I was in one of the few places in my town where I felt safe and alone. No one else was around, and I could pretend that there were no rumors about my life. I stood in the middle of the soccer field, a ball under my foot. I was trying my best to forget about everything I had heard earlier. I started walking with the ball dribbling between my feet towards the goal. Just as I reached the end of the penalty box, I kicked the ball lightly into the goal.
Walking up to the goal to receive the ball, I recognized a cripple hobbling up the pathway to the field. Rolling my eyes, I grabbed the ball and walked back to the penalty box line furthest away from him.
“You know, you chose one of the worst places for a cripple with a busted leg to be. Partially because I don’t want to be near a soccer field right now, and because it’s on a fucking hill.”
As I went to kick the ball, I looked up at Connor who had now stopped moving. He was leaning on his one crutch, adjusting his leg’s placement. “That was kind of the point.”
Connor shrugged while shaking his head slightly, “Why are you mad at me? I didn’t even do anything.” He hobbled closer a few steps as I went to grab the soccer ball.
“That’s exactly why. You didn’t do anything!”
Connor’s head went back as he sighed, “Will you just come over here and talk with me? I’m too tired to yell back and forth about this.”
Even though I didn’t want to have a civil conversation, I did what he said. I could tell his leg was in pain, and despite being mad at him, I was a good person. I walked over to him and we took a seat in the damp grass.
“Now, tell me why you’re mad at me? I’m not a genius like you.”
“You didn’t do anything. You knew the whole time they had this bet going, and from what I was hearing, you didn’t try to stop them and you didn’t even tell me. Instead, I had to learn from overhearing it after I got called a prude. Why couldn’t you tell me? Dare I even ask, were you encouraging their bet? I know you gave up your little game, but did you join theirs so you could keep going? I just need to know.”
Connor sat up as much as he could, “Babe.”
I wanted so badly to get up and walk away. “No, don’t ‘babe’ me. I want to know the truth. Why the hell am I the one in the dark on this one? Were you in on it, that’s all I want to know.”
Connor tried to push himself closer as best he could. “Listen, Elizabeth. I’m a boy, and I would love to sleep with you if you gave me the chance. But then again, my best friend was in on this bet, saying we wouldn’t sleep together. If I was in on this bet, I’d have to side with him because that’s just how I roll. Yet, we could have totally slept with each other the other night, but you stopped me and I respected your choice. So, I’m not in on the bet. If you want to have sex with me, I’ll be down for it any day of the week. But if you don’t, I’m not going to push you into it. Alright? I’m not in any bets, I’m not playing any games which involve our personal lives, and I’m not the same guy I was last year. I love you and I respect your privacy. I’m sorry I didn’t stop this bet earlier, but I just couldn’t be the one to break the news to you.”
I nodded my head while staying silent. I didn’t know what to say, so that’s what I did. I didn’t speak, and Connor reciprocated my actions. We were both just sitting there, with a few lights on above the soccer field. Connor glanced at me, and I looked him in the eyes, noticing that he wasn’t feeling right.
“Now might be the wrong time to tell you, but I had painkillers before our movie night. They’re starting to kick in, and I drove here.”
We both laughed while I stood up, holding out a hand to pull him up. He grunted while pushing on his good leg. “Hand me the keys to your truck.” He may not have totally been mentally present, but he gave me the ‘are you crazy look’. I crossed my arms, “I will push you back down and leave you here. Give me your damn keys.”
Sighing, he reached into his coat pocket. “I don’t have them, guess we’re stuck here.”
I shook my head, smiling as I stepped closer to him and checked his pants pocket. I pulled out his key ring, dangling them in front of his face. “You’re an asshat. Let’s get you in the car.”
We pulled into Connor’s driveway, and he turned to me with his eyes barely open. “My mom doesn’t know I left, so if she asks, you drove both ways.” I shook my head, laughing as I unbuckled my seat belt and helped him out of the car.
“I think she’ll realize something’s up since my car isn’t here anymore. Let’s just get you to bed, we can take care of the rest in the morning.” Connor stumbled up the steps of his house, trying his best to keep quiet. With some difficulty here and there, we finally reached his temporary room.
Elijah and Ellie had left when Connor left, so his mother didn’t pay much attention to the sound of cars leaving the driveway.
I took Connor’s crutches as he crawled back into bed, then placed them against his bedside table. I started a movie before settling myself into the bed and cuddling into Connor’s arms. As his eyes fluttered shut every now and then, his head rested back on the pillow and his thumb would lightly graze my hip. Before dozing off, Connor softly mumbled, “I love you, Liz.”
I smiled while mumbling a response, “Love you too, Connor.”