Rose's face flushed crimson from the coach's rant. She'd expected it, but that hadn't made it any easier to take. And she hadn't expected what he'd said after the lecture. She fished her flip-flops from her bag, trying to grasp what it would mean for her, and sank to the ground to remove her cleats.
"Hey, Rose, nice pass." A girl with a blonde pony-tail and a blue elastic head band plopped down next to her.
Rose managed a smile. "Thanks, Jules - I knew you'd scorch it past the goalie like that."
Julie smiled. "Yeah, I totally owned that goal!" She looked down and pulled at a few blades of grass. "So, you're not gonna be here next week?"
"Nope," Rose responded. She stuck a foot, sock and all, into a flip-flop and shoved a cleated soccer shoe into her bag.
"What did the coach say about that?" Julie asked.
Rose swiped at a black tendril of hair plastered to her forehead with sweat. "He was kind of angry, in case you didn't notice." She wrenched the other shoe from her foot. "He said that my parents should've planned to go on vacation before practice started for fall soccer."
"Yeah," her friend said, "but practice starts so early, it really eats into summer."
"He said that I'll have to run extra drills when I get back."
"Wow, that sucks."
Rose shoved her other cleat into the bag. "And he said that he wants me to be team captain."
Julie's head popped up, "What? No way!"
"I told him I didn't want to be."
"What? No way!"
"Well, I don't think I really want to do all that team captain stuff - the peppy speeches, making sure everybody knows about schedule changes, making sure everyone has a ride who needs one..."
Julie gave Rose a skeptical look. "You don't want to do it, or don't think you can do it?"
Rose zipped her bag and stood without answering.
Julie scrambled to her feet. "Look, Rose," she said as they walked together to the parking lot. "You always have good ideas and help out a lot already. Being team captain will just make it all official-like."
Helping out was okay, but Rose's stomach clenched at the thought of the whole team looking to her for direction. "I just don't think I want to do anything officially."
"So you're not gonna do it?"
Rose paused beside the passenger door of her mother's silver hybrid car. "I'm supposed to tell the coach my decision when I get back."
Julie nodded. "Well, you'll still be my bud, no matter what you decide." She smiled, "But I know you'd make an awesome captain." She reached out to give Rose a hug.
Rose put up her hands, "I'm sweaty and stinky!"
Julie laughed. "Me too."
Rose grinned, grabbing her friend in a hug.
"Have a good vacation," Julie said. "Where are you going, anyway?"
"My parents are spending a week with a bunch of artists at a retreat, so my sister and I are going to my Grandma's."
Julie's mouth dropped. "Grandma Brigit's?" she said, "The one with the sword, and the forest, and the homemade cookies?"
Rose nodded, smiling.
"Awesome! I'm so jealous. See you when you get back."
Rose stuck her head out of the car window as her mother pulled away, "And don't forget my birthday party in two weeks."
Julie waved. "You'll finally be a teenager like me!"
The thought of being team captain made Rose feel nauseous on the long drive to her grandmother's house the next day. It was either that, or the winding roads through the mountains of New York and Pennsylvania that made her feel that way, she wasn't sure which. She only began to feel better once she and her sister had been deposited next to their grandmother and she was waving goodbye to her parents' retreating car.
All unpleasant feelings finally melted away when her grandmother smiled at them both. "Time for cookies and lemonade on the back porch!"
Rose sighed. It was really good to be at Grandma's.
That night Rose snuggled down in the familiar bed; the sheets were soft and white with tiny, faded, blue and pink flowers. Her dreams were not quite as comfy, though. They were filled with her dribbling soccer balls, balancing huge crowns on her head, and standing above oceans of people in endless fields, all asking, "What do we do next?"
Thankfully, the morning brought something to help her forget her dreams. Her sister, Eris, discovered a note lying half hidden under the door to their room. They opened the folded sheet of paper and found the spindly scratchings of Og staring up at them.