was moseying out onto her porch. I began screaming and ran through her neighbor's yard. I slammed into her jumping up and down as she took the newspaper from me. She began to squeal and jump with me.
“Oh my god! How romantic!” She screamed pieces of the paper inside flying everywhere. She ran out to her mailbox to get their morning paper and we sat on the porch swing and Andrea read the beautiful article out loud.
“It's been ten years since the Tigers last won a football game, many have called it the Cramer Curse.
“Last Friday night, the Cramer Curse ended. Leading the team to glory was eighteen year old Neil Clark (#16), who abandoned Cramer's plays for his own, and made an astonishing amount of passes! We caught up with the young man after the game.
“Q: What does it feel like to have finally won a game?
A: It's an unbelievable feeling. All of our hard work and endless practices have paid off. I couldn't be more proud of the team. It's been a long fight but we've finally done it. It's exhilarating, I'm just so proud of these guys.
Q: What ran through your mind as you completed that astonishing play at the end of the game?
A: In all honesty I was just repeating run, run, run, run. Over and over it was totally stupid but it seemed to actually work.
Q: Who was that blonde beauty you twirled around before planting one on her?” Andrea giggled.
“He did not say that!” I gasped looking at the article.
“He did I swear! That's what's written!” Andrea laughed.
“Oh just finish it!” I screamed practically bouncing off Andrea's porch swing.
“A: That gorgeous girl is my girlfriend Kathleen Tate. Without her we probably wouldn't have won the game, she made some excellent suggestions for the team that just was perfect. I'm just glad I got to share this moment with her.
Q: Anything else you'd like to say?
A: Hell yeah! Katie, you flutterific beauty, you wanna go to homecoming with me? She probably won't see this until Sunday right?
“And that citizens of Beachwood, Ohio is the words of a champion.” Andrea screamed. I fell off the swing and Andrea dog piled on top of me.
“OH MY GOD!” We screamed over and over. I felt like I was having a heart attack.
“Andrea, oh my god! Did he ask me to homecoming in the news paper that captured our first kiss? I think I'm dying right now. I can't breathe!” I screamed. I sat up putting my head between my legs. I was feeling so light headed and couldn't tell if it was from the excitement or my medication.
Mr. Jones, Andrea's next door neighbor walked out onto his front porch.
“Hey you pigs! Stop squealing! My wife and I are trying to have breakfast and your girly shrieks are knocking my dentures together.”The old man screamed shaking his fist at us. Mr. Jone was about eight-five. He was bald on top of his head with snow colored hair that stuck out on the sides of his head. We always made fun of him for his big bottle cap glasses that magnified his eyes, but he was the nicest old man on the block.
“Oh buzz off Mr. Jones! Katie here just was asked to homecoming in the newspaper.” Andrea yelled holding up the newspaper triumphantly.
“Big whoop!” He began throwing his wrinkled hand in the air, “When I was your age we had dances every Friday night!”
“When you were our age Mr. Jones, man just began to just walk upright!” Andrea yelled back. Mr. Jones always acted grumpy but we both knew he enjoyed our teasing sessions.
“Real funny girls, I'll have to remember that one for the grand kids.” He laughed as he walked back in his house. We could still hear him laughing as he shut the front door. Andrea bounced up and down.
“Oh my god! This is going to be the best bonfire chat tonight! Just wait until you see Diane's face!” Andrea yelled as we bumped each other with our hips and danced in a circle. We used to call it our happy dance when we were younger. It felt strange bringing the dance back from our middle school days.
“I forgot about the bonfire! It's weird having it on a Sunday instead of Saturday.” I laughed as we began to walk to my house.
“Well, since we don't have school tomorrow to celebrate the big win, they moved it to Sunday!” Andrea said.
“I still can't believe it.” I said staring at the front page picture. I looked at the pure joy on my face and his as our lips were together, the rain soaking us head to toe. It was the most romantic thing I had ever seen in my entire life.
“Forever froze in history.” Andrea sighed hugging her newspaper to her chest letting out a long over exaggerated sigh.
“Oh god!” I skipped laughing, “It's so romantic I could DIE!”
My cell phone buzzed in my boxer's pocket my mom had sewn in. I took out my phone to see the message. MESSAGE! MESSAGE FROM NEIL!
“Morning sunshine. Be at your house in like fifteen minutes? Yes or No?” I read aloud.
“Who's that from?” Andrea asked.
“Neil!” I said looking over at her. Andrea's face turned from excitement to disgust as she looked me over. I looked down at the sad state of my clothes.
“Oh man! He's gonna be here in fifteen minutes!” I yelled.
We sprinted into my house and up the stairs. I ignored my mom's protests of running through the house. We spilled into my room and threw my closet doors open. Andrea began tossing clothes everywhere trying to find something for me to wear while I brushed my hair out and did my make-up. I let out a scream as my hand slipped and I poked myself in the eye with my eyeliner. Andrea began laughing as she searched. She finally found something for me to wear and ran over.
“UP!” Andrea said as she pulled my shirt off throwing my lace cami on and made me hop into the matching lace skirt. I pulled a brown cardigan on as Andrea grabbed my foot to pull my socks on. I let out a yell as she pulled my leg and I fell onto the floor. She laughed and yanked on my socks. I felt like a child on the first day of school.
The sound of Neil's truck pulled into the driveway and we began to panic. I brushed my hair and was going to leave but my bangs were in my eyes.
“He's here!” I screamed as I pulled my cowboy boots on. Andrea bobby pinned my bangs in a french braid out of my line of sight and we were done.
A twirl as Andrea sprayed Sweet pea body spray at me and the doorbell rang.
Andrea screamed, “I got it!” as we took the stairs two at a time beating my dad to the door.
“I'll be with Neil. Bonfire tonight. I'll call when over.” I yelled as Andrea hurried me to the door.
“Don't forget to say yes when you run out!” Andrea hiss and threw the door open. It swung open and accidentally knocked up against the wall making my mom shout to be careful.
Neil stood against the porch railing hands in his jeans pockets. He was wearing a black t-shirt that was fitted and a button up shirt, unbuttoned, and rolled up at the sleeves.
“YES!” I screamed as he stepped forward to hug me. Andrea collapsed in a lawn chair on the porch and was huffing from the scramble.
“Yes?” He asked smiling.
“Of course!” I said and he kissed me. Andrea let out a gush of sighs and coos as she laughed from the sidelines.
“You two are as cute as a basket of kittens on May Day.” She said as she watched us.
“Thanks Andrea.” Neil snorted shaking his head laughing.
“So where are we going?” I asked.
“I figured we'd run out to my grandparents and you could watch us guys set up, and then we'd get something to eat.”
“Sounds good.” Andrea said shooing us off the porch.
“I agree.” I laughed as we walked to his truck and Andrea began to walk home.
“Good.” He said once in the truck.
Neil honked at Andrea as we drove by and she waved.
“You look great.” Neil said throwing his arm around me.
“Thanks I was still in my pajamas when you texted.” I laughed.
“No way, you had to of been dressed, I got here in like ten minutes.” He laughed.
“Nope, you'd be surprised what Andrea and I can do in eight minutes.” I laughed.
“One can only imagine.” He chuckled and rolled down the windows, the wind blowing his hair back from his face.
“I can't believe the newspaper today.” I chuckled looking over at him
“I knew.” He said reaching behind my seat and handing me a stack of newspapers papers.
“Get enough?” I asked laughing counting them. There was about twenty.
“My mom went around town and grabbed as many as she could.” Neil said rolling his eyes. I laughed and ran my fingers over the page.
“I figured I'd ask you to homecoming before someone else did.” he joked as we drove out of town on a dirt road.
“Well I accept, that was the sweetest thing ever.” I laughed. He smiled and put his aviator sunglasses on.
“How pissed off was Cramer when he talked to you. I'm sorry I couldn't stay, I had to get Debbie home.” I said reaching up to hold his hand with his arm around me.
“He was pissed to say the least. He yelled at us for not obeying orders and the guys told him to piss off basically. He argued with the assistant coaches and reporters about the Cramer Curse crap in the paper. He's just pissed that no one gives him credit for the stuff he didn't do. Needless to say I've gotten the brunt of it. He's got it out for me I swear.” Neil shrugged as we passed the abandon mill. There were the stoners from school sitting inside getting high as the sun.
“Well, I'm just so proud. I can't even describe how I felt seeing you take that touchdown.”
“Whatever.” He laughed.
“I am! And I shouldn't have the credit you gave me in the interview. It's not like I contributed a bunch.” I said rolling my eyes.
“You deserved it, the guys thought so too. We wouldn't have won if you hadn't suggested to switch out Adam.” Neil replied turning down a paved road. He looked over at me smiling, his dimples almost stopping my heart.
I shook my head and he nodded. I closed my eyes feeling the wind blow on my face. It smelled like freshly plowed land and a hint of cow manure as we past Riegsecker farms.
“Do you think your grandparents are going to like me?” I asked looking over at Neil's handsome face. He lifted his arm and took my hand, settling it on my leg.
“Of course, they're gonna love you! Why? Are you worried?” He asked squeezing my hand.
“I don't know we haven't really discussed the family meeting time, I'm just nervous I'll say something stupid.” I said. Neil laughed and shook his head.
“You won't say something stupid, and I've kind of been nervous about meeting your parents since your dad pulled me over.” He laughed flashing his lights to alert a combine we were passing him.
“Well he was just being a butt head. Believe me, he's already cleaning a place on his desk for an autograph from you.” I joked.
“I hope you're kidding....” Neil whispered.
It didn't take long to get to Neil's grandparents. When we pulled in, half of the football team was already there dragging wood to the huge fire pit. I watched as they pulled a log over from the small group of trees beside an older barn.
The farm was huge. It was an old family farm that had been around for generations, the only thing that had changed was a few additions to the house and a new barn beside the old one. It was beautiful seeing the horses running in the field beside the house, and the barn cats peering out from the windows of the barn wondering what was going on.
Neil's grandfather was out in the yard giving orders, pointing to the flaws in the fire's set up. While his grandmother knitted under an elm tree, watching the boys pulling the log across the yard.
“Ready?” Neil asked. I nodded and we climbed out of the truck. The wind blew my hair back from my face, and made me regret the skirt. It was a bit chilly out here in the open fields.
“Hi sweetie!” His grandmother waved. Neil's ears turned pink.
“Hey Ma!” He called back. Neil's grandpa let Adam take charge and walked over.
“Ma, Paps, this is Kathleen.” Neil said putting his hand on the small of my back.
“Oh boy! Isn't she darling Herb?” Neil's grandmother said as she gave me a hug and a grandma-like kiss on the cheek.
“She's a beauty.” Neil's grandpa said shaking Neil's hand before giving him a hug.
“It's nice to meet you, you can call me Katie though.” I smiled nervously.
“I'm Gertrude and this is Herb, we've heard so much about you sweetie!” Gertrude laughed before offering me to sit next to her as Neil and Herb talked.
“Oh you're just so cute! My grandson's lucky to have a catch like you.” She chuckled.
“Oh believe me I'm the lucky one.” I laughed glancing over at Neil. How in the world did I get so lucky?
“Aw, that's so sweet. How did you two meet? School?” She asked.
“Yep, we're in the same class.” I said thinking that telling her about how I peed my pants and he coming to my rescue would be too weird.
“Oh! So you're a senior! Eighteen?” She asked.
“Nineteen in July.” I smiled.
“Oooo! Almost there huh?”
“Yep! I can't wait.” I said smiling. Gertrude poured me a glass of lemonade and nodded to the guys. The whole football team seemed to be here, working on making the biggest bonfire I have ever seen.
“Never seen so many good looking guys in one place.” She said before filling her glass. I laughed as Neil looked over obviously hearing his grandmother.
“Ma!” He yelled laughing.
“Oh, but no one is as handsome as my Herbie, except you of course.” She replied, “What do you think Katie? They good looking'?” She said pointing to the guys.
“Well I think the best looking guys are the ones right in front of us.” I replied blushing.
“Well ain't she cute.” Herb laughed actually slapping his knee. Neil laughed with him.
Adam turned and yelled for Neil. His grandfather and him went back to the bonfire. I watched as Herb put his hand on Neil's shoulder.
“Oh, they are alike so much.” Gerttie whispered watching them walk away.
“You know Herb looked just like Neil back in the day. Took me one look and I just knew. Course, we had to wait to be married until after the war but, it's the best thing I've ever waited for in my eighty years.” Gerttie sighed. I smiled imagining Herb as a strapping young lad schmoozing the ladies back in the day. “We almost lost Herbie a while back, had a stroke, bless his heart. I'm glad he got to see Neil win his game and meet you. You can't tell but he's a real softy, cried when Neil called telling us they'd won.” She added.
“I can tell you love him a lot.” I smiled.
“Oh dear, with all my heart. I was just like you when I was you age.” She smiled, “I bet the boys fall in line for you.” She chuckled.
“That's sweet, thank you, but not really.” I laughed. She bumped me with her arm.
“Then they are fools, Neil's lucky to have a girl like you.” She smiled.
Neil's grandparents were so sweet. As Neil worked hauling wood they sat and told me how they met, and about Neil when he was little. They used to call him Chester, because he always wanted to be named Chester after his cat. I found out that Neil had an older sister that died when he was eight from cancer. They told me about the Neil who very few get to see. They asked me questions about my parents and childhood. Before I knew it Neil was back, sweat stains on his shirt front and muscles flexing in his arms as he walked over and plopped down next to me.
“See you three are getting along. I hope they didn't tell you too many embarrassing stories about me,” He laughed making sure not to bump into me and wiping his hands with a towel.
“Not at all...” I chuckled, “Chester.”
“Aw Ma! You had to tell her that?!” He yelled throwing his arms up.
“Why not! It's such a cute story.” Gerttie laughed.
“Don't worry, we didn't tell her about the rose bushes.” Herb winked.
“No!! Tell me!” I laughed. Neil covered my mouth with his hand. I screamed and laughed.
“No! It would embarrass him too much.” Gerttie chuckled.
“Aw!” I yelled pulling Neil's hand off my mouth. He laughed and high-fived Herb.
“You boys about done?” Gerttie asked.
“Yeah we're done. I'm gonna steal Katie for a bit. I'm gonna show her around.” Neil said.
“Don't walk to far. She's in a skirt and the prickers are out.” Herb said.
“Don't worry Paps. I'll remember.” Neil yelled as we headed to one of the barns.
“Welcome to my old playground.” He smiled sliding the door open. I gasped at the massive barn. Horses stood still in their stalls, some chomping on oats. Neil turned on the overhead lights and shut the door. My jaw dropped when the lights came on. There were white Christmas lights, twinkling, draped over every beam.
“Neil, this is amazing!” I whispered spinning around slowly to take everything in. A white mare let out a huff and Neil patted her on the nose.
“I used to sleep in here when my parents dropped me off on their date night.” He laughed. He took my hand and lead me over to a ladder. He began climbing and I watched him. “Come on!” He laughed. I was scared of heights, but I couldn't refuse his extending hand. I climbed up after him refusing to look down. He pulled me up on my feet and I let out a whispered wow.
The loft was clean. In the corner was a bunk bed, some old sports equipment was scattered around, but it was the swing that amazed me. Neil smiled and sat me on the swing giving me a little push.
“Needless to say, I spent more time here than my own house, still do.” He said grabbing a beam above him and swinging with his arms.
“It's amazing” I whispered swinging and staring at the twinkling lights.
“Thanks.” he laughed. There was posters hanging on the wall of football players and country singers. A blue rug covered the wooden floor and bookshelves covered the rest of the walls.
“You like to read?” I asked, getting off the swing and looking at the books on the nearest shelf.
“I used to, before high school, but now, football and basketball take up most of my time, not to mention homework.” He smiled, letting go of the beam and walking over. He reached above my head and pulled out a photo album.
“These are from my school days, you might be in a few of these.” He said flipping the book open. I heard a bunch of laughter outside the barn. Neil was standing so close.... he smelled amazing despite being covered in sweat, dirt, and sawdust, he never looked so handsome. He looked up at me.
“What?” He asked.
“Nothing, just looking.” I smiled. Neil laughed and tossed the album aside.
“Looking?” He asked.
“Yep, even covered in sweat and dirt you still look good.” I smiled. He pulled me closer.
“Really?” He whispered before kissing me. I felt his hand brush my cheek before sliding into my hair sending shivers down my spine.
“Yes.” I whispered between kisses. I heard him chuckled before the loud barn door opened.
“YO NEIL?!” A guy yelled out.
“He in here?” Another voice asked.
“What?” Neil sighed, yelling down, still keeping me wrapped in his strong arms.
“Um, we have a problem.” The first voice said. Neil reluctantly let go of me and walked over to the railing of the loft.
“What's going on?” He asked.
“Uh, Diane's here. She's like freaking out. I guess no one told her the fire was tonight. She's pissed and wants to talk to you.” The second voice called.
“Are you kidding me?” Neil asked.
“No, and she won't leave either.”
“Damn.” Neil whispered and looked back at me, “Can't you guys handle it? I'm kind of in the middle of something...” He grinned. I smiled covering my mouth with my fist.
“Nah dude, we tried. She's not moving till you come and kick her ass out.” Voice number one yelled. Neil sighed and mumbled something about a blonde bimbo.
“I'll be right down.” He groaned.
“Okay.” They voices said, and the barn door slammed shut.
“I swear, she won't leave me alone.” he sighed walking over to the bunk bead and picking up a baseball cap. It was getting annoying. She had followed us everywhere since we'd been together, constantly mocking us in the halls at school, spreading stupid rumors about me, and now this showing up somewhere uninvited.
“I could call my dad.” I smiled shrugged. Neil laughed and shook his head.
“That, would be hilarious, but I think I can handle it. Come on, let's get this over with.” He sighed. He climbed down first and I slowly inched over to the ledge. I heard Neil chuckle.
“What?” I asked.
“I should have let you go up first, I can see right up your skirt.” He laughed. I gasped and grabbed at my skirt.
“Perv!” I yelled, but he just kept laughing.
“Come on, use both hands, I don't want you falling off the ladder.” He yelled up. I groaned when I tried to move my left foot and found I couldn't.
“I can't, I'm stuck.” I yelled.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“My boot is stuck!” I said yanking my foot and only succeeding in rocking the ladder. I screamed and wrapped my arms around the rungs.
“Oh man.” Neil gasped. I could feel my chest getting tight. The world was beginning to spin around me and I was worried about fainting.
“Neil?” I yelled slowly.
“I forgot to tell you that I'm terrified of heights.” I yelled, tears welling up in my eyes. My legs began to shake when I looked down at him. The barn door slammed open and Diane walked in. I jumped and the ladder rocked making me whimper. I felt Neil grab the bottom of the ladder to steady it.
“Well, well, well.” Diane said laughing, “I see London, I see France, I see Katie's granny pants.” She chuckled. I was NOT wearing granny underwear.
“Shut up Diane.” Neil said. Gerttie walked in after Diane and I felt my face grow even warmer.
“What's all the hollering' about?” She asked.
“Diane won't leave even though she's not even supposed to be here, and Katie's boot buckle is stuck on one of the floor pegs.” Neil said.
“Oh my god, this is priceless.” Diane said pulling out her camera phone. I heard the shutter sound going off over and over. Gerttie took the phone from her and Neil deleted the photographs.
“Don't you dare, you heard him, go. You're not welcome here. I don't know what ever happened to you. You used to be such a sweet little girl, but you need to hit the road jack.” Gerttie said blocking the camera's shot after she gave the phone back to Diane.
“Wow, you don't know who you're dealing with grandma.” Diane cackled.
“That's it. Guys!” Neil yelled, “She's not leaving so call Katie's dad or something, or carry her out of here just something.” I heard the guys laughing.
“We already took care of it, if she wants her car back she's gonna have to go chase it.” One of the guys yelled. Diane screamed at something I couldn't see, but like the guys said, she took of running. I felt my hot tears fall down my face. Gerttie chased the boys out.
“Katie I'm going to come up after you okay?” Neil said his voice calm.
“Um, okay...” I said my voice shaking. I felt the ladder move a little and I shut my eyes and let out a whimper. Oh my god... I'm going to die. I'm going to die by falling off a ladder. I heard something crying, and then I realized that it was me.
“It's okay sweetheart, you'll be fine.” Gerttie called up to me. I felt Neil grab my boot gently.
“Lift your foot a little.” Neil said. I tried.
“I can't! I can barely move it!” I said tears running down my face.
“Can you slip your foot out?” He asked.
“What do you mean? I already told you it's stuck!” I said.
“No! Your actual foot, take it out of the shoe.” He said. I frowned, I hadn't thought of that.
“I don't know... I'm scared I'm gonna fall.” I said. Neil climbed higher so his arms were around me.
“Hey,” Neil whispered in my ear, “it's okay, trust me. I won't let you fall.” He whispered and rubbed my back. His warm breath was on the back of my neck and his voice soothed me. I was shaking like a leaf but I nodded and he climbed back down. “Count of three okay? One. Two. Three.” I felt his hand on my leg. I pulled and he pulled. My foot was firmly stuck in the boot at first, but on the third try it popped out. I felt my breath come out in relief and Neil slowly guided me down the ladder. When I finally reached the ground Neil turned me around and hugged me tight. Gerttie rubbed my back as I cried.
“Poor thing. I'm scared of heights myself, she must be shaking out of her boots.” Gerttie laughed elbowing me playfully. I cracked a small smile and let out a small laugh. Neil gasped, “Oh my god, was that a smile?”
“I believe so!” Gerttie said walking out. I laughed again and Neil used his thumbs to dry my tears.
“You okay?” He whispered.
“Um, I think so.” I said looking back up at the ladder at my boot. I couldn't breath as I looked up at how high I was just moments ago.
“I'll get it.” Neil said letting go of me and climbed up the ladder. My legs were shaking so bad, and I still felt off balance with my heart pounding in my stomach. “Got it!” Neil climbed down. I took a deep breath to calm myself. “You good?”
“Yeah, um... I need something to eat... I'm...I'm feeling... funny.” I said.
“Funny? Like fainting funny? Or scared funny?” Neil asked.
“Um, both.” I said. Neil immediately scooped me into his arms.
“I'm sorry Katie, I shouldn't have let you go down on your own.” He whispered, his eyes staring at me with concern. I felt my feet grow warm and tingly.
“Neil if I go out, you need to support my head, and prop my feet up okay? I might be out for a good two minutes but as long as you do that I'll be good okay?” I whispered. I suddenly felt nauseated. I moaned a little. Wow, way to make an impression, please please, please don't pee... I felt my arms go heavy. Noooo! Not now! Not here!
“Neil!” I slurred. I began to get that panic feeling, like I was falling into the dark hole. My sight grew fuzzy and tunneled. I could hear Neil yelling, but my hearing grew muffled. I could hear the blood in my ears pounding and I groaned. My body went very cold, I felt my arms and legs go slack, my head and neck next. My heart thrummed in my ears and my face grew really hot. Muffled voices began to clear. My lips began to tingle as my throat gagged on my tongue.
“Katie? Katie?” I couldn't answer back. Neil turned my head hearing me gag.
“Give her some room.” Gerttie said. My fingertips tingled along with my toes. I couldn't tell if I wet myself yet, but I felt myself coming to. I felt tears slipping out of my eyes, but I couldn't see.
“I'm okay.” I mumbled. “Just little more time...”
“Alright Katie, I'm right here.” Neil whispered. I blinked to get the tunnel vision away. I could move now and I moved my feet a little and I let out a sigh of relief. I hadn't peed myself.
“Can I sit up?” I asked. Four football players lifted me up. I put my head between my legs, not giving a gooses behind about who seen my underwear.
The fire was warming my face, my hands still felt cold and shaky. Neil sat behind me with a blanket wrapped around us both as the student body the fight song. Neil leaned in, his face burying in my hair. I turned my face and he smiled at me. The fire reflection danced in his green eyes, setting the gold flecks around his pupils glittering. He took my breath away every time he stared at me like this.
“You scared me Katie.” He chuckled. He hugged me tight and kissed the side of my head.
“I'm sorry, I don't know what happened, but I think I freaked out and my blood pressure spiked, then it just dropped after I got down.” I whispered closing my eyes and resting my forehead on his jaw.
“Could be.” He said staring into the flames. Andrea and Andy sat beside us whispering and giggling, while Debbie sat on her own across the fire.
She sat on a plaid blanket with a water in her hands. She stared down at her stomach and then into the big fire. I felt my heart sink as I looked around the fire. Everyone was sitting with their girlfriend or boyfriend except her. I clenched my jaw and wished that she would be happy.
“What?” Neil asked.
“Debbie.” I whispered quietly. Neil rubbed my arm.
“Yo! Neil! Speech!” Adam said is face painted like a tiger. He had a Tiger striped flag tied around his neck like a cape. I snorted while everyone joined in chanting “SPEECH!”
“I don't know what to say!” Neil yelled over them, wrapping us in the blanket more.
“Just give us a speech, it could be the Gettysburg Address for all I care!” Adam laughed. Neil sighed. He sat for a minute thinking.
“Four score and seven years ago, I don't even know if that's right but, a hell of a long time ago Beachwood High School became a place of losers.” The team booed, “People gave up on us, said we were cursed, hell no one really comes to watch us play, but last Friday night we made history.” Neil began, “We told the curse to go to hell because we, the current students of Beachwood High are not losers.” The crowd screamed and clapped. “We picked ourselves up, brushed off, practiced... a HELL of a lot, and we made what some would call a miracle. We proved to everyone who laughed, to everyone who like to pants Tony, our wonderful mascot who is Mike Dawson, we stood up and we proved we are NOT losers. It took a lot, many of us wanted to give up but we didn't and now we see what we can accomplish, and I say, we keep working our asses off and we go out there every Friday night and continue to prove once more, we our winners.” Neil finished. I screamed and clapped with everyone and Neil just smiled. I turned and kissed him. He was right. We weren't losers.
“Tickets! Get your nice paper tickets! Come on, Homecoming's a week away!” Andrea yelled, “You! Yeah you! The one with the tuba! Did you get you ticket yet?” Andrea yelled in the courtyard. I had signed us up to sell tickets and Andrea was getting crazy about selling the most. Her loud voice echoed in the square courtyard.
“No.” The poor kid said looking worried.
“Why the hell not?” Andrea yelled.
“I forgot my money.”
“Well what the hell? You better get your ticket tomorrow punk.” Andrea yelled as he walked away quickly.
She watched as the kid practically ran away.
“Andrea! You're scaring people.” I whispered. She took a big breath of air through her nose.
“Ah, I love the smell of fear in the morning.” She said slipping her sunglasses on.
“Andrea... it's almost one o'clock. It's not morning anymore.” I sighed.
“Really? Really? What are you a Nazi? Are you a Nazi Timelord? Do you control time Katie? No? I didn't think so!” She asked. I laughed and shook my head as Adam walked up to buy tickets.
“Hey.” He smiled at us as if wondering what Andrea was raving on about.
“Hey Adam! What's up?” I smiled.
“Nothing! Nervous for next Friday. I don't know how long the winning streak is going to last. We're getting pretty tired.” Adam said as I gave him his change and Andrea gave him his ticket.
It had been four weeks since the first game. The Tigers had won every game since, and this Friday was the most important... Homecoming.
“Aw Adam! You guys are doing great!” Andrea said.
“Thanks but Cramer is killing us. He benched Rick yesterday because we were running Neil's drills.” Adam sighed.
“Dude, what is up his ass?” Andrea yelled. The whole courtyard looked over at us.
“I don't know, but I gotta go. I'll talk to you tonight.” Adam sighed and walked off.
“We need a party. Look at us!” Andrea said motioning around the courtyard.
“We can't have a party. Teachers are dumping us with so much homework! Not to mention getting everything ready for homecoming. I haven't been out with Neil since last week! He's totally swamped with football, and our AP classes. Then he really does have Cramer up his ass making him work concessions for the middle school games. ” I sighed. Diane walked into the court yard laughing at something one of her drones said.
“Oh come on! Halloween is two days away! Screw homework! Screw our education! Screw, screw, screw! I want a damn Halloween party!” Andrea yelled. I was laughing quietly as many people got up to leave the courtyard, staring at Andrea. “That's it! My parents are leaving for a convention for work. We could use the house! I'm having a party! Be there or be square!” Andrea screamed.
“I don't even have a costume! You only have two days to get ready! Are you nuts?” I laughed.
“Why yes.... yes I am.”
“Andrea, I don't think we should do this! Mrs. Bloom only gave me the key to the copy room in case we needed more tickets! I don't think your party fliers are tickets.” I whispered as I kept lookout.
“You're such a priss. Don't you feel the adrenalin? Don't you like being a rebel? Smashing the rules that society has set? Do you know what it's like to liiiiiive?” She chuckled as the copier spit out flier after flier until the orange paper ran out. She grabbed me by the arms and shook me back and forth making us laugh in hushed tones.
“Andrea, you know I love you very much, but you're crazy.” I whispered. She snickered as she shoved the fliers in her book bag. The hall light flicked on outside the door.
“Mayday! Mayday! Abort mission!” Andrea whispered running into the supply closet dragging me behind her. We had just shut the door when Mrs. Looms walked in. She opened the copier.
“Hm.” She said picking up a paper.
“Oh s***. My original!” Andrea whispered. I smacked my hand over her mouth.
Mrs. Looms didn't give it a second glance and threw it in the recycling basket. I let out a sigh of relief. Mrs. Looms turned and looked creeped out, and Andrea and I held our breath. She went back to work shaking her head. Pressing the go button on the copier she waited for her copies.
“I swore I just filled this...” She said when it beeped. Andrea laughed silently. Mrs. Looms walked from the room and we spilled out of the closet. Andrea snatched the original from the recycling, and we bolted into the hallway.
At my locker Angela gave me half of the fliers and we started to put one in all the senior's lockers. We almost got caught by the janitor but Andrea started talking to me in French and I went along laughing like we were having a conversation until he passed by with his cart. Soon every senior, except Diane, and twenty-five specially selected juniors had a flier for Andrea's party.
“Mission accomplished.” I said and we got out of the school before we were caught.
“Lady Gaga?” I yelled sorting through the racks of costumes at Toledo's party store. Andrea was in the dressing room already trying on her picks. I tried to imagine myself in this ridiculous looking bubble dress. No, this was not my costume.
“She's so last year.” Andrea said, and I moved on. “What do you think?” Andrea said walking out in a hoochy French maid costume....
“Um... it's ironic?” I laughed. Andrea turned and said something dirty in French and we cracked up. I shook my head in disbelief at how confident she was in herself.
“I'm getting it!” She laughed. I rolled my eyes once she was back in the dressing room. I went back to searching on the racks. Andrea came out and began to search for me. She let out a yell, threw a costume at me and shoved me in the dressing room. I looked down at the costume.
“No way!” I yelled trying to get out but Andrea was pushing on the door, locking me and this too sexy costume inside. I could never wear anything like this, no way!
“I'm not letting you out unless you try it on so I can see. You won't even need to wear a wig, your hair is blonde enough!” She yelled back. I growled and pulled the dress on over my head. I kept pulling it down, the hem was way too short. I knocked and Andrea peeked in and gasped.
“You have to get it Katie! You have to! Look at those legs!” She screamed then added, “Look at those boobs! Dang girl! You got it goin' on.” She yelled and I blushed looking in the mirror.
“Okay... I'll get it.” I laughed.
“We have fifteen minutes until our big debut.” Andrea giggled as she did her make-up, “Make sure to get those lips real red.”
“I am, you're going to have to draw my beauty mark, I give up.” I said rubbing off my eight try.
“Fine, I'm done. How do I look?” She asked standing up in her French maid costume. She stuck her butt out and pouched her lips out.
“Like a French whore.” I replied unamused. She narrowed her eyes at me and then smiled.
“Perfect, give me the eye pencil.” She said tilting my head back.
“Be careful! It took forever to get my hair curled like hers, don't ruin it!” I yelled slapping at her hands.
“Okay! Sorry! I'm done!” She said.
“Perfection.” I said as we stood in her full length mirror.
“Andy's gonna pee his pants...” Andrea chuckled shimming in her outfit.
“I don't know what Neil will think. I'm showing a lot of skin. I never wear things like this. My shortest piece of clothing is fingertip length. I don't think I can do this Andrea...” I whispered turning to look in the mirror. I gulped at the amount of skin showing.
“Yes you can... Halloween is the one night you can be a slut, which you're not, you look very classy like a president's mistress or something, very classy, and not worry about it.” She said winking.
“Very puny.” I said as she laughed.
“Well, JFK was the hottest president. I'd do him.” She said. I rolled my eyes. There was a knock at the door and Debbie slipped in. I wrinkled my nose at the thought but Andrea's scream cut off my retort.
“Oh my god!!” Andrea laughed. Debbie was dressed in a red soccer uniform, and a pillow was stuffed up her shirt.
“What? I'm a soccer mom?” She laughed. We all rolled with laughter as she began dancing and thrusting her pelvis. She almost fell to the floor laughing at the ridiculous dance move that made her fake baby belly bounce.
“Anyway, we're ready, everyone's in the foyer! Andy and Neil right up front.” Debbie laughed. Andrea pinched my butt and I smacked her hand.
“Just turning your sexy mistress button on. Remember what we practiced Marilyn Monroe.” Andrea winked and we walked to the stairs. Debbie went down first and everyone laughed.
“Toodles!” Andrea said going next, her long legs, walking down sexily. I heard hoots and whistles. They fell silent as they waited for me. I pulled my white dress and my hands were shaking. God! What in the world was I thinking. Why did I ever agree to this? Why oh why!?
“Neil's down there... go, go, go.” I whispered as I took my first step. I walked to the small landing and Andrea kicked on the small fan, making my skirt blow out like that iconic Marilyn image. I instantly blushed and tried to keep my skirt from blowing all the way up. The room was quiet and I froze... all those eyes staring at me. I gulped and out of nervousness instead of taking the stairs, I sat on the railing and slid down the banister.
“Dang.” Someone yelled as I landed on the floor bumping into a devil and a Superman.
“Holy s***! Is that Katie?” I heard someone ask as the room burst into howls, hoots, and whistles. Superman steadied me.
“Thanks.” I said looking up. Neil had a crooked smile. His black hair was gelled and he left a small curl dangling on his forehead.
“All in a days work Miss. Monroe.” Superman Neil said.
“Let's party!” Andrea screamed. Neil swooped me into his arms as we headed outside.
“Damn Neil, how'd you land a bombshell like her?” The devil who was Adam winked. Neil turned hiding me from Adam.
“Hey no looking. She's mine.” Neil laughed. We entered the backyard which was lit up with bat and pumpkin lanterns. Angela had sent all the neighbors out to dinner so we wouldn't disturb them. Someone turned the music on full blast and Andrea unfolded the dance floor that we borrowed from the family center downtown.
Neil set me down and looked me head to toe.
“It should be illegal to look that hot, stay away from the bushes, we don't need you to light them on fire.” He said in my ear. I blushed and he kissed me. I laughed and when we broke apart I seen he had a red smudge on his lip. I rubbed it off and he laughed. Since he had looked me head to toe I took back to examine him.
He puffed his chest out, fists on his hips. “Oh no!” I said.
“What?” he asked, looking worried.
“I seem to be in distress.” I gasped swooning. He rolled his eyes and strode over, dipped me and planted a kiss right on my lips. I giggled as he moved to my neck before pulling me back up.
“You should have come as the devil.” I said squeezing his arm.
“Duh, because you're hot as hell.” I winked. He laughed and pulled me to the dance floor his cape fluttering in the breeze. I suddenly realized that his costume wasn't padded. His sculpted arms, legs, and torso were all his. I blushed suddenly and he lifted my chin.
“You blush entirely at the wrong times, I can tell exactly what you're thinking.” He whispered in my ear. Of course this only made me blush more. “Come on, let's dance.” He whispered. I froze. Andrea seen my face and slapped her forehead.
“Um...” I said, Neil looking at me confused.
“What?” He asked.
“Um... I don't know how.” I whispered. Andrea walked over sighing.
“I knew we forgot something.” She said tsking to herself.
“Don't worry, just follow my lead okay?” He said. Andy and Andrea danced beside us.
“Okay, I'm going to put my hands on your hips okay?” He said nervously.
“I'm supposed to be the nervous one. I laughed. He smiled and put his hands on my hips gently.
“Kay, now, just like.... I don't know... wiggle... that's all dancing is.” He laughed.
“Just, uh.... dance!” He laughed.
“You're supposed to be teaching me.” I laughed.
“It's complicated!” He said.
“Oh move over!” Andrea said pushing Neil out of the way.
“Happy dance.” She said.
“Now?” I asked looking at Neil face red with embarrassment.
“Yes now.” She said. I sighed and we started the happy dance. We bumped humps.
“STOP!” Andrea said. I froze and watched her bump hips with the air, dancing. I mimicked her and she started to add more. Moving her arms, neck, wobble, it looked ridiculous but looking around, everyone was doing it.
“Okay, continue.” She said going back to Andy. I still felt awkward as Neil and I danced but soon it just felt right. My hands found his shoulders, his on my waist. If I could see myself I would have ran with embarrassment but when I was with Neil, his hands, and body guiding mine, I was perfect.
We didn't notice the song change until people began slow dancing. The floor cleared a little as singles stood on the edges. Neil's hands slid together, wrapping me into his strong arms. I rested my heard on his shoulder listening to the beat of his heart. It was racing, keeping pace with mine. I lifted my head and looked at him.
“Are you okay?” I whispered as Train's Drops of Jupiter blared from the speakers. Neil nodded and looked down at me. His green eyes darted from my face to the sky above us.
“What?” I asked my hand sliding into his short hair. His breath came out shaky and my heart dropped. This was almost like that part in movies when the guy bolts, so you pull out the tissues and ice cream and sob. At least that's what it felt like. “Neil?” I whispered getting nervous.
“Katie...” He mumbled.
“Yes?” I asked. He struggled with words. I felt like I was going to start crying any second.
“Katie, I love you. It sounds so stupid and completely cheesy right now cause I'm dressed as Superman for crying out loud. I'm wearing tights, and this was how I planned on telling you, I had this all worked out, but I couldn't help it. I couldn't not tell you, because you're so beautiful tonight.” He burst out. My mind hit rewind and I felt my breath and tears halt in place. I was not expecting this, and I froze. His ears began to turn pink and I couldn't talk so I just slammed a kiss on him, parted lips and all. His arms relaxed and we stood there under bat and pumpkin lanterns, Train asking me if I made it to the milky way. We stood there in the middle of the floor french kissing in front of everyone. I pulled back with my hands touching his cheeks softly. He smiled huge and kissed me again.
“Neil I'm in love with you.” I said breathless, “I love you.”
He pulled me into him again, kissing me. He made me feel like I was floating among the stars above us. His hand tangled into my hair and I felt his fingertips gently tilting my head back to the perfect angle. At one point I swore I felt his beautiful lashes brush against mine.
“Whoa, get a room guys!” Andrea laughed next to us. I didn't break the kiss, but I did give her the finger.
“It's so cold! I'm freezing my boobs off!” Andrea yelled as we sat on the cold bleachers at the Homecoming game. She bounced in her seat rubbing her hands along her arms.
“We wouldn't want that to happen, god forbid!” Andy said grabbing her boobs. I heard a scream and a thud. She'd elbowed him right between his legs. Andrea began to apologize over and over, but I was too absorbed in the game to care. I watched as the time ticked down and halftime started. People filed out of the bleachers for the concession stand and the bathrooms. Andy went to get us hot chocolate and I sighed. I watched the row of injured players hobble off the field. Some of the boys were on crutches after being crushed under a mountain of Bulldog players.
“I'm worried...” I whispered looking at the line of injured players.
“He's fine! He's tough!” Andrea said squeezing me. I looked out at the marching band performing, but I was still freaking out. We were losing, and Dillard's Bulldogs were making our boys drop like flies. A blow to the knee here, a body slam there. The refs ignored them, I guess they got tired of calling penalties for what they did call. Neil sat on the bench rolling his shoulders. He'd taken a hard hit, but he stayed in the game. He took off his helmet and I seen him wince at the pain.
“I don't know Andrea...” I whispered. He lifted his hand and rubbed the back of his neck. The band began to finish the halftime show.
Quarter three began and Neil jogged back on the field. Andrea held my hand as the huge bulldogs plowed over our defensive line. The people in the stands gasped as the players dived for Neil.
Neil lined up his throw and a freshman lineman gave up against the three hundred pound monster he was supposed to block. The player looked like a charging bull as she ran down the field. Neil didn't even have a chance to look at him. I screamed as the monster plowed into Neil, his head whipped back and the monster ran him down. I watched in horror as the guy's cleats slammed into his chest and his helmet was kicked off to the side. Andrea and I stood up, and I started crying.
“NO!” I screamed. The stadium fell silent as we waited for Neil to rouse like he had done earlier. The game was stopped, and the monster jumped up his arms in the air like he had scored a touchdown and coming back down on Neil's chest. I screamed in horror as Neil didn't move. Adam ditched his crutches along with his helmet on the sidelines and streaked onto the field. The assistant coached held him back. I could see his hands on his head as he was pacing.
“Get up.” Andrea whispered, me screaming in the silence. The monster was shrugging as his coach screamed at him running to help. Adam walked over and punched the large player in the face and the teams rushed the field in a brawl. I heard sirens and I flew down the bleachers. I slammed into a senior but he let me go.
Cramer stood near the gate, just staring at the field of what happened. His face was shocked and he shook his head in terror. I pushed him out of my way jogging his attention. He tried to grab me but I pulled away hitting him in the face by accident. Diane was standing feet away and tried to touch me but I pushed her down. I tore off across the field to Neil. He hadn't moved since he was attacked. Something wasn't right about this. My brain was working quick enough to figure it out so I ignored it and ran to my boyfriend.
“Neil!” I screamed bloody murder flinging myself beside him. His face was blank, eyes open and staring up at the sky. I screamed, oh god... he was dead. An assistant coach tried to pull me away, but I shoved him off of me. “GET OFF OF ME!” I screamed at him. Paramedics were rushing around putting a neck brace on, and unwrapping a tube. I screamed in horror as they put it down his throat and he didn't move. They squeezed the end that looked like a giant turkey baster. They didn't move him until they got a board and strapped him to it. I took his hand holding it tight. His eyes were glassed over and he wouldn't look at me as I wished him to. Adam pulled me up from the ground, his hand bloodied from fighting.
“Katie!” He screamed shaking me by my shoulders, “He's going to the hospital, let the paramedics do their job. Come on. Andrea called your dad, we're following them in the squad car.” He yelled at me. He grabbed my face in his, and connected our eyes. Neil's hand slipped from mine as the paramedics carried him away from me.
“I can't leave him!” I cried as the ambulance burst through the gates and drove onto the field. “This is bad Adam. Bad.” I sobbed as he pulled off his chest pads. Adam looked at me with tears in his ice blue eyes.
“Come on, stay strong! I see your dad. We'll meet them at the ER come on.” He said nearly carrying me away. He was limping but he happened to have no pain. He wrapped his arms around me, holding me up as I struggled to walk. Neil was dead... his glass lifeless eyes seared into my mind forever.
My dad appeared and pulled me in tight. I was stumbling trying to see through my tears.
“Dad! I... he's...” I sobbed. He stopped me and began to carry me in his arms. He loaded Adam and I into the backseat telling Adam to hold onto me. Adam took me into his arms, and held me tight whispering over and over, “He'll be okay.” I couldn't move, I was crying so hard my body wouldn't let me move. He wiped my face, whispering in my ear, trying to help. I clung to his hands and shoulders as he hugged me.
“Oh Katie.” Adam said running his hands down his face, drying his own tears.
I felt numb. The TV in the waiting room was on a home shopping network and I watched as a knife sliced through a pop can. Adam and I sat on the couch in the waiting room. My head rested in his lap, his resting on his hand, staring at the ER doors. We both had jumped up every time they opened, only to be disappointed. We hadn't heard anything from the emergency room, we didn't even know if he was dead or alive. Adam's fingertips ran down my arm, his eyes drooping in sleep. He'd been staying awake to keep me calm.
I watched my dad pace behind us. I looked at Adam's blank and hopeless face. God only knows what was going through his mind. Neil and him had been best friends since they could walk. I felt Adam's fingers tangle with mine. I took a deep breath trying to soothe my nerves. It was six in the morning and I hadn't slept since this time yesterday. Adam looked down at me and our eyes met. I could see the sadness in his eyes. He looked so broken. He closed his eyes and began humming in a soft beautiful voice. I closed my eyes calmed by the sound of Adam's even breathing, and dozed off.
My eyes cracked open, seeing the waiting room dark and Adam crying. He'd gotten up somehow without waking me. I opened my eyes and watched Adam as he dried his tears. I pulled his hands away. His jaw flexed before finally broke down. I sat up and Adam stood sobbed. I wrapped my arms around him and we stood there hugging.
“Katie, what am I going to do?” He cried, “He's all I got.” He whispered. I swallowed back my tears.
“He's going to be okay.” I whispered standing up. He sat on the ground crying. I sat down beside him. He leaned into my shoulder.
“I can't help it.” He whispered trying to stop crying. The poor kid was everywhere, his mind not letting him rest. He stood back up, and walked over to a stone pillar in the middle of the room. He rested his forehead on the cool rock.
“I told him to sit down. We had no hope of winning. I knew something was going to happen. I just felt it.” He muttered. Adam had felt the same feeling I had?
“You couldn't have stopped him Adam. He didn't want to let the team down. You know it's been his personal mission to prove to you guys that you mean more that what you're given.” I whispered. Adam let out a scream and slammed his fist into the pillar. I winced as the his hand cracked, and Adam howled in pain.
“I'm gonna kill that jackass. And the refs. What the hell were they there for? Cramer just freaking sat there. Watching us get pummeled sending in second string, then third, then freaking thirteen year old freshman? We should have forfeited. Like a thirteen year old was going to block freaking Ford? That dumb ass was too rough! Now look, he's nearly killed Neil!” Adam scream collapsing on the ground. I burst into tears and he looked over at me and sighed. He crawled over and we cried until we could cry no more and then we just laid on the floor staring at the ceiling, both numb from our broken hearts...
Gerttie woke me up, telling me to keep quiet because Adam was sleeping. I sat up from our spot on the floor. I noticed Adam had wrapped his coat around me sometime when I was sleeping. I untangled our hands slowly and Gerttie and I walked outside. I could feel my tears building up once more. My throat grew tight and I couldn't speak.
“Have you found anything out?” She whispered her voice cracking. I shook my head pressing my lips together tightly.
“Adam and I have been here since the game. I don't even know how long we've been here. I don't even know what today is. I can't remember much.” I whispered choking on my held back tears. I inhaled the cool night air.
“Two days. It's Sunday night.” Gerttie whispered. Two days? It had been that long?
“Where's Herb?” I asked drying my tears.
“Home... he... he hasn't left the bedroom. Takes all his meals there.” She whispered. I hugged her and she burst into tears. She cried loudly, “My baby, my grandson.”
I held her as she shook with sobs. The sliding doors opened and Adam walked out stretching. He noticed that Gerttie was entangled in my arms and walked over.
“Adam.” Gerttie whispered and let him join our hug, crying in his arms. My dad pulled up in his cruiser.
“Gerttie, your husband called, he said he needed you.” My dad said. Gerttie let go of Adam and me and walked to the car. She looked at Adam and then nodded once toward me. I looked over at Adam who nodded once and his jaw clenched. Take care of her... it was that nod.
“I'll call you if we find anything out.” I said. She nodded and with and I love you from my dad, they were gone. Adam stood beside me as I looked at the stars.
“I'm about ready to bust those doors down.” Adam whispered staring through the glass windows of the ER.
“I tried... they're solid.” I whispered back staring up at the cold moon. Adam looked over at me and I gave him a small smile. Adam started to laugh and I began to giggle along side of him. If felt good to laugh a little.
“Bet ole Gerttie could bust em down, she packs a good punch for and eighty year old.” He said after we had stopped laughing.
“I seriously don't doubt it. I'm being honest too.” I said smiling. Adam laughed and we walked back inside. We sat down watching the evening news, but Adam shut it off before the sports. All that would be on would be coverage of Neil's incident. The ER doors swung open and Adam and I didn't even glance. By now, we'd given up. There was no point on getting our hopes up for another let down.
“Um, are you here for Neil?” A small nurse asked, her eyes wide with worry. Adam and I jumped up. Adam grabbed my hand and held on tight.
“Yes.” I said. A scrunched look came on her face struggling for words. I lifted my hands to push back a silent scream. This was it... she was going to whisper how sorry she was...
“What?!” Adam screamed breaking the stagnant silence. The nervous nurse jumped and wrung her hands.
“Neil's in a coma. He's suffered major damage to his brain. He's alive, but we can't tell what the outcome is at this time is at the current moment, until he fully wakes up.” She whispered. I let out a gasp and Adam held me. He was alive... he was alive.
“Can... can we see him?” Adam asked.
“I'm sorry, he's been through very major brain surgery. He can't be seen by anyone but his parents at this time. We want to keep any chances of infection out. I'm really really sorry, I can't imagine. I can't give out any more information, the family just wished for you to know the basics of what is happening.” The nurse said her voice cracking. Adam nodded.
“So it would be best to go home... until he can be seen?” Adam asked slowly. The nurse nodded swallowing and biting her lower lips.
“Okay, can we leave our numbers so we can be called if anything changes?” Adam asked.
“Yes, I believe the family has listed you as contacts so you may call at any time and find the state of him of course you will only get the basics.” The nurse replied. We nodded and she walked away. Adam hugged me as the ER doors opened once more and she disappeared.
“He's not dead.” I breathed squeezing Adam so tight. Adam lifted me into his arms laughing and crying at the same time.
“He's not dead.” He whispered back.
The days didn't seem to end. Each day there was no progress of any kind. Neil hadn't woke up, he hadn't moved, he hadn't had any activity on the brain wave monitor. They were beginning to fear he wasn't ever going to wake up. If he did he probably would never speak, move, or function normally again.
I sat at my desk starting at the screen saver of Halloween. He stood there in his Superman suit, fists on his hips and staring off into the distance. I smiled and ran my fingertip across his lips. I felt the tears slip and I was once again crying.
School was awful. I walked down the hall, my side cold and lonely. People looked at me as I carried my books close to my chest. Their sad eyes never left me alone anymore. Pity, sympathy, hope, anger, curiosity, every emotion you can think hid behind there glares. The school didn't even bother playing the next Friday, all the team players quit the team. Coach Cramer threatened to kick them off if they didn't play, so they just turned in there jerseys. They apparently told him they weren't going to play without their coach.
No one had said anything about the game publicly. No one really needed to seeing that everyone had been there, and the few who hadn't seen it on the news or internet that night. There was even videos that floated around of the sick moment. Why someone would want to watch them I wouldn't know, but they were there. Whispers began floating around that it hadn't been an accident at all, and I became uncomfortable going to school anymore.
I gave up going for a while, until the initial shock wore off everyone. My dad had cleared it with the school board and Adam even joined me in my leave. His parents had left for vacation three days after the accident without Adam. Adam wouldn't leave without knowing what was going on with Neil. My dad eventually told him that he wouldn't be allowed to stay at his empty home anymore, and told him he was staying with us until he came home. I'd gotten close with Adam since Neil's accident. After all he was all I had who really understood what I was going through. Andrea would come over after school and want to tell me about all the latest gossip, but I just couldn't handle it so she eventually stopped coming around.
I was slowly falling apart... I couldn't handle not knowing if he was going to wake up and be okay.
I woke up, staring at the calendar in my face. I counted. Four weeks. No call. I dressed myself on autopilot, and went downstairs. Adam was asleep still, on the air mattress in the living room. I sighed and felt bad for him. I was beginning to wonder if his parents were even coming back. I picked up the phone dialing the number from memory.
“Fulton County Hospital, healing and saving lives, how may we help you?” Jeanie asked.
“Hi Jeanie,” I sighed. Jeanie asked me how I was doing. I said fine just like everyday.
“I'm sorry honey,”Jeanie said, the words for not allowed yet. I sighed and said thank you just like everyday. I hung up the phone and my mom watched me from the doorway. She'd stopped asking what they said two weeks after it happened. What's the point in asking anyway? The answer was always the same. I made breakfast for Adam and I.
“Hang in there sugar.” She whispered as I passed her. Adam was now awake, putting the air mattress back in the basement hallway. I handed him the plate and we sat on the couch silent. He was cutting up his sausage and I studied him.
Adam's parents had left on a cruise. How could you do that? Just leave your kid in his time of need like this?
“You going to school today?” Adam asked as we ate.
“Nope.” I said looking at him.
“Good, I don't think I can take the faces today.” Adam whispered. We had been going back off and on to see how things were progressing but people still stared at us. We had stuck together now on the days we did go.
“Tell me about it.”
We stared at the TV that was turned off. I seen Adam eye the remote in my dad's chair but neither of us had enough oomph to get up, so we watched the turned off TV.
“What do you think our chances of sneaking in and finding his room are?” Adam asked.
“Slim. The place is filled with staff and security cameras. We'd have to take a staff elevator without a visitor key card.” I sighed. I had already thought of this plan and asked my dad, he gave me the response I'd given Adam.
“This sucks.” Adam whispered.
“No, forgetting your homework, or your pants, peeing your pants, fainting in the middle of the musical, or running into the flag pole in front of the whole town sucks. This..... this is torture.” I whispered feeling tears building up in my eyes. Adam put his arm around me, squeezing my shoulder.
“I think I'm gonna visit Herb and Gerttie today. I haven't seen them since Thursday.” I sighed, “Wanna come?” I asked.
“Not really, I was gonna run to my house for a while,” he said. I nodded and stood.
“What for?” I asked.
“I don't know, just miss my room I guess.” He smiled.
“Nothing wrong with that, talk to you later.” I said walking over to the hall closet.
“See ya.” He said as I slipped my flip flops on. I walked outside immune to the chilly temperature. I had been sneaking out of my room to sleep on the roof so my parents wouldn't hear me crying in my sleep. Chilly wasn't going to stop me.
Driving on autopilot is dangerous, but my mind was all over the place, thinking about everything. I didn't really realize I was zoned out until I pulled into Herb and Gerttie's driveway and couldn't remember how I got there so fast. I groaned seeing their car was gone. They were probably at church. They've been going everyday praying for Neil, and surprisingly, praying for me. Gerttie told me during my last visit that I'm like the daughter she never had. We were family, and family prayed for each other.
I put the car in park debating what to do. If I go home I'd just lock myself in my room and watch TV. I couldn't go to school, like Adam said, I couldn't stand the sad stares people gave me. I couldn’t go into town or my dad would pull me over asking me how I was and giving me the stages of grieving talk. I sighed and looked in the review mirror. The saddest eyes I'd ever seen stared back at me. I opened my door and walked to the barn. I pulled the heavy door open, the horses all shifted in their stalls to look at me.
Making sure I left my flip flops at the foot of the ladder, I began to climb. I didn't care about what had happened last time. I didn't care if I fell off and died, I didn't care if I got stuck, I just wanted to be close to him anyway I could. I climbed the ladder, the height not even bothering me. Up in the loft I just stood there, unsure what to do, or why I'd come up here.
I walked over to the swing, sat down and pushed myself to get going. It was here, surrounded by all of Neil's things that I finally knew exactly how much I missed him. I stopped on the swing and I burst into tears. I rested my head on the rope and sobbed. I couldn't control my tears, or the sounds coming from me, I just broke down.
What if he never woke up? What if he woke up but couldn't remember me? What would I do? I know I'm in high school, I'm eighteen, have my whole life ahead of me, but I found Neil, and Neil had found me. I didn't want to loose him.
He's shown me the beauty of love and how it changes a person's life. I never dreamed that I would crave a boy to just gently touch my cheek. Or dream about his smile, or the way he said I love you standing in a superman costume. In a corny way Neil was my superman. He was my laugh, my heartbeat, the wind in my hair, the goosebumps only he could give me. Neil Clark was the one. I felt it in my bones and I know every teenage couple says that, but I knew this was real. Neil Clark was my other part of me. Something that everyone searches for their whole lives. I clawed at my arms trying to grip what I felt inside of me, holding me back from running to the hospital.
I wiped my tears and walked over to the bunk bed. I lied on the bottom bunk the pillow and blankets smelling of him. Lying there all I could do was watch the empty swing, swing back and forth until it finally came to a stop. I listened to the stomping horses, their huffs, and chomping. I closed my eyes and pictured the day Neil had taken me to the movies. I watched behind my eye lids him balancing on the backs of the seats as he hopped from one isle to the other instead of using the seats. I watched him swing his head under the bleachers the day he came and resused me, the night we kissed in that freezing rain.
“Hi sweetie.” Gerttie said her head popping up into the loft.
“Hi Gerttie! I'm sorry to intrude.” I said sitting up and wiping my tears away.
“Aw, it's no problem you know you're welcome.” Gerttie said taking a seat next to me. She gave me a small hug and I smiled.
“Oh boy, I haven't been up here in ages. I'd forgotten how beautiful it was up here.” She whispered putting her hand on my knee.
“I got here a while ago to come see you guys, but you were gone so I thought I'd wait but I lost track of time.” I laughed.
“Oh it's okay, we were just over at Ben's house having lunch.” Gerttie said smiling. Ben was Neil's dad, Gerttie's son.
“Any news?” I sighed.
“Well, he's breathing on his own now, and some of his hair has begun to grow again.” She whispered. I felt the jab in my chest as I pictured his beautiful hair gone. I know it would grow back, but it was just another piece of him I'd lost.
“Have they let you see him yet?” I whispered.
“No the doctors are waiting for the incisions are some what healed. When that happens they will let family in. I'll fight for you and Adam since you are his family. They just don't want any Tom, Dick, or Harry walking in and out of his room.” She sighed patting my knee.
“I just wish I could see him, but I'm scared to see him in a weird way, to see him like that.” I whispered pulling Neil's pillow over so I could hug it. I rested my head on the end and stared down at the floorboards.
“I've been preparing myself, I know he isn't going to look like before, since they've shaved his head for the surgery.” She said licking her lips. She sighed and shook her head sadly.
“He's still going to be handsome.” I sighed smiling. She laughed loudly.
“He will.” She laughed patting my knee.
“Do you mind if I stay here a little while? I just want to look at some photos he mentioned from elementary school.” I asked.
“Nope I don't mind. I'm gonna go back inside and let Herbie know that I found you. Stay as long as you want. Feel free to walk up to the house if you need anything sweetheart.” She said and slowly climbed back down.
For some reason, just lying on Neil's bed seemed better than looking at pictures. I lied there until night fell.
I marked another day off my calendar, red Xs covered the pages. It had now been six weeks since I had last seen Neil, and I didn't know if my heart could take another day. I didn't bother going downstairs to call anymore. I picked up my cell and dialed Jeanie.
“Hi Kathleen!” Jeanie laughed.
“Aw, Jeanie, I'm sorry, I know I'm bugging you everyday but I can't help it.” I sighed rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
“I know sugar.” Jeanie cooed.
“So? Any news?” I asked.
“Actually, Neil's doctor seen you have been calling everyday and... I pulled some strings, talked with his parents and the doctor agreed that you could visit once a day for about one hour. I'm still working for your friend, he's just worried about Neil's condition.” Jeanie said a smile in her voice. I began to cry, was I dreaming. I pinched myself hard, and didn't wake up. I tried again and I could see a blood blister beginning to form. I wasn't dreaming.
“Jeanie! Oh my goodness, I'm not dreaming! Jeanie! You're... you're the best! I can't thank you enough! Thank you Jeanie, you are my angel.” I cried into the phone.
“I have never done this for anyone, but any girl who calls everyday for her sick boyfriend deserves to see him. I've never ever had someone call with so much love. I'm so happy that you didn't give up.” Jeanie said her voice cracking, and her sniffles told me she was crying.
“I'll be right over.” I laughed with tears rolling down my cheeks.
“Alright sweetie, stop by on your way back. I'd love to meet you if you don't mind.” She said.
“Oh I will! Thank you!” I said.
“No problem bu-bye.” Jeanie said.
We hung up, and I ran to my parents bedroom. My dad had already left for work but my mom was still in bed reading. She looked up at me when I ran into the room.
“Mom! I can go see Neil!” I said crying.
“They're finally letting people seeing him? Go wake Adam up!” My mom said jumping out of bed. She hugged me and kissed my forehead.
“No, mom, that's the problem! Jeanie, the woman I call every morning, has been asking the doctor I guess for a while, and he caved but he's only allowing me an hour, and only me until he gets better more. How am I gonna tell Adam though? It'll break his heart.” I sighed wiping guilty tears away. I breathed heavy as I tried to think of a easy way of telling him what was going on.
“Honey, you just go. I'll talk to Adam. He'll be upset but he'll come around. Go now before he wakes up. He slept in the basement last night it was cooler, I guess.” My mom said handing me her keys I kissed her goodbye. I grabbed the keys to my car off the side of my desk and snuck downstairs. The door to the basement was open and I felt guilty just looking at it.
“Don't kill me Adam.” I whispered as I pulled out of the driveway.
When I pulled up at the hospital I realized I was in my pajamas, boxers and an old t-shirt, but I could care less. I jogged into the cold hospital and searched for a little map they hang next to the elevators. I knew what wing Neil was in, but not what floor. I sighed remembering what my dad said about needing a visitor's card to get into the wing. I guessed that Jeanie would be the one to have the key card so I went out in search of her.
I backtracked around to the main entrance desk. I didn't know what Jeanie looked like since we never met, but there was a younger woman sat at the large desk typing on her computer. She was blonde, fair complected, and wore thick framed glasses. She didn't look up from the computer when I stopped in front of the counter.
“Jeanie?” I asked. The woman looked up and smiled large. Her blue eyes instantly lightened up and met mine.
“I'd know that voice from anywhere! It's wonderful to finally meet you!” Jeanie cried running around her huge desk to hug me.
“Thank you for everything you've done. I came as soon as we hung up, and I forgot to get dressed.” I laughed wiping away my tears of joy.
“Have you been up yet?” She asked.
“Well that's why I'm here, I'm a little lost. I don't have a key card. I heard you needed a key card to get into the wing.” I replied.
“Oh I forgot! We keep that wing off the map so people wouldn't go gawk. I'll write down the directions for you. I'll call ahead and let them know you'll be up so you won't need a card.” Jeanie said.
“Thank you.” I said. She pulled out a legal pad and began writing. By the time she finished I had memorized half of it.
“Good luck honey, and remember, he's beat up, but he's gonna make it.” She smiled. I left the information desk and walked over to the nearest set of elevators. Inside it was darker than the lighted lobby, and it wobbled as it shot up through the building.
I rode to the sixth floor. I walked past a million rooms, saw one too many butts peeking out from behind gowns, and heard the sounds of many machines whizzing and beeping. I passed a room with boy my age covered in burns from the neck down. His eyes met mine and he smiled small. I felt my heart squeeze for him, and praying for Neil that he wouldn't be as bad. I walked up to some locked glass doors. A nurse walked over and let me in.
“You must be Kathleen. Bless your heart. Jeanie called to let us know you were on your way up. Your sort of a celebrity around here. What you did calling for Neil every day.” The nurse smiled
“It's nice to meet you.” I said.
“My name's Ann. I'm Neil's nurse. Before you head in I need you to know a few things. The first visit is always the hardest, not many people know what to expect, but I'm gonna give the gist of his equipment. He had a heart monitor on, a feeding tube down his throat, it doesn't hurt him, he's got quite a few other small machines to measure blood pressure, rates and other data periodically.
“Moving on to his looks. He was shaved for surgery, and there is about a four inch incision, but you won't see that for a while. At the moment we have him wrapped up, but he has bruises still healing since his ribs were crushed basically. I know this is a lot to take in, but to you have any questions so far?” She asked. I was shocked, my eyes burning with tears, no one told me everything that had happened. Ribs were crushed? Four inch incision? What had that monster done to Neil?
“Um, can I touch him? Like hold his hand?” I whispered letting the tears in my eyes fall.
“Well that is what I will talk about next but the answer to your question is yes, but only is right, his left is connect to machines. Moving on we need to go over procedure before we go in. I have a bag for you. Get to know it, you're gonna have to use everything inside it before you can go in. Let's see,” She said pulling out the bag and dug around inside, “You have your scrubs you'll need to wear over your clothes. If you're wearing long sleeves make sure your sleeves are tucked into these, same for pant legs, today you don't have to worry. A hairnet, we can't let even an inch out. After you do all this you will have to scrub your hands up to your elbows with our special soap. Um, what else,” She sighed digging through again, “Oh, booties for your shoes, a mask just in case you're carrying a virus. No jewelry that dangles, necklaces, charm bracelets, dangle earrings, studs are fine. Nothing should be brought in, like flowers, cards, balloons, you get the idea, those tend to carry the most germs from being handled so much, so we just want to make sure, and then of course you have one hour until he's been cleared,after he's been cleared you'll then have normal visitor hours. When you are done, come out, scrub hands again. I know it's a lot but we're just trying to keep him safe.” She finally finished. I hoped that didn't count as part of my hour. She talked for like twenty minutes.
“Yes, I've got it, and I understand all of it.” I said
“Okay then sign in and you're all set. I'll be with you for the first few minutes in case you go into the shock of it all, like I said the first visit is the hardest.” She smiled. She showed me where to scrub up and dress. I walked out and modeled striking a pose.
“I'm gonna knock his socks off.” I said nervously, thinking about how hard he would have laughed at me right now. She held my hand, because when we inched to his door I began to shake.
“Okay ready? Now remember honey he's still Neil. He may not look like it at the moment, but in time she should look like his normal self. In time his bruises should heal. Ready?” She whispered.
Ann eased me into the room. Machines whizzed, beeped, and rang. I almost wanted to shut my eyes, but then I seen him. He was so still, he looked asleep. His head was wrapped in white bandages healing bruises were on his face, arms, and neck. I covered my mouth seeing the tube down his throat, was taped to his face. Oxygen tubes were in his nose. Tubes and wires were everywhere. I let out a small sob and Ann but her hand on my shoulder.
“Go on sweetie.” She whispered letting me go. I walked over to the side of his bed, taking a seat in the chair nest to his bed. Ann left and I began to cry.
“Oh Neil...” I whispered grabbing his limp, cold hand. I squeezed but he didn't squeeze back like usual. “Neil...” I cried. Maybe I wasn't as prepared for this as much as I thought I was. I don't know what I had expected. The only time I seen people in the hospital, was when they were up in a bed, and eating gelatin. But I knew what a coma was. I'd watched crappy soap operas before but they never showed their characters hooked up to all these machines with tubes all over the place. Neil looked so weak, for someone who had always been so strong.
“Neil, I don't know if you can hear me but if you can, I love you more than anything in the world. I've called everyday to the information desk to see if I could come see you. I got on a first name basis with the receptionist, Jeanie. She was the one that got me in here. They wouldn't let me in except for your parents and family. God, I've missed you so much Neil. Adam is staying at me house. I tried to let them allow him, but I had no luck. The football team, I'm so sorry to say after all the work, fell apart. Adam quit, most of the seniors and juniors quit. They said the only coach they're gonna follow is Coach Clark.” I laughed. People would think I was crazy talking to myself, but I felt as if he could hear me. “God Neil, I miss everything about you, your laugh, smile, smell, heart beat, you got me wrapped around your finger boy.” I laughed kissing the back of his hand. “You should see the get up they're making me wear, you thought Halloween was sexy, boy, nothing is sexier than scrubs, hairnet, and shoe booties! Drop dead sexy right there.” I snorted tears falling from my eyes. I rubbed my thumb on the back of his hand. I finally just sat there and watched him breathe quietly. I wished those beautiful eyes would open, smile like he used to, whisper how much he loved me in my ear, and then kiss me.
“Sweetie, you have ten minutes” Ann said her head popping in.
“Okay, I'll wrap up.” I said.
“You can kiss on the cheek if you'd like.” She said before walking away.
“Well Neil, I gotta go, my hour is almost up. God, I love you Neil, with all my heart. I'll see you tomorrow.” I whispered in his ear before gently kissing his cheek. “Come back soon, I need you.” I whispered before leaving his room. There was no response as I had hoped. Neil laid on the bed frozen as if nothing I had said or did even made a difference.
“You okay?” Ann asked.
“Yeah, it was tough at first, but he's Neil, my Neil, he's no different, just a little, well not a little, beat up.” I sighed.
“I'm proud of you. You did amazing. We have people all the time loose it over people that aren't half as bad as Neil; tough cookie in there. I just can't believe how much that kid did to him. Neil's truly a miracle.” She whispered smiling at me. I changed, scrubbed up, and left with giving Ann a promise I would see her tomorrow.
My front door was wide open when I get home. I cautiously walked in to see my mom sitting at the kitchen table, looking upset.
“Mom?” I whispered. She looked up from her hands.
“Well, that wasn't fun.” She whispered.
“What happened?” I gasped seeing the broken glass on the floor.
“We sat down at the table. He was already upset because his parents called telling him they'll be gone for another month. I guess they are having fun. Anyway, I told him, he started crying. I tried to comfort him, but he was pretty pissed off, which I can understand, but he threw his glass of water and just ran out of the house like two minutes ago.” My mom explained. I sighed sitting down at the table.
“He's gonna hate me.” I sighed rubbing my eyes.
“He'll get over it eventually. You tried to get him into too, but they said no. It's not your fault. Don't worry. How was the visit?” My mom asked.
“Rough,” I sighed.
“Well, I think that was implied. How’s he look?” She asked taking my hand across the table.
“Well, he has wires and tubes all over. They have him on a feeding tube, so there's a big pipe stuck in his mouth and taped to his face. His head was wrapped with bandages, but Ann told me he had a four inch incision. Bruises head to toe all over. I guess Ford crushed his ribs. It was terrifying at first. He didn't move and he looked dead. Not even like sleeping, because when you sleep you still move, but he was stone still.” I whispered. My mom was quiet. It was really weird.. to see my mom seriously speechless, a first.
“I think you should go pay Andrea a visit. You've talked but you need some girl time. Round up the girls and go shopping. You need some new clothes.” She said smiling weakly.
“I don't think I'm up for shopping, but I think I will go talk to her, maybe go see a movie or something.” I said.
“Okay honey, I'm gonna call your dad so he can keep an eye out for Adam.” My mom said. I nodded and walked upstairs to change into normal clothes before walking down to Andrea's.
She answered the door on the second knock. I was nervous at first since I hadn't talked to her in a while, but she seemed normal as ever.
“Hey! Debbie and I were just coming to get you! I figured we could drive into Toledo and walk around the mall for a while.” Andrea said smiling. I had the itching feeling my mom had set this all up.
“Sounds great!” I lied.
“All right then! “Andrea said locking the door after Debbie.
“So... I finally got to see Neil today.” I said once we were in the car. The car went silent. I was getting tired of so much silence.
“How was he?” Debbie finally asked breaking the silence. I told the whole story, stopping only once for Andrea's stupid question of if he had a hot nurse.
“It was just hard, you know, seeing him look so weak and defenseless. It's just not like him I guess.” I sighed.
“He'll be fine, the worst if over. It's all downhill from now on.” Andrea said as she ran over a curb. I realized that she was illegally driving yet again, but I was in no mood to lecture.
“Adam was pissed when he found out I was only allowed to see him. I feel like s***. Neil's like his brother and I'm his girlfriend for what like three and a half months? I get to see him and he doesn’t?” I whispered.
“He'll be fine, you know how Adam can be. He knows it's not your fault, and besides he never worked for it. Like you did calling everyday.” Debbie sighed.
“Yeah he can be a butt head.” Andrea said. I knew they would never understand until they had the feeling that Adam and I have had through the past few months so I changed the subject.
“I know, so how's school?” I asked.
“Crazy! There's a petition to fire Coach Cramer. There's a rally organized to picket the Bulldog's school for an arrest for fat ass Ford for assault on Neil, and another at the OSHAA to fire the refs who were there. I hope they get Ford. They showed a replay of what happened and he really legally tackled him, but when he got up you could see him like jump on his chest and head, so that is considered attempted murder. My aunt's a lawyer, and she'll probably be Neil's parents lawyer. I hope they slam everyone for the most they can get.” Debbie said as Andrea pulled onto the highway cutting off a semi truck.
“I just don't understand why that kid that to Neil. Out of all the guys on the team, why him? If he did it on purpose what was in it for him? I mean did he seriously think he wasn't going to get caught or what?” I asked.
“Because, Neil was the heart of the team. He took down Neil, and now look at the team. They were worried we'd get to state instead of them.” Debbie said looking in the review mirror at me.
“But why not give a blow to the knee? That would have him out for the season! But it almost seemed like Ford genuinely wanted to kill Neil.” Andrea said as we passed a truck pulling a trailer of piglets.
“True... none of this makes sense because the refs weren't calling penalties either, except when we did something wrong!” Debbie yelled.
“Well Adam told me that Coach Cramer never argued about the no calls. Now Cramer's a dumb ass, but he still watches football, he knows the rules. He just sat there and watched. He didn't even help Neil after.” I said.
“Whoa. Kathleen, you aren't suggesting that Cramer planned this are you?” Andrea gasped. I opened my mouth to comment but paused. Was I? Was I really thinking he planned this? Why else would he have acted so strange that night?
“Think about it. Neil basically took over his team and succeeded. He was already getting pissed off royally when Neil was doing extra practices without him there. Neil was getting credit for the wins and then Cramer snaps, calls the Bulldog's coach says he'll pay them if they do as much damage as possible to the team and more specifically Neil and the dog's coach puts in the biggest guy he could find, and Cramer pays the refs to look the other way. It's a lot easier that it sounds. It's been done before.” I said angrily. The car fell silent. Andrea gripped the wheel tightly and Debbie shook her head in shock.
“We need proof. We have nothing to prove that he really did it. For all we know Ford could have done it because he had a crush on you. Men are pretty stupid, but I do say that it makes sense. That day we were sitting in the stands and Neil stood up to Cramer, I thought we were going to witness a murder. We'll talk to your dad tonight. Maybe he'll get some clues if we tell him our theory.” Andrea finally said.
“Sounds good.” I replied.
“Hey guys, the pregnant lady's hungry.” Debbie interrupted. We all cracked up and stopped at Arby's.
I'll admit, if you want to get something off your mind, the mall is the perfect place. So many sounds, smells, and deals to look at that your brain doesn't have time to think about anything else. I watched as unfamiliar faces passed by, not knowing what was going on in my life, and I knowing nothing of theirs.
I was inching my way over to the Pretzel Palace when Andrea screamed and pulled me and Debbie into the shoe store. I hated shoe shopping. In my mind shoes are just there to protect your feet. I didn't care if they were cute, I cared if they'd get me through an Ohio winter.
“Look at these boots! They are so adorable!” Andrea squealed.
“They look like you're wearing cats on your feet!” Debbie said scrunching up her nose.
It was true, they looked like a caveman made them. They we're completely made of fake brown fur. The minute Andrea stepped in snow or water they'd be ruined.
“Aw come on! They're sheek!” she said.
“You'd regret it after you buy them. They'll be ruined by some water or snow, they're useless.” Debbie said looking at the pair Andrea held in her hands.
“Well... I didn't think about that.” Andrea replied putting them back on the shelf disappointed. I stepped out of the store and waited for Debbie and Andrea to get finished looking at baby shoes.
I sat on the side of a large fountain just outside the shoe store. I pulled my phone out and sent a text to Neil:
Kathleen: Hey Hun, what are you up to?
My heart squeezed tight as I heard the message send. I'd forgotten that there would be no answer. I could feel my tears building up inside.
Okay so maybe the mall can't make you completely stop thinking about something. I wiped away tears, and turned my phone off so I wouldn't absent mindedely text Neil again.
I looked into the fountain and seen change settled down at the bottom. How many wishes were settled down there that would never come true? How many of them were for wealth, fame, love...
I sighed and pulled a penny out of my change purse.
I closed my eyes, turning the penny over in my fingers. I rubbed it, feeling the metal heat up from the friction.
“Please, please, please let all of this come out right, please. I'm begging I just want everything the way it was before the game.” I whispered rubbing the penny before tossing it in the sir. The mall was silent in my ears until I heard that small plop and opened my eyes.
“You know, I don't think you're supposed to say your wish out loud honey.” An old man said to me, as he sat down on the fountain's wall a quarter away from me.
“I didn't realize,” I replied looking over at him.
“Don't worry, I'm sure it'll be the same. I didn't mean to poke my nose in, but you look like that girl from the newspaper! You go to Beachwood?” The old man asked.
“Yeah, I was with my boyfriend Neil.” I said smiling politely.
“I'm from out there. Some smooch that was! Made me wish I was young again!” The old man laughed.
“Aw! You're not that old, you're like what thirty?” I said smiling and he smiled and let out a snort.
“I like you doll face.” He laughed banging his wooden cane on the floor. When he smiled all his wrinkles on his aged face smiled too. He wore a porgies pie hat, white hair stuck out on the sides. He was short in height, and he had a white mustache beneath a large nose.
“So how's your boy doing? I seen the paper said he was hurt pretty bad.” The man asked.
“Um, not good. They did brain surgery to release the swelling. He's in a high security like germ free wing at the hospital. His ribs are all broken, and he's in a coma, but I'm happy he's just alive.” I whispered. So much for forgetting...
“Gees! I'm sorry Doll face! It was stupid of me to ask. What a kid though, must be real strong.” The man said. I swallowed back my tears.
“Um yeah, he really is.” I whispered nodding.
“I'm Marvin by the way.” The old man said extending his hand for me to shake.
“I'm Kathleen.” I said smiling, and took the man's rough, calloused hand. It was obvious that he had worked with his hands all his life.
“Nice to meet you.” Marvin smiled.
“Nice to meet you too.” I replied. I seen Andrea and Debbie walk to the counter with three shoe boxes.
“Well Marvin, it was really nice to meet you, and I hope you have a great day, my friends are just finishing up!” I said smiling.
“You have a good day too, and don't worry, it'll take time, but he'll be okay. Just keep praying, I'll do the same. Good luck.” He said before I stood.
“Thanks! Bye!” I called out as I walked over to my friends.
“Who was that?” Debbie asked.
“Marvin.” I said.
“Marvin?” Andrea asked.
“Yeah, we just talked for a bit while I waited for you guys.” I said as we continued on.
“That's nice.” Debbie said.
“Yeah, he was a good guy. He recognized me from the newspaper.” I said. Amanda laughed.
“HOW?! You two were sucking face so hard you couldn't even see your face!” She giggled.
“Nu-uh!” I yelled making her laugh harder.
“You were on Halloween.” Debbie chuckled.
“Okay I'll give you that one...” I chuckled my face turning red.
I silently wondered when the next time Neil and I would kiss like that again. Debbie must have noticed my face, cause she reached over and took my hand gently squeezing.
“You should see the shoes we got! They are absolutely adorable!” Debbie squealed taking out a box and pulled out a red ruby pair of slippers just like the pair off of The Wizard of Oz.
“Um not trying to be a downer, but what if the baby's a boy?” I asked. Andrea's face went blank, Debbie's too.
“Oh man. I didn't think of that...” Debbie whispered laughing.
“Oh well, just keep the receipt, if it's a boy you can exchange them, but it's gonna be a girl. The world doesn't need another stinky old boy.” Andrea laughed. I broke a smile and too began laughing.
“Agreed.” Debbie said.
“I don't know. I always said I want a girl, but now I think I want a boy.” I said.
“Why?!” Andrea asked.
“I don't know. I guess so I could raise him to be a gentleman. You know, teach him the way to treat some girl right. The stuff that we girls always complain about that the boys don't have now. It would just be so amazing to watch him turn from a boy to a man.” I shrugged.
“Debbie, you better have a boy now... just think about it. If all women did that we wouldn't be having the problems like we do with boys.” Andrea said.
“We could literally program them...” Debbie said creepily with an evil laugh.
“Well, I figure that if he looked anything like Neil too that we'd have cute grand kids.” I smiled. They fell silent.
“Oh boy you do have it bad.” Andrea said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You are thinking about you guys having kids, and not only kids, but grand kids! You really are in love...” Andrea whispered. I nodded looking away hiding my tears. I had dreamed of our kids when he was always afar and I was watching him. Thinking about how lucky they would be to have a father like him. Now I hadn't thought about our life after his coma. Would we even have a life together after this? And with that thought I burst into tears making Andrea and Debbie drop their bags and hug me.
“Oh Katie! I'm so sorry! I wasn't thinking!” Andrea said squeezing me tight.
“What if he never wakes up? What if he doesn't remember me? What if he's paralyzed? What if he's gonna die? What am I going to do?” I cried as I cried into Andrea's shoulder.
“Oh god Katie! I don't know how to answer any of those questions. No one knows but Neil and god, and if god knows, then Neil's in his hands.” Andrea said beginning to cry.
“Aw guys! You're making me cry!” Debbie said sobbing.
So there we were. Standing in the middle of a mall in Toledo, sobbing like crazy. Yes, people were staring. But did we care? Hell no! We all needed to cry. I had been holding all these questions inside, never asking anyone but myself, and it felt good to ask out loud and to just cry with the people I loved.
“Come on. We need a s*** load of ice cream.” Andrea cried, wiping her snot on her sleeve. We walked arm in arm to the food court, but I never fully stopped fully crying.
It was snowing outside the day of Christmas. It had been a month since I had first started going to see Neil. The roads had begun to close because of the snow so I left early to head to the hospital. I had visited Neil everyday since I was let in. When I had school I came after it was let out, and now that I was on Christmas break I spent most of my days there. At first my hour long sessions had been lengthened after the doctor met me, and Neil's parents allowed me to stay. Now, he had been cleared from the germ free unit and was placed in another ward, allowing people to visit him. I had visiting hours now and I had to admit it felt good to spend my days with Neil again. Even though he couldn't talk back, or move, he was still there. And every once in a while when I let my guard down it almost seemed as if there was a flicker of something move on his face, but after I blinked it was back to normal.
I finally made it to the hospital after a long drive through the snow and parked in the garage. I pretty much had a designated parking space since I was always parked there and there wasn't too many people that didn't know about me anymore. I walked through the halls and the nurses would wave hellos and ask how Neil and I were doing. When you live in a small town people have a tendency to know everything about your life even if you don't know each other. You hear things...
The room was dark when I finally got there. Neil was laying there on his back facing up at the ceiling, eyes closed and only his chest moving up and down slightly.
“Hey Neil! Merry Christmas!” I whispered taking the chair beside the window and pushing it over beside his bed. I opened my bag and pulled out a water bottle and some decorations my mom had bought. We had already decorated his room for Christmas, he had a small desk tree on the side table, lit up with small lights, paper chains around the windows, lights wrapped around the back of his bed. It was the best we could do with him being in a hospital.
“Mom got more decorations... which it didn't make sense for me since today is Christmas! It's a little late but they're these little window stickers. Cute though.” I sighed tossing them aside. I reached out and took his hand. I rested my chin along the railing of his bed and watched him. He swallowed and I smiled small.
“I miss you so much...” I whispered, “Debbie's belly is starting to stick out. She's getting a little baby bump. Nothing big, if you didn't know she was pregnant you wouldn't notice, but... she's getting there.” I said.
The machine beside me beeped steadily monitoring his heart beat. I closed my eyes and focused on his breathing, his hand in mine.
I was happy that he was slowly getting better. It was a good sign that he was taken out of the germ free center and put in his own room, allowed to have people visiting, it made me feel as if we were having some kind of progress. I heard someone walk into the room and I opened my eyes.
“Hey!” I said smiling up at the nurse.
“Hi Katie. You should be home, there's a blizzard heading our way. Most of the roads are closed now. I don't know if you'll be able to get home as it is.” She said. I grabbed the TV remote and turned it on. The news reported that there was a level three emergency for the snow. I was stuck at the hospital.
The next morning my neck was sore from sleeping in the little armchair next to Neil's bed. I opened my eyes and looked at Neil. He laid on his side and one of the nurses must have moved him in the middle of the night and I smiled. He looked like he was sleeping this time. It was hard seeing him like this, and I hoped that he would wake up soon.
I looked around the empty room to see the sun streaming through the windows. I stood up and stretched out my crooked back. I watched small flakes fall from the sky adding to the astonishing amount of snow that was already outside. There had to be at least three feet of snow out there.
It was Valentine's Day, and I stopped at the hospital gift shop to get fresh flowers and something for Neil's room. I browsed the selections many teddy bears with band aids, bandages, casts, and any other medical problem you could think of, but buried in the back on the top shelf was a football bear. He had dust on his ears but the number on the jersey was why I grabbed it. It was sixteen, Neil's number, and my lucky number, it was perfect. I paid for the bear and the flowers and headed to Neil's room, no longer in the glass germ free ward.
“Hey Katie!” A few nurses called out.
“Hi girls!” I called back. Dr. Anderson passed me.
“Oh Katie, there's fresh coffee in the break room, and Brenda brought in Valentine cupcakes so help yourself.” He called walking backwards to face me.
“Okay doc, thanks!” I yelled.
“No prob!” He yelled before he turned the corner.
“Katie can I talk to you?” Zoe, one of the intern nurses, asked ask I passed the nurses station.
“What's up?” I asked.
“My sister's birthday is tomorrow and I still don't know what to get her. Andy ideas for her gift?” She asked.
“Hmm... I think she'd like a new journal. She mentioned that she'd need a new one pretty soon the last time she was here.” I said smiling.
“OH! Yeah! I should have thought of that!” She said smiling.
“Oh well, hey I'll see you later!” I said smiling.
“You're welcome!” I yelled. I made it to Neil's room, but I stopped outside the door seeing Diane was in there.
“Oh Neil, only you would hog attention like this. You just need to wake up, because I'm tired of coming here once a month and seeing you in the same way. It's totally boring. If you don't wake up soon I'm going to move on. Prom is in a few months and I'm not risking the chance of not winning Prom Queen because I have no date due to you being in a coma.” She sighed.
“Good, then move your skinny ass on out. Do you even have a heart? You're not welcome here!” I said walking in.
“Oh look who's here Neil! It's the Candy stripper!” Diane cooed. Was she serious? She didn't mean that as an insult, she actually just called a candy striper a stripper....
“It's striper, not stripper, get a brain.” I said rolling my eyes.
“Get a life.” She shot back.
“Get a new nose, yours is getting a little brown from all your ass kissing you do.” I stabbed.
“Have you no shame?” She laughed.
“It's very apparent you don't..... How's Bobby's backseat doing Diane? Still making the boat rock? Must be making a fortune! Might want to keep your leg closed, I heard it's not healthy to lay on your back all day.” I sighed. Diane sputtered for words until she finally spat out, “B****!”
“How original. Yep and I'm proud of it!” I yelled after her as she walked out of the room. I sat down next to Neil and sighed.
“Sorry you had to hear that, it was just too good to pass up.” I laughed kissing his forehead. I sighed and waited to see if he'd magically wake up...
“Nope.” I whispered. I stood and threw the old dead flowers in the trash beside his bed and replaced them with my new ones.
“Well, Happy Valentine's Day!” I sighed sitting down. Wondering once again if he could hear me when I talked to him. I squeezed his hand in mine. I looked out the window, watching snow fall. My hand twitched making me jump. I froze for a minute, thinking I must have imagined it...
“Ha! Oops! Sorry to freak out there, jumpy nerve I guess!” I laughed. I looked back outside to watch a flock of geese fly by. My hand jumped again, not as crazy as last time. I let go of Neil's hand and I shook mine out. Man, Diane sure made my nerves jumpy whenever we faught. Taking his hand again I whispered, “I love you.”
Then, before I looked away, his hand gently squeezed mine. I froze. No, that wasn't my hand jumping, it wasn't even fully closed around his.
“Neil? Neil?” I yelled standing. “Neil if you can hear me squeeze my hand! Squeeze my hand baby, squeeze!” I yelled and then I felt it, a squeeze. I screamed in excitement and started to cry.
“Oh god Neil!” I cried kissing his face over and over. I ran from the room.
“Zoe! Get Doc! He's squeezing my hand! He's responding to me!” I yelled as she came running obviously hearing my screams. Her face turned to shock and then joy. She darted down the hallway, and I darted back to Neil.
“Neil, can you squeeze my hand twice? ” I said. I felt two squeezes and I sobbed more. My chest began to swell in excitement and happiness. Neil was waking up. This was what I had been hoping for since October.
“Can you move anything else? One squeeze for no.” I asked. Squeeze.
“No? Are you in pain?” I asked. Squeeze.
“Do you know who I am?” I dared to ask. Squeeze squeeze. I sobbed.
“Neil! I love you! I love you so freaking much Neil.” I cried. I felt him squeeze my hand tightly , and with that I knew he loved me too.
Doc rushed in.
“How long has he been moving?” He asked checking machines and looking at Neil.
“Since I got here! I thought it was my hand twitching, but it was his!” I said as Brenda, Neil's nurse hugged me in celebration.
“Zoe, go call his parents.” Doc whispered.
“Hey there Neil, I'm Doc. I've been your doctor, could you squeeze my fingers good and tight?” Doc said loud. I watched as Neil's fingers twitched squeezing Doc's. I watched Doc's face light up.
“Welcome back kid. Do you know how long you've been out?” Doc asked. One squeeze.
“It's been about four months and seventeen days.” Doc said.
“Kathleen's been here every single day of that too.” Brenda called tears in her eyes. Neil's lip twitched into a small smile and I started to squeal again.
“You're doing great Neil. Now rest, save your energy for your parents. Okay?” Doc laughed. Squeeze Squeeze. I grabbed my cell and called my mom.
“Hello?” She answered.
“Mom! He's awake! He's awake.” I sobbed.
“Katie? He's awake?” My mom screamed.
“He's awake! He's squeezing my hand as we speak, and he's been answering questions through squeezes. Not major movement but he smiled, he's awake.” I cried. I heard my mom crying on the other end.
“I'll call Gerttie! We'll be over ASAP.” She cried. We hung up and I couldn't stop crying and laughing at the same time.
“I thought I lost you.” I cried kissing his forehead.
Neil's parents ran in a minute later, his mother Sally hugging me before I told him I was leaving, while his parents visited.
“My mom called Gerttie, they're on their way over.” I said.
“Thank you Katie, thank you.” Ben said before I left. I walked around telling all my hospital friends about Neil. I rode up to Ann's office and told her. She cried with me as we talked laughing.
The last person I seen was Jeanie.
“Jeanie?” I asked.
“Hi Katie!” She smiled.
“He's awake for now!” I cried out.
“He's awake?” She screamed leaping out of her chair hugging me.
“Yes, he's responding anyway, hand squeezes and a smile. He can answer questions though the hand squeezes.” I cried.
“Oh Katie! I can't believe it! They said he wouldn't be awake for a while!” She said.
“I know for at least three more months!” I cried.
People were stopping to stare at us since we were hugging and crying in the hospital's lobby. My phone began to ring and Jeanie had to fish it out of my bag because my hands were shaking like crazy.
“Hello?” I asked when I could hold the phone.
“Hey! Are you okay? Your mom just screeched down the road like a bat out of hell, like my dad when my mom says that my grandma is coming!” Andrea said.
“Oh Andrea! I'm fine! I'm amazing! Neil's responding! He's awake, but not fully. He's okay! He can squeeze my hand and smile small, but nothing else so far.” I cried into the phone.
“Really?” Andrea screamed.
“Yes!” I sobbed. Jeanie hugged me as I heard Andrea begin to cry.
“I'm so happy I'm crying.” Andrea cried. My mom and Gerttie ran through the automatic doors of the hospital lobby.
“I have to go Andrea. My mom's here.” I said and hung up. Gerttie and my mom crashed into me crying.
“It was you angel! You brought him back!” Gerttie whispered kissing me on the cheek.
“Oh Gerttie!” My mom cried laughing at herself.
“Gerttie, Ben and Sally are already upstairs.” I said once we had all stopped hugging.
“Thank you baby doll.” Gerttie whispered then rushed over to the elevator.
My mom and I went into the small coffee shop together. I gave her the whole story and she held my hand smiling the whole time.
“I'm still worried though, I mean don't get me wrong today, was an amazing gift, but the longer he stays unable to move, the more his chances of recuperating dwindles. Even though he's awake today doesn't mean he's going to stay away tomorrow or the next day.” I said taking a large drink out of my cup.
“You have to take one step at a time. He's going to have a lot to do even after he wakes up completely.” My mom replied.
“I know but I guess Hollywood set me up. You know what I mean?” I asked and my mom shook her head no. “I mean like, in movies when someone's in a coma they move and talk, and leave the hospital in two days. It doesn't happen like that in reality, and I think that's why all of this is hard to understand.” I explained.
“Of course, I know what you mean now, and I agree, totally. You just have to keep faith and continue what you have been doing. You must have been doing something right.” My mom said patting my hand.
“Thanks mom, but it gets harder everyday it feels like.” I whisper staring down at my mug.
“Well a lot of people at school think I'm crazy. I guess they think I should move on and forget. I can't. Each day, I feel like I'm forgetting who he was. I worry about who he is now, or who he'll be when he wakes up.” I sighed rubbing my head and eyes.
“I don't think you're crazy. I think you're in love and you don't need to move on because you still believe in your relationship with Neil. You're not the typical teenagers you and Neil, you've got something that others don't have and that's genuine love. I never imagined having this talk with you right now, you being so young, but normal teenage relationships wouldn't be like yours, meaning it's real, and it's right for you.” My mom says taking my hand across the table.
It's crazy how much you don't understand or see in the world, but when your mom explains it to you, you understand instantly. I loved my mom more that any other person in the world, and this was what she was here for. She was here for me, and just like she had described about Neil and I, her love was real, and it was so natural and right. I stood and hugged her tightly.
“Love you momma, I love you to the end of the universe and back and then back around about four million times.” I said giving her a kiss.
“You know I love you much much more that that. You're my little baby girl, no matter how tall or how many birthdays pass. You're my little baby girl, and you always will be.” My mom said giving me a motherly kiss on the forehead.
My phone buzzed inside my pocket. I pulled it out and seen it was Gerttie calling.
“It's Gerttie.” I told my mom, “Hi Gerttie! How's it going up there?” I asked.
“Pretty well. Ben and Sally had to leave. Maddie's at school and Neil told them to go. They wanted me to thank you for giving them privacy.” Gerttie said.
“Ah, it's okay. I figured they would want some. Mom and I will be up in a minute or two. We're just finishing up our coffee.” I replied.
“Okay, see you soon then.” Gerttie said and we hung up.
Gerttie and my mom had just left to go home. I watched Neil, for once he looked peaceful, sleeping even. I had dimmed the light,and stared out the window up at the stars.
This had definitely been the greatest Valentine's Day of my life. It was the greatest gift I've ever received. Neil was going to be okay. He was going to live, we'll be together no matter what. Doc had mentioned that the worst issue that could happen would be that he would be paralyzed from the hips down.
I knew that sounded awful, and I had cried when Doc mentioned it to me, but after much thought I'd rather have my Neil who's in a wheelchair than my Neil who's grave I visited daily.
Neil would be heartbroken. I know he would because playing football and basketball was his life. He loved it. Even if he would be able to walk again, he'd never heal enough for him to play again in High School.
I stared at the teddy bear I had brought him this morning. Would he be himself after he woke up? Could it really be possible to go back to the man he was after going through all this?
As I sat here thinking about this I wondered about Debbie, Andrea, and I's theory. Could Cramer actually set this all up? What about Ford? Why would he put his whole life on the line? I don't mean like killing him I mean if the judge found him guilty of attempted murder, why would a young man do this? His whole life ahead of him and he just decides, oh hey, I'm gonna kill Neil Clark, they won't throw me in jail! It just didn't make sense. My dad had told us there was no evidence of foul play aside from Ford, and he couldn't get a warrant to search Cramer's house or office because he was suspected of nothing. It was frustrating knowing that he might get away with this.
I pulled out my cell phone out to text Andrea.
You: Hey Andrea, you awake?
I looked up at the clock, it was only ten, she'd be awake.
Andrea: Yeah what up?
You: We need to find out what Cramer's up to. I can't wait for my dad to eventually get around to it.
Andrea: I have da feelin dat I gonna b using my 007 James Bond outfit???
You: If there is going to be evidence that he caused this, it's going to be in his office.
Andrea: Y wood he do dat? It wood b ez 2 find den. Mayb @ his houz??
You: Well, Crammer's not a genius, so maybe he would have left it in his office, if not, I'm prepared for some breaking and entering.
Andrea: Man u rebel! I new u njoyed dat secret party copy mission. We gonna go tomz?
You: After school, I don't want to be caught during school. Our best chance would be after school,there's less people.
Andrea: It wood b harder 2 find alibi after skool.
You: Alright, um... Cramer has our lunch, I know he eats with Mr. Alderman in the principal's office.We'd have roughly about one hour to get in and get what we need.
Andrea: Wat if dare is nutin? Home invasion?
You: I guess, I know the staff is having a banquet for the school and staff's families on Thursday. My mom's going with my dad for some reason.
Andrea: Thurs. Dat when we br8k in den?
You: Yes, if you could not tell Debbie? If we get caught I don't want her having any more stress on her than she already had. And for once why can't you text in actual words?
Andrea: NAZI! I swear! Ur a text Nazi!
You: Ugh you're so weird! I gotta go. Visiting hours are ending and I gotta tell Neil and the nurses bye.
I walked over to Neil's bed. I sat on the edge careful not to sit on any machine wires.
“Hey Neil. It's Katie! I'll see you tomorrow as soon as I get out of school.” I whispered close in his ear. I had researched comas online and read that it was better to whisper in a person's ear rather than to talk loud or normal. I felt his hand squeeze mine tightly. “I'm gonna kiss you okay?” I whispered. I got a smile from him. I kissed Neil softly, his hand squeezing when ever I pulled away, making me laugh. I finally gave him one last kiss, and then one on the forehead after I brushed back his short hair.
“Bye Neil, I love you.” I whispered. And with one last squeeze of our hands, I left.
Driving home was crazy. Rain was pounding down so hard that it would splash back off the road making it look as if the rain was falling upward!
It had made it about a block away from my street before I had to pull over. I couldn't see out of my windshield, my hood disappeared in a sheet of rain. I texted my mom telling her I was going wait for the storm to pass until I could see.
It was boring. The radio didn't work due to the storm, and my phone was going dead from playing my app games too much. I sighed once my phone went dead. I had been sitting there for and hour and a half, and the rain still had not let up.
I felt my eyes beginning to droop. It was nearly midnight, and I had woke up at five to get to the hospital early.
“I'm so tired! Get your act together rain! Get the hell out of here! I want my bed!” I yelled. Wow. Now I was talking to myself, no... worse, I was talking to rain... great. I tilted my seat back. Maybe I'd be able to take a small nap while the rain continued it's endless pounding. With the sound of the rain on the roof above I was soon lulled asleep.
“Hey sweetie, wake up.” I heard someone whisper. I opened my eyes to see Neil sitting up in his hospital bed.
“Oh my god! Neil!” I screamed, running to hug him tightly.
“Oh Katie, it's so good to be able to talk and kiss you again.” He whispered brushing my hair back from my face. He leaned in kissing me softly before becoming strong. I kept breaking away, glancing at the doorway for Brenda or one of the nurses to just walk in.
“Don't worry it's locked.” Neil chuckled. My worries swam away and I slipped into Neil's kiss.
“Hey you whore! Wake up!” Neil suddenly yelled. I looked at him utterly shocked. “If you don't get you butt moving we're gonna be late for school!” He yelled again. There were some loud thuds and I sat straight up in my seat.
“Well well well, it's about time you woke up!” Andrea yelled through my rolled up car window. I sat up rubbing my eyes, disappointed that my dream was not reality.
“What the hell? Why am I sleeping in my car?” I asked rolling down my window.
“Who do you think I am? The great almighty Madam Zoonipoopoo? You're going to be late to school! You're lucky I decided to walk today!” Andrea yelled. I seen her rain boots and last night flashed back to me.
“Aw hell, get in! I'll drive to school. I'll have to wear what I have on.” I sighed.
By second period, I had a raging headache. Debbie helped with my homework that I forgot at home but successfully finished before the bell rang.
“Long night?” Debbie asked.
“Yeah, I had to pull over driving home from the hospital because of the rain. I ended up falling asleep and sleeping in my car. Now I have a horrible headache.” I sighed rubbing my eyes.
“Damn girl, that is a long night.” Debbie whispered laughing as Diane walked into the room. I groaned slightly as she slammed her books down causing me to clutch my head in pain. Debbie shot her a look.
Diane had heard me mention my headache to Andrea this morning, and now whenever she seen me, she made sure that I heard her. She pulled her chair out, the legs screeching on the floor. I tensed up and looked over at Debbie shaking my head. Diane bumped the table knocking her books on the floor. I almost screamed at her, but I help my composure even when she slammed her books back down again. I laid my head down on my desk trying to block out the noises.
Mr. Marks walked into the room and began out history lessons. Diane continued her “clumsy” fumbling and when Mr. Marks asked her to stop she apologized but continued to torture me. In the middle of his lesson Diane raised her hand.
“Yes, Miss. Messing?” Mr. Marks sighed.
“When those old cannons went off, was it like...” she paused, her eyes glancing my way, “BOOOOOOOM!” she yelled, “or was it like KABOOOOOOOOOOOM!” She yelled at the top of her lungs. I had enough. I stood up from my chair. It flew back hitting the table behind me and slamming to the floor.
“Diane! Stop! You know I'm having a huge migraine, and like your normal b**** self you're trying to make it worse, but on behalf of the rest of the class, shut the hell up! It's bad enough we all have to see you let alone hear your whiny ass voice!” I screamed, slamming my hands on her desk. I had my face close to hers and she could no doubt see the rage inside my eyes. Diane was sitting far back in her chair eyes widened with fear. The whole room went silent before cheers and applause broke out. Normally that would be totally awesome... but at the moment I felt my brain oozing out of my ears.
“Miss Tate!” Mr. Marks yelled, “I will not tolerate that kind of language in my class. Take your seat now.” He ordered. I sat down on my stool. “Next time you'll have a detention slip to keep your migraine company as you take a walk to the principal's office. This is your warning.” He said.
“Yes sir, I'm sorry.” I mumbled as my head buzzed. I felt my feet tingling and the next thing I knew I was sliding off my stood and I hit the floor. I heard Debbie's horrified screams before I passed out.
I started crying even before I opened my eyes. My head was killing me so bad I didn't want to open my eyes. I was strapped down, so I knew I was in an ambulance. The sirens also gave me a hint.
“Kathleen, you're gonna be okay sweetie. You passed out and hit your head on the table beside you. You've lost a lot of blood, but you'll be right as rain in a minute.” The EMT, who's voice I recognized as one of my dad's friends, Frank said to me.
“Just my luck.” I moaned and the two ems laughed.
“Katie you'll be fine.” Frank chuckled.
“I know.” I sighed.
I had to wait for my mom as Doc stitched my forehead up. I groaned as the thread pulled on my skin. It didn't hurt but the feeling of it was driving me crazy.
“You sure did a job on yourself. You and Neil will have matching scars.” Doc chuckled.
“Nu-uh!” I gasped only making him laugh harder. My mom came walking in.
“Kathleen! You cannot keep forgetting your medication!” My mom yelled taking my hand.
“I did! I got a migraine and it just hurt so bad I passed out I guess.” I mumbled.
“Is that even possible?” My mom asked Doc.
“Um, I would believe so, we ran her vitals and everything came out fine, her sodium levels are perfect.” Doc said finishing up my stitches.
“Dear god was it that bad?” My mom asked shocked.
“Yes! Diane Messing was making my life hell all morning! She slammed lockers. She slammed her books on tables. She yelled. She moved tables making them screech, she did it with her chairs too! I wanted to slam her head into a desk. Finally I stood up and went off on her, which by the way, Mr Marks yelled at me, and then I passed out.” I said.
“Did you stand up suddenly?” Doc asked. I sighed.
“Yes, I did. I forgot.”
“You know you can't do that! Your blood pressure drops! Thank god Debbie knew what to do.” My mom sighed.
“I'm just glad I didn't pee my pants again.” I sighed.
“Na, you just bled all over the floor, making a few kids almost faint themselves.” Doc chuckled.
“I'm so glad you find this amusing. Thank you so much.” I said as he laughed and signed my release papers.
“Mom, can we make a trip up to Neil's while we're here?” I asked.
“If you feel okay?” She shrugged.
“I'm good! I'm all drugged up and ready to go!” I said.
“Okay, I'll see you later kid.” He said walking out to make his normal rounds. He'd come down from the six floor upon hearing that I had been brought in by an ambulance. He requested my case and I had a brain surgeon giving me stitches, how many people can say that? I mean aside from people that had brain surgery... of course....
My mom fluttered around me like I was going to fall. I was a little fuzzy, but I was clear enough to walk up to Neil's room. My mom sat with Brenda at the nurses station while I seen Neil.
I walked in Neil's room finding him the way he always was, still and stone faced.
“Hey Neil, I'm here early. I passed out in second period and hit my head on Diane's desk. I wish I could have seen her face. I went off on her just before that. I had a killer headache and of course she went around making as much noise as possible. Marks yelled at me cause I cussed but it was totally worth it. Anyway, I'm stitched up, fine now.” I said. A smile broke out on his face. I leaned in and kissed him and I felt his lips move with mine. I pulled back and his eyes fluttered.
“Neil?” I whispered as his face looked determined to open his eyes, “Neil, don't, you could hurt yourself! It will happen on it's own. I know how frustrating it is, but you have to just let it happen.” I whispered. His lips pressed together. I kissed the tension in his face away. He relaxed as I kissed him again. I pulled back and opened my eyes to see his green tear filled eyes looking back at me. I wiped away his tears and I began to cry. He smiled blinking.
“God Neil, It's so good to see your gorgeous eyes again. I've missed them.” I whispered laughing as I grabbed a tissue off the nightstand. He opened his mouth slightly like he wanted to say something but, still paralyzed from the neck down. I touched his lips with my fingers and he kissed them. I smiled.
“Neil I have something I need to tell you. You might not agree or maybe you'll know more than Andrea, Debbie and I.” I sighed, and sitting Indian style on his bed. His eyebrows furrowed.
“Debbie was the first one to mention it but, we have a theory on why this happened to you... and...” I paused, “we don't think it was an accident.” I whispered. His eyes shut and a tear escaped. “We think Coach Cramer paid off the refs and Ford. We don't have proof yet. When you got hurt, everyone ran to the field except him. He just stood there like he knew it was going to happen. I know all this sounds crazy, but we know he's stupid, but why didn't he fight when the penalties against the bulldogs weren't called? We know he's a crappy coach, but even people who don't watch football know those calls needed to be answered.” I whispered. I took his hand and he stared toward the window in thought. A few minutes later he slipped back under into his coma once more.
“Okay, we're doing it today. We can't wait much longer. Debbie's now wanting to go cause I slipped and mentioned it.” Andrea sighed. I rolled my eyes at her. Did she realize how dangerous this could be for us, let alone a pregnant girl?
“Well that's fine, we might need her. She can keep watch.” I whispered. I could feel my hands shaking in nervousness. Debbie walked in taking the seat in front of me.
“Today guys? I have new information. Miss Allen, the office secretary asked me to copy the teacher's emails and I seen Cramer's password. So I keep watch while one of you hack in and the other look in the office.” Debbie whispered quietly glancing at the teacher talking to Mickey Quick
“Dang Debbie! I think we're looking at the next bond girl.” Andrea said.
“Yeah, Double-O-waistband...” She snickered rubbing her ever growing belly.
“Okay so Andrea, you can type the fastest, you should take the computer. Print out any saved emails, pictures, texts, documents, anything that looks strange, but when you print them, send them to the art room printer. No one will be in there, they're outside working on the back wall mural all day. That way if we do get caught we won't have much evidence in our hands.” I whispered.
“Gees, I thought I was supposed to be the evil mastermind here... It's like you guys got bad over night. All I did was look up how to pick a lock last night in case his classroom was locked.” Andrea said looking slightly disappointed.
“It won't be. He's at lunch, I checked yesterday, he doesn't lock his door.” Debbie smiled.
“We've learned from the best sweetie.” I cooed pinching Andrea's cheek like and old lady.
“Well I am flattered.” Andrea said laughing. The bell rang and we all had to stop talking, but I noticed we all kept glancing at the clock.
Diane walked into history class avoiding my eyes, and was as quiet as a mouse. She seemed to be really upset and self consious.
“She got kicked out of the pops.” Debbie whispered.
At Beachwood High School the pops were the people who ruled the school, the popular kids. Normally in a school, the popular people are defined by their money, their clothes, their looks, and of course the sports they played. Well, at Beachwood High that stuff mattered some, but what mattered more was your last name. Some families had lived in town since the town itself was born. They farmed the land, ran the town, and as a result became wealthy. This is still what goes on today, big name, big money. Messing, Molar, Duke, Pasakinski, and of course Clark. I've never been to another school, but I expect that our pops situation is someone unique. Of course there are pops without that last name crown, but most are. So for Diane to get kicked out of the pops, she had to of done something huge because she was their Queen.
“Why?” I finally whispered back.
“I don't really know. I'm not in the loop that much anymore. I get the small gossip but the good stuff, they pretty much keep to themselves. It had to of been huge though... she was the girl that could almost do no wrong.” Debbie whispered back. I peeked out of my peripheral vision. She had a journal open on her desk, and was writing quickly with a feathered top, hot pink, glitter pen. I bet that diary was getting the story, and all the extra juicy details.
Mr. Marks strolled into the room, slamming the door.
“Okay class, let's try to make it through a lesson with no more stitches that we already have. Kathleen it's good to see you are doing okay. You scared the crap out of us yesterday.” Mr. Marks laughed. I blushed.
“Yeah I'm fine. It was quite a show yesterday wasn't it?” I said laughing. Mr. Marks began class and Diane placed her diary under her seat. The lights turned off and Mr. Marks began a really boring video. Diane grabbed her books from the table behind her. Debbie glanced at me and her eyes darted down at the diary. Debbie and I locked eyes.
“Andrea would be so proud.” Debbie whispered, so quietly I'd thought I had imagined it. I could feel the rebellion inside me flare.
“That could have details from the pop football players. They could have the story to what happened with Cramer. Plus, Diane's always dealing with Cramer for cheerleading stuff, she could have seen something and not know it.” I whispered back just as quiet. We both jumped when the telephone on Mr. Marks desk rang. He paused the movie and answered the phone. Everyone looked around the room wondering who it was that was being called down to the office.
“Okay, yep, I'm writing a pass now, she'll be down. Will she be leaving? Should she bring her stuff?” He paused, listening, “Okay, I'll let her know. Bye.” He hung the phone up and looked up at us. I gulped but his eyes turned to Diane. “Diane, you're wanted down in the office, they said to bring your stuff.” Diane's face paled and she grabbed her books and ran from the room with her pass.
Debbie's and my eyes looked at each other, and then, at the little diary laying on the floor, forgotten. A smile crossed Debbie's face. She stood, grabbing her books, and walked to the front of the class to Mr. Mark's desk. He looked up and she smiled and grabbed a handful of tissues.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Nope, just needed some tissues.” She said smiling.
“Would your books like some too?” He asked. She looked down at the books in her arms. I watched as Mr. Marks raised his eyebrows.
“HA! Oh my gosh!” She laughed, “I didn't even realize I'd picked them up!” She said looking over her shoulder as she walked back talking. She opened her mouth to say more but she “tripped” and her books flew from her arms to the ground. Everyone looked and laughed some until I stood up to help her gather her books. Once they had been gathered, I had a little pink diary inside my bag.
“Wow, I'm such a klutz. I hope this little guy or girl doesn't turn out like it's mother.” She joked as she sat down. Mr. Marks smiled tightly and went back to grading papers. We sat back down and I put my head down on my desk. I glanced over at Debbie who winked and raised her eyebrows up and down, making me hide a silent giggle in the crook of my arm.
“You got what?!” Andrea whispered shocked as her, Debbie and I walked down the empty halls. I could hear the chatting coming from the cafeteria. I pulled the little pink diary out of my bag and waved it around. Andrea almost squealed but Debbie shushed her.
“Hey don't look at me! Debbie was the genius behind that operation.” I whispered back.
We approached Coach Cramer's office. The door was closed and the light was off. Andrea tip toed into the room, keeping the lights off, but pulling the shades up from the window. I followed her and Debbie followed me. As Debbie walked in she turned the lights on. Andrea froze mid tip-toe like a cartoon thief. Her eyes the only thing moving.
“Wouldn't it be easier to explain we were just waiting for him, than to have the lights off? Normal people don't wait in the dark. Just hurry and go!” She said standing in the window of the door keeping watch.
Andrea ran to the computer and I ran to a set of filing cabinets. I heard Andrea's fingers skimming over the computer keys typing at a million miles an hour.
Top Drawer: Physicals of the football team.
Second Drawer: Silver whistles, flags, and small traffic cones.
Third Drawer: empty
I quickly moved to another set of filing cabinets.
Top Drawer: Newspaper Articles of the team.
Second Drawer: Marching Band field formations
Third Drawer: Parent Permission forms/notes
Andrea was click clacking away on the keyboard so fast her fingers were a blur.
“Guys, what if they finger print the room?” Debbie asked.
“They wouldn't!” Andrea replied her eyes never leaving the screen.
“Why?” Debbie asked.
“Because we're not going to take anything that Cramer would want to explain to the cops was missing.” I said pointing to my temple as she watched out the little window.
“Ah, good point.” Debbie said.
“Find anything?” I asked Andrea as I began to go through his desk.
“He has porn sites saved on his favorites, and I printed out all messages received and sent. There's a lot of pictures of Diane on here for some reason, it's creepy.” Andrea replied.
“Probably cheer leading.” I said.
“Ah.” She said. I pulled out the bottom drawer of Cramer's desk and gasped. Andrea looked down and gasped too.
“What?!” Debbie asked.
“A gun. It's a gun.” Andrea said. She pulled out her cell phone and snapped pictures of the gun inside the drawer. It wasn't just terrifying to find it here because we knew what was going on with Cramer, but it was also against the law to have a gun inside the school.
“Now why would Cramer keep a gun in the school?” I asked. Andrea looked around the room.
“We need to get out of her ASAP. If he comes back we might find out what he might keep the gun for.” Andrea said. I grabbed an address book and day planner under the gun. We made sure nothing looked disturbed. Andrea deleted the history she had created on his computer and logged out. I was the last person out of the room so I turned off the lights and shut the door. Andrea and Debbie ran to my car with the evidence I gathered in case I got caught in the Art Room when I picked up the emails. I figured if I got caught it would be easier to get off of it with my dad being the sheriff.
There was a huge stack of papers sitting on the printer when I arrived. Andrea had used a huge ream of paper. I collected the papers and slipped out the back door, and jumped into my car. Debbie squealed as we sped away from the school, ditching class.
At the stop sign Andrea and I switched places.
“Where are we going? My mom's home we can't go there and we can't go to your house!” I said to Andrea, “She'll see my car!”
“My mom's home with my little brother who stayed home sick or else we could go there.” Debbie said. As I drove my mind was thinking about a place. I slammed on the brakes.
“I know where we can go, but we'll have to go barefoot.” I said.
“Barefoot?” Debbie asked.
Andrea had to help me pull open the back door.
“A barn...?” Debbie asked as we walked in.
“It was the only place I could think of. Herb and Gerttie are in Toledo for the week at the new casino. I parked behind the barn so no one can see the car from the road. We could stay here for a week and no one would ever know. I have a key to the house for food.” I said.
“They gave you a key?” Andrea asked as I pulled the rusted door shut. We could have come through the front door, but I didn't want to take the chance of being seen.
“They're like my own grandparents. I took care of Herb a few times while Gerttie went to appointments, so they gave me a key and said 'feel free to come and go as you please.' so, now, I'm coming and going as I please until we read all those emails, Diane's diary, the address book and planner.” I laughed. Debbie and Andrea high-fived.
“So we're supposed to go barefoot in here?” Debbie asked looking around the dirt floor barn. The horses let out a huff of disapproval as if she had offended their home.
“No, up there.” I said pointing to Neil's loft, “I say that only because I got my boot stuck going down the ladder. In your bare feet, you don't have to worry about getting stuck.” I said pulling down the step ladder.
“There's no mice up here right?” Andrea asked.
“No, it's Neil's bedroom.” I laughed.
“Bedroom?” Debbie said below me.
“He used to stay here when he was little and his parents were out of town or on date nights. They didn't have enough room in the house for Maddie and him so since he was older they refurbished the loft, and Neil's room was born.” I said helping Debbie up from the loft floor.
“Holy poopie! This place is pimpin'” Andrea said running over to the swing.
“Yeah, I've told my parents I was staying over at Debbie's house a few times and just came out here instead.” I told her laughing. Debbie ran over to the bunk bed and climb to the top bunk.
“I've always wanted to sleep on the top bunk. My sister always got the top bunk when we were little.” Debbie said laughing. I smiled and took the evidence out of my bag.
“Well, enjoy yourselves now girls, cause we have a lot of work to do. Tomorrow is Thursday, if we don't find anything here in this stuff, we're going to do some rough justice and become burglars. Well, me and Andrea anyway.” I laughed.
“I'll drive the get away car... I don't think I could fit through a window anyway. I'll be the accomplice as they call it.” Debbie snorted. They walked over to me and I divided the papers.
“Alight, I hope there is something.” I sighed.
We settled into our papers. Every time Andrea finished a page she crumpled the paper up and tossed it over her shoulder. I looked up a half and hour later and the floor behind her was ankle deep in crumpled paper. I smiled and began to toss my papers over there too.
“Um guys,” Debbie whispered staring at a paper in her hands.
“What is it?” I asked loudly.
“Coach Cramer didn't have Diane's pictures because of cheer leading, he had them because....” She paused, “they're together.” she whispered.
“Together?” Andrea asked.
“Together.” Debbie said flipping over the paper showing a picture.
“Oh my god. That's disgusting.” I said looking at the picture of Cramer and Diane kissing.
“Well... I did not see that one coming.” Andrea said throwing her hands up in the air. I suddenly began to see the links. The day I was at Neil's practice and Diane disappeared in Cramer's office, when I ran off to the field to get to Neil, she helped him pull me back.
“There's more photos, emails...” Debbie said sifting through the papers on her lap.
“Ew, what should we do?” Andrea asked. I dropped my stack of papers and grabbed Diane's diary.
“Read it out loud.” Debbie said.
“Which one the last one?” I said. Debbie nodded. I flipped to the last entry.
“Dear Diary, I seen David last night. He once again gave me a promise he won't keep. I told him I wasn't going to wait much longer. I'm ready to go to his wife. If I wait any longer, I'm going to start showing like Debbie, and I cannot let this happen to me, by myself. I don't know how Debbie can do it without Noah. David promises he'll take care of me and her, but I somehow don't believe him.” I read softly. We all fell silent.
“No.... she can't me...” Andrea asked I picked the book up again and a picture fell out from the pages. Andrea picked it up.
“It's and ultrasound.” I whispered.
“With Coach Cramer's baby.” Debbie whispered holding up another email.
“Well... we know it was Bobby she's been doing it with in the backseat anymore.” Andrea whispered. Debbie and I looked over at Andrea who just frowned and shrugged an evil little smile on her face. “What?!”
I read every page of Diane's diary. My name came up a lot, but I found out she was jealous of me. I had found out a lot actually, like Coach Cramer had been having an affair with Diane for two years.
“I knew it all along...” Andrea said smugly.
“Shut up, you did not.” Debbie chuckled.
“Man... I have to tell my dad. He can't get away with this.” I said rubbing my face.
“Let's think about all this baby momma drama later, right now we need the evidence to make him guilty of the crime against Neil, not Diane.” Andrea said rubbing my back. I nodded and set Diane's diary to the side.
I began to read Cramer's boring emails between him and various members of the staff. I stopped and re-read an email between Cramer and a person with the user name footballer70.
“Hey anyone know Ford's football number?” I asked.
“Seventy, it's Andrew's number in basketball. Why?” Andrea asked. I knelt and began to scream.
“He's emailing someone with the user name footballer70. It has to be Ford!” I said.
“What does it say?” Debbie asked.
“Well it says, he deserves it the brat.” I hissed.
“Are you kidding me?” Andrea yelled, her face turning red with anger.
“What does the rest say?” Debbie asked.
“Hold on.” I said picking up the next email, “Footballer70 says, He's the only chance of your team getting to state. If you get there no one would give you cred anyway. It would be good to finally see precious Neil Clark knocked off his pedestal. How would you like me to do it?” I said crying. Andrea took the paper from me, and Debbie climbed down from the bunk beds and wrapped her arms around me.
“Cramer says, Do it however you like, just make sure that asshole never plays again a day in his life. Teach him that this is MY team. Teach all of them, no one rules over MY team but me. Don't tell anyone about this Ford. You do, and I will make sure you never play football in this country again.” Andrea whispered as I sobbed with relief.
“The next one.” Debbie said handing it to Andrea.
“Don't worry coach, as long as you take care of the refs, I'll take care of Clark. Don't forget I'm not doing this for free.” Andrea whispered.
“I've paid them in full, you'll get your money after the job is done.” Debbie read on the next page.
“Well..... that ass.” Andrea yelled loudly, “I'm gonna kill him. I'm gonna kill both of them. You messed with the wrong mama bear Bubba.” Andrea screamed running over to the ladder.
“Andrea no!” I said pulling out my cell phone.
“What are you doing?” Debbie asked.
“I'm calling my dad, it will be far more satisfying to see him get arrested at the school in front of everyone.” I said.
Debbie, Andrea, and I sat on my couch., my mom stood in front of us.
“How in the world did you get away with this?” She asked angry. Andrea started to answer but I elbowed her and she stayed quiet for once.
“Rhetorical question.” I whispered.
“What would you have done if you had gotten caught? If he wasn't afraid of hurting Neil like this, what make you think he wouldn't used that gun on you?” She yelled pulling at her hair.
“We didn't know he had a gun until we found it! We knew where he was it's not like we broke into his house!!!!” I yelled, making Andrea and Debbie press their lips together to hide a smile.
“What you did was wrong. It may have been good intentions but you broke the law regardless. You need to learn that your father is the sheriff. You screw up and he has an obligation to uphold the law. You don't get special treatment. If you would have been caught, you would have gone to jail, and you would have broke your father's heart because he would have been the one to handcuff you.” My mother said. We stayed silent. My dad walked through the front door. My mom went to the kitchen to start dinner, pots and pans slamming, cupboards and drawers slamming along beside them.
My dad sat down on the coffee table in front of us with his hands folded. I sighed and he reached up and took his hat off.
“Girls, you know that breaking into that office was breaking the law right?” He asked.
“I think Mrs. T cleared that up for us in the last hour you've been gone.” Andrea said smiling before continuing, “However, I would like to point out that technically we didn't break into the office... the door was unlocked. Breaking into the computer however... that was wrong...”
“It doesn't matter bird-brain.” My dad laughed, “I know your mom is pissed off.” He whispered.
“I think that is a definite understatement.” I whispered back glancing at the kitchen. He smiled at us largely.
“Well, don't tell her but damn girls, I am so proud of you.” He said hugging me. Andrea laughed and Debbie finally regained her natural coloring.
“So have they talked to Diane?” I whispered.
“Yes.” Dad said. I nodded.
“What about Cramer?” Debbie asked.
“Well, he's been arrested for a bunch of things, attempted murder along with his buddy Ford, possession of an illegal weapon, having a weapon on school grounds, statutory rape, and much much more. We slammed him for everything under the sun. I even found an old parking ticket he never paid and slammed him with that too.” My dad smiled.
“What's going to happen with Neil?” I asked.
“That's up to Ben and Sally, if they'd like to press more charges on him and Ford. Diane's parents also.” He said. I nodded and he smiled, “Girls, you're welcome to stay here tonight. I think you masterminds deserve a slumber party, but there's one condition.” He said.
“What?” I asked.
“Don't do my job. EVER. Again.” He said. We all laughed.
“Don't worry Mr. T. We pity the fool we deal with next.” Andrea growled making us all laugh.
“He's so fiiiiiiine.” Andrea squealed in my room. We were splayed out all over my bed watching a movie.
“Channing Tatutm is so much hotter than him.” Debbie giggled.
“No way! Bradley Cooper could beat Channing Tatum any day.” Andrea yelled, tossing popcorn as Debbie.
“What do you think Katie?” Debbie asked.
“I think they're both ugly.” I laughed.
“NO!” Debbie yelled.
“She likes the weirdest people!” Andrea said.
“Who?!” Debbie giggled loudly.
“Seth Rogen is not weird!” I yelled throwing my pillow at her.
“Yes he is!” Andrea yelled.
“Is that the guy with the funny voice?” Debbie asked.
“Yes! Like he has rocks in his throat! See! I'm not the only one!” Andrea yelled.
“It's not funny, it's sexy.” I yelled.
“Okay what about Colin Firth? He's old enough to be your dad! In fact he's older than your dad!” Andrea yelled laughing.
“Oh my god.!” Debbie yelled laughing.
“Okay, I'll give you that one.” I laughed covering my face with a pillow while they roared with laughter.
“Katie likes a grandpa! Katie likes a grandpa!” Andrea chanted.
“Stop!” I yelled pushing her slightly. Andrea panicked as I threw her off balance. Unable to catch herself since she had been sitting Indian style, she screamed as she fell from her seat on the edge of the bed. Debbie and I gasped. We peered over the side of the bed and Andrea lied flat on her back, a shocked look on her face. Debbie let out a loud snort and we all started laughing.
“You butt head!” Andrea yelled jumping off the floor. I screamed as she jumped on me. Debbie pulled her phone out and started taking pictures.
“These are the best photos.” She said laughing, tears running down her face.
“No! Delete those!” Andrea gasped.
My phone began to ring and I tried to quiet the girls but failed. I plugged my ear and answered.
“Kathleen?” A voice said.
“Guys shut up!” I laughed, “Yes this is her.”
“It's Brenda.” The voice said. My stomach flipped.
“Brenda? What's wrong? What's going on?” I asked as the room turned dead silent.
“Katie you need to get over here now.” Brenda said her voice shaking.
“Brenda? What's wrong?” I repeated, tears pricking my eyes.
“Just come over here. Everything's going to be okay, just get over here as soon as you can.” Brenda said hanging up. I threw my phone aside and got up.
“What's going on?” Andrea asked as they began to change into clothes with me.
“It as Brenda, she said I needed to get to the hospital now...” I said crying.
“What's wrong?” Debbie asked.
“I don't know!” I yelled. I grabbed my keys and we ran downstairs. My mom and dad were watching a movie in the living room.
“What's going on?” My mom asked jumping up from the couch.
“Brenda just called me. She told me to get to the hospital now. She didn't tell me what's wrong but I got to go. It sounded bad.” I said sobbing. My dad grabbed his keys.
“Come on we'll all take the cruiser.” Dad said.
“I'll follow behind in the SUV.” My mom said. We ran out and jumped into the cruiser.
We sped through downtown, siren blaring. Debbie and Andrea whispered in the backseat.
“I've always wanted to ride in a cop car.” Debbie whispered softly. I stared out the window as dark corn and soy bean fields whizzed by. The stars were hidden by wispy clouds that covered a full moon.
I felt my tears running down my cheeks and fall onto my wrinkled shirt. My dad squeezed my hand giving me a small smile.
My dad pulled up to the main doors I jumped out and ran for the elevators. I slammed the button over and over.
“The more you press it won't make it come any faster!” Andrea said catching up with me.
“Come on!” I yelled and the doors came open. We rode the elevator to Neil's floor. I squeezed through the doors as they opened and ran through the dark halls. I heard TVs on and laughter. Ben and Sally walked out of Neil's room and into the waiting room, Sally in tears. I skidded on the tile floor into Neil's room.
“I'm here! What's wrong?” I asked Brenda. She took my face into her hands.
“Someone has been asking for you.” She whispered. She pulled the curtain back around Neil's bed back.
“Katie!” Neil said sobbing. I fell to my knees crying. Neil was sitting up in a wheelchair in a red t-shirt and jeans. Andrea ran in and screamed. Neil was laughing and crying as he stood and slowly walked over to me, holding onto Doc's arm. I stood and was sobbing uncontrollably as he pulled me into his arms.
“I'm dreaming.” I cried as I clutched him, my hands running down his back as if he'd disappear in my hands.
“Katie you're not dreaming.” He cried wiping my tears away before wiping his. He kissed me hard, and I kissed him back as if nothing had ever happened.
“Wow, it's like they haven't seen each other in forever.” Andrea said crying, her sarcasm still showing through her tears.
“You guys suck. Have you ever seen a pregnant lady run? It's not pretty! I had to waddle up here by myself. You know there is a baby in my uterus!” Debbie yelled waddling in. She looked up from her feet as Neil began laughing. She ran over along with Angela and we had a huge group hug.
“How are you feeling?” I asked him as the girls let go, letting us hug alone.
“Honestly?” Neil asked smiling at me.
I smiled at him and he started laughing through his tears.
Andrea screamed as Andrew chased her into the waves of Lake Erie. I sat in the warm sand, Neil's arm around me. His cane half buried beside us if he should need it.
“Katie, I know you've said you don't want to talk about all those months you came everyday to me.” Neil said.
“Neil...” I whispered.
“No, let me finish,” He said touching my lips, “I heard you... every word I knew I was going to be okay because you were beside me.” He whispered.
“Neil! It's been four months. It's summer, I want you to enjoy it not think about what happened in the past.” I whispered. He smiled and I kissed him. His hand resting softly in my tussled wind blown hair.
“I love you Katie.” He whispered before kissing me again.
“I love you too.” I whispered.
“Hey guys! Can you watch Nathan while I run back to the car. I forgot his sunscreen.” Debbie asked. I took little Nathan from his mother's arms, and she ran to the car.
“He's a cutie.” Neil said as he tickled Nathan making him laugh.
“Oh!” I gasped at Nathan and he giggled. I gave him a raspberry on his belly and he let out a gurgled scream before falling into more giggles.
“Has Noah?” I asked. Neil shook his head.
“I tried talking to him. Being honest, she's better off without him.” Neil said and wiped some Nathan drool on my arm. I laughed as Nathan grabbed Neil's hand and stuck it in his mouth. I cracked up.
“Is he tasty? Yum yum yum?” I laughed as Nathan chewed away on his thumb.
“Gees, you shouldn't talk like that around the kid. He doesn't want to hear about your freakish ways.” Andrea said wringing her hair out.
“You are a perv.” I said.
“Why yes, yes I am.” She smiled. Debbie came back and took Nathan. Neil stared at his drooled hand, before wiping it on Andrea's face.
“EW!” She screeched running to wash it off.
“Ah life is good.” Neil laughed. I reached up to touch his scar and he caught my hand in his, and kissed the back of it. He leaned down and kissed me.
“That's so corny!” Andrea yelled.
I just kissed Neil and once again, flicked her off, because all in all, Life was good.
Cannon Falls, Minnesota
San Diego, California
Dutch Haror, Alaska
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Write what you know, and dream of. - Jane Austen
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift
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“Know who you are, and be it. Know what you want, and go out and get it!”
― Carroll Bryant
“Just keep breathing.”
― Thalia Anderson
“Poetry is a connection to a change within you.”
― Katerina Stoykova Klemer
“Lighten up on yourself. No one is perfect. Gently accept your humanness.”
― Deborah Day