Girls Can't Play Football

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Chapter 24

“Do you guys really have to do this?” I whined, close to tears.

“You asked me this about twenty-seven seconds ago. Don’t comment on the precision of that, please. My answer remains the same. Yes, Sam.”

“But--”

“Sam, not a word anymore.”

“But dad! I don’t want you to leave yet!”

Dad’s eyes softened and he looked up from where he was packing his clothes to meet my eye. “I know, kiddo. I don’t want to leave you either. But this is your time. Enjoy. University only ever comes once.”

“But I want you here!” I complained like a five-year-old kid.

“But you also know that’s not going to happen. It’s not like we’re leaving you and going off to some faraway island. . .we’re literally three or four hours away!”

“Dad!” I shut my eyes and made the most irritated face I could muster up.

“Sam!” he imitated me with a slight hint of a smile on his face. “It’s okay. Stop whining.”

I groaned into my hands. “I want to go home.”

Dad took one of my hands in his. “You are home. This is your new home. It hasn’t been too long that you’ve been here, but I’ve seen you. You’re getting comfortable here. Next thing you know, you won’t want to come back to the boys and I once you’re done here,” dad joked and ruffled my hair.

I annoyingly slapped his hand away. “That’s not going to happen,” I grumbled.

Dad let out a hearty laughter at the sight of my grumpy expression and merely shrugged at me.

Can you believe it? He shrugged. Yeah, dad. Love the bonding here by the way.

“Can you at least stay until my first appointment with the therapist today? I’d be a lot more comfortable if you’re there.”

He turned around looking defeated. “Okay, now that I wish I could do. But I’ve made a promise to the boys’ mothers that I’d bring them home safe and sound in a day. I’m so sorry, kiddo,” he sighed. “But trust me! It won’t be so bad. And if you want, I’ll be on the phone the whole time--”

“No, dad!”

“Okay, then I’ll be on the phone after you’re done with your appointment. And then, if it goes bad. . .we can talk and get your mind off things. And if it goes well. . .we can talk about what all happened in the appointment. What say?”

I sighed and thought about it for a bit until I eventually shrugged. “Alright, I suppose. But you’re not forgiven for leaving only a day after.”

“Got that,” he winked and proceeded to put more clothes into the suitcase.

“Mom’s in the other room, yeah?”

“Yeah. Must be watching the television or something,” he grumbled and then stopped what he was doing for a second. “I was wondering. Why do women take all the credit for household chores when men do the same?” Dad lifted his unfolded clothes to prove that.

“Because dad. . .” I reached up to him to kiss him on his cheek. “Working for a day only doesn’t give men the opportunity to demand for equal credit in opposition to those who work every single day to make our lives better. But if you’re talking about yourself... you’re different. So chill, dad.”

He smirked and continued his work. “That I am.”

“You’re supposed to be humble about it.”

“I am humble. You complimented me. I appreciated it. Easy. In fact, I’d be rude if I hadn’t answered,” he defended.

“Yeah, yeah. . . ” I laughed, dismissing his obviously ‘humble’ self. “I’m going to go catch up on mom!” I called out while leaving the room.

“Okay!”

It was only when I got out of the room did I hear the sobs. I rushed to see what was the matter.

Turns out, Mom had ‘Me Before You’ on the television.

“Mom? Mom, are you alright?” I asked as I hurried to her.

“Does it look like I’m alright?! They can’t do this to him!”

“Mom! What are you talking about! And stop crying! What’s wrong?”

“Him...I--” she burst out crying again.

I turned around to see what was wrong and then realized why she was crying. “Mom, god. Why do you do this to yourself?” I laughed and turned the T.V. off.

“I--” There was both a hiccup and pause here.

“Don’t--” More hiccups.

“Know.”

I don’t know why. Just seeing her like that because of a movie made me laugh so much that I thought I’d lose my voice the next day.

My mom knew how to do that. I still don’t understand how though. She somehow manages to make me laugh at the most stupidest of things.

But that’s how moms are supposed to be, I guess.

And it may not have been seen like a lot, but those few moments of laughter with my parents kept me going for the rest of the rather depressing day. They were like a few of the last moments of my absolute happiness until reality fell upon me and consumed me as a whole.

An hour and a half later, everyone was getting ready to leave. The boys came back from the short trip they went out for and my parents were busy shoving all the luggage at the back of the vehicle.

I was just there helping my parents with a rather glum expression on my face. “I still don’t approve of the fact that you all are leaving so early,” I told my mom.

She gave me a kiss on my forehead. “Darling, we’re always here. Just call whenever. Actually, I take that back. Don’t call whenever. It sort of depends. But hey! We’ll drop by soon again. A hundred percent.”

I was left with no choice but to nod my head and hope the whole gang would be back together soon. “And you idiots. Are you serious? No one’s going to stay back with me?” I asked the boys, moving up a little bit to talk to all of them. “And forget staying. You guys have forgotten about me already! Why are you guys talking to each other?! Talk to me!”

“Awww...” Xavier was the first one to get out of the car to console me-- sort of. He squished my face so that I was puckering like a fish yet again. “Is our little Sammy jelly? It’s okay, Sammy! We all love you!” he consoled.

I swatted his hands away. “Stop doing that! And I’m not ‘jelly’. I’m just annoyed. Really annoyed that you guys are leaving so soon. I mean who stays for only a day! You could’ve at least stayed for two!”

“Sammy’s gonna miss us! Sammy’s gonna miss us! Sammy is so concerned for us! Sammy’s gonna miss us!” A horrible tune that neither rhymed nor made sense came in from somewhere inside the car and I glared at the inner part of it, hoping that whoever that horrible thing came from got the message.

“First of all, I am not a ‘Sammy.’ So get that clear in all of your heads. And second of all, of course, I’m going to miss you! What are you guys expecting?! I hate all of you so much!”

“Awww,” they all chorused from inside. And I just took a deep breath to calm myself down.

“I give up on you guys,” I called out.

They merely gave me cheeky smiles in return.

“Okie dokie! All done!” dad spoke out as he made one final shove to get the bags in place and shut the rear end of the car. “Ready to move!”

He came to me and hugged me. “Take care of yourself, kiddo. Take your meds in time. Don’t stress too much at the therapist’s. Remember, the therapist is there to help you. And any problem you have, just give me a call. I’ll try to support you in whatever way I can. Be it coming here or just giving you advice. Are we good on that?”

“Yeah, dad. Thanks. I love you.”

“Love you too. Now let go of my hand,” I looked down at my hand unconsciously grasping his hand tightly. “Because you’re going to make me too emotional. Remember, crying dads aren’t too good-looking!”

I laughed and let go of his hand. Mom gave me another kiss. “He told you the main thing so I’m just going to tell you to have fun. Yeah. . .enjoy, sweetie. Okay? Okay. Love you! I’m looking forward to talking to you again. And this time, I want some time on the phone alone.” She sent a sharp look to everyone. “Without any unnecessary and unwanted people around.”

No one said a word. Basically, unfortunately for mom, that wasn’t happening.

“Your mom took our goodbye speech, which I didn’t know was compulsory but. . . I suppose all that’s left to say is bye. So um. . . yeah. Bye, Sam! Love you lots! And we’ll be waiting for another game again with our quarterback!” Hedge spoke on behalf of everyone since he was near the windows and the closest one to me in terms of distance.

“Bye, you guys. Love you.”

“Bye!” they called out one last time and sent me a smile until they got the car out of the parking lot and drove off. Every meter they went away from me, I felt the heaviness of my heart drag me down lower and lower. There seemed to be something painful stuck in my throat that wouldn’t get out and my eyes were begging to leak, but I wouldn’t let them.

Once they were completely out of sight, I went into the hotel’s guest bathroom in the lobby to get myself together before I could officially catch a cab and get ready for the next horror in my life.

I first found myself in front of the bathroom’s mirror. And it was funny how I could see everyone but me when I looked into it. My thoughts were clouded with emotion. The sense of parting away from your loved ones no matter how far they were going would always bring that pain to you.

And it was only when the visual of them leaving repeated in my head did a traitorous tear fall out of my eye.

I hurriedly wiped it knowing I was making such a big deal out of a small matter. This was stupid. Why do I have to overreact so much? It’s not like they were dying! Heck, it wasn’t even like they were going that far away! However, they somehow made it a lot more unbearable for me than I would have wanted to admit.

As if this part of me wasn’t cowardly enough, the other part of me was living in even more fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the upcoming. It was so afraid that it was scared to make its presence known.

The therapist had always been someone I couldn’t stand. Today, although I hoped it would be different, I was scared for me. I was scared of those repercussions, those consequences that would soon follow my visit to the therapist’s. I had decided to give this thing a shot, but would it really help?

Would it really just aid me and for once heal the wounds I had never dared to touch?

There was no use asking myself the questions I had no answers to. The only option I had was to go for it and hope for the best. It wasn’t the therapist that was the problem. It was me. I was the one hindering me. I was the one who couldn’t choke up a single word. And today, I was going to give it my all. I wanted this over with.

I was going to try. And trying was okay with me.

“Wipe these ugly creatures off your face, Sam. We have a long day to go. Ooh, look at the joy. Look at how amazingly well my off-day is already going. Don’t you think this is just great? Oh wow,” I realized. “I’m talking to myself now. Even better. I can’t wait for someone to walk right into those doors and catch me like this. They’ll think I’m a lunatic-- which I might just be, you know? Oh my god. Stop it, Sam!”

I shook my head at myself and got out. A cab was relatively easier to get at a hotel. They were always lurking around in expectations of a customer. I quickly got into one, told him the address of the therapist’s location, and then rested my head on the window to stare out of the window. It was quite dark now.

If anything, the timing of seven-thirty made me feel even more uneasy.

I may have been more than just a “nervous mess” as I walked into the reception area. My voice shook even when I was telling her my name. How pathetic.

She told me to take a seat in the meanwhile as the therapist cleared up with her previous patient. I sat down and gulped, swallowing the lump in my throat. My leg bounced up and down due to the anticipation this whole situation brought me.

Beside me was the fifteen-year-old guy I had seen the previous day. I observed him carefully. Gosh, how do you do that without looking like a creep? He had his eyes closed and his headphones over his ears. He seemed to be lost in his music.

Or maybe not so lost.

I think he noticed my gaze because one of his eyes opened up and looked at me as though accusing me of staring at him. I had a mini-awkward moment where I tried to pretend that I wasn’t looking at him but the wall over him. Yeah, great going, Sam.

When he dropped his headphones on his shoulders, I took a deep breath in and decided I should make a conversation with him instead of just sitting here like an awkward and stupid person. I mean, he was the only one that looked semi-approachable here. There was one fifty-year-old who by his looks-- I know I shouldn’t judge, but could I have an exception this one time?-- looked horrifying creepy.

“So, hey,” I brought up a conversation. “I’m Sam,” I introduced and offered my hand for him to shake.

He stared at my hand like it was an alien and he shook my hand. “Ronnie.”

“So. . .um. . .hey, Ronnie. How’s it going for you?”

He gave a ‘really? are you serious’ look. Okay, I suppose that question wasn’t quite for him.

“Okay, so. . .um. . .what are you here for?” Oh gosh. I wanted to kill myself then. Wrong question. Wrong question. Wrong question! “Or. . .never mind. That was out of the line. I’m sorry. I’m just going to--”

“Divorced parents. They think it’s taking a toll on me. And it is. But they won’t get why. They won’t stop fighting. I don’t think I can take them anymore.” His eyes weren’t on me as he said those words. In fact, they weren’t here at all. They seemed to be lost. Lost in memories, lost in places he didn’t want to see.

Those eyes were so relatable.

Those eyes I had seen occasionally in the mirror, staring back at me like they didn’t know what they were seeing.

“Hey, hey,” I comforted. “I’m sure it’ll get better, okay?”

He came back to the present with a jolt and almost looked embarrassed he said anything. “Sharing can be useful sometimes. Believe it or not, it actually helps. It’s like you’re bottling everything up inside yourself and you need someone to vent it out on. Quite frankly, I’m like you. Which is probably why I’m giving this advice to you. I keep telling myself this, but still can’t bring myself up to share and express myself. So I’m just trying to prevent you from making the same mistake I am making.”

His eyes looked up at me with just a tint of hope. “. . .you think?”

“I know,” I reassured. “I can’t say I’ve been successful in this. But that’s why we’re here, right? To push ourselves a little more? Although I still don’t think I should be giving advice when I can’t follow it, I can’t help myself from just telling you all of this.”

He tilted his head to the side. “How old are you?” he wondered.

“How about you take a guess?” I laughed. “I’ll tell you after.”

“Hmm. . .” he analyzed me. “About twenty-one? Are you twenty-one?”

“Gosh, no! I’m not in my twenties! I’m eighteen!”

“Really? Oh wow. You look a lot older.”

I crossed my arms together. “I still don’t get whether I should take that as a compliment or. . ?”

He shrugged and joked, “Whatever you want to take it as.”

I was liking this kid already.

“So, what’s your age?” I asked.

“Your turn to guess.”

“Fifteen?”

“Eh. Not too bad. Sixteen. Just turned sixteen about a month ago.”

“At least I was close,” I grumbled and gave a pointed look to him.

He agreed, nodding his head with a soft smile evident on his face.

“Samantha Anderson?” the receptionist called. “Mrs. Harrison is waiting for you in room three please. It’s the one to the right of the hallway.”

I stood up from my place and smiled at the boy, internally thanking him for unknowingly getting my mind off things even if it were only for a while. I headed towards room three and before I entered, I took a deep breath in and tried to control my hands that had once again decided to go against my wishes and shake.

“Good evening, Mrs. Anderson,” she welcomed as I knocked on the door and twisted the knob.

“Good evening,” I whispered in a voice I couldn’t decipher as my own.

“Alright, so just give me a minute or two as I study your case and get back to you.”

I silently nodded as I didn’t trust my voice at that time. In the meanwhile, I tried to look around the room and observed almost every little thing in the room. It was only a matter of minutes when she concluded her silence and began talking.

“Okay, so. . . Ms. Samantha Anderson. How are you today?”

“I’m well, thank you? You?” Oh my god. When had I learned to be so formal? Oh well, desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.

“I’m great.”

“Okay, so this is about your brother, isn’t it?”

I nodded.

“Okay. . .now. . . I just want you to know that today won’t be easy on you. . . It’ll get better, I promise. But I’m going to try something right now. Something you won’t quite particularly like, but I need to understand what level you are in this situation. So, Sam. Prepare yourself, please. I’m going to ask you the toughest question right now. I want you to try. Just try, please. That’s all. I’m not asking for all, but once I know your response to this question, I’ll know exactly how to take this whole situation with you. Are we clear?”

My throat went dry. And I closed my eyes to respond.

“Okay. So, Sam. Can you please tell me what happened to Sebastian?”

My whole body was shaking now. And I closed my eyes. Try. Try. Try. “H-he. . .”

“It’s okay, darling. You can do it. He what, darling? He what?”

My breathing got heavier, but I shook my head and forced it out of my mouth. No, Sam. Try. You need to get through this. “H-h-he died.”

“Okay, sweetie. That’s it. That’s progress. Why? What happened. . .?”

“I d-don’t k-know.”

“Okay. That’s okay. That’s okay. What happened the night you found Sebastian then, darling?”

My leg was bouncing up and down at a vigorous pace now due to my nervousness. The thoughts, the memories came flooding back at a pace. And suddenly I just seemed like I was getting an electric shock by the way my whole body was shivering. My consciousness made me go through every single thing once again and the tears came rushing out of my eyes. I gripped the table for support as my breathing became ragged.

“Hey, hey, hey. . .Samantha. . .It’s okay. It’s okay. Deep breaths in, deep breaths out. It’s okay if you don’t want to answer that question, darling. It’s okay. . .”

But her words were just a blur to me. All the events were passing in my head on loop, repeating themselves in fast forward again and again. Making me relive every single horror multiple times. And I stood up. “I-I-I’m sorry. I can’t do this. . .I can’t. . .” I could barely see anything due to the tears in my eyes and my steps weren’t stable either as my feet were shaking. But I needed to get out of that place.

I needed to leave. And so I did.

That night I ran right out of the therapist’s office, past the sixteen-year-old guy in my most vulnerable state ever. My brother’s death replayed in my head again and again and made me feel as though I was stuck in a maze where all the walls were my worst nightmare and I couldn’t find the way out.

That night, the sky seemed to be crying with me as well. And as I ran back to my university with my unsteady legs and my purse hanging off my shoulder with my entry passes, I thanked the sky for sharing my pain with me when no one could.

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