Amy and the Sidekicks
“Go long, Amy,” Patrick called to her on the hotel’s front lawn, sending her into a sprint away from him. He kicked the ball towards her hard. She intercepted it and kicked it back to him. Patrick slid to the ground and deflected it sideways. “Not bad,” he commended her.
“I do my best,” Amy confessed, jogging back towards him, “Thanks again for the offer to practice, Patrick.”
“Don’t mention it,” he shook her hand. “So, did you meet everyone yet?”
“Not quite,” she glanced around at the rest of the Sidekicks finishing warming up around them (the boys’ uniforms were the inverse of the girls’, having instead white shirts and green shorts). “Your goalie...?” she asked, pointing to the boy who’d given her the pizzas earlier, who was standing between a pair of trees on the far end of the lawn. “Oh, that’s Kyle Turman,” Patrick nodded, waving at him. Kyle noticing and nodded-but then gave Amy a noticeable frown. “Uh, are he and Laurie close?” she asked Patrick hesitantly.
“Kind of. He’s been dating Andrea Lang,” Patrick pointed to the girl who’d been with Laurie earlier, who was conversing with Judy by another set of trees to the left, “And she’s been Laurie’s best friend for years.”
“I see. I hope they realize I don’t want to replace Laurie, especially not after what I heard happened...” Amy explained.
“I know,” Patrick was understanding. He turned towards Laurie, who was leaning on her crutches by the hotel door and watching her teammates warming up without her with a harsh, bitter expression, “It’s been a hard road for all of us, not just Laurie. Her dad was a big supporter of our group. It hurt us to see that happen to him too.”
He shook his head grimly. “Oh, and I don’t think you met Shawn Campbell yet either,” he told Amy, pointing at the bespectacled boy, who was practicing with Craig, “He’s the smart one of the group. If you want to know anything about the history of this hotel, or anything else, he’s the guy to ask.”
“Well, I’ll keep it in mind,” Amy glanced at Shawn. He, in contrast, gave her an accepting nod when he noticed she was looking at him. “Is he friendly...?”
“If Shawn likes you, he’ll be friendly. He’s kind of introverted, so it’s a little harder for him to communicate sometimes, but he’s nice deep down. And I saw you met Dylan earlier,” he pointed to the redheaded boy, “He kind of keeps to himself within the group too, but he’s friendly enough when...”
“We’re ready,” Beth called towards them. Amy took a deep breath. “Well, here’s hoping I do good enough to make it,” she told Patrick, rolling her hair up in a bun and fastening it with a barrette.
“Do your best, Amy, like you said,” he encouraged her. Noticing her now glancing at Judy, “Judy’s not bad at all, Amy; in fact, she’s been my best friend for years. The only thing is, she’s a competitor at heart, always has been. She wants the best out of everyone she plays with, whether it’s us Sidekicks or the girls’ team. But she’s a good person. Well, guess this is it; best of luck,” he wished her well again before jogging to the far side of the lawn, across from where Monica was now lined up. Amy ran over as well, fingering the crucifix still around her neck. “Dear God, please let me be good enough to make this team; I like these kids, and I want to be with them...” she prayed nervously. She came to a stop across from Dylan, who was the boys’ team’s other striker. “Good luck; I’m pulling for you,” he gave her a smile.
“Thanks,” Amy told him, taking a deep gulp; now she felt like she was obligated to succeed for all the team members who believed in her. “OK, Sidekicks, we’ve got limited time to work with this afternoon, so we’re playing till dark, which should be in about a half hour or so,” Beth announced to the others, walking to what was going to be center field to Amy’s left and gesturing at the low sun in the sky, “We’ll compensate with a longer match tomorrow; as usual, the team with the most wins over the weekend gets treated out by the loser. Boys team, good luck,” she reached across the imaginary midfield line to shake her brother’s hand.
“Girls team, good luck,” Craig repeated to her. He also gave Amy a smile and wink before jogging back to join Shawn on the defense, as Beth did with Andrea on the girls’ side. Monica and Patrick moved up to the ball set up at midfield and put their feet around it. “Three...” Beth started counting down behind them, “...two...one...Sidekicks play ball!”
Monica and Patrick kicked around for preliminary control of the ball. Patrick ended up with it and rushed towards the trees that were the girls’ goal. Amy raced backwards, trying to keep up with it. “Make a big play, you’ve got to make a big play of some kind,” she thought to herself. She charged towards Patrick and tried to kick at the ball. Patrick, however, pulled a double move to the left and was past her in a flash. Stunned, she turned and watched him take a shot on goal. Judy, though, caught the ball in midflight and tumbled to the ground. “Here, here, I’m here!” Amy called to her running back up the field. Judy indeed reared the ball back over her head and flung it in her direction...
...only for Andrea to rush into the ball and bounce it off her head in the other direction. She ran to get control of it, quickly doing so. Frowning, Amy rushed upfield, aiming for an unprotected spot along the right side. “I’m open over here!” she called to Andrea, who did turn her direction...but gave her a sharp look and instead kicked the ball towards the boy’s goal herself, doing so from a far enough distance that the ball lost steam as it got closer. Kyle easily deflected it sideways with a sliding kick. Amy rushed for it and gained control before Shawn, who was closest, could reach her. “Score, Newberry, you’ve got to score here,” she pleaded with herself. Noticing Craig and Shawn approaching from the left fast, she reared her leg back and kicked at the goal. Kyle dove and missed it...
...but the ball smacked off the far tree and bounced back into play. “OOOOOOOOh!” Amy groaned, clapping her hands over her face. A perfect opportunity, wasted just like that-make worse by Laurie’s snickering laugh of triumph from the side of the hotel, where the redhead was leaning on her crutches, watching the game. She visibly mouthed at Amy, “You’ve got nothing. You’re never making this team.”
“Just watch,” Amy mouthed back, “I’ll show you, you jealous little...!”
“Back on defense, girls, back on defense!” came Judy’s shout, snapping her back to the game. Craig, Dylan, and Patrick were overwhelming the girls’ defenders and rushing their goal. Amy raced back as fast as she could, but was too late to keep Dylan from kicking it on goal. Judy’s desperate block, however, sent it careening towards her. Seeing the boys coming at her, she quickly cleared it away upfield, sending Shawn racing after it. “Good thinking,” Beth patted her on the shoulder as she ran past her after it.
“Thanks,” Amy huffed; the tempo of the game was starting to get draining already. She raced after the ball again, jumped up when Shawn tried to clear it back down, and blocked it against her chest. The ball bounced to the ground in front of her-where Andrea raced forward and scooped it away from her before she could get set. She immediately took another shot on goal, which Kyle smothered. He punted the ball deep down the field. Amy raced backwards after it. Patrick leaped high for it and headed it towards the girls’ goal. Judy headed it back towards the crowd of players swarming in front of the goal. There was a scramble for the ball, but ultimately Monica came away with it. “Amy, all yours!” she kicked to her at the rear of the crowd. Amy quickly trapped it and raced towards the boys’ goal. Only Craig stood before her and the goal-and he now abruptly slipped and fell to the side, doing so in a manner that seemed to hint the fall was intentional. Amy barely had time to process this, though, as her momentum was carrying her towards the goal. Kyle spread his arms wide and glared, all but daring her to beat him. Amy jerked to the left, making him lunge that way and leave the space between the trees open. She pivoted to the right and kicked hard...
...and watched the ball bounce hard off the other tree and ricochet backwards. “Oh no...!” she moaned, slumping forward and putting her face in her hands again. Wide open, and she’d messed it up again. She was bombing badly; the others had to have noticed...
Miserable, she raced back down the field. The ball, however, did not come into her possession again for the next ten minutes, at which point the light was starting to fate. “All right, time, that’s the game,” Beth called a halt as the ball rolled out of Dylan’s possession into some hedges to end the contest, “Final score, zero to zero; advantage push. Good job, everyone. We’ll add an extra half hour tomorrow or one of the other days to compensate for...”
Amy didn’t hear any more, nor did she want to. She’d blown her chance, she knew it deep down, and she knew she couldn’t take the roasting that could come from the team. Depressed, she slouched over to the nearest bench by the hotel wall, slumped down in it, and lowered her head. She felt two inches tall and useless...
“Hey, you OK?” Monica had appeared next to her, frowning worriedly.
“No. I blew it, Monica, you saw it,” Amy mumbled miserably, unfastening the barrette and shaking her hair back down, “I couldn’t do anything right out there. I couldn’t score, couldn’t get to the ball on time, couldn’t...”
“Amy, you’re being too hard on yourself,” Monica sat down next to her and put a supportive arm around her, “It was only one game, and a shortened one at that. I think you did just fine...”
“Monica, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I stank. There’s no ifs ands or buts about that...”
“Darn right you did,” sneered a passing Andrea, “Serves you right for thinking you could replace Laurie on this team. She was the best one, and you’ll never be able to fill her cleats.”
“You tell her, Andrea,” Laurie coldly applauded from the next bench down, “Friends stick together, not like others I thought were my friends,” she turned her glare to Monica.
“What, what is wrong with comforting someone who’s upset, Laurie!?” Monica shouted, rising back to her feet, “Wasn’t I there for you for weeks after your accident!? How is this any different from that, and how does it not make me your friend!?”
“Because she’s not one of us, and she never will be!” Laurie snarled, turning and lurching away on her crutches before Monica could respond. “Yeah, she’s right, you’re not one of us,” Andrea glared Amy down again, “And I’ll protect Laurie from...”
“All right, Andrea, game’s over, go shower,” Beth walked up behind her and gave her a glare of her own.
“Just leaving, no need to get pushy, Beth,” Andrea mumbled bustling off after Laurie. Shaking her head, Beth approached Amy’s bench. “You OK?” she echoed Monica’s concern.
“Beth, I’m sorry. I let you down, I let you all down,” Amy lamented, shaking her head sadly, “I guess I’m not...”
“Amy, listen,” Beth sat down on her other side, “I was watching all through the match, and I liked what you were trying to do. Honest truth. I liked that you hustled all game long, I liked that you tried to make as many plays as you could. Those missed scores were just bad luck; I liked what you did to get into position for them. So I want you to know, I’d vote yes for you to join us. I think you’ve got a lot of potential, and you could be a valuable Sidekick going forward.”
“What? Really?” Amy looked up, stunned, “You’re not just saying that to try and cheer me up?”
“Honest truth, Amy; I think you did good,” Beth assured her.
“Hey, she’s right, you did good,” Dylan called as he passed by, giving her another grin, “You’ve got my vote too.”
“See, it’s not nearly as bad as you thought,” Monica told Amy, rubbing her shoulder sympathetically, “A little more practice, and you’ll be great.”
“I think so. Come on, it’s getting dark now,” Beth stood up and waved the two of them towards the hotel door, which the other Sidekicks were now streaming through, “Take a nice warm shower, and then we’ll have dinner.”
“Everyone’s right, Amy, you did a lot better than you thought,” Patrick commended her, seated next to her on a sofa inside the hotel lounge as they chewed away on pizza slices with the rest of the Sidekicks, who were seated in groups all around the room by a now blazing fireplace, “I saw a girl who was driven to play hard, willing to take some chances, a good athlete and a good teammate.”
“And you’re being honest with me on this? You really think I’m good?” she asked him skeptically.
“Trust me on this, Amy,” he all but begged her, “You’re way too hard on yourself.”
“But I’ve just been a backup my whole life...how can I fit in with you guys...?”
“Like Patrick told me he told you earlier, just be yourself,” Craig leaned over the side of the sofa and gave her a warm smile, “And you did play good, Amy; don’t let one game define you.”
“See, everyone agrees with that,” Monica, seated on her other side, told her, patting her hand, “Now the question is, will you give yourself a fair chance?”
“Well...I’ll try if you guys want me to.”
“Don’t do it for us, Amy, do it for you. Believe in yourself, and you will be a great player, I know it,” Craig softly rubbed her shoulder himself. “Anyway,” he glanced towards the lobby, “I’ve got something I want to bring in; don’t go anywhere,” he told her, bustling off. Amy craned her neck after him. “What’s this about?” she asked Monica and Patrick.
“Not sure,” Monica shrugged, “I saw him bringing a few extra things in earlier; that might have something to do with it. You feeling better now, though?” she asked her friend.
“Yeah, thanks, Monica. I’m not as bad as I felt before.”
“You have lots of potential, Amy. And I’d be glad to help work with you personally to get you up to a truly great player,” Patrick offered her, “Any time this weekend we’re not playing, let me know, and we’ll go over anything you want to. Same after we head on back; any time’ll be good for me. Deal?”
He extended her a hand. “Well, guess so,” Amy shook it; she was starting to like Patrick a lot as a friend.
“Great. Just tell me whatever you’d...” Patrick stopped as Beth rose to her feet from the chair next to their sofa and clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. “All of you, if I can have your attention for a moment,” she called to the other Sidekicks, “I have a few important things to say...”
“Starting with the fact that dessert’s here,” Craig cut in, carrying a large rectangular container into the lounge, “Beth and I picked it up this afternoon, and we made a few adjustments for the occasion...”
He laid it down on the coffee table in front of Amy’s sofa and dramatically lifted up the lid. Amy gasped in delight to see the words WELCOME TO COALPORT AMY written in blue icing atop a chocolate and peanut butter cake. “Oh Craig...I’m...you and Beth didn’t have to do this for me...” she gushed in delight.
“Well, Beth and I felt a celebration for you of some kind was in order, and a cake would do well for that,” Craig told her with a smile, then turned to his sister, who gave Amy the same. He hefted a knife, cut a rather large piece, slid it onto a paper plate, and handed it to her. “The rest of you, come and get it,” he told the rest of his friends, who bustled forward and cut slices for themselves, ultimately leaving only about a quarter of the cake left when they’d finished. “OK, now for the big moment,” Beth declared again once everyone had taken their slices and sat back down, “I’d like to call a preliminary vote on admitting Amy into the Sidekicks,” she gestured at her, “We’ll let her say her peace, then let you decide. In the interests of fairness, let’s make it a two thirds majority of seven yes votes for admission this weekend in this or any subsequent votes. Amy, any words in your favor?” she turned to her.
“Uh,” Amy nervously rose to her feet as Beth sat back down in her chair, “Um, well, I...above all, I, um, appreciate the invite here, and...well, I’m just an ordinary everyday sixteen year old like you guys, and I like soccer as much as you do, and, well...I’d really, really like to join with you guys. If I’m going to live here until graduation, I’d like to fit in somehow, and I think being with you guys might be the best way to do it. So, if you think I’m good enough, I’d like to join you...”
She sat back down, hoping she hadn’t come off too pleading and desperate for the undecided Sidekicks. “All right, with that said then, by a show of hands, all in favor of inducting Amy as a new Sidekick?” Beth asked. Amy took a deep breath and crossed her fingers. Monica’s hand immediately shot up, as did Craig’s. Beth’s, Dylan’s, and Patrick’s quickly followed. Amy sighed softly and hung her head; not enough to make it. “All against?” Beth inquired again. Laurie’s hand shot up like a rocket, followed by Andrea’s, and then Kyle’s after a brief hesitation. “All undecided?” came the third command, prompting Judy’s and Shawn’s hands to slowly rise. “All right, the motion is voted down for lack of a majority in this case; we’ll revote at the end of the weekend to see if anything changes,” Beth declared.
“Hey, she lost; don’t keep putting in re-votes to give her other chances!” Laurie snarled.
“Laurie, please, I said very clearly at the beginning this was just the first vote!” Beth told her sharply. “Judy, Shawn, out of curiosity, why undecided?” she turned to the two of them.
“I didn’t see enough of Amy just yet to make a firm decision,” Judy explained, giving Amy an almost apologetic glance, “I’d like to see her in action a few more times before I definitely go yes or no.”
“Same here, Beth, I just need to see a little more,” Shawn added, his expression the same.
“OK. And why no, Andrea?” Beth spun to her.
“You know why, Beth; it’s unfair to Laurie after everything she’s gone through the last few months to put her through this,” Andrea growled, putting a supportive arm around the redhead on the sofa next to her, “Besides, when we drew up the Sidekicks, it was with the understanding it would be all of us friends and us alone; we’re more than...”
“Well you know what, Andrea, things change,” Monica snapped, rising to her feet, “All of us understand what Laurie’s going through, we really do,” she gave Laurie a sympathetic look, “But what about helping a girl who’s new in town and feeling lonely!? Where’s your sense of Christian charity in wanting to help...!?”
“Don’t hide behind God to swipe at me, Monica Carpenter!” Laurie roared, heaving herself to her feet on her crutches, “You have no idea the pain I’m feeling, especially when you try and push me out like this in favor of the first new face you see! And for the record, there is no God; I should know more than anyone else!”
“Laurie, for the last time, we did not bring Amy in to push you out!” Monica begged her in frustration, “The instant you’re healed again, we’ll all be glad to have you play with us again...!”
“Then why invite her!?” Andrea jumped up as well and pointed accusingly at Amy, “Your words don’t match your deeds...!”
“Are we going to have a problem with you too, Andrea!?” Patrick jumped up too, frowning.
“If you push it, Patrick, we will!”
“Everyone, everyone, please just calm down!” Beth tried to restore order, but to no available, as Amy’s defenders and foes started shouting furiously at each other. A surge of tremendous guilt swept through Amy. She quickly rose up, walked swiftly out of the lounge, and raced down the hall to the old front desk, where she slid to the floor and buried her face in her hands. “It’s not worth this...” she mumbled to herself.
“Hey, you OK?” it was Craig standing over her now, concerned. He sat down next to her on the floor. “If it’s about all that, it’s nothing you’ve done,” he assured her, gesturing back at the lounge.
“I don’t want to break you guys apart when you’ve all been friends this long,” Amy shook her head, “Me joining you guys isn’t worth that...”
“Amy, Amy, don’t worry about it,” he put an arm around her, “There are times we fight like this over trivial things too. Beth’ll have them calmed down in no time; she’s good at restoring order. And give everyone who didn’t say yes now time; I think you’ll warm them over eventually. In case you didn’t notice, you’re already halfway there anyway.”
“I don’t know, Craig; Laurie and her clique are too hellbent against me, and I don’t know if I’ll be good enough for Judy...”
“Tell you what,” Craig rose back up, “I think you need to get away for a moment. Go get your coat, then come with me. We’ll go where it’s nice and quiet and peaceful.”
“Uh, OK...but where’s that?” she asked, rising back up herself.
“How about, it’s a surprise,” he told her wryly, “But I think a city girl like you’ll really like the change of pace it’ll give you...”