Home > The Field Party #1 - Until Friday Night(7)

The Field Party #1 - Until Friday Night(7)
Author: Abbi Glines

Nash studied Ryker a minute as if he didn’t agree with him. “She didn’t seem off.”

I agreed with him. Maggie wasn’t off in the head, that much I knew. Brady was making that shit up. The girl was intelligent—her eyes were enough to prove that. There had been anger and disappointment in them as she glared at me. She had seen me at my worst, and I had wanted her to. After that kiss I wanted her to steer clear of me. I wasn’t the kind of guy who got close to someone who was sweet.

Yes, seeing her at the party had sent a jolt of relief through me. But I’d let it register for only a moment before putting an end to it. Right now I couldn’t deal with anything but my family. Last night, as I’d listened to my mother crying softly in the living room, I knew I didn’t have it in me to be nice to any girl. Not even a girl like her.

Ryker rolled his eyes. “You know this because what? You looked at her? Sure, she’s nice to look at, but if she’s not right in the head, then it’s screwed up to move in on her.” “Whatever, can we talk about something more interesting?” Gunner grumbled from the end of the table.

I didn’t add to the conversation because I knew better, but also because I knew her. It had been like she’d seen through me. Seen my thoughts. And she understood. But she also expected more from me. That had been hard to swallow. For some crazed reason I didn’t want to let her down. At the same time I wanted her to hate me enough so she never came near me again.

“We got a football game to win. We go and screw with our star quarterback’s cousin, and we’re messing with the team. All Brady needs in his head right now is football. Not stressing over your horny asses,” Ryker said. It was a good point. If we were taking State this year, we needed Brady focused on one thing and one thing only: football.

I had to win the state championship for my dad. He wanted it. He’d been saying that my senior year was our year. I was determined to give him that. No matter what I had to do.

Forgetting that kiss wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t regret showing Maggie the ugliness from this morning. I’d lashed out and acted a way my mother would have been horrified by. But I’d seen the look in her eyes, and I knew she’d gotten the message. I wasn’t a good guy. I wasn’t anyone she needed to get to know or trust.

When I walked into the house after football practice that evening, the table was set like we were a normal, happy family. After I was born, this was the house my parents brought me home to from the hospital. It was the only home I had ever known. Yet the safety I once felt here was gone. Now I faced fear daily, hoping for a miracle.

My mother had prepared dinner just like she had most of my life. She was still pretending the best she could. I knew she prayed for that miracle too. Whenever she could, she acted as if life hadn’t turned on us two years ago when my father was diagnosed. Tonight Momma even had fresh flowers on the center of the table. The basket beside them was full of freshly baked bread. She was baking a lot of bread lately. It was her way of coping, I had decided.

“You’re home,” she said with a smile that didn’t meet her eyes. “How was practice?”

This was how she dealt with things: smiling, putting up a happy front. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to help me get through this or if it was the only way she could handle it. Dad just let her do whatever; he didn’t force her to face the truth. He adored her. Always had.

Our house wasn’t big and fancy like the one she had grown up in. Yet she loved it. The way she took care of it and made it feel warm and inviting was proof she was proud of the life that Dad had given her. Not once did she speak about her past or the life she left behind when she married Dad.

“It was good. We’re ready for Friday night. I feel confident we got this,” was my reply. Because, like Dad, I couldn’t let her down. If she wanted to pretend life was normal, then I would pretend with her.

“Dad eating with us?” I asked, wondering if he was better today. When I’d left this morning, he’d still been sleeping. No vomiting, and last night had seemed quiet.

She beamed at me, and the light in her eyes seemed almost real. “Yes, he is. He’s just getting dressed now after his shower. He’s looking forward to hearing all about practice. I think he’s more excited about Friday’s game than you are.”

He was excited, but would he go? Last year he hadn’t been this bad. He’d been able to sit up in the stands and watch. But now I couldn’t imagine him sitting out there. Things had taken a bad turn the past month, and he wasn’t getting better. I didn’t want to shorten the time I had with him because he was going to my games when he should be resting.

“What’s for dinner?” I asked, changing the topic. Dad and football were hard to talk about. I had grown up loving football because it was what Dad loved most in the world, second only to his family. It was how we bonded. All those days of him tossing me the ball in the backyard and the mornings we woke up early to go running together before school. It was us. An us that was slowly fading away.

“Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and collard greens. Oh, and of course corn bread. Your daddy loves his corn bread with his collard greens.”

She was making all of Dad’s favorites. He would hardly be able to eat anything. Didn’t matter to her, though. She was doing it for him because she didn’t know what else to do. I understood that.

I would sit at this table and talk to him about practice and the upcoming game like he would be there when we won the state championship. I wanted him there. I wanted to win it. I wanted him to see it happen. But I wasn’t sure that was realistic.

All we could do was keep doing the things that made Dad happy. Even if inside we were both falling apart. He wasn’t just a husband to Momma; he was her best friend. They had been inseparable my whole life. Next year I wanted to play SEC football, but could I leave her alone? With Dad not here, how did I continue with my dreams? With our dreams?

“Go on ahead and wash up. I’ll get the glasses filled with ice, then I’ll go see if your dad is ready to eat,” she said, still smiling. Still trying to seem happy when I knew her heart was breaking just like mine.

“Yeah, okay,” I replied. I didn’t have it in me to say much else. I headed for the stairs then stopped. I needed her to know that she wasn’t alone. That when this was over, she would have me. Momma had always seemed like this beautiful, fragile flower that Dad protected. But over the past year I had found out that she was made of steel. She never once cracked in front of Dad no matter how hard it got. She was right there beside him while I wanted to curl up and weep like a baby.

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