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Together We Kick, Together We Shoot
"Pass, you idiot! Pass!" Jem screamed. Swinging his arms furiously in his bright yellow team shirt made him look like a squawking duck. But Ryder kept the ball, constantly switching between his left leg and his right. His face remained blank, swiped clean of any emotion he might have been feeling. He stopped for an instant, and immediately the defense of the other team swarmed around him, pushing to get the ball away from the star of the team. Ryder calmly pushed them away and took a shot at the goal. The net seemed to enlarge and Ryder made a clean shot, the ball flying toward the net and the goalie screaming in frustration. The whistle shrieked, ending the game in the favor of the home team.
His teammates crowded around Ryder, screeching in accomplishment. They cheered and pumped their fists, all while Ryder stood in the middle of the chaos, staring straight across the field at a younger boy sitting on the bench.
Logan stood up and clapped as hard as he could. He put his hands around his mouth and cheered for his big brother, his voice lost in the screaming happening all around him.
The crowd screamed Ryder's name and Logan felt himself swell at the pride of being related to Ryder Weste, the ace of the varsity soccer team. He looked at his notes again, then ripped up the paper and threw it out. He didn't need that anymore. It was worthless if their team had already won the game.
Logan Weste was the manager of their team, the Blue Eagles. Lamest name ever, especially for the varsity soccer team of the school with the best athletic history in the state. Brother of the all-time champion Ryder Weste and son of the best soccer player in the state, Logan had a lot of pressure on him, pounding down on him every step of the way.
Just being the manager was not enough. Logan needed more, something that he could call his own. He needed to play. On the field, not on the bench, taking notes of the opposing team so that the team could crush them next time. He was good at that, sure, but that was it. No.
Logan needed the rush of the field, the harsh intensity of the game, and the power you feel when you have control of the ball. He stood up, and began walking toward Ryder, to congratulate him on his big win.
Jem Farrell was mad. Mad at Ryder. For stealing his ball. For God's sake, they were on the same freaking team!!!!!!
But Ryder needed to spotlight. He needed to win everything. Jem could've scored that winning goal, if only he had the chance. But then he would only get the small pat-on-the-back, an occasional congratulation. But Ryder would get the big overblown standing ovation everyone else dreamed of having. Every time. Every single time, no matter how stupid his accomplishment was; he would always get everybody to look up at him in wonder. In awe.
Jem was the only one who knew the truth. The truth behind the ice prince of the soccer field. Underneath that smiling warm exterior lay a self-pretentious bastard who had no respect for anyone. He'd seen Ryder yell back at the teachers in school, and get suspended for weeks at a time. He’d seen Ryder hanging out with biker gangs, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. He'd seen Ryder date all 13 girls on the cheerleading squad at once, going from one to the other. That blond-haired, blue-eyed, stereotypical jerk.
Jem knew the truth. He knew the truth, only because he used to be Ryder's best friend.
Ryder stared over the heads of the soccer fans here to congratulate him on the goal. His expression completely blank, void of any emotion. He breathed hard, still panting slightly from the exertion. He waved them off with a hand and walked over to Logan, staring at the crumpled notebook paper sitting next to his brother.
"Logan," Ryder groaned in exasperation. "How many times to I need to tell you, you're the manager! You need to take notes of the other team."
"Yeah, but we won, so there's no need to take notes anymore." Logan protested weakly. Ryder glared. He hated people talking back to him.
"If you think being the manager of thus team gives you the right to slack off and not pay attention, I'll kick you off this team myself!"
"Sorry, Captain." Logan bowed his head in shame and embarrassment. Out of the corner of his eye, he say Jem standing quite a distance away, arms crossed and staring at Ryder in resentment. He c***ed his head, confused, as Ryder walked away shaking his head in disgust.
"PRACTICE TIME, BOYS!" shouted the coach into his microphone. "We may have won yesterday's match against the Cougars but we still need to train harder if we want to make it to the nationals!" Everyone nodded and got into position and Logan claimed his seat on the manager's bench. With him were Jem Farrell, best player among the ninth graders, and Kain Milkovich, king of all perverts.
"Manager!" The coach yelled over the buzz of the soccer players getting ready. "We're out of water! Go get some!"
"Sure thing, Coach!" Logan stood up but two girls near the exit of the field jumped up, screaming "Logan, leave it to us!"
"You sure?" Asked Logan. When the girls nodded quickly, he smiled in gratitude and happily yelled his thanks. Kain immediately jumped up, following the girls out of the field, occasionally bursting out with "We'll do it together!!" and "Let's have fun together!!"
Logan grinned to himself and turned his attention back onto the field. "You know, Logan, you should get into the team," mused Jem thoughtfully.
"I am in the team. I'm the team's manager!" Logan beamed with pride.
"You know what I mean. In the game, not just on the sidelines." Jem looked down at Logan, assessing his strengths. Logan paused, brought back to the time when he had injured his left leg, making it impossible for him to play for the next year.he opened his mouth to reply when the Coach yelled.
"Farrell! We need a sub-in!" Jem nodded and looked at Logan with a 'think about it' expression on his face.
"H-here you go, Logan," a beat-up Kain meekly handed the water bottles to Logan.
"Ahhhhhh!!! What happened to you?" Logan stared at the multi-colored bruises on Kains face in astonishment.
"I approached one of the girls and tried to kiss her, but I didn't know she was the vice-president of the taekwondo committee." Kain wiped at the lumps on his face with a wet towel and sighed. "Ah, Jem went in without me!!! Again....."
"Well, it can't be helped. He is the best player among the eleventh graders, after all," Logan nodded toward Jem in respect.
"What, so you're saying I’m not a good player?" Kain snorted in indignation and puffed up his chest with mock pride.
"No. No, that's not what I meant at all. I just meant..." Logan trailed off in the middle of consoling his friend. A giggle came from behind them. Both boys turned, surprised, to see a fair-haired girl about their age smile at them.
"Still, trying to please everyone, I see. Logan, it's nice to see you again!" The mysterious girl tilted her head and smiled wide. Logan c***ed his head, confused at her behavior, when Kain suddenly jumped up, loudly blurting out, "You're really cute! Can I give you a hug?" while getting up and hurling himself at the girl with outstretched arms. She dodged deftly, her movements eerily similar to a memory that popped up in Logan's mind.
"Nope," she said cheerfully. "But Logan can, if he wants!" Kain turned around and glared ferociously at Logan, trying to find out how he could have a relationship with this new girl. How does she know my name? Logan wondered to himself. Who is she?
"Hey, you don't remember? I'm Lissa! Lissa Park, remember?" The girl pouted, her pretty features turned down in a frown. Logan shook his head, mute, and searched his memory for how he knew someone like her.
Logan snapped his fingers and cried, "Ah, I know! Lissa, right! Hey, long time no see! How are you?"
"I'm fine. I just transferred here from Aria High. How's your brother?"
Logan felt that familiar stab of pain in his heart and mentally sighed. He pointed at the field, where Ryder and the others still played. "He's over there. You can talk to him afterward, if you want."
"Ah, no that's alright. I'm going to be the manager with you this year! That's what I wanted to tell you," Lissa offered him a half-smile before turning and starting to go out of the field. Kain jumped at her from behind and tackled the poor girl in a not-at-all-romantic hug, screaming “Don't underestimate me!" In a flash, Lissa pried his arms from hers and kicked him away into the fence, eliciting a jingling of the metal chains as Kain's thick-headed skull rammed into it. She gave Logan a small wave with her fingers then left the field, leaving Logan running to Kain, who simply appeared dazed.
Kain rubbed his head where he had slammed it and mumbled, "What was that all about? So, Logan, how would you know someone like her? When'd you meet? Where? How does she know your brother?"
Unable to keep up with the barrage of questions flung at him, Logan raised his hands in surrender and stammered, "She was in my soccer team during elementary school. Ryder was there too."
"Hey, really? You were in a mixed team? I didn't know that."
"No, it was a boys only team. She was an exception. Her parents had threatened to sue if she couldn't be on the boys team; she was already quite skilled." Logan thought to himself, Wow. She looks more like a girl now. You couldn't really tell her gender back then. Logan and Kain both stared after her retreating form, Logan in puzzlement, and Kain in lust.
"Hmm, childhood friends. That's a big hurdle." Kain mused. Logan gaped at him in open-mouthed horror and puffed his cheeks in a disapproving manner, astounded at what first had popped up in Kain's mind after seeing a pretty girl.
"Alright, class! I'm introducing a new transfer student today. this is Alissa Optimus, transferred here from Mica High," the home room teacher pushed his classes up the bridge of his nose, and pointed grandly at Lissa.
Lissa walked next to the teacher's desk and smiled at her classmates. "Hi, my name is Lissa. It's a pleasure to meet all of you!" There were several cries of joy and looks of envy among the students. Many of the boys pumped their fists and whistled, while the girls glared at Lissa's petite form, her big eyes, high cheekbones and long fair hair.
"Hmmm. Let's see." the teacher stroked his chin, deep in thought. he snapped his fingers and said loudly, "I know! Alissa can sit next to Logan!" Logan started, and as Lissa slid into the empty seat beside him with a big smile, he felt the stares of the jealous boys bore holes in his backside.
The lesson continued, but Logan could hardly pay attention at all, for his gaze kept sliding to the right, where Lissa sat staring at the teacher in rapt fascination. As soon as the bell sounded for the end of class, all the students filed out and the boys cornered Logan against the wall. "How do you know someone like her?" They demanded fiercely. "Tell us your relationship!"
"No, no!" Logan held up his hands in an attempt to calm the jealous males. "We were just in the same soccer team when we were young, you know?"
"Roommates?" Obviously, this buff jock wasn't very bright. How he had heard roommates from the word teammates was beyond anything that Logan could comprehend. "Roommates?? What dirty thing did you do to her, you scoundrel? What?" He shook Logan hard.
Logan shook his head frantically. "No, you don't get it, it wasn't like that at all!!"
"Then what was it like?" The jock looked as if he were on the verge of throwing Logan against a wall, so he answered as quickly as possible.
"No, it was...Well..."
"Well, what? Spit it out!"
"When we were little, she liked my brother!!" Logan burst out. "Ryder!"
"Huh?" All the boys crowded in at this newest revelation. "Ryder?" One of the boys mumbled, "Speak of the devil."
Ryder strolled into the hallway with a group of girls all fawning over him. Shrieks and cute screams laced the air as the girls scrambled over themselves trying to get his attention.
A call from behind him stole his attention. "Ryder! I filled out the application forms!" Lissa ran up to him and showed him the form in her hand. Meanwhile, all the other girls glared daggers at Lissa, who was oblivious to their obvious hatred.
"Oh, hey, Lissa! That's great! Now you're all set to be the manager with Logan!" Ryder smiled at her and she ginned up at him in return.
One of the girls blurted out, "How did she get so friendly with him all of a sudden? Who is this chick? No fair!" All the other girls nodded their agreement and chimed in with her cry of annoyance.
"Forget it," said one of the boys closing in on Logan. "We can't compete with him. Let's just give it up." All of them nodded, even the jock currently throttling Logan. But through his pain, staring at Lissa and Ryder together stirred old memories and bitter heartbreak. Logan glanced at them laughing together sadly, then turned on his heel and walked in the direction of his next class.
During that summer in fifth grade, Logan thought, Lissa liked Ryder, and I realized that when I turned a corner and saw her give a small gift to him in the courtyard. She blushed and smiled up at him, and he nodded and took her gift with a smile. But that, I think, is when I began to like her as well. It was hard not to. She didn't look much like a girl before, but she had a strong personality that matched my weak one, and she constantly encouraged me to take the next step that I was so afraid of taking. And just then, seeing her so happy with my brother, the famous Ryder Weste, I felt...insignificant. Small. I accepted the fact that she liked Ryder, nearly everyone did. But that didn't stop me from feeling so terrible.
Logan snapped out of his private reverie and went outside to the soccer courtyard. Seeing the ball lie there amongst the weeds and the grass provoked something inside of him. He lunged toward it, kicking it ferociously with his right foot and letting out his jealousy and self-pity. After on the ball. It flew the air, landing quite a distance away, almost on the other side of the soccer field. The harsh thunk the ball made when it crashed into the ground was strangely satisfying to his ears.
After class ended, Logan went straight home. Ryder said he had something to do at school with Lissa, so Logan hid his disappointment and loathing and simply nodded then walked away. Logan hefted his bag onto his shoulder and walked the way to his house alone, without Ryder's familiar presence beside him.
Seeing the dark circles under her youngest son's eyes, Lila Weste asked what was wrong. Logan shook his head mutely and went up to his room to finish his studying and homework by himself.
When his younger sister, Maya, came home from her after-school, Logan came out of his room to join his family for dinner. "Hey mom, remember the old sewage facility? I just saw it now. It looks like they're closing down."
"Oh, I remember that old dump. they're closing down? We've known it for so long," Lila made a disgruntled noise then turned her head to Logan, who was walking down the stairs.
His mother continuously pestered him about the new transfer student.
"So, who is she?"
"Lissa. Alissa, from 5th grade."
"Oh, that girl. Really? Well, is she cuter now?" Lila grinned devilishly and sat back, enjoying her son's reaction.
Logan turned slightly red in the cheeks and managed to calmly reply, "You know, I never really noti-"
"Logan's always had a huge crush on Lissa. I remember. It was so cute!" Maya interrupted abruptly. Logan glared at her, to which she simply smiled innocently.
"So, you're in love." His mother nodded knowingly. "I se-"
"No, Mom! Logan liked Lissa since elementary school!" Maya burst in, not caring that she was cutting off her mother.
"Maya!" Logan yelled, his face slowly turning a darker shade of red.
"Huh? Am I wrong? Weren't you crying the day she moved away?" Maya counterattacked. Logan was speechless for a moment, then thought for a second and had no suitable response. "See, I was right. You do like her!" Maya pointed, pleased with herself.
The door opened and the family abandoned their dinner to see who had come home. Ryder entered the room, glaring stonily at everybody through his golden bangs. Maya sat forward like an eager puppy and leaned forward on her hands, "Hey, Ryder! You know Logan had a huge crush on Li-"
Logan's hand quickly went over Maya's mouth, muffling her next words. Ryder stared at Logan's hand over Maya's mouth and then turned his attention to his mother.
"Where were you, son? You missed half of dinner," Lila complained.
"I was practicing. And I had to help Lissa with some manager paperwork," Ryder glanced back at Logan. "Is it that fun?" Ryder looked down at Logan.
"Huh?" Logan stared at Ryder, confused.
"Being a manager. Is it really that fun?" Ryder clarified. Logan stared at him, trying to think of a right answer. Ryder glared angrily at his lack of response and Logan shrugged to himself.
"Well, whatever. You should get to your dinner now. You came home pretty late." Logan started to walk out of the house when Ryder's next words stopped him in his tracks.
"You annoy me. You only know how to run away from yourself."
Logan started at those words then shrugged it off as his brother simply going through his teenage phase. "You've been acting a little funny lately. Are you alright?" He shook his head, smiling to himself. "Of course you are. I mean, you're Ryder Weste! Of the Eagles! Nothing could ever worry you."
Ryder turned suddenly and grabbed Logan's shirt, lifting him in midair in one smooth movement. "What do you know, when all you do is run away?" He yelled at Logan's shocked face. Maya noticed from across the room and forced the two of them apart.
"Ryder, what are you doing?" Lila exclaimed, hands over her mouth, too surprised to have done anything.
Turning, he muttered, "When did you get so scared?" He shook his head then glared once more at Logan before going upstairs to his room and slamming the door with a satisfying bam. Ryder flopped down on his bed, sighing, when he noticed a picture frame on his nightstand. It was of him and Logan when they were little, arms draped around each other as if inseparable. Ryder smiled despite his annoyance at Logan's insensitivity. They had been so attached back then. He sighed, and when he turned on the small T.V. in his room to watch some soccer, he heard the front door slam shut. Someone had gone outside. At nearly 11 pm at night. Whoever just went out was crazy.
Ryder heard metallic screeching as someone pushed the gates open outside his window. He went to it, shrugging since he had nothing to do anyway. Logan had pushed the gates open and headed in the direction of the nearby park with a duffel slung over his shoulder. Most of the park was obscured by tree foliage, but Logan stood in a spot where he was clearly visible.
Logan unzipped his bag and brought out his soccer ball. He kicked it with his weak left foot, which always had been terrible since he broke his ankle a few years back. He stumbled but caught himself then peevishly kicked it with his right foot, which had much more power in comparison. He kicked it further into the small park, the trees closing him off from the outside world. Instead of his ball, Logan found a person standing with his foot on the black-and-white ball.
Startled, Logan looked around. He hadn't heard anybody come in during the last 5 minutes he had been practicing, but apparently this person moved with great stealth. Either that, or I'm going deaf. Logan smiled at the thought. The mystery person wore a gray hoodie and dark jeans, with a grey mask on his face, covering all of his features. Logan couldn't tell his gender in the dim light, so he settled on a guy. The boy stood near the trees, his body cloaked in shadows. He beckoned Logan forward with the pointer finger of his right hand, his foot still over the ball.
"Are you telling me to steal it from you?" Logan asked the person inquisitively. The boy in question tilted his head, considering the question, and nodded. Logan grinned demonically, then sprang at the boy, kicking out his right leg in the process. The boy quickly turned, took his hands out of his pockets, swept the ball away from Logan with his foot and beckoned again. Logan felt angry, and lashed out at him, intending to use brute force to get his ball back. The boy had clearly anticipated the attack, and dribbled the ball expertly between his feet until he reached the other end of the park. Logan ran at him, kicking at the ball to get it farther away from his opponent. the boy moved his head back an inch, which Logan thought was a sign of surprise, but it was hard to tell through the mask. Logan succeeded, the ball quickly sailing through the air away from the opposing enemy.
Both he and the boy raced after it, scrambling over one another in hopes of getting to it first. The boy pushed Logan until he would've had to use his left leg of he wanted the ball, and Logan admired thus person's ability to think ahead. He had already seen in my demonstration that I could not use my left leg well, Logan thought. What amazing foresight! He crossed his right leg over his left in order to be able to use it, and the boy picked up on the weakness. Grabbing at it, he kicked the ball to the side; his triumph short-lived when he saw Logan had recovered and beat him to the ball.
Logan rushed at the ball and dribbled it to the other side of the park, where he would be able to score. The mystery boy still hadn't moved, and Logan saw his chance. He kicked the ball hard at the wall, which represented a goal, and smirked. A flash of gray flashes by him and the boy was suddenly in front of the goal, his left leg reaching out to stop the ball's arc. With a magnificent kick, he hurled it away from the goal. Who is this person? Logan wondered. He's good. Grudgingly admiring the boy's skills, Logan raced toward it before it had even touched the ground.
Logan reached the ball and turned around expectantly. But the boy had vanished. Mysteriously, just as he had come. Logan looked all around but found no trace of the boy, until he finally shrugged and returned to his bag. So it is true, Logan thought. I am happiest when I play soccer. Jem's right. I need to get back on the field.
Ryder looked at Logan, all flushed and happy after a few minutes of practice. He remembered what his brother used to be like, before injuring his leg. A menace on the field. He used to be the only one who could handle my passes, thought Ryder. The only one. Ryder smiled.
"Ok, everybody! It's time for the team tryouts!" Griffon, an eighth grade forward, cupped his hands around his mouth and leaned forward to tell all the people on the field about this newest announcement.
"Man, I'm really nervous. I really want to get on the team," Kain complained to Logan, who was carrying a jar of water closer to the soccer benchers.
Logan threw a smile over his shoulder, reassuring his friend, "You'll definitely make it in this year, Kain!" A pair of hands snaked their way around Logan's head and covered his eyes.
"Guess who?" Asked a singsong voice. Logan heard Kain laughing softly and felt the brush of a lock of long hair against his neck.
"Lissa! Don't do that!" Logan pried the hands away from his eyes just as she drew back.
"Awwwwww. How'd u know it was me?"
"Back then, you were the only person who'd do this type of thing. Plus, I felt your hair." Logan glared at Lissa in a teasing way. Hefting the jar higher, he exclaimed, "And I have work to do."
"Fine. you're no fu-" cut off from finishing her sentence, Kain's arms looped around her waist in a hug.
"Guess who?" He crowed, mimicking Lissa's lilt to her tone. Lissa glared at him and pushed him and his arms away.
"Stay away from me, you perv!"
"Hey, Logan! Come help me prepare for the tryouts!" Jem yelled from across the field, waving his arm.
"Sure thing!" Logan called back. He gave the jar of water to Kain, ignoring his sound of protest and strode over to Jem. He picked up the ball from the ground and gave Jem a sign that he was ready. Hmmm, he wondered. So who was that masked guy? I really wanna know. I hope he'll be back today. Logan threw the ball to Jem, mimicking how a pass would have been like. Let’s see, if I think about it, from the people I know, it has to be...
"Oh, sorry I threw off a bit. I’m distracted," he explained to Jem. Instead of acknowledging his apology and going to retrieve the ball so he could throw it again, Jem kicked out with his right foot from behind his left leg, striking the ball back to Logan's hands. Amazed at his skills, Logan thought. It must have been Jem, just like I thought.
"Hey Jem, where were you yesterday at around 9?"
"At home, I think. Playing Minecraft and trying to get Mimi to leave me alone." Mimi was a nickname for Jem's little sister, Mimica.
"What comes to mind when you think of the park at night?" Logan wanted to find the face behind the mask.
"Hmm. Not sure, really. I guess...children?" A sudden realization came over his face and Jem glared. "If you're looking for indecency, go ask Kain!"
"Hey, by the way, Logan," Lissa asked as she walked toward the boys. "Why is everyone so nervous today? Did something happen?"
"Oh, Ryder didn't tell you? Surprising. Today's the team tryouts!"
"You should really make an effort to know what goes around here, Miss New Manager!" Griffin Carson, the eighth grade forward that had given the announcement to the team, mocked as he walked up to Logan and Lissa.
"He's, um, one of our forwards. Griffin Koutousky," Logan told Lissa softly with a twist of his nose.
"Griffin! Hi," murmured the gathered throng of people unenthusiastically. Griffin ignored the tension in the atmosphere and leaned toward Kain, still on his back after attempting to hug Lissa.
"Hey, Milkovich, don't mess up again. We can't deal with your idiocy anymore. The other team's defenders can't overlap into our zone, got it? Well, assuming you're even chosen." Griffin walked away with a satisfied look on his face while an indignant Kain shook his fists and mouthed a bunch of threatening comments.
"Alright, everyone!" Ryder cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled to get the attention of all the players. "Gather around, we're about to say the results for the tryouts!" Ryder turned and glared at Logan, Lissa, and Kain. "Come on, you slackers! Now!"
They all hurried to crowd around Ryder to hear the big news.
"So, as you all know, we need three more people to play for the Blue Eagles since some of our teammates have had injuries. It's a new season, too. Perfect timing! New season means new players. So, for the new teammates," Ryder cleared his throat and pulled out a small sheet of paper that listed several names.
"For the tenth grade forward, we have Griffin Koutousky." Griffin smiled and crossed his arms, looking smug. Logan had the feeling he wasn't the only one who wanted to punch the conceited look off of Griffin's smirking face.
"For the eleventh grade defender, we have Kain Milkovich," Ryder's voice rose a little, as if he couldn't believe fun-loving Kain had been chosen for such a serious position.
Kain whooped and yelled in glee. Clearly, he had not been expecting to make it in either. Logan smiled. He felt happy that his friend would be able to play on the team for real now.
"And lastly, for our eleventh grade forward," Ryder paused for dramatic effect. The gathered throng of people seemed to collectively hold their breath as one as they waited for the final chosen player. "Logan Weste."
Logan stared at the group of people who sat in the front as they gasped. Surely it couldn't be right. He must have heard wrong or something. Or perhaps, Ryder read the name wrong. Something. "What?" Logan looked at Ryder with the look of a doe that had been caught in the headlights of an incoming car. He hoped that Ryder would correct his mistake now. He hoped the next words would be different.
"You heard me. Logan Weste. Last I checked, that's you, isn't it?" Ryder didn’t even look at Logan when he spoke, staring in the opposite direction instead. Logan thought he heard a disapproving snort come from Jem's direction, but he couldn't be sure.
"But, um, I'm the manager?" Logan pitched his voice higher at the end of the sentence, transforming his statement into a question.
Ryder sighed. "So? We already have Lissa to play the part of the manager here. Besides, we have a short supply of people to choose from." A blatant lie, and he knew it. They had plenty of people to choose from. The gathered people were proof, as they sat eagerly anticipating this newest revelation. Their manager was going to be the new player? Scandalous.
"But,... you know," Logan tried to remind Ryder about his incompetency with his left foot.
"No, Logan, I don't know. Care to enlighten me?" Ryder's tone wasn't exactly mocking, but it came close. Logan sighed in frustration. He didn't want to admit it in front of so many people, but Ryder wasn't giving him a choice.
"I can't play with my left. You know that," Logan frowned at Ryder, but he didn't seem to get the message.
"You're a good player, Logan. Naturally. You can learn," Logan's nose wrinkled at the comment, but he said nothing. Jem, however, blew out a stream of hot air at Ryder's "naturally" comment.
Logan decided to stop wasting his breath on a useless argument that he was sure to lose anyway, and make Ryder realize for himself what a huge mistake he had made in choosing his brother.
"Fine." Logan's shoulders slumped at the thought of having to make a fool of himself in front of all his classmates. "I will play!"
As soon as Logan stood up and made his announcement, Ryder crumpled up the small list of people and thrust it into his pocket. "Alright, people! It's time to start our first game of the season!" A round of cheering followed his statement as everybody took their assigned positions on the field. The substitute players sat on the side, on separate benches determining their rank.
Logan took his seat next to Griffin with a sigh. The younger boy glared at him before turning his head toward the game unfolding in front of them. A tap on his shoulder made Logan turn around quickly. Kain sat behind him on the defender's bench alone and pointed at the manager bench, where Logan had sat in all of the previous Blue Eagle games.
Lissa waved and mouthed words of encouragement, as well as giving Logan a wink and a perky thumbs-up. Logan smiled despite his growing gloom and forced himself to wave back at Lissa.
Turning his head back toward the game, Logan assessed the other players on the field. One guy seemed to be in 12th grade, like Ryder, and he was almost as good as the ace. The other team members weren't so good. Among the mix of 10th and 11th graders, the only people that stood out in terms of talent were Jem, who was playing midfield, and the goalie for the opposing team. His name was s-something, Logan didn't remember too clearly. Samuel, Sebastian, Sawyer, something like that. And Ryder, of course. He was a blur on the field, his black hair gleaming in the harsh sunny daylight, his feet almost dancing around him, the black and white ball whirling around on the ground. He had his game face on, the one that said "you don't wanna mess with me." Ryder kicked out at the ball with his left foot hard, passing it to the forward closest to the goal. It hit the poor guy's knee hard, and he crumpled to the ground.
The coach blew the whistle and yelled, "10th grade forward switch!" Logan sighed at being the first to be switched in and got up slowly. He switched places with the forward that had just been injured; some guy named Ethan, or was it Evan? His memory was a little fuzzy when it came to names. Evan/Ethan sat down on the bench and muttered something under his breath that sounded like, "I just died on the battlefield."
Logan shrugged sympathetically and took his place in front of Ryder, facing against the forward for the other team, which turned out to be Griffin. Trying to hide his look of annoyance at Griffin's leering smile, Logan turned to the coach and urged him to hurry.
"One more switch! Kane, switch with Milkovich!" The coach yelled in that typical booming voice of his. Kain immediately leaped up switch places with Blake Kane, his friend and classmate. Giving him a quick high-five as Blake passed, Kain sauntered up to his position and got ready. Logan spared him a quick grin before turning back around to face Griffin's taunting leer.
The coach blew the whistle again, an ear-piercing shriek that permeated the early autumn air. Griffin reached the ball first, and with one quick sweep pushed the ball to his side of the field. As forward, Logan lunged after him and tried to steal the ball back. On his heels were Ryder and the other forward for the team, who happened to be Griffin's best friend, Mikhail. Griffin gave Mikhail a fleeting grin and glared at Ryder and Logan in turn.
He passed it to the midfielder on his team, which was Jem, and the two of them dribbled the ball between them as they moved closer to the other team's goal. The goalie was the afore-mentioned Sean-something, the 10th grader that showed a lot of promise in his movements. Sean-something bent down at the waist in preparation to stop Jem or Griffin from scoring. Griffin struck out frantically, and made it easy for Sean to intercept the ball's path.
He tossed it to Ryder, who was waiting next to the goal. Ryder dribbled the ball between his feet for a few moments, and then hit it hard with the side of his foot in a brutal pass.
"He's not going to make it. That's going to stop short of the goal, I just know it," Lissa scooted onto the defender's bench next to Blake.
"How did you get here?" Blake stared at Lissa expectantly. She ignored him.
"Look at the angle. It's not going to make it. That's not a shot at the goal. That's a pass," Lissa nodded her head like that was an obvious answer.
Unable to get a satisfactory response out of the girl, Blake sighed and turned back toward the game in front of him. "Pass? For who? There's no one there!"
Lissa frowned at his disbelieving tone and said, "Yet, No one's there yet. But there will be. It’s going to be Logan. Ryder's making a pass at his brother."
"What? But Logan's all the way over there," Blake pointed with his index finger. "There's no way he can make it."
"He will. Just watch," Lissa stared at Logan, as if willing him to move faster with the power of her gaze alone.
Logan saw the arc of the ball and rushed forward, darting around defenses like they were nothing. With a final burst of speed, he stretched his right leg out as far as it would go and pointed his toes. He seemed to be praying. The ball aimed down and bounced off the ground just a few inches away from Logan's outstretched foot.
Blake let out the breath he had been holding in a disappointed sigh. Lissa just stared. She'd been so sure that he would get it, too. It was a good try, thought Blake. He almost made it.
"What's wrong with you?" A furious Ryder stalked up to Logan, who was busy staring at the ground and refusing to acknowledge his failure. It was easy to see Logan's shame when he looked up at Ryder's disapproving face.
The angry expression changed to one of surprise when Jem walked up to them. He put a reassuring hand on Logan's shoulder in an attempt to comfort like a real big brother would have. "It's alright, Logan." To Ryder he said, "Lay off him. He almost made it. He was this close." Jem spread his thumb and forefinger in an imitation of a space of a few inches.
Ryder turned his glare onto Jem. "And you. What were you doing when I passed the ball? Playing with your hair?" Oh, that was low. Ryder, as Jem's former best friend, knew just how much effort Jem put into styling his hair. And Ryder put even more effort and time than Jem. He was making fun of him, but also at the same time making fun of himself.
Jem opened his mouth to retort with an equally insulting comment, but Kain suddenly burst into the conversation and metaphorically forced the two apart.
Ryder pointed at Logan accusingly. "This is a battle field. Remember that." Kain noticed the tension and broke it apart with a quick announcement.
"Hey, you guys! We're starting again!" Kain pointed at Coach with too much enthusiasm while subtly mouthing "good try" to Logan, whose face perked up a bit.
Coach blew the oversized whistle again. "Starting now, boys! Get ready!" Everybody scrambled to get into position again.
Blake sat at the defenders bench, with Lissa still next to him. He stared at her, hoping she would get the hint and leave him alone, but the stubborn girl stayed put. Blake gave a tiny sigh with a shrug of his shoulders and returned to watching the game unfold in front of him.
Griffin's team started since Logan missed the shot. He gave Logan a triumphant grin as they got into position. Logan rolled his eyes.
Griffin blocked Logan's advance toward him and sent the ball flying toward their midfielder, Jem. Mikahil quickly intercepted it and earned a glare from Griffin, which he quickly changed to a smile (but ended up appearing more like a grimace of sorts). He kicked the ball to Logan and he dribbled it between his feet toward the other goal before it was stolen by the other team's defender.
Blake nodded in admiration and asked Lissa, "Hey, that guy's pretty good. Know who he is?"
Lissa nodded with a quick reply, "He's my cousin. He introduced me to the school when I moved here. Jeff, I think." Noticing Blake's look of astonishment that she would be confused about her own cousin's name, she quickly supplied, "I have 39 cousins. My parents were part of big families." Balke accepted the explanation with a nod of agreement.
Jeff, apparently an arrogant type of fellow, took a shot at the goal from all the way across the field instead of passing to one of his teammates. Jem looked slightly miffed when Blake looked at him, but he swallowed his annoyance and moved on. The shot was off a bit, and the goalie for Team 1, Logan's team, caught it easily. he tossed it to Kain, waiting by the side of the goal, who in turn passed it to Ryder.
Ignoring everyone else, he seemed to be blocking every other sound away from him. One swift kick, so fast that Blake's eyes could barely follow it, landed the ball neatly into the net. Cheering erupted from all sides and Blake thought he could see Jem roll his eyes and shake his head. It looked like Lissa noticed it too. She c***ed her head in his direction at Blake, looking confused. Blake shrugged, as the coach went over to congratulate Ryder and continue the game.
After another subsequent 3 scores by Ryder alone, the coach put a stop to the Ryder glory. He pulled him aside, most likely whispering that this was a team and he needed to pass more to his teammates. After that, Coach started the next round and began the second portion of the game.
Logan got the ball this time and with some fancy footwork, dodged Griffin's kicks that were NOT meant to steal the ball and passed it to Ryder, who had ran up ahead. Along with the other forward, Logan surged forward in order to be there for his brother in case he needed someone to pass to.
Ryder kicked the ball with enough force to send it across the field, although that much power was probably not needed. Mikhail just stared at the arc the ball made as it streaked across the sky, but Logan jumped into action.
With a smooth maneuver so that he evaded the Team 2's defender, Logan stretched his left leg out toward the ball. At the last second, he thought it over and switched his legs so that his right foot now was closer. Making a kick at the goal, the ball arced against the sky and hit the edge of the goal. Murmurs of "Awww" rumbled through the crowd. Logan fell to the floor, panting and exhausted, as the coach blew the whistle again to signal a break in the game.
Blake sighed. "He didn't make it this time either. Well, it's better than last time. At least he actually touched the ball this time."
"He's the only one that can receive Ryder's passes. I would say he did a pretty good job," Lissa murmured softly.
"But why? He can't get it anyway," Blake asked, confused.
"Look at his face. He's speaking with the expression on his face," Lissa sounded utterly convinced. Blake looked at Logan. Scrunched nose, wide eyes and tongue in the tip of his mouth. "He's concentrating. Look at that. Ryder knows Logan's taking it seriously."
"But it's tough. You know? They're on the battle field out there," Blake whispered, not to Lissa but not to himself either.
"Time to pack up, boys!" The coach shouted through his microphone after a brief whistle call. "Practice is over for today! Be careful, everyone! The roads are icy today," Most rolled their eyes except for the players that actually owned cars, who hung on to the coach's precaution. Everybody who sat on the benches stood up and the players on the field walked over to the bleachers to get their duffel bags. the scraping of wood on gravel resonated through the field as people moved the benches against one wall of the wire fence.
Lissa bounded up to Logan, asking "So, where are you headed now?"
"Um, home?" Logan wasn't sure how he should've replied to that question.
"Oh. Ok, then. You're going with Ryder, right?" Logan got why she was asking now.
"Yeah, I am. He is my brother, you know," Logan emphasized the my and made the statement sound bitter.
Lissa looked embarrassed for a moment then rambled on, "Can I walk home with you guys? My house's in the same direction anyway."
Logan thought about it for a minute, then replied with forced enthusiasm, "OK, why not?" Lissa smiled then went to another bleacher to retrieve her own bag. Logan finished packing up and walked over to Ryder.
"Hey, Lissa says she wants to walk with us. That ok with you?"
"Yup, fine with me. I guess," Ryder replied with a shrug that plainly said "I don't care what she does."
Logan nodded once briefly and went over to Lissa. "He said it's fine with him, so sure!"
"Yay!" Lissa clapped her hands together and returned to packing her own bag.
"Alright, everybody out!" Coach yelled through the microphone while everyone winced at the loud noise.
Ryder walked over to Logan. "You ready?"
"Yeah, give me a sec," Logan finished haphazardly stuffing everything in his duffel and slung it over his shoulder. "Yup. Done!"
Ryder nodded and they walked over to Lissa together. "Done?"
"Yeah, almost," Lissa held up one slender finger as she packed up her manager supplies. "Ok!"
One by one, the soccer team began filing out of the field, each carrying their own duffel of backpack.
The Weste brothers and Lissa walked out along with Kain and Jem, all of them talking in a big, jumbled mess.
Griffin and Mikhail walked out ahead of them, chatting and grinning with each other. Snitches of their conversation drifted over to Logan's group. they were discussing the game they had just played and a bunch of other nonsense about where they were going to go now.
"So, are you guys all going home?" Lissa questioned the boys.
"Yeah," Jem shrugged.
Logan could see Lissa's eyes dancing mischievously and internally groaned. "What, Lissa?" He forced out with a grimace.
"Oh, nothing. Just a little suggestion. Why don't we all go home together? We're already walking home together anyway," she made a small circle with a single finger surrounding Ryder, Logan, and herself.
Jem and Ryder stood there looking uncomfortable, but fun-loving Kain jumped in. Unfortunately. "Hey, Lis, that's a great idea! We'll all go home together. Our houses are pretty close, anyway." Pretty close was stretching it. They would have to split up a mile away from each of their houses.
Unable to disagree, Logan sighed and nodded his head. Jem and Ryder still gave each other the evil eye but nodded at Lissa, with an expression on both their faces that said they would rather not.
Lissa jumped up in happiness with a small clap of her hands and Logan could hear Jem's audible groan. They all headed in the direction of their homes, with Kain, Jem and Logan in the front and follwed by Lissa and Ryder. Logan spared them a small glance, his features twisting a little in sadness, before turning his head back toward the road.
They crossed a street, obediently waiting for the light like good little children. They made it past when all of them started engaging in conversation, though Lissa and Ryder still remained separated from the rest of the group. Occasionally, Kain or Logan would turn around to ask for their opinion, until they made it quite clear they didn't want to be included, to which Jem pressed his mouth into a thin line and made a face at Ryder.
Their little group crossed the street and began moving forward.
"So, Lissa, what do you think of being the manager?" Logan looked backward and tossed the question over his shoulder.
"What?" she tore her gaze away from Ryder and focused on Logan instead. "Oh, um. Sure. I like it. It's cool, I guess." Ryder gave Logan a meaningful look and gave Lissa the same expression as he looked at her out of the corner of his eye.
Logan didn't notice that in looking at Ryder and Lissa, he was walking closer to them and drifting away from Jem and Kain, who were engaged in their own conversation.
"Oh, ok. It's a nice job," Logan chose his words carefully so not to incur Ryder's wrath.
"I don't think it's necessary to have a whole other job for that. Oh well, but I guess we do need someone to take notes for the team. It's important, but I think a team player should be abl----" Ryder stopped short as his critique was cut off by Lissa screaming, "Logan!"
They were just passing the old sewage facility that Logan and Ryder has known to be there since they were born. Jem and Kain has passed it, but they looked back when they heard Lissa's cry of distress. A car slipped on the icy road and its tires went out of control. It was headed at full speed toward the sidewalk, where Logan and his friends stood.
"Logan!" Ryder yelled and pushed Logan toward Jem and Kain. "Move it!" Logan fell forward and could hear the crack as his knee hit the cement. But that pain was soon forgotten as he turned around and saw the car slamming into Ryder's body, throwing him into the old sewage facility, when a piece of metal promptly broke off from the larger building and slammed into Ryder's prone body.
"Ryder? Ryder? Ryder?" in the distance, Logan could hear Lissa's voice screaming out Ryder's name, growing in volume as she became more and more hysterical. Logan made no sound and simply stared at Ryder's body where he was hit in silence. Kain rushed forward to see if Logan was alright.
"Logan? Are you okay?" Logan barely heard his friend's words of comfort. He lay on the pavement, shocked and seeming to be in a different world. The driver came out and began apologizing profusely while clear-headed Jem took out his cell phone and called the emergency number.
The shrieking of the ambulance car jolted Logan out of his shock and the pain from his fractured knee immediately rose to the surface and he cried out in pain. The ambulance arrived and after asking Jem a few questions about Logan and Ryder, moved them both onto stretchers and into the ambulance. Apparently, they had seen Jem as the person to go to, which was a correct decision, seeing as Ryder was unconscious, Logan was in pain and could hardly get out coherent words, Kain looked too young and Lissa was in hysterics.
Jem called Lila Weste and told her about the emergency. "Lila, this is Jem Farrell. I'm one of your son's soccer teammates. There was an accident on the road and they were both taken to the hospital. I'm pretty sure Logan only had a hurt leg, but I don't know about Ryder's condition. He was unconscious." Lila started hyperventilating loudly and Jem had to hold the phone away from his ear a bit. "So, with me are Kain Milkovich and Lissa Park. Could you come and drive us to the hospital? We would like to be there too." Jem hung up after hearing Lila's affirmative response.
"Ryder and Logan's mother is gonna pick us up and take us to the hospital. That ok?" Jem looked at Kain's look of shock and Lissa's expression of hysterical sadness. He took their blank stares as a 'yes' and threw his backpack and his duffel down on the sidewalk.
"God." Jem muttered while running his hands through his hair in frustration. "I can't believe it."
"I can't believe it," Kain echoed, with a faraway look on his face. They all sat down at the edge of the sidewalk and waited for Lila.
When Lila finally came, the three piled into her van without a word, save for Jem's initial greeting.
They drove to the hospital in silence; the only sounds were Lissa and Lila's occasional sobs.
When they got to the hospital, Lissa, Jem, and Kain were directed to sit in the waiting room while the doctor had a talk with Lila.
They sat in silence for the better part of an hour before Lila walked up to them with a grim expression on her face.
"So, I'm not going to sugarcoat anything. Are you guys okay with that?" Lila didn't even wait for them to say 'yes' before plunging on into her speech. "Well, the doctor says Logan's condition is stable. All he has is a broken leg, not too severe."
Lissa thought to herself, if she says a broken leg isn't too severe, then Ryder must be in terrible condition.
"And... Ryder. Oh, my poor poor famous boy. Only 18. Well," Lila took a deep, shuddering breath as if to calm herself. "The doctor says he can't be saved. The piece of metal that fell from that sewage facility apparently pierced his brain. And the car shattered the bones in his left arm. He’s brain-dead." Lila blinked, and a few stray tears ran down her cheeks.
Lissa thrust her hands to cover her mouth and only let the slightest of sobs pass through. Kain gaped at Lila while even Jem, who seemed to hate Ryder, looked like he felt bad for Ryder. "No. No, this can't be happening. Are you serious? He's.... not waking up?" Lissa felt a pounding in her head and gasped at the sudden news. Jem put a comforting hand on her shoulder, silently telling her that it would be alright.
It was eerily silent in the room for a while before Lissa laughed manically. “You’re kidding, aren’t you? He’ll wake up. For sure. You just didn’t wait long enough.” She kept laughing. Lila looked at Lissa and left the room with tears trailing down her aged cheeks.
“They just didn’t wait long enough, that’s all? He’s still alive. He’ll wake up. He has to! He’s Ryder!” Lissa screamed desperately at Kain and Jem.
After a pause, Jem spoke up. “Yes. It’s Ryder.”
LOGAN - ONE MONTH LATER
Logan sat at the manager's bench again, silently surveying his surroundings. His knee was almost all better, and all he had to do now was to wear some kind of fabric around the swollen area. It wasn't much compared to the pain of his heart.
He stood up and stared at his notes. He remembered what Ryder had told him: that he should play on the field and not just run away.
Staring out onto the field, Logan pondered his choices. He could keep being a manager, or he could be a player instead.
Logan chewed the inside of his lip as he thought. We already have a manager, so they don't really need me. I think I should play. Screw my leg. My brother sacrificed his life so that I could live, and I'm going to carry out his will so we can both live on. Carry out Ryder's legacy.
Logan sat on Ryder's cold bed alone. His mom and dad hadn't cleared Ryder's empty room out yet. Logan was supposed to inherit the room, slightly bigger than the one he had right now. he hadn't been in this cold room with its stark white walls since Ryder had died for Logan. He had been avoiding everyone. His soccer friends, his parents, Maya, and even Lissa. Now that he thought about it, that might not have been such a good idea. Lissa had seemed pretty down since Ryder's accident. Maybe he should've comforted her. Maybe.
Logan walked to the window and pushed it open. Outside, he could see trees, trees, and tr-. Wait. That was the park Logan always went to at night to practice. he hadn't been there recently though. No surprise. It's not like he could play with such an injury on his leg anyway. Logan wondered if Ryder ever saw his late nighttime practice sessions through this window. If Ryder ever watched. If Ryder ever cared enough to see.
Logan abruptly turned from the window and hurried into his own room. Snatching his duffel full of soccer supplies, he rushed downstairs. Lila lay on the sofa in a comfortable position, a cup of tea in her hands. Her eyes stared off into the distance. "Bye, mom. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Lila snapped back to reality. "What? Where are you going? Why? What's wrong? Did something happen?" She was paranoid about her children's safety now.
"Just to get a little air. I'll be back soon, I promise," Logan quietly backed out of the living room. "Bye!" Logan threw the last word over his shoulder. He opened the door and walked out into the cold January air. He breathed in the freshness, relishing in the brisk wind. He ran to the park, his breath making small puffs of warm air. He threw the duffel to the ground and took out his ball. He heard a gentle clink as a weight was pressed up against the playground slide and the metal zipper of a coat hit the metal of the slide.
Logan started at the noise, looked up, and gaped.
The boy in the mask stood there again, wearing the same thing he had on the day they met. No, not quite. As Logan looked closer, he could see a glint of silver metal on the boy's left wrist, half obscured by the hoodie. What was that? The guy still wore the religious cross necklace thing on his neck, though.
"Hey!" Logan stepped forward. "I've been meaning to ask this since day 1, but who are you?" Not really expecting an answer, Logan smiled. "Want the ball?" He kicked it in the boy's direction.
He stopped it with his foot effortlessly. "You know, it's rude to not wait for a response."
Logan stared. "You spoke!"
"Of course I spoke. I'm human," the guy sounded offended, though it was hard to guess his expression through the mask. But his voice was kind of high, thought Logan. Oh well. He's probably younger than me. "c'mon, Logan. Get it."
"The ball? Oh, right." He moved forward then stopped abruptly. "Hey, how do you know my name?"
"Oh, never mind that. C'mon, get it." he beckoned Logan forward. Logan lunged, and the guy jumped back. Dribbling the ball, he ran to the other side of the park. On the cold wintry night, the wind blew his hood back. "Eep!" He thrust his hood back on, but not before Logan got a glimpse of blond hair that reminded him of a golden apple.
Logan stopped running after him. "Did you just say eep? seriously?" He narrowed his eyes. "Who are you?"
"Ugh. Fine." The boy tossed back his hood. Platinum blond hair spilled out behind his person, and settled gently against his shoulders. He removed his mask. Logan did a double take.
"Lissa?! It's you?!" Logan gaped at the girl standing in front of him.
"No need to act so surprised. I can play, you know." Lissa pouted.
"Yeah, but. Seriously? I totally thought you were Jem."
Lissa spread her arms. she grinned. "Surprise!!"
Logan was silent.
"Stop staring at me. It's creepy." Lissa hugged herself and sighed. "Well then. Let's play!!" She kicked out with her foot. "keep it away from me!"
Lissa ran towards Logan and he snapped back into action. Sticking out his right foot, he grabbed hold of the ball and dribbled it forward. Lissa sprung in front of him, but he managed a quick kick between the legs and darted out on her other side to get the ball. He aimed, drew back his foot to kick, and stopped. Damn. Wrong side. Why'd I run out on her right side? Now my left leg's closer. Lissa recovered from her shock and turned around. Damn. No time to think. Logan kicked the ball just as Lissa ran out from behind him. The ball slammed into the wall in front of them.
"Goal!!" Logan shouted. "ha! Score one for me!"
"We never decided the goals. Technically, that doesn't count." Lissa crossed her arms and glared at Logan.
"Sore lo-ser!" Logan chanted in a sing-song voice. Lissa smiled.
"Ok, it's your point. But did you see, Logan? That was your left leg!! You did it!"
"Huh?" Logan paused mid-hoot. "Oh. Yeah. Cool." He looked up at the sky and blocked out Lissa's excited chattering. I did it, Ryder, Logan smiled to himself. I'm not going to run away from my weakness anymore. I'm free now. Thank you.