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Um, here's some original fiction I'm working on in my Fiction Writing class. It's not finished or titled, but it's a novella, so even if it was, there's no way it would fit nicely on LJ.

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The pavement glistens under the soft morning light, awaiting the heat haze of the day. Trees lining the road sway gently in a breeze nonexistent to the runner, and a finch flits between them across the road. Mary Sanchez doesn’t notice any of it; she hears her steady breathing in time with her feet hitting the pavement, and she feels her braids bounce on her back. The only thing she’s thinking of is the hill in front of her and how close she is to home.

At the top of the hill the sun blinds her for the first time and she closes her eyes, knowing her footsteps downwards, and less than a minute late she sits to stretch on the front lawn. Her arms and legs work mechanically as she focuses on her breathing, consciously allowing it to slow down until she realizes she’s staring up into the maple leaves. A voice greets her as she opens the door into the kitchen. “A little slow this morning, huh Mary?”

“Morning, Anthony,” Mary replies grabbing a glass for water. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”

Her brother smiles up at her. “Thought you might like to sleep in.”

She takes the cereal box from in front of him and hits him over the head with it. “Practice starts next week.”

“Oh, is that what those numbers on your door are for? A countdown?”

“I was bored, and it’s until our first game.”

“You mean your first game, or my first game? Personally I’d be more excited for our first game.”

“You don’t want to witness the awesome debut of the kick-ass girls’ team?”

“I think I’ll watch my kiss-ass sister play with the girls’ club.”

Mary doesn’t respond to that, eating her cereal in silence. It didn’t really matter he was making fun of their school’s new girls’ soccer club team because she was just happy it existed. The co-ed team was gone, and she would never have to share another practice with him. She was done being the inferior player, everyone comparing the two Sanchez kids, Anthony always on top. Just the idea of more playing time made her giddy, a feeling she knows Janice, Katie, Anne, Kalee, and Franny share. All of them were on the co-ed team and all of them have slide-tackled an opponent guy, scored or contributed to a goal, and had a fair bit of playing time, but none of them have ever played a full half.

Anthony could joke all he wanted, but there’s nothing he can do or say to bring her down. His arrogance dissipating in the silence, Mary can stand watching him finish his breakfast. His gray t-shirt is almost completely soaked with sweat, stretched across his broad shoulders. Mary only just now notices that he cut his hair and his normal buzz cut is so short his head is barely covered. She knows he did it because the soccer season starts soon, but she hates the way it makes his head look, his wide jaw seems to extend and takes up his whole head, and his forehead looks so wide she thinks he looks a like a caveman. She’s taller than he is by a few inches, so he’s always short to her, reinforcing her caveman image. Except when he looks up at her deviously, his sky blue eyes change the impression, and when he smiles, his one dimple makes her love him again.

Her eyes rove over his various muscles, wondering if he can lift more or less than he could last year, how well his left shoulder is doing, whether he will dislocate it this year, and if she could finally beat him in a long-distance race. Her mind wanders briefly to the question what on earth Janice could see in him, and if Dad was right when he said they both inherited his nose.

“Jesus!” Mary and Anthony both jump in their seats to turn and see their mother Julie standing in the kitchen entryway in her pajamas and bathrobe, clutching her chest.

“Morning Mom.”

“Hi.”

She starts to move further into the kitchen pulling her robe tighter around herself. “I hate when you two do this. I’m not used to you guys being down here…” She fills the coffee pot and turns to them, her eyes shut. “It’s not even seven.”

Anthony pops up and kisses her on the cheek. “Well, no rest for the wicked.”

“Hey, wait a sec,” Mary interjects. “Are you and Janice doing anything tonight? I wanted to go see a movie or something, but if you’re doing something I won’t bother calling her.”

“Um,” he screws his face up for a second, “we’re doing something, I just don’t remember what. Hey, morning Katie.”

A bleary eyed little sister, her hair in a lopsided pony-tail, walks in, giving Anthony a vague hand waving of acknowledgement. “I heard Mom scream.”

Anthony ruffles her hair. “Go back to bed,” he says, and continues down the hallway.

“Oooh, Cocoa Puffs,” Katie mumbles, taking her brother’s seat and grabbing the cereal box and juice that are cluttering up the table. Mary goes back to her breakfast, keeping her ears open for the sound of the shower, Katie is half-asleep eating her cereal, and neither of them notice Julie watching where her oldest child just disappeared, ignoring the coffee waiting behind her.

 

Janice looks wonderful that night at six, her red curly hair fixed behind a shiny neon green headband, to match her neon pink top and heels, although Anthony gets very distracted by her black skirt too, even as she walks with him to his jeep. “Do you know what we’re doing?”

“God I hope so.” Janice replies over the car as they get in.

Turning the ignition Anthony asks again, “Where am I driving?”

She bites her lower lip thoughtfully, “I dunno. A movie?”

“Inside or outside?”

“Surprise me.”

Forty-five minutes later there’s popcorn littering the floor of Anthony’s car, a speaker on his window pipes in sound, there’s a giant soda in the holder and he can’t stop staring at his girlfriend. It’s fairly difficult, since her head is resting on his shoulder, but he does it anyway. More than anything, he can’t get over how different their faces are; her skin is pale and full of tiny carrot colored freckles, blending in with her hair at the back of her neck. Her face is shaped like a heart with a tiny chin and a small, slender nose, with green almond eyes. Whenever they go out he’s always struck by how fragile she looks and how strong he knows she is, especially when she’s around not as his girlfriend, but as Mary’s friend.

“Hey.”

“Hmm?”

“Are you actually watching this?”

“Not really.” Janice nuzzles closer to him, mumbling, “It’s a movie for five year olds.”

Anthony chuckles a little, running his fingers through her hair. “We’ll get to the grown-up movie soon.”

“But what will we do while we wait?”

He has to laugh at her devious smile. “I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”

“It’s up to me? Oh, okay.” She arches her neck to reach his lips, reaching back, grabbing him by his soft buzz cut of his head.

 

 

So, how was your night?”

“Good.” Anthony’s standing in Mary’s room next to the closed door watching his sister move some piles around her floor. He knows she’s not cleaning, she’s moving her piles of clothes and junk around her easel to enable her to put it back in her closet, and it’s making her cluttered floor appear more menacing than usual. He makes himself watch her move around instead of looking in the mirror across from him, and to keep him from thinking about how little clean floor there is for him to stand on. Her dark curly hair sways as she moves around, obscuring most of her face as she looks down, but when she pops up there’s a vicious flip and he can see her face. Anthony’s sure they both got their father’s big, ugly nose, except he’s always thought Mary made it work on her face. Their nose, which always reminded him of an upside down flower bulb, centers her other features, thick lips, chocolate brown eyes, and high cheekbones above her angular jaw. She’s already in her pink striped pajama pants, and the matching tank top is under a blue zip up sweatshirt that may have originally been his.

“What kind of good?”

“What?”

“What kind of good? What did you guys do?”

“Oh, really good. Drive-in movie good.”

“I’m going to stop you right there.” She isn’t even facing him, and Anthony can see her scowling at him, her eyebrows raised.

“Okay, so what did you do?”

“Move.” Mary moves a pile of clothes to where he’s standing, so he hops on her bed. She answers without looking at him, “Nothing.”

“Can I see nothing?”

“No.”

“You’re not going to throw it away, are you?”

She looks up and her brown eyes meet his, and she says firmly, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Anthony raises his hands in concession, smiling, leaving Mary to her sorting. It isn’t worth pursuing the subject, he knows, because his sister won’t own to the several oil paintings hiding in her closet. It doesn’t matter that he’s watched her paint or seen her go to the art store, she stubbornly denies her hobby. Relaxing on her bed, he watches Mary throw clothes into her closet, some to a pile next to her desk, and a few things hit him on the bed. He hears a clunk somewhere near his head he thinks are shoes, and sits up, knees to his chest. Trying not to watch her because he knows he’ll get confused, Anthony looks around her room.

There aren’t any new posters he can see, but the Gone With the Wind movie poster has switched places with her mirror, and the corkboard that was blank a week ago is half full of notes. On her desk the light’s on, illuminating more notes underneath a cutout from the paper about their new team. Anthony chuckles at her white board next to the corkboard. Half of it’s a game play diagram, the other half the note he wrote there when school ended. He can still read the words “starts tomorrow!” He avoids looking at the clippings stuck up by the corkboard with his face on them and notices the piles on Mary’s floor look something like a fort protecting her closet.

Making a mental note to sneak into her closet later, he watches her throw a wad of something into her trash. “So have you talked to Matt lately?”

She plops down onto her bed next to him. “Matt Kelby?”

“Yeah.” He stretches out across her bed, relaxing again.

“No, why?”

“I’m just wondering.” He tries to gauge her reaction before adding, “He likes you, you know.”

“So?” she scoffs. “You cannot fall asleep on my bed.”

He ignores her. “You don’t care that he likes you?” He can see her hair shake back and forth. “You don’t care that a nice, cool, smart, basketball player likes you?” Anthony doesn’t catch if his sister makes some kind of response.

 He can still see Matt’s face when he told him at a party about a month ago that he liked Mary. His green eyes lit up hopefully, his wide mouth in a crooked smile, as he scratched nervously at the stubble on his jaw. His brown curls falling almost down to his bushy eyebrows, covering up his pale skin. Anthony isn’t very close with the guy, but they’re friendly, and something about him just makes Anthony want good things for him.

“Anthony, I don’t care if he likes me – I don’t like him.”

“Maybe if you knew him you would.”

“Maybe if he knew me he wouldn’t like me anymore.”

He sits back up. “Impossible.”

“Whatever.” Mary rolls her eyes at him.

He leans over and kisses her on the forehead. “Bright and early.”

“Night.”

“Goodnight,” he says, yawning, navigating his way out of her room.

The next morning at breakfast, their mother jumps in surprise without screaming at them, and proceeds to ask Anthony enough questions about his date with Janice to give her a play-by-play of the night. Once Mary gets in the shower, Anthony sneaks into her room with a camera, and takes a picture of her newest painting so he can add it to his growing collection of soon to be destroyed artwork.

 

 

“Sanchez, Pooley – start!” Coach Romney barks out at the two girls.

Mary immediately gets up running, and Janice yells to the rest of their team, “Come on, let’s go! Get your cleats on before practice, you are ready to go at eight – not five after!” She jogs through the group of trailing girls who are fixing their hair, catching up to Mary. “Freshman.”

That day during practice there’s a lot of eye rolling and comments between the captains and upperclassman, as they try to organize drills and enforce quickness. In a passing drill, Franny grunts out to Mary, “What is so hard about playing all out?”

Mary replies, “Nothing.” She emphasizes by kicking the ball toward the next in line as hard as she would in a game. If they were going to play on her team they would have to get used to it. What bothers her more, though, is the continual glances her girls keep making towards the other end of the field where the guys are practicing. She keeps shouting, “Our practice is over here!” But very few of the girls even pretend to look embarrassed, and that irritates her even more.

In their box drill, Mary runs to the end of one line behind one of her co-captains, Kate. “C’mon Kate, not you too.”

“No.” Kate’s eyes are focused on the guys’ practice, and her eyebrows are scrunched together. “They’re doing the reverse arc! I love that drill – we should do that!”

Looking over, Mary sees what they’re doing, and although there are some snags in the rhythm from newbies, their drill goes by efficiently. Anthony’s shouting as he goes through it, keeping his head up, directing his teammates. Mary decides, “Maybe tomorrow. Our frosh can’t handle it.”

Kate goes through the drill’s rotation again, her eyes unfocused, and when Mary catches up to her again she says, “I’m gonna go ask Coach.”

Mary looks over at their practice again and a freshman in her line tells her, “Our practice is over here.”She rolls her eyes, but before she can reply, Kalee comes up in the next line laughing. “Don’t worry – she knows.” With a sneaky grin at Mary and a glance at the other practice she continues, “But I have to say Anthony is looking really great today.”

“Hey you – back off, he’s mine.” Janice pops up behind Kalee smiling, and the two girls start laughing.

“Oh my god.” Mary covers her face with her hand, turning to the rest of the team, “Water break! And then we’re gonna sprint!” She smiles at the groans going through the underclassmen - everyone else knows better: Mary’s talking about an easy sprinting drill.

Near the end of practice Mary finds out Kate didn’t end up asking Coach Romney about drills, but about a mixed scrimmage. “Since we don’t have set scrimmage teams yet, we’ll pick teams real fast, and be sure to mix them – pennies are over here. Sanchez, Sanchez, pick teams. Mary’s team wears pennies.”

With a quick challenging glance between them, Mary and Anthony stand near the coaches to pick, with Coach Springs and Coach Romney both tapping their watches meaningfully. Anthony starts by picking Janice, and Mary responds by taking his next best captain, Steven. At the end of the scrimmage and practice, Mary’s team has a gloating air about them as some of Mary’s newbie girls ended up pulling through to retake the ball and score a last minute goal, winning by one over Anthony’s team.

Everybody splits up back into their original teams, stretching out while Coach Romney and Coach Springs giving the usual critiques and announcements to their respective teams. Before the girls are done, Anthony comes over offering a slightly sarcastic congratulations. “But we’re going to beat you next time.”

When the team starts getting up, he addresses Janice, “So what’re you doing tonight?”

Before she can answer, Mary jumps onto her back. “You can’t have her, she’s mine.” She says playfully, squeezing her for emphasis, smiling innocently at Anthony.

Janice laughs and hoists up Mary. “Right! You can’t break us apart!” Anthony starts to smile, thinking up a retort, but Janice takes off across the field with Mary on her back, piggy-back style. The two are screaming and laughing, zigzagging towards the far goal.

A reporter will ask, halfway through their season, about their team’s ritual of ending their pre-game warm-up with piggy-back rides for their teammates. And after laughing for a minute, no one there will remember how or why it started.

 

After Anthony gets off from his last shift at the grocery store, he strolls into the house, and feels like he’s blown over from the amount of noise that meets him. He hears the television blaring from the living room and a stereo pumping out a dance mix in the kitchen. Before he manages to drop his keys on the table, Andy runs into him, hugging his middle – the highest he can reach.

“Anthony!” He shouts, and without backing away keeps yelling, “Katie won’t let me play her new video game and locks me out so I can’t watch, and Mary and Janice keep throwing popcorn at me!”

Anthony pushes him off and kneels down to his face-level. “Why are Mary and Janice throwing popcorn at you?”

“I dunno.” He shrugs. “They keep laughing and talking and I couldn’t hear the movie so I said ‘be quiet’ and they threw popcorn at me.”

“Hmm.” Anthony strokes his chin, eyeing his baby brother’s confused, pleading expression. “Are the girls watching a good movie?” Andy shrugs. “What new game did Katie get?”

“Car racing.”

“How about you and me go race, instead?"

Andy smiles. “Really?”

“Course.” Anthony picks up Andy and puts him over his shoulder and he shrieks with laughter, hitting Anthony’s back lightly.

“No! Put me down!”

Walking into the kitchen, Anthony sees his mom and dad sitting at the table talking, their heads bent together. He’s pretty sure it’s because it’s the only way they can hear each other, not because they’re sharing secrets or anything. “You’re doing a great job, guys!” He half-yells in their direction.

His dad looks up and shakes his head. “Hey, at least I don’t have to take anyone hostage.” His mom doesn’t reply or add anything, staring up at Anthony, her mouth pursed and her hands folded together on the table. She stays that way as he rolls his eyes and moves into the living room.

Mary and Janice are spread out on the floor next to the two couches, surrounded with pillows and blankets. The sound system on the wall opposite the television blares a dance mix, and Anthony feels like he’s in a club, not his living room. The girls don’t hear him come in; they’re so engrossed in Freddie vs. Jason they don’t look around to grab their popcorn. “This is your big girls night?”

Both girls jump, turning around to see Anthony with Andy slung over his shoulder. Mary throws a pillow in his general direction. “I thought you were working.”

“I was.”

“Hey handsome.” Janice smiles up at Anthony, tossing popcorn at them.

“You mean Andy, right?” Anthony swings quickly around so Andy bounces off his back, facing the girls.

Janice just shakes her head and throws more popcorn up at him. “That not very nice!” Andy points down at Janice and Mary, but they just ignore him.

“Okay, let’s go have some fun!” Anthony lifts his brother up off his shoulder and sets him down on his feet in front of him. Andy races through the house and bolts out of the sliding glass before Anthony takes a step.

“Good, keep him outside until the movie’s over at least,” Mary says before turning their movie back up louder than it was before.

Anthony just throws a pillow back at her as he follows his little brother’s path. When Anthony gets outside, Andy is putting balls over at the other side of the yard for a finish line. “You’re trying to cheat, starting already!” Anthony moves one of their fold-up chairs to where he knows the start line goes from every other time they’ve raced.

“Nuh uh!” Andy shouts back. They manage to race back and forth at least five times before Andy tries to make it an obstacle course so they go through the swing-set. They end up kicking the balls and playing on the swing-set. Andy goes across the monkey bars twice and Anthony does a few pull-ups before Andy ends up on the swing with his big brother pushing him. Noticing the sun dropping, Anthony grabs the swing from the back and tells Andy he has to get ready for bed.

They walk inside together and Andy goes upstairs as Anthony walks back into the living room. Mary and Janice are sitting on the couches now and a re-run of Friends is on the TV, but neither of them seem to be paying much attention to it. “Hey.”

“Oh, hey.” Mary smiles, turning toward to where Anthony stands in the doorway. “We were just talking about running in the morning.”

“But we have practice in the morning.” Anthony moves to sit on the arm of their couch.

“Right.” Janice joins in, “But we still want to run, and we can’t in the morning, so what about at night?”

“Yeah, bro, what do you think?”

He shrugs. “I’m good with whatever. Just let me know.”

He gets up and Janice grabs his arm. “Wait, are you going to bed?”

“I’m starving,” he replies, and she pulls him down for a quick kiss before letting him go.

“I’ll get you up tomorrow!” Mary calls after him.

Stopping in the kitchen, Anthony grabs a Gatorade and piles a plate full of the macaroni and cheese still sitting on the stove. Then he grabs a bag of chips out of the cupboard before walking up the stairs, flipping lights on as he goes. He squeezes his way into the room, stepping on clothing and a few books he doesn’t remember putting there. Earlier that day his mom told him that tomorrow she’s taking Mary, Katie, Andy, and him to shop for school stuff – including new clothes. He’s pretty sure he’s got everything he needs already, and he’ll do anything to avoid another full-family shopping trip. So, because he isn’t sure, and he’d have to find it anyway, he starts looking under the layers of his room. He eats as he works, clearing off his desk first. Right now there are a bunch of cups, plates, Gatorade bottles, pop bottles and cans, random papers and post-its in addition to his soccer duffel bag. Like Mary, he has a corkboard and a calendar above his desk, but the calendar with a picture of the Irish countryside says that it’s June, with every day up until the twelfth crossed off. His corkboard only has one picture on it, nestled in the bottom right corner. The picture of his whole family was taken two summers ago at the beach: his mom and dad are in the middle sitting in their beach chairs, hands linked, Mary’s sitting to their left on the ground, smiling underneath big sunglasses and lots of hair. Katie’s building something in the sand on their parents’ other side, while Anthony stands behind them with Andy sitting on his shoulders, trying to use Anthony’s ears to steer him. Most of the stuff on Anthony’s desk ends up in the trash, and he throws his soccer bag into the one clear corner near the window.

Starting in the corner opposite he starts to pile clothes on his bed and almost immediately finds a pile of notebooks hidden next to an empty backpack. He moves them to his desk before giving up on his room completely. Instead, he cleans out his duffel, putting new, clean things in it for tomorrow’s practice, and doing this he remembers a freshman who needs shin-guards. Anthony knows he has an extra pair somewhere, he just isn’t sure where, but he figures his closet’s the best bet and dives in. A lot of his clean clothes are in there, only a few of his nice ones hanging up – most are on the floor. He sits down to sort through them all and his closet door swings in toward him, an inch away from shutting him in. There’s still a block of light coming in, so he doesn’t mind.

Not too long afterward, when Anthony is trying to remember where he got the shoes in his hands, he hears voices come into his room. “Julie, c’mon, can’t we do this later?”

“No, Mark.” Anthony isn’t very surprised to hear his parents wander into his room in the middle of a discussion. He tries to get up to talk to them when he realizes he’s blocked himself in with his clothes and shoes.

“He could come in any second, and I don’t want to get caught spying!”

Anthony’s ears perk up at that, and he hears his mom scoff. “He’s outside playing with Andy – which makes now the perfect time because everyone is distracted.”

No, Mom, he thinks, I’m right here.

His dad gives in, “Okay, let’s just be quick. I’ll check the bed, you look in his desk.”

“If I can get over there. I don’t know how he can live in this. God, it smells in here.” Anthony can hear the drawers of his nightstand open and then close, and then he hears his dad grunt and a thud. He must be looking under my bed. His desk drawers open and close with loud thunks as his stuff is moved around.

There’s another thud, and he’s sure his dad just hit his head. “Nothing over here.”

“No condoms? Check for magazines. He’s gotta have something.”

“Between the mattresses, okay.” He hears his dad lift up his bed and drop it before looking through some other stuff, he can’t really tell.

Condoms? Why are they looking for condoms? I don’t have any condoms, Janice and I don’t have sex, Anthony thinks. Oh, maybe that’s why they’re looking. He almost laughs out loud at his parents, sneaking around his room, not asking him about it or something crazy like that.

He hears his mom, sounding frustrated, right next to the closet door and he jumps. “No magazines? Not one Playboy?”

“No Maxim either.” His dad grunts standing up, and Anthony can see his parents pass by him walking out of his room. “Well,” his dad sighs, “they don’t normally stick around when they go on their dates – maybe they keep it in the car.”

“Or at her house.” He hears his door open and click shut as his mom says, “We should go check his car really quick.”

After a few minutes Anthony can hear his car doors open and shut and can almost see them rifling through his jeep to find no condoms, or magazines, or sex toys or whatever they’re looking for. A really big part of him just wants to laugh because the whole thing is so stupid, but he can’t, and he isn’t sure if it’s because of the serious tone his mom took or something else. Either way, it feels like there’s a rock sitting in his gut, and his mind is moving in slow motion. Obviously, his parents aren’t going to find any condoms because Anthony has never bought any, and Janice has never bought any, because they don’t have sex. But Mom and Dad think we are having sex, and they – wanted to know they were right? Wanted to know if we were being safe? He doesn’t feel insulted because his parents might not think he’s smart enough to use a condom, but they were really, really adamant about it, so he’s confused.

So they must be really convinced we’re having sex, right? Anthony’s trying to figure it out. In a way it does make sense, he and Janice have been going out for about a year, and they were really close and on the team together and hung out all the time. And they are boyfriend and girlfriend, in high school, when lots of people do it. So his parents are thinking that way, and it isn’t bad or anything, they’re just concerned for their kid, they’re just wrong. Because they haven’t. And Anthony’s pretty sure they won’t for a while.

But why were they looking for magazines? I don’t have any of those. Why would I need them? I have a super hot girlfriend. He smiles to himself for a second in triumph before coming back to the fact: A girlfriend I don’t have sex with. He tries to think of a situation where he would want a “swimsuit” magazine or one where some female celebrity is half-naked, and he can’t. He can’t remember the last time he got lost in a fantasy where a nameless beauty had her shirt off over him. He can remember the last time he got himself off, and he knows he doesn’t think about random topless girls, he doesn’t think about Janice, he doesn’t really think about anything. Sure, that’s a little weird, but Anthony figures that if it does the trick for him, why does it matter?

One thing in his cloud of confusion that he really doesn’t get is, if his mom and dad already think he’s having sex with Janice, why would they look for dirty magazines? If there were no condoms but there were magazines, would that mean he wasn’t having sex? If there were condoms and no magazines, would that mean he was? What if there were both, and what do his parents think now that they know he doesn’t have either? Probably that all of our condoms are at Janice’s house, he thinks bitterly.

Anthony doesn’t feel better about anything, or feel that he understands what is going on in his parents’ minds any more, but he comes back to his surroundings. He just now notices that his old worn out shin-guards are in his hands. He manages to stand up and get out of the closet, throwing the shin-guards in the direction of his bag. He hears the shower running and realizes it’s probably really late if Mary’s taking her shower. Anthony switches off his light before crawling into bed, pulling his blankets over his head. He feels exhausted and a little bit sore, but most of all he wants to vomit, and he knows it has nothing to do with what he ate.

 

The next morning the sun wakes Mary up before her alarm does, and she’s actually bummed that she can’t go running right away. Practice doesn’t start for another hour but she’s anxious to start her day, so she gets dressed and braids her hair quickly before walking into Anthony’s room. She’s surprised to see Anthony’s blinds closed and his stereo off, and for a second she wonders if he’s even in his bed. But his blanket are just pulled up over his head, and she loses no time in jumping on him. “Time to get up!”

“Get of            f me.” Anthony’s voice is muffled, but he doesn’t sound groggy, and he didn’t even react when he normally would have jerked awake or shouted out.

“Were you already awake?” she asks, disappointed.

“Get off me,” he repeats in the same monotone.

“Fine.” She stands up and pulls the covers off his face before going to his window to open his blinds. “You still have to get up for practice, though.”

Mary returns to sit next to him on his bed and sees that he’s face down on his pillow, and not moving. “I’m not going,” he says through the pillow.

She shakes her head. “Yes you are. Soccer practice. You’re the captain.”

He turns his head to the side facing her, but he doesn’t look at her. “I’m not going. Take my stuff if you want, I’m not going.”

“Are you sick?” Mary tries to put her palm to his forehead, but he moves his head away from her.

“Tell Mom I’ve got all the school stuff I need, okay?”

She punches the mattress next to him. “You’re not going shopping either? Anthony, you can’t leave me alone with them!” He doesn’t reply. “C’mon, do it for me, for your sister!”

He doesn’t say anything or move his head at all, and Mary has to assume his silence means ‘No.’ The sound of pans going on the stove reach them from the kitchen, and Mary tries again. “Why don’t you come and have breakfast? You can tell Mom yourself and come back to bed. C’mon!” She tugs on the arm closest to her, but he doesn’t budge. “Anthony…” she pleads, but he reaches back and pulls his blankets back over his head.

She sighs, getting up to navigate her way back out of his room. The noise in the house has already increased substantially since Mary got up; Katie’s singing in her room getting dressed, her dad’s in the shower, and the clatter of her mom making breakfast is louder. Once she gets into the kitchen, Mary hears her mom cursing under her breath in addition to the sizzle of pancakes and bacon already on the stove.

“Morning, Mom.”

“Morning, Mary. Where’s Anthony? I thought you were getting him up.”

Mary opens the fridge, reaching for some juice. “He’s a big boy, Mom.”

“I’ll go wake him up if you watch the pancakes.” She hands the spatula over to her daughter with a smile.

“He’s already up.” Cutting off her mom, she goes on, “And I’m pretty sure Katie’s up too, so stop worrying.”

“I just want to make sure that after you get back from practice we can leave and start shopping.” Mary just nods, rolling her eyes, as Katie and Andy thunder down the stairs. They chorus a ‘good morning’ before Julie puts down her spatula again. “Are you sure he’s up?”

Mary sighs, “Yes, he’s up, he’s not coming down, he’s not going shopping, and he’s not going to practice so you have to drive me.”

“What? Why?”

“If Anthony’s not going to practice someone has to drive me there. Unless you let me drive.”

“I have to go with you if you drive. That’s how permits work. But I meant why isn’t he going?”

“He already has stuff for school?” Mary takes three pancakes and takes the syrup out of Andy’s hands, not looking at her mom.

“So why isn’t he going to practice?” She takes the syrup out of her daughter’s hand, giving it back to Andy.

“I don’t know. He feels sick, I guess.”

Just about to sit down, Julie stands back up. “Oh, I should go check on him, then.”

But Katie speaks up, her mouth full, “Mom. The last time I was sick you kept waking me up.” She swallows and adds, “It’s super annoying.”

“So you’re trying to tell me to let him sleep?”

“Yes.”

“Yep.”

“Yeasph.” Andy spits some of his pancakes across the table, and Julie rolls her eyes and puts her hands up in defeat.

She ends up letting Mary drive the five miles to the school for practice, but since it takes so long to get everybody in the car, Mary’s almost late. Most of the team is glad she’s there, but all of the seniors and the starters from last year look at little disappointed she’s carrying Anthony’s bag instead of arriving with him.

 

Anthony lies under his covers, trying not to think, when he hears Mary come in and grab his soccer bag; he stays there and hears everyone pile into the car and drive off, followed by his dad’s separate car door slam and driving off. Turning over slowly, he moves his blankets off his face, covering it with his forearm instead. He knows that he’s hungry, but even if he doesn’t want to throw up now, he would if he went downstairs to eat. The queasy feeling he has gets stronger as he lets his dreams from last night come back to his mind. The one he remembers the most he keeps trying to forget, or to change what happens, and to really just change how he feels about it.

In the dream he’s playing soccer on his home field, and he’s winning. He dodges past the other team – he can’t remember what team, but they’re dressed in red, which is their rival’s color, so he assumes he’s playing against them. He passes the ball back and forth with his co-captain Steven, confusing the goalie until he gets close enough to shoot a goal, and he kicks it past him, scoring. There’s a whistle and he knows the game is over, and they won because of his goal. His team surrounds him, jumping and screaming, and he looks out toward the bleachers, scanning invisible faces hopefully. Hope mixed in with the triumph of winning the game, and he finally finds the face – Matt Kelby is watching him, watching him with a huge grin on his face. And suddenly Anthony feels like he’s soaring and he can’t do anything wrong.

Even though the dream is a good one, one that made him wake up happy, and gives him a warm feeling when he replays it in his mind, it makes him queasy at the same time. He keeps trying to change it so that when he looks over it’s toward the benches, looking for Janice. It shouldn’t be difficult to do – he does look for her every game, every goal – he had been doing it ever since she joined the team with Mary. She was always the one with the biggest smile, and the most enthusiastic cheering, and she manages to increase his happiness tenfold.

But that’s what Janice always seems to do, no matter the situation. It’s part of why Anthony loves her so much, and he knows he loves her. He does. He can remember the first time he met her, and thinking that Mary had finally gotten herself a worthwhile friend. Then through soccer and how much time Mary spent with Janice and that Anthony always spent with Mary, they got to know each other very quickly. Soon they had their own conversations, inside jokes, and things they only talked about with each other. Anthony can’t remember ever making a friend faster.

For a long time Janice has been the best thing to ever happen to him, and their relationship is solid; she’s a great girlfriend. He knows he loves her, he really loves her, but the more he thinks about having sex with Janice the less he wants to. He ends up replaying times they’ve been together, when they’ve kissed, when they’ve touched, and they very rare cases when more has happened. Anthony likes kissing Janice, he thinks both of them are good kissers, and they’ve never had any problems there. But the more he thinks about touching her breasts in any context, he realizes that he never touches first – the first few times Janice actually put his hands there, and afterwards he always feels her hands dig in under his shirt before he does. At the drive-in theater just a few days ago, Anthony vividly remembers making-out, and he knows he didn’t move his hands until after half of his shirt was already up to his pecks. The few times Janice gave him a hand-job he remembers his shock from how the situation seemed to appear out of nowhere. Unlike his contact with her breasts, her hand-jobs manage to bring him to his peak, and so even though, again, it’s never his idea, he definitely enjoys it.

The only useful thing he can wrap his mind around about this is that Janice likes and encourages them doing sexual acts. Before, he didn’t notice she was the one to suggest making-out in public or staying home to watch a movie. It’s just her personality – she’s always been someone who tackles challenges and has strong opinions. It’s one of the things Anthony loves about her. But loving her suddenly feels irrelevant, because if she initiates sexual acts between them, she’s on the same side as his parents, and he feels oddly betrayed.

Without really realizing it, Anthony’s sitting up in bed, chomping on the potato chips on his nightstand. Now however, he quickly closes the bag with a paperclip and bolts out of bed to get dressed, in an effort to avoid the conclusion he’s drawn. He races down the stairs, fixing and eating a sandwich as he wanders around the house. I’m not having sex with Janice – As soon as he’s done he dives into the breakfast dishes still lying around. I’m not having sex with Janice because I – Finishing the dishes, he goes back upstairs to organize his school things for Monday. In an attempt to make his floor visible, he starts piling all of his clothes and he unearths some smelly, moldy plates. I’m not having sex with Janice because I do- Rushing back downstairs he throws the dishes in the sink. I’m not having sex with Janice because I don’t want to. Anthony hears a car pull into the driveway and his stomach plummets. He really can’t handle his family, or talking, or smiling, and he bolts upstairs, trying to stop images of Matt Kelby from popping up, and all of the new thoughts and ideas he feels coming with them.