In Odessa, Texas, football was a way of life. It was no different for Lily Winchell and her family, her twin brother, Mike, played football for the Permian Panthers, and she was a water-girl and trainer for the team. Now it was time for their senior year, their last year to bring home a state title. This is her story.
Every morning at breakfast Lily and her mother would help Mike memorize plays. They would test him repeatedly. This had become a ritual every football season for as long as Lily could remember. This morning, her mother was testing Mike while Lily was getting ready for cheerleading. Although Mike and Lily were twins, they were fraternal so they didn't look very much alike, Lily had the same dark hair as Mike, but had bright blue eyes, her lips were fuller, and then of course was the matter of them being different genders.
Lily would always go to practices with Mike, even if it wasn't required of her. Today they made their way to Ratliff stadium.
Lily grinned as she saw Boobie, Don, Brian, and everyone else "Hey boys" she greeted them, putting her dark hair into a pony tail "Ready to get down to business?"
They all just kind of looked at her and grinned as they made their way into Ratliff Stadium. As the boys were in the locker room getting ready for practice, Lily took a spot on the bench, waiting for something to do. Seeing all of the scouts out watching the players while she was sitting there made her nervous for all of the boys, especially her brother. She knew how much he desperately wanted to get out of Odessa. Then there was her best friend Don, she knew that he needed to get away, away from the town, and away from his father.
Her stomach tightened as she saw Don mess up a play and Charlie make is way down from the stands. She knew what was going to happen, and she knew it wouldn't be pretty. It started out innocent enough, with Flippy following Charlie.
Thank God for Flippy, nobody else would put up with Charlie and his bullshit, she thought.
Then she saw Charlie grab him and throw him to the ground. He was yelling and hitting him. Somebody stop him she pleaded to Brian with her eyes and he moved in between Don and Charlie. Finally, it broke up and Flippy took Charlie back to the stands. The boys went into a huddle, and Lily went back to taping one freshman's wrist. She had returned to her spot on the sideline when she saw Don and Boobie start going at it.
Boobie has such a big mouth, poor Donnie, it's not like he doesn't get enough of it at home.
After all of that drama was over, a reporter came over to interview her. "You're Mike Winchell's twin?" he asked,
"Yes, I am."
"And do you think the boys are going to win state this year?"
"I think it's going to take a whole lot of hard work, but I think they'll do it, I know they'll do it. Now if you'll excuse me, I kind of have to get back to practice."
"Who's that hot chick the news people are talking to?" asked Zach, a Senior who had just transferred from out of state.
Mike and Donnie looked to the side of the field and saw he was talking about Lily, then turned and faced the boy.
"She is off limits," said Mike.
"Why? She your girlfriend or something?" Zack asked, taking on a cocky tone.
"She's my twin sister," Mike said threateningly.
"Don't you touch her," Donnie said, "It's not just us you'll have to answer to… it's the whole team."
Zach paled a little, but recovered his swagger, "Chill out, I won't touch her."
She never really understood why they wanted to interview her. When practice was over Coach Gaines gave a speech. Lily stood close enough so that she could hear what he was saying. She loved Coach Gaines for his somewhat quiet leadership; she loved to listen to his speeches. One thing from this one rang in her head "Can you be perfect?"
After practice was over, Mike took himself and Lily home to shower off and change in order to go to get some burgers with some of the boys, and to pick up some food for their mother. Lily left her hair down, falling in loose curls and put on a denim skirt and a simple button up with some cowboy boots. When Mike called for her, she grabbed her purse and got in the car. The place was busy, as usual. After they had been sitting there, she saw Don pour something into his cup and she knew that it was more than just Coke.
Don started to take Mike's cup and do the same "Naw, I'm alright"
"Come on man, live a little. What about you Lily, you want some?"
Lily was about to answer when she saw Mike glare at her "No, I'd better not Donnie."
Then she heard Brian "He's not going out tonight either."
But Donnie said "Yeah he is. Mike you're going out tonight and if I have anything to say about it you're gonna get laid too."
"Oh God, can we please not talk about this in front of me, I don't want to know about his… habits. Gross." said Lily with a look of disgust.
"Sorry Lil" said Donnie "But you're going out with us tonight too."
Lily was about to come back with some sarcastic remark when she heard the screeching of tires.
"Billingsley, Billingsley, party at Taylor's house now Billingsley. You'd better be there! Get wasted! Party at Taylor's house! Billingsley!"
Lily couldn't help but snicker under her breath, but when Brian said, "Isn't that guy like thirty-five?" it turned into a full-blown giggle.
Then the owner of Buddy's came out with some food for her mother and Lily laughed as Don argued about how he never got free food, even though their meal that night was free.
"You're not going home Mike" said Don.
"We ain't going out drunk foolin" he replied.
"How about I bring your mom some dinner so you can come out with us because we're going to get laid, gonna get drunk, and we're gonna win state, but not tonight." With that, Don got up from the table.
"We've been blessed Mike, we've got a runner and he's gonna make us all look good. All you gotta do is exist in the few seconds between the snap and getting Boobie the ball. So lighten up a little." said Brian.
Lily knew that after hearing that, Mike would probably go to the party. She nudged Brian and mouthed "Thank You" and he gave her a wink.
Then someone came up to the table. Lily knew she had seen him before, but couldn't think of his name. He started talking to Mike and shot a "Hi Lily" her way. Lily had to try not to laugh when she saw her brother awkwardly holding a baby, and then the look on his face when he told him to look after the baby for a while.
When Mike turned to Christian "You wanna go to that party, just for a little bit", she knew that they were going, then when she saw Christian shoot a small smile.
"Yes!" she cheered jumping in the air slightly.
The party was really crowded, tons of people packed into the house. It smelled of cigarettes and booze. At first, Lily was standing with her brother and Christian, but then she saw Melissa approaching and walked away to get a drink before she said something that would get her into trouble. First, she saw Brian making out with some girl, and watched as Donnie funneled a beer.
"Let me try?" she asked Don with a sweet smile.
"Anything for you Lil" came his reply.
She placed the hose between her lips and closed her eyes as they poured the beer into the funnel, she knew that she had to stand still and drink it all so it wouldn't go in her hair or on her clothes. Don was surprised when he saw her funnel it like a champ.
"Damn Lily, you never told me you could do that!"
She smiled "And don't you dare tell Mike" with that she walked away, grabbing a cup of beer on the way out.
She was on her way to find her brother or Christian when she was intercepted by a new guy from the football team, the same one that Donnie and Mike had warned not to touch her.
"Hey," he said, "You're Mike's sister right?"
Lily sighed, she hated to be known as "Mike's sister" or "Mike's twin". "Yeah, that's me," she said finally, "And you are?"
"I'm Joe, I just moved here from New Jersey," he said.
"Oh, well it's nice to meet you… but I've got to go find my brother," she said.
"Wait," he said, grabbing her hand lightly as she tried to walk away, "Would it hurt you to get a Jello shot or two with me. I thought you Southern girls were supposed to be all about hospitality and all that."
Lily carefully weighed her options. She could go get those shots with Joe, who she barely knew… but who probably also barely knew about her family, which was something that was hard to come by in Odessa. Or she could choose to not go, and… well she didn't know what would happen, but choosing to go seemed like a pretty good option.
"Fine," she said with a smile, "I'd hate to give the rest of us Southern ladies a bad name."
After doing the Jello shots, somehow Joe convinced her to go out on the back porch and talk.
"So do you have a boyfriend?" he asked.
"You sure don't waste any time do you?" she questioned sarcastically, "But no, I don't. My brother has made sure that all of the football players know not to touch me, and the football players have made sure that all of the other guys know not to touch me."
"Well they haven't made sure that I know," he said, leaning towards her.
She put her finger up, stopping her lips from meeting hers.
"I don't think so Joe," she said.
They continued to talk, Joe only talking about himself and how he was a "legend" at his other school.
"And this one time I…" but Lily had stopped listening, she was just smiling and nodding and was utterly bored.
"Well, it was good meeting and talking to you, but I've got to go find Mike, I'll see you around," she said, adding that last part, but hoping it wouldn't be true.
"Alright, well are you sure you don't want me to drive you home?" he asked.
"My brother always drives me home," she said, "I've really got to go."
He leaned in and kissed her softly on the lips, "I'll see you then."
She tried to hide her disgust, "Yeah, later," she said, and walked off.
After she found her way back to her brother, they decided to leave. Mike decided to go over to Christian's for a while, so he took Lily home and rode with Christian to his house. When Lily got home, she thanked God that her mother was asleep and she got into the shower and got ready for bed. She was almost asleep when she heard a soft knock on her window. She looked outside and saw Don without a shirt and with duct tape stuck to his hands; she walked over to her window and opened it, letting him in quietly.
"Mom's asleep, and Mike won't be here 'til later. Stay in here, I'll get the first aid kit." Don was seated on her bed when she returned, "What happened?" she asked as she gingerly started peeling off the tape.
"I was hooking up with Maria and knocked over a lamp, he came out and started yelling at me, so I yelled back and he taped a football to my arms and started trying to beat it out of the tape. Maria left and Flippy got him to go back to bed, and…"
Not knowing what else to do, Lily wrapped her best friend into a hug and whispered, "I'm sorry Donnie, you shouldn't have to deal with all of that. Come here whenever you need to, my window is always open." She let go with a soft smile "Now let's try to get you fixed up, you're staying here tonight, so don't argue."
When she finished she handed him a towel, now go get that party smell off of you, I'll give you some of Mike's clothes to sleep in; she went into Mike's room and returned with some boxers a t-shirt and shorts for Don.
"Thanks Lil" he said, giving her a hug, "You're the best."
"Just remember this when I need a favor from you, and we'll be even. Deal?" She stuck out her hand.
"Deal" he said as he shook it.
When Don had gotten out of the shower and changed into all but the shirt, he walked back into Lily's room and saw that she had pulled her day bed out so that he would have a place to sleep, and that she was already sleeping lightly on the pull-out bed.
"Night Donnie, sweet dreams" she yawned, as she rolled over and went to sleep.
"Yeah, sweet dreams," mumbled Don as he fell asleep breathing in the scent of Lily's shampoo off her pillow.
The next morning Don woke up first, he rolled over to look at the other bed to see if Lily was up. He knew immediately by the rhythmic sound of her breathing that she was still sleeping and not just laying there with her eyes closed. He noticed how her lips made a perfect bow, like a doll he had seen in Wal-Mart, how her hair was slightly messy, but still pretty and shiny, and most of all how she looked gorgeous without any makeup at all, which was more than he could say about any of the girls he had hooked up with. He thought back to when they were kids, Lily was a tomboy, and always played football with the boys. She was the first to talk to him when his mother sent him to live with his dad. He remembered how her mother would make her do pageants before she got so sick, and how Lily would complain about having to put on a dress. Then he remembered when he, Brian, Mike, and some of the other boys lost a bet and had to go to one of the pageants to watch her. It was that day that he realized how beautiful Lily Winchell was, she blew all of the other girls out of the water. He never really understood why he had never made a move on Lily, maybe he was afraid she would slap him, or maybe it was the rejection, maybe because they were so close as friends, but maybe it was because of Mike, she was off limits because she was Mike's sister. He let out a small sigh as he looked at her and noticed she had a piece of hair in her face; he gingerly reached out his hand and brushed it away, trying desperately not to wake her. It was then that she finally stirred a little. He brought his hand back and debated whether or not to pretend to be asleep.
Why am I acting like such a loser? It's just Lily.
However, in his heart he knew that it was not "just Lily" that Lily was something special to him. He closed his eyes, pretending to be asleep just before Lily opened hers.
When Lily woke, she turned her head to the side and assumed that Don was sleeping. She looked at him, watching him; it was then she realized from his breathing that he was awake.
"Morning Donnie, I know you're not sleeping," she said in her morning voice.
He grinned then opened his eyes, "You caught me."
"You stay here, I'm going to go see if Mike ever came home, and if Mom is still asleep, then we'll come up with a game plan. Ok?"
He watched as she got up, noticing for the first time how short her shorts were and how her top came down just enough to show a little of the skin between it and her shorts. He saw her stand on her toes as she walked out the door and across the hall to Mike's room. She knocked on the door and opened it slightly, peeking in; Mike wasn't there. Then she tip toed down the hall to her mother's room and opened the door slightly; she saw her sleeping soundly.
Don heard her coming back to her room, sneaking in the door and closing it lightly behind her "He never came home, and she's still sleeping. So, I can take you home if you want, or you can have breakfast here, and when Mom wakes up, I'll do the talking."
"Whatever you want to do is fine Lil, you know I'll eat anything you cook, but if you don't want to get in trouble with your mom, or Mike, you can take me home."
She bit her lip, a habit for when she thinks, "Breakfast it is then, I can handle Mom and Mike, no problem. However, for this to work, you need to put your jeans on, I washed them, and they're in the dryer. And you should probably put on a shirt too."
She walked out of the room and returned with his jeans and a t-shirt.
"Here, get dressed" she said gathering some clothes for herself for the day, "Stay in here until I come back."
He sat on the bed before deciding to put it back to how it belonged. Making the pull out bed, and then pushing it under before starting to get dressed.
He had just put his jeans on as he heard the door creak open "Oh uh, sorry."
"Lil, it's not like I'm naked, you've seen me in my boxers like a billion times."
She walked into the room and smiled "Yeah, I guess you're right. You made up my bed and fixed it back. Thanks, Donnie!"
He slipped the shirt over his head after pulling up his pants and buttoning them, "No problem" pulling her into a hug.
The next day was the final team workout before school started. Coach Gaines said Lily didn't have to be there, but she knew that the cheerleaders would be making the signs so she decided to help.
While painting, the girls were talking about the team "So Lil, we know that you know all of the boys the best, who would you date out of all of them?" asked Madison.
"Maddie, I am so not answering that."
Then another girl piped in, "That means she has a crush on someone, I know she does! Is it Chavez? It's him isn't it?"
Lily just rolled her eyes "I don't see the point in this conversation."
Then Jenny said, "I bet it's Don, have you seen the way they are together. Besides, I think they'd make the cutest couple." All of the other girls nodded in agreement.
"Whatever, you guys are too much. I'm going to go hang some of these signs up."
"Yeah, go see your lover boy." all of the girls said.
She took the signs for the senior boys and made her way to the locker room. One sign she hung above some of the lockers, and then she made her way to the weight room, where she knew the boys would be lifting.
"Hey guys" she said walking in.
"Hey Lil" they all said.
"I've got the senior sign. I did it myself."
She held it up. She climbed up on a nearby table and stood on her toes to hang the sign up high. The boys watched her, knowing that she was clumsy as everything.
Then Mike said "Lil, are you sure you want to be standing on the table like that, I mean, we could have just stood on a chair and hung it up for you. You're gonna fall."
"Shut up Mike, if I would have gotten you to hang it up, I would have had to go back to the girls sooner, and I really don't want to do that. They're getting on my nerves." Then she mimicked the girls "Lil if you had to pick anyone on the team to date who would it be? Blah blah blah. I swear you guys, that's all they want to know." she said struggling to get the sign even.
Then she backed up a little, misjudging the width of the table and stepped off it. Thank God Don was nearby; he caught her bridal style and held her for probably a second too long.
"Uh thanks Donnie" he set her down.
Then Boobie started "Well I think I know who it is."
Lily rolled her eyes and he continued, "It's me of course, I mean who wouldn't want to date me. I'm the star player."
She pursed her lips and sighed, "Well sorry to burst your bubble, but it's not you. And you guys are just as bad as those girls." With that, she left.
"Great, just great you guys" said Mike "You pissed her off and now I have to take her home and listen to it."
When weight training was done, Lily was waiting for Mike outside the locker room pouting somewhat.
The first day of school came much too quickly for Lily. There was the annual first day pep rally, where they kicked off the football season. Lily loved the games and pep rallies and everything, but hated the school day before them. The anticipation building up made her slightly nervous.
She walked in the school with Don and Mike; they were on the way to their lockers when Karen, a girl in the color guard, stopped them.
"It's you do you like it, do you like it?"
"I think so, what is it?"
"Rice Krispy, you like it right?"
"Yeah I love it, thanks Karen."
"You're welcome" when she left Lily burst into a fit of laughter.
"Oh God, she might as well have said Oh Donnie, I sure love you" as she said it she rubbed her body against his and Don felt his stomach tighten.
Mike smiled and let out a small chuckle at his sister's antics, and Don let out some uncomfortable laughter "Yeah pretty lame huh."
With that, they made their way to their lockers, which were right next to each other. While there, Joe came up to Lily and put his arm around her waist.
Lily gave Don a 'Help Me' look before turning to the boy "Hi Joe."
"Hey Lily, why don't you come with me after the game, I'll show you a good time, I promise."
Lily wracked her brain for an excuse when Don stepped in, grabbing her hand, "She would, but we have plans. Right babe?"
"Right Donnie" and for extra emphasis, she stood on her toes and kissed his cheek.
"I'll see you around Joe," said Donnie with a smirk.
When Joe had walked away, she spoke "Thanks Donnie, I owe ya one."
He winked at her "Now we're even." The rest of the school day went without a hitch.
That night, when Lily got home from painting the run through sign for the opening game, there were some scouts in the living room. Lily just went to her room quietly and stayed in there, knowing that it would make Mike nervous for everyone to be in the small living room. However, that didn't stop her from listening in on the conversation. She was so proud of her brother when they said they were interested. She knew she would be getting out of Odessa, and now her brother may be getting out too.
Then came the first game. Lily could feel the excitement in the air. It was against Marshall. The boys were doing great all throughout the game. She made sure to keep an eye on "her" senior boys. Then she saw Brian making some major tackles and Don going crazy on the sidelines. Then she saw Chris Comer try to run in without a helmet.
"What the hell is he doing?" she said to nobody in particular.
Then Coach Gaines put Boobie back in and he was hit… hard. She could hear him wailing in pain from her spot on the sidelines. She knew it was bad, really bad.
At the end of the game, she snuck over to the boys locker room and cracked open the door to listen. "Alright everybody listen up. He's going to be fine. It's not serious, there's no tear. He'll be back in a week. That's the good news. Even better news, y'all played a great football game tonight, a real good football game." after hearing Coach Gaines say that, she shut the door quietly and waited outside the door.
Mike was first out, she greeted him with a hug "Great job, great job."
Then Brian, she hugged him as well "Way to go, I saw those hard hits out there."
Last was Don, she hugged him before continuing "Great job out there, I heard you cheering louder than the cheerleaders. Maybe you should take up cheerleading for basketball season."
She smiled at him jokingly and he ruffled her hair, "You're crazy, you know that?"
"Yeah, but you love it."
The next day at practice, Lily was watching the team to see how they were coping with the loss of their star player. Everything seemed to be going ok, and reporters were there drilling Coach Gaines with question after question. Lily just hoped that the reporters would leave her alone today. That day at practice, she just massaged the tired muscles of some of the newer players.
The next game was against Abilene. Right off the bat, the Panthers were making bad decisions. It seemed like with the loss of Boobie came the loss of hope for the team. She knew how much this season meant to Coach Gaines, the seniors, and everyone else in Odessa for that matter. But she knew if they played like they did tonight against Midland-Lee, there would be no hope for going to state. The Panthers suffered a crushing loss with a score of 49 to 6. As much as Lily was upset that they lost, she was worried about what Charlie was going to do to Don. Charlie never took losses well, and this was a big one. She waited by the locker room for the boys to come out.
Mike was first, she hugged him, whispering soothingly "It'll be ok, don't worry about it. Go wait in the car; I'm going to wait for Donnie."
Brian was next, she followed the same routine, hugging him and whispering, "It's ok, you'll win the next one. Don't worry about it."
"I'm going to go wait in the parking lot for Don." he said as he walked pulled away and started walking.
When Don finally came out of the locker room she grabbed him and squeezed him tightly, tighter than the other boys, and whispered "Don't worry about it Donnie, I still think you're one of the best out there. Y'all just had an off day, that's all. Just remember if things get too heated with your dad my window is unlocked, ok?" She pulled away, taking his hand "Come on, let's go."
When they got to the parking lot, they went their separate ways. Don saw his father on the hood of the car and turned back for a second, looking at Lily, before turning back to his father. Lily got in the car with Mike, knowing that she couldn't watch if Charlie was going to hit Don then and there.
"Mike, I'm worried about Don… Charlie is going to be so hard on him tonight."
That night, Don didn't come over.
AN: So there's the first chapter. I don't entirely know where I'm going with this, but I think that I like it so far. This is only my fourth submission to this site, so any and all feedback is welcome. I'll try to update as soon as I can! Thanks for reading!