The half time show played out on the field. Cheerleaders bounced in front of a modest marching band while the sky darkened to a deep turquoise. Swarms of flying bugs formed halos around the stadium lights above metal bleachers packed with small families and packs of teenagers. Their conversations fought with the noise from the band. Overall, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Angela and Kim were trying, their two teenagers less so.
Seated next to her family, Vera hunched over her phone refreshing her apps. Sparrow, their son, looked bemused as the cheerleaders stacked themselves into a pyramid in front of him.
“I thought you wanted to come, sweetie.” Angela asked her daughter after another long minute of Vera’s agitated finger flicks against her phone screen. The teenager paused, like she’d been caught.
“I did.” Vera said the words slowly, something else waiting on her tongue. Alone. Angela caught Vera’s hungry sideways look towards the groups of chattering adolescents surrounding them.
“Vera wants to be a cheerleader.” Her brother, hunched over crossed arms and still frowning at the field, announced.
“I don’t–shut up Sparrow.” Vera hissed at him.
“You do?” Angela asked. Her wife, Kim, leaned forward to looked puzzled at their daughter. This was the first time they’d heard anything about this.
“No–maybe, its not a big deal. I just wanted to watch the game. I didn’t know you wanted to come too.” Vera flicking her eyes across her assembled family with a guilty look.
“Its a family outing. And these high school games are so popular, we figured…” Kim trailed off and looked around, noting the large standing groups of teenagers and the older couples enjoying thermoses and blankets by themselves. “Sorry sweetie, you can go hang out with your friends. Its okay.” Kim said encouragingly.
Vera made a strangled noise and shook her head. She went back to her phone with determined focus.
The two women exchanged looks, commiserating over their miserable teenagers. This hadn’t been their first choice for a Friday night either, but football, even the high school games, was absurdly popular this far south. The community rallied around the local games, and Angela and Kim wanted to set down roots– for as long as they could at least. If they belonged, it would make it easier for their kids to do the same.
The band started up another song.
“I’m getting a soda.” Vera stood suddenly and hoped down to the next row, her sneakers reverberating the cheap metal. Angela almost said something, but Kim put a gentle hand on her wife’s arm. The three of them watched Vera hustle and duck through the other teenagers.
Sparrow looked at his helpless moms and sighed. “Don’t mention friends. She hasn’t made any yet,” he said, quiet enough under the noise not to be heard by anyone else.
“That’s not–” Angela’s gentle rebuff died on her lips. The siblings were close and Sparrow had yet to develop the mean streak so often characteristic of adolescence. He was probably just telling the truth as he saw it. “We’re still new in town. It takes time.”
Sparrow’s expression creased with deep skepticism even as he turned back to the assembling football players with disinterest.
Kim managed another bated minute before she asked, “What about you? Are you making frien–”
Sparrow snorted loudly. “No. Its okay though. If I made friends I might have to come to more of these.”
Anegla couldn’t help it, she barked a laugh. “Alright then. This is probably our last one then. Lets make it count.” And with that she shared a smile with her son, and leaned comfortably into her wife’s shoulder to watch the second half of the game. Vera would come back soon enough.