Chapter 51 - Cheers (Drink to That)
“Cheers to the freakin’ weekend / I drink to that, yeah yeah / Oh let the Jameson sink in / I drink to that, yeah yeah / Don’t let the bastards get ya down / Turn it around with another round / There’s a party at the bar / Everybody putcha glasses up and I drink to that” – Cheers (Drink to That), Rihanna
“You heard the girls one as well?” Richard says to me as we walk off the field. The Grade 12 guys are taking turns carrying the trophy back to the bus. We want to get back to East Side as soon as possible so we can celebrate our win with our school.
“They did?” I say. This couldn’t be more perfect. For a second, I look back at the West Side team, slowly leaving the field, a sad mood among the players and the fans. “Make sure they hold the bus for me,” I say, handing Richard my soccer bag, and then run towards the West Side team.
“Don’t take long!” Richard calls after me.
I run until I’m face to face with the captain of the West Side team. He looks at me funny, wondering why a blue jersey would come up to him now. We only know each other as competition. I only know he is the captain because of the armband he wears. “Captain,” I say.
“Shouldn’t you be celebrating with your team?” he says.
“I know why Henri didn’t play today,” I say and he raises an eyebrow at me. “I know it would have been you that decided that. I applaud you for that. It takes a true leader to stand up for what is right.”
“Thank you.” He says, “We don’t have a place for his kind on our team. Doesn’t matter how good of a player he is.”
“It will mean a lot to Mia and Arya,” I say.
“You know them?” he asks.
“Arya’s my girlfriend,” I say sheepishly.
“Lucky guy.” He says, “I always liked her. I admire what she did for her sister. I would have rung Henri by the neck if he did that to my little sister. I might do it regardless.”
“You and me both,” I say and we both smile at each other.
“Fox is it?” he asks.
“James,” I say.
“You played great today.” He says.
“You and your team played great today.” I say, “I’ve never run that much in a soccer game in my life!”
He laughs. “Grade 11?” I nod. “You’ll be a great captain next year.”
“Thank you.” I say, “and you are?”
“Pete,” he says. And then I see the hockey star himself walk up to us.
“Congrats, James,” Lexi says, “I guess you’re an okay soccer player.” He smiles.
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” I say.
“Not gonna lie,” Lexi says, “I was maybe hoping you’d be terrible.”
“But seriously,” Lexi says, “congrats.”
“You can thank Lexi here for Henri being gone as well,” Pete says, “He was up in my face first thing Monday morning telling me that Henri had to be off the team. Which I was already going to do.”
“Thanks, Lexi,” I say, “it will mean a lot to Mia and Arya, as you know.”
“I was going to just beat him up,” Lexi says, “but I figured this would hurt him more than any punch could.” Lexi just looks at me for a second. “Take care of her, James. Arya is…” he thinks on it.
“Something like that,” Lexi smiles, “she deserves someone that will always treat her right.”
“She’s safe with me,” I say.
“I know,” Lexi says and then looks behind me, “I think your team wants you now.” And Lexi points behind me and I turn to see the bus packed up with our soccer team all shouting and cheering, the windows all opened, holding the trophy out the window.
“Come on, James!” they are yelling at me.
“Congrats.” Pete and Lexi say.
“Thanks,” I say sincerely and then turn to run to the bus and join my teammates.
“Talking to the enemy, Fox?” Malcolm says jokingly as I sit down next to him, Richard and Samson sitting in front of us. Richard throws my bag in my face.
“Hey!” I say to him.
“So who wants to bet that James will run up and kiss Arya the second he gets off the bus?” Richard says.
“Shut up!” I say, slapping Richard on the back of the head.
“What?” Richard says, rubbing the spot I hit him, “We all know she’s going to be waiting for you to come back.”
“James is not a romantic like that.” Malcolm says, “I bet five bucks that she’s the one to initiate the kiss in front of the whole school.” I slap Malcolm on the shoulder with the back of my hand. “What? She kissed you in front of all the guys before the game. Now that both teams won the championship, she’ll probably make out with you in front of the whole school.” I turn a glare towards Malcolm, “Now that you have a girlfriend, you better get used to us making fun of you all the time.” I can get used to it. When it’s Arya that’s my girlfriend I can withstand any teasing as long as she’s mine.
“You don’t do this to Samson,” I say.
“Samson’s girlfriend is at another school,” Malcolm says, “and besides, your reactions are the reason we keep making fun of you.”
When we turn into the entrance of our school, all the guys put their heads out the window, screaming and hollering, holding out the trophy for everyone to see as we come in. The whole school is outside, the girls still in their soccer gear. I can see the trophy in their group. Everyone is cheering for us, crowding around the bus to congratulate us as we step off. I look for her immediately in the sea of faces, looking for her face among the sea of blue jerseys.
I see her on the other side of the road, waiting for me, smiling. I walk up to her slowly. She’s so beautiful. Pete was right. I am a lucky guy. When I get to her, I drop my bag beside me, grab her face, and kiss her right there. Right for everyone to see. I can’t hear anything though. It’s just her, I can only feel her. It’s just her here. She grabs my jersey pulling me closer to her. I break the kiss before I lose complete control.
“Congrats, superstar,” I say to her smiling.
“Congrats, yourself,” she says, her smile just as big as mine. “Perfect, isn’t it?”
“You are,” I say, brushing the hair out of her face. “You are perfect.” And then I kiss her again because I can’t help myself.