A.N. Little bit of racism here, but it truly isn't me, I blame Ray.
The night was calm. The sky was black with little pinpricks for stars scattered throughout. There was a slight breeze as I sat at the base of the old tree, among the tall swaying grass. Nothing about the night reflected what had just happened. Nothing about this night reflected what was to come.
"Ok, now, your turn. Truth or dare?" Sunshine asked leaning back, studying me.
"Hm. Dare." I answered tentitivly.
He smiled, mischievously, "Kiss me." And I did.
A week later, both boys were released from the hospital. Julius would be able to play in the championship by some miracle, Gerry, for obvious reasons could not, but he was able to sit on the bench with me and cheer on his teammates, which was exactly what happened come game day.
The boys were ready. They had danced out on the field and ran through a couple drills. The boys could win this, they just had to believe they could. They had Julius, they had Sunshine, they had anyone they could need. They could win, if they believed in themselves, and in soul power.
The boys lined up along the 50 yard line, ready to face the unstoppable Ed Henry's team. He was unstoppable, but so were we. The downs flashed by. The boys knew what they were doing, but they couldn't do it. Alan, as much as I love him, was no Petey, he wasn't fast enough to do any good. By some miracle, we were only down by seven come halftime, just one touchdown, but that might be enough to lose.
I left Gerry on the bench, he's a big boy and he's got his chair. I ran after my daddy, "Coach!"
"Sheryl, go back outside, you can't come in here."
"I always do, but that's besides the point." I rushed though my sentence, "Ed Henry's got Boone's number, sure shooting. You ain't doing nothing against that shot gun." I paused, looking him right in the eye, "Look coach, now ain't the time to be proud."
"Hey, you're doing great! Don't worry, just..." I grabbed a hold of Ronnie before he entered the locker room, pulling him off to the side.
"Now where did you come from?" He smiled, wrapping his arms around me.
"The stands." I answered briskly, "Just, go play some ball." I had no idea what to say with football.
"I'm pretty sure that's typically baseball, but will do." He leaned down and kissed me before jogging off to catch up to his team.
"You and I dear, need to have a conversation."
Now, Sheryl Yoast wasn't my favorite person in the world, but she was one of the only people who understand what I'm going through. Our daddies are both coaches of the sole integrated team in Virginia, where football is life. We are the only two girls in an interracial relationship, though no one knew about mine yet. Sheryl Yoast wasn't my best friend by any standards. She was my sister; we just understood each other in a way no one else could even hope to. That being said, it didn't surprise me when I spent the entire halftime ignoring the cheerleaders and telling the blonde everything there was to tell about my short, but strong, relationship with the Californian dreamboat.
The team came out of the locker room five minutes before they had to, gathering into a huddle, but not before Nicky and I squeezed into the middle among all the guys and behind our dads, right next to our boys. I took Julius's hand in mine and gave it a gentle squeeze. He tore his eyes away from Boone for only a moment, but that was long enough to give me a reassuring smile. We were gonna win, he was sure of it.
The game began, with extra boys playing on defense and no Alan. Suddenly, the reason for Alan's disapearence became known, in the form of a freight train slamming into a sign or something f the sort. Petey was in and he was destroying.
Just having Petey in seemed to be enough to give the team hope. Julius took out the quarter back, just before he threw the ball. Sunshine got an interception, then took a mean tackle.
The score was 7-3, but even those few points were enough to give the team hope. They joked and laughed on the sidelines and played their hearts out on the field. There was only a few minutes left and we were on defense, so you could only imagine the rush of joy I got when it was Julius, coming from behind that caused a change in possession. Of course Petey had something to do with it, seeing as he finally learned how to hold the ball, but he wasn't my boyfriend so I didn't pay too much attention to that.
We had time for one more play. I heard Boone give the direction, but I had no idea what it meant, and Rev taking the field only confused me further. Sunshine got the ball and handed it of to Rav who cut to the right. The two quarterbacks ran like their lives depended on it down the sideline, Rev with the ball and Sunshine blocking anyone that tried to stop them. They ran and ran and they made it. We had won.
I flew up from the bench, dragging Nicky with me. We jumped and screamed before following our dads out to great the boys. I ran straight to Julius who hoisted me into the air. I wrapped my arms around his neck and my legs latched around his hips. We didn't kiss, but he spun me 'round and around.
I heard the boys laughing and whooping before I saw it. Julius stopped the spinning in time for us both to see Nicky and Sunshine wrapped around each other in an intense lip lock.
"Did you know about..." Julius asked, one arm around my waist, the other gesturing to the couple.
"Not until halftime." I giggled, spinning into him and kissing him straight on the lips.
Eventually everyone calmed down and proceeded back to the bench, Julius still had his arm around my waist, he refused to let go, saying I was good luck since it was me who convince my dad to take Boone' advice or something like that.
"Hey! Monkey!" Ray's voice came from the side. We both turned in time to se the gun held high, aimed directly at us.
Football reflexes allowed Julius to push me out of the way, but not himself. But he didn't need to; someone else's football reflexes were faster. Gerry. Somehow, someway, Gerry had propelled himself from his wheel chair, directly into the gun's path, taking the bullet himself.
Guards were on Ray in a flash, but that didn't matter to me. I was at Gerry's side as fast as I could.
"Gerry! You ass! How cold you do that!" I cried out, clutching at his stomach trying to make the bleeding stop. Julius was beside us in a minute, having removed his uniform with hopes of stopping the blood.
"Please," Gerry laughed with a slight cough, "I'm already half dead."
"Man, no you're not." Julius spoke, his voice cracking a bit.
"Just take care of her for me ok?" Gerry looked directly at Julius and the boys seemed to have an unspoken understanding. "Left side," Gerry raised his hand.
"Strong side." Julius clasped it with his own.
Gerry turned his head to look at me, "Sheryl, you will survive. Be strong, we both know you are."
I watched as the lighter hand's grip slacked. My body was wracked by sobs. Someone was screaming, I just didn't notice it was me. Arms wrapped around me, pulling me away from my big brother. "NO!" I screamed, squirming in the arms, "NO!" I had to get to Gerry.
"Sheryl." The voice came through my hysteria. It was calm and comforting. For the first time in I don't know how long I actually saw something and was able to process it, Julius, "Come here." He pulled me into his chest, wrapping his arms around me, tighter than ever.
He was being strong for me. Julius wasn't stupid, he knew Gerry took the bullet for him, and that had to be eating him up inside. I had to be strong for Julius, for Gerry.
I pulled my arms from between our chests and wrapped them around his neck, "Let's go to the locker room or something." I stood, leading him into the building.
We sat down on one of the long benches. I stared at him, trying to suppress my tears, but I couldn't do so as much as I wished I could. I don't know how Julius was doing it, "Julius, please." And then a single tear fell from his left eye. I smiled at him before whisking it away. He pulled me into him once again, holding me against him and burying his face in my hair.
"I love you Sheryl." He spoke though the silence some time later. We shared a soft kiss, both of our faces tear streaked. "Wait here." He stood, walking down another hall of lockers. When he returned he was holding something, "I know, you are just a freshman and all, but I want to ask you something." He paused, "Gerry and I had talked about it right before the game." Another pause, "Would you agree, to agree to marry me?" He asked, holding out his class ring all juniors had just received.
This was what Gerry meant. This is what their silent conversation was about. "Yes." I threw my arms around him catching his lips with mine.
Ten years later, on the same day Gerry Bertier died, Julius and I were married, on the T.C. Williams football field. The goal posts were decorated with flowers and chairs were moved into the end zone for guests. The entire team was there. What really made the day special was that Gerry was there. One of the boys had taken a picture of Gerry and posted it on a chair. The day was perfect, both for marriage and for remembering him.