Posted on Tue Jan 14th, 2014 @ 1:42am by Unawakened Jana Rotherbridge
Date: Feb. 17, 2010
Time: 2:30 pm
Location: Sergeant Calhoun High School, secondary gym, Dallas, Texas
The girls moved closer together, some checking to make sure their makeup hadn't been licked off.
The boys straightened up, trying not to look like they were moving back on the places in the bleachers.
And many freshman moved their bags out of the way as a red-headed Amazon made her way down the front row.
It was Wednesday, and Jana had finally made it to Gabe's wrestling practice. She was about 10 minutes late.
She walked to where Cole sat, and boys on either side of him, not being that close in the first place, moved further away. She'd once caught a couple of boys picking on him, and the result had been wet crotches they'd had difficulty explaining to their mothers. Cole wasn't terribly popular now, but no one had bothered him in months. She was glad for that much, at least.
Jana sat down next to him, and he flopped against her, pulling her arm around her as the two bulky seniors on the mat grappled for supremacy. Jana pulled him close to her, pulling her hair forward so it was in front of his nose. He wasn't allowed to grip it and sniff it at school, seeing as that might draw unwanted attention, but if her hair was close enough to his face, he didn't get too freaked out.
Jana was still not sure how she felt about Gabe in wrestling, but he seemed to be doing pretty good, and he'd already lettered in football. He'd deserved to, there was no doubt about that. Gabe was very good at football. But it hadn't been without conflict, and a scandal that had rocked their community to it's core.
The coach had been letting certain parents bend his ear and had been low scoring Gabe and deliberately keeping him on the second string or the bench because he was openly gay. When Uncle James came to a practice and saw that what Gabe earned on the field wasn't what was recorded, he surprised them and launched an investigation that revealed the problem hadn't just been with Gabe's scores, but even with the placement of certain players. At the height of the drama, Jana and Cole convinced him that it wasn't worth everything he was going through to stay on the team, even so he didn't set a bad example for them.
His quitting the team had consequences.
After losing two games, a couple cheerleaders (some of the same ones who bemoaned Gabe not being into girls), cornered her and said it was her fault, or that of her family, that the team was losing. They chose to do it in front of an audience, so it was their own fault when she looked at them and responded, "He was *second string*. Maybe the team just sucks?"
It had felt so good to leave them behind with their mouths open in a very un-ladylike manner.
Finally, a combination of a new coach and old teammates convinced Gabe to come back, and while the team wasn't able to make it to finals, they finished out winning more than losing. Gabe had come out of it all a bit of a hero. Or at least, not as reviled for his life choices.
The new coach was, it appeared, coaching all the male sports teams, at least now he was, watching over the match. He had no patience for drama in wrestling, either. When one of the guys tried to complain about 'groping', the man had just rolled his eyes and said, "Son, you're not that pretty. Get back on the mat."
Jana smiled at the memory as she watched the coach call the match, then call up her brother's next opponent, Simon North. All the way from Jolly Olde England, he was new this year. While Gabe had their mother's auburn hair (and had the audacity to also have her green eyes), Simon was an inch or two taller, with black hair and dark eyes. She heard the girls murmur their approval of his good looks. She admitted, he was good-looking. She just wasn't interested in dating. At all.
The boys circled each other, and started grappling. As they got into the match, much to her shock, Simon met Jana's eyes... and gave her a wink.
She looked around, but there seemed to be on invisible buffer around her and Cole. She was the only girl he could have been looking at. When she turned back, he managed a grin at her before he had to pay attention to the match again.
He'd winked at her.
The match was close. Simon was taller, but Gabe had more bulk, and the coach called a stalemate after the required time. The two boys shook hands, gave each other the nod, then turned from one another. Simon caught her eye again before he sat down. Clearly, he wanted her to know he'd been deliberate in his attention.
For the first time in a long while, Jana was speechless. She was so stunned that Cole had to jostle her before she realized practice was over and it was time to get into the limo to go back to the estate.
Getting her youngest brother dosed for the ride home (the accident still haunted him), she tried not to watch Simon walk away. And not notice his one look back at her before going to get changed.
She didn't know what his game was. Or if she wanted to play.