The rumour mill was
working overtime but for once, it wasn’t just about Felicity. People did find
it a little suspicious how she was starting to look a little different and her
mysterious absence from school on Monday hadn’t helped. She had a baby bump,
being almost a full three months along, but nothing that she couldn’t just pass
off as bloating or a little weight gain. She was feeling a little better now
and I was determined to be there with her. She had a doctor’s appointment
scheduled for next weekend and I was going to go with her.
But what really got the school buzzing was this newfound rumour that Phillip and I were dating. It was ridiculous. I mean, I tutor him, we hang out and talk, but that’s it. We are just friends. Sure, I think he’s sweet and funny and definitely attractive, but I don’t think I’m his type. Besides. It’s only been a week since Phillip had broken up with Melanie. He couldn’t have moved on that quickly, and certainly not with me. Apparently arriving together on Monday had caused quite a stir. I didn’t normally pay attention to rumours, but then again, they’ve never been about me.
“You know, you shouldn’t sneak up on people,” I smirked, “It’s rude.”
I glanced sideways at Phillip and he was leaning against the locker next to mine. Over his shoulder was his football jersey. There was a big game tonight and the excitement was evident throughout the school. Everyone was excited to see Phillip back in action. I just hoped he didn’t get hit on the head.
“I thought it’d be interesting to see you scream. You don’t frighten easily I see.” He grinned. Wow, that grin was attractive.
“Nope.” I said. I jerked my chin towards the jersey. “You about to head off to practise?”
“We all get together, have dinner and warm up before a game.” Phillip explained. I shut my locker, zipping up my bag and slinging it over my shoulder. “You coming tonight?”
“Of course. I wouldn’t miss your comeback game.” I punched him on the shoulder lightly, mockingly.
He chuckled. “You going home first?”
“Yeah.” I said. “Then I’m picking Felicity up.”
“What’s going on with her anyway? She’s looking a little…I dunno. Different lately.”
I hesitated. I knew everyone would find out eventually, but I didn’t know whether I could trust Phillip with this just yet. Anyway, it’s Felicity’s job to tell people, not mine.
I decided to play it off cool. “She’s probably just adjusting to the cold weather.”
“At least it doesn’t snow here.” Phillip said. Was his hair always styled like that? It looked good. “You ever seen snow?”
“Yeah. My parents took me to New York when I was little.” I replied. I leaned against the locker too and held my elbows.
“I’ve never seen it.” He said. “We always go somewhere warm over Christmas break.”
“Maybe this year you should try something different.” I suggested. Phillip sighed with a smile.
“Good idea.” He said. We stood there for a few seconds, totally silent, but he looked like he wanted to say something. In fact he looked like he was in pain.
“Phillip, whatever it is that you want to say, say it.” I urged. “I want to go home and I don’t think I’ll be able to unless you tell me whatever it is you need to.”
“I don’t need to tell you anything.” His reply was automatic. I blinked.
“Okay. Well, I’ll be off then. Good luck for tonight.” I said. I turned and walked towards the nearest exit to make my way towards the parking lot. I heard hurried footsteps and Phillip was soon walking backwards next to me, looking at me with his hair dishevelled, like he’d run his hands through it. Surprisingly it looked better than before. Damn it.
“Okay, well, I didn’t want to tell you anything, I wanted to ask you something.” He said. I stopped dead in my tracks. Oh no.
“Okaaaaay,” I appraised him, “What is it?”
“Well, every game the guys get their moms or sisters or girlfriends to wear their jerseys as a sign of support. Well my mom hates this thing and Melanie never wanted to wear it. And I thought since we’re friends that maybe you would wear it for good luck.” he said it in a bit of a rush and looked a little embarrassed, but hopeful too. I raised an eyebrow at him. I knew for a fact that only girlfriends wore the jerseys and I’m not sure why he told a little white lie. I was about to tell him I didn’t think it was a good idea because it would only make the rumours about us even worse, but I made the mistake of looking in his eyes.
Puppy dog eyes. Not the puppy dog eyes. That really was unfair.
I sighed, “Okay.” I said. I knew I would regret this, but the way Phillip’s whole face lit up made it almost worthwhile. He handed me the jersey. Number thirty seven.
“Thanks Rhea. You’re the best!” He was positively beaming. I smiled back at him. I got the shock of my life when he leaned down and pressed a swift kiss on my left cheek. He grinned at me once again and then left. I turned to watch him leave, a dumbfounded expression plastered to my face.
“See you tonight!” He called, waving. I waved back weakly, still shocked.
What the hell was that?! Phillip kissed my cheek. He wants me to wear his jersey, he took me to lunch…holy crap. HOLY. CRAP.
“Holy shit where the hell did you get that?!” Felicity practically screamed when she saw me wearing Phillip’s jersey. It was huge on me, but it was quite comfortable. After explaining to her what had happened, she looked as astounded as I felt.
“He kissed you?”
“On the cheek. But yeah.” I said, leaning against the railing bars, looking out at the field that was gleaming in the bright white lights surrounding the football field. The two teams were still warming up and stretching, getting ready to play in a few minutes. I saw other girls wearing jerseys too, and even one guy. Felicity managed to get really good seats close to the field so we could see everything that was happening.
“Holy crap. He’s into you.” She gasped loudly, “I bet that’s the real reason he broke up with Melanie! Because he likes you!”
“How could he, Flick?” I asked, “He doesn’t remember anything from his coma. He doesn’t remember that I read to him or anything like that and before his accident, we didn’t speak much. It seems a little…strange to me.”
“Maybe he does remember you from his coma and just doesn’t want to tell you.” Felicity suggested, checking out the boys from the other team.
“Why would he do that?” I asked. The whistle blew for the game to begin and the commentator began speaking whilst the crowd surged to its feet as one and began clapping. After the noise died down a little bit Felicity answered my question.
“Maybe because he doesn’t want to remember the coma.”
I didn’t have a chance to respond because the game began and I turned my attention to that. I saw Phillip on the field, close enough so that I could see he was looking at me. He waved and I waved back, smiling a little bit.
The game began and I watched avidly, cheering and booing where appropriate. Felicity was assessing the hotness of the opposing team’s players and I listened to her, making comments where appropriate. Around an hour and a half later it was half time and a lot of people exited the stands to go to the bathroom or get snacks.
Felicity stopped talking all of a sudden and nudged me in the ribs. I turned my attention to what she was looking at and I saw Melanie standing with her usual group of friends, but she was staring at me with what I could only describe as loathing.
“That’s Phillip’s jersey.” Was all she said.
“Yes.” Was all I said.
She dragged her eyes away from the jersey and up to my face. “Why are you wearing it?”
“He asked me to.”
“Are you two dating now?” she demanded. Her voice was getting louder with every sentence.
“But only girlfriends wear the jerseys. It’s tradition, it’s a rule!” Melanie’s blue eyes blazed and a few people looked around at the raised voices. Her face went slack with realisation. “It’s you. It’s your fault. You’re the reason he dumped me!”
“The way I heard it, you two broke up.” Felicity said dryly, inspecting her nails.
Melanie glared. “Stay out of this, preggers.” She snarled. Felicity’s neck must have suffered whiplash because she snapped it so quickly towards Melanie.
“What did you just say?” I asked, standing up. I noticed with some annoyance that Melanie was a lot taller than me.
“She is, isn’t she? That’s what everyone is saying.” Melanie said, sneering at Felicity. “Rumour is that the little slut went and got herself knocked up.”
Felicity screeched. “You little – !”
“What’s going on here?” I heard Josh’s voice and thanked god. He turned a cold gaze on Melanie. It was very intimidating. “Ladies?”
“Nothing.” Melanie said innocently, glaring at me. “Fair warning, girl to girl. If he threw me aside after years, he’ll do the same with someone like you.”
Melanie stalked away and Josh’s eyes followed her, piercing and alert. Dustin touched my shoulder. “You alright?”
“Yeah,” I said, “Fine. Good thing you came. Felicity was about to tear Melanie’s head off.”
“Was? I am going to tear her head off.” Felicity growled.
“What did she say to you?” Josh asked curiously.
“Nothing important.” I said quickly. “She’s just mad because Phillip wanted me to wear his jersey.”
“Melanie was never the vindictive type.” Dustin mused, looking after her. “She’s probably just bitter and angry. I wouldn’t pay attention to what she says.”
“I don’t know about you,” Felicity said, turning to me, “but I’m not feeling like watching the rest of the game.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. Felicity nodded. I fished around in my pocket and handed her my keys. “You can stay at mine for a bit if you don’t want to go home, but I’m going to finish the game. My parents went into the city for the night so you’ll be alone.”
“How will you get home?” she protested.
“I’ll get a ride.” I shrugged.
“I’ll drive you home if you’re stranded.” Dustin offered with a smile.
“See? I’ll be fine.” I said. I was worried about the effect Melanie’s words had on Felicity. The fact people knew, or at least suspected, that she was pregnant already worried me. She needed to get away from the stares of our classmates and out of sight for a while. Not to mention she needed to cool down.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Of course. Go. I’ll meet you there.” I said. She grinned, hugged me, then walked past me and disappeared.
Josh and Dustin decided to stay with me, cheering alongside me when the game resumed. They kept making me laugh by turning Beyoncé songs into cheers. They were quite funny guys. Josh was more outgoing than Dustin, but they both had a great sense of humour. Dustin was witty when it came to humour and Josh was more sarcastic. I wondered what it would be like to see Felicity and Josh go at it in a battle of sarcastic bitchiness.
“And Kingston lands a touchdown! The Leopards win!” the commentator yelled into the microphone and I screamed my happiness. I clapped as hard as I could and really that’s when it hit me like a snowball to the face.
I liked Phillip Kingston.
I shook my head and looked around. The team was retreating to the locker rooms and I followed Dustin and Josh out of the stands and towards the parking lot. The slung their arms around me at some point and we started doing the loop walk where our feet crossed over one another. We made it to Phillip’s Jeep and I jumped up to sit on the hood. The speakers from the field was playing songs from the radio to help people stay in a celebratory mood. Josh started trying to do an Irish jig and I couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled up inside me.
“What are you lot doing?” Phillip called when he came into view. He had showered and changed but looked elated and happy, his gym bag slung over his shoulder.
“Hey! Congrats man! Well done!”
“There’s a party at Leo’s house if you guys want to go.” Phillip asked, looking around at us.
“Actually I can’t. Felicity is waiting for me back at my house.” I said.
“She wasn’t feeling well earlier.” Josh said and sent me a covert wink. I felt a sudden rush of affection for him.
“Oh fair enough. Well, how about I drop you home and then I meet you guys at the party?” Phillip asked Dustin and Josh. They both nodded.
“Sounds good man.” Dustin said, clapping Phillip on the back as he passed.
“Yeah we’ll see you later, alright?” Josh said.
“Yeah cool.” Phillip grinned. Josh clicked his tongue in goodbye and hurried after Dustin. Phillip turned to me and shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Well done.” I said to him, sliding off the hood of his car.
“Thanks. It was a good game.” He said, walking around to the driver’s door.
I opened the door to my side at the same time Phillip did. I clambered in and shut the door. “Did it feel good to be back?”
“Definitely.” He said as he started the car. I buckled myself in. “I saw Melanie as I was leaving.”
“She said she talked to you. What did she say?”
I took a deep breath and replied on the exhale, “Nothing worth repeating. She was angry that I was wearing your jersey.”
“Yeah I thought she might be.” Phillip muttered, leaving the school parking lot and pulling out onto the road.
“Then why did you ask me to wear it? Phillip I know what it means when girls wear a footballers jersey. I’m not stupid. You broke up with Melanie last week and now I’m wearing your jersey, we’re hanging out, we went out to that lunch, we talk every night – ”
“So?” Phillip demanded.
“So, people have started wondering why.”
“Does it matter what they say?”
“No, but it matters why they’re saying it.” I countered. Phillip sighed, pulling into my street and soon, parking outside my house. He turned the engine off and sat there, staring at the steering wheel. I imagined the cogs in his head turning a million miles a minute. He wrinkled his nose, something he did when he was uncomfortable.
I froze. “What?” Shit, shit, SHIT.
“I remember. My coma. I remember you coming to visit me, talking to me, reading to me.” He still wouldn’t look at me and I’m glad he didn’t. My face was crimson. “I remember all the stories you told me about your childhood, about how Felicity is your only friend, about your family and your hopes and dreams. I remember you reading our god-awful summer reading list. I remember it all.”
Now he looked at me and I swallowed thickly. I’d never seen him look so open and honest before. My heart started racing in my chest and I suddenly found the car far too warm.
“I remember that you kissed me.”
I looked away then. I couldn’t bear the embarrassment.
“And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since. You’re so different from Melanie, who talks to me, yeah but it’s never a conversation. It’s almost entirely one sided. But with you I always wanted to say something to you while I was lying there. You got me so excited about certain topics that I was frustrated with my body for not doing what my brain told it to do.” Phillip hesitated. “I guess, what I’m saying, Rhea, is that I like you. I really do and I’d really like it if I could take you out some time.”
My breath hitched. “What about Melanie?”
He leaned closer to me, looking puzzled. “What about her?”
“Won’t she be mad?”
“I don’t care.” He said, getting closer. Oh god.
“What about what everyone will say?”
“I don’t care.”
“But what about – ”
He shook his head and sighed exasperatedly, “Shut up.” he said before leaning forwards that little bit more and pressing his lips to mine. My eyes widened and I sat there, too shocked to move for about three seconds before I realised what was happening and my brain reacted accordingly. I closed my eyes and (hopefully) kissed back.
I’m not entirely sure how long we sat there for but we jumped apart when Phillip’s elbow landed on the horn and startled us. I giggled a little bit as Phillip ran a hand through his hair.
“So, can I take you out?” he asked, eyes wide and hopeful.
I bit my lip. “Sure.”
He grinned and I opened the door, slipping down from my seat. “I’ll call you.”
In a moment of surprising boldness I simply replied with, “You better,” Before closing the door. I jogged up to the house, opened the door and hurried inside, leaning against the back of the door, my head resting against the smooth wood. I look around and saw Felicity standing on the stairs, smirking at me.
“You two were parked there for a long time.” She stated. “Want to tell me what happened?”I grinned at her.