10 – Game Day
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10

Game Day

“Why were the two of you out together this late?” Daniel asked me, referring to Ryan and me. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing, I’m pretty tired though,” I said, deflecting the question. “I’ll be doing some work in my room, see you, Daniel.”

“No, no, no,” Daniel said, grabbing onto my backpack so I wouldn’t be able to move. “You’re telling me exactly what’s going on between you and Ryan.”

Feeling a little playful, I slid my arms out of the backpack’s straps and ran up the stairs. Daniel yelled after me, chasing me up. He finally caught me as I almost got back to my room, lifting me up into the air with his arms as I squealed.

“Look Julie,” he said, setting me back on the ground. “You’re my little sister, and I’m just worried about you. Now, Ryan’s a great guy so it’s okay if there are any feelings flying around. I just want to make sure everything’s alright.”

“Fine,” I said, putting my arms behind my back and swaying from side to side. “I might kinda sorta like him. Maybe.”

“I knew it,” Daniel said, chuckling. “The way you look at him, your eyes light all up and your face gets all dreamy. I’ve never seen something like that from you before.”

“Yeah,” I said, blushing. I didn’t realize it looked like that to other people. “I don’t know how it happened but it just did.”

“No wonder you’ve looked happier lately,” Daniel said. “My little sister is in love.”

“I’m not!” I yelled, embarrassed. “It’s just a small crush.”

“Sure, whatever you say,” Daniel said, brushing me off. He handed me my backpack and smiled. “You can go now, I just wanted to make sure everything was alright.”

“It’s nothing serious though, okay!” I yelled as I closed my room’s door.

***

“I’m glad you decided to come to the game today,” Dad said, tousling my hair. “I knew you’d come around eventually.”

“I’m just here to support Daniel,” I mumbled, frowning a little. Dad wouldn’t be happy to know that the real reason I came was mainly because I liked a guy who was playing.

“That’s how you start falling in love with the sport,” Dad said, chuckling. “Let’s go get some food, a man needs to eat.”

Dad, Mom, and I walked over to the food stand from the parking lot. It wasn’t too crowded as we had come early to grab the best seats. However, there was still a sizable line at the food stand. I looked over at the menu to see that there were all the staples of football food.

“Wish they had beer,” Dad grunted. “I’ll get some nachos and some Pepsi. Dear, what are you going to get?”

“I’ll just get a hot dog,” Mom said, nodding. “God, the food here is expensive.”

“Well, football costs a lot to organize, the school needs money for its athletics department,” Dad said. “How about you, Jacob? What do you want to eat?”

“No thanks, I’m full,” I said. I was pretty small so I usually only ate one meal a day. I knew we’d have dinner after this game, so I didn’t feel the need to eat right now.

“Come on, you need to get bigger,” he disappointedly stared down at me, as he stood far taller than me.

“Dad,” I said, exasperated. “I said no.”

“Fine,” he said, sighing. Dad picked up the nachos, hot dog, and pop from the girl working at the food stand. “Let’s go get our seats now.”

“Excuse me, young lady,” I heard an older woman say as she lightly touched my shoulders to move past me. I had walked backward without turning around and almost bumped into her.

“That’s my son,” Dad said, instantly turning his head in her direction.

“Sorry,” the woman said, quickly looking up and down to inspect me before turning around to leave. “I thought he was a girl.”

“We really need to cut that hair of yours,” Dad said, shaking his head while looking down at me. “It’s getting far too long.”

“I don’t want to,” I said. It had taken a while to grow out my hair and I didn’t want to wear a wig or anything. I quite liked my natural hair, it was really soft and I took a lot of care of it.

Dad just grunted, clearly still annoyed that I was “mistaken” for a girl. “Let’s get our seats on the bleachers, Jacob. We’re early enough so let’s get some near the sidelines, behind the school’s bench.”

I followed Dad as we weaved between the crowd of people to get to our seats. “Here we are,” Dad said as he sat down. He patted the seats next to him, where Mom and I sat.

“Did you read up on the rules of football, Jacob?” my Dad asked.

“No, I have no clue.”

“It’s okay, I’ll teach you the basics,” Dad said, sounding kind of excited. “There are four quarters which are fifteen minutes each. There are eleven players on each side, offense and defense, I’ll tell you what each of them does later. The goal of the game is to get the ball into the other team’s end zone. You have four plays, called downs, to move the ball at least ten yards. When you do that, you get another four downs. If you can’t get it that far, the ball is given to the other team.”

I started to zone out, I just came here to see Ryan and Daniel. I couldn’t care less about the rules of the game itself. I rested my head on my hands, half listening to Dad ramble on. The bleachers slowly filled in, as more and more people started to come. I hadn’t noticed how early we came until I had been waiting twenty minutes and the game still hadn’t started. After another few minutes, most of the seats were filled with parents and students.

Finally. the cheerleaders ran onto the field, waving their pom-poms in the air. A loud cheering erupted, as it marked the start of the game. They began to do their routine, doing an elaborate series of jumps and dances. They all wore a two-piece uniform consisting of a cute black and gray top reading Westside Coyotes and a skirt. I couldn’t help but be a little jealous. Sure, I didn’t really want to be a cheerleader, but those outfits looked so nice. I dreamily stared at them until I saw the football players start taking the field.

The cheerleaders had moved to the side of the field and were holding up a massive sheet of paper with the school’s mascot coyote printed on it. After a few seconds, all the football players ripped through and took the field. Dad cheered the loudest, standing up and yelling out for Daniel.

“Dad, maybe you should be a cheerleader,” I said, giggling. “You can be Daniel’s personal one.”

“Me, a cheerleader,” Dad grunted, taking a seat. He pointed at himself and his beard. “I don’t think that’s a suggestion you should make.”

After a few minutes, the game eventually started against the Wildwood Pirates. I watched the game, confused as to what was going on. After a while, I just had to ask.

“What’s even going on?” I yelled over the crowd. All I saw were a bunch of sweaty guys bumping into each other.

“I’ll teach you some more,” Dad said in his booming voice. “Our team is on the offense right now. We’re on our third down out of four. We have three yards to go to get a first down. Now your brother here is the quarterback, which means he gets the ball and controls the play.”

The words eventually turned to mush in my brain. I just decided to cheer when the ball moved forwards on our side and boo when the ball went backward. I mostly focused on looking at Ryan, although it was hard to pinpoint where he was on the field under all the padding and the helmet.

Daniel did throw to Ryan a lot, more so than any of the other players on the field. Dad explained that that was because Ryan was the main wide receiver. In the third quarter, it seemed like another normal play with Daniel moving away from the guys protecting him and mostly standing alone, looking down the field. I looked too and saw Ryan running past a defender and soon the ball was flying towards him.

He caught the ball with plenty of space between him and the defender chasing him. Ryan quickly changed his angle and started running down the field, looking back every so often. Another defender managed to catch up close to the end zone and dived toward Ryan. Ryan smoothly jumped past the lunging defender, landed gracefully on his feet, and kept on going toward the end zone by himself.

He eventually got to it and started celebrating, letting the ball roll out of his control after the whistle was blown. He quickly looked over towards the bench in my direction and pointed toward me. It was hard to see the smile underneath the helmet but I knew he was smiling at me. “Let’s go!” I yelled, pumping my fist in the air. I smiled, glad that he acknowledged me during his biggest play. I heard Dad cheering next to me, getting up and clapping his hands.

“That’s my boy,” Dad said, chuckling while sitting back down. “What a great pass.”

“Don’t you think Ryan was good as well?” I asked, wanting him to get some acknowledgment too. “He weaved through the defense pretty well.”

Dad leaned back. “Well, that wide receiver is pretty good too but if it wasn’t for Daniel’s pass, the play never would’ve happened.”

I sighed and shook my head, there would be no convincing Dad that Daniel wasn’t the best player on the field. I got annoyed a little by hearing Dad’s incessant cheering every time Daniel even moved a finger. I continued to watch the game, still having no clue what was going on, but the game stayed close. With only fifteen seconds left in the fourth quarter, Westside was down by four points, 28-24.

“Shit,” Dad said, tapping his leg on the ground. “The game’s close but we’re only eight yards from the end zone.”

“And that means?” I asked, trailing off.

“Were you not listening to anything I said?” Dad asked, exasperated. “This is the final chance we have to make a touchdown to avoid losing. We need to make it to the end zone to win.”

“Oh,” I said. “So we have to score here.”

“Yes,” Dad said.

“Hopefully we score then,” I said, turning my attention to the game. The play started, with Daniel holding the ball and all the pressure. He took only a second or two before passing it to Ryan, who had made a cut from the right and was right next to the end zone. He dove with his hands open to catch the ball. He caught it right as he slid into the endzone as the timer ran out. I saw Ryan stand up and throw the football on the ground, letting it fly into the air. He was immediately tackled by all his teammates as they celebrated.

“That’s game!” Dad yelled as the crowd absolutely erupted. “That’s game. I knew my son could do it.”

I couldn’t help but be swept into the excitement as well, cheering along with the crowd. The home crowd was as loud as could be, threatening my eardrums with tinnitus. I saw the opposing team dejectedly walk back to the locker room as our team walked back to the locker room high-fiving each other. Daniel and Ryan came back out barely a minute or two after, both of them in shorts and a top. I rushed towards them, excited to talk to Ryan.

“Julie, shit,” Ryan said, holding both my hands with his as we caught up to one another. “That was crazy. I can’t believe I actually did that, do you feel my heart beating?”

He grabbed one of my hands and put it onto his chest, the only thing separating me from bare skin being a thin black tank top. I could feel his warmth, something that sent warmth rushing to my cheeks as well. “Um, yeah, I feel it, alright,” I stuttered out, embarrassed.

“Fuck,” Ryan said, laughing. “I still can’t believe it, wow.”

“Yeah it was insane,” I said. My hands were still being held by his, the softness of mine contrasting with his rough skin. “I thought the game was over.”

“Who’s this?” my Dad asked, he and Mom had caught up with Daniel. I quickly moved my hands behind my back to make sure Dad wouldn’t see. Ryan had had his back to my dad though, which should’ve blocked his view. “You have a new friend here, Jacob? Oh, Ryan.”

“Hello, Sir,” Ryan said after turning around, shaking my Dad’s hand.

“Wait, wait,” I said, holding up both of my hands in confusion. “You two already know each other?”

“Of course,” Dad said, laughing. “Daniel brings the team around often and I made sure to get to know all of them. Need to see the type of people my son plays with.”

“Oh,” I said. I had almost forgotten as Daniel hadn’t brought his friends over in a while. I was always in my room with the door closed so as to not be disturbed whenever they did come over anyways.

“How did you two meet anyways?” Dad asked, furrowing his brows.

Ryan looked at me, clearly not knowing how to answer. “We’re both in the literature club,” I blurted out. “People there are actually pretty nice, and I got to know Ryan better.”

“Literature club,” Dad said. “Well, it’s good that you’re making friends with Ryan, I hope he’ll influence you in a good way.”

I sighed, wondering when Dad would give up on his delusional dreams of making me into some masculine guy. The thought of having that type of body myself made me sick to my stomach. The thought that I was still slowly masculinizing scared me. I wouldn’t be this young and feminine forever.

“Hello, you there?” Ryan asked, waving a hand over my face. “You blanked out for a while there.”

“Oh, yeah,” I said, blinking. I had gotten too caught up in my own thoughts. “Yeah, I’m here.”

“We should get going,” Dad said. “Good job on the play, Ryan.”

“Oh, thank you,” Ryan said, looking slightly disappointed. He looked at me and waved. “Bye, then!”

“How about we grab some food at a restaurant?” Dad asked, turning to Mom who was right beside him.

“Sure,” Mom said, stretching. “I don’t quite want to cook today anyways.”

***

“Now, tell me what you were thinking on that last play,” Dad said, a beaming smile on his face as he leaned in towards Daniel.

“I was just looking at every player on the field, looking for who had a path to the end zone,‘ Daniel said, finishing up a piece of chicken he was eating. “It was like time itself slowed down until I saw Ryan on the right running to the end zone. I passed it as best as I could to him, and well the rest you saw.”

“That’s my boy,” Dad said, laughing loudly. “That was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.”

“That was pretty good, Daniel,” I said, smiling.

“Oh, I forgot,” he said, a wide grin appearing on his face as well. “Thank you for coming to the game today, you have no idea how much I appreciate it.”

“Of course,” I said. I looked away, a little embarrassed over the true reason why I came to the game. But Daniel didn’t need to know that.

“Maybe you can take Daniel’s spot as quarterback next year,” Dad said, giving me a friendly slap on the back, causing me to almost drop the piece of half-eaten chicken I held in my hands. Dad was a lot stronger than I had expected. I frowned, the last thing I wanted to be was one of those massive muscle-bound football players.

“Dad, I don’t think this,” I said, gesturing at my scrawny body. “Would make for much of a quarterback.”

“Nonsense,” he said. “Puberty will hit you sooner than later. You’ll end up like Daniel or me given just a little time.”

I was on the verge of tears after that comment, mostly because what he said wasn’t wrong. It did make no sense for me to be this small when my genes dictated me to be big. It was going to hit at some point and I was scared of when that would happen.

“Dad, I don’t think that’s what Jacob wants,” Daniel said, looking a little concerned as he saw my face. “Let’s leave him out of this just for today.”

“Fine,” Dad said, scowling. “I was just concerned.”

I grimaced. Coming out to Dad was going to be difficult, to say the least. I didn’t even want to imagine his reaction to it.

***

As soon as I got home I opened up my computer and searched for places to get hormone replacement therapy near me. I was going to need it sooner than later. I sighed, I needed to be an adult in order to get it on my own. I still had almost an entire year left until my eighteenth birthday, and I didn’t want to wait that long. Puberty could hit hard and strong at any point, and I didn’t want to risk it. I nodded to myself, I was going to have to muster up the courage to tell Mom and Dad at some point. I just hoped it would work out.

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