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Losing the Field, Page 2

Abbi Glines

  “Here,” she said, walking out of the office and toward me. The sad look in her eyes was something I was familiar with now. She knew, and with her knowledge was the pity. “Take this with you and go on to class.”

  The piece of paper in her hands was an excuse. I took it. “Thanks,” I said, simply because she was old. She’d had white hair back when my parents were in school. I was an asshole these days, but I did draw the line at being mean to the elderly.

  She patted my arm. “We all love you here.”

  That was where I nodded and walked off. I couldn’t take the “we love you, we support you, we’re rooting for you” speech. Not this morning.

  The halls were empty, and I walked slowly. Not because of the pain from each step but because I dreaded facing them. They’d all know. They’d all look at me differently. The guy I had been was no longer, and that made for something to gawk at. To whisper about.

  Blakely and I had been an item. Just after school ended, we had hooked up at a field party. I liked her. Or I had. She was fun, exciting, and she had no problem crawling in the back of my Escalade with me. I thought we had something. But like everything else, my injury changed it all. She came around a lot at first, then after a couple weeks of therapy she slowly began to fade away.

  I hadn’t heard from her in two weeks. I had texted her and got nothing. I saw from her Snapchats that she was living life. She just didn’t have time to reply to me. I accepted it as part of what would become my life now.

  Just When I Thought I’d Get My Revenge



  Three classes and still no sign of Nash. I hated that it was what had driven me to lose weight. That my hurt and disappointment in him had made me walk every day. Because I wanted to be proud of what I’d done. I was healthier. I had more energy. I felt confident. But I hadn’t achieved all this for me.

  “You decided on a college yet?” Asa asked. Once again he was there beside me. He’d barely left my side all day. It was annoying.

  “Not yet,” I replied. I had it down to three different colleges. My ACT score last year had been a 29, and that was high enough for all the colleges I was interested in. However, I was going to take it one more time to see if I could get it up to a 30.

  “I want to go to Ole Miss. Hoping I can get the attention of their scouts this season,” Asa said, looking more confident than he should. The only guy on the team I expected to get a football scholarship was Nash. The others were good, but the stars had graduated this past May.

  “They’ve got a beautiful campus” was all I could think to say. Mississippi was too close to Alabama. Not far enough away from here for me. I was going northeast or west. I hadn’t yet made that decision. But it would be far away.

  He chuckled as if my comment was amusing. “I guess. But what really matters is their football program.”

  “Most guys here dream of Alabama.” I stated the obvious.

  He shrugged. “I’ll never be a star there. I’d never get a chance. Too much competition.”

  I had to agree with him, but Ole Miss wasn’t exactly easy either. Wasn’t my business, so I just kept my mouth shut.

  “Nash! Where you been?” Asa called out, and instantly my heart picked up its pace. I didn’t want to look his way. He didn’t need to see me looking for him. Just because my heart still went a little silly over his name didn’t mean my head did.

  When Nash didn’t respond, Asa sighed heavily. “I need to go talk to him.”

  I had to bite my tongue to keep from asking why. Nash was always happy and friendly. I gave in slightly and peeked in the direction of Asa’s gaze. Nash’s eyes were cold—or were they empty?—as he looked straight ahead. He wasn’t the smiling guy I remembered. Actually, I had never seen him so . . . angry.

  “I’ll find you later. Lunch?” he asked, moving in Nash’s direction.

  I almost replied that I’d be in the library, reading. That’s where I wanted to be. But this year I was going to be different. I nodded. “Sure.”

  He shot me a giant grin, then headed toward Nash. The crowd in the hallway had almost blocked him from view. Asa fought through the bodies, and I looked away. I wouldn’t let Nash see me looking at him. I’d ignore him. That was the plan. To make him feel unimportant. Invisible. To make him feel like I had felt.

  “Tallulah,” a female voice said, and I turned my attention to the left of me. Mary Dees, the senior class president and one of the only girls in our class who seemed to know me, was smiling at me.

  “Hello,” I replied.

  She beamed brightly. Mary was always happy. She was in charge of every charity event the school held and editor of the yearbook, and I was pretty sure she read to the preschoolers at the library twice a week.

  “You look amazing. It took me a moment to figure out who you were.” She sincerely meant this as a compliment. In ninth grade she wrote a paper about how on Thanksgiving she and her family went to the homeless shelter and served dinner to the people there. She explained how rewarding it was and encouraged others to do the same. There wasn’t a mean bone in the girl’s body.

  “Thank you,” I replied.

  “I didn’t mean you weren’t beautiful before. You were. You’ve always had amazing hair, and those eyes of yours are stunning. I just meant, you really stand out now.” She paused and frowned. “I think that made it worse. I am not saying this right.”

  “It’s okay. I know what you mean,” I assured her.

  She looked relieved. “Good. I debated saying anything at all for fear it would come out wrong. It’s just everyone is going on and on about the ‘new girl,’ and it annoys me. You’re not new. We go to school with a lot of blind people.”

  “Yes we do,” I agreed.

  “I’ll see you later. This is my stop,” she said, then gave me a little wave before turning in to the senior Lit class.

  I was almost to my class when I felt someone’s gaze on me. I turned my head, and my eyes locked with Nash’s. There was no gleam. No sparkle of fun. Instead there was pain. Sorrow. Anger. Confused, I wasn’t able to look away. But he did. He turned around and went into a room. No smile. Nothing.

  I stood there watching his back until it disappeared into the room. Then I stood there a moment longer. What was wrong with Nash Lee? This was not how I had imagined this moment. And I had played this scenario over in my head a million times while walking in the summer heat. It drove me daily, as did his laughter at a cruel remark said about me. But that Nash . . . he wasn’t the Nash I had expected. No flirty smile. Nothing.

  I wasn’t friends with these people on social media. I kept to myself. No one told me things. But something was definitely different. Others didn’t seem to think it was odd. Asa had seemed to accept it easily enough. So what was I missing?

  The warning bell sounded, and I tore my gaze from the now closed door that Nash had entered. Quickly I made it to my next class before the late bell. But my mind was on Nash Lee. It seemed to always be on Nash. Just when I thought I’d get my revenge and move on, something happened and it all changed.

  Other than Nash staring at me for a moment, I had been all but invisible to him. Or unimportant. He’d always spoken to me in the past. Always been kind. Now that I looked like the girls he dated, he had nothing to say to me.

  “You got this class next?” Ryker asked with a flirty grin. One I was used to seeing on his cousin.

  “Yes,” I replied.

  “Good. It just got a hell of a lot better.” That was a stupid comment. One I was sure that worked on girls all the time. But not me. I was the fat girl he hoped didn’t wear a bathing suit. I wouldn’t forget that, even though he obviously had.

  We’ve Been in the Same Damn Grade since Elementary School



  Blakely wasn’t in any of my classes. It was lunch before I saw her. She was flirting with Hunter Maclay. Predictable. He was the quarterback now that Brady Higgens had graduated. He was also
a junior. Blakely didn’t seem to care.

  Hunter saw me just as Blakely leaned into him, showing off her cleavage. It was one of her more popular features. I saw him immediately tense and withdraw from the interaction he’d obviously been enjoying.

  There was no way I was letting him or her think I cared. But I did. It stung. This was just one more reminder of how different my life was. Blakely and I hadn’t been so damn special after all. It had been who I was that attracted her. Nothing more. Now that I was no one, she was done with me.

  “You’ve been hiding,” Asa said as he came up beside me. I didn’t look at him. But I knew his voice.

  “I’ve been busy,” I replied. With fucking daily strengthening workouts and rehabilitation. Not that he or anyone else cared.

  “You’ve been missed.”

  I just gave a nod of acknowledgment. He didn’t get it. No one got it. They still had their plans. Their futures. I had nothing.

  “Tallulah, this is Nash Lee. He’s normally friendlier,” Asa said, and I turned my head then to look at the girl he was introducing. I knew Tallulah. She was kind, quiet, and overweight.

  The girl I saw beside him wasn’t the girl I remembered. She was the girl I’d noticed in the hall earlier. The strikingly beautiful blonde. I stopped walking for a moment and just stared. Was that the same Tallulah? I studied her eyes and realized it was. She’d lost weight. The face I’d always thought was pretty was now beautiful.

  “You look good,” I said to her, ignoring Asa. We’d been in school with Tallulah since we were kids. He didn’t need to introduce her to me as if her new body made her a new person.

  She studied me a moment as if she wasn’t sure what to say or do with this Nash. The one who limped when he walked and scowled at the world. I held her gaze and then began walking again. It was Asa who said something next.

  “You know each other?” was his brilliant response.

  I didn’t look at either of them. I kept my gaze focused on the cafeteria door. “Of course we do. We’ve been in the same damn grade since elementary school,” I replied with disgust.

  “Yeah, but—” Asa started to say something stupid and caught himself.

  I didn’t want to do this with them. I didn’t want to fucking be here. Good for Tallulah. She’d lost weight. Got herself a new life. Was attracting the attention of a winner like Asa. I hope it was all she’d dreamed of.

  “Are you hurt?” Tallulah asked. If it had been anyone else, I’d have snapped. Because the whole fucking town had heard of my injury by now. Except possibly Tallulah. I paused, turned my head slightly, and saw the sincere concern—or was it confusion?—in her expression. She may be the one person who didn’t know about my accident.

  “Not a good topic,” Asa said quickly.

  “No,” I said instead. “I’m fucking ruined.” Then I left them there. Knowing they could see my limp. That people were watching me, pitying me, thankful they weren’t me.

  She’d been asking an innocent question. I knew Asa would give her the details. Just as I knew Asa would work her until he was satisfied he’d had enough. She was too naïve to be careful with a guy like him. If I had a heart, I’d warn her. Try and help her out. I just didn’t have enough left in me to give a shit. Besides, lessons learned the hard way were good for you. At least that’s what my dad said.

  “Nash!” Tallulah called out. I wanted to ignore her. Keep going. Get this living hell also known as lunch over with. But hearing her voice, I saw the shy, overweight girl who was afraid to be seen. Afraid to speak up. She wasn’t that girl anymore. She had a confidence now that she deserved. Still . . . I stopped and turned around.

  “Yeah,” I replied, wishing I’d just ignored her.

  She didn’t say anything. She just looked at me. As if she needed to study me, figure this out. I wasn’t a damn sideshow. I started to walk off when she took a step toward me. Her eyes had always been big and a dark royal blue behind the glasses she once wore. Now that she was wearing contacts, they were hard to ignore. There wasn’t curiosity, pain, or what I hated the most—pity—in her dark blue depths. But there was something I didn’t understand. And it wasn’t pleasant.

  “Words matter,” she blurted out. As if that made sense. My words mattered? Well so did my fucking leg. It mattered. It mattered a hell of a lot more than my words.

  Since I had no pleasant response to that, I turned and walked into the cafeteria. Blakely was there at our table. Or the football team’s table. Was it even mine anymore? Didn’t matter. She was there. Smiling in my direction. I didn’t return her smile. I had no smile to give.

  My appetite was gone, but it was that way most of the time now. I’d lost seven pounds since my injury. Eating had become a chore. One I dreaded.

  “She called?” Ryker asked.

  I turned my head to look at my cousin, who was now beside me. “No.”

  He shot her a disgusted look. “Never liked her.”

  That was a lie. He’d liked her just fine at the beginning of the summer. He’d said I had hit the fucking jackpot. We had laughed about it. Thought it was luck. Even said she’d be a hot mom one day and definite marriage material. We’d been so damn shallow.

  “I’m a cripple. Can’t expect her to stay with me.” Even as I said it, I didn’t want to think it. Admitting the truth was hard. It hurt like hell. But since I’d been told I would never play football again, I had learned to accept reality. And move on.

  “Jesus, Nash, don’t call yourself that. You’re not a cripple.” Ryker was upset. Didn’t matter. He needed to face the truth. It was time for us all to grow up.

  “I’ll never walk normal again.”

  He frowned. “But you can walk. You can walk, Nash. You can fucking walk. That’s what you keep forgetting. That’s what you need to remember.”

  I knew he meant well. My parents had said the same thing, minus the cursing. But it pissed me off. It was easy for those who didn’t face my reality to say. They had lost nothing. Spouting positive shit was easy for them.

  “Don’t remind me what I have when you’ve lost nothing,” I said, then turned and walked right back out of the cafeteria. I wasn’t hungry anyway. Facing Blakely and her bullshit, my friends and their acting like life was the same was all something I couldn’t handle today. Maybe tomorrow. But not today.

  I Had Always Been Trying to Climb That Dang Rope and Never Getting Anywhere



  I watched them. I tried not to, but it was hard to ignore. Nash was different, and Ryker seemed angry about it. When Nash stalked out of the cafeteria, I noticed it then. He was limping. I’d noticed something was wrong earlier, but I hadn’t realized it was so severe. I watched him until he was gone. Until the door swung closed behind him. Then I quickly turned my gaze away before Ryker caught me staring.

  Asa was busy getting his burger buried in toppings. He hadn’t noticed any of it. I wanted to ask. I was missing something. Two things were obvious. Nash was angry, and he was hurt. That much I had figured out.

  “You gonna eat?” Asa asked, finally glancing up from the burger he’d made into a mountain.

  “Yes, but we aren’t at the salad bar yet,” I replied. He’d held up the line working on his burger.

  He smirked. “Takes me a while to get this baby right. A burger is a masterpiece. A fucking work of art.”

  I glanced back to see Ryker still standing where Nash had left him. He was glaring toward the door as if he wasn’t sure what he was going to do next. Go after him or just let him go.

  “Nash isn’t handling it well,” Asa said. “Ryker’s worried about him.”

  I turned back to Asa. I’d been caught staring. Might as well not try and cover it up now. “What isn’t he handling well?” I asked.

  Asa frowned. “His injury. He won’t play football again. Changed his life in one bad tackle.” He shook his head. “It’s not fair. I hate it for him.”

  The limp was more than a sprained ankle app
arently. “It won’t heal?” I asked, thinking they sounded a bit more dramatic than it appeared. Nash was just limping. He’d get over that eventually.

  “He’s as healed as it’s going to get.”

  I started to ask exactly what had happened when Ryker stepped between us. “I can’t talk to him. You go,” he said to Asa. “I want to fucking knock some sense into him. He’s getting worse rather than better and that—” Ryker shot a disgusted look over at Blakely. “She isn’t helping. Heartless bitch.”

  I had never seen Ryker Lee angry. Much like Nash, he was always joking, smiling, and enjoying his life. This was all very different. The summer hadn’t just changed me. It had changed the Lee cousins too.

  “He needs time.” Asa sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

  Ryker sighed. “I wish Brady was here. He listened to Brady.” Brady Higgens had been the quarterback all-around good guy who was loved by one and all. But he’d graduated in the spring. I wasn’t sure what college he’d gone off to. I didn’t keep up with that kind of thing. Or anything for that matter. Since I didn’t even know Nash had been hurt, that was kind of obvious. My world outside of school was a small bubble. Me, my mom, my books, my house. Not much else. Although I knew my mother hoped that would all change for me this year. She was a social butterfly. My hermit life bothered her.

  But then my mother was five foot five, 118 pounds, with a bubbly personality and a head full of blond curls. She was wildly creative and upbeat. Our oddly painted house was testimony to her personality. People loved her. She was hard not to love. I wasn’t my mother. Many times in life I had wished I was.

  “Just give him space. Today is hard. It’s like he had to face it all over again. He needs time to adjust.”

  Ryker finally sighed. His shoulders drooped, and he looked defeated. The obvious love and concern he had for his cousin was touching. For a moment I almost forgot that it was his cruel words that had caused this . . . this new me. That I had suffered cruelty from the one guy I never expected it from and that was all because of Ryker. Standing there, I reminded myself not to feel pity. Not to feel sympathy. Not to feel. Because he hadn’t felt that for me. He didn’t even know who I was or remember what he had said.