Authors: Renee Ericson
Tags: #General Fiction
I walk down the hall to my room to get ready for Brent’s game. I quickly change and head out the door. I tell my dad I’ll see him later as I wave good-bye. I’m glad he doesn’t ask me where I’m going, when I’ll be home, or any of the other parental questions that most kids deal with on a day-to-day basis. We might have talked this morning, but we’re miles away from being like we were. We’re even farther from developing what a father-daughter relationship should be. As I leave, I know I just need some space right now.
When I arrive at the school, I see Lexi, Autumn, and Casey sitting on a blanket near the field, so I cross the lawn to join them.
“Ruby, hey! Come sit. We’re just talking about our plans for the football opener next week,” Lexi says. She gives a sidelong glance toward Autumn. “And Autumn was just drooling over Liam on the field,” she continues, barely containing her giggles.
I sit down next to Lexi and look out into the field where I spot Brent, Owen, and Liam. Seeing Brent makes my heart feel like it’s caught on fire and jumped in my throat.
I’ve officially got it bad.
“So, Ruby,” Casey says with a knowing smirk, “what’s up with Brent?”
“Um, we…well, I guess we’re seeing each other,” I say rather sheepishly.
Why can’t I get all giddy? Oh, I know, because I’m not that kind of girl.
“Oh my god,” Autumn gasps excitedly as she reaches for my arms, shaking them up and down. “You have to tell us if he’s a good kisser. I am dying to know. He has to be, right? I mean, look at him. Of course, you’ve looked at him.”
“Yeah, he’s a good kisser,” I offer, trying to pacify her.
“Is that all you’ve got?” Casey asks me sourly, looking disappointed. “You’re no fun.”
“Oh, leave the girl alone,” Lexi says, rescuing me. “Plus, I bet Autumn would love to share more info on her date with Liam last night.”
“Well,” Autumn begins. “We went to play Skee ball and then we shared a milkshake after. Then we went for a walk along the creek near the old putt-putt course. You know the one.”
She just keeps talking. I listen a little here and there, but I’m trying to focus more on the game. This is the first soccer game of Brent’s that I have been to and I feel the need to watch.
There’s no denying a man in uniform. I don’t know why, but I kind of wish Brent would wear it more often.
Would it be weird to request that?
Yes, it would.
Hot uniform aside, there’s no doubt that he’s an amazing player. He’s leading the team on the field as well as on the sidelines, which is only natural I guess since he’s team captain. His movements on the field are natural, graceful, and appear instinctual. I knew he would be good, but I didn’t expect him to be so beautiful in motion.
Touching my shoulder, Lexi interrupts my thoughts. “Well, are you gonna go?”
“The football opener. Do you want to go with us?” Casey chimes in.
“Oh yeah, sure. Sounds good,” I say, looking at all of them.
The whistle blows, indicating the game is over. We all turn and look toward the field, watching everyone finish up. When the players end the customary handshakes, the team quickly meets with the coach and then disperses.
As Brent walks toward us, followed by Owen, we stand up. I’m surprised Liam doesn’t come as well, but then I see Autumn has obviously beat him to the punch as she gallops in his direction.
When Brent reaches me, he grabs my hand and kisses me on the cheek. I can see from my peripheral vision that Casey is openly staring at us. Keeping his eyes only on me, Brent tucks a piece of hair behind my ear, taunting me with those sly dimples. We’re in our own bubble, and I forget about everyone around us.
“You came,” he says, dragging his hand through his midnight hair.
“Yeah. Um, I like your uniform.”
Did that really just come out of my mouth?
He laughs a little and then kisses me on the cheek again. “Are you hungry?”
“Good. I’m taking you to lunch.”
Brent and I say good-bye to everyone before walking to his car hand in hand. After we slip into the familiar leather seats, he turns over the ignition. As I look out the window, seeing my car sitting in the parking lot, I realize how far my life has come in the past week. I have a group of friends, a boyfriend, and possibly, a father once again. My life has really done a 180, and it’s all been for the better. I know I should be skeptical of all these good things happening in my life right now, but I find that I just can’t. It feels too good. Brent grabs my hand, pulling me away from my thoughts. I turn to him to see his infectious smile that speaks louder than any words.
“Ready?” he asks.
Am I ready?
During the next week, I spend every day with Brent in some capacity. He keeps his promise and takes me sailing one day. We also do other things, like take walks along the lake, go out to dinner, and watch movies at his house. Going to his house gives me a chance to meet his parents. They don’t ask too many questions, and they give us a lot of space, making me feel more comfortable than I expected in their home.
We have another date at the bowling alley, too. He thinks it might be fun if I teach him how to play. I think it’s just a scam to get me to touch him more.
“So, you want to hold the ball firmly but not too hard,” I tell Brent as I place my hand over his, holding onto the ball.
“Remind me again. Why do you know your way around balls so well?” he teases me.
“Some secrets are better kept that way. Get your head out of the gutter and concentrate.”
“I don’t know how you think I can concentrate when you keep putting your hand on my ball.”
The day Brent meets me at the park by the lake becomes my favorite memory from this week. I take Dragon down to play fetch for a while, but it turns into a little more than that.
Brent comes to stand at my driver’s side window.
“Thanks for meeting me here,” I tell him as I turn off the ignition to the car.
Dragon whines from the passenger seat.
“Who’s this?” Brent asks before rounding the car to peer in through the window.
As I get out, he opens the door to let out my four-legged passenger.
“That’s Dragon. I hope you don’t mind a third wheel.”
Brent kneels down to pet Dragon’s head. “Hi, Dragon.”
Saying hello back, Dragon pushes his nose into Brent’s hand.
“C’mon, he likes the water,” I say.
“Me, too,” Brent states in agreement.
We walk down a private path until we find a flat area that opens up to the lake. I slip out of my shoes and join Dragon in the water, which rises up to my calves. Brent follows close behind me as I toss a tennis ball farther out into the water for Dragon to fetch.
Brent splashes up beside me, putting his hand on my lower back. “I didn’t know you had a dog.”
“He’s not really mine. He belongs to my uncle, but Dragon doesn’t know that.”
“I see. Who does he think he belongs to?”
“And do you belong to him?”
“No.” I laugh a little. “I don’t belong to him. I don’t belong to anyone.”
Dragon comes splashing up to us, dropping the ball at our feet. Brent picks it up and throws it way farther than I did the last time. Dragon immediately spins around and begins to swim away to fetch the ball.
Brent turns me to face him. Placing both hands on my hips, his fingers flirt with the small bit of skin peeking out between my shirt and shorts.
“So, are you saying that you don’t belong to anyone?” he asks seriously.
“No,” I say sarcastically, trying to break the seriousness since I don’t understand it.
“Well, I do,” he says barely above a whisper.
He doesn’t say anything else. He just kisses my forehead and then picks me up, throwing me over his shoulder, as he walks us farther into the water.
“Brent!” I play shout. “Put me down.”
“No way!” he hoots.
“Let me go.” I see we’re getting deeper and deeper into the water. I quickly realize that if he lets me go, I’m going to be drenched. “Never mind. Don’t let me go.”
Then, in one quick motion, he drops to his knees, taking us both under the water. With his arms wrapped tightly around me, he never lets me go as we surface the water together.
I drape my arms over his shoulders. Playing along with him, I say, “That wasn’t very nice.”
He says nothing in response. He just stares at me as I stare back. The playfulness of the moment is gone, and what is left is changing us. It all clicks for me at once. Now, I know what he meant about belonging to someone. As he looks into my eyes, I think,
Maybe I do belong to someone, and I’m being held in that someone’s arms
In a span of five days, we grow closer to one another than I could have ever imagined. Somehow, I gain a best friend as well as a boyfriend. It’s nice to have someone to talk with and share things with.
Alone in his house, we sit together on his couch, talking about life after high school. Like me, he’s always thinking about the future. I guess thinking about college and what comes next is part of being a senior.
“Sometimes, I’m not sure about what I want to do,” he tells me.
“What do you mean?” I ask, turning around in his arms to see his face.
“I mean, in the future. How are we supposed to know what we want to do when all we know is our parents’ living room?”
“Then, there are all those expectations, too.”
His response is funny to me because I don’t think anyone, other than myself, has any expectations for me.
“I have a full ride to state. Soccer and academic, but I don’t know,” he says.
“Why not? Sounds like a good deal to me,” I encourage.
“I’m thinking I still want to look at other schools. Just to see. How about you?”
“Chicago. Somewhere in Chicago I think.”
“I like the city. It seems so fascinating.”
I’m really interested in Northwestern, but all his talk about state has me thinking. I know it isn’t smart to follow someone to college because it could end disastrously, but I figure there’s no harm in looking.
Although I’m having a hard time pinpointing why, I find myself in a comfortable place with him. I might be falling for him too fast, but that’s out of my control.
While we spend another evening on the dock, Brent sweeps the dark hair from my shoulder. “You’re so beautiful.”
“Thanks,” I whisper, lowering my eyes from his gaze.
“You’re more than that though,” he continues as he lifts my chin. “You’re not just a face. Your deep brown eyes tell a story that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I want to know that story.”
“You do?” I ask.
He smiles gently at me, and I continue, “I think you’re…more too.”
I can tell we’re dancing around a topic, trying to say the right words. I hope he continues to search for that story because I think he’s someone I want to share it with.
Surprisingly, things at home have been different this week, just as my dad said they would be. Every day so far, he’s been sober. We’ve shared conversations daily, and I even go with him to a meeting. Although it’s extremely uncomfortable being there, I promised to try, so going is the least I could do.
My dad hasn’t gone into too many details about the cause of his problems, but I get the gist of it during his revelations at the meeting. His parents weren’t the greatest, and when he was younger, he and Jas got into a lot of trouble with the cops.
From what I gather, his mother was pretty sad, and she wasn’t around much.
Huh? Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Also, I guess his dad was a pretty heavy drinker, but he didn’t pass out like my dad does. He mentions the words
a lot. I’m assuming those were used on both my dad and Jas. I never met my grandparents. When I was younger, my father said that my grandfather died before I was born. Now that I’m older, my dad shares that my grandfather actually drowned in the lake while drinking heavily one night. My grandmother died when I was ten from cancer.
After the meeting, I listen to my dad whenever he wants to have a talk, but I’m afraid to ask questions. I’m not sure how much I want to know. Although I realize that this is a struggle for him and he needs support on this journey, it’s hard on me, too. He might be the one with a problem, but it’s broken both of us.
When my dad isn’t talking about his problems and his path to recovery, he’s asking me questions. Usually, they’re general questions about school and friends, but somehow, he also catches on quickly about Brent. Even though he doesn’t ask to specifically meet him, he knows there’s someone I’m keeping from him.
“You don’t have to tell me about him,” my dad says one afternoon.
“Tell you about who?” I ask.
“Whoever it is you’re keeping from me.”
“I’m not keeping anyone from you.”
“Then, why don’t you have any of your friends over?”
He knows why, but I’m not going to say it.
When Friday rolls around, I feel like the relationship with my dad is significantly different from where we were just two weeks ago. We’re talking for starters. I feel hopeful, and I have to admit that I love the time I get to spend with him. It isn’t like old times, but I feel like I have a dad again as opposed to a roommate. Jas and Cody have kept their promise and stayed away. I’ve only seen Jas in passing, and I haven’t seen Cody at all. In fact, in comparison to the constant noise I’ve become accustomed to, next door seems eerily quiet. I have to keep reminding myself that the silence isn’t a bad thing.
Earlier in the day, I talked with Lexi about the football opener, the first game of the season. We’re going tonight with Casey and Autumn. I really want to go with Brent, but I already made plans with the girls. Plus, he and I have been spending a lot of time together. They’re my friends now, too, and I don’t want to be one of those girls who only has a boyfriend. So, it’s time to hang out with my friends instead of just him, starting tonight.