Clumsy First Encounters
“And suddenly you just know it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” - Meister Eckhart
“Let’s go ladies!” Yelled Coach Garcia from a few feet away. “Start warming up. We don’t have all day”. She was tall with dark blonde hair, and in her early forties. The years she spent playing professional soccer has clearly done wonders for her physique.
Wearing black soccer pants and a Northside College Prep maroon fleece, she motioned for us to start our warm-up.
I finished lacing up my cleats and jogged over towards the rest of the girls. We quicky formed two lines and began jogging around the field. It was late August and despite it being late in the afternoon, the Chicago sun was still beating down on us.
The girls’ soccer pre-season had started two months ago, and today was the second game of the season. I internally sighed knowing I still had at least two or 3 more month left until the season was over. I love soccer, don’t get me wrong. However, I much preferred to watch it from the comfort of my own home with the AC on and surrounded by snacks.
The only reason I even bothered to join the team at our school was so it would give me a one-up on my college applications. With senior year looming around the corner, it was time to seriously consider what I was going to write on my resume and on all those college applications. If I’m being honest though, I’ve had all of this planned since my freshman year in high school.
“Make a circle ladies”. Yelled Naomi, the captain of our team and also one of my good friends. “We’ll start with butt-kicks and work our way through the stretches.” Despite her being a year younger than most of the varsity players, she’s been playing with us since her freshman year. She had more talent than the whole team combined and if we won any games, it was usually because of her. She could easily go pro one day.
It’s not to say that our team was awful, we were just directionally challenged of sorts. Since I’ve been on the team, I think we’ve won a handful of games. Pitiful I know, but that’s what happens when the school administration tends to forget about our team because the boys’ soccer team is the talk of the town. If I remember correctly, last year they almost won the state championship but when their star player got injured just before half-time, they ended up losing.
Getting myself off the ground from a butterfly stretch, I looked around the stadium and noticed most of it had filled up. There were a few parents from our team which I recognized, and some students who had come to probably watch us humiliate ourself.
Like I said, we don’t have the best track record. However, most of the people in the stadium were here to watch the opposing team. This week it was Lincoln Park High School.
“This week I want a 3-3-4 formation. Lincoln Park has a strong attack team, let’s try to play on defense.” Coach said. “Naomi, if you see an opening, take it”.
We all nodded and waited for her to finish her pre-game pep-talk. I glanced around looking for our assistant coach Carla. She was usually the one who helped me warm-up before a game. As goalie, I warned up with the rest of the team and practiced some warm-up drills with Carla. Today, she was nowhere to be seen.
“Natalie.” Coach’s voice snapped me out of my trace. “Carla couldn’t make it today. Aiden here is going to help you warm-up for today.”
I looked around for this Aiden person as she motioned to someone behind her. Actually, it was a group of three guys standing around talking and laughing. One of them had his back turned to us, but the other two I had seen in the hallways. I also recognized them as being part of the boys’ soccer team.
“Aiden.” A tall guy, at least 6’3 with dark brown hair and soft sun kissed skin, turned towards us.
With a smirk plastered on his devilishly handsome face, he began strutting towards where I was standing.
Well. To say he was hot was an understatement. The only thing I could do was keep staring as he bent over to pick up a bag of soccer balls.
“Take a picture, princess. It’ll last longer.” He chuckled. “Now let’s go”.
I watched as he began walking towards one of the goals on the stadium. I quickly snapped out of it once I realized what he said to me.
“Princess?!” I shrieked as I began walking towards him.
“We’ll start with some hand volleys.” He said picking up a ball and throwing it at me. I just watched as the ball hit my thigh and dropped to the ground.
I snapped my gaze up and stared at him expectedly, eyebrow raised and all.
“That means pick-up the ball, throw it slightly into the air, and kick it as far as you can.” He pronounced each syllable as if he were talking to a four year old child. I should probably know what a hand volley is, but who had time for all this technical terminology? Certainly not me.
I huffed as I did what he said, or rather attempted to do as he said. My pathetic excuse of a hand volley barely made it 10 feet before hitting the ground.
“Again.” He said as he attempted to hide his laugh. “Maybe this time try to get it past the goalie’s box.”
We went at it for what felt like eternity before Aiden decided to switch it up. “Let’s see some shuffles from post to post. Once you reach the end of one post, I’m going to throw a ball at you and you need to stop it from getting into the goal.”
I swear by the time the referee blew his whistle to indicate the game was about to start, I was sweating more than I had the past three years I’ve been playing soccer. I missed Carla, and I wanted her back.
Still grumpy that I had to put this much effort before an actual game, I quickly went to get a drink of water. When Naomi saw me she burst out laughing.
I threw her a dirty look before flipping her off. “Shut. Up.”
Once the game started, it was clear Lincoln Park was playing to win. By half-time they had already managed to get through our defense more times than I could count, and I was ready to go home. I had grass stain all over my shirt and socks. I could feel a few bruises starting to form on my thighs and arms.
As coach rambled on about god knows what, I felt someone touch my arm. Turning around I saw Aiden motion for me to follow him away from the rest of the group.
“You need to keep your eye on the ball!” He sighed. “If you keep punching it away, it’ll only give the opposing team an opportunity to try and score again. Use your legs as much as possible and for god’s sake protect your face!”
“Listen – ”
Before I could let out the string of colorful words I was prepared to shout at Aiden, the referee blew his whistle again. Great. The second half of the game was starting. I can’t wait to get kicked some more.
It was games like these that made me question whether getting into a good college was even worth it at this point.
We were finally down to the last five minutes of the game when Lincoln Park’s offense broke through our defense and I saw their forwards head towards me.
I jumped to the right as she aimed towards the right goal post. Her kick was harder than I was expecting, and the moment my body made contact with the ball it knocked the wind right out of me.
I must have let go of the ball because next thing I know, I still see number 11 running towards me and I feel a sharp pain in my left hip.
I couldn’t tell you what exactly happened next, even if I wanted to. A scream erupted from my lips as the full force of the pain finally hit me. I rolled onto my back and my hands immediately went to my left hip. I vaguely heard the referee blow his whistle and I heard chattering around me, but I had to focus on not screaming bloody murder.
That bitch kicked me!
“Give her some space.” I heard someone faintly say. Aiden’s face came into view above me as he knelt down to my level.
“Hey. Can you hear me?” He said softly as he looked me up and down for any indication of where I had been hurt. “Show me where it hurts.”
“My hip.” I gritted out.
“Come on.” He said as he wrapped one arm around behind my knees and the other around my lower back. Once I was back on my own two feet, Aiden wrapped his arm around my waist and led me to towards the bench on the sidelines.
“She’s done for today.” He told both the referee and Coach Garcia. As soon as we made it off the field, we were surrounded by Coach Garcia and the rest of the girls.
“Nat! Are you okay?”
“Omg Natalie! Can you stand?”
“Girls.” Coach Garcia said. “Natalie, do you need to see the nurse?”
I shook my head as I accepted a pack of ice from Aiden. Honestly, I just wanted this damn day to be over.
I lifted my shirt up to see the damage that was inflicted, only to wince when I saw the yellow-purple bruise that was beginning to form.
Once the game was finally over and coach had dismissed us, I attempted to get off the bench only to fall back with a wince.
“Come on.” Said Aiden as he wrapped an arm around me waist and helped me stood.
“I don’t need your help.” I replied, attempting to sound convincing. All that did was earn me an eye roll and a smirk from him.
The school’s parking lot was not too far, and I could see my white Volkswagen Passat in the distance. Finally, I could go home and enjoy the remainder of summer break because Monday it was beck to hell. Also known as school.
My dreams were short lived when we stopped in front of a black Audi and the passenger’s door was opened for me. I turned towards Aiden with a confused look. “My car’s over there. ”
“Princess, you can’t even walk on your own. What makes you think you can drive yourself home?” Aiden smirked down at me.
Rolling my eyes I muttered, “I am perfectly capable of driving myself home.”
“Oh really?” He quirked an eyebrow, folding his arms across his chest. This made the muscles in his arms bulge in a oh-so attractive way. “If you can walk to your car without wobbling, I’ll let you drive yourself home”.
“That’s it?” I challenged him. He nodded and leaned against his car, waiting for me to go towards my car.
As soon as I took a step away from him, I crunched down in pain. Damn that bitch for kicking me so hard. Before I could say or do anything else, Aiden was at my side again. This time I let him steer me towards the passenger side of his car and got in without another word.
After giving him instruction on how to get to my house, we sat in silence. I kept glancing at him from the corner of my eye, hoping to be able to get a read on him but he wasn’t letting anything on.
Once I couldn’t stand the silence any longer, I turned towards him. “So, don’t you have anything better to do with you the last days of summer than to come watch a bunch of girls lose?”
He gave a deep chuckle as he took a turn on one of the main streets. “My buddy’s got a crush on one of the girls that plays on your team. I just came to see how badly you guys were going to lose this time.”
“Which girl?” I furrowed my eyebrows.
“Now, now princess. I can’t tell you that. I’d be breaking bro code.”
“Boys.” I muttered under my breath.
“So, how do you know so much about soccer?” I continued to fill the silence. At that Aiden burst out laughing as if I just said the funniest thing in the world.
“That’s maybe because I’ve played varsity for the past 3 years.” He replied while still laughing. Hm. Now that I think of it, his name does sound familiar. Still, I had not has a single interaction with this guy in the past three years I’ve been at Northside. “Don’t tell me you don’t recognize me, Princess.”
“What is with you calling me princess?” I snapped. “I have a name you know. Natalie. Na-ta-lie!”
“Because it’s so much more fun to see your reaction.” Aiden smirked at me as he put the car in park. I hadn’t even noticed we pulled in front of my building. He motioned to get out of his car when I reached my hand out to stop him.
“What are you doing?” I asked ludicrously. He didn’t bother replying as he came over to my side and helped me out of the passenger’s side. He once again wrapped an arm around my waist and locked his car as he led me towards the buildings entrance.
I was too aware of his hand touching the bare skin on my back but I didn’t dare say anything. Once we reached my apartment on the 4th floor, I made a motion to get the keys out of my bad but he knocked before I could do so.
I snapped my neck towards him, as if asking him why he did that. He didn’t get a chance to reply before my mom opened the door. A look of confusion flashed across her face before she composed herself. She was wearing a white apron and she had her thick brown hair up in a bun. She was probably in the middle of making dinner, and this asshole just had to go and interrupt her when I had a perfectly good set of keys in my hands.
“Natalie!” My mother exclaimed once she took in my battered form. She quickly ushered us inside in the apartment. “What happened to you? Why didn’t you call me?”
My mother was a fairy petite woman that stood at 5’4 with pale skin, yet when she put her hands on her hips and took this new tone, I swear she could make the president feel chastised.
I was just about to reply when Aiden beat me to it. “She’s okay Mrs. Dawson. She just took a pretty nasty hit during the last 10 minutes of the game. Nothing some ice and rest won’t fix.” He threw her a charming smile before helping me onto one of the kitchen stools.
Our apartment was fairly small. There was the small hallway in the entrance, followed by my room which was to the right. The kitchen, dining room, and living room were all sort of one large room. We had an open kitchen plan, with a small counter and two barstools. My mom’s bedroom stood on the far left corner, adjacent to the bathroom.
“My last name isn’t Dawson sweetheart. It’s Clark.” My mother corrected him. “But please, call me Olivia.” After my parents divorced when I was six, my mom went back to her maiden name while I kept my father’s last name.
“My apologies, Olivia.” Aiden said shaking her hand. “I’m Aiden Cooper. I was at the game when Natalie got hit and I couldn’t in good conscious let her drive home when she can barely stand. So, I gave her a ride home, while her car is still at school. I hope that’s alright.”
“What a gentleman!” My mother gushed. “Would you like to stay for dinner Aiden? I’m making chicken parmesan.”
At the mention of him staying for dinner, my head snapped in my mother’s direction. I wanted to ask her if she was crazy. What was wrong with her inviting strangers to stay for dinner?
Before I had a chance to object, Aiden beat me to it. “I would love to, but I have to head home. My parents are expecting me.” I breathed a sigh of relief at this. I cannot imagine what dinner with my mother and Aiden would have looked like.
Throughout this entire time, Aiden had not bothered to leave my side at all. I watched in shock as he lowered his head towards my ear and whispered, “Goodnight, princess. I’ll see you around.”
After my mother had walked him out, she came back and cocked an eyebrow at me. “Natalie, is there anything you would like to tell me?”
“What?” I asked confused. “What are you talking about, mom?”
“Who was that boy?” She asked as she went back to chopping some potatoes.
“That’s Aiden.” I replied stupidly, as I reached for a glass of water on the counter.
“And is Aiden your new boyfriend?” My mother asked just as I had taken a sip of water. It took all of the strength I had not to spit water all over her.
“WHAT?” I shrieked. “No mom! Ew! Why would you even say that. He was just there at the game and he wouldn’t let me drive home unless I made it to my car without wobbling like an idiot. It’s safe to say I could not, and here we are.”
My mother just looked amused as I ranted about how I knew Aiden. “It was just a question sweetheart. Anyway, why don’t you get cleaned up for dinner. It should be ready by the time you’re done.”
Shaking my head and grumbling an okay, I made my way into the bathroom and turned the water on. As the hot water hit my skin, I immediately felt myself relax. A nice relaxing shower, worked wonders for my mood.
By the time I was done and changed into my cozy SpongeBob pajama shorts and matching shirt, mom had taken the chicken parmesan out of the oven, and placed a piece along with some mashed potatoes in front of me.
We ate dinner while she chatted about her day at work. My mom worked as a receptionist at a CPA Firm in Northbrook. It’s safe to say she came home with some interesting stories about some of the clients they have. For example, they have this once client that owns a law firm. The guy had 27 million in income, and ended up having to give the government 9 million of that back in taxes. It amazes me just how the top 1% live.
After dinner I had offered to help her wash the dishes, but she sent me to my room with an ice pack and some chamomile tea.
I sat in bed with my MacBook opened to Netflix, as I sipped on the tea. I had just put on an episode of The Vampire Diaries when I felt myself growing tired. I decided to abandon any hopes of finishing the episode, and let myself drift off. I was content knowing today was Friday and I still had two more days of freedom before Monday.
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- Kitty Kat