9 Years Ago
How about 8pm?
Natalie read the text her mom had sent her, and a dozen excuses sprung to mind that would get her out of this. She couldn’t use any of them though, she had to see her mom eventually, especially after months of silence from her end.
She hadn’t been too happy when Natalie had announced her plans to move to the city with Scott so he could play football at his dream school Robos College. She still remembered the day he’d told her. He’d been unable to stop smiling as he handed her the acceptance letter for her to read. She’d thrown herself in his arms, unable to contain her excitement as he’d asked her to move to the city with him. She’d gone willingly, not having to think about it for a second.
Of course, her mother hadn’t been too pleased. For whatever reason she wasn’t Scott’s biggest fan. Natalie thought it went back to the day she’d first really met him, right after she’d caught them making out in the middle of the beauty pageant changing room. Since then she’d always been dismissive of Scott, rude to him whenever he was around, constantly trying to set Natalie up with other, more respectable options.
When Natalie had announced her plans to move to the city her mom had thrown a fit, vowing never to speak to her until she came home, but she’d broken, the desire to butt in to Natalie’s life proving too strong for her to deny. She’d started calling again, then the calls had become more frequent, now she was in the city for a weekend, trying to make plans for them to meet up. Natalie knew she had to, but she was still dreading it.
The crowd erupted in a round of cheers as the players entered the field. Natalie quickly scanned their black and red clad bodies until she found Scott, his gaze already fixed to the spot she sat in the stands.
“Woo, woo, go number 13.” She called out, drawing the attention of his teammates who mocked him accordingly. He laughed and shook his head before shifting his attention back to the field and the game that was about to begin.
“Hey.” London said sitting beside her. She was Bryan’s girlfriend, number one, the wide receiver of the team, playing opposite his friend Beck, number two. They’d both been recruited the way Scott had, famous for the way they played as if reading the other’s mind, pulling out moves and plays that nobody had planned for or expected, plays that worked every time. Natalie enjoyed them, so did Scott, and she got along well with London, the two of them often sitting next to one another at each game, being friendly to the parade of girls all the other players went through.
“I have returned.” Beamed a loud, confident voice. Natalie turned to it, and that’s when she saw probably the most attractive guy she’d ever see. His face was perfectly symmetrical, his hair messy in just the right way, his body lean but muscular, his skin the kind of golden people paid a fortune for and his eyes even bluer than Scott’s. He carried himself with a kind of confidence that commanded the room, and around the small college stadium eyes automatically flickered his way. “And who’s your friend here London?”
“This is Natalie.” London said. “Natalie this is Chip. He’s a close friend of Bryan and Beck’s.”
Ew. Chip? Really? The name didn’t exactly illicit a good impression.
“I know what you’re thinking.” Chip began. “Chip, that’s the name that belongs to an asshole. Now enigmatic and eccentric I might be, but I promise I’m no asshole.”
His attention flickered to the field and he was just in time to see Bryan throw a ball to Beck, who fumbled with it before it fell to the ground. “Come on Beck, get your head in the game, you can’t be making these mistakes on the field. This is exactly why you’re number two.” His voice carried easily across the field and he laughed as Beck flipped him off.
“Okay so sometimes I’m an asshole.” He conceded.
“He also doesn’t shut up.” London muttered.
“I think you’re forgetting that I’m currently holding all the snacks.” He replied. “So Natalie what brings you here?”
“Her boyfriend’s number 13.” London replied.
“And just like that my hopes to take you on a date are dashed.” He said more to himself than to her. “Jellybean?” He offered her the packet and she took a handful before passing the packet to London.
A siren sounded through the air, signally the start of the game and Natalie watched as the team moved into their positions. The game began, and Scott was in fine form throughout it all. He made every pass, caught every throw, set up every play perfectly and catapulted the Robos Foxes into the lead. The opposition could barely keep up, and although his teammates were good, Scott shined.
“Looks like Bryan needs to hand over his number one jersey.” Chip commented as Scott set up another touchdown.
Little by little their lead grew, the crowd becaming more excited, more raucous as the game raged on. The opposing team’s annoyance began to show, with each touchdown, each cheeky throw, each fake out, they became angrier, tired of the Foxes making them look like fools. Their tackles became rougher, some of their blocks illegal, more interested in hurting the Foxes than trying to come back from the hole they’d been dug into to.
Worry filled Natalie’s gut, and she was suddenly overcome with fear, scared senseless every time the opposition sized Scott up as he set up a play. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen, and she breathed a sigh of relief every time his teammates covered him, keeping the angry opposition safely away.
Another touchdown was scored, and the opposition’s captain angrily punched the air, his whole body tense with anger. If Natalie could see it from all the way over here she knew it was bad, knew he was losing it, only making her feeling of dread grow. Something was going to happen. She didn’t know how she knew it, but every time her heart thumped loud in her chest it seemed to whisper to her the words, something bad is going to happen.
The players met at the centre, huddling for the next play. Natalie watched, and it was as if everything happened in slow motion. The centre passed the ball to Scott. He pulled his arm back, aiming for Bryan, but Bryan was covered in defenders, unable to receive the pass, so he turned to Beck, also flanked with defenders. He quickly scanned the rest of the team, and he saw what Natalie saw, no one was free, not yet. He waited a second longer before running the ball himself, easily side-stepping the huddle in the middle where the centre and guards held back the opposing team’s blockers.
He ran, his legs effortlessly carrying him across the field, sidestepping anyone who tried to take him down. He was free and clear, almost there and he skipped slightly, tasting the victory. Then, out of nowhere, came the captain, his body slamming into Scott’s, hard, shoving him down onto the ground with a loud thud. Natalie’s heart stopped, and she was on her feet and down the stand before her head even processed what was happening.
Scott rolled over, quickly jumping to his feet. Relief coursed through her. He was okay, he was…almost immediately he fell back to the ground, his legs buckling beneath him, unable to hold up his weight. The referee blew the whistle to stop the game, and his team merged into a huddle around him. Someone signalled the medic and where everything had slowed down before it now speed up, everything whizzing past her as she stood frozen to the spot, watching Scott being carried off the field on a stretcher. With a snap she broke from her trance and took off after him, running as fast as her legs would take her.
“Scott.” She called rushing to his side.
“Natalie.” He said, sitting up on the stretcher.
“Please lie back down.” The medic said.
“My back’s fine.” Scott replied. “It’s just my knee.”
“Lie back down.” Natalie commanded, shoving him back onto the stretcher.
“Everyone’s overreacting.” He said. “I just need to ice my knee for a few hours.”
She almost believed him. Almost fell for the flippant and cavalier way he said the words. But then she saw his eyes, worried, maybe even a little scared, as he tensed his knee to test the pain. Then he blinked, and the fear was gone, the worry was gone, everything was gone. He stared out with the blank stare he brought on whenever he was trying to hide his emotions. That was when she knew something was wrong, really wrong. He often shut down like this, but he hadn’t done it to her in years, never to her. He was scared, he was worried, but he was trying not to be. She didn’t know if he was trying to convince her he was okay or himself, but she knew he wasn’t okay, and it terrified her.