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Our Secret Moments: Chapter 37

CONNOR - WINNER-WINNER CHICKEN DINNER

EVER SINCE WE started playing football, before the start of our final game, we’d all have breakfast with our parents in one of the empty classrooms at the school. When we were in little leagues, we’d have a pep talk in the locker room whilst our parents tied up our laces and told us that it didn’t matter if we lost.

It got better when we grew up and winning actually mattered. We could tie our own laces and the pep talks would last a little longer. The same thing happened last year before our first college final and it paid off.

This time, everything feels wrong.

The tension between Wes and Coach Mackenzie is lethal. Olivia called in ‘sick’ though only Wes and I know what happened. We’ve all been so caught up with our own shit that we would have noticed the signs a lot earlier. I always thought it was weird how their relationship seemed to be a little too friendly. It makes sense now that she went out when we were at one of the away games and I spent the evening in the hotel room she shared with Cat.

I can’t even look at him without feeling sick to my stomach.

Wes has always kept his relationship with his dad to himself, but there have been times where they’d have arguments and he’d never tell me why. He’d just turn up to my house one day, spend the night and go back the next morning like everything was fine.

Coach never made it seem like anything was wrong, either. He’d coach the team the next day and not act like he kicked his son out the night before. He’s not a violent or angry person by any means, there’s just some parts to his and Wes’s dynamic that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand.

Like right now as he talks to Wes with one hand on his shoulder in the corner of the room whilst Wes’s eyes face the ground. I can’t hear what he’s saying, but it looks like some sort of lecture whilst my parents yap on in front of me.

My mom nervously nibbles on a scone whilst my dad sips on the coffee that he’s been nursing since they got here. It’s a good and sweet tradition for the most part. As we’ve all got used to playing under the pressure, the parent’s all seem to have gotten more anxious over the years.

“You know what you’ve got to do if you get tackled to the ground, don’t you? You just get right back up and show the other team what you’re made of,” my mom says, sounding as serious as ever. I shake my head at her, knowing what she’s like.

“I know, mom,” I repeat for what feels like the hundredth time.

“Yes, mom,” my dad mocks, bumping his shoulder into hers, “he knows.” I nod, holding my chin high. “We know you’ve got this, Con. You’re incredible on and off the pitch. This isn’t going to be any different.”

“Win or lose, we’ll all be cheering for you in the stands,” my mom adds, her smile bright and triumphant.

She manages to put this insane amount of faith in me that I just want to bottle it up and carry it around forever. When my parents look at me it feels I’m a star they’re wishing upon. As if I’m something magical and out-of-this-world that they need to pray and wish on for it to soar.

Months ago, that would have completely frightened me at the thought of the weight of the team resting all on me, but now, I’ve become comfortable with the idea of just doing my best. I’ve done all I can prepping and training. I’ve tried to keep the team in line as best as I can, but it isn’t up to just me how we perform. It’s how we, as a team, can work together and kick the other team’s asses.

My phone vibrates in my pocket. I pull it out and Catherine’s contact name flashes across the screen. I pull out my chair, excusing myself from the conversation with my parents and my dad gives me a wink. That man knows too much about my love-life without me saying a word.

Just the sound of Cat’s voice soothes me as we exchange hello’s.

“How are you feeling? I heard there’ll be a reporter from the Fort Morgan’s Times at the game and some scouts too,” she says in a teasing tone.

“I’ll be fine. I’ve done more than enough prep with you to know how to deal with a few questions,” I say easily. “Speaking of, when can I see the final report?”

She tuts. “Not yet. It needs some revisions and I need to bring it to my professor for some proofreading, but soon.” I hum in response, impatiently wanting to know more than just the snippets she’s shown the team over the last few months. “Good luck. You’re going to kill it.”

“Thank you. I’ll be looking in the stands for you. I’ll help us win just for you,” I whisper, making my voice sound extra sweet and I swear I can hear her rolling her eyes.

“Win for yourself, Connie, not me,” she replies. There’s a brief moment of complete silence on her end as if the phone is being cut off before she speaks again. “Ugh. My dad has been calling me all day. I’m going to have to answer it.”

“What’s been going on?”

“I don’t know. We didn’t speak much after Christmas, but he’s been weird since he called that day at your dorm when I left. He’s saying that we need to talk, but I don’t know what about,” she explains, sounding tired at just the thought of having a conversation with him.

“Huh,” I murmur. “I hope everything is okay. I’ll see you soon.”

“I’ll see you. When you see a crazy lady in the stands with your jersey on screaming like a lunatic, you’ll know it’s me,” she says. I laugh at the image she creates. I’ve been wanting to see her in my jersey for fucking years now and hopefully when I have her in my arms after the game, we will have won and she’ll be cheering my name. “And, Connor?”

“Hm?”

“Just breathe, baby. I’ve got your back, always. You’re going to do great.”

After the call ends and I’m lined up on the pitch, helmet in hand, staring up at the full stadium, I realise this is exactly what I was made to do. Being here, under the spotlights, the fresh smell of the pitch, the roar of the crowd, is something I could spend forever in. And when I see my family and my chosen family in the stands, banners in hand, I know that we’ve got this.

The team played better than we’ve ever played before. I don’t know what was said by the parents at this morning’s meeting, but everyone is on fire. Every pass is smooth. Every tackle is effortless. Every interference from the referee is taken with a pinch of salt and we completely smash the other team in a score almost too good to fathom.

When I’m running with the ball, seconds left on the clock, I feel victorious. Nothing comes in my way. I keep my eyes completely focused on the end of the field. Victory is so close I can almost taste it. Scoring a touchdown is expected, but there is nothing quite like the feeling of being able to cross that line, knowing that your team is right behind you cheering you along the way.

When the moment comes and I’m met with wild cheers from the crowd, my adrenaline high as fuck, I know that I’ve done this for myself. I know that I’ve put in the work and the effort and there’s only one person I want to see.

My heartbeat roars in my ears, the crowd silencing in my mind as I look up to see her. My Catherine. I search for her in the crowd, finding Elle and Nora first, cheering like crazy women. When my eyes focus on them, the one person I wanted to see isn’t there anymore.


I haven’t been able to stop moving since the game ended. I barely made it past the sidelines before the people in the stands came rushing down. My vision blurs as more and more people try to talk to the team, pushing past us and shoving flashlights and cameras in our faces. My stomach twists when I see the reporter, James Nyguen, from the Fort Morgan Times make direct eye contact with me. Nora and Elle are on his heels, following behind him, huge grins on their faces.

I need to get out of here.

I don’t get far before a different reporter from the same magazine shoves his camera and microphone in my face. “I’m sorry. I just need to–”

“I’m here with Connor Bailey. Twenty-year old quarterback for the Drayton Titans and an absolute machine on the pitch. What a game it was today. How are you feeling?” The shrillness of his voice catches me off guard and I stumble a little, looking over his short frame to find my girl. Still, I don’t see her.

“Yeah… It was a good game,” I mumble in response. Jesus. The team is going to give me so much shit for this. All that training and practice for nothing.

The reporter lets out a nervous chuckle. “Your team just won the college cup and that’s all you have to say?”

I groan, desperate to roll my eyes as I take in a deep breath. “I’m trying to look for her.”

“For who? Your mom? A girlfriend, perhaps?” he questions, shoving both the microphone and the camera in my face. Do they both have to be so close to me? I grip them and shove them a bit further away from me as I stare straight into the camera.

“Yes, my girlfriend,” I bite out. I lower my voice when I look back at the slightly petrified man beneath me. “Now, can you get out of my way?” He blinks at me. “Please?”

When he’s finally gone to the side, I go to my next resort: my sister. She and Elle are talking excitedly with Sam and Wes, pulling on their arms and congratulating them. I should be enjoying that right now, but I can’t. I need to find her. Who knows what could have happened? She wouldn’t just disappear like that.

“Where’s Catherine?”

Nora turns to me at the sound of my gruff voice, her eyes widening in surprise. “Oh my god! Congrats, bro. I knew you guys would win. You were insane today. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed watching you play that much in so long.”

I store her compliments for later. Now is not the time, so I ask again. “Where’s Catherine?”

Her eyebrows scrunch together. “What? Why do you want to–”

“Where. Is. She.”

Her eyes soften as she rests her hand on my forearm. I’m not annoyed at her, I’m annoyed at the situation. I just want to know that she’s safe and that I didn’t do anything wrong to upset her, or if someone else did then I’d be spending my post-game celebrations in a very different way.

“Okay, okay,” Nora says softly. “Calm down. She left ten minutes into the second half. Her dad called her. She said it was some sort of emergency.”

Fuck. I run my hands across my face. “And you didn’t want to tell me?”

“You were in the middle of playing the most important game of your college career with hundreds of scouts here and you expected me to tell you where my friend was?” Her question is a valid one. For a second I consider telling her everything. Telling her that I’ve been head-over-heels for Catherine since the second I met her, but I want her to do that on her terms.

I shake my head as if that will take away the tightness in my chest. “No, you’re right. But, do you know where she had to go? Maybe we can meet her or something before the party?”

Nora rolls her eyes. “Connor, why does it matter to you so much that she’s there? If she wants to come, she will. You’ve never cared before, so I don’t know why you do now. She had to go. You won. Let’s just go to celebrate.”

I mull over her point when everyone starts to leave the pitch. I somehow manage to salvage another interview with a different reporter, hopefully covering up the damage I made with the first one. I call Cat a million times, but she never answers. At one point it started to go to voicemail and I succumbed to going to the party miserable and feeling alone. Even when I get back to my room, leaving the party early, I still haven’t heard from her.

I stare up at the ceiling and hope for both of our sakes that she’s okay.


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