Colliding Hearts

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Chapter 7 | I Fear For The Guys


Coach is not someone you want to mess with.

I’ve learned that from all the practices I’ve attended so far and all the ass kicking he has done since I’ve known him. Coach can make your life a living hell if you make a wrong move by making you run laps until you can’t run anymore. Even the people who aren’t on the team. That’s how scary he is.

I fear for the guys.

Walking across campus, making my way to the football field. It’s the first practice back since the game on Saturday. Days have passed since the incident at the party, and everything has returned to normal...somewhat. The buzz on campus surrounding the fight has disappeared and the rumors of why the fight happened have stopped. Some of them were ridiculous. Such as Noah being the baby daddy of Kelsey’s non-existent baby, and in fact the reason he doesn’t date or sleep around is because he was with Kelsey. As well as rumors such as Noah was jealous.

I hate college gossip. The team has also recovered, the only sign of a fight are any bruises or busted lips they are still sporting. Heading onto the practice field, I hear coach before I see him. Shouting resonates through the field and when they all come into view. They’re on the sidelines while coach paces back and forth shouting at them. Guess he didn’t cool off before practice like the guys were hoping.

“This rivalry between both teams has been going on from before you guys were even here. But it’s getting out of hand. Property damage seems to be a regular thing and now you start a fistfight with them!” Coach shouts, and even the assistant coach looks terrified. “Coach Robinson and I have discussed and both teams are getting punished. So, for my personal enjoyment, you will run laps until I tell you to stop. You will also clean the bleachers at the stadium after every practice until your next game, which is in two weeks. Of course, this doesn’t apply for those of you who didn’t attend.”

The team complain and wear disgust on their faces at the thought of cleaning the bleachers and I decide to step in. “Coach, that’s not fair. I mean yeah, the guys fought the hockey team, but they provoked these guys. They were protecting me.”

He stops shouting at the team and looks towards me. “What are you talking about?”

Clearly none of the team have said anything, if the guys shaking their heads at me is any sign. But I will not let the guys get punished for something that isn’t their fault.

“One of the hockey guys grabbed me. So, I went to find Noah, but the guy wouldn’t let me go. Noah got me away from him, but he tried grabbing me again and Aiden stopped him. Then the hockey team jumped on him, so the rest of the guys stepped in. They were protecting me, it’s the hockey idiots who are to blame.”

“And why didn’t anybody tell me this?”

“Because we didn’t want you thinking it was Ava’s fault and get her assigned to something else for her project. We like having her around,” Noah explains, shrugging, and I smile.

“Well, I have to talk to Coach Robinson. But since everything has been cleared up, you don’t have to clean the bleachers. I still want laps for fighting,” Coach explains as the guys all cheer. “Get to it. I’ll be back in five minutes,” As coach walks off, the team gets up and makes their way to the field thanking me.

“Awww you enjoy having me around,” I tease, poking Noah’s chest and he chuckles, rolling his eyes. “You know you didn’t need to protect me by not telling him. Plus, he isn’t having me reassigned.”

“I know, but we didn’t want to take the chance,” Noah shrugs and I smile. Before I can talk myself out of it, I wrap my arms around his neck, hugging him. Slowly, as if unsure he wraps his arms around my waist.

“Oi you two stop hugging and Jackson get your ass down here. Your teammates aren’t running laps themselves,” Coach shouts and we let go of each other, Noah rolls his eyes before turning his attention to me.

“Do you feel like grabbing dinner after? Practice makes me hungry,” Noah shrugs.

“Yeah, sure,” I agree before he smiles and heads over to the field. I get my stuff and sit on the bench, trying to focus on my article. So why is it so difficult to stop thinking about that hug?

“There is no way that happened.”

A laugh tumbles from my lips as I throw my head backwards at Noah’s story. Shaking my head, I take another French fry from my plate before eating it. Noah’s elbows rest on the table as he is leaned forward, an amused smile gracing his face at my reaction as we sit at a diner on campus. Our table for two is covered with our food, apparently football players eat a lot, and his long legs constantly brush against mine under the table.

“I’m not lying. Dylan climbed up the side of the football house in the middle of a party buck naked. He lost a bet, which he took part in while drunk. He said the next day he didn’t even regret it because and I quote ‘my ass looks good’,” Noah explains as I laugh.

“Oops,” I laugh seeing people looking over at our table and Noah grins sheepishly at them. “My stomach hurts,” I catch my breath, holding my stomach.

“Ok, no more funny stories, your stomach can’t handle it,” Noah laughs, and I agree with him before we continue eating our food and I watch him. “What?”

“You’re a lot different from what I thought you’d be like. I mean before a week ago I had never met you, but you’re kind of a big deal around campus so I heard a lot of rumors. I mean, everyone adores you, professors included. I don’t know I thought there would be some sort of catch with the fact I’ve never heard a bad word about you.”

“You’re a cynic, aren’t you?” He raises his eyebrow and I chuckle. “Either that or you’ve been dealt a shitty hand to believe there are no genuinely good people in this world.”

“That’s not true, I know Liv, and she’s as good as you can get.”

“It’s understandable. I mean a lot of athletes, including the USC football team, always have some negative rumors or actions. Fights, the way they treat women, sex scandal stories,” Noah shrugs, taking a sip of his drink. “If I was like that my mom would murder me. She was big on teaching my brother and I to treat women with respect, give them the world and not fight. That’s how my dad treats my mom, so seeing that growing up made it rub off on us, I guess. You’re different from what I thought too.”

“What did you think of me?”

“When I saw you on the field well first off, I thought you were beautiful.”

“This coming from the guy who is apparently untouchable to the female population,” I joke, and he chuckles shaking his head.

“Well, I may not date or sleep around, but I’m also not blind. I’ll admit when a woman is beautiful,” Noah shrugs, his eyes focused on mine. “Anyway, you seemed like this sweet, kind and innocent journalism major. Until you put Colton in his place and then Kelsey, then I realized you can be very sassy,” Noah laughs, and I stick my tongue out at him. “And very childish.”

“Well, the child in me wants to play 20 questions,” I tell him, dipping a fry in ketchup. “So full name?”

“Noah Alexander Jackson. You were hoping it was something embarrassing like Bartholomew, weren’t you?”

I nod my head with a pout on my lips. “Alexander sounds posh.”

“Yeah, my parents liked the name. So, they named my little brother Alexander, but everyone calls him Alex and well my middle name is never used.”

“Mine’s Avalon Rose Miller,” I say, smacking his hand away as he goes to steal some of my fries, now finished with his own.

“Cute. Ok, next question, why did you decide on USC if you’re from New York? I mean, isn’t the whole journalism world big in New York?”

“It is, but USC has a great journalism program with my professor actually being an important journalist before she became a professor. Second, it’s where my mom grew up before she moved to New York and met my dad, so I thought coming here where she studied and lived would bring me closer to her. Why did you choose USC?”

“Family generation. My parents went here, grandad went here. It runs in the family, has a great football team, I was raised in LA. What’s your family like?” Noah questions, finishing the rest of his food and leaning back in his chair.

“Hmm, well my dad is overprotective, but he’s kind of been my best friend over the years. We’re really close. I have a husky dog named Blue, so I’d be careful because if I tell him to attack, he will. What about yours?”

Noah laughs when I mention Blue. “I have a big family. There are my parents who have that high school sweetheart love thing going on. I have an older brother who has a fiancée. Two twelve-year-old twin brothers who are nightmares and a six-year-old sister. That’s the immediate family and then there are my cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. You should see our family reunions,” Noah smirks and I laugh. “My turn. You didn’t talk about your mom, what’s she like?”

Holding in a breath, I push around the food on my plate. “She was amazing. Nice to everyone, she’d stop to talk to random people, and it would make their day. It was funny though, she looked nice and innocent, but you did not want to get on her bad side. My dad said that’s where I got it from,” I laugh, before looking up from my plate seeing his staring at me. “She died when I was twelve...cancer.”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked,” Noah softly says, guilt flowing through his eyes and I shrug.

“It’s okay. So important question, pineapple on pizza or not?”

He laughs, throwing his head back. “Definitely no pineapple, that shit is disgusting.”

Agreeing with him, I finish the rest of my food, in-between Noah trying to steal some off me, and we deal with a very complex argument on who’s paying. Which ended up being Noah, much to his satisfaction as he sneakily swiped his card before I could even get mine out. Walking out of the diner, we make our way off campus and back to our apartment buildings, which are close enough to walk to.

“Thanks for dinner, and paying even though I didn’t have much choice,” I thank Noah, who smirks, bumping my shoulder.

“It’s fine. I asked you to get food and a gentleman always pays.”

I roll my eyes before we continue to walk in a comfortable silence. The sky remains dark above us, and the streets are quiet, mostly students also walking off campus. “Can I ask you something?” I break the silence and he nods his head. “It’s no secret the gossip mill on campus revolves around theories on why you don’t date or sleep around. So, I’m curious, what’s the deal?”

“My dream is to get into the NFL, I can’t afford any distractions. It’s important to me. So I don’t date and I’m not a casual sex type of person,” Noah shrugs, his eyes meet mine, and he carries on. “In high school, I had a girlfriend from freshman to senior year. She cheated on me with one of my teammates. She was a cheerleader, so I had to see them every practice and every game. Suddenly, I sucked at playing football because I couldn’t concentrate, and it hurt seeing them together. I was close to being benched and not getting a scholarship.”

“And you don’t want to go through that again and have it ruin your chances of playing for the NFL,” I clarify, and he nods his head.

“Yeah. Don’t get me wrong, I know not every girl is going to cheat on me. But right now getting into the NFL is it for me, and I’m young. I have plenty of time to find someone and settle down. At the time my brother snapped me out of it, I got my scholarship and decided it was time to get serious. My dad, grandad, and who knows how many more guys in my family went to USC to play football. But for them it was just college, they went into something else after college. Which is why I’m a History major for my backup. I want to make my family proud and my dad proud. Because the reason he couldn’t play professionally is because of an injury,” Noah explains.

“What did your parents think about it all?”

“They all knew how bad I played after we broke up. So, they understood. But I know my mom wants me to find a girl to bring home and settle down with. She says to me all the time that I’ll find a girl who will stay and won’t break my heart. I’m too worried about what will happen to my football career if something happens. Because that is my future.”

“I get it, being cheated on makes you question everything you do. It’s easy to get consumed by that. It’s so hard to think about anything else, because you’re always thinking about that person because you still love them, even after what they did,” I sympathize with him and he nods.

“What about you? Your whole not dating athlete’s thing.”

“Well, in high school I dated the school quarterback, who was a year older than me. It was great until I found out he cheated on me with his ex. I dumped him. He groveled most of the summer and me being the idiot I was, I forgave him, and we got back together. He went to college and distance was hard. I went to visit him one weekend for our year anniversary only to find him having sex with a girl. I knew he had a reputation before I got with him, but he convinced me he wasn’t like that anymore.”

“What a dick,” Noah mutters, making me laugh.

“Indeed. Anyway, I know not all athletes are like that, a lot I met have been but not all will be. I just don’t think dating athletes is for me.”

“I’m sorry, Ava. You didn’t deserve that. That guy was a complete dick, you’re amazing,” Noah holds my arm as we stop walking, and turn towards each other. The seriousness of his words hit me.

“Thanks, and just so you know you didn’t deserve it either. Thanks for walking me back,” I nod to the apartment building we now stand in front of.

“I wouldn’t let you walk back by yourself. Are you girls’ busy tomorrow night?” Noah asks and I shake my head. “Great, once a month the guys and I do game night at our place, we usually invite Nick and Liv so it’s usually the five of us. But I thought it will be good if you three came too.”

“Sure, sounds fun. We’ll be there, night Noah,” I wave to him before walking into my building, closing the door, I see him still standing there to make sure I get inside before he leaves, I smile and walk to my apartment.

He isn’t so bad...for an athlete.

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