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.
Or at least it feels that way.
The sky is above me, my ears are ringing, I can’t pull in a breath.
Landon is hovering over me. He grabs my helmet and shakes it. “What the hell is wrong with you?” He looks around and then back down at me. His eyes narrow. “Stay on the ground. Act sick.”
I do what he says and he jumps up to a stand. “I told him not to come to practice, Coach,” Landon says. “He’s had strep all week. I think he’s dehydrated.”
I close my eyes, relieved for my brother. I kind of like this kid.
“What the hell are you even doing here, Nash?” The coach is kneeling now. “Go to the locker room and get hydrated. We’ve got a game tomorrow night.” He stands and motions for one of the assistant coaches. “Get him a Z-pack and make sure he’s ready for the field tomorrow.”
Landon pulls me up. My ears are still ringing, but I’m able to breathe now. I make my way toward the locker rooms, relieved to be off the field. I should have never walked on in the first place. Not smart, Silas.
I make it back to the locker room and change out of my gear. As soon as I get my shoes on, I hear footsteps nearing the locker room from down the hall. I glance around and spot an exit on the far wall, so I rush to it and push it open. Luckily, it leads right out to the parking lot.
I’m immediately relieved to see my car. I rush over to it just as Charlie climbs out of the driver side, hopping onto her feet as I approach. I’m so relieved to see her—to just have someone to relate to—that I don’t even think about what I do next.
I grab her wrist and pull her to me, wrapping my arms around her in a tight hug. My face is buried in her hair and I let out a sigh. She feels familiar. Safe. Makes me forget that I can’t even remember…
“What are you doing?”
She’s stiff against me. Her cold reaction reminds me that we don’t do things like this. Silas and Charlie did things like this.
I clear my throat and release her, taking a quick step back. “Sorry,” I mutter. “Force of habit.”
“We have no habits.” She pushes past me and walks around my car.
“Do you think you’ve always been this mean to me?” I ask her.
She looks at me from over the hood and nods. “My money’s on yes. You’re probably a glutton for punishment.”
“More like a masochist,” I mutter.
We both climb into my car, and I have two places I plan on going tonight. The first being my house to shower, but I’m sure if I asked her if she wanted to come along, she’d say no just to spite me. Instead, I head in the direction of my house and don’t give her a choice.
“Why are you smiling?” she asks, three miles into our drive.
I didn’t realize I was. I shrug. “Just thinking.”
I glance at her and she’s waiting for my answer with an impatient frown.
“I was wondering how the old Silas ever broke through your hard exterior.”
She laughs. “What makes you think he did?”
I would smile again, but I don’t think I’ve stopped. “You saw the video, Charlie. You loved him.” I pause for a second, then rephrase. “Me. You loved me.”
“She loved you,” Charlie says, and then smiles. “I’m not even sure if I like you yet.”