“Hey,” Kayla said loudly. “Why’d you run that play, coach? You don’t like first downs?”
The coach didn’t turn to look at us, but I covered my grin with my hand. “We’re supposed to be rooting for them.”
“C’mon, Eighty-Eight. I thought you knew I only cheer for winners.”
She’d left herself wide open. “Then, when are you transferring to Michigan?”
Her face twisted. “Why would you say something so vile? I’m all nauseous now. Can we not talk about it? I like to pretend I don’t know.”
“You’re going with the head in the sand approach?” My tone was dubious. Was this why she was so chill? She was just pretending?
The home side let up a big cheer. Unbelievable. The coaching staff had called the same play a second time.
Kayla was up on her feet and against the railing at the edge of the stands, getting as close as she could to the field. “You know there are other plays out there, right?” she said. “You must’ve noticed the other team was running them.”
That caught the coach’s attention. The middle-aged man turned and threw an annoyed look up at her and then did a double-take. He’d probably expected some overly involved mother of a player, not a young spitfire heckling him.
I stood and joined her at the railing, mulling over her comment about pretending my school didn’t exist. It was a huge part of who I was. I practiced and trained at least thirty hours a week. If this thing between us was going somewhere, sooner or later she’d have to deal with it, but I’d do my best to make it easy on her.
“You’re a senior, I’m a senior,” I said. “It’s one season.”
“Just because we graduate, doesn’t mean that school part of our lives stops. I’m always going to be from Ohio State. And you’ll always be from Michigan.” She made a face. “Yuck.”
I rested my hands on the cold railing. “Uh, did you just say yuck?”
Her eyes peered up at mine. “I meant yuck, because I just realized if you go pro, it’ll say that when they show the starting lineup.”
Whoa. I laughed. “Wow. Two really big assumptions there.”
“That you’d go pro?”
“Yeah. And start.” The third assumption, which I left out, was she’d still be paying attention to me in the future. That was a good sign, right?
“Would you go to the NFL? Oh, come on!”
I followed her gaze out onto the field where the players collapsed into a pile. “Are you shitting me?”
They’d called the running play a third time. Could the QB not throw? Were the receivers unable to catch a damn ball? The last two times the running back had rushed straight into a wall, but this time he was tackled for a loss of seven.
“I might have looked up your stats. You’re good.” She sounded embarrassed, but it turned me on. She was interested.
“Would I like to play professional ball?” I said. “Hell, yeah. Will I get drafted? Right now, maybe.”
“But if you had a great season . . .”
I smiled. That was the plan.
“Well, I’m not too sorry to say, you’re going to lose at least one game this year.”
“We’ll see in November, won’t we?”
The offense had left, and special teams moved onto the field.
Kayla faked outrage. “You’re not gonna go for it on fourth and seventeen?” she yelled. “You could use your secret play! The law of averages says it should work.”
I chuckled as the inept coach spun around and his body language screamed he’d had enough. “You think you know better, girl?” His hands rested on his hips. He looked proud to put her in her place. “You want to come down here and coach?”
She nodded enthusiastically. “Sure, someone’s got to.”
The coach’s mouth fell open. Kayla gripped the railing with both hands and vaulted over it, moving too fast for me to stop her. She dropped down onto the track and marched toward the coach, whose jaw hit the grass.
Well, fuck me. This girl was crazy, and I loved it.