I heave a sigh and walk back measuring out an even two-thirds as I go. "POLE!" I yell over my shoulder without looking to see who is there.
"I'm coming," Jen replies good-naturedly, if a little out of breath. I shouldn't have yelled. I promise myself that next time I will look before I yell. Jen isn't irritated. Somehow she knows I can never wholeheartedly trust her, or anyone. Somehow she knows how scared I am.
I dart glances at those blue jerseyed fiends: our opponents. "WHO HAS #21?!"
"I do," Meredith answers quietly, but firmly, as she steps closer to reassure me. I bite my lip wishing she would play closer, all the while trying to force myself to trust her.
"Christine, you got #6?"
"I got her," Christine answers as she glances back at #6.
"Watch the cut!" There is nothing more to be said.
Seconds pass in which I battle #19 for better position in the mouth of the goal, each of us determined to make the play. I let her step in front of me, but I keep my shoulder against her, a gentle reminder that I am still there. I try to look intimidating. Do you know how hard it is to look intimidating when you are only five foot three inches?
I am tense. I am still intensely aware of #19's presence, but my attention is now focused on #4. I watch her set the ball. She is small, but I know only too well how much power is behind that kick. The ball is set: she is running ... contact ... a perfect kick, but I haven't the time to admire the beauty of it with a poet's eye. Right now I am the goalie.
The ball bounces high in the very center of the penalty box. Number nineteen has left my side, and all the girls who were so carefully posed only seconds ago are scrambling for that black and white ball in the mouth of the goal. I am on my toes ready to spring into that knot of kicking feet, struggling not to lose sight of the ball, even for an instant.
THUD!! Both blue and gold make contact simultaneously. In slow motion the ball spins toward me on the hard-packed dirt. I play low to the ground and see only the ball ... off gold's kick ... off blue's shins ... handball? No. No!! The ball explodes in my face. For an instant I see nothing, and then the ball dribbling at my feet. I grasp for it and it isn't there. With a flash and a grunt it is gone. I see it skip, once, twice on the autumn grass.
A whistle blows. "CORNER, BLUE!!" I breath. I turn to pace back the long-practiced two-thirds.
"POLE!!" I yell hoarsely over my shoulder, without looking back. For the moment we are the victors, but only until the next corner kick. l
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.