After school on Thursday, I dawdled in the computer lab long enough to be fashionably late to the soccer game. I did want to see it, sort of. I just didn't want to see all of it. When I walked out to the field, Teek was the only person in the bleachers.
"Over here!" she called, like I could have possibly missed her. I jogged over and sat down.
"Hey, we match," she said, nudging my arm. We were both wearing gray hoodies. Mine had been wadded up in the back of my locker, waiting for a windy afternoon such as this. I'd worn it during gym a couple of times, so it was probably pretty rank. But if Teek noticed, she was polite enough not to comment.
"So what did I miss?" I asked.
"Well, no one's scored yet."
Teek stuck out her tongue. "It's not just about scoring points, dude. It's about keeping the other team from scoring points too.”
"Sorry, I forgot you're the expert."
"Shut up." She popped me in the shoulder.
"So who are we playing?"
"Our Lady of Constant Sorrows."
I raised my eyebrows. "Our Lady of…seriously?"
But Teek didn't hear me; she's started waving excitedly at the field. "Oh! Hey, look—Jacob's in!"
Jacob had just swapped in for a sophomore; I saw his shaggy-haired head bobbing along as he ran onto the field. Teek waved, but I don't think he saw her. He took his place with the forwards, shaking his shoulders in goofy, lurching motions like he was trying to loosen up.
"God, what a dream boat," I said. I couldn't resist.
"You don't know him!" Teek shrilled in my ear. "He's a really cool guy!"
“Hey!” I jabbed a finger towards the midfield line. "Adam's playing too."
"Oh, right, your new best friend." Teek cupped her hands around her mouth like a microphone. "Yo, Gozmen! Nice legs!"
"Teek! He'll hear you!"
"What? It's a compliment. And he can't hear me—he isn't even listening, look!"
The other team had the ball and one of their forwards was dribbling it down the field. Our guys started to swarm on him, so he passed to the player on his left, who had a long blonde ponytail.
I turned to Teek, surprised. "Is that a girl?"
"Yeah," Teek said. "Some schools don't have girls teams so they play in the boys’ league."
I looked back to the field. The girl still had the ball, and apparently she knew how to keep it. She dodged between two of our forwards, leaving them wobbling like bowling pins. A freshman whose name I didn't know hit the dirt.
"Get it together!" Teek yelled.
One of the midfielders dove in for a slide tackle, but only managed to knock into a teammate with the same idea. Ms. Our Lady of Sorrows almost tripped over the fallen player's outstretched leg, but she kept control of the ball. She was good. Our coach started screaming from the sidelines, but I couldn't make out what he was saying.
"Get her!" Teek was yelling, right beside my ear. "Come on, stop her!"
The girl with the ponytail was approaching the goal now, closing in on those last few yards. Two of our larger fullbacks flung themselves towards her, but she dribbled circles around them. Either this girl was a damn magician or Teek had greatly exaggerated the prowess of our team. I was leaning towards the latter.
"Come on! Come on!" Teek suddenly had a death grip on my arm; the Our Lady of Sorrows player had a clean shot at the goal! Our goalie stood frozen in the box, glancing around at his teammates as though he wasn’t properly prepared for this and hoping to be bailed out. I almost covered my eyes.
But then out of nowhere, Adam appeared, ran straight at her, and stole the ball. There was a flurry of kicking as the Our Lady of Sorrow's player tried to get it back; I realized I was yelling right along with Teek and we'd both jumped to our feet again, cheering Adam on.
This had to be the most exciting thing to ever happen at a Courtyard soccer game!
Adam dribbled the ball around the girl's legs and darted back towards the midfield. She kept pace, jostling him from the side, but his footwork was better. She fell back a few strides. I saw Adam scan the field, his face tight with concentration as he looked for an open teammate. And that was when the girl with the ponytail came up behind him, raised a heel, and threw herself at Adam for a slide-tackle.
The girl's foot missed the ball by a mile and went straight into Adam's ankle.
Our cheers died out as Adam wobbled, then crumpled, falling onto the grass. Teek clapped her hand to her mouth.
The ref blew his whistle. Emergency time out.
Everyone was silent for a second, then the screaming accusations started.
"Red card! Red card!" Teek and I yelled over the voices of the players. They were probably yelling the same thing. The Courtyard coach ran out to the field to help Adam up; the Our Lady of Sorrows player had stepped away and was talking with her team mates. I watched as the coach helped Adam limp over to the sidelines and set him down in one of the folding chairs by the bench. Then the coach crouched down and pulled Adam's foot onto his knee, inspecting the injury. He was pointing to Adam's ankle and saying something, and Adam started waving his arms around, gesturing to the field. The confrontation ended pretty quickly and Adam folded his arms across his chest and looked away as the coach signaled one of his bench players to sub in.
"Should we go see if he's okay?" I asked Teek. But she wasn't listening. She was staring straight ahead with an ugly look on her face. When I followed her glare, I realized she'd set her sights on the Our Lady of Sorrows player with the long blonde hair.
Slowly and deliberately, she tucked her left wrist into the crook of her right elbow and raised her fist up at the girl. The good old Up Yours. I'd never seen Teek do that before.
The Our Lady of Sorrows player turned and looked straight at us, tapping her fingers to her chest. She mouthed, Me?
"No, the cheater standing behind you!" Teek yelled. "Yeah, you!"
This seemed like a good way for us to get kicked off the field. I hoped that the soccer player would ignore her, maybe just flip us off, but to my horror, she started stomping towards us.
"What did you call me?" she hollered. Teek leapt up and I grabbed for the bottom of her sweatshirt. I missed. She jumped down the next few bleachers onto the grass.
"You heard me!" Teek planted her hands on her hips. I resisted the urge to cover my eyes again. Maybe out on the field the other girl had looked smaller. But now, compared to Teek? She was enormous. Teek puffed out her chest, trying to look tough. "Whatcha gonna do about it?"
God, Teek could have been ten years old. Was she trying to get herself killed? Was I supposed to do something, or was this one of those girl things I should stay out of at all costs? As I was weighing my options, the soccer player closed the distance with Teek and the two started railing on each other.
"I'm not a cheater!"
"That was a deliberate foul!"
"You're not even playing! Stay out of it!"
"It's not very Christian to kick someone—"
"I'll kick you, you midget—"
This was about the time that Teek latched her hands onto the soccer player's ponytail and the soccer player started kicking at Teek's shins. That was it—I leapt to my feet, hoping to get between them before I saw any blood, but that was when the ref's whistle sounded again and made all of us jump.
"Hey, you two! Ladies!" The ref yelled. "Yeah, you! You're off the field!" He held a red card up above his head. Teek broke away from the other girl and laughed, thrusting her finger in the girl's face.
"And you, from the bleachers! You get the hell out of here too!"
Wow. The referee had actually sworn at Teek. I sat down again, transfixed, as Teek spit on the other girl's cleats then merrily skipped her way off of the field. She swooped in near our team's bench and pumped her fists in the air. The whole team cheered. Then she was gone.
I sat there on the bleachers with my mouth hanging open and no idea what I was supposed to do. It took me a few seconds to realize Adam was motioning toward me. It had to be for me; I was the only one left in the stands. But I was kind of afraid to move. Thanks to Teek, we'd already drawn more attention to ourselves than I would have liked and I had this sinking feeling that if I so much as stood up the referee would blow his whistle and kick me off the field too. I waved at Adam weakly. He shook his head and made more come here gestures with his hands.
The referee did blow his whistle, but it was to start the game again. Figuring I was in the clear, I slipped over the side of the bleachers and started around the field toward the Courtyard bench.
I approached the bench slowly, wondering if any of the other players would demand to know what I was doing in their space. They didn't; they were watching the game. Adam was still sitting on the folding chair, and he had his foot propped up on a Powerade cooler. There was an ice pack draped over his ankle, which had also been swaddled in a few layers of elastic bandages.
"What's up?" I asked quietly.
"Coach thinks it's a sprain. Can you believe that?"
"Should you go to the hospital?"
"Nah." Adam shook his head. "They'll just tell me to ice it and stuff. I hope Coach is wrong though. I think it just hurts like hell cause that bitch got me with her cleats. You saw that, right?"
"Of course," I said. "You saw Teek defending your honor?"
"Yeah, that chick is nuts. I guess we won't be seeing her out here anytime soon, which is a shame, you know? She was our only loyal fan." Adam laughed. "Man, she was pulling that girl's hair and everything. I didn't know soccer meant so much to her."
"She's…passionate," I said, before I could realize how stupid that sounded.
Adam punched me in the shoulder. He must have thought I'd said it ironically. I wasn't sure whether I should sit down in the grass beside him, or just continue to hover. I opted to lean against the fence behind the bench instead. We watched the game in silence for a moment. Adam's mouth had been moving the whole time he was on the field, yelling and cheering on his teammates. But now, even though our guys were doing a good job keeping the ball near the other team's goal, he didn't give them so much as a holler.
"Want to get out of here?" Adam asked.
I was surprised. "Can you walk?"
"Yeah, I can limp. Coach isn't going to put me back in and it sucks just sitting here." Adam looked down at his hands in his lap, frowning. His shorts and knees were grass-stained and he just looked kind of... sad.
There was some screaming out in the field and Adam's head snapped up. I looked too. We'd had a shot at the goal and missed.
"I can't watch this," Adam said. "Let's just go." He put his hands on the seat of the folding chair and lifted himself up, his bad ankle still sticking out in front of him. "Can I get a hand?"
"Oh, yeah." I offered him my arm he could stabilize himself. I looked around to see if anyone was going to stop us, stop him, but no one seemed to care. Adam grabbed onto my shoulder and pointed off towards the parking lot.
"My truck's out there," he said, then immediately, "Oh, fuck, I don't know if I can drive home with my ankle like this."
We took a couple more steps before he stopped to ask, "Can you drive stick?"
I shook my head. "I don't have my license."
"No shit? Huh." He started moving towards the parking lot again, so as his crutch, I had to follow. "Is someone picking you up?"
"Not today, I took the bus. I could call my brother though—I mean, if you need a ride. He lives really close and he's probably not doing anything."
"Could you?" Adam set his sights on a bench and let go of me to hop his way over to it.
"Yeah, I'll do it. Hang on."
It was getting hot with my sweatshirt on, so I took a second to pull it off, getting my head stuck in the process. I was just smooth like that. Adam must have grabbed onto it, because I felt a tug and my head popped free.
"Uh, thanks," I said, trying not to look embarrassed.
Adam laughed, very clearly at me. "Nice hair, dude."
I tried to smooth it back down. But fixing it was probably a lost cause, so I opted to throw the sweatshirt at Adam instead.
"Gross!" Adam protested, peeling the thing off his face. "This thing smells like ass, you know."
I just couldn't win.
"I'm gonna call Lionel now," I told him, pulling my phone out of my pocket. "So shut up."
"Nice phone, dude," said Adam.
"Yeah, I know," I said. My cell phone was a hand-me-down from Mom and it looked the part. "It's pink. Haha."
"More like, ancient. I didn't know they still made phones like that."
I actually laughed at that. It was a pretty old phone, and I felt fortunate that Adam didn't give a crap about the color. I turned away from Adam as I listened to Lionel's phone ring. And ring some more. I imagined Lionel plugged into his headphones, or with his amps turned way up, his phone ringing and ringing unheard and unanswered.
I was almost surprised to hear his voice. "Hey. What's up?"
"Nothing much," said Lionel, "What's up with you?"
"Are you at home?" I asked. "I was hoping you could you give me and a friend a ride.”
"Yeah, no problem." There's a light thunk on Lionel's end, like he was setting something down. Maybe that guitar. "I can do that. Where are you?"
"School. We're waiting by the parking lot."
“Why are you still at school?“
"Adam had a soccer game," I said.
"You have a friend named Adam?"
"Lionel, just come pick us up, okay?" I felt defensive, but I wasn't sure why. Like, why did Lionel suddenly care about the names of my friends? Maybe Lionel just couldn't believe I had more than one.
"Okay, see you soon," said Lionel, and he hung up. I snapped my phone closed and turned back around.
"So he's coming?" Adam asked. He winced, trying to flex his ankle. He'd left the ice pack back on the soccer field and I suspected he regretted it.
"Yeah, he's coming." I put the phone back in my pocket. "He'll be here soon."
"Awesome," Adam said. "How old's your brother?"
"Cool." Adam made another face at his ankle. "What's he like?"
"What do you mean?"
Adam shrugged. "Is he like you?"
"No, not really." I wasn't sure what Adam expected me to say. I picked up my rumpled, stinky sweatshirt and sat down on the bench beside him.
What did Adam think I was like?
Up next Thursday, Chapter Eight: Ballet and Vicodin.