Excerpt: Chapter 1
I brushed my fingers through my hair and waited. With my hands clasped behind my back, I drew circles with the toe of my shoe, exchanging brief glances with Kelly before bursting into uncontrollable laughter.
“You just can’t wait, can you?” I raised an eyebrow.
She shook her head no and brought her long mane to the side, stroking it teasingly, not taking her eyes off the gates of the stadium. “They’re gonna come out anytime now,” she said, a smile plastered to her face.
In high school, I’d spent my time the exact same way. I waited by the bleachers, eyeing every player out there, trying to decide who was my favorite. The roar of the crowd intoxicated me—the rush of a touchdown and the spirit of the game. I could feel the adrenaline flowing from the pitch to the stands, circling in the air, filling my lungs. It was safe to say that I liked football, but I loved the players even more. It had always been like this; I would wait until the end of the game, my eyes darting from one player to the other. Amy and Kelly would wait next to me, hair pulled back in high ponytails, skin glowing, clothes smelling like wild flowers. We were ready, all three of us.
“Which one do you like?” I would ask Kelly, trying to make sure that our interests didn’t overlap. “Chicks before sticks” was my catch phrase.
“See that guy over there? Number seven.”
“You mean Devon Walker? I didn’t know you were into gingers.” Eighteen year old me shifted her weight to one leg and eyed my best friend judgmentally.
“Come on! Just look at those dimples! I can see them from all the way over here,” Kelly said.
“Exactly, that’s a problem.” The three of us chuckled collectively, but my sights were already set on someone else.
Ted Burnhart was bolting across the field, jumping around and throwing his hands up in the air like he owned the whole place. I remember fixating on him like I had nothing better to do because what was better than watching a hunky football player score one touchdown after another? Ted was on fire. He was the kind of person that stood out in a crowd with his broad shoulders and overall chiseled physique. Even with his helmet on, I could still recognize him. But most importantly, Ted Burnhart was our high school team’s best player.
“I bet you can’t score with him,” Amy challenged me.
I liked a good challenge, so I placed my hands on my hips and spun around to look at her. “Who, Ted Burnhart?” I asked, staring at her, a dare in my eyes. “Challenge accepted.” I remember rushing into the bathroom and splashing my face with water. I slapped on some blush and glittery lipgloss. I sprayed myself with perfume so that I, too, could smell like wildflowers. I walked out of there with my head held high and joined the girls again.
“Whoa, look at you,” Amy said, eyeing me up and down.
I couldn’t take my eyes off Ted and when the game ended, I had stayed put. I didn’t chase after him like Amy and Kelly did their crushes; I just stood there, my eyes sweeping across the field, pretending to be in a world of my own. Then, I spotted him in my periphery. He was climbing up the bleachers and the moment I looked up, he was staring right at me. My immediate reaction was to smile, maybe bite my bottom lip a little. But not too much. He smiled back like I knew he would, flashing me a little smirk that made my heart jump. I then got up and scurried down to the sidelines of the field, eventually securing a spot under the bleachers; I wanted to see if he would notice I was gone. I heard someone yell out his name, a voice that I immediately recognized as Freddy’s. Freddy was not only their quarterback, but he was Amy’s longtime crush. After pursuing him for three years straight, she had finally gotten a chance with him at our high school prom, but that’s a story for another day.
“Wait, hold on a second,” Ted said to his friends. He spun around and just stood there, his eyes fixed on the field. Then finally, he tilted his head downwards. He smiled and made his way back down, not taking his eyes off me the entire time. Finally he leaped and landed on his feet, ducked down and scurried to meet me under the bleachers. “Hey,” he said, staring at me through heavy-lidded eyes. My breathing quickened as he slowly approached me, but I was quick to dust my skirt off and straighten myself.
“Hey.” The adrenaline burst through my veins. It was true. I had been with quite a handful of football players, all of which were on our high school team, but Ted was different. He was charming, witty, but most importantly, he was sexy as hell.
“You know I couldn’t help but notice you today,” he said, stuffing his hands into his pockets and leaning against the wall. He still wore his jersey, which was tucked comfortably into his compression shorts. I realized that his shoulder pads weren’t contributing to his looks, because when he took them out he still looked pretty much like a hulk. His friends peered at us from above, but we ignored them.
“Really?” I said, my eyes locked on his. “What was I doing?”
“Whispering things to your friends, probably talking about me,” he replied. I remember feeling all giddy on the inside, but I wouldn’t show it. For now, all I wanted was to get into Ted’s pants, and it didn’t take that much effort, really. We’d only exchanged a couple of words before he leaned in and kissed me, and then later that day we went back to his parents’ house. It was so incredible that, nine years later, I still remembered it. I know how twisted that sounds—a twenty-seven-year-old thinking back to a teenage encounter under the bleachers, but it was nothing short of magical. I hadn’t had that much fun since, well, my last hookup from a few weeks ago, and even though I never expected to talk to Ted again, somehow we managed to make it through high school as boyfriend and girlfriend. We were all anybody talked about. At that young age, being with Ted Burnhart made me feel like some kind of celebrity. We walked around the halls, hand in hand, striding along a row of lockers, that typical high school scene.
I remember we went to prom together, did everything together. I had given up my wild ways when I was with Ted because I didn’t have eyes for anyone else but him.
Anyway, that was until he dumped me on the first day of college.
The details of that aren’t important, just a couple of kids outgrowing each other, or him outgrowing me. He broke up with me, and it wasn’t long before I went back to my old ways. I remember putting on a brave face, acting like I didn’t care, but I knew that, for the longest time, I used sleeping around as a coping mechanism. I just didn’t want to deal with the fact that someone had fallen out of love with me. I guess that this was my first brush with heartbreak.
Now, almost a decade later, I stood with my girls, hands clasped together at our hearts, waiting for the team to come out of the stadium. Not much had changed, save for the fact that all three of us were all grown up now.
“So, guess who I saw at the bank the other day?” Kelly asked me.
For some reason I felt my insides tingle. “What? Where did you see him? What was he doing?” I paused, considering. “He must’ve been pulling out thousands of dollars to buy a new car or something.”
“He was setting up my bank account.”
There was silence. “What?” I spun on my heel and looked at her. The doors to the stadium were still closed, and there were only a few passers by. Amy’s eyes darted from Kelly, to me, and then back to Kelly again.
“You heard me,” she said.
“Ted Burnhart works at a bank now?”
“Mhm.” Kelly nodded, her arms folded across her chest. “He’s boring. Wears a white shirt and suspenders to work, spends all day at a transaction window, barely smiles at you. He actually acts dead inside.”
“So wait, wait. He doesn’t play football anymore?”
“You’re clearly in denial,” Kelly said, her blue-grey eyes boring into mine. “He has a full-on beer belly now.”
“I gotta admit, that kind of makes me feel better,” I said with a smile plastered to my face. I wondered how long it took for people to change like this and then, it hit me that it had been nine freaking years. “Are they out yet?”
“I think they’re coming out!” Amy’s eyes grew wider than I’d ever seen them.
Suddenly the gates burst open and the people started pouring out. Hundreds of game-goers scurried out through the doors, cheering and conversing and swearing at their rivals. Some of them tossing empty beer cans on the ground. Others picked up after them. I watched attentively, and then suddenly I felt the heat rush through me. It was game time.
“When one game ends, another one begins,” I told the girls.
“Who are you looking for this time?” Amy asked me, tugging at the fiery red tips of her hair.
“I don’t even remember his last name.” I giggled. And it was true; names weren’t really my thing, let alone last names. All I knew was that I wanted to get with him again, whoever he was. I usually resorted to a set of tactics: pick them up at the sports bar the first time, wait for game season, then—pounce.
“That’s my girl.” Amy winked, before whipping her red ponytail and fixing her gaze on the steady current of people. It was not long before the players started coming out, helmets tucked under their biceps, making a beeline for their bus, which was surrounded by body guards. I squinted until I spotted my hookup from the other night, otherwise known as David Schnedler. Not sure about Schnedler. But let’s go with it.
I could feel Kelly’s eyes on me. The heat of her gaze bore through me. I knew she had my back. David looked fresh, even though he had just come out of war, a battle that he and his team had oh-so gracefully lost. I noticed that, despite everything, he still had his head held high. I hurried over to the bus, squeezing my way past all the fans and potential groupies. David smoothed a hand over his light brown hair and twisted his neck to the side. We made eye contact. My lips twisted into a smile, which he mirrored. Then, I started in his direction, which he didn’t seem to mind at all. A security guard whispered something in his ear, but David nodded towards me and waved him away. For a while he stood frozen, holding up the line of players behind him.
I slowed down my stride and let the cold night air inflate my lungs. David met my gaze and I raised my eyebrow at him and slowly approached, almost floating above the ground.
I loved me a good chase.
I knew that my girls would be standing at the sidelines, cheering me on. Well that, or they were scoring with other players. Anyway, I stood by the bus, hands stuffed into my pockets, playing it cool. David picked up the pace and met me by the door.
“You need a ticket to get on,” I told him, opening my hand. I leaned against the door, preventing him from entering. David took a step back and gawked at me, his eyes traveling up and down, inspecting me.
“Yo, man,” another player said, squeezing his shoulder. They moved past him, getting on the bus and leaving him behind.
“Oh, is that so?” he said, pulling me aside.
“Sorry, sir,” I insisted. “You can’t get on the bus without giving me your ticket.”
“Well, what if I don’t have one?” he asked, not moving, not leaning in to make our interaction too obvious. But I knew he was dying to kiss me again. “Besides, where did you come from?”
“Your dreams,” I replied.
“So last night was a dream?” he asked me.
“To you, it was,” I replied. A fire was lighting up my insides. Every once in a while I tended to forget how exciting the chase was. I lost myself in this game, relishing every moment, the hunt being part of this little exchange.
“Well in that case,” he said, touching my arm. “Could you make my dream a reality?”
I smiled. “Sure,” I replied, going in for the kill.