Once again, an awkward silence fought its way in between us. But I cleared my throat and spoke up.
"Do you cry Louis?"
His face hardened and I saw his fists clench shut. "No," he said solemnly. He turned his back on me and fumbled with the straps on his shoulder pads.
I shoved my hands into the pockets of my dark green jacket. "Everyone cries, Louis." He snorted. "You already said that." I walked over and put a hand on his shoulder. "I know." When he turned and faced me I realized how tall he was. There was at least a good two heads difference between us.
"I'm 17," he muttered. "That's too old to cry." He gave me a hard look. "You're only a freshman. You wouldn't understand." I laughed shakily. "I'm only in eighth grade. I'll be 14 in October." He raised his eyebrows which only me laugh harder.
And he laughed too.
When he caught his breath and saw me flash a smile he said, "I like you, Grace. Especially your smile."
My lips closed but I could still feel a foolish grin on my face.
He gave me another smile with a twinkle in his eye. But it disappeared as he glanced at his watch. "Shoot!" he cried.
He grabbed his helmet which was laying on the ground next to him and started running toward the field. Suddenly, he stopped and glanced back at me.
"Will you be at the next game?" he asked, walking back over.
My eyebrows raised.
"I thought it was 'uncool' to hang out with an eighth grader."
His eyes wandered to the football field. "My girlfriend won't like it," he said quietly. But his eyes came back and focused on me. A small smile formed on his lips. He jammed his helmet back on his head and ran toward Coach Leonard's barking voice.
I turned to leave as a drop of rain hit my shoulder.
The next football game came sooner than I expected. Instead of riding the bus home like I usually did that Friday afternoon I basically ran to the football field to watch the team practice before the game at 6:00. A few parents sat in the bleachers along with a few teachers and students from the high school. I glanced around. I was the only middle schooler there.
I hopped over bench after bench and finally settled for a row near the top. I set my backpack and glanced down at the field. Being near-sighted, I squinted down at the blobs down below, running up and down the field. I pulled out my dark framed, dark purple glasses and sat down and began my math homework. Through the corner of my eye, I saw a group of high school girls enter the field. The climbed up and sat a couple of rows below me. They all whispered in each others ears and giggled. I heard "Cindy" and "Louis" being paired together quite a few times.
As 4:30 came middle schoolers, high schoolers, teachers, and parents leaked into the bleachers. And a dull roar from the crowd grew so loud I could hardly hear myself think.
I saw my "friends" enter and pile into a row near the front. They all glanced up at me and burst out laughing. I frowned and took off my glasses.
Snapping my binder shut, I set it down where I was sitting and climbed down to the field.
When I reached the bottom I suddenly realized how cold it was! I looked down at my red "Texas Tech" t-shirt. It wasn't helping at all. I shivered and sprinted across the street to the middle school. I knew my green jacket would be in my locker and sighed in relief as I reached out to open the doors. But as I pulled on the handles, I realized they were locked.