Chapter 3: Soccer Players and Sundaes

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After the soccer practice ends, I find Matt in the parking lot hanging around some other players and a few girls. His face lights up when he sees me and, much to the dismay of a brunette flirting with his right arm, he grabs me by the elbow and pulls me in to the circle.

"Everyone, this is Hailey, a guest for the summer," Matt motions to me, and then a bright blue car in a parking spot  a few metres away. "We're heading out now to an ice cream place in Nick's car."

"Ey Dewchester, are we going now?" Tanner saunters over and gives me a wink. "If your new girl is coming, I'm definitely in. Maybe I should call up Sarah too."

Matt shoots back a, "Shut it Wilkins," and slings an arm over my shoulders, a little too protectively I think, and I find myself fumbling meekly with a series of "I'm nots" and "buts." 

To this, Tanner gives me a not-so-subtle once-over and with a hard poke at the number on the back of my tee, says, "But I think you are. I wouldn't mind if you weren't though."

And so I find myself squeezing in to an uncomfortably small backseat, wedged between the two co-captains of the soccer team who apparently shared a common distaste for one another. Tanner smirks the entire ride there and Matt, seeming to sense my discomfort, stretches an arm out behind me. I edge a little closer to him to avoid Tanner's creeping hands, and I can't help but feel a sense of comfort and security when Matt gives me a gentle reassuring squeeze. 

I can feel a swirl of emotions crumbling my inner walls and a building confusion wreaking havoc with my heart. What? Why? Now?  Who's Sarah?

And But Ben? There is no Ben anymore, Hailey.

Much to my relief, I don't have to confront this thought as we pull up to a pastel pink building on the side of a park and pile out on to a sidewalk. 

---

That night, the Dewchesters call to say that they'll be staying in Toronto an extra day and Matt decides to order take-out for dinner.

"So," Matt begins, after he swallows a bite of chicken. "Sorry about Tanner today. I'm a little surprised he made such a quick move. Then again, he always does when he thinks a girl is already taken. I mean, are you actually taken?"

"I think he probably did it to annoy you," I remark, flinching a little at his question. "You guys seem to have a riva-"

"Just captaining issues," Matt says quickly, with a shrug. "Off the topic of Tanner then, I'm a little curious."

Heat rises to my cheeks at his blunt statement and I pick at the food on my plate before answering. 

"Just curious. You don't have to-" He adds quickly.

"We broke up a little over a week ago," I cut him off and pick some more at my food, before softening my tone. "And I still don't even know why."

Matt's silence feels oddly comforting, more so than any empty words and I find myself continuing.

He's going to the University too. 

I mean it's fine, it was just a high school relationship. 

It was really sudden though, he just got back from a trip. 

He actually plays soccer too.

The words escape out of my mouth in a jumble but I feel lighter with each sentence. I hadn't had the time to confide properly in my mom or my closest friend, Emma, and it was a relief that Matt was there. It seemed to restore a bit of hope, a promise that the events in the week earlier, and perhaps my entire relationship with Ben would, with time, only be a phase that I could and would move on from. 

However, I notice Matt's slight frown and I tilt my head. Was it disappointment that I sensed? Had he expected a straight-forward yes or no?

But the running through of my own story sparks a memory of a name Tanner mentioned during practice and so, I blurt out:

"Who's Sarah?" 


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Edit in: I think I wrote this somewhere else too but there was about a year's gap between these first few chapters and when I continued writing on, so excuse the change in style :')) I like to think it got better :'))

A/N: Hey guys! Hoping for some feedback, so if you've been liking The Exchange so far, please comment, upvote, or send a follow/message my way :)

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