Someone’s hands massaged my shoulders, and brunette hair poured over my face, blocking my view of the field. I looked up, and my head parted the hair.
“It’s me,” Claire said.
“It’s you,” I said.
“Who’s winning?” she asked.
“One, one,” Theodor said, getting up as Hayden dismounted the bench.
“Did you just get here?” I asked her.
“Uh huh.” She sat next to me and held my hand. “How do I look?”
“Beautiful as always,” I said. Her hair was brushed straight down, and she wore jeans and a blue jacket with a white vest underneath. I was surprised by the jeans, because she told me that she’d wear a skirt today, something she hadn’t worn since she was six years old.
“My eyes, Harrison,” she said, widening them, and I noticed the surrounding darkness.
“Have you been up all night?” I asked.
“I’ve been studying a lot. Long nights for weeks and weeks.”
“How long until you’re done with college?”
“It’s my second and final year starting September, then I start teaching.”
I smiled at her, and she looked hopefully at the sky. It had cleared up, and the sun was pushing through the clouds.
She had played soccer from infancy, all the way through high school, and a bit in college. When she ran with the ball, it was like poetry to me, petals raining down on her. I’d enjoyed coming to her matches and could relate to her through soccer. Things had changed as she completely quit soccer a year ago. I wished she had continued it in college, but she wanted to become a teacher.
She pressed her shoulder against mine, and my hand was in her hands on her lap. “I hope you guys win,” she said, squeezing my hand.
Theodor laughed. “Maybe you can substitute for Hayden, Claire. I’d take you over him any day.”
I laughed, and Claire shook her head. Hayden fake-punched Theodor and smiled.
I faced Hayden. “When are you two getting married?”
“Off-season, in February. What about you, are you two serious?”
Claire answered, “It’s been fifteen months. We’ve gone to the movies and had our pictures taken together. Coney Island was fun, right, Harrison?”
“Yeah, it was, apart from my vomiting on one of the rides.”
“Please, don’t remind me.”
“Where are you taking me tonight?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe the rink.” I sighed.
“What’s wrong, Harrison?” she asked.
I glanced at her, turned back and looked at the Long Island players. “It’s nothing.”
“Come on, cheer up. I know you guys will win.”
“Three minutes to half!” Al shouted.
I got up and warmed up with Hayden, passing the ball back and forth. Claire took her cell phone from her side bag and started taking pictures. She had thousands of pictures of me on her cell phone. To please her, I tried to pause and smile. I did whenever the ball went past Hayden, and he went to recover it.
The players walked onto the playing field with the referee.
“I’ll see you after the game,” Claire said. “If you score, I’ll have the pictures.”
“My photographer,” I said.
“Keep on laughing,” she said, aiming her phone at me. “I don’t get these photos often.”
“I know you don’t.”
“Harrison, I’ll probably wear that skirt tomorrow. Or tonight, if you’re taking me out.”
“Why do you want to wear a skirt?”
“Teachers wear skirts. I rather wear skirts than long pants. It’s a big step for me. I need your support.”
“You wore a skirt as Juliet in the school play.”
“I had pants underneath.”
“I should have known.”
“You should’ve. I’m really disappointed you don’t know me that well. You’ve lost some points.”
“I’ll get them back.” I kissed her on the cheek and walked to the playing field.
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