I obeyed as I didn’t have any other choice and signed my name on the spot he had pointed at. This had been going on for far too long. There was only so much of torture I could take. “Here as well,” he pointed at yet another part of the page I had to sign on. I did as he said and sighed, wondering when all of this would be over.
He flipped the page and cautiously took a look at my face. I groaned. “Last one, I promise.” I sighed and nodded and signed all the spots that said to sign on. Once I was sure that I was done, I pumped my fist in the air. “Freedom!”
He rolled his eyes and shook his head at my childish behavior. In my defense, that was a whole load of paperwork I did. When he said there was a ‘bit’ of paperwork, I didn’t think he meant a whole hour of signing and sh*t like that. Like come on, give a girl a break sometimes. I had just finished all of my classes and I was looking forward to sprawling across my bed and relaxing when Coach called me over reminding me it was Tuesday and that I was supposed to fill in the forms. When he told me that he was looking for me all day, I felt honored that I was worth his time but as soon as I saw how thick all the papers looked when they were bound together, I wished for nothing more than a knife so I could stab myself.
“Now I not only have to deal with the boys, I have to deal with you as well.” Coach shook his head, a faint smile showing.
“Always to the rescue!” I brought my fingertips up to my forehead and saluted.
“I wouldn’t call it rescue exactly,” he winced. “I wonder how you played quarterback for so long. You get tired so easily.”
I would have commented on that if I hadn’t caught on his words. “How did you know?” I asked, my voice dangerously low.
“You don’t take me to be stupid, do you? I do my research. I don’t just offer a position for anyone to be my assistant that easily. I saw your video in which you played last year.”
I let out a sigh of relief. “Oh!” I tried to play it casually. “That! You mean the video in which I applied for this University when they asked about extracurricular activities? Ah, yes! Now I get it!” I nodded my head vigorously.
“Yes, that,” he raised an eyebrow, amusement evident as his lips quirked upwards.
“Right.” I was moving backward to get going when I bumped my elbow into the chair behind be. I must recommend that everyone try not to do that because the sting that follows once you do is unbearable. For a few seconds maybe, but unbearable, I tell you.
Coach just burst out laughing. “Watch your step, Anderson.” Still in pain and red in the face due to the embarrassment, I merely waved and walked out. Thought I could save some more embarrassment and walk out peacefully. I seem to have done enough already.
“Sam! Wait up!” he ran out to catch up with me. Still a little red, I gave him a questioning look.
“Practice tomorrow. Five thirty. Be there on time.” I looked at him weirdly. That soon? Was he really that eager to have me teach the team? I feel bad for the boys already. Speaking of which. . .
Coach seemed to know what I was thinking of because as soon as I looked at him with yet another questioning gaze, he assured me, “They know. The boys know about you. I told half of them since they had P.E. two periods before, right after lunch. Your batch, however, still don’t. Either way, word travels fast around here, they’ll know soon enough. You know the basics and positions of the team members, right? Or do you want me to brief it with you?”
Okay, maybe that’s not really assuring at all. Word travels fast here? Yup, not helping my case. The whole plan to keep it low seems to be failing miserably. Holy crap, this is real. His words were slowly registering into my head: You know the basics and positions of the team members, right? This was actually happening. He was actually asking me--
“God, Sam. Stop zoning out on every second you get, will you?” he facepalmed while I gave him a sheepish grin.
“Sorry, Coach. Yeah, I know the basics and if I need help remembering, you can tell me the positions tomorrow. Although I can’t say the same about the names. I only know a couple.”
He took a deep breath in. “Okay, names. . . let’s see. . . we have Mason, Alex, Stephen--”
“Tell me later! See ya, Coach!” I ran off before he had a chance to call me back. All I could think of now was that I finally had time to relax now. Loads and loads of it, that too.
Little did I know how wrong I was going to be.
“What up, girl?!”
I ducked my head down and groaned. My luck was running out. Who would think I’d meet Brad in the middle of the hallway when I wanted some rest? Not to mention the fact that whoever was walking past, stared at him weirdly and then at me. At least if you’re taking yourself down, don’t take me along with you.
I slowly turned around and gave him a pissed off look. “Brad, what do you think you’re doing?” I snapped harshly. I might’ve wanted to hit myself at that moment. They were out before I could take it and I winced. I’m supposed to be taking my tiredness out on him. It wasn’t his fault. I was about to apologize when he cut me off. “I--”
“I’m starting a conversation! And how would you know it’s me if I didn’t do it right? Would you turn around? Huh? Huh? Huh?” he challenged, arms crossed on his chest. A smile of both relief and amusement made it’s way on my lips.
“Totally knew it was you before I even turned around. Can’t deny that,” I smiled. We had started walking again now. We were walking at a slow pace when he stopped all of a sudden. “My, my . . .I feel so bad. I’m going to have to leave, darling. Now, now. . . don’t cry. Please don’t. I know I’m a handsome, young man, but I’ve got to go now. I really hope you understand,” he ran a hand down his hair dramatically and smirked, “But I’ll be back. Don’t you worry, princess. Your prince will be back. But, like, seriously, though, bye!”
An eyebrow raised, I crossed my hands across my chest. “Princess?” I pointed at myself with an unbelievable tone and then pointed at him. “Prince?” He just nodded and gave me a toothy smile.
I let out a humorless laugh. “Get lost.”
He pouted. “That’s not how you treat your prince.”
“Brad, are you five?”
“Nope. Nineteen and proud.”
“Doesn’t seem like it.”
“You’re just in denial,” he wiggled his eyebrows and shoved me lightly with his shoulder.
“No, you’re just in delusion.”
He placed a hand on his heart. “You hurt me right here.”
“Yay for you?”
“Fine. I’ll find another princess. You’re not one, Sam,” he stuck his tongue out in a teasing manner.
“Yay for me.”
“Fine,” he huffed. “Alex is my new princess.”
I suppressed my laugh, but my lips betrayed me by showing yet the lightest smile on my face. “He’ll be honored.”
“Bye, Sam.” He turned his face away from me in a sharp manner and stuck his nose up as if he were a person of a high rank or so. “One day you’ll see the importance of this.” Now I had no idea where he was coming from. Maybe he hit his head on the way here. He sounds so. . . stupid. So unbelievably, incredibly stupid.
“We’ll see. See ya, Brad!” I waved and walked on while he knocked on Alex’s door. His roommate opened it and I sent him a small smile out of politeness and walked over to my dorm. I knocked the door of my dorm until Ceci turned the doorknob open. However, Ceci’s face told me that something was wrong.
“What happe--” I looked closer to make sure I was seeing things right. “Alex?”
“How? When?" he asked, standing up and walking towards me. He looked furious. Ceci sensed that there was something wrong and excused herself, taking the keys and walking out the door.
“Huh?” I knew what he was saying. I knew. But I had no idea what to say. I think that was the only word that came out. I just didn’t expect him to be here this soon. I didn’t expect him to come into my dorm and demand for answers. I knew I owed it to me but I wasn’t prepared. In fact, I was half hoping that I’d sleep properly for today so I could wake up fresh tomorrow and be prepared. And to make things worse, I’ve never seen him this angry before.
“When were you going to tell me that you knew how to play football? Or, scratch that,” he laughed humorlessly, “I don’t even know whether you can play or not. You’ve got Coach wrapped around your fingers. I bet you asked him to coach us and for a partnership and he just gave you one. What are you going to gain doing this? Money? Is that why you wanted this? Because let me tell you this, we already suck. We’re not that good. And you coming into the picture? Not good. You’re just going to bring us down with you.”
“Excuse me? I get that I didn’t tell you that I was about to join but that gives you absolutely no right to judge me like that. I can play football. And as for money, I’m not doing this for money. Do you get it? I want to be here. And the fact that you suck? I want to help. That’s literally it.”
“Listen, Sam. We don’t suck that much that we need help from an inexperienced person. Okay? We won the last game--”
“Because I helped you then!” I exclaimed. He laughed again, but this time with a look of disgust directed towards me.
“So you can’t even admit that we won without your help. Are you that desperate?! Not everything is about you!” He was coming towards me now but I narrowed my eyes at him. Did he really think he was intimidating? Because someone needs to give him a reality check. I’m not scared of him. And it’s time he gets it.
I shoved him back and walked in the same manner he did before. “I know. Since you can’t even listen to me: get out. Get out now!”
He took a deep breath. “Okay, Sam. Why go through all of this? I’m the quarterback of my team. Quarterback. Do you know what that even is? I’m the leader of my team. And as my job, I’m not going to let you bring us down,” he seethed.
“What are you going to do?” I challenged.
“Anything I have to.”
“Right before I kick you out, I want you to get one thing clear in your head. I can play football. I’m pretty sure I can play better than you. And I know what a quarterback is, by the way. Pretty sure I know the facts more than you do. So, listen, Alex, I’m not letting you ruin this opportunity I got.”
He smirked at me but in a deadly serious way. “I know you’ve heard this before, Sam. And I’m going to repeat till this gets clear in your head. Girls can’t play football. No matter where they are from.”
“Pretty sure they can.”
“Oh, I will. In fact, I’ll do so tomorrow. Remember? I’m part of the team now. Practice at five thirty? I’ll be there,” I winked at him to rile him up. It must’ve worked because he left after punching the wall that was the closest to him.
“Careful, there. Wouldn’t want to do any damage to the school’s property now, would we?”
“I should be saying careful to you, klutz. See you there, then. Practice, five thirty. Hope you’re not expecting easy.”
“Never was, never will.”
“Good.” He opened the door and with a last glare, shut the door with a loud bang. I think I prefer Brad’s company more than Alex’s. But right then, Ceci came in and put the keys back in place.
“What was that?” she wondered. “I’ve never seen him that angry before.” She looks at me for any clues.
“Yeah, me too.”
“Did you say something to him?”
“No. Yes. I don’t know,” I sigh into my hands. “I joined the football team.”
“Wait. . .what? When did this happen? Oh, my god. That’s why he’s so angry. Because you took his place as quarterback and--”
“Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. I didn’t exactly take his place. I mean I’m just going to help coach them from now on.”
“That’s great!” she said excitedly but then her face dropped as she understood. “And he doesn’t want that.”
I nodded my head and pressed my lips into a tight line. “I’m so sorry for not telling you this earlier. I just wanted to figure it out myself first before--”
“Shut up. I get it.”
I blinked. Once. Then twice. “That’s it?”
“Were you expecting something else?” she raised an eyebrow.
I shrugged. “Not really. But with Alex reacting that way, I thought you’d be mad as well.” I gave her an apologetic look.
“He’s an a**hole. Don’t worry about him. All we have to do is smack him upside-down the head and he’ll be alright,” and then she whispers into my ear. “I do it all the time to Brad. It works. And they’re best friends, right? The same method should work.”
I couldn’t stop the laugh that came out. “I hope so.”
“I still don’t understand why he wouldn’t want you on the team helping them? They do seem like they need some help. That was the first game they won in years. And you told them the tricks. How can he still not want you there?”
I sighed. “He doesn’t believe me. Or better yet, he doesn’t want to believe me. And it’s fine. I don’t need his consent. I want to help whether he likes it or not.”
“It’s not going to be easy. Alex is stubborn. If he wants something to happen, he makes sure it does.”
“Well, he hasn’t met me before. I’m the queen of stubbornness.” I flip my hair backward dramatically.
Ceci laughs. “Sometimes I wonder how I got two knuckleheads as best friends this year.”
“Destiny,” I whisper into her ear and smile.
She gets up. “I’m going to do my biology homework. Do whatever you want to meanwhile.”
“I’m done with that. Finished it in class before the bell rang. I think I’ll be getting some sleep instead.”
She made a face. “Lucky girl,” she sulked. “Alright, whatever’s best for you.”
There were no more words spoken. She sat down to study and I lay down on my bed staring at the ceiling. It took an hour to realize I wasn’t going to be getting any sleep today. Every time I shut my eyes, I saw Alex’s angry face and wondered whether that was going to be the reaction of everybody on the team tomorrow. Needless to say, I was terrified of how things would turn out later on.
“You know what? I’ll study ahead. That way I’ll understand more tomorrow. It’ll be easier for me anyway. I can’t sleep so--” But I didn’t say more because the soft snoring from the table told me enough. I still looked in her direction only to find her sleeping on the table, a pencil held loosely in between her fingers and some drool on the corner of her mouth. A smile formed on my face.
Oh, how the roles have been reversed.
Not wanting to disturb her, I brought my blanket off my bed and placed it over her after plucking the pencil out of her fingers and putting it on her book so it wouldn’t fall. Hopefully, she’ll wake up by herself soon and go back to her bed instead of lying on the table forever.
I hadn’t even started studying for five minutes when a Skype call rang through. I groaned. No more studying then. Answering the call, I went out to the other corner of my bed and restrained myself from putting it on speaker since Ceci was fast asleep. “Mom!” I greeted, an automatic smile making its way onto my face despite there not being a word spoken from her side yet. All the worries, anger, issues--all out the window.
“Oh, my darling! Sam! How are you, sweetie?” she gave not more than a second to answer when she spoke up again, “How are the classes? How about the teachers? Are you being able to concentrate? Oooh, what about Ceci? Is she doing well? She was so amazing! And, what’s that guy’s name again? Charles! What’s the boy’s name we saw that day with her?” She pauses for yet another second, most assumably to hear what my dad was saying and then went on. “Ah, yes. Alex. That boy. He’s got some manners. Next time he’s with you, call us. I’ll tell all the boys to come in and learn a thing or two from him--”
“Don’t ruin this by taking his name,” I groaned into my hands.
“Oh, okay then,” she said in an overly cheerful voice. “He-who-shall-not-be-named has to be teaching these good for nothing idiots some things--”
“Okay, okay, fine!” she grunts before letting out an annoyed hiss, “Charles, stop snatching the phone from me! I’m talking to my daughter! Stop it! Stop it! Now! Charles, get your hand off the phone! I swear to god, I won’t give you food for the rest of the year. Leave the phone! NOW!”
I held my phone away from my ear. I felt like a hero not keeping the phone on speaker right now. I just saved Ceci from some serious torture. I mean, imagine. Waking up to the screams of my parents. Yup, been there, done that. Not nice at all.
Cautiously, I placed my phone back on my ear so I could talk. “Whenever you’re done,” I commented.
“Oh, god. Now see what you did, Charles!” she blamed him. “You’re ruining this whole thing.”
“I’m ruining this whole thing?! You’re ruining it! You’re the one who’s--”
“Mom! Dad! Whoever’s on the phone right now! I’ve got an amazingly genius of an idea, put it on speaker!” I interrupted in a hushed whisper, careful not to wake Ceci up.
“Good idea,” mom said, considering it. I sighed in annoyance.
“Seriously, mom? We have this conversation about putting the phone on speaker almost every time we have a Skype call,” I reprimanded.
“Hey, I’m the mom!” she complained. “I give the lectures!”
“Yeah, and I’m the dad, which is why you should consider giving me the phone to talk to the daughter who is mine as well,” Dad added.
Mom clicked her tongue in frustration. “I might just blow up and it won’t be pretty, so appreciate what you have and deal with it like a man.”
“Okay, okay. Do all that bickering when I’m not on the phone.”
“Request accepted. What’s up, kiddo? You okay there?” Dad finally fell into a conversation with me.
“Yup. In fact, I’m kind of glad you called. I’ve got something to tell you and it’s important. I mean I was going to call in soon to inform what happened but it completely slipped my mind for now--”
“Are you being expelled? Suspended? Darling, what did you do? Oh, please don’t tell me you pulled another prank on a teacher! You know you could be caught anytime! Oh, come on, they caught it on camera, didn’t they? I told you to be careful while doing the pranks! Sam, say something!”
I was completely speechless. The amount of faith she had in me is heart-warming. “I was actually not going to say something as drastic as being expelled,” I made sure to stress the word out, “but I sure was going to tell you something related to. . .football.”
"Football?!” they both exclaimed at the same time, “No way!”
“I. . .uh. . .joined the football team.” I scratched the back of my neck nervously.
“Emily, pinch me right now.” There was a pause that lasted for around five seconds when a loud ouch! came into sound. “You could have pinched me lightly!”
“Too bad,” my mom said in a not-very-sorry tone. I almost burst out laughing.
“Well, not like a player on the team. More like the coach of the team. Actually, I’m co-coaching with the real coach. Okay, that sounded a bit confusing but, um. . . do you get what I’m trying to say?”
“All I caught from that was coach. Charles, you?”
“I caught a few more words but I think that’s the word that’s still ringing in my head,” dad replied to the question mom asked. “Emily, I think I’m going to faint,” he announced a little while after that.
“Shut up, Charles. Sam, that’s wonderful! I have to call the boys--”
“Don’t call them in now. It’s late and I don’t want to disturb them. Tell them the news tomorrow morning and I’ll call around eight tomorrow at night so call them in then,” I cut her off.
“Sounds good to me.”
“Perfect,” I smiled.
“Yup, perfect. You know this, right? We’re so proud of you. This kind of thing? It needs guts--” mom started.
“Yeah, yeah. Stop with the inspirational talk. She knows this already.” Dad stopped mom.
Mom gasped, horrified. “Sam, he’s just doing this so he won’t burst out crying,” she snapped, a teasing tone evident.
I laughed. “Dad, don’t cry. Mom, don’t scold him all the time. Thank you for supporting me, guys. You don’t know how much I needed this. I love you. I love you all, even the guys. Tell them tomorrow, by the way. Don’t want them to cut my head off because I didn’t tell them.”
“Love you! Bye!”
“Bye, sweetie! Love you!”
And that was the end. They always managed to bring a smile to my face and for the first time in all my time here, I wanted nothing more than to go back home to how everything was before. But I knew that wasn’t going to possible. And I knew I couldn’t go back. Because there’s this funny rule about life: there’s no going back.
And that night, true to my word, I didn’t sleep despite the sleeping pills. Instead, I just thought of the endless possibilities of how things would turn out if it hadn’t this way. Because every time I closed my eyes, there was always this one face left to haunt me.
And I couldn’t bear that.