The week passes slowly, but when Saturday finally arrives, I’m strangely nervous. I dig through my closet, calling for one of my roommates to come into my room.
“What do I wear to a football game?” I ask her when she appears in the doorway. I can hear the small amount of panic in my voice, and she laughs, not making this any better. “Shut up!” I now yell, throwing a pair of jeans at her. I cover my face with my hands, feeling it grow hot and red with embarrassment.
It’s been a long time since I ever even considered dating someone, or even liked someone for that matter, but now with Matt, I want him to like me, and everything about that makes me nervous.
“Do I wear like a school t-shirt in support of the team or is that weird and over the top? Do I just wear something casual?”
“Do you even own a school t-shirt?” Paige asks me, one eyebrow raised in surprise.
“No, but I could totally run over to the student center and buy one,” I reply, sounding incredibly desperate and I’m never one to try to impress a guy, but here I am trying to impress a guy.
“Really? Did you have a stroke? Are you listening to yourself?” Paige now asks, and while we haven’t known each other that long, she knows this isn’t me. “Don’t change for a guy. Never change for a guy. Go to the game because you want to and wear whatever the hell you want.”
Her words are like a slap in the face, and they bring me back to reality. She’s right. I don’t need to try to impress him. Just going to his game like he asked me to is more than enough and if it’s not, then he’s obviously not who I think he is.
“You’re right,” I agree, but still digging through my drawers and closet as Paige walks over and grabs a pair of jeans off my desk chair and hands them to me.
“Wear these and…” she stalls out, stopping to thumb through the clothes in my closet before holding up one finger and scampering out of the room.
Paige returns a few seconds later carrying a Hawthorn sweatshirt and hands it to me. “In case it gets cold,” she says, smiling.
I truly lucked out when I transferred schools and knew no one. I met Paige after responding to an online ad looking for a roommate at a place near campus. I was seriously hesitant, but I knew I couldn’t afford to live on my own. After what had happened in Arizona, my trust in humanity was long gone, but I had become pretty good at reading people and after meeting Paige and our other roommate Stacy, things sort of fell into place. And now, it’s like we’ve known each other all our life.
They check in with me all the time, making sure I’m doing okay. We look out for each other and without them, this transition to a new school, in a new town, would’ve been a hell of a lot harder.
“Thank you,” I reply, smiling back at her and feeling a little less nervous. “You want to come with me?” I now ask, silently pleading that she agrees so I’m not doing this alone.
“Sure, why not,” Paige answers, shrugging casually as if she has nothing better to do. Sometimes I wonder if she just agrees so I don’t have to be alone, but whatever it is, I’m grateful.
“So, how does this work?” I now ask her. “He invited me to a massive stadium. How will he even know I’m there? I’m not going to text him and tell him I’m there.”
Paige laughs, a sweet little giggle that helps ease a little bit of my anxiety. “Seriously, Madison, don’t worry about all the details. We’ll just go and if he sees you, he sees you. If not, you can tell him you were there.”
But just as I’m about to ask her another question like she’s this all-knowing being in regards to dates and boys and football, my phone chimes out.
Matt: How many tickets do you need? I’ll leave them at Will Call for you.
Okay, I wasn’t expecting that level of thoughtfulness, so now I for sure have to go. He’s definitely turning on the charm and I love that. Him and all his cheesiness and sweet gestures.
Matt: You are still coming, right?
I had immediately said yes when he asked at the bar a few nights ago, not even giving it a second thought. I had been enjoying spending time with him and why not support something he’s passionate about. That’s kind of how relationships work, even if this isn’t a relationship yet.
Me: Yes, I’ll be there. Two tickets?
Matt: You aren’t bringing a date, are you?
Me: Lol, no just my roommate for moral support.
There’s a long pause in between my last text and his response, and I hope he gets that I’m joking. I’m not really into football, but I didn’t bother to mention that when I said I would go, so sitting there alone doesn’t feel like a great way to spend my Saturday. But I’ll take the boredom if it means getting to possibly hang out with Matt afterward. At least I hope I’ll get to.
We didn’t really talk about what would happen after the game with the exception of us agreeing to possibly having dinner or lunch or breakfast or whatever, but nothing was ever finalized. And I have no idea how long a football game lasts or if he has something he’s required to be at afterward, like a team meeting or whatever it is that football players do.
Holy shit, I kind of need to pull myself together.
Me: That was a joke. I don’t really watch football so she’s coming with me so I’m not bored.
Matt: You won’t be bored. I’ll make sure it’s exciting. 😉
Me: It feels like nothing is boring with you. You made doing laundry exciting. Will I get to see you after the game?
I look up at Paige who is still standing in my room smirking at me because she clearly knows I’m chatting with Matt.
“So?” she says holding her hands out in front of her as if to ask me if he replied with any answers to my overload of questions.
“He’s leaving two tickets for us, and I asked him if I would see him after the game, but he hasn’t responded yet.”
I’m not reading into his delayed response. I’m sure he’s getting ready for the game since it starts in an hour, but I can tell by the look on Paige’s face that she’s wondering if I am.
“Don’t overthink things, Madison,” she says like she’s instructing me on how to cope since she knows things like this can throw me for a loop. “I know for a fact that he likes you and word around campus is that he’s quite a catch.”
“Yes, yes, I know and I’m not. I’m not analyzing everything that happens between us and I’m not trying to predict the future and I’m not avoiding getting close to him. I’m working through all of that, and it feels good. Meeting him feels good.”
My phone chimes out again and I look down at his response and it’s longer than I expected.
Matt: I would love to see you after the game if you don’t mind waiting for me. Usually takes about two hours after the game ends for us to wrap everything up. I can meet you at your place if you want? I’d say let’s go to dinner, but I’m usually spent after a game, so maybe we can do breakfast in the morning?
I laugh a little and flash my phone over to Paige so she can read the text. I watch as she shakes her head and replies with, “Seems like he likes you, huh? Why don’t you invite him over? Stacy and I will be here and then if things get uncomfortable or whatever, we can kick his ass.” She nods and we both laugh.
“I don’t think we’ll need to do any ass kicking,” I reply.
“Neither do I, but it’s kinda fun to think about it like Charlie’s Angels.”
“Oh my god, Paige,” I say, shaking my head and rolling my eyes.
“So you going to answer him?”
I grab my phone where I dropped it on the bed and Paige slips out the door, leaving me to contemplate what I should say. Of course I want to invite him over and it might be nice to just hang out at home, watch a movie and keep things lowkey.
Me: Do you want to come to my place and we can order pizza and watch a movie?
Matt: That sounds perfect. I’ll see you at the game and then after.
Paige and I stroll up to Will Call about fifteen minutes before the game starts, but the place is already packed. I know that football is a big deal to people and I’m sure when they see the two of us show up here asking for tickets, they’re going to be like, what the fuck.
I give the girl behind the counter my name and she slides me two tickets along with a set of instructions on how to get to our seats.
We both grab a beer from one of the stands before finding where we’ll be sitting, and while I know nothing about football, I assume these are some great seats. You can pretty much see the entire field and we’re right next to where the players come out onto the field from the locker rooms.
“Wow,” Paige says, scanning the stadium. “These are some kick ass seats. Guess it pays to date a football player.”
“We aren’t dating,” I say, quickly and I have no idea why. What are we doing if we aren’t dating? “Okay, I guess we are dating.”
Paige opens her mouth to say something, something snarky I’m sure, but she’s cut off by the sound of someone calling my name. We both turn in that direction and find Matt standing just below the stands, flagging me over to him.
“There’s your date,” Paige teases, and I slap her on the arm.
“Shut up. You need to stop making fun of me because one day you’re going to bring a boy home and I’m going to give you so much shit.” I point a finger at her as I walk over to meet Matt. “Sit down and drink your beer,” I call over my shoulder and I hear Paige let out a laugh.
“I thought you weren’t coming,” Matt calls up to me. “You’re late.”
“The game starts in ten minutes,” I reply back. “And of course I was coming. You invited me and left me these tickets which seem to be really good.”
“Most people don’t show up ten minutes before a game starts. We’ll need to work on that,” he says, winking at me. “You ready?”
“Are you ready?” I ask back, as some of the players start calling his name.
I’m looking down at him, our eyes focused on each other and there’s this weird nervous energy passing between us. My stomach flutters and I can’t help the smile that seems to be plastered on my face. Just being in his presence makes me happy and there’s something so freeing about that. I finally feel like my life is starting again.
There were a few times where things finally started to get back to normal. When I admitted I was raped and started seeing a therapist was the first time. Then when I told my parents, and later when I met Ruby and worked through my issues. And now, meeting Matt.
His coach now calls for him, his voice loud and booming and Matt acts as if it isn’t happening.
“I think you better go,” I tell him and he looks over his shoulder. But instead of joining his team, he climbs the railing so he’s now standing level with me. “What are you doing, crazy boy?”
“I don’t know,” he says, laughing a little. “Probably about to have my ass handed to me by my coach.”
“Maybe you need a good luck kiss,” I say, batting my eyelashes and smiling at him as I lean a little bit closer.