"So, the offer's open, if you want to come," Chuck said, leaning in the window as he closed the door to Sarah's car.
"Sure, it sounds like fun . . . and it will be good for the cover," Sarah answered, with a small smile.
"Are you sure?" Chuck sounded a little surprised. "It'll probably be pretty lame. I think it will just be a couple of Awesome's friends, and they're just a bunch of meatheads whose idea of a having a good time is giving me a noogie. Plus, we are talking about the most important day of the year for the meathead population. The amount of testosterone in the room might be a little overwhelming."
"I'm pretty sure I can handle myself around a little testosterone," Sarah said, with a little condescension in her voice. "Besides, its un-American to miss the Superbowl. I'll be over at three o'clock."
By two-thirty, Chuck was sorry he had even invited Sarah over. Six of Awesome's friends had arrived with two cases of cheap beer and five-dozen Buffalo wings, and immediately took over the living room, tossing a football and diving into the cheese plate Ellie had laid out. Chuck saw Ellie angrily throw the wings onto a plate, and then storm back into the kitchen to finish up the appetizers she had been working on all morning. Chuck tried to retreat into the kitchen as well, but instead he found himself trapped in the corner by a football flying in between Mike and Chris, two of Awesome's college buddies.
"Hey, Chuckles, heard you finally got yourself a girlfriend," Chris said, tossing the football to Mike, barely missing the lamp by the couch.
"Yup," Chuck answered, distractedly trying to right the wobbling lampshade.
"I don't believe it. Where did you find her, a Nerd Convention?" Mike asked with a mean laugh. Chuck wasn't a fan of any of Awesome's friends, but most of them were pretty harmless. Mike, on the other hand, seemed like he actually took joy out of belittling Chuck.
"Yeah, we have those every year. We sit around and talk to each other in binary code," Chuck responded, the contempt dripping from his voice.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Mike said, tossing the ball to Chris. "Can't wait to see her. I'm sure she's a real looker. She's going to watch the game with us, right? Or are you two lovebirds just going to play World of Warcraft all night?"
The doorbell rang at that moment, and Chuck decided to just ignore Mike's question. He slipped past the flying football, and opened the door.
Even though they had known each other for months, he was still blown away by the sight of her sometimes. She was dressed in just jeans and an emerald green t-shirt, but she looked stunning. Chuck couldn't help but smile as he imagined what the expression on Mike's face must be.
"Hi sweetie!" Sarah gave him a quick kiss, selling their relationship to everyone in the room. "I brought some dessert, where should I put it?" She looked around at the already-chaotic scene, then gave Chuck a small nod, showing her agreement that, yes, Awesome's friends were a little less than awesome.
Chuck had to admit that he enjoyed watching the shock on the guys' faces when they met Sarah. These were the guys who had mercilessly teased him for the last three years, always acting like they were still the big men on campus, and Chuck was their annoying little brother. Now they were falling all over themselves in front of Sarah, and for the first time Chuck felt a little admiration from them. When Sarah brought the dessert into the kitchen, Chuck felt a slap on his back that nearly knocked the wind out of him.
"I didn't think you had it in you, Chuckles," Mike said, his eyes following Sarah. "Maybe I need to head to one of those Nerd Conventions."
"I'll send you a brochure."
Chuck brought in the chips and dip, and found the guys already spread out on the couch and all of the chairs. Finding himself a large pillow from the couch, he tossed it onto the floor next to Mike's abandoned football, and stretched out on the carpet. The game was only a minute in, and the Patriots had already intercepted Green Bay's ball. Chuck didn't care about either team, nor did he really care about football in general. Awesome's friends were rooting for the Patriots, however, so Chuck decided to root for the Packers. Chuck crossed his arms behind his head, and prepared to zone out for a few hours.
He unexpectedly felt Sarah's hair tickle his face, and suddenly she was lying next to him. "Move over," she said, placing her head on his arm. Chuck scooted over to allow her more room on the pillow, but her face was still just inches from his, and Chuck couldn't help but notice every point of contact with her body—her head on his arm, her hip touching his, and her bent knees gently bobbed against his every once in a while. It wasn't much, but Chuck was sure that this was the closest physically that they had ever been for an extended period of time. He was suddenly very nervous.
"What did I miss?" Sarah asked, turning towards Chuck.
Her small movement made Chuck even more aware of her proximity. "Not much, the Patriots intercepted the ball," Chuck answered, noting that his voice was an octave higher than usual.
"What?!" Sarah said, abruptly sitting up.
"Well, you see Sarah," Mike said from the couch, reaching for another wing. "The team wearing green and yellow, they're the Packers. And the quarterback was throwing the ball to someone on his team, but one of the Patriots, in the white and blue, he caught the ball instead. So that's called an interception, and the team in white gets the ball." He gave her what he surely thought was a charming smile, and settled back, waiting for her to thank him for the edification.
Chuck looked from Sarah to Mike, eagerly awaiting Sarah's reaction. He had no idea if Sarah knew anything about football, but he had spent enough time with her to know that she wouldn't put up with being treated like an idiot.
Sarah gave Mike a tight smile. "Thanks, what was it again—Matt? But I know what an interception is. I was just expressing surprise because Brett Favre, a man who has led the Green Bay Packers through sixteen amazing seasons, has never thrown an interception during a post-season game, much less on the opening drive. But if I have any more questions about the players' uniforms, I'll be sure to let you know." She grabbed the football next to her and threw a perfect spiral, hitting Mike directly in the chest.
"Oof," he said, as the ball bounced off of him. Mike's smarmy smile was quickly replaced by an open-mouthed gape. "Okay," he said meekly. "It's um, Mike."
Sarah laid back down, and when Chuck looked over, they shared a silent laugh. Sarah was close enough to smell her shampoo, and Mike had been appropriately cut down to size. He decided that maybe this football game wouldn't be that bad after all.
As the game continued, Chuck learned a few new things about Sarah. First, she loved Ellie's seven layer dip. Second, she took football very seriously, and could explain all of the complicated minutiae when an obscure foul was called on a Patriot cornerback. Third, she was a huge Packers fan. She wasn't loud and obnoxious, like Awesome's buddies, who spilled their beer giving each other high-fives every time the Patriots scored, but she exhibited the same level of concentration watching the game as she did when she was defusing a bomb. When Green Bay ran a running play, she whispered "runrunrunrunrun" to herself, and bit her lip every time a referee reviewed an important call. Chuck found himself rooting along with her, partly because her enthusiasm was infectious, and partly because whenever Favre threw a huge pass, Sarah grabbed his hand and squeezed tight. She was too tense to lie down on the floor anymore, so they sat up, leaning against Ellie's chair. Chuck noticed, however, that when Chris had to leave early, and his seat on the couch was vacated, Sarah stayed next to him on the floor.
"Sarah, I didn't know you were such a fan," Ellie commented after Sarah's small celebration when Tom Brady was sacked. "I thought you were from D.C. What's the connection with Green Bay?"
Chuck glanced at Sarah. He had wondered the same thing, but had known better than to ask. A slight blush rose from her cheeks. "I don't know. I never liked the Redskins. I guess I just liked the Packers' pretty green uniforms," she said, smiling sweetly at Mike. "So Ellie, this dip is phenomenal. Did you make your own guacamole?"
Chuck noticed the quick change of subject, and knew that his original assumption that Sarah didn't want to talk about this detail of her life—her real life—was correct. He did have to wonder, though. Did she grow up in the Midwest? When she was a teenager, was she one of those crazy fans, freezing to death in subzero weather, watching her favorite team with a big slice of foam cheese on her head? The thought made him smile, and he decided to add that mental image to the version of Sarah's backstory that he had been trying to piece together.
The end of the game was exciting, but it all came down to a review of a questionable touchdown the Packers scored in the last five seconds.
Sarah turned towards Chuck and buried her face against his shoulder. "I feel sick. I can't watch." Chuck had to laugh at how seriously she was taking the game, and mockingly put his arms around her. "Don't worry, everything is going to be okay!" He said, in an overly dramatic fashion.
She looked up, and narrowed her eyes as she saw the laugher in his face. "Are you mocking me and my beloved Packers?"
Chuck stopped laughing and looked at her with a serious expression. "Yes."
Sarah gave Chuck a playful punch in the chest, although Sarah's "playful" punches were enough to give Chuck a coughing fit. His reaction made her laugh, and as Chuck continued with his mixture of laughter and coughing, she had to laugh even harder.
"Guys, you missed it. The call's good. Game over," Ellie said from the chair above them.
"What?!" Sarah looked incredulously at Ellie, and then the television. The confetti was flying, and a reporter was already interviewing Brett Favre on the field. "We won!"
"We won!" Chuck had never understood how someone could get emotionally involved in a professional sports team, but just then, he felt elated. It must have been the excitement of the moment, combined with the fact that he already had his arms around Sarah, but without even thinking about it, he put his hands on her face and gave her a long kiss.
It wasn't their first kiss—they had had a few for show, and then there was that one amazing kiss, but he had spent so much time analyzing it, and they had spent so much time arguing over it, it didn't even seem like it had actually happened. This kiss, though, to Chuck, was perfect. It wasn't a lie, or a I'm-scared-I'm-going-to-die kiss. It just was what it was—they had been close all afternoon, they were happy, and it seemed so natural.
Afterwards, Chuck let his arms drop, but Sarah didn't pull away, or close down emotionally as she had before. She was still smiling, and Chuck breathed a deep sigh of relief when he realized that his kiss hadn't ruined the moment. He didn't know what to say. His mind raced for some witty comment, but his mind was blank. Finally, after he realized he had been staring at Sarah a little too long, he blurted out the first thing that came to his mind.
-To Be Continued-