As ordered, I closed the door behind me on the way out. The coach didn’t want my reasons for leaving the team. I’d given them anyway. The coach’s face was normally ruddy, but it’d gone to purple as I told him about the internship that was more important than being his quarterback. At this school, football was a full time job, and I’d just been hired elsewhere.
The locker rooms were filling up and I moved quickly before anyone could ask me why I wasn’t suiting up for practice. The sweat on my palms cooled as I got into the afternoon air and started the walk to the high school’s parking lot. I wiped them on my jeans. I had to get better at lying.
The biggest one I’d told was that this decision had been a difficult one. And I’d said it, feeling sweat erupt on my forehead and down my spine.
School had been out for almost an hour now. The kids with practice or responsible parents were gone, running warm-ups or picked up. That left those without the means to get off campus as quickly as everyone would have liked.
The groups of stoners and drama kids never bothered me beyond an eye roll. I ignored them and checked my phone. If I left right now I wouldn’t be late to my first day. Mr. Connolly’s estate wasn’t exactly easy to get to.
I was in my truck and about to press the gas when I stopped. I didn’t see the flat tires or the long key marks first, I saw her across the lot. Her back was to me and so short at first I was sure she was from the middle school. But she was alone and motionlessly staring at the car in front of her.
I left my backpack and duffel in my truck. As I got closer I noticed the damage to the car. Someone had ensured this girl knew she was disliked. Alongside the slashed tires and keymarks, the headlights were spiderwebbed from being bashed and the hood was dented down. The girl turned as my shoes scuffed the asphalt.
I was surprised to see her eyes were dry.
“You need a ride?” The words were out before I thought over it.
The question had not been what she expected as her eyes narrowed with suspicion. She didn’t say anything for a few seconds, but I saw her note my varsity jacket with an almost invisible sneer. I didn’t take offense. Considering the damage to her car, this girl wasn’t imagining slights.
She gritted her teeth and finally said something. “Yah. I do.”
That surprised me too. There was nothing in the razor sharp angle of her chin or crossed arms that told me she was happy about the idea of a ride from me. But that just meant she really needed the ride.
“Okay, my truck is over here. Where can I drop you off?” I asked, pointing out the space where my truck waited.
She shouldered her ragged backpack and followed me. “Eastbrook. I can walk from there.”
I winced at the neighborhood. It was the opposite direction of the Connolly estate. She noticed and stopped. “It’s not a big deal, if its a problem. I’ll figure –something out.”
I didn’t have to force a smile. I was going to be late, but she needed help, and that was more important. Hopefully Mr. Connolly would understand better than my coach had.
“Its no problem at all. That–” I glanced back to her ruined car. “Is horrible. I’m sorry.”
Another few seconds passed and then she nodded. “Thanks.”