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The 25-Yard Line

By StrawberrySunrise All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Humor

From A Maiden In Love, To A Vandal Of The Night

The first glance that Samantha Daniels got of her school’s new quarterback was from the 25-yard line of the football field. Just coming out of a play where they stopped the opposing player with a sharp body slam, the name emblazoned on the back of the maroon and gold jersey shimmered in black. Seung.

“That was really cool,” Samantha whispered, lowering her pom poms to watch the person run back into place for the start of a new play.

“Come on,” her friend Daisy complained, bumping her with her hip. “This is the first outdoor practice, for the first game of the season. And already you’re daydreaming?”

“Do you know who Seung is?” Samantha asked quickly, giving Daisy all her attention.

Daisy scrunched up her nose. “Is that really how you say that?”

“I’ll Google it later!” Samantha exclaimed, grabbing Daisy by the shoulders. “I need to know! Who’s the quarterback?”

“It’s ‘cause you’re always sleeping through homeroom,” Daisy snorted. “You’re a junior; you should start paying attention.”

Daisy,” Samantha whined, coming closer and leaning her head against the girl’s shoulder in woe.

Daisy exhaled and rolled her eyes. “Her name is Carrie. Now will you please get yourself together? I don’t want the captain to lump me in with you.”

“I knew she was a girl!” Samantha proclaimed, jumping away in glee. “I can recognize a female’s waist in any uniform! Oh, she’s so awesome!

Daisy snapped blue-painted fingernails in front of Samantha’s face. “Focus. For the love of the team. You’re on the bottom of the pyramid, for Christ’s sake.”

“How tall do you think she is?” Samantha went, pressing her hands against her cheeks. “Do you think she likes girls? What’s her favorite animal? Does she like to stay in on Sundays and watch movies, or does she spend all Sunday cramming, because she partied the weekend away? Or maybe--”

Daisy bitch slapped Samantha with a white pom pom to shut her up.

Samantha’s subsequent keening brought their captain’s wrath down upon them. Gwendolen Marx, in all of her 5’6 glory, matched over to the two, hazel eyes narrowed into slits. Her long black hair had been pulled back into a bun, which Samantha was grateful for. Their captain had a habit of whipping them with her hair after she turned away from a lecture.

“This doesn’t sound like cheerleader business,” she said sternly, pink mouth pulled into a flat line.

“Well, it’s about the quarterback, and we cheer on the football team, so I think you could say that it was, if you really tried hard enough,” Samantha rambled.

To her credit, Gwendolen allowed Samantha to make her argument.

“I’ll let you off with a warning, since practice didn’t officially start. But instead of warm-up stretches with the team, you’re going to run around the entire football field.” She suddenly lurched forward and stuck a finger in Samantha’s face. “And if I catch you checking out that football player even once, you’re cleaning up after the volleyball team. And you’ll be mopping the gymnasium floor.” She leaned back. “Daisy, you’re acquitted. Alright men, women, and everybody in between--the rest of you get limber!”

Daisy shrugged at her unfortunate friend as she left, partnering up with one of the boys on the team.

Samantha, with a sigh, started jogging. She was about halfway finished when the quarterback took off her helmet to wipe the sweat from her brow. Samantha actually physically stopped to watch the girl, hands dangling by her sides.

Carrie’s hair was a soft, charcoal black. Not as shiny as their captain’s, it was cut almost to the scalp. Little flyaways were everywhere, like somebody had taken Carrie’s hair and fluffed it out. She laughed at something a teammate said, jostling them with her elbow, and Samantha fell in love.

Then her captain’s voice screaming her punishment at her from across the field snapped her out of it.

Carrie looked up to find the source of the shouting, and Samantha hid behind the goal post. She tugged at one of her pigtails tied just beneath the ear, feeling the blush creep across her face. “Oh boy,” she muttered. “Oh jeez. This is bad.”

After helping the custodial staff mop out the gymnasium (which Samantha was 80% certain had to be illegal), Samantha’s arms hurt like hell. She wished they felt like jelly, rather than concrete blocks attached to her shoulders by a few ligaments. Upon reflection, she considered that doing 50 handsprings across the gym was, though impressive, not the most intelligent form of warming up the body, as it were. Her arms hadn’t ached this much since she was practicing trying out for the squad, using her German Shepherd as a stand-in cheerleader to lift. However, the walk that she’d taken to the Walmart up the street had proved fruitful enough to make her forget the pain.

Against the backdrop of dusk, Samantha ducked back onto school grounds. Coming in through the back entrance of the gymnasium, Samantha kicked away the rock she’d used as a doorjamb. The custodians had trusted her to lock up, impressed and won over by both her attitude and slightly circus-y performance, and Samantha was sure to answer that trust. Once, of course, she was finished with her plan.

Creeping along the edge of the gym floor, Samantha made her way to the still-unlocked door leading into the female locker room. After a (long) talk with Daisy at the end of practice, Samantha had found out that Carrie changed separately from the boys, which only made sense. And, after some spying and eavesdropping, Samantha had figured out which specific locker belonged to Carrie.

The girl wasn’t much for decorating, it seemed, since the only thing that differentiated hers from the other lockers was a green-and-white striped bow, set in the upper lefthand corner.

Samantha’s idea was simple. With some spray paint and a stencil, she was going to paint a bunch of hearts over Carrie’s locker, then tack on a note over a clean spot. Something along the lines of “My name’s Samantha Daniels, here’s my number, would you like to go out some time?”. She hadn’t worked it out fully, but something more witty was bound to come to her, once she sat down and wrote it.

Daisy hadn’t been too keen on the idea, calling it creepy. And Samantha could see how she came to this conclusion. But Samantha liked her romantic gestures big, and crystal clear. And if Carries said no and didn’t like it, then Samantha would repaint the locker herself.

Readying her materials, Samantha stepped atop the bench that was fixed to each row of lockers. Carefully taking out the stencil, Samantha placed it on top of the locker. Then she took out the spray paint--black, to match the name on Carrie’s jersey--and gave it several good shakes before popping off the cap. Positioning the stencil just so, Samantha prepared to take aim.

A series of loud bangs sent her arc wide, creating an ugly line of black across Carrie’s locker.

“Oh, no!” Samantha freaked out quietly, alarmed over both the mistake, and the possibility of someone entering the room to find her here. All of a sudden, she realized how suspicious she looked.

When no other sounds registered, Samantha passed it off as raccoons. Turning her attention back to the locker, Samantha accepted that she’d have to do something about her mistake. Stuffing the now-useless stencil back into the Walmart bag, Samantha prepared herself to get creative.

Unfortunately, as she began creating a mural of shadow flowers on a vine, her foot slipped backward and her finger doubled on the trigger. In the attempt to right her balance, Samantha ended up creating a zig-zag motion that partially extended to the locker below Carrie’s.

Heart sinking, Samantha started to panic. It was a mess. A smattering of paint had ruined half of the bow in the corner.

“Make a giant heart,” she muttered. “Make a giant heart, leave an apology note, and go.”

The crashing noises came back when she was halfway through, startling her hand and destroying her last attempt at artistry. Turning her head from the abomination that had been birthed, Samantha locked eyes with a pair of reflective saucers. At the end of the row, standing on its hind legs and resting its paws on its furry belly, was a raccoon. Apparently, she hadn’t closed the door tight enough when she reentered the building. Samantha kept her gaze on the creature she hopped down off the bench.

“With a name like ‘Daniels’, I can handle wrasslin’ a raccoon,” she said lowly.

Swinging her Walmart bag of tricks like a mace, Samantha descended upon the raccoon, ready to make it regret its existence.

The next morning, Carrie walked up to her locker for a pre-school workout and had to do a double take. For a second, she thought that maybe she needed a haircut, and that her fringe was blocking her eyesight. Then, as the marks on her locker remained, Carrie considered that maybe her double-shot mocha wasn’t quite in her system yet. Coach Superior had advised her to “cut that shit” out of her diet, but if this is what it was like without the regular amount, then maybe Carrie deserved an exception.

That was how the assistant coach, Tammy Jackson, found the school’s newest quarterback. She stopped on her way to the office and, slipping her sunglasses down the bridge of her nose, looking at Carrie over the top of the lenses.

“Care Bear?” she called. “You sleepwalk here?”

“I’m a bit...confused, Coach Tammy,” Carrie replied, slowly beginning to accept the reality of her locker door.

Interested and perplexed, Tammy pushed her sunglasses atop of head, like a plastic crown. As she got closer and closer to Carrie’s position, the angrier her face got. When she halted to a stop beside Carrie, her cheeks were visibly tinged pink.

“What the hell is this?” she seethed, eyes darting all around the vandalism.

“Bad,” Carrie muttered. “Paint. Bad painting?”

“This is bullshit!” Tammy declared, almost spilling the contents of her 20-ounce travel mug. “Did they leave a note? Some kind of symbol? Don’t tell me these motherfuckers had the balls to screw up your locker with graffiti and just go!

“Wait,” Carrie interjected, “we don’t know who did this.”

“ ‘Motherfucker’ is gender-neutral,” Tammy said, tone frosty. “I bet it was the boy’s soccer team. Their coach wanted this position. I’m sure that Yellen put the boys up to it, just to spite me.”

“They got my ribbon,” Carrie noted, reaching up to take it down. She gingerly held it in her hands. She looked back up at the red-and-black locker door. “Should I clean this up?”

“No, I’ll call it in to the custodians,” Tammy frowned. “You just empty out your things and pick out a new one. Preferably a good distance away from this one.”

Carrie nodded silently. Tammy patted the junior on the back in comforting way. “You’ll be fine, kiddo. We’ll get to the bottom of this.” Then the woman left, sashaying down the rows of lockers.

With a sigh, Carrie put in the combination to her lock. She paused for a second, taking in the black streaks once more. If she squinted, one of the blotches to the right looked kind of like a heart. Then, shaking her head, Carrie removed the lock and began taking out her things.
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