At the end of the day, Sarah and I sent our parents to the dining hall while we brought our books back to the dorm. As I entered the servery, I saw my parents and brother approaching from the senior section. Joey held up a napkin.
“I got his autograph. We saw him leaving when we came in! I ran over and asked and he grabbed a napkin from the nearest table and signed it for me. He was smiling, so I don’t thin he minded to much.”
“I don’t know you.” I was mortified. I only hoped that Walter and his brother never found out that my brother was the one bothering Pat for an autograph while he was just trying to enjoy his lunch on his first day back to school.
I showed my family where to get their trays and how to get their food, then waited for them at the beverage island. I led them to a table in the smaller section of the dining hall where Sarah was already sitting with her family.
My roommate didn’t have a lot of time. She had to get to her game. So, it wasn’t long before I was alone with my family. I gestured to them with my fork.
“So, what were your thoughts on this afternoon? How late were you planning on staying?”
My father frowned. “We would like to be on the road by four. We’ve got a long drive down to New Jersey tonight.”
“Well, I can show you the library and the MAC and some of the other parts of campus you haven’t seen yet. Or, we could walk into town, but there’s not much to do there. It’s mostly restaurants and stuff. Or, we can go watch one of the games. I have friends in field hockey, soccer, football, and cross country.”
“When did you get so into sports?”
I shrugged. “I’m not. Well, I’m learning more about football, but I wouldn’t say I’m into sports. I just like supporting my friends. I’ve only been to a few games.”
My mother smiled. “I think that’s great. Why don’t we go for a walk.”
I shrugged. “Sure.” I showed my parents where to bring their trays of dirty dishes before heading out the main entrance.
We walked aimlessly around the campus as my mother babbled.
“The adult ed catalog came in the mail last week for the winter session. I went to the high school in person to sign up for a cooking class that sounded interesting.”
I sent her a confused look. “The high school?”
“Yes. The adult ed office is in the high school. Eliot didn’t mention that?”
“Why would he?”
“His mother is the administrative assistant. I thought you know. Anyway, while I was there, I happened to see some of the students. I especially noticed a young lady weary very skimpy clothes getting into a little sports car and leaving school at ten in the morning. I’m pretty sure it was Brittany.”
“Sounds about right.”
I worried my mother was going to ask me to explain what had happened with my former best friend when I had visited home a few weeks ago. Thankfully, she didn’t. She went into some long-winded discussion about how she had spoken with a guidance counselor to compare the academic programs to make sure they had made the right choice sending me here.
“What did you decide?”
I held my breath waiting for my mother’s answer. Was my worst fear about to come true? After spending months loathing the idea of attending Hartfield, it had now become my home. I couldn’t imagine attending high school anywhere else.
My mother sighed. “It’s difficult to explain. All day, I have been thinking about West Shore versus Hartfield. I know you’re working very hard and I would understand if you wanted to come home, but I truly feel this is the best place for you.”
I gave a sigh of relief. “I’m so happy here. I didn’t expect to be, but I am. That’s one of the reasons I don’t mind not coming home this weekend. I have friends here. Good friends. Friends who don’t mind me being smart, mostly because they’re as smart as I am. I’m not bored in class and, even though it’s hard, I’m enjoying the challenge. Even my tap class is challenging. But, in a good way. I don’t want to come home I mean—”
My father smiled. “We understand. And we’re glad you’re so happy.”
I led my parents to their car, parked in the overflow parking area, the grass behind the bleachers on the football field. After hugging my family and wishing my brother good luck in tomorrow’s tournament, I watched them drive off campus.
Unlike the last time I had watched them leave, I didn’t feel any pangs of homesickness. I headed to Sarah’s field hockey game overjoyed. My parents were letting me stay.
Sitting beside Sarah’s family, I pulled out my phone to communicate with Crystal as we had the last time she had come to one of Sarah’s games. I noticed a text from Eliot declaring his boredom.
While I cheered for my four friends on the team, I spent the first half of the game telling him about my day with my family. Crystal and I were also texting our observations about the game.
I had just finished telling Eliot about English class when I heard cheering on the field. I looked up. Hartfield had scored. There were three girls celebrating by the goal. I recognized one of them.
I asked Crystal if she knew who had scored. I received a series of question marks in reply.
I glanced at Crystal. Her eyes were glued to the game. I looked back at my phone. I had sent the message to Eliot by accident.
Before I could type an apology, he was calling me. As his face filled my screen, I moved to another part of the field so I wouldn’t disturb Sarah’s parents.
“Hey. Sorry about that. I meant to text Crystal.”
“Sarah’s sister. We’re watching a field hockey game right now.”
“A what game?”
Giggling, I changed cameras so Eliot could see the game. My friend Xandra scored a goal and I cheered loudly before turning the camera back to me. Eliot had his hands over his ears.
“Oh. Are you done screaming?”
I just rolled my eyes.
“Even though that doesn’t look all that exciting, it’s better than just sitting around the house. Which is what I’m doing. I am soo bored.”
“Why don’t you come here?”
“And watch field hockey?”
“Well, I’m pretty sure this game’s almost over. You can come watch football, though. The varsity game starts at five, I think.”
“Can I come to your school even if I’m not a student?”
I shrugged. “I’m pretty sure we’re allowed to have guests. Sarah’s sister has spent the night. Besides, there’s so many families here, I don’t think anyone would notice.”
“I’ll go ask my aunt.”
Eliot ended the call and I returned my attention to the game. Sarah scored a tying goal. My friend Jessie scored a few minutes later.
Eliot called again. “My aunt said I could come.”
“Um, what about dinner. Should I eat now?”
I shook my head. “Nah, we can eat here. Either the dining hall or the MAC Attack.”
“I have no idea what that means. Anyway, my aunt said she can drop me off in about half an hour.”
“Great. Does she know where the main football field is?”
Eliot called over his shoulder. I couldn’t quite hear the reply, but he must have. “Yeah.”
“Great. So, the building facing the field? That’s the MAC. I’ll meet you there. On the front steps.”
“Sounds good. See you in a few.”
I turned back to the game in time to see my friend Jade block the girl with the ball from getting anywhere near the goal to tie the game. A buzzer sounded. The Hartfield team ran onto the field to congratulate each other.
I returned to Sarah’s family to say goodbye. As I headed to the MAC, I texted Sarah congratulations on winning her game.
I sat on the front stairs, watching the campus around me. The early sports games were slowly ending. Judging by the thinning of the cars in the overflow area, students were beginning to leave for the weekend. But, there were still plenty of people staying for the varsity game.
A fan from the opposing team, decked out in green, passed by. I asked him what time the game began. There was still almost half an hour before kick off.
After checking the time, I used the group text to wish my friends fun on their long weekend and find out who was staying around. Dre and her parents were obviously staying, since her twin was on the team, but she wanted to sit with her friends. Some of her friends had already left for the day. Some were getting ready to leave. Some were eating in town.
Walter sent me a private message that he would join me. I had a lot of questions, like was his family with him, but I didn’t ask. Instead, I told him Eliot was coming to watch the game with me.
As soon as I put down my phone, Sarah texted me that her parents were taking her out for pizza before they headed home. When Larry texted nearly the same thing in the group text, I couldn’t help but wonder if they would end up at the same restaurant.
“So, this is your school?”
I looked up to see Eliot standing beside me. I smiled as I got to my feet.
“Hey. Glad you could make it. The game doesn’t start for a little while. Want the quick tour?”
I led him through the building, ending at the MAC Attack so we could grab a quick snack before the game.
“So, there’s one thing I don’t understand.” Eliot carried his nachos, following me along the field towards the bleachers.
I took a sip of my cookies and cream milkshake. “What’s that?”
“Where do you have your classes? I didn’t see any classrooms in that building. And, where do you sleep.”
I paused at the bottom of the bleachers. “Oh. I didn’t realize you wanted a real tour. That wasn’t a classroom building. It’s just the activities center.”
“Oh. So your classes are in another building?” Eliot looked around.
I climbed up to the last row of bleachers, turning to face the math building behind us. I pointed to it, then turned in a slow circle as I identified each academic building and dorm we could see, mentioning a few we couldn’t.
Eliot turned in a circle a couple of times. “I didn’t realize. I thought it was just this building. Maybe that one down there. I didn’t realize your school took up several blocks.” He sat down, but seemed to distracted to eat his nachos. “Where’s the church from here?”
I pointed in the vague direction behind the math building. “It’s a couple of blocks in that direction. Takes about fifteen, twenty minutes to walk there. You didn’t want to go, did you?”
Eliot shook his head. “No. I was just trying to get my bearings. I know you walk there every week.”
“May I join you guys?”
I turned to the voice. Walter was standing behind the bleachers. Since they were built into the hill, it wasn’t that tall. “Yeah, sure. Come sit down.” I pointed beside me.
Walter shrugged and climb up the back. He looked past me to Eliot. “We didn’t get a chance to watch NG last night. What happened? Nothing specific, but I’m dying to know what Doc found out that had him all surprised.”
Eliot frowned. “It was a rerun. I didn’t watch it. But, I’m dying to see the test results, too. Just to prove Melinda wrong.”
Walter laughed, but I just rolled my eyes. “Okay. Changing subject because you two are idiots. Did Ava go home?”
Walter suddenly looked uncomfortable. “I think so. She texted me that she would see me Tuesday night. I haven’t really talked to her today. She had her parents in math, so I did my best to avoid her.”
“Why?” Eliot sounded genuinely interested.“
“Well, she wanted me to go out with her family for dinner last night. With my parents. I told her I couldn’t and she’s been sulking about it most of the week. Then last night, I snuck off with my parents for ice cream.”
I pointed my cup at him. “It wasn’t actually sneaking, since you were back by study hours.”
Eliot raised his eyebrows. “Um, I’m not expert, but isn’t it a bad sign when you’re avoiding your girlfriend?”
When Walter put his head in his hands, Eliot looked concerned. “I just meant—I mean, I assumed—”
Walter spoke from behind his hands. “No. You’re right. I probably shouldn’t be avoiding her. I just couldn’t handle the sulking.”
I was glad to see Eliot and Walter were finally getting along. I wanted to keep this going, but I wasn’t quite sure how. Eliot changed the subject for me.
“So, I know Melinda’s parents had to leave. Are yours gone, too?”
Walter nodded. “Yeah. They left after my game. I almost convinced them that our team was terrible and it wasn’t work it to watch the game. But, my stupid brother wanted to see me play, so they were there. It was so embarrassing. They left when it was over.”
I pointed to the field. “Oh, look. The game is about to start. Hey, Walter. Do you know if Andy is starting?”
“I think so. Kevin, the starting kicker? He got hurt last game. Well, he gets hurt every game, but I think he got really hurt Wednesday. I doubt he’s starting.”
Walter was wrong, however, because Kevin did start the game. Hartfield kicked the ball first and the other team caught it, running it back towards the Hartfield side of the field. In a short amount of time, the person with the ball was tackled and the whistle was blown. However, instead of lining up on the visiting team’s thirty yard line, where the ball had hit the ground, the trainer and Hartfield coach had run onto the field near Hartfield’s thirty yard line.
Walter wasn’t kidding when he said Kevin was hurt every game. He was lying flat on his stomach, spread eagle, and not moving.
I looked at Walter. “What happened?”
He shrugged. “I was following the ball.”
Eliot gave a small laugh. “Really? You guys missed it? The kicker guy, he kicked the ball and that little thing that holds it?”
Walter raised his eyebrows. “The tee?”
“Yeah, that thing. It went flying, too. So, the kicker kicks the ball and keeps running. He looked like he was going to go tackle someone. But, he tripped on the tee and went flying. He was airborne, flying with his arms out. Looked like a flying squirrel. Then, he landed. Looked like a belly flop into the pool. And he hasn’t gotten up.”
We sat in silence, watching the trainer and coach talk to Kevin the kicker, then help roll him onto his back. Eventually, he was able to sit up. The trainer and coached helped him onto the golf cart, which the trainer drove back to the TRAC.
Everyone applauded Kevin as he left, but I could hear people clucking like chickens. I turned to Walter.
“What’s with the clucking?”
He laughed. “They’re not clucking. They’re chanting Klutz. It’s Kevin’s nickname. This is the tenth game this season. He’s been injured in literally every game. He’s a great kicker, and a decent safety, but he keeps getting injured during games. Not practice, though, which is why he keeps starting.”
Although it was disappointing to lose a player in the opening kickoff, Kevin’s injury meant that Walter and I could spend the rest of the game cheering for our friend. When he was called to kick a field goal a few minutes later, we pointed him out to Eliot and he got into the cheering as well.
Saturday, October 20
The evening ends
Time to say goodnight
Lingering for a time
Is the moment right?
Hands on shoulders
Bodies draw closer
No one else in sight
Time stands still
Time takes flight
The moment ends
As does the night
The shortened class day dragged on forever. After physics was an extremely boring form meeting, where the deans droned on about colleges and other boring stuff. Afterwards, we headed to the humanities building. Since my parents had already spoken with the Prices last night, they decided to stay in the rotunda during my history and English classes and I found myself enjoying the class discussions more than I had in my science classes. It wasn’t the subject matter, I realized, but the absence of my parents.
While I was in class, Walter came to visit during his free period. He had just left the rotunda when I rejoined my parents.
“Ready for the hike?” I smiled as we headed off to the opposite side of campus for my Latin class.
After classes, we headed over to the dining hall, which was insanely crowded compared to last night. We walked in through the main entrance and stood in the senior section for a moment, staring at the room.
“Hey, Mom? I know you like eating here and all, but can we…not?”
I think Mom understood. People were already starting to look at us. She nodded. “MAC Attack or town?”
We had just turned to leave when I heard someone calling my name. I turned to see a boy about Tommy’s age. Behind him a man and woman I assumed were his parents heading in this direction. I realized the boy must have sprinted across the entire senior section.
“Hi! Can I have your autograph?”
I smiled. How could I say no to someone so determined? I headed over to the nearest table, where my friend Chloe happened to be sitting.
“Got a pen?” I asked her.
She smiled and handed it to me, exchanging pleasantries with my parents as I talked with this little fan.
I signed my name on the napkin. “I’m guessing you’re not a student here.”
The boy shook his head. “Nah. My sister, Melinda, is in third form. I’m only eleven.”
I handed him the napkin and smiled at his parents. “Nice to meet you.” I waved at them before turning and heading out of the dining hall. I turned to my parents. “So, I’m pretty sure that was Walter’s friend’s family. The one you met last night.”
“Oh?” Mom turned around, but the fans had disappeared, presumably into the servery. “I would have liked to meet them.”
“What should we do about lunch?” Dad asked.
Mom had mentioned town, but burgers at the snack shop in the MacMillan Activities Center sounded a lot more appetizing.
“I’m thinking we grab food at the MAC Attack and watch Walter’s game.”
Mom smiled. “That sounds fantastic.”
We were sitting on the hill above the JV football field when the teams came out of the locker rooms. Walter glared in our direction, so I knew he saw us. I had never seen Walter play football before, but he seemed pretty good at it. He made a few tackles and even advanced the ball a few times. I made sure we cheered for the whole team so we wouldn’t embarrass him too much.
When the game ended, Walter headed off to the locker room and I convinced Mom and Dad to leave without saying goodbye. I wasn’t exactly sure where they were heading, but I knew they had to drive nearly two hours to get back to the airport. After walking them back to their car, I texted Frank and Chloe. Chloe was heading home for the weekend, but Frank was going to watch the varsity game. I headed back to the MAC, running into Walter in the mail room.
“Hey! Nice game. You were really great.”
Walter looked around. He must have been satisfied with the lack of people, since he grinned. “Thanks. Where’re Mom and Dad?”
“They left. They’re really annoyed with your behavior, though.”
“I’m watching the football game with Frank. Wanna join me?”
Walter shook his head as we entered the stairwell. “Nah. I’m gonna watch it with Melinda and her boyfriend. He came to visit.”
I raised my eyebrows. “We’re not jealous, are we?”
Walter shook his head. “Nah. Just watching out for her. He seems okay. Melinda seems to get along pretty well with him.”
“Frank and I were gonna watch a movie in our room later. Wanna join us?”
“Is it one of yours?”
I made a hand gesture that Walter seemed to understand, since he smiled at me. We reached the main floor and headed out the front exit, heading in opposite directions. He turned to call to me over his shoulder.
“Cheer for my friend Andy. He’s the only freshman on the team.”