Paper Walls - 11. Chapter 11
We sit in the locker room, waiting for my dad to come in. It’s half time and we are only down by one touchdown. The opposing team has stepped up their defense and is killing us. I know Shawn is nervous; he’s made two incomplete passes and only gained a few yards on running. My dad steps into the locker room. “Gentlemen, listen, we are still in this. We have the chance to open the season up with a big win. We haven’t worked our asses off this summer and these last few weeks to tuck our tail in and lose on our field. This is our house. We need to show the other team whose house they just trespassed in. Linemen, I need to know you will hold that defense back. Defense, I want you to act like they came in and stole your damn bacon. I don’t know about y’all, but if someone comes into my kitchen and steals my damn bacon, there is going to be hell to pay!”
“Coach, I can’t catch the ball if the line can’t protect Shawn,” Garrett says.
“Exactly. I need the line to buy me more time,” Shawn says.
I already know they screwed up bad. Coach pulls his hat down. “So it’s the line’s fault?”
I look over to Garrett and I think he knows he’s screwed up, and Shawn looks at the ground. “I asked a question. So Shawn, it’s the line’s fault that you aren’t moving fast enough after YOU snap the ball? You aren’t the one throwing a clean pass, you aren’t looking for the gaps in the line to run through. Garrett, it’s the line’s fault that you aren’t fast enough to run your route? I saw three pass plays that you weren’t where you needed to be. You both got cocky. We are barely winning and you want to get cocky already?”
Neither of them say anything. I look at Dad and he isn’t mad, he’s disappointed, and that’s even worse. “So what do we do, gentlemen? Coaches break them up into groups please. Talk them through what you saw was wrong. Quarterbacks are with me.”
I grab my helmet and meet up with Shawn,, and walk towards my dad’s office. “I fucked up saying what I said, huh?”
“Oh yeah, that’s a big no go in Coach’s book,” I tell him.
We get into the office, and Coach tells us to shut the door. I shut it. “What the hell was that out there, Shawn? Was that the way a captain behaves? Blame your teammates because you and your bozo best friend can’t execute plays?”
“No, sir. I don’t know what I was thinking,” he says.
“That’s just it, you weren’t! This is Garret’s last year and a lot of other players’ on this team. Do you want to have a season like last year or actually have a shot at something here?”
“I want a better season, Coach.”
“What do we do?” my dad asks.
“Coach, I’ll be honest. I am having some trouble with some of the plays. I’m not as comfortable as I should be. I am getting there, but I need to polish it off.”
“Okay, I appreciate the honesty. We will work more on it during practice, so what do we do to win tonight?”
Shawn looks at me and back at my dad, “Coach, move me to tight end, put in Jeremy, and put in Ryder. Coach, that’s a dream team right there. I mean, we would be unstoppable.”
I am getting so hyped up, but I know it is too good to be true. “I am going to scramble the quarterback position every two plays and switch you and Ryder out. I am keeping Garret in, taking out Tim, and putting Jeremy in. Jeremy will run his routes, long passes to him, short to Garret. You got that, Ryder? Shawn, you’re more of a runner. You are going to run. When they catch on, and they will, we will switch it up.”
“Sounds good, Coach,” I tell him.
“I like that idea. It will keep them on their toes.”
“Good, let’s tell the team. Shawn, you’re captain. You tell them what to expect,” Coach says.
We walk back to the locker room. “Okay, team. This is what’s going to happen. We are going to switch off between me and Ryder. I will take running plays and Ryder will be passing. Then we switch it up. It will work, guys.”
I hear hoots and whoops, and some let’s kick their ass. Jeremy stands up and the guys quiet down. He looks over at Coach, and Coach nods and goes to stand next to the other coaches. “Okay guys, I know I just got here this week. The last few days, I got to see what we have and the potential, and I love what I see. We can be one of the best teams in this state. No, we will be the best in the state. I have been lucky enough to play under Coach for four years now. This man knows his football. He’s also taught me that no one person is better than anyone else. Football is a team game. If one person fails on a play, we all fail on the play. You are only as good as your teammates. We win as a team, we lose as a team. I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t plan to lose tonight!”
Making our way back into the locker room, we are all excited about the beautiful last half we played. I executed every pass I threw, and when they caught on, I ran like the devil was chasing me. Shawn got more confident as well, and he made a few touchdowns. Like Jeremy said, we were the dream team when we got put together.
“Yo, good game, Ryder!” one of the linemen says, patting me on the shoulder pad.
“Young gun! Dude, I never knew you had an arm of a GOD!” Garret yells, smiling at me.
I look over at Jeremy, who just shakes his head. I strip off my pads, leaving me in just my tight Underarmor shirt and pants, and I go to Dad’s office and knock on the door.
“Yeah,” I hear my dad say.
I walk in. “Hey, Dad, I have a question.”
“Rye. Good job tonight, son. You were half a second off the ball on a few plays. We will work that out, but you did good overall,” my dad says.
“Thanks. Do you think Jeremy and I could go out for a bit tonight, go look around town.”
My dad looks me over. “Not a party, correct?”
“Actually, Coach, it’s just downtown to a pizza place that me, Garret, and a few other guys are going to,” Shawn says from the door.
My dad thinks it over. “I guess that’s reasonable, but do not let me hear that you were drinking, or at a party. “
“Promise, Dad, plus, I don’t think I would like alcohol anyway,” I tell him.
Dad throws me his keys, and reaches for his wallet. “Here, take some money for you and that knucklehead out there.”
I take the money. “Thanks, Dad.”
I go over to Jeremy and hand him the keys and a twenty. “From Dad,” I say, smiling.
I strip down and go to the showers. Not a whole lot of people are there. I know Jeremy waited for me. He wouldn’t tell me he did, but he’s always done that to make sure nothing ever happened, like getting bullied or anything. I am too excited to even dare take a sneak peak at anyone. I wash up, turn off my shower, and grab my towel.
Going to my locker, I pull out my boxers and dark blue jeans and pull them on. I reach for my deodorant in my locker and put it on, I toss my pink polo over my head, I put socks on and reach for my white Nike shoes at the bottom of the locker. “You in a hurry?” Jeremy says, sitting next to me.
“NO!” I say, smiling.
“This is your first actual date, huh?”
I blush. “Yeah, it is,” I tell him.
“A bit, yes! I mean, what if he doesn’t like me, or if I freak out, or my anxiety flares up? What if my breath stinks, or I spill food everywhere, or what if I just completely mess this whole thing up?”
“That’s why I will be down the street, dude. Shawn and I are gonna chill nearby, man. Trust me, you will be fine, and he would be stupid not to like you!”
“Thanks, Jer. You always have my back.”
We finish getting dressed and go out to my dad’s SUV. I didn’t realize Shawn was going with us, even though I should have, since neither Jeremy nor I knew where to even go. “You nervous?”
“My palms are sweating,” I tell him and smile.
“It’s all good, dude. Callen was a wreck earlier. It was kind of funny.”
“So, when I get there, what do I say?”
“Oh, just tell them you are looking for Callen’s table.”
I let Shawn sit upfront with Jeremy; I sit in the back and calm my nerves down. I have never actually been on a date, ever. Yeah, I had crushes, but never dated them. I just sit back as we head to the place. It’s so funny cuz those two are talking like they have always been friends. Which kind of makes me jealous, and I feel so stupid because I shouldn’t feel that way, because I know Jeremy always has my back, no matter what.
We finally arrive at the place. “Hey, have fun tonight dude!” Jeremy says, smiling at me.
“Thanks,” I tell him, and Shawn smiles as I shut the door.
I walk into the small restaurant, and the hostess greets me. “Do you have a reservation?”
“Umm…yeah, it’s a party for two under Callen,” I tell her and blush and break eye contact.
“You are so adorable, and right this way, sweetie,” she says, and I follow her.
I see the back of his head. His brown hair is still a bit messy, but it’s cute. I walk up behind him, and I see him texting Shawn about how nervous he is and that he’s sweating. I smile and try not to laugh. I walk beside him and clear my throat. “May I sit here?”
His head snaps around, and if his jaw wasn’t hinged to his face I am sure it would have hit the floor. “Why are you here? Wait, I mean you? Is this a joke?”
“So, can I sit down?” I ask, blushing slightly.
His light brown eyes are still wide. “Yeah, I mean, please!” he gets up and offers his seat to me and I take it.
“Thank you.” I watch as he takes his seat across from me, just looking me up and down. “I can’t believe…wait, is this really real, or a prank? Did Garret put you up to this?”
“No, Callen. This is real, and Shawn actually set all this up,” I say.
“Yes, I am gay, and yes, Coach and my mom know,” I tell him.
“I mean, wow. I just never saw that coming.”
“Well, imagine how I felt when I learned you had a crush on me,” I say, and his cheeks flame up.
“Shawn cannot keep his mouth shut! Look, it’s not like I was, like, stalking you or anything, like, I just, umm…yeah….”
I laugh. “Well, it’s a good thing. I thought you were cute when we first met. Plus, it gave me some hope.”
I nod my head and blush; he is funny, and I don’t think he is even trying to be. “Yeah.”
“I am so sorry. This has got to be the worst possible date ever!”
“Actually, it’s my first one,” I say, giving a small smile.
“Really? Mine too!” he says, more animated.
“Well, I’m Ryder, I am very happy to be on this date with you, and I promise it will get better.
“You look good tonight,” I say, and we both blush.
“You look really great. I wanted to say that since you first sat down.”
The waiter comes up and give us a look. “Evening, gentlemen, can I start us out with some drinks? We have Coke, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, Root Beer.”
“I will have a Root Beer, please. What about you, Ryder?”
“Just a water, please,” I say.
“I will give you a few minutes to look over the menu while I go grab the beverages for you two.”
“You could have gotten a soda. I am paying for this, by the way!” Callen says.
“You don’t have to, I have money, and I actually don’t drink soda.”
“What, you don’t?”
“I’ve actually never had a soda before,” I confess.
He looks at me like I am crazy. “You’re fucking with me, right?”
I shake my head. “No, never have had soda and I don’t eat candy,” I tell him.
“Wow, that is intense. Wow, I feel like a tool.”
“Don’t! So, tell me about yourself. I mean, you know plenty about me,” I say.
“Well, I am the middle child. You know my brother, Garret, but we have another little brother. We live with our dad, except my little brother…my mom isn’t exactly supportive of me being gay. I am out to my family and to some friends at school. Actually, my mom isn’t supportive of me at all. It actually caused the split between my parents, and she doesn’t allow me to see my little brother. She doesn’t let me come over for any of the holidays…oh my god, I am sorry, I have no idea why I just said all that stuff. Shit, I am sorry. This has to be the worst date ever. Sorry, I am just…you make me super nervous because you are really hot, and you’re super nice and, yeah,” he says, looking for something to change the topic.
“No, don’t stop, please. I enjoy learning about you, and it’s rare that the conversation isn’t focused on me and football. Please continue,” I say and grab his hand, and look at him. I swear he looks like he is going to cry.
The waiter comes back and hands us our drinks. “Have you decided on what y’all want yet?”
“Yeah I will have the grilled chicken fettuccini alfredo, please,” Callen says, and he looks relieved that the waiter is here to break the silence.
“I think I will have the same,” I say, closing my menu and the waiter take the menus and and tells us he will be back soon to see if we need anything
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“It’s okay. I really want to know more about you, and besides, I have a ton of baggage,” I tell him.
“So, yeah, it’s just Garret, me, and my dad. My dad is an accountant, so fun stuff, and yeah, he is really cool. Actually, I am blessed to have my father back me up, no matter what I choose to do.”
“That’s awesome. So what is your favorite color?”
“Blue, what is yours?”
“I like purple,” I say, blushing.
“You are so cute when you blush,” he says.
“With you saying that I won’t stop!” I complain.
“Maybe I love seeing you blush. So, what is your story?”
I shrug my shoulders. “Come on, everyone knows mine. Football is pretty much my life.”
“There has to be more to you. What is your favorite thing to do besides football?”
I have to think. “I like to run, and I like to swim. I will be able to swim a lot more since we have a pool at our house. That’s such a weird question. No one has actually asked me that before.”
“So you’re super active, huh? You play any video games?”
“I don’t really ever play any, honestly. I mean the most I played was at Jeremy’s, and well, now he lives with us, so I don’t know. I might start playing them.”
“Well, you should. I mean, you can totally come over to my house, and we can play some,” he says, and then blushes. “Oh my god, that came out sounding very wrong.”
I laugh really hard. We enjoy the dinner, we talk back and forth, getting to know each other. He is very sweet and very energetic. The waiter comes back with the tab and Callen hands him a card. “I could have paid for mine.”
“No, I wanted to pay for yours.”
“Thank you,” I say, smiling.
We walk outside the restaurant, and I look over at him. “I really don’t want this date to end,” he says.
“Me either,” I tell him.
“Well, I know the guys are at the bowling alley up the block if you want to walk there. I mean, I am sure by the time we get there, they will be ready.”
“Yeah, I would like that,” I say, and start walking beside him.
“I still can’t believe you wanted to go on a date with me,” he says.
“Well I have a confession. I had the biggest crush on Shawn, and when he told me, I thought he was talking about himself, and when he told me it was you, I was shocked.”
“You like Shawn?”
I realize my mistake. “No, Callen, I had a silly crush on him. I knew he wasn’t gay. I just never thought you were gay, and I didn’t even know if you wanted to be friends with me.”
“I used to have the biggest crush on Shawn, too. Why wouldn’t I want to be friends with you?”
“Garret is kind of a douche bag to me,” I tell him.
Callen laughs. “That’s cuz he knows I like you, and he’s kind of a douche bag all the time.”
I stop, and he stops with me. “You really do like me?”
“Yeah, I do,” he says, moving closer to me.
“Are you going to kiss me?” I ask, and I can’t help but giggle, and he does, too.
“That was too cute,” he says.
I lean against the wall, and he moves his hand to touch my jaw, and I hope he is going to kiss me. He starts to lean in, and I take a deep breath and his lips touch mine, and I touch his face, and he presses his body into mine. He finally breaks the kiss and he just says, wow.
“Yeah, wow,” I say, blushing.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas and stay safe for the new year!
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