“Everyone, this is Scott Garrison.” Coach said to the group of football players standing before them. “We’re very lucky to have him, so please give him a warm welcome and treat him with the respect he deserves.”
Scott wanted to cringe at the words. Coach was making him sound like some hero, and that was the last thing he was. He wasn’t a hero, he was just some guy who’d played football once and was only here because he wanted to impress a girl.
“Are we supposed to know who he is?” One of the players, number 11, asked.
“You know who he is.” Another player replied, this one with orange hair so bright it could probably be seen like a beacon even when it was pitch black. “His face is all over the football trophy case.”
“So he was a big deal in high school.” 11 said, unimpressed. “Haven’t heard anything about him since.”
“Come on guys.” Scott said sarcastically. “Coach said to treat me with the respect I deserve.”
“We are.” 11 replied.
“He’s just jealous.” The orange-head explained. “Everyone still compares him to you, tells him you were better. And Logan here, wants to be the best.” The orange-head slapped his hand across Logan’s shoulder, the guy cringing both from his teammate’s slap and the embarrassment that came with his words.
“I am the best.” He insisted, remaining stone-faced.
“Not if you can’t even beat Winter Valley.” Scott shot back, earning him hoots of approval from the players surrounding Logan.
“How is he gonna help us?” Logan asked, not bothering to even attempt to hide his annoyance. “The game’s about to start.”
“He’ll watch you play.” Coach explained. “And if he can help he will.”
Logan’s expression didn’t change. He just kept looking at Scott as if his being there was a colossal waste of time. Scott couldn’t blame him. He agreed with the guy. There was nothing he could do here. The most he’d do what everyone else did, tell them to tighten their formations, put more power into their throws, make sure they’re watching the wings, they didn’t need him to reiterate it all. Everyone knew it too, Logan was just the only one ballsy enough to say it.
The team took the field and the stands erupted in cheers, everyone excited for the long anticipated game between Winter Valley and Spring Fields, rival towns who were obsessed with beating one another. The cheerleaders led the Spring Fields spectators in a chant, shaking their pom-poms in the air as they danced through a routine Scott recognised from when he used to play. The memory brought a smile to his face as he remembered the way he’d run up to the cheerleaders, join in with the steps, maybe even make out with one before Coach yelled at him to get on the field and concentrate on the game. Everything had been so easy back then. He’d known exactly what he wanted, where he was going. Now he didn’t have a clue.
The game started and the crowd only grew louder, the cheerleaders more animated, the players more energetic as the game raged on, all while Scott faded into the background, watching. A calm settled over him, and nostalgia took over as he reminisced over his glory days, the cocky way he used to play, always going for the risk, the dangerous play rather than the easy one. He’d seen things differently, watched each game as if it were unfolding in slow motion, changed things up so much no one could ever figure out what he was planning next. He’d been good. Damn good. He’d loved every second out on that field.
Now he was just a spectator, doomed to forever imagine what could have been. He could have made it work, if only he’d let his stupid knee heal naturally. In the end he’d screwed it all up, given it all away, for nothing. Coming here had been a mistake. He couldn’t help these kids. It wouldn’t impress Natalie. It wouldn’t make him feel better. All it was doing was reminding him of his failures, failures he just wanted to forget.
With the noise, the cheers, and the chaos of the game distracting everyone, he began to slip away, fall further into the background, no one giving him a second glance as he slowly disappeared. He had just started to turn his back on the field when he saw it.
The ball had just been brought back to the centre, and the Winter Valley players were carefully moving themselves into a formation Scott recognised. They were readying themselves for their signature play, the one they used time and time again, fast and impossible to defend, guaranteed to score them a touchdown no matter how their opponents tried to block it, the Winter Valley Split.
His legs acted as if on their own accord, pushing him back through the crowd toward the field, back to the sideline where he stood next to Coach.
“It’s the Winter Valley Split.” He said.
Coach ignored him, swearing as he barked out a number of commands to his team in an attempt to block the move. All his suggestions were in vain, there was no way they’d be able to defend it. The reason it worked was because it was unpredictable. Winter Valley made you think they were setting up the play for one certain player, they made it look like the ball was going to him. Then out of nowhere another player would emerge, right near the touchdown zone, surprising everyone so they scored just when the oppositions had begun to change their defence.
“Who’s the fastest kid you’ve got?” Scott asked Coach.
Of course it was. It couldn’t be, say the orange-head kid, or someone who’d actually listen to him. No, it had to be Logan, the one person on that field who wanted nothing to do with Scott.
“Logan.” He screamed, his voice easily carrying across the field, attracting Logan’s attention from where he stood in the sacred quarterback position. “Get to the end zone.”
Logan’s attention immediately shifted back to the game and he began shouting out for his players to stay in formation and find someone to defend. That’s how he was planning to stop the Winter Valley Split, if everyone marked a player then no one would be free for the pass-off. It had been tried and done, many, many times over the years. It had even worked a couple times when Scott used to play, but not frequently, and not enough to prevent Winter Valley from making an impact.
“Get to the end zone.” He yelled, hoping that by some miracle the kid would listen.
Coach openly regarded Scott, and Scott could practically see the wheels of his mind turning over as he contemplated whether or not to trust him. After a moment his gaze shifted back to the game, and with his loud booming voice he commanded his team.
“Logan, get to the end zone.” He yelled. “Everyone else, stay on your players.”
Logan tried to fight it, staying in his position as an act of defiance. Then, with a frustrated kick in the air, he turned his back on the game and ran to the end zone.
“Wait for the pass.” Scott yelled as Logan ran into place.
Winter Valley didn’t let the change to Spring Fields game deter them as they carried on with their move. The players spreading out to allow a group to run down the middle in a huddle, shielding the player with the ball. Any time a defender tried to break into the formation he was easily cast aside, the huddle strong and impenetrable.
They were within feet of the end zone, and just like that the huddle split, leaving one player to rush for the touchdown, free and clear as his teammates blocked the incoming Spring Fields defenders. Spring Fields expected this, and instead of jumping onto the player holding the ball they held back, each person sticking on their respective player, waiting for the pass-off. Only one Spring Fields player approached the one with the ball, readying himself for the tackle. He drove forward, diving for the feet, wrapping his arms around them and sending the player crashing to the ground.
But he was too late, one of his teammates had broken free of his defender, and as the ball was tossed into the air he caught it, everyone too dazed to act fast enough to stop him as he ran for the touchdown.
“Logan now.” Scott yelled and without a moment’s hesitation Logan sped forward, running faster than Scott had ever seen anyone run, his focus locked onto the player within inches of the touchdown line. All it would take was one step, one step and he’d score.
The game slowed, and Scott watched, hypnotised as Logan barrelled toward the player. Right before his foot stepped over the touchdown line Logan slammed into him, sending his body backwards, at least a foot away from the end zone.
Everything stopped. The players, the spectators, the coaches, the cheerleaders, they all stopped, rapt in awe as the shock of Spring Fields block settled in. They’d just done what no one had done before, not even Scott, who’d tried to block it this way several times but had never been fast enough. They’d stopped the Winter Valley Split.
All at once everyone erupted in cheers, the spectators screaming at the top of their lungs, the cheerleaders forgetting their routines as they jumped and shook their pom-poms for joy, the Spring Fields team hoisting Logan onto their shoulders as they carried him back to centre field, praising him for doing the impossible.
Pride welled in Scott’s stomach, and a smile stretched across his face. He’d done it. He’d stopped the Winter Valley Split. After all these years he’d finally done it. A laugh escaped from his chest, loud and relieved and happy. He reached out and wrapped his arms around Coach, lifting the old man into the air as he spun for joy, a weight lifting from his shoulders. That had felt amazing, incredible, it had given him the same rush as playing always had. He felt like he’d done something, accomplished something, like he was needed, vital, a part of a moment that wouldn’t have existed without him.
He’d thought this feeling was gone, that’d he’d never have it again, never feel passionate like this again. Now here he was, still laughing at the insanity and recklessness of it all. This felt even better than playing sometimes had.
The game raged on, Winter Valley trying their move over and over again, Spring Fields blocking it every time, Winter Valley’s inability to accept defeat and move on eventually costing them the game. Spring Fields easily sailed into the lead with Scott calling out plays every now and then.
When the final siren sounded, everyone from Spring Fields began to cheer and shout louder than they’d ever cheered and shouted before. The orange-haired kid threw the ball into the air, and the team ran into a huddle, forming a tight circle as they celebrated their first ever win against Winter Valley. They rushed for the sidelines, surrounding Scott before they lifted him into the air and carried him around just like they’d done to Logan.
This wasn’t a first for Scott, he’d been carried this same way after every big game in high-school. This felt better though, it was like with every cheer he remembered what it felt like to be valued, and a passion he’d given up on a long time ago rushed back in, making him feel excited for once rather than numb. It had been so long since he’d felt like this, and there was only one thing that had ever beaten the feeling.
Well, one person.
“Let’s hear it for Scott Garrison.” The orange-haired kid bellowed right before the team broke into a round of shouts, whistles and hollers, easing him back onto his feet. “Gotta say man, I wasn’t sure you still had it in you.” He slapped Scott on the shoulder, a gesture that made Scott beam like an idiot, happy that he was a part of something again.
“Scott.” Coach boomed, throwing his arms around Scott in an embrace. “You did it, you finally did it.”
“Yeah, I guess I did.” Scott replied.
“Remember how I mentioned my plans for retirement?” He asked.
“Like it was yesterday.” Scott joked, making Coach roll his eyes.
“If you want it, the coaching gig is yours.”
“Pre-season training starts during summer break.” Coach went on, not bothering to answer any one of the million questions currently running through Scott’s head. “If you want it let me know before then.”
“Are you serious?”
“I’m always serious.”
There was so much more Scott needed to know, so many questions he still had to ask, but he didn’t get a chance to ask anything before Coach turned back to the team and joined in the celebrations.
If you want it, the coaching gig is yours.
Did he want it?
He knew the answer straight away. Yeah, he wanted it. He wanted this, coaching, the family with Pete, Eliza, Bryce and Jenny, the small town, Natalie, he wanted it all. This was all he’d ever wanted, a place to belong, and he could have it. If he could just get Natalie he’d have it all.
“I get it now.” Logan said, interrupting Scott’s thoughts. “Why everyone says you were good. I never would have thought of that.” He nodded back to the field, to the end zone Scott had yelled at him to run to.
“You blocked it though.” Scott replied. “I was never fast enough.”
Logan nodded, sticking out his hand to Scott, offering a truce. Scott took it, shaking it as peace settled over them, both now okay with the other.
“I’m gonna be better be than you.” Logan said releasing his hand. “Just so you know.”
“Let’s not get carried away.” Scott replied flippantly, as if he weren’t worried at all. The kid was good though, fast, quick, smart, Scott had no doubt he’d surpass him. Especially when Scott became his coach and passed on all his best moves.
The idea brought another smile to his face, Coach Garrison, the name had a nice ring to it. A very nice ring to it.
A knock at Natalie’s door interrupted her from her episode of Gilmore Girls. She groaned as she hit pause and headed to the door. Whatever this was it had better be good. Jess was just about to outbid Dean for Rory’s basket, and Lorelia was just about to beg Luke to buy hers.
Augh, why was everyone always interrupting Gilmore Girls?
“What?” She demanded, opening the door and glowering at her guest. Scott stood before her, a huge grin plastered across his face and his eyes bright with unbridled joy.
“I went to the game.” He told her, his smile only growing bigger, lighting up his whole face, making him look even more attractive than he already was. “I stopped the Winter Valley Split. Well, technically Logan, their quarterback, stopped it, but I told him what to do so I’m taking credit.”
“What?” She was lost, still at the start of the conversation waiting to be filled in while he barrelled on about Spring Field’s quarterback, coaching, and the Winter Valley Split.
“Remember how Coach asked me to stop by the game today?” He asked, backing up to fill her in.
“I went.” He said, a small laugh escaping. “And I didn’t think I would be any help. Then Winter Valley started to do the Winter Valley Split, and I called out directions from the sidelines and it worked. We stopped it.”
“You stopped the Winter Valley Split?” She exclaimed, excitement filling her chest as she felt her own lips crease into a smile.
“I stopped the Winter Valley Split.” He said.
She laughed, she was pretty sure she even squealed with delight as she threw herself at him and wrapped her arms around his neck, completely overcome by her pride for him. His arms came around her waist, and he pulled her tight against his hard chest, laughing into her hair.
She pulled away, wanting to see his smile again, the brightness back in his eyes where lately there had only been pain.
“You stopped the Winter Valley Split.” She said, completely in awe of him.
“Yeah.” He agreed, trying to hold back the smile but failing catastrophically as his lips broke free of the restraint time and time again. He was beautiful. So beautiful she couldn’t look away. She was stuck, staring at him, trying to commit every line of his face to memory.
He gave a small laugh, and his eyes met hers, the brilliant blue piercing her gaze. The smile eased from his lips, and he swallowed, his Adam’s apple moving slowly as his eyes kept her trapped with their intensity. She was helpless standing under that gaze, unable to look away even if she’d wanted to. He looked at her like she was the only thing in the world that mattered, making her stomach spin into a frenzy and her heart thump violently against her chest.
His head moved toward hers, slow, cautious, careful to see if she’d move away. When she remained put he grew more confident, closing the space between them before bringing his lips to hers. He was slow at first, gentle, but when she moved her lips against his the kiss became stronger. He pulled her close against his body, one arm wrapping itself around her waist while his other hand gripped her chin, tilting her face up to his. She opened her mouth, needing more, needing all of him, and his tongue brushed against her lower lip, teasing her, tasting her, savouring her before it plunged inside and explored her mouth.
A moan vibrated from her chest and she pushed herself closer to him, wanting more, needing more. His kisses were like fire, and every time his lips moved, every time his tongue flicked against hers she lost herself in him, forgetting everything but the man assaulting her mouth, making her feel a kind of bliss she’d never felt with Ryan.
As if doused with cold water she pulled away, breaking the kiss and pushing herself out of his arms. If she stayed any longer she’d forget again, forget everything but how amazing it felt to have him wrapped around her.
She waited for him to do something, reach for her, try to kiss her again, maybe say something, but nothing happened. They both just stood there, avoiding eye contact, each heavy breath reminding them why they were currently in need of some air, and how good it had felt to deny it.
She felt him leave, but she didn’t dare look up, scared she’d run after him if she did. She couldn’t stop him. Not now. Not yet. She couldn’t do anything until she figured out what to do with Ryan.