Andrew is my best friend, yet I wasn’t even sure of his name thirty seconds ago.
My attention moves from the two of them to the food in front of me. I open my soda and take a sip, just as Charlie clenches her waist. It’s loud in the cafeteria, but I still hear the rumble of her stomach. She’s hungry.
If she’s hungry, why isn’t she eating?
“Charlie?” I lean in close to her. “Why aren’t you eating?” She dismisses my question with a shrug. I lower my voice even more. “Do you have money?”
Her eyes dart up to mine as if I just revealed a huge secret to the entire room. She swallows and then looks away, embarrassed. “No,” she says quietly. “I gave my last few dollars to Janette this morning. I’ll be fine until I get home.”
I set my drink down on the table and push my tray in front of her. “Here. I’ll go get another one.”
I stand and go back to the line and get another tray. When I return to the table, she’s taken a few bites of the food. She doesn’t tell me thank you, and I feel relieved. Making sure she has food to eat isn’t a favor I want to be thanked for. It’s something I hope she would expect from me.
“Do you want a ride home today?” I ask her, just as we’re finishing up our meal.
“Dude, you can’t miss practice again,” Andrew shoots in my direction. “Coach won’t let you play tomorrow night if you do.”
I rub a palm down my face, and then I reach in my pocket and retrieve my keys. “Here,” I tell her, placing them in her hand. “Drive your sister home after school. Pick me up when practice is over.”
She tries to hand the keys back to me, but I won’t take them. “Keep them,” I tell her. “You might need a car today and I won’t be using it.”
Andrew interrupts. “You’re letting her drive your car? Are you kidding me? You’ve never even let me sit behind the damn wheel!”
I look over at Andrew and shrug. “You aren’t the one I’m in love with.”
Charlie spits out her drink with a burst of laughter. I glance over at her, and her smile is huge. It lights up her entire face, somehow even making the brown of her eyes seem less dark. I may not remember anything about her, but I would bet her smile was my favorite part of her.
This day has been exhausting. It feels like I’ve been on a stage for hours, acting out scenes I have no script for. The only thing that appeals to me right now is either being in my bed or being with Charlie. Or maybe a combination of both.
However, Charlie and I both still have a goal, and that’s to figure out what the hell happened to us yesterday. Despite the fact that neither of us really wanted to bother with school today, we knew school could lead to an answer. After all, this did happen in the middle of the school day yesterday, so the answer could be related somehow.
Football practice may be of some help. I’ll be around people I haven’t spent much time with in the last twenty-four hours. I might learn something about myself or about Charlie that I didn’t know before. Something that could shed some light on our situation.
I’m relieved to find all the lockers have names on them, so it isn’t hard to locate my gear. What is hard is trying to figure out how to put it on. I struggle with the pants, all the while trying to look like I know what I’m doing. The locker room slowly empties out as all the guys make their way to the field until I’m the only one left.
When I think I’ve got everything situated, I grab my jersey off the top shelf of the locker to pull it on over my head. A box catches my eye, located in the back of the top shelf of my locker. I pull it toward me and take a seat on the bench. It’s a red box, much larger than a box that would just contain a piece of jewelry. I pull the lid off and find a few pictures at the very top.
There aren’t any people in the pictures. They seem to be of places. I flip through them and come to a picture of a swing set. It’s raining, and the ground beneath the swing is covered in water. I flip it over, and written on the back, it says, Our first kiss.
The next picture is of a backseat, but the view is from the floorboard, looking up. I flip it over. Our first fight.
Third is a picture of what looks like a church, but it’s only the picture of the doors. Where we met.
I flip through all the pictures until finally I get to a letter, folded at the bottom of the box. I pick it up and unfold it. It’s a short letter in my handwriting, addressed to Charlie. I begin to read it, but my phone buzzes, so I reach over and unlock it.
Charlie: What time is your practice over?
Me: Not sure. I found a box of stuff in the locker room. Don’t know if it’ll help, but there’s a letter in it.
Charlie: What does it say?
“Silas!” someone yells from behind me. I spin around and drop two of the pictures in my hands. There’s a man standing at the door with an angry look on his face. “Get on the field!”
I nod and he continues on down the hall. I put the pictures back in the box and set it back inside my locker. I take a deep, calming breath and make my way out to the practice field.
Two lines are formed on the field, both rows of guys hunched forward and staring at the guy in front of them. There’s an obvious opening, so I jog toward the empty spot and copy what the other players are doing.
“For shit’s sake, Nash! Why are you not wearing your shoulder pads?” Someone yells.
Shoulder pads. Crap.
I skip out of line and run back to the locker room. This is going to be the longest hour of my life. It’s odd I can’t remember the rules of football. Can’t be that hard, though. Just run back and forth a few times and practice will be over.
I locate pads behind the row of lockers. Luckily, they’re easy to put on. I rush back out onto the field and everyone is scattering, running around like ants. I hesitate before walking onto the field. When a whistle blows, someone shoves me from behind. “Go!” he yells, frustrated.
The lines, the numbers, the goal posts. They mean nothing to me as I stand on the field amongst the other guys. One of the coaches shouts an order and before I know it, the ball is being thrown in my direction. I catch it.
Run. I should probably run.
I make it three feet before my face meets the astroturf. A whistle blows. A man yells.
I stand up, just as one of the coaches stalks in my direction. “What the hell was that? Get your damn head in the play!”
I look around me, the sweat beginning to trickle down my forehead. Landon’s voice rings out behind me. “Dude. What the hell is wrong with you?”
I turn and look at him, just as everyone huddles around me. I follow their motions and lay my arms over the backs of the guys to my left and right. No one speaks for several seconds, and then I realize they’re all looking at me. Waiting. I think they want me to say something? I get the feeling it’s not a prayer circle.
“You gonna call a play or what?” The guy to my left says.
“Uh…,” I stutter. “You…,” I point to Landon. “Do that…thing.” Before they can question me, I pull apart and the huddle breaks.
“Coach is gonna bench him,” I hear someone mumble behind me. A whistle blows and before the sound even leaves my ears, a freight train crashes into my chest.