Everything Changed That Spring

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10 Years Ago

Natalie waited outside the boy’s locker room for Scott, barely able to contain how excited she was. When they’d first become ‘official’ he’d given her his football jersey, telling her she was his girl now so he wanted her to have it. She’d joked about how he was trying to brand her, and she often refused to wear it just to annoy him. Tonight she’d put it on, and she couldn’t wait for him to see her in it. It was a big game for him. A scout from the college of his dreams was watching, on top of that it was the final game of the season, and the winning team would move onto State. Scott would be feeling the pressure, more so than usual, often believing the burden was on him to win. So she’d worn his jersey, knowing it would bring a smile to his otherwise serious face.

The door opened and Natalie stood up straighter, hoping it was Scott. Instead Terrance walked out, nodded hello to her and then sat down in front of the cheerleaders who were painting all the players faces. She checked the time, he should have been out by now, sitting next to Terrance, getting his face painted the team colours of yellow and blue. Where was he?

Bracing herself for the smell, she took a deep breath and entered the locker room. Stale sweat, cologne, aftershave and pee immediately hit her senses and she begun to breathe through her mouth, desperate to block out the small. She didn’t know what it was about guys. Girls had just as many bodily functions, more if you counted the monthly visit from Aunt Flow, and yet their bathrooms never smelt as bad as this.

She walked down the rows of lockers, and found him sitting on the bench, alone. He wasn’t doing anything, wasn’t moving, wasn’t busy, he was just sitting. Panic flared in her gut and she took a couple steps forward. That’s when she saw it. There, resting between his fingers was a joint, a lighter on the bench beside him.

“What are you doing?” She asked. He jumped off the seat, startled, dropping the joint onto the ground. They moved at the same time, both going for it. She got there first, and snatched it away from him, shoving her hands behind her back so he couldn’t get to it.

“Give it back.” He said.

“You can’t smoke this now.” She replied. “You’re in the middle of football season, it’ll show up in your drug tests.”

“Natalie I need it.”

“Since when?” She asked. “You never touch anything during football season, not even alcohol. What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” He snapped, his voice angry. She took a step back, surprised by the tone. She’d never heard him speak to anyone like this, least of all her. Regret flared in his eyes and his features softened as he met her gaze. “I just need something to take the edge off.”

“Why?” She asked.

“Look it’s nothing. Just, give it back. Please.”

It wasn’t nothing. They both knew that. Scott was always so casual about everything, nothing ever really got to him. There were only two things he took seriously, her, and football. It was rare for him to let anything else bother him like this. So what did she do? Force him to tell her what was going on, or let him be?

She’d made up her mind within seconds, unclasping her arms from behind her back and handing him back his joint. He wouldn’t smoke it. Not with her standing right there. Something had happened, he just needed to know she was there, that she had faith in him.

He took the cigarette from her hands and played with it much the same way he’d played with it before she’d walked in. All of a sudden he hurled it at the wall, letting out a long frustrated scream.

“Dammit Natalie.” He yelled. “Why did you have to come in?”

She wanted to reach for him, offer him comfort in some way, help him with whatever it was that was hurting him right now. She just wanted to know what had happened so she could make it better. But she stayed put, waiting while he angrily paced back and forth in the small space, waiting for him to open up when he was ready, silently letting him know that she was there.

“I’m sorry.” He said, softening his voice as he walked over to where she stood. His hand cupped the back of her neck, and he pulled her to him as he bent down and placed a light kiss onto her forehead. He pulled back, but still held her, his fingers playing with the strands of her hair. “The scout that’s here tonight, he’s a big deal.”

“The one from Robos College?”

“Yeah.” He nodded. “And on top of that Pete came back for the weekend, from college.”

“Oh. I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, my parents took him out for dinner.”

“Scott…” She reached for him, trying to take his hand, but he pulled away, his expression turning serious as he tried to hide his disappointment.

“It’s not a big deal.” He said. “They’ve missed games before you know.”

She reached for him again, and this time he let her. She wrapped her arms tightly around him, pulling him to her body. His arms came around her, and he buried his head into the crook of her neck, taking a deep breath as he let the smell of her shampoo wash over him. He always told her she smelled like vanilla and apples, said that it comforted him. She just hoped it did, that somehow it put him at ease now.

She hated seeing him like this. He was never unsure of himself, he never let things get to him. It always broke her heart when they did, it meant that whatever it was, it was strong enough to break through all the walls he built around himself. That wasn’t as easy feat, it had taken her a whole year to even get him to kiss her properly. Now they were together, had been for months, but she was still trying to break through those last few walls. She hoped she could, she wanted to know all of him, because she was pretty sure she loved him.

“I’m glad you’re wearing my jersey.” He said, his voice tickling her neck.

“You know, I was planning on wearing it later. When we’re alone, maybe with my dress missing.” He straightened immediately, his eyes thick with need. She loved that she had that effect over him, that with a couple simple words she had the power to completely turn him on. “Focus on that. Not your parents, not Pete. Just me, wearing your jersey, nothing on underneath it.”

“Mmmm, Baby.” He groaned, like he was in pain. “Do you have any idea what you’re doing to me?”

“Nothing. On. Underneath it.” She repeated slowly, emphasising each word. She stood on her toes and kissed him, lightly. He tried to deepen the kiss but she stepped away, smiled, and left. He groaned again, the sound sending a thrill through her body. Her heart warmed for him, and she was happy, happy that he was okay now, happy that she’d been the one to help.

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