I walked upstairs, but before I could enter the bedroom, I heard voices. It was Coach and Jeremy talking.
“I don’t know how I feel about this. My daughter has been through so much because of y…” Coach caught himself, “because of the rumors. She hasn’t been in the best state of mind since being back. I saw the quick look she gave you.”
The door was cracked open, and I could see Coach standing across from Jermey, who was sitting on the bed. I would only help Jeremy out if it seemed like the flow on the discussion was going the wrong direction. Or if Jeremy was triggered. I texted Jeremy- ‘Outside the room. You talk. Control yourself.’
Jeremy’s phone beeped, he checked the screen and sighed. He shook his head and shoved his phone back inside his pocket. Thankfully Jeremy did not look at the door and reveal my precence to Coach.
“I understand your concern, Sir,” Jeremy sat a little taller on the bed, “I have no intention of ruining her progress. But please understand, my name has been smeared around to ruin her life. I had no control or knowledge of this happening. I…”
“I do understand, but know,” Coach held up a hand to cut Jeremy off, “I will always put her first. Even though it seemed like I did not care, I do know what happened at that swim meet Sophomore year. Also thanks to some parents nearby I know what was said,” Coach looked dead straight at Jeremy.
‘Oh crap.’ I craned my neck to look at Jeremy, who had scooted about a foot away from Coach, and was now slumped forward.
Still with his head down Jeremy answered, “I apologize for my behavior that year, Sir. I know I cannot take back what was said, but thankfully looking back, Jenny did not hear me that day. I really didn’t mean it. It just slipped…”
“Slipped!” Coach stepped towards Jeremy, Jeremy’s body bolted up in attention, but still he looked at Coach respectfully. “Did they tell you what was being said about my girl these last two years? Do you know how she suffered? You let it slip that day, and then next year your old buddies are starting a rumor…,” Coach pointed at Jeremy.
‘No.’ Jeremy was not reacting. But I could see him holding it together.
“You were the cause of the rumor. You said those awful words about her that day, and your buddies acted on it,” Coach was fuming.
I had never seen Coach respond in this way. Jeremy was still holding it together; thankfully Coach stopped pointing at him. I’m sure that helped.
Silence. Jeremy had no response.
‘What could he say?’ I hadn’t thought about this point of veiw; that what was said that day was actually the start of the rumor. Yes, the words were manipulated, and the outcome was way worse, but it was the initiator. I was still looking into the room from the hallway, when I felt someone besides me. I jumped, but only to see Jenny’s red hair sweep past me and swing the door fully open; exposing myself and her precence to Coach and Jeremy.
“Jenny,” Coach hesitated before stepping up to her.
Jenny held up her hand, stopping her stepdad before he could explain the situation. “I want to speak to him,” Jenny pointed to Jeremy. “Please leave us,” Jenny looked to her stepdad and then landed on me. “Leave.”
Coach looked worried, but he followed his daughters directions and walked past me and back down the stairs. I watched Coach disappear outside.
“You too, George.”
Her voice brought me back to the situation at hand. She pointed to me and waved me to follow Coach’s pursuit. I didn’t move, I just stood there frozen. It was a weird feeling. I was worried for Jenny, but I was more worried for Jeremy. Because if he acted on any impulse it could be over for him. I just stood there.
“I’m good dude,” Jeremy leaned forward on the bed so that his head could be seen from the doorway, “I will control myself.”
I looked at him, and he gave me a reassuring nod. ‘Okay.’ I could feel those green eyes on me; I slowly let my eyes travel up to her face. Her expression read confusion. I tried to give her a nod of acknowledgement, part apology, but gave up after her expression turned into annoyance. “I’m going. We will be outside,” I left the doorway and continued down the hallway, to the stairs, and out the door. ‘I guess this is their time,’ and I walked outside to join Coach and Mrs. Brown.
On the porch, it was just silent. The only noise was the breeze and the repetitve squeak from the porch swing. Coach was holding his wife in his arms; they seemed to leave this world. I didn’t know if I should talk, or if they just wanted to sit in silence.
The silence was killing me; I cleared my throat hoping that would initiate a conversation. No reaction. Again. Nothing. “So, how is it being up here?”
At first it seemed like they didn’t hear me, but Coach seemed to sigh and straighten himself out. “It has been nice to be away from the hustle and bustle but I do miss our life back home. Your dad though,” Coach paused to kiss Jenny’s mom on the forhead, and then realized she was passed out. He chuckled before pulling her closer and continuing, “has made our life easy; I don’t know what we would have done if not for him.”
‘Good job Dad.’
“But yeah,” Coach settled back into the rhythm of the swing, “life is just slow paced. I miss coaching, but I’m good waiting a couple years until its my turn again.”
I looked at Coach. He said that last part with a smile, but I could see it was all fake. ‘He probably misses coaching a lot.’ Coach seemed older. Like all his spirt had been drained away. Which being able to still smile, after everything that happened, is still an accomplishment.
“Well, how have things been up there in Montana? Still thriving and striving?”
“Of course!” That was a little cocky, but it was the truth. “I am looking forward to these next four years, but also slightly dreading the lack of life. It’s weird; the guys are moving on with their lives, and it feels like I’m stuck at the same place…Do you understand?”
Coach chuckled just enough to not distrub the woman in his arms, “Of course. All athletes go through this phase; and either they persevere or they give in to their wants and desires for a normal life. It is initally your descion, but remember this, ‘You are only young once.’ Which some athletes see that as, go explore different options when you are young. But no, that is not what a Coach is saying; they mean,”
“You are only young and in your prime once, you can grow up later?” I answered Coach for him.
“Exactly. It is your choice, but I do hope you continue. You will be one of the greats,” Coach smiled.
A true smile. The first one I’ve seen. “Thanks Coach. You are the one to get me started on this path. If I do become…”
“When,” Coach corrected me.
“Right. When I become one of the greats, you will be able to brag that you started my career. Make sure to put that on your resume from now on,” I laughed.
“True. And of course I’m putting that on there. There is no way I’m passing up the golden ticket to a new job,” Coach smiled but then sighed, “I don’t know when that will be. Hopefully I can. Maybe I should look up here,” Coach glanced behind him into the surrounding neighborhood.
“You never know. Maybe there is a small team that wants some volunteers. Find that next person. You found me. Find someone to continue your legacy,” I too turned to the neighborhood. “They are out there!”
“Good idea. I will probably do that after your visit. Speaking of visit how long has it been?” Coach pulled out his phone to check the clock.
I looked at my watch. ‘Almost six o’clock. Jenny and Jeremy have been talking for almost three hours.’ I couldn’t hear anything from all the way out here, so I quickly stuck my head in the door. Nothing. ‘I guess nothing is better than screams or thuds.’ I closed the door once again, and sat back down in the chair I had been occupying. ‘Hopefully they can talk it out.’ I know that Jeremy is probably telling her about his childhood. Most importantly, hopefully he is keeping his
mouth shut about other topics. Because I promised my dad I would not discuss things; I forgot to mention that detail to Jeremy… ‘Stop worrying, George. He needs this time to apologize and explain things.’
Suddenly the front door swung open, and out came Jermey and Jenny onto the porch. I couldn’t really read from their faces what was accomplished, but they were at least standing next to each other. ‘That’s a good sign at least.’
“Dad?” Jenny spoke, breaking the silence, “I’m hungry. Can we grab dinner out tonight?”
“Sure. What you in the mood for?” Coach quickly regretted his words, because he forgot that Jenny has not been able to make decisions. “Nevermind, we will have…”
“Pizza. I want pizza,” Jenny said. “You good with pizza, George,” Jenny looked at me.
I, like everyone else was shocked, but I regained my composure quicky, “Of course. I’m always down for pizza. Especially since, when this school year starts I won’t be allowed to eat it anymore.
Jenny smiled at my words. “Okay, I’ll go call and place the order,” Jenny started to open the door but stopped, “Dad, where is your wallet?”
Coach was still shocked. I coughed to bring him back to the conversation.
“Right. On the kitchen table,” Coach answered but was still dazed.
“Okay. Jeremy, come help me order,” Jenny pulled Jeremy back into the house.
It was silent once again. Leaving only Jenny’s mom soft hums from sleeping to fill the silence.
“Thank you, George,” Coach finally said breaking the tension.
My snapped in his direction. ‘What does that mean?’ “I didn’t do any…”
“You brought closure to my daughter. I didn’t realize Jeremy would have been the solution, but thank you,” Coach turned to wife trying to wake her form her deep slumbers.
I just sat there unsure of what I was feeling. I was happy and proud that Coach thought I had helped Jenny in some way; but at my core I knew that this wasn’t over. Call it a gut instinct. Like maybe Jenny was pretending, but I have no way of truly knowing. Not until it’s my time to talk.