At the end of practice, Coach Davidson called a meeting on the fifty-yard line. The sun was shining now, and droplets of water shimmered as they clung to the grass, casting an iridescent glow over the field. Drew expected a harangue after what had gone on that day, but Davidson said nothing about it. He merely handed out the game schedule for the year and dismissed the team.
Drew pushed himself up and trudged off the field with the rest of the team. Clay grumbled as he strode past him and shot him a rancorous look, as if Drew were a traitor. Drew’s heart skipped a beat, but he ignored it. Sooner or later Clay would have to realize that his plan was totally inane. He’d have to know that what Drew had done was for the best.
Then he felt a hand grab his shoulder pad, and his heart swooped. What now?
He turned around to find Samson standing before him, all blood and mud and grime.
“What?” Drew blurted, clueless as to what Samson might be thinking.
“Look who became a maverick today,” Samson said, tossing a football up and down with a grin. “What happened between this morning and this afternoon?”
“Oh, so you’re gonna get all maudlin on me now?” Drew asked lightly. Jason walked by and lifted his hand for a slap as he went. Drew obliged, his heart feeling lighter as he knew that his friend was starting to forgive him for last night’s transgressions.
“No. Just curious,” Samson replied.
Drew lifted his shoulder. “I guess I’m becoming inured to the situation,” he said. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?”
“Very pragmatic of you,” Samson said.
“I’m sorry about those guys, man,” Drew said honestly, letting out a sigh of relief. “They can be pretty incorrigible. But I’m even worse. I should have stopped it before it even started.”
“Maybe. But at least you stopped it,” Samson replied.
“Still. It doesn’t expiate what they did. What we all did,” Drew said, shaking his head as the rest of the team trailed off the field, some casting curious glances in their direction. “I feel like an idiot. Like I’ve just been acting so—“
“I know, man,” Samson said. “It’s cool.”
“Thanks,” Drew said.
“I’m surprised the coaches didn’t stop it, actually,” Samson said. “What they were doing was limpid to anyone with eyes. But I guess they figure I shouldn’t be inviolable. Clay was right about that, at least. I think I’ve gotta toughen up,” Samson said, rolling his shoulder and wincing.
“Yeah? Well then I’m glad you did, because another ten minutes and I was done for,” Samson joked.
Drew shook his head as they turned toward the school. “You’re insane, you know that? If I were you I’d be so beyond pissed right now.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not exactly doing cartwheels, but after today I have some hope that things are gonna get better,” Samson said.
“Really?” Drew asked.
“Yeah. In fact…” Samson paused near one of the sideline benches and peeled off his pads and jersey, stripping down to his T-shirt and football pants. He picked up the ball again and tossed it at Drew’s chest. “Let’s have a catch.”
Drew eyed him dubiously. “A catch?”
“Yeah. Let’s see how your hands are, Benson,” Samson chided, jogging back to the field.
“My hands are fine,” Drew replied, throwing the ball to Samson.
“Oh yeah?” Samson taunted. “Prove it.”