Chapter 1 - The 'Normal'

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Chapter 1
The ‘Normal’

A/N - Picture to the side is of Callie :)

Two months before…

The first time I noticed something changing in Clay was the first day of varsity football tryouts.

“Keep up, Tollson!” Coach Ramsey shouted from the sidelines, his signature clipboard that was piled to the brim with play sheets tucked underneath his arm. He was pointing a finger in the direction of jersey number 54, Clay’s from the previous year.

I was sitting on the bleachers, mango iced tea in between the heels of my Doc Martens, with my elbows on my knees and hands cradling my face. As I watched, I ran my finger over the sweat from the glass, absentmindedly wandering off as I pretended to watch my older brother run across the Riverton High football field. Sweating bullets underneath the beating sun, I was just wishing I could be back in my car like earlier with the air conditioner on blast and the radio turned way up.

Clay wanted me here for moral support, feeding me some words about my being there acting as his good luck charm. I whined about it for a good hour and a half, asking if I could just sit in my car instead of on the bleachers in the hot sun, but he wasn’t having any of it. He just whined right back, practically down on his knees to watch him while he tried out for the team.

So here I was, basically sweating off the double cheeseburger I’d just devoured before I came here. I looked down to jersey number 54, my eyes casting back and forth as he ran from one end of the field to the other, just skimming past the touchdown line each time. The coach was making them do sprints each way, having them touch the goal line every time they got to one end. Here I was complaining when Clay was probably dying beneath his helmet and pounds of shoulder pads.

“Pick it up, men!” the coach hollered one more time. I sipped from my drink, noticing Clay look to the coach with a bitter expression that I could just make out underneath all of the metal bars in front of his face.

My heart broke a bit for Clay. He spent most of the summer and the months before it practicing from dawn until dusk to make his plays perfect. He pushed himself to the point where he almost broke his leg just a few weeks prior to this event, twisting it while sprinting down the front lawn during an exercise technique. He wore my dad’s old jersey like it was the only thing keeping him alive and tried to bench press just like the guys who were already on the team for years.

It was hard watching him push himself the way that he was because, as much as I hated to admit it, he wasn’t like the other boys on the team. Clay was a drama nerd, keeping most of his focus on memorizing lines from scripts and putting on shows in front of the whole school every few months. He liked to read books and immerse himself in plot lines just like he was living inside of the pages. When he graduated this year, he wanted to go off to NYU and pursue a degree in English studies.

Meanwhile, the football team consisted of macho teenage boys who couldn’t pay attention in class for more than twenty seconds. While Clay was reciting lines from the top of the stage on Friday nights, the football players were off at house parties and hooking up with every cheerleader and shameless slut they could get their hands on.

Clay didn’t compare to the guys on this team. But somehow he had gotten this idea in his head that if he joined the team that he would be popular and no longer the victim of high school bullies and jackasses who liked to judge from first glances. I tried to convince him that trying out for a team full of unintelligent knuckleheads wasn’t the answer to fitting in, but he wouldn’t budge. He just pushed himself harder and harder as summer neared the end of its twilight nights, swearing he would become something other than the lead actor in the school’s fall production.

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