It was the games like this that everyone hated. The rain was pouring, the air was freezing, and the lights were bright. My adrenaline was rushing. We had less than a minute to go. We were winning but if they made this touch down, they would win. They were so close to the yard line that you could almost touch it. It was kind of funny, even with all the faces. I could see Soda shivering next to his foster Father Rick.
Danny slapped my helmet. "Get ready rookie!"
I wasn't the only rookie. I had no clue why he called me that. Maybe because I was the freshman that played the most.
The whistle blew. I watched as the other team scattered the field. They did a sneak play. I charged the receiver. I could hear the crowd and the coach screaming at me. I leaped to tackle him. I didn't think I had made it in time until Danny hauled me to my feet.
"What the hell was that? What are you, superman? You just flew." He was shaking my helmet.
The stadium seemed to be in chaos. People were on their feet screaming, the students were jumping. There was screaming from the rival team too.
"Darrel Curtis makes the tackle with a win," it was one of the announcers.
"Where's his next stop? The NFL?" The other one said.
"Come on!" Danny and a few others grabbed me pushing in me toward the water barrels. I grinned it was tradition, our team wins the coach get's soaked even though today he already was. We dumped them out on our coach and took off toward the changing room.
"Curtis, there's a reporter with the newspaper here to see you," Coach called.
I followed Coach Brown to his office, and found a middle aged man with light brown hair sitting at the desk.
"My name is Charlie; that was one hell of a game."
I smiled taking a seat. "Thanks."
"Is it true you turned down Notre Dame?"
"Yeah it is." I replied.
"Why? They are one of the best teams."
"My parent's died in a car accident, a collision with a train a while back, I lost the custody battle for my two brothers, I wasn't about to leave them either. Not to mention it was expenisive."
"I'm sorry." It wasn't one of those half assed apologies either. "What would you have done if you would have had been granted custody."
"Worked, and raised a sixteen and a thirteen year old," I answered sincerely.
"Where are you now? Frats? Dorms? Degrees? You know besides being the football hero."
"No fraternity, and no dorming. I live with four others at my house. You should know one, Danny Pinto. I'm majoring in architecture. I roof houses between seasons part time."
"What about the love life?"
I let out a laugh. "No not currently."
"How does it feel setting records? Being known as the hero?"
"If it is a good feeling."
He went on to ask more questions. I felt antsy. I had Soda waiting outside. I had a party to go to. He finally finished and I shook his hand.
I found Soda pretty quickly most of the people had cleared out. He was standing next to Steve with Sandy and Evie.
"Darry!" Matt my room came running up from behind before I could approach anyone. His black hair greased back. "Hey, the girl and I, think you could find some place to stay tonight. It's our five years tonight."
"You can stay with us," Soda said.
We went to the fraternity to party. Soda was allowed there as long as I took him, and as long as he didn't do anything illegal. He got along with everybody just fine. I made sure he didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to. I also didn't touch a drink as long as he was there. I noticed something though he was smoking a lot more than usual.
"What's with that?" I asked. We had left the party, and taken Sandy home. We were on our way back to his foster house.
"With what?" Soda asked. He inhaled deeply.
"You know I had some dream last night. We were together, with Mom and Dad at the house. Darry, I wrote Pony nearly two weeks ago. I've gotten nothing back. He doesn't return my calls. The gang and I went all the way out to the farm two days ago. They said he didn't want to see us. What's going on?" Soda was close to tears by now. "I lost my Mom and Dad; why do I have to lose my baby brother?"
"Come here little buddy," I extended my arm outward. He slid in to it. I parked my car in the driveway. I saw about five faces in the door. They must of thought he was with Sandy. I saw Charlotte; his foster Mom come to the door and brush the kids away.
Soda wiped his tears away, he drew in a few quivering breaths. "We better go inside." He put his cigarettes in the inside of his jacket.
His foster parents were nice people, genuinely good. Rick was a Doctor. Charlotte stayed at home. They had six kids other than Soda, four which they had adopted one in the process. They had offered it to Soda but he informed them that at eighteen he was going to be with his brother. That was our plans, he would move back into the house with me, and we'd wait until Pony was eighteen, unless I could get him before then, but those chances were slim to none. The best thing about them was that they were twenty minutes away. Unlike Pony, he was almost a two-hour drive in the country.
Rick was sitting in his chairs with two little ones on his lap reading to them. A few of the older ones were watching some special.
"Darry is staying tonight," Soda announced.
Charlotte jumped up and hugged me. "I'm going to put some coffee on and cake. Come tell me about this game, Rick hasn't stopped talking."
Soda and I took a seat at the table. He just sort of leaned his head on his fist and starred into nowhere. It didn't take Charlotte long to see that something was up. She pushed back the strands of hair that had escaped from the grease. I closed my eyes and pictured my Mom doing the same thing.
"What's wrong sweetie?" She asked. "You sick or something? I've never seen you this quite.
Soda shook his head. "I'm tired. Good night," he bolted out of the room.
Charlotte looked at me with wide eyes. "What happened? That girl do something to him?" She wasn't a fan of Sandy. I could tell from day one.
"No, neither one of us have heard from Pony in a long time. Pony's foster parent's said that he didn't want to talk to his brothers anymore."
"I knew things would slow down with him when school stared. All the sudden I never see him. I got letters but barely any calls. Then the calls stopped. I haven't gotten a letter. I've written to him and I've called him. They tell me he's not home. I went to child services to talk to them. Want to know what they told me? They told me I should be happy, that my little brother probably stopped grieving, and that I should be thrilled that he has found a new family." I found tears welding in my eyes now.
Charlotte tucked her soft brown hair behind her ears. "Our first foster child was John, he stayed with us for three years, and then his parent's got custody. At first we saw him three times a week and received calls daily. Then we didn't see him so much. Soon we only got calls. One day the calls stopped. As much as it hurt to know we were no longer part of his life. We were happy. He was with his own family."
"What are you telling me? I tried for custody. I want to hear from my baby brother. I hear from Soda everyday. Do you know what this is like? I worry, I wonder if he is all right, it, I worry if they talk to him about our parents, how he's dealing, I worry if he fell off his bike and is laying in a ditch. I wonder who his new friends are, if he's living up to his new potential. No one has heard from him, not even Johnny!" I didn't want to get angry, but I couldn't help it.
Rick poked his head in. "I'm tucking the younger ones in and turning in. Good night Darry and great game."
I smiled now feeling embarrassed that Rick saw me with tears on my face. He graduated from my college, and was a season ticket holder. "Thanks."
"I would give it up, all up just to be with them."
"You can't worry like this. You'll be like Rick and go gray before you time," she grinned.
I would have said something but headlights shinning through the window distracted us. "Who is that this time of night?" I asked getting up.
Charlotte shook her head. "I don't know," she said.
I opened the door with Charlotte close behind me. I recognized the guy running out of the car. It was Matt my roommate. He stopped at the porch steps breathing hard and running his fingers through his greasy hair.
"I got no clue what's going on. You need to get to the children's hospital right away. I've had nurses, doctors and now police. It's Pony, it has to be."