“Mom!” I exclaimed. “Where are you?!”
“SEE! See, Charles! I told you to drive faster! But nooooo. You wanna go so slow. So slow that people walking can pass us!”
“It’s called following the law, Emily.”
She completely disregarded his statement. “Sam, darling. We’re almost there. Almost. If your dad would’ve sped up just a little bit, we would’ve been there half an hour ago!”
“Hey! You took over an hour bringing those cookies and whatnot along. And then your makeup and this and that and blah and blah and--”
“Oh, you shut up! How do you know what it’s like to be a woman?!”
A small smile formed on my face. We’d all been through such a hectic two years with court hearings and so much more. It was nice for us to be this way again.
The first year was awfully rough. I had to balance out being there for my family and my studies and court and it had been so stressful. Moreover, I had to put in extra effort to keep my scholarship intact. I took therapy this time-- not because I was forced, but because it was the only time I could breathe.
Which said a lot about how my time went.
The whole situation had affected me mentally. And I found myself fighting to hold on a lot of the times.
But mom. . .mom gave me hope. Mom gave me a reason to keep going. With her arm amputated, she only had her left hand to work with. And initially, she was horrified and struggled to cope. It took a lot of time. And it was only until just recently that she started to learn to live with it and move on.
The first time she baked for me, I had tears in my eyes. She’d used only her non-dominant left hand to bake those, and that day, I realized a huge weight lifted off my chest. Somewhere inside me, I couldn’t take the fact that my driven needs for justice had brought such a tragedy upon my mother.
But that day, that smile brought life into me.
Every single bite I took of those cookies, it felt like we were one step closer to being us again.
To add to that, after more than a year of presenting our case in court, Seb got the justice he deserved.
His killer was subjected to lifelong prison. Furthermore, every single person-- or at least, most of them-- involved in the drug dealing was sentenced from a range of 6 to 25 years of prison time depending on their crimes.
That joy. . . that final declaration. . . that was something else.
I’d never felt that way before. But that joy felt well-deserved. And long due.
We all cried like babies that night. Happy tears, of course.
We gathered up with a bunch of Seb’s baby pictures and laughed at his stupidity that whole night. We celebrated his life and embraced his death.
Fast forward to a few months later, I’m on the football field, stressing about my first game in years.
Ceci and I ended up renting an apartment. We shared one, while Alex and Brad resided in another one right across our building. With them in their fourth years and us in our third years, we were doing well.
Alex left his position as a quarterback when he got offered a paid internship from a pretty successful company. The whole team was bummed out. But he’d explained how he wouldn’t have been able to put in enough hours of training and juggle the both of them simultaneously.
He was peeking into his future. And I was peeking into mine.
With him gone, there was an empty gap. And a need for replacement. And then came everyone’s eyes on me.
And so yeah, here I am. After tons and tons of anxiety and straight-up no’s. They did it. They managed to convince me.
Or did I manage to convince me?
I would never know.
Either way, I was here. Waiting for my parents because only they had the power to tell me to shut up and not listen to my idiotic thoughts of running away from this unnecessary pressure in my heart.
“Yo, you’ll be fine. We’ve seen you play. I have no doubt you’ll kill it,” Mason, my team member, commented from the back seeing me.
“Thanks, Mason,” I laughed, shrugging his comment off.
“ALRIGHT, GUYS! BUCKLE UP! IT’S SHOWTIME!” Coach yelled and then directed his eyes towards me. “I know you’re going to have your first match ever. And I know why this may be hard for you, but I know you can do this kiddo. Just keep in that faith I’ve got in you.”
I just jutted my bottom lip out, resisting the urge to pull his cheeks. “For someone who made me do a ridiculous amount of suicides to get back in shape, you are being awfully nice, Coach.”
He laughed. “Don’t get used to it.”
Alex walked in to check up on us. “How you doing, champ?” Coach asked him.
“As good as ever, Coach,” he winked at him before going around to meet everyone in the ten before we went up. And then he came to me.
“My, my, my. Look who we have here,” he laughed.
I rolled my eyes, pushing him back with a smile on my face.
He gasped loudly. “Did no one tell you? Girls can’t play football, sweetie.”
“Yeah? I’m pretty sure they can.”
“Well, then, prove it.”
“See you out there with a trophy in the end,” I winked at him.
He let out a hearty laugh again. “And I have no doubt.” He moved his hand to hold mine and my heart stopped. He was thinking of something but then smiled at me cunningly instead. “I can wait till after the game.”
And then he left. With me trying to both hide the blush and the knowing smile on my face. I shook my head and went to the team again.
All of us grouped together, hyping each other up before the big moment. We’d all accumulated that adrenaline, and pumped up our confidence and excitement levels so much that I could feel the nervousness reside in my heart.
But then. . . we stepped out.
The cheering, the local reporters, the football field, and the spirit of competitiveness. It all felt like a peaceful breeze graze against my face.
I cherished it, taking it all in and glanced at my support system on the bleachers.
Everyone was right there.
Alex, Brad, Ceci, Troy, Xavier, Gabby, Mom, Dad. . .
Needless to say, they were all engrossed in their stupid antics. Brad still had his mirror out as he checked himself out or the gazillionth time. And the rest were fighting over mom’s cookies. Mom and dad were still quarreling about getting there late probably.
In that moment, however, I felt blessed to have my idiots with me.
Everyone had taken time from their respective universities or work to come to attend my big day, and it meant so, so much to me.
I went out for the coin toss, winning it and choosing offense. And as we all lined up into our positions, my eyes flickered to the side of my field.
I could have sworn I almost saw Seb running for me, cheering and yelling for me to go kill it. I saw him laugh and flail his arms around to get my attention just to wish me all the best and I couldn’t tell whether to laugh or to cry at him.
Instead, I shut my eyes taking in one long breath.
I realized that at that moment, I was at peace with myself.
And after years of longing, I called out, “HIKE!”
T H E E N D
Just a quick disclaimer, if at any point, you think I can fix my knowledge (or lack of rather) about football, especially during the plays. Please, please, please do not hesitate to point those out. I would love to both educate myself and fix them.
Keeping that aside, however, I just finished a project that was so very dear to me. A project that was just as much yours as it was mine. And I just want to say a quick thank you for reaching this point and bearing through the disgusting grammatical errors. Thank you for sticking by.
I really, really do appreciate this. I love you guys. And I know I couldn’t have done it without the constant support and love you guys have given this book. Thank you for letting me be me, and letting me write whatever I wanted to whenever I wanted to without forcing me to limit myself.
I hope this book was even close to satisfactory and I’d still love to hear of suggestions and edits I could put into my book as it does require loads and loads of editing and proofreading.
I will be starting up a new project in the next couple of days so stay tuned for that. But until then, stay safe. I’m almost reluctant to let go of this book (hence the really long author’s note) but you know what, even I’m learning that change is inevitable in my real life. I started this when I started high school and I’m ending it when I ended high school. Both are bittersweet feelings, but I’m learning to let go.
I’ll miss you.
Lots and lots of love,
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