By the time the forty-odd players ran out on the practice field, Sabrina was comfortably perched in the bleachers. She was reading a book, but looked up the moment the team exited the gym. Alec waved to her. With a flutter of butterflies in her stomach, she waved back. Sabrina, filled with admiration for her boyfriend’s athletic agility, kept her eyes focused on Alec during the practice game.
Chaz occasionally glanced at Sabrina as she watched Alec but he didn’t say anything. He was comfortable sitting beside his second best friend and watching the action. Almost as tall as Alec, Chaz was on the slender side. When he was encouraged to join in some type of sports during junior high, Chaz had laughed, saying, “Look at these hands…they’re the hands of a surgeon. Why would I risk injury to my life’s goal for a little glory now?”
“All right, Winters,” Coach Taylor called out as he loudly clapped his beefy hands together, “let’s see what you’ve got.” When that didn’t get the team’s full attention, he whistled shrilly. “Let’s go, let’s go! Get out on the field. Daylight is wasting. Hustle! Get those asses moving, girls!”
After the hour-long scrimmage, Coach Taylor stood with his arm around Assistant Coach Baird’s neck. Pulling Baird’s head closer, Taylor hissed in his ear, “Didn’t I tell you that bastard has an arm!” he excitedly boasted.
“Yeah, he’s got one helluva arm,” Baird nodded agreement. “I haven’t seen anyone any better, but you’ve been grooming him for a couple of years. He should have a good, strong arm.”
“I haven’t given him any special treatment or training,” Taylor boisterously objected. “He’s a natural. I just taught him to focus.”
“What I like best about young Winters is that no one can touch him,” Baird conceded. “He maneuvers himself without effort. He’s so athletic and nimble he could play any sport. He actually reminds me of Ali…‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ should be his new mantra. He seems unstoppable!”
“Yep. He’s all of that and more,” Taylor proudly agreed.
“Aren’t you worried about starting a junior? You’re going to stir-up a serious shit-storm with the senior players and their sideline parents. You know that, right?”
Taylor ignored the question and any worries brought on by the team’s competitive nature. He’d already held off for a year and now the time was right. His prize quarterback would make it all worth any crap received from faculty, control-crazy parents, or the team. A wide grin spread over his jubilant face, “Yep, we’re going to have a winning season! I can feel it!”
“It’s about damn time!” Baird agreed.
In the meantime, Alec showered, changed clothes, and then hurried outside to find Sabrina. Chaz waited with her just outside the gym. Eager to spend time with each other, Alec and Sabrina slowly walked arm-in-arm to her well-maintained home on Carondelet Street. Chaz lived a few blocks down and he followed closely behind them. Alec looked over his shoulder at Chaz and waved him forward to join them.
“Come on, Chaz. We’re all friends here,” Alec cajoled, encouraging him to keep up with them.
Together, the three continued the rest of the way. After a lingering sweet goodbye kiss and a promise to return as soon as he could, Alec waved goodbye. Then he turned around and sprinted the entire distance to his part-time job at Lang’s Market and Deli. Chaz stood with Sabrina while she lovingly watched Alec’s retreat. He silently admired her exquisite beauty and her loyalty to his friend.
“Alec’s a lucky guy, Sabrina. You really love him, don’t you?” he asked, but it was more of a statement. At her quizzical expression he informed, “It’s written all over your face.”
“Is it really?” she asked with her cheeks blushing a little as she looked into Chaz’s hazel-green eyes. He ducked his head, slightly embarrassed. The movement caused his straight blond hair to fall forward hiding his chiseled features.
“F’sho,” he chuckled, easily voicing the dialect of their home city in an attempt to cover the self-consciousness he suddenly felt.
“Yes, I really do love him,” Sabrina softly admitted. “I’ve never felt more whole than when Alec is with me. I could get lost in his eyes…it’s as if an entire, unknown universe is there waiting to be explored.”
“Still,” Chaz added. “We’re all really just babies compared to our parents and the educators around us. Do you think what you feel for him will remain true after he’s off to LSU?”
“Yes, of course it will,” Sabrina defensively replied.
“I’m just saying…Alec will be at college playing college football, surrounded by a slew of new college girls,” he emphasized each word slowly to make his point. “All those college hotties will be vying for his attention while we’ll still have one more year of high school. You’ve seen the way the girls crowd him each day. The girls at LSU will be prettier and more persistent.”
“Of course I’ll still love him and I trust him,” she heatedly confirmed, deflecting Chaz’s comments. “Why wouldn’t I? You’re just trying to make me jealous, aren’t you?”
“Uh, well, uh, no. I’m not trying to make you jealous and I’m not saying you won’t still love him,” Chaz stuttered as he crawfished away from the topic. From her reaction, he wished he had skirted it altogether. “I don’t know…it just seems that life changes for everyone after they reach the crowning apex of high school. Quite a few high school sweethearts drift apart and go their separate ways after graduation.”
“Some make it,” Sabrina testily argued. “Look at Coach Grayson and his wife. They’re still in love.”
“Yes, but they met in college, not high school,” Chaz set the record straight.
“All right, Chaz. I’ll play along…Do you believe that you will still attend medical school after you graduate?” Sabrina implored. Without waiting for a response, she continued, “The desire to be a surgeon is something you feel now. Will it carry you through an undergraduate program at Tulane and then four additional years of medical school, not to mention those long years of residency? Will you still feel the same, Chaz?”
“That’s different,” he hastily objected with a bit of irritation. “That’s a career choice, a life plan. It’s a goal that I’ve had for a very long time. You know that. It’s your plan too.”
“That’s true, but is it really that different?” she chided. “It’s also true that everyone has dreams and plans for their lives that aren’t always realized. Something as simple as high school can get in our way…not to mention a thousand other things that can happen. However, I expect that I will always love Alec. I also believe that you and I will follow through with our medical career aspirations regardless of any unforeseen challenges.”
“Brains and beauty,” Chaz grudgingly admired. “You have a way of cutting to the core of any topic, Sabrina.”
When Alec was out of sight, Chaz followed Sabrina inside to her bedroom. There, they set out an armload of books and commenced to study together. This long-standing, mutually beneficial relationship was appropriate since Chaz and Sabrina took the same advanced classes and had the same goals for their future.
Moreover, Chaz liked being at Sabrina’s home. There, her parents made him feel comfortable and welcome. It wasn’t the same for him at his own home. Both of his parents were doctors, and with their busy practices, he rarely saw them. Sadie, the live-in housekeeper and previous nanny, was the only family he had waiting for him each evening.