Fallen Fourth Down

Page 21

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I gave her a dark look. “You know a different Jeff than I do.”

“That’s right. You dated him too. Wait.” She cocked her head to the side. “He cheated on you. He didn’t cheat on me, but I didn’t really date date him. We hung out. It was like the before-dating, before being a couple. Does that make sense? That’s what Adam and I did. And I didn’t sleep with them. I only fooled around with them.” She groaned. “A year before that, I probably would’ve slept with them, but Charlie yelled at me enough. She said I used guys to make myself feel loved.” Her voice tapered off and her eyebrows slowly lowered together. Her head went down as well. “She said it’s because our dad left us and I compensated—”


It was halftime. I grabbed her arm. “Let’s continue this in a bit. I have to get some water.” The girl in front of me stood up and I saw my opportunity. Slipping over her seat, and instead of fighting the crowd for the stairs on the side, I grabbed the lowest bar and slid my body underneath it. Landing on the grass, in front of the bleachers, I ran alongside them until I could slip around the fence that kept the crowd from going onto the field.

The teams were still milling off the field, and I was almost to them when the last of the Fallen Crest Public team stepped off the track field. I figured Logan and my dad were both ahead, so I started to cross their path for the concession stand. I didn’t really need a water, I just didn’t want to get pulled into Kris’ story. Just hearing the small amount of pain with her first words, I knew there was a ton more. I had my own trauma to deal with. I didn’t want to start feeling sorry for Logan’s girlfriend.

I heard: “She said that, David?”

“It’s too soon, Garrett. I’m sorry I didn’t catch you in time.”

“No, no. I forgot my phone in the car and you wouldn’t have Sharon’s…”

They kept talking, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. All the anxiety from before blasted up, exploding into my chest and throat, filling me with dread, like I was about to witness a car accident and saw it coming. I knew to avoid it, but I couldn’t. As that registered with me, my head turned and I saw them. They were standing off to the side. David’s head was bent down, his hands on his hips. A clipboard was in one of his hands and he was chewing on his whistle at the same time. Garrett stood over him. His features were as chiseled as I remembered from the last time I saw him, but his hair seemed whiter. I continued to study him and laughed softly to myself.

They looked at me. David straightened abruptly and Garrett moved back a step.

I laughed again, shaking my head. “For some reason, I imagined you in a business suit. That makes no sense. It’s a football game. I suppose you only wear those when you’re working, being a big hotshot lawyer…” My mind was spinning and I stopped. My throat was dry. I’d been going to get water, that’s right.

“Sam—” David started.

Garrett stepped around him. His eyes were glued to my face. He said, “It’s because the last time you saw me I was in a business suit.”

“That’s right.” I could picture it again. “You hugged me and never came back.”

“Sam,” David said again.

I shook my head. “It’s halftime and you’re the coach. Go, Dad. I’ll be fine.” I waved at Garrett. “Damage done. He’s here. I’ve seen him.” I swallowed over a lump in my throat. “I’ll deal with it.”

He looked between us, then shook his head. His shoulders slumped down and he murmured, “All right. I love you, Samantha. Just remember that.”

“Got it.” Lifting my hands, both of my thumbs shot up. “Two thumbs-up, Dad. That’s what you get for this whole thing. Well done. Way to prepare me and way to not follow through with what you promised. He’s here anyway.”

David opened his mouth. “Sam—”

“Go, David.” Garrett’s hand came down on his shoulder. “She lashes out when she’s hurting. She gets that from me.”

I don’t.

David said. “She doesn’t, not all the time.”

A bubble of laughter was coming up. I could feel it making its way from my stomach, gliding past my chest, slipping around the lump in my throat; my mouth opened and it pealed out. As they heard me, they stopped. I bent over. More laughter kept coming. I couldn’t stop it, and I didn’t want to. Kris had the right idea. Get drunk. Not deal with things. That seemed to be working for her. She was popular. She had friends. She was liked. I sighed, the laughter subsided, but it was on an anguished note. Even I cringed as I heard it with my own ears. I lifted a hand to them, letting it fall back to my side right away. “Look at you two. One thinks he knows me and the other…oh my god. This is a comedy skit. Why was I panicking at the thought of seeing you? This is the best entertainment I could get. You both think you know me when only one of you was around, but you both left. Now you’re both back. Fuck,” I grunted. My eyes started to water and I flicked the tears away. “You’re both a riot.”

My stomach rolled over and I shook my head. “Go away. I don’t want to deal with either of you.”


Turning, the voice was like music to my ears. Logan was standing there. He was holding his helmet with his dark hair sweaty, sticking up in clumps. His cheeks were smudged with black paint, dirt, and sweat. He had mud and grass stains all over his uniform.

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