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Our Secret Moments: Chapter 5

CAT - FREE-FALLING AND FOOTBALLERS

AFTER MY MINI-MELTDOWN when I found out my grade, I was feeling on top of the world the whole weekend. I treated myself to a day full of reality TV and a huge pizza to share with the girls, followed by a morning sitting in the corner of my favourite cafe with a hardback classic book in my hands.

For once I don’t want that feeling to go away. I don’t want to constantly think about what’s next. I just want to take every new assignment with more passion than the last. Anything can become a story, it just takes the right amount of love, patience and effort to make it a good one.

Elle and Nora both work part-time at the bookstore a few blocks away from campus. It’s a dainty indie store packed away into an alley full of vintage shops. Some people know it as a hidden gem, but since we started coming here years ago, it’s been our favourite space and now both of them have jobs there, it’s even better.

BoBo’s only has three aisles and multiple comfortable chairs that lay in various places of the room. Its entire vibe is Autumn and dark earth tones. No matter what time of year it is, it just feels like a warm, safe hug and a cup of a pumpkin flavoured drink.

I slip through the wooden door, instantly soothed by the warmth and the smell of books. I run my hand over the box of one-dollar books by the door, loving the fact that most of these have been donated.

I’m not exactly sure what I came here for, but I needed something to do before class and luckily Elle is on the morning shift since she has no classes until the late afternoon. She left before I woke up and in comparison to Nora’s chaos, she’s a lot calmer.

My eyes meet hers over the counter and my face immediately breaks into a smile. Elle is one of those people who know what’s wrong without you having to say something. She’s also one of those people that would never make a scene in a restaurant, but has this quiet, harsh authority to her tone that can make any server quake in their boots.

“You’re in a good mood,” Elle points out, leaning on the counter in her green shirt with a tiny BoBo’s logo on the pocket. “Still on an academic high?”

“Always,” I say, scanning the bookmarks on display.

She laughs a little. “You’re one of the weirdest people I know. I’m convinced you get hot and bothered over grades and books more than you do over men.”

“Why bother with porn when books exist?” I say, shrugging. I was exposed to ‘smutty’ books and Wattpad way too young. It’s not my fault I’m wired this way. Okay… maybe it is. “Nothing gets me going more than ink on paper.”

“You and me both,” she mumbles, shaking her head. “What are you looking for? Some new Emily Henry copies came in yesterday.”

My heart expands at the name of my favourite author. Reading Emily Henry books with the girls is probably what solidified our bond in our first year of college. Not to be dramatic, but Beach Read changed our lives.

We’ve always been huge book lovers and when we picked up her book for the first time, we’ve not been the same since. She conveys words, thoughts, feelings and emotions in a way that is so incredibly true to the soul and the mind that you can’t help but get transfixed within her writing.

We have a dedicated section just for her books in our bookshelf and whenever we go book shopping, we immediately draw out her books, leaving notes slipped inside the pages so readers know exactly what they’re getting into.

“I’d love another copy, but I don’t think my book buying ban would like that,” I sigh, hitching my tote further up my shoulder. I’ve got to draw the line for my obsession somewhere.

“I respect that,” she says solemnly as if this is a meeting of Book Buyers Anonymous. “I’ve got to start putting books out, so I’ll see you later?”

“I’ll see you,” I reply, still feeling the warmth and satisfaction of a good day ahead right down to my fingertips.


If you have ever wondered how many times a person could fall asleep in Annie Rotford’s class without her knowing, the answer is zero. Yet, George manages to get a few seconds in before she slams a book closed and pushes something over on purpose. She’s never openly discussed the common pattern of people falling asleep in her class, but it’s obvious that her voice puts people to sleep.

“George,” I whisper, nudging him with my shoulder. His head lolls forward before his eyes shoot open, his blonde hair falling in his face. “You need to stay awake. What the hell have you been doing?”

It’s not unusual for him to fall asleep in class. Holding his head up has become my part-time job and I don’t mind it, but he’s been extra tired today. He wipes the drool from the corner of his mouth. I would find it gross if he didn’t have the looks and the attitude of a golden retriever.

“Jacks was watching some videos the other day,” he mumbles out of the side of his mouth, pretending to take notes even though I know what he’s writing doesn’t make any sense. “And he wanted to try something new. So, he bought this toy from–”

I hold up my hand. “Forget I asked,” I say, shivering. “You and Jacks are cute, but you’re also a little sickening. It should be illegal for two people to love each other that much.”

His cheeks flush. “I know, sometimes I think–”

“Are you and your friend finished talking, Catherine, or am I boring you?” Rotford’s voice brings us both back to the conversation as the rest of class snickers. Not everyone in our class is as nice as George, which is why I’m grateful to have him as my one friend in this class rather than have twenty bad ones. We both nod in unison. “Good. I think this would interest the both of you.”

I straighten my posture, instantly intrigued. When Rotford starts a rant like that, you know it’s bound to be good. Everyone in the class quietens as she switches the powerpoint on the main board, the title changing from our last assignment feedback to a picture of… A football field?

What the hell?

“As you know, Drayton runs a series of campus-wide magazines to keep with tradition and keep students engaged in what is going on in and outside of the state. We try to keep up with every aspect of the curriculum, every course and even every fraternity and sorority, as ridiculous as it sounds,” she begins.

She changes the slide to a picture of an old newspaper from Drayton. It’s black and white so it must be old. “After a staff briefing with the head of the sports department, it has come to my attention that the Titans Daily, the newspaper designated for the football team, has been abandoned for five years. Nobody has picked it up again and nobody has even purchased any of the old copies. Now, I know that running the school newspapers is not a part of your course or what you signed up for when applying for this at Drayton, but it does give many opportunities in the outside world if you are able to start somewhere small. As a favour to Coach Mackenzie, I offered to ask you all if anyone would be up for taking over the newspaper. We’re looking for someone who will give it a modern spin, reintroduce the players and what Coach Mackenzie says, ‘Make football great again.’”

Everyone in the class bursts out into laughter at Mrs Rotford using such casual language.

After the laughter dies down, the whole room goes quiet. Nobody raises their hands, nobody suggests taking it over and nobody even dares to look at her. Most of us don’t even like sports, so it’s understandable. I can tolerate a good game when I’m in the mood for it, but writing about it and the players is a whole other thing. I’ve never really considered sports journalism and the module we had on it had been quick enough to forget about.

Rotford sighs. “I thought this would be the case,” she mutters. She looks up, her piercing blue eyes scanning the room before her eyes land on me. I feel the sweat pick up on my neck. It feels like she’s looking straight through into my soul. “That’s why I chose someone in advance anyway.”

No.

No.

No.

She couldn’t possibly be talking about me. I know I’ve started to up my game this year, but this is where I draw the line. I want her approval more than anything. I want to succeed in this class above all, but this?

This would be absolute torture.

“Catherine Fables,” she announces and my blood runs cold. Everyone’s head turns to me and I swallow the lump in my throat. George elbows me in the rib as I blink at her. “Congratulations. The assistant coach will take you down to meet Mackenzie now. This will be a great learning experience for you. Enjoy.”

My mouth practically hangs open.

I stay put in my seat, trying to wrap my head around it as George packs away my stuff for me since I’m apparently incapable. I’m shoved out of the door before I can even process what’s happening.

A young blonde woman with green eyes greets me at the door, a clipboard in hand as she rests her hand on my shoulder. “I’m guessing it wasn’t voluntary, huh?” I shake my head. “You’ll be fine. I looked through some of the things you’ve written. Rotford gave them to me over the weekend. You’re really good. I’m sure you’ll fit right in.”

“Thanks,” I mumble, somehow telling my feet to continue walking.

“I’m Olivia, by the way,” she says, smiling up at me. I’m thinking about introducing myself, but she already knows who I am. I want to ask how long she’s been working at Drayton given how young she is, but I think better of myself and try to mentally prepare myself on the walk over to the other side of campus.

Football is not my thing. At all. I watched a few of Connor and Wes’s games growing up by default, but I’ve never been completely interested. It seems fun and a little violent. Nothing that necessarily checks my boxes for entertainment. So, I try to shake off all the nerves and paint on my best I’m totally fine and normal face as Olivia pushes open the door to the Coach’s office.

Coach Mackenzie looks exactly as he did as the first time I met him when Wes, Nora, Elle, Connor, and I had a playdate. He’s freakishly tall, a dirty brunette, an unkept beard, and a beer belly. His blue eyes light up when he sees me.

It’s been years since I’ve seen him.

After my dad became mayor, he started to distance himself from the people that made him who he is and the friends that picked us both back up after my mom died. It was too awkward to visit him on my own, but I still make sure to send him a Christmas card every year when my dad forgets.

“Catherine!” He beams, leaning back in his chair. I smile back at him. “I’m so glad you’re willing to take this opportunity. No one has run Titans Daily in over five years. I’ve seen your work in the school paper, your dad must be very proud of you. I’m proud of you.”

The feeling in my chest warms at his words. No matter how much distance my dad seemed to put between us, he’s acting as if it didn’t exist. “Thank you and he is.”

He nods happily. “So, if you’re on the team does that mean you’ll be attending games?”

I shrug. “Some of them, I’m assuming, but not all. I’ve still got a ton of school work to do and I’m not sure exactly what it is that I’m doing here.”

“Well. If you do, I’d love for you to bring your dad too. It’s been a while since we’ve had a celebrity on campus,” he says, shaking his head at the thought. I don’t know why he places so much trust in my dad after the way he treated him.

“I’m not sure being mayor grants him celebrity status, but I’ll ask,” I say.

“It seems like you’re more interested in her dad than you are in her, Coach,” Olivia says, leaning against the doorframe. I smile at her, grateful she can redirect the conversation. I’m still a little starstruck about my new role, but a little excited to get started. I’m going to need all the help I can get.

He laughs. “Sorry. Anyway, the boys have just finished practice and they’re having a mothers meeting in the locker room. I’ll introduce you to them now. They’re going to be a bit hyper. They’re all like little puppies.”

I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into.


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