The October winds had begun to chill the night and for the first time that year I welcomed the cold wind because it felt right. It’s like I enjoyed the ice nipping at my elbows, biting at my arms and pricking at my forehead as the boys below shuffled along the field. Number 10 in the blue and white dodged number 21 on the other team in the red and yellow. Beside me Natalie cupped her hands around her mouth, her glimmery pink nail polish shimmered underneath the field lights of the stadium as she hollered, “Go Austin!”
Number 10, everyone’s in love with number 10.
And so was I.
I knew nothing about football, hell I didn’t even care about football, but Austin--he was something that I cared about. His taunt and stocky body dodged another round of players as he moved through the field with the ball cupped underneath his right arm. Another slew of players attempted to attack him, but he evaded them with what I thought was a smile, if it was a smile it glinted deviously as he beckoned his team player number 25.
“Oh my god, it’s getting so close,” Natalie sprang up from her seat as did a few others and commenced to clapping and screaming “Go AUSTIN!”
Her blonde hair spilled over her shoulders like a strange collection of yellows; golden yellow, pale yellow, brown yellow and the colors went on as the light bounced off each strand. Her pink lips rounded quickly as she chanted and stomped her feet. The girl next to her-Jessica, stood up too, stomped her feet and hollered in unison with Natalie while I debated whether I should get up or not.
I didn’t want to.
With his dark muscled brown arm cocked to the back and ready to throw--his opponents charged on quickly. His cleats dug into the grass as he backed away, nearly leaping as he did a backward twirl. Number 25 otherwise known as Cole shouted something unintelligible, but Austin waved it off. He knew what he wanted to do.
I held my breath in, the world stilled as he looked into the crowds, his eyes moved quickly. I bit back a smile as I hoped, as I breathed, as I prayed that he would look at me and smile. But his eyes landed on someone else, and in that half second my heart broke and dropped to the pit of my belly.
Natalie squealed, “Did you see that?”
I did, and I saw that he’d dedicated his throw to her too because as his eyes slid away from her the ball flew in the air. I stood up then, not for him--but for the ball and played it off, “so close.”
For a moment I didn’t think Cole would catch it, but he did and he ran like hell with the ball, his pale legs pumped as he mirrored Austin’s movements. Austin sped down the field like lightening and he waved at Cole. Once again the ball was in the air, I heard Natalie take a deep breath and Jessica pounded her feet against the bleachers.
He lept in the air, white light bounced against his helmet as he rounded his arms and caught the ball before landing with a thud, “AUSTIN!!!!”
Everyone was wild by then, they were standing up and shouting mixtures of “AUSTIN!” and “GO, GO BLUE JAYS!”
While they clapped I numbly watched and bit my lip hard. Natalie nudged me and said something but by then I couldn’t register noise and words, I couldn’t put two and two together and I was cold. A little bit empty and a lot hurt.
With the ball in hand he skittered across the field ever faster with his teammates urging him on, now there was nothing to hold him back, nothing to keep him from scoring the winning goal and winning the last game of the season.
But I didn’t watch, I didn’t want to see the goal or see him dedicate another win to Natalie. I closed my eyes and bowed my head even as Natalie squealed again beside me and shouted, “GO AUSTIN!”