My cringe in disgust as my brother, Jacks, runs off the field and catches his girlfriend, Karissa, in his arms. She wraps her arms around his neck as he lifts her off the ground and twirls her in a circle, kissing him with a little too much passion for a soccer game. I sigh, shaking my head to avoid going back six years in my mind. I scan the crowd, smiling when my gaze falls on my parents, my aunt and uncle. I wave at my sister Sabrina, her husband, Gil, and their twin sons, Ethan and Micah. I chuckle as they both fight to get Gil to lift them on his shoulders to have a better view. They have just turned five, but they are every bit as rowdy as Jacks' and I were at ages ten and up.


I turn at the sound of Coach Taylor's voice, but realize he is shouting at my brother. Jacks' says something; I do not hear him over the roar of the crowd. My teammates shout catcalls as my brother returns to the huddle, with red lipstick all over his face. It has been six years, but I am still not quite over it yet.

I had a crush on Karissa for the longest time, and the day she finally walked up to my brother and me, she gave Jacks' her number and told him that she liked guys who wore earrings. Jacks' only has one stud in his left ear, but it was enough to grab her attention. Thinking I might still have a chance to grab Karissa's attention, I got both my ears pierced. I ended up taking them out after I asked Gil for advice.

"Eric, if you decide to change your appearance because of a girl, she's not worth it. You just need to be yourself."

Five months later, Jacks and Karissa became a couple, and I was a wreck. Jacks knew that I liked her, but that didn't stop him. In attempts to make me feel better, Sabrina and Gil took me to the arcade. It helped until I had gotten home and saw Jacks and Karissa on the couch. I had stalked to my room and planned to stay there until I fell asleep, but then my dry throat was begging for moisture. On my way to the kitchen, I caught Jacks kissing Karissa goodnight. Everything went downhill from there and I ended crying my eyes out on Sabrina's shoulder. Since Gil was staying with him parents that night, he offered for me to come down and stay the night.

Gil may be my dad's, brother's stepson, but I grew up with him around. He babysat my sister for my parents. Sabrina is nearly four years older than I am, but I can remember when Gil first got his license and how he kept kid-seats in his car, in case he had to pick up Jacks and me. But Sabrina was always his buddy. I think my sister is the way she is because of Gil. He helped her see her worth; Sabrina never had too many confidence issues and they didn't exist in high school.

"Eric," Coach says, snapping me back to reality as the rest of the team takes the field. "You're on the bench."

I groan and go to the bench, my new best friend. I should be on the field right now. I have worked hard to earn and keep my place on this team. Yet, every game, I sit on the bench. Coach Taylor has only put me in a game once. I am starting to wonder if I should change my sights to something else. Jacks and I have been playing soccer since elementary school. We moved up the ranks and scored ourselves scholarships. Adelphi University was not our first choice school, but it is closer to home. When Sabrina went to college, she went to NYU, thinking she could take care of herself and not burden our parents. She lasted one year and came back home. I don't blame her. I miss my parents all the time. We are a close-knit family. We always have been close.

"Hey," someone touches my shoulder.

I turn my head, smiling at Sabrina as she sits next to me on the bench.

"I am starting to get sick of Coach Taylor," she says, shaking her head. "I've come to almost all of your games, and never once has he placed you on the field."

"I've asked him to put me in thousands of times," I say, shrugging. "Nothing I can do about it though. I'm the official bench-warmer of the Panthers . . . Did you see Jacks and Karissa a few minutes ago?"

"If I were standing closer, I would have shouted for them to get a room."

I nod; watching as Jacks passes the ball to Carter, who passes it to Jackson, scoring the first goal of the game. I jump to my feet and shout, clapping my hands. Sabrina jumps with me, arms in the air as she cheers for the team.

"Uh-oh," she says, with a grin. "Cute brunette, four o'clock."

I look in the direction of the cheerleaders. There are six brown-haired girls on the squad. I turn to Sabrina and shrug. She rolls her eyes, turning my face as she motions to the girl sitting on the bleachers behind the squad. I recognize her right away.

"That's Karissa's cousin," I say, looking back to the field.

"Oh," Sabrina sighs, "Sorry, ignore my horrible match-making skills."

"It's not your fault," I shake my head as we sit on bench again.

"You need to get over her, little bro. I know how you felt about her, but I think it is high time you set your sights on someone better. If she was dumb enough to ignore you in high school, you don't need to waste your time thinking she will dump Jacks to come to you."

"You and I both know I am more loyal to Jacks than he is to me. I'm not waiting around for her; I'm just . . . still healing."

Sabrina pats my shoulder before getting up to return to her seat in the bleachers. I sigh and try to focus on the game. I should be over Karissa by now, but I'm not. I can remember passing her in the halls, watching her flip her blonde hair as she laughed at something her friend was saying. I never had a chance, and that was every bit as true then as it is now.


The entire stadium is on its feet as Jacks weaves his way around opposing players, making his way towards the goal. Our team is in the lead, 15-9. Coach keeps shouting plays, trying to get Jacks to share the spotlight. Right, like that will ever happen. Jacks back flip-kicks the ball, sending it straight into the goal. The ref blows the whistle as the timer runs out. I do not follow the crowd to congratulate the team on the win. I just sit on the bench. There are only three games left in the season. If we win the next two games, we are in the championships.

I catch a glimpse of Karissa as she runs passed the bench into the midst of the crowd, crashing into Jacks' arms. I sigh, push myself off the bench and head towards the locker room entrance. I hear someone call my name, but I ignore whoever he or she is. I'm happy we won the game, stoked to be on a winning team, but not myself. Maybe it is because I know what Jacks' is planning to do tonight at dinner, in front of both our family and Karissa's family.

I go to my locker as I pull off my jersey, looking at the big number 10. I toss it into my locker and sit on the nearby bench,letting my head fall into my hands. How am I going to go on living? There are loads of girls in my class, all very pretty. It was not Karissa's beauty that I liked; it was her personality. She was always smiling and she stood out in a crowd. Sabrina's right, I need to set my sights somewhere else and move on. I need to stop moping and thinking that I am not good enough because a girl went after my brother instead of me. I'm twenty years old for crying out loud. I need to grow up.    

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