Knots, Book 1
by Elias Scott
Andy broke his leg the sixth game of the season. Matt was moved to quarterback and Randy Carter took Matt's place at halfback.
"Fate," Andy said.
Matt patted Andy on the back. "Right Andy. Fate. Now I'm the star quarterback and can have any girls I want."
"Don't count on it. I'm still a star and things aren't going to change. Living up to my rep is going to be hard for a pussy like you."
But of course things did change. The girls were all fighting to sign Andy's cast the first week he was on crutches and his leg in a cast. But as the weeks past, he became the former quarterback, the guy who was now hobbling from class to class on crutches. He'd seemed strong and invincible before the break. Now he seemed weak and vulnerable. He stood on the sidelines during the JV games watching Matt become the hero and the team leader. Andy looked lost and alone.
Matt was a quick learner and was soon hitting Alan for short and long passes and running the ball on options. Randy Carter, who was now dating Gina, jumped right into Matt's place at halfback, and the team didn't skip a beat.
Andy, the star quarterback, was now the former quarterback and a cripple. Emily ran up to him between classes while he was working his way to class. "Sorry about the leg."
Andy looked surprised. "Thanks Emily. I figured you'd never want to talk to me again."
"I didn't. But kinda feel sorry for you. Tough break...No pun intended. We all make mistakes. I made a mistake that night in the park. Sorry to lead you on like that. Gina and I talked about it and decided I shouldn't go further. I was afraid of what might happen."
"You're the first girl that ever touched me like that," he said. "It did something to me and I wanted more. Can you blame me?"
She shook her head and put her hand on his. "No and that's why I'm sorry. If I hadn't done what I did, you wouldn't have expected more. It was like I turned on a sleeping giant."
Andy laughed. "It is kinda like that as a matter of fact."
She placed her hand on his chest and held it there. "I can feel your heart beating.. You're still alive. Things'll work out. There's always next year."
He put his hand over hers. "Matt's the hero now. I'm just a guy with a broken leg."
"But you're Andy Gibson, you'll be coming back. Matt's your best friend. He'll want you back. He wants you to succeed."
Andy shook his head. "I doubt it. He's the star quarterback now. Why would he want me to take his place next year? He's not going to give it up. Maybe I just won't play next year."
Emily pressed her hand hard against his chest. "Like I said, I feel your heart beating underneath those muscles of yours. It's a good heart and you'll come back. Believe that. I do."
He smiled. "Can I feel your heart?"
Andy smiled back. "I'm joking. I think I love you Emily."
Emily blushed. "So you say. I love you too Andy."
"Does that mean we're going steady?"
"Sorry. I love you because you're Andy Gibson and have a big heart and a lot of courage."
Andy grabbed her hand. "I love you because you believe in me despite what I did. Thanks."
Emily smiled. "Friends then?"
He kissed her on the cheek. "Yes friends, without benefits."
"Right. Friends without benefits."
Andy pulled the crutches under his shoulders and stood a bit taller as Emily walked him to class.
I feel sorry for Andy. He broke his leg and I took his place at quarterback. He's hobbling around campus and standing on the sidelines watching the games. It makes me want to cry.
I'm really doing well though. Doing as well as Andy, maybe a little better. His cockiness kinda pissed off a lot of the guys on the team. They seem to prefer my calm confident presence in the huddle and on the field. I'll have to admit, I don't have Andy's flash or his charisma.
Once in a while I look over at him on the way to the huddle or just before I start the count. He stares through me. I talk to him when our team's on defense and I'm on the sidelines. He doesn't say much. Things have changed between us.
We're in our 7th game and he says, "So hot shot. How's it feel to be me?"
"I don't know. I just know how it feels to be me," I said.
"Sometimes life is the shits," he said with a quick change of subject.
I stood slightly to his left and put my hand over his right shoulder as we watched the game. "Sometimes it is. But things'll change. You'll get the cast off, throw those crutches away, and life'll be back to normal."
He shook my hand away. "You're giving me my job back next year, right?"
"No, you're going to have to earn it."
I followed him as he moved away. "You only have the job because I got hurt. The job's mine."
"Actually, the job's mine. You'll need to take it away from me next year."
He spun around to face me with anger in his eyes. "I'm going to kick your ass next year."
I gave him a light kick in the cast. "That's the Andy I know. I expect you to give it your best shot. Don't forget you're my best friend and I love you. You'd better fight for my job. I wouldn't respect you if you didn't." The other team punted. "Sorry, I've got to get back on the field and be the star quarterback."
He hit me in the butt with his crutch. "Go get'um Matt.
We had a 8-2 season and won the league championship. Andy sat silently at the awards night and watched me go up to get the Most Valuable Player Award, the one he thought should have been his. And it would have been. But while I'm only a freshman, I think we both learned a valuable lesson that year. We are not always masters of our fate. We can only give our best while we can, and if life seems to turn against us, make the best out of what comes next. Like they say, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
Andy lost his joy and the love we had over the summer and the first few weeks of football when life seemed gold. Even what we had after Andy's 12 step seduction was gone. I tried hard to help him get the fire back after the season and his cast was off, but nothing worked. Winter came and our friendship was as cold as the winter. He didn't go out for basketball and I played without my best friend, the guy who brought joy to my life and my game.
But there was something in me that said I needed to take what I had and do my best. So the basketball season was one of wonder and joy as I came into my own as a person, an athlete, and basketball player, building on my success as a winning quarterback. I was moving forward, and when I looked back, Andy was getting further and further behind. I was afraid I'd lose sight of him. Where were all the girls who said they loved him?
But as spring came and the weather warmed, Andy worked through his grief and started to come alive again. He started dating again. We played pick-up basketball in the neighborhood. Little by little he began to play like he used to. He jumped high, out rebounded us, and moved with grace, speed, and agility. I loved watching him and had forgotten how much he inspired me. We pulled off our shirts, feeling the warmth of the sun on our backs. We let the sweat roll off our backs and stomachs as the summer approached and we were again out mowing lawns just like old times. Soon we were tanned and ready for spring footballr.
My life fell apart when I broke my leg. I was at the top of the world and then at the bottom. It never occurred to me that something bad could happen. One day I'm the star quarterback and a hero and the next day just a guy limping down the hall on crutches with a cast on his leg. I got a lot of sympathy at first. Everyone wanted to sign my cast and it seemed like it would be alright. But I was surprised at how fast people forget about their heroes.
Suddenly Matt had my job and was the star quarterback and I was nothing. At first I thought I could handle it by being happy for Matt. But I began to have more and more trouble with it. He irritated me when he talked to me and acted like everything would be okay. What made it worse, was that when I told him I expected my job back next year, he told me no, I'd have to beat him out for it. It really pissed me off. I would have had liked to kick the shit out of him right then. The cast was the only thing that kept me from doing it.
Watching him going up to get my most valuable player award hurt the most. He smiled at the crowd when coach gave him the award. He glanced at me for a second, but didn't say, "This should really be Andy's.". What kind of friend is that? The team stood up and gave him a standing ovation as I sat there, unable to move fast enough to stand, but I really was just looking for an excuse not too. Andy came back to his seat beside me, leaned over to me, and whispered, "This should have been yours."
I wanted to say You're right. Why didn't you say that? But I didn't, just smiled and said, "thanks." I wanted to cry. My life was in shambles. The visions I had of the girls chasing me even more because I was the star quarterback and most valuable player, dwindled over the weeks after the accident. Soon there were none.
The only bright spot was when Emily caught me in the hall. I apologized for what happened at the pizza parlor.
"I forgive you." She put her hand on my chest and it was different this time. She said, "I can feel your heart. And no matter what, Andy, I believe in you."
It's strange, but her touch did something to me I'd never felt before, and it had nothing to do with sex. It had to do with Emily saying she believed in me.
Only problem was, I didn't think I deserved it. I spent the next months feeling sorry for myself. My leg healed and the cast came off, but I decided not to play basketball. It was like cast or not, my life was ended. My mind and heart felt like they were in a cast. Matt shined in basketball and I fell into the shadows. At first I went to his games, but then quit. That hurt Matt. He liked my support and maybe I did it just to hurt him. I really don't know. Anger and jealousy grew in me like a cancer. I wanted to see him fail and wanted to do something to make sure he failed. But while my not coming to the games may have hurt him, he got better without me.
We ate lunch and got together on the weekends like we always did, but my anger and jealousy created a gap between us.
Matt confronted me as we walked home from school a few weeks before the beginning of spring football. He raised his voice. "What the hell's the matter with you Andy?"
"What do you mean, what the hell's the matter with me? Nothing's the matter."
"You sure don't act like it. I know you got hurt and all. But you're healed now, at least on the outside. Basketball and football were great, but they weren't the same without you."
"Like you cared. You did fine without me. Everyone just forgot about poor Andy Gibson. But not Matt Spence, great basketball and football star."
"I didn't break your leg. Get over it. You need to get ready to take your job back. It wouldn't mean anything if I just gave it to you. You need to fight for it."
I slapped him. "It's my position. Not yours. I shouldn't have to fight you for it."
He slapped me back, and just like that we were fighting.
"Stop, my leg hurts," I yelled. He let go. As soon as I was free, I hit Matt in the face, giving him a bloody nose. He wiped his nose and when he saw the blood, went crazy. He ran at me, threw his arms around me, and took me to the ground like I was a ball carrier. "You son of a bitch. That was chicken shit," he said as we rolled on the ground wrapped in each other's arms so no one could throw a punch.
"Get off me queer," I said. That pissed him off. He let go, and when I stood up, he jumped up and hit me in the cheek, twisting my head around. Before I had a chance to recover, he hit me in the stomach, throwing me off balance.
He pushed me to the ground and stood over me. "I'm getting tired of this queer shit. I like and love you Andy, or at least I did. You seem to have forgotten you were the one with the 12 step seduction plan. It was you who felt me up, kissed me, and wanted to suck my cock. You're the queer."
I stood up wobbling and ignored his queer remark. "You've stolen my life. How do you expect me to act?"
"Stolen your life? No, an unfortunate accident temporarily changed your life. No one took it. What did you expect me to do, play badly so everyone would be screaming for you to come back? I have more pride than that. And if you were any kind of a friend, you'd have been rooting for me. But instead you're jealous."
I moved away from him in case he decided to hit me again. "You're damn right I am. I have a right to be."
Matt walked toward me and I backed up. "Stop," Matt said. "I'm not going to hit you." He put his hands on my shoulders and stared me in the eye. "You're my best friend. But best friends want the best for each other. I understand your jealousy, but you need to let it go. You'll come back next year. I believe in you. Problem is, you don't believe in yourself. What happened to the self-confident asshole I used to know?"
I threw his hands off my shoulders with my wrists. "That's the kind of bullshit the coaches say."
"Maybe so, but it's true. Nothing's changed. You still have that beautiful muscular body and you'll be back a year older and a year bigger, and with any luck, you'll send me back to the backfield. But I'm not going without a fight."
I frowned and bit my lip. "I shouldn't have to fight you for it. If you were my best friend, you'd go back to halfback on your own."
"You have a lot of flash and great moves. I think you'd do better at halfback. What difference does it make?"
He shook his head. "If it doesn't make any difference, then you go back to halfback."
"It really doesn't matter because it's the coach's decision."
I was surprised when he stuck his hand out to shake mine. "You're right. It's not our decision," I said. "You might be right about playing halfback. I do have great moves and a lot of flash. I'll think about it." I held my hand out to him. Matt looked surprised and put his hand in mine. "Friends?" I asked.
My sex life was in neutral all these months. I was beginning to realize that it was like the movie, Kids, I'd lost everything, and I didn't know what to do. I'm still waiting for a guy to come into my life. The one thing I learned through all this is to have more patience.
I started to come out of my funk as spring football approached. We played a lot of pick-up basketball after Matt's season ended. Soon I had my mojo back. Matt and the other guys had to work for every point. Lawns were growing and we started our lawn mowing business again, taking off our shirts to get a tan and let the sun warm our backs. I love the sun on my back. I like that Matt looks at me all the time. But then I look at him too. I'd still like to get in his pants or for that matter, anyone's pants, but will have to settle for porn and my hand.
Spring football is almost here and it won't be long before I get my QB job back.
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