Chapter 6 (of 6)
Coach Taylor sat with his feet up on his desk and his hands laced together behind his head. He watched the television screen as Coach Wayans pointed with his pencil. "See how he runs that?" Wayans asked.
There was a knock on the office door and before either could say come in, it swung open. Coach Taylor immediately slid his feet off the desk and sat up. "Tami, hon, hey. What are you doin' here?"
Tami walked in a few steps and Coach Wayans stood up. "Coach," Eric said, "you remember my wife Tami, right?'
"Hard to forget," Coach Wayans said with a smile and extended his hand to her. When he'd let go he looked at Coach Taylor and pointed to the door. "Should I…?" Coach Taylor nodded. Wayans shut the door behind himself.
"Hey, this is a nice surprise," Eric said, standing and giving Tami a quick kiss. "What brings you to this side of town? You have time to grab lunch?"
"No, I need to head back soon." She sat in Coach Wayan's vacated chair, "But since I was here I thought I'd stop by and say hello."
Coach Taylor sat back down at his desk. "Here? For what?"
Eric opened his mouth slightly and then closed it. "Say what?"
"You're going to lose your high school counselor at the end of the month."
He plucked off his cap and ran his fingers through his hair. Tami watched him and smiled. "You look cute," she said.
He put his cap down on the desk and shook his head. "I don't understand. You interviewed for the counselor position?"
"I'd be taking a forty percent pay cut, but we can afford it. We've been saving a good chunk of my salary anyway. Gracie will just have to take out loans for that last year or two of college."
"I…why…what made you decide this?"
She sighed and leaned back in her chair. She crossed her slender legs and started making annoyed circles with her ankle. "They aren't going to hire a new assistant."
"After collecting all those resumes? After holding all those interviews?"
"The current assistant dean has threatened to sue under the American Disabilities Act."
"What?" Coach Taylor grabbed his cap and leaned back in his chair. He stretched his legs out under the desk. He waved his cap in the air. "What the hell is his disability?"
Tami shook her head. "I think his disability is he's lazy. But he's claiming some…chronic something that you can't see but…I don't know. It's a bunch of crap but they don't want to spend the money to fight it and don't want to risk any damage to their reputation, and they figure since I've been doing all the work anyway, I'll just keep doing it. But I won't."
"And you're sure you'll be happy with this? Just being a counselor again?" he asked.
She raised an eyebrow. "Just?"
"I don't mean…Tami…you did a lot of good in Dillon. You could do a lot of good here. God knows these kids could use the help. But I know this dean thing meant a lot to you, and I know what it's like to go from the center of attention to…" He looked around his office, half the size of the one he'd had when he coached the Panthers, no more run down than when he coached the Lions, but still without nearly as many framed newspaper clippings. "…not so much. You deserve that respect."
"Honestly, I love the respect I get as Assistant Dean. I love the college environment. And the salary is very nice. But I'm not accomplishing the kind of good I feel like I could accomplish by talking to kids who really need someone to talk to. I shouldn't be in my career for my reputation. That's not why you're in yours, is it?"
He smiled lightly. "Well I don't enjoy losing games. And I sure don't mind winning state rings."
"But it's not about you. It's about the game, and it's about those kids. That's what it's really about for you."
"Yeah. I guess so."
"I know so," she said with an affectionate smile. "That's why I love you, hon. Well, one of the reasons. And if I can get this job…My career will be about more than me again. It'll be about these kids, and… it'll be better for us." She studied his eyes. "I'm sorry I asked you to move all the way to Philadelphia so we could end up doing exactly what we were doing in Texas."
"It's okay," he reassured her. "You like the cultural opportunities here. And I love bringing up this team from below. I couldn't have done that with the Panthers. The super team would have had nowhere to go but down. We have a decent church. A few friends. Gracie likes her school…" He fell silent, as if he were looking for more virtues to list about a place that still wasn't quite home to him. He looked her directly in the eyes. "And this move…it gave you the chance to figure out that you love doing what you were doing before. Maybe you had to go through this to appreciate that. And me…" His eyes softened as he spoke. "I just want to see my wife."
Tami's lips trembled for a moment, in that half smile, half pout she formed when she was particularly touched by something Eric said. She regained her poise and cautioned, "Now, I don't actually have the counselor job yet."
"You'll get it. You always do get the jobs you want. I don't know what you do in those interviews…" He laughed. "You make an impression I mean."
"Hmmm…" She stood and came over to his side of the desk. He rose to meet her and they kissed. He rested his forehead against hers when their lips parted. "Are you worried about me getting in your business if I get the job?" she asked.
He sighed. "You're a reasonable woman, right?" She chuckled and drew her head away from his, but she let her hands linger on his shoulders. He looked into her eyes. "I know you're thinkin' of us. You can get in my business all you want, as long as you're home at night. I've missed you this past year. Thank you for...putting us first. I'm a lucky man."
Her fingers stole upwards and she caressed the back of his head beneath his thick, dark hair. "I like being married to you, believe it or not," she said. "I even like getting to see you from time to time."
He smiled down at her with his eyes. He drew her to his chest and rested his chin on her head. "Do you know how much I love you?" he murmured. "Do you have any idea how much?"
"I have an inkling," she said with a smile. His arms tightened around her.