Picking Up the Pieces: Part 2


GamedayMy usual pregame ritual involved getting into my zone. Since the first game of the season was at home we got dressed in the locker room. I usually tried to be the first one to get ready and would psych myself up as everyone else got dressed. Some girls get more chatty before a game, I get less. I flashed Susan a brief smile. Most of the girls knew to avoid talking to me before a game, but I would receive various fist bumps and head nods. Susan finished changing, and gave me thumbs up and a wink. I gave her a very serious look, but then smiled and winked back. She giggled, and I was inwardly pleased as she could sometimes get a little tense before games.Coach gave us his usual tactics talk and we went out to the field to warm up. We did our stretches and our drills. I was a central defender, mostly because of my size. I had a late growth spurt and was a couple of inches short of six feet tall. No one would call me willowy. Before that, I played all over the pitch, but for the past couple of years, I would anchor the defense. Susan was small and speedy. Coach usually had her play wingback driving up and down the flanks.We got into position, Coach yelling his last-minute directions. The crowd was small, but I was glad to see my mom was watching in the stands. I gave her a wave before the ref blew their whistle. The action was pretty sloppy. You could tell both teams were still working off early-season rust. For the most part, I wasn’t worked too hard. A few times I had to make an interception or tackle, but those were pretty straightforward. The most crucial action I had was clearing away a couple of corners the other team had taken.I could tell the other team was getting frustrated at their lack of progress. They were getting desperate, and they had a few late tackles go unseen by the ref. At one point, Nadine, probably our most talented midfielder, got tripped right in front of the ref. It should have been an easy card, but the ref kept it in her pocket. Coach went ballistic on the sidelines and we went to help Nadine up. She was clutching at her ankle, but got up with our help.I sidled up next to the offending member of the other team, some bitch whose name was McCallister according to her jersey. Under my breath, “You better not do that again.”She looked up at me with a cocky smile, “Or what? Fuck off.”The rest of half was uneventful, but I kept a watchful eye on McCallister as she made her way around the pitch. Coach was pissed, as much as by our ineptitude as by the ref’s. There were threats of more benchings, sprints at practice, and more if our form didn’t improve. And as the second half resumed, I’m not sure if it was the threats or just getting into the groove of the game, but we looked better as a team.We scored soon thereafter, and seemed to be on our way to get another when Nadine had her pocket picked. A couple of long passes later, and the other team was off on a break. Fuck. It was just myself and Jessica, on the wrong side of a three on two. They passed it back and forth, but McCallister ended up with the ball and she was driving right at me.I flattened the bitch. I mean, I’ve been playing long enough to make it look reasonable enough. However, don’t mistake my intent. I wasn’t going to let her in on goal…and she deserved it. I stood there stoically looking down over her, but inwardly I was giddy. McCallister’s teammates tried to get in my face about it, but I stared them down. The ref flashed a deserved yellow at me and I went on my way.The rest of the game was relatively uneventful with one exception. Our keeper, Jillian had made a nifty save and threw the ball as an outlet to Susan, who was waiting on the wings. She drove up the sideline, cutting inside to avoid a defender. Just then someone cut her down from behind. It was a nasty tackle, and it resulted in Susan writhing on the ground clutching her knee. My stomach dropped as I heard her yelp of pain.I could hear the other team leering over her, “Get your ass up. Quit wasting our time.”Running over to Susan, I shoved them out of the way. “Back off. Back the fuck off,” I snapped at them. A small scuffle broke out around us, but I made sure no one was going to get near Susan until the trainer saw to her knee. I knelt down next to her, “Are you alright?””Goddamnit,” she said through gritted teeth. She was still clutching her knee. “I’ll be okay.”The trainer examined her knee, then helped her up. Fortunately, Susan was able to walk off the pitch as she was subbed off, mostly under her own power. I was relieved. Beyond not wanting a teammate’s season to be cut short, watching Susan in pain really freaked me out. She had already had enough to deal with so far this year, and didn’t need any more on her plate.We ended up winning by that lone goal. It was a double win, since Coach wouldn’t run us ragged this week. Susan was standing on the sideline, her knee wrapped with an ice pack around it. My mom came down from the stands and gave me a hug.”Good job out there, bruiser,” she said with a grin. “Is Susan going to be okay?””Thanks,” I smiled, “I’m not sure, but I think so.””Okay, keep me updated. I’ll see you later tonight,” she waved her goodbye.The best part about home games was the showers in the locker rooms. There were a couple of rows of them on each wall, stalls with sliding curtains that acted as doors. Nothing was better than a hot shower after a long game. We would strip down with a towel around us and make our way to the shower. I loved to get the grime and sweat off my skin as the hot water eased my aching muscles.Tonight I started with my hair, running my hands through it. I let the hot water flow over me. Working the roots of my hair, any tension I felt almanbahis started to fall away. Then I started focusing on the rest of my body. First I built up the suds, then I ran my hands over my body as the water washed it away. With the grime all gone, I started to work the muscles of my legs. Initially, I kneaded my way down my quads, then lifting each leg I worked my calves. Turning around, I let the hot water hit my lower back. This part was my guilty pleasure. Reaching down, I worked my thumbs into my hamstrings and up over my glutes. I lost myself in the feeling, working even deeper, as the water flowed over me.My reverie was interrupted as I heard Susan’s voice: “Hey! Hey Jenn!”I gasped, a little embarrassed even though I knew I shouldn’t be.”Jenn, I hope I didn’t startle you,” I heard her voice. “My dad is going to give me a ride home. See you tomorrow morning?”Gaining a little composure, I replied, “Bright and early!””Oh, and Jenn, thanks for having my back,” she replied.I stuck a hand above the curtain and waved goodbye, “Always.”I texted her that night.Jenn: Is your knee going to be alright? Twenty-two minutesSusan: Yeah, the trainer said it just got a bit strained.>>>>I just need to ice it and keep it easy for a couple of days.Seventeen minutesJenn: You were really great out there. Thanks again for having my back.Twelve minutesJenn: Of courseYou don’t know how scared I was when I saw you like that. I’m really glad you are ok.Ten minutesSusan: That means a lot to me.>>>>You mean a lot to me.Three minutes>>>>Sweet dreams Jenn.One minute Jenn: AlwaysOne minuteIt was a couple of days later when after school, I tried to search around for Susan. It wasn’t like her to disappear before practice. She wasn’t at her locker, and she wasn’t hanging out in any of her classrooms as far as I could tell. Eventually, I shot her a text telling her that I’d meet her up at the practice field.As I was making my way through the gym, I spotted her. A pit started to grow in my stomach. She was in a corner of the gym partially blocked from view by the bleachers. Principal Eriksen was quietly talking with her, and she was clearly not comfortable with the situation. Fuck, not this again. I ran over to them interrupting their conversation.”Hey, Mr. Eriksen!” I gave my most polite saccharine smile, “Hey, Susan, we’ve got to go like…right now.” Grabbing her hand I made to pull her with me.”Wait…what’s going on, Miss Garelli? Miss Pearson and I were just talking,” he said, more than a little annoyed.”I’m really sorry, Principal Eriksen, but we promised Coach we’d help set up for practice and we are already late,” I lied. He looked over to Susan who just nodded along.He dismissed us with a wave, and I dragged Susan along with me out of the gym outside. She started trembling a little.”What did he want?” I asked her.”I…don’t know, he just saw me outside the gym and asked me to follow him,” she said. ” We hadn’t had a chance to talk for too long when you showed up, thank God.””Fuck him,” I said, putting my arm around her. “Are you going to be okay?””Yeah…yeah, I am. I just don’t know what would have happened if it wasn’t for you,” she leaned in against me.Celebration “Happy birthday Jenn!” Susan said,  running to me and squeezing me in a tight hug. “How does it feel? Are you going to buy a lottery ticket? Are you going to get a tattoo, I know you’ve been thinking about it?  Ooh, are you going to be buying any naughty magazines?” She gave me a sly look.Laughing, I told her, “Slow down. Slow down. One at a time: maybe on the lottery tickets, I’m still looking for the right tattoo parlor, as for that last one,” I scoffed, “…that’s what the internet is for.””Ok, ok. Are we still on for tomorrow?” Susan asked.”Yeah, the only reason my parents agreed to it while they are out of town was because I promised to keep it small,” I told her. “So it’s just going to be you, Nadine, and I.”Honestly, it’s not like I wanted to have some big celebration. A couple of good friends, food, and hanging out is all I need. My plan was to meet at the mall, do some shopping, get some food, and then head back to my place for the night.”That sounds good, I can’t wait! I’ve got to go talk to Mr. Leland,” she gave a mock frown, “but I’ll see you at lunch!” I waved goodbye as I watched her run off up the hallway. In my locker I found a card signed by all the girls on the soccer team. Inside it was a gift card that they all had pitched in on. For sure I was going to use it for something tomorrow. In the first period, one of my teammates gave me a hat and sash that they had made with “birthday girl” on it. I happily wore it for the rest of the day.That evening I gave my parents a sendoff. My mom had a work event across the state on Monday, so they decided to make the weekend into a mini-vacation. I didn’t mind. We had celebrated my birthday the previous night.”You guys have everything packed up?” I asked my mom. They had gathered all their bags in the foyer.”Yes, now quit worrying. Are you ready for tomorrow? Do you know where the money is if you need it? If you have an emergency, don’t hesitate to call your Aunt Ally,” she turned the tables on me.I rolled my eyes, “Yes, everything is ready. The cash in the small cabinet. We have a reservation for Vincenzo’s at five o’clock, and you’ve already told me where the cupcakes are three times already. Love you, mom! Love you, dad!” She had gotten me cupcakes from my favorite bakery, chocolate with caramel buttercream frosting, one each for Susan, Nadine, and I.I helped them pack their car, and hugged them goodbye. Making my way inside, I checked over everything. I had worked to clean up the house. Even though the girls had been over plenty almanbahis yeni giriş of times, I wanted everything to be perfect. I was full of nervous energy. Eventually, I settled in for the evening only after deciding on my outfit for the next day. Going to bed, I settled underneath my blankets. It took me a while to get to sleep, but I managed to overcome my excitement and drift away.The next afternoon I sat in a chair in one of the walkways at the mall. That morning I had changed my mind on what I wanted to wear a few more times. Eventually, I settled on a white and navy floral print dress I had in my closet. It was a little more daring than I would usually wear. The dress had a very, umm…flattering neckline, and the hem ended a couple of inches above my knees. But it was my big day out, and I wanted to look good. I sat there, legs crossed waiting for the girls to arrive.I was fiddling on my phone when I heard a “Hey there.” Looking up from my phone I saw Susan grinning down at me. She wore a well-fitted cream-colored blouse, cute red bandana, and matching crimson-colored skirt that went down just past her knees.”Somebody’s looking good. Who’s your date?” she said.”Bad news. It looks like it’s you,” I teased her. “It seems like Nadine got sick. I just got the message.””Oh, I’m sorry. Is she okay?” Susan asked.”Yeah, she said it’s nothing to worry about and to try and have fun without her,” I told her. “So what do you want to start out with?”She smiled, grabbing my hand and pulled me up. Pulling a blindfold out of her purse, she said, “Here! Put this on.””Okay…?”I dutifully put it on. Susan spun me around a few times and started to guide me. I had lost most of my sense of direction except for the hand Susan had in mine, guiding me along. Eventually, we reached our destination. She told me to take off my blindfold. It turned out to be the makeup boutique.”You are going to get a birthday makeover,” she said excitedly. Susan was grinning from ear to ear.Sitting me down in the chair, the beautician asked, “Okay birthday girl, what look are you going for?”I sat trying to think it through, when Susan chimed in, “Something glamorous, that really brings out her eyes.”The beautician just looked at me with her eyebrow raised. I said, “That sounds good to me.”As she applied the makeup to my lips, cheeks, and eyes Susan fidgeted behind her, craning to get a good look. After a while the beautician finished up, “Are you ready?” I nodded, and she turned me around to face the mirror.”Oh wow. I look…good,” I gasped. It was subtle and inviting. “Thank you so much.” I got up from the chair.She handed me the same palette the beautician used for my makeover, “Happy Birthday Jenn. You look gorgeous.”I gave my friend an extra tight hug, “Now where should we go next?”We ended up going all over the mall. In addition to the makeup, I ended up getting a pair of heels, a new sports bra, a couple of comfy shirts, and at Susan’s insistence a surfer style bikini. She said it made me look “fit and sexy”. I would send Susan selfies of all the different outfits so we could quickly compare what looked best. She even managed to find a couple of dresses that we both agreed looked really good on her.All shopped out, we headed to Vincenzo’s. It was my favorite restaurant in town. Our reserved seats were great. The manager knew my family so we were treated like queens. Susan toasted me to my good health, beauty, and happiness. I dug into my lasagna, as she worked on her plate of angel hair pasta. We even ended up splitting a small creme brulee, “on the house.”This was turning out to be the best birthday I had had in the past couple of years. We headed back to my place. Pulling in the driveway, we got our bags and headed into the house. Kicking my shoes off, I ran downstairs to put my purchases away. Coming up the stairs I saw Susan was sitting on a stool in the kitchen, one leg curled underneath her.”Which one of these are for me?” she said, looking longingly at the cupcakes.”Whichever one catches your eye…as long as you stop your drooling,” I teased her.”I. Am. Not. Drooling!” she mocked “Much…”We each grabbed one and took a bite. It looked like Susan was in ecstasy, her eyes closed.”Mmmmm. These are amazing. This caramel frosting is unbelievable,” she took her finger scooping up some of the frosting. Popping her finger into her mouth she sucked it clean. We both proceeded to finish off the cupcakes, making a bit of a mess of it.”It looks like you missed some,” taking a step closer Susan reached up with her finger, “Hold still.” She gently drew her fingertip above my upper lip catching some of the frosting that was still there. “You don’t want it to go to waste,” she winked at me.I rolled my eyes. “Come on, let’s stop fooling around and get comfy downstairs,” I declared.Settling down on the couch, Susan curled up next to me. It took a while for us to decide what movie to watch. Eventually, we settled on one of those rom-coms with a whole host of stars that in the end will all end up in a different, happier relationship from where they started. Partway through I grabbed a blanket. Edging closer to me, I placed the blanket over both of us.It was so comfortable, so warm. I was getting sleepy and settled into the softness of the couch with my best friend against me. I could feel Susan’s movement of her breathing softly. Every once in a while she would resettle against me. Her eyes were closed. I studied her face, her long lashes, her rosy cheeks. Usually, she was quick to flash a bright smile, but right now all I could see were her slightly parted lips. I was lucky to be so close with someone like her. This felt…good.As the credits rolled, we stayed in place almanbahis giriş dozing on the couch. Honestly, I would have been fine sleeping like that for the night, but Susan stirred next to me. Sitting up and yawning, she arched her back, stretching it. Placing my hand on her back, I started rubbing it up and down her spine. She let out a satisfied sigh. Turning to face away from me, she scooted closer. I could take the hint and placed both my hands on her neck, working the muscles. She groaned, moving her neck back and forth.”Mmmm, and it’s not even my birthday,” she purred.I continued down, kneading the muscles of her shoulders and her back with my thumbs. She sighed, and I could feel her relaxing even more. Using my knuckles, I worked back up. From there, I rubbed her sides. Going inch by inch, I ended up massaging nearly every inch of her back. Ending the impromptu massage, I gave her a quick hug.Facing towards me, she gave me a contented smile, “Now your turn birthday girl,” she twirled her finger at me.Obligingly, I turned around. Starting off Susan ran the palms up her hands up and down, all over my back making it tingle. She walked her fingers up my spine and started pressing her fingertips at the top of my neck at my hairline. Moving down she worked both shoulders, lifting and stretching first one, and then the other. I realize how tight they were and she worked to loosen them. Her hands felt amazing pressing against the muscles on my back. She followed the line of the muscles around my shoulder blades.As she found a knot below my shoulder, I told her “Oooh, that’s the spot.” I let her know she was working in the right place with a satisfied groan. She continued, working each side of my spine up and down. This felt absolutely amazing, after a couple of weeks of hard work on the field I deserved this. Closing my eyes, I just focused on the feeling of Susan’s fingers on my back. They eased my tension, and I just melted at her touch.Finally, I felt her arms go around me as I felt her hug me. It felt good, her cheek resting against my neck, and her breath against my skin. Lacing my fingers with hers, she held me tight. I was at ease, just feeling her warmth against me.”Jennifer?” she whispered.She pulled away, as I turned toward her on the couch. She still had her fingers laced with mine. I looked at her, “What is it?” She looked suddenly unsure of herself.Looking down at our hands, she swallowed. “I’ve…I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time.” She slowly started to lean forward.It came to me, everything, all the time we spent together, each little look she gave me. We had become such good friends.I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I felt her lips on mine. Closing my eyes, I felt her kiss. Her lips were warm and soft against my own. I…wanted this. She pulled back, looking at me. I let out a long breath. I was lightheaded, giddy, and a little turned on.”You don’t know how long I’ve had a crush on you. You’ve always been so kind to me…and so pretty,” she gave me a half-smile. It still looked like she was unsure of herself.”When did you first know?” I asked her.She looked earnestly at me, “Do you remember the time last year, when you came over to my place? We lay there in the backyard, looking up at the stars well into the night. I wanted you so bad right then, but I was scared.””But you aren’t scared right now?” I asked.”I still am, a little,” she admitted. “Today has been so amazing. That just…felt like the right moment, the perfect moment to let you know how I’ve felt…how I feel.”Susan had been such an amazing friend to me for so long. I thought back to all the times she had been there for me, all the times she helped me and supported me. Placing my hand on her skirt, just above her knee, I told her, “You don’t have to be scared.” She let out a long sigh of relief.”So you are saying you want me?” I asked her, running my fingertip along my collarbone, trying to give her my most seductive look. She nodded, leaning a little closer.”Then you are going to have to catch me first!” I suddenly sat up and ran around to the other side of the couch.”Hey come back here!” she laughed.I ran towards the doorway to my bedroom turning to face her. Rounding the couch she slowly stalked towards me. Just as she was about to get within reach of me, I took a step towards my left. She fell for it, reaching out towards where I would have been. I rushed past her, slapping her hands away, back to the other side of the couch.”And here I thought you were faster than that. I guess I’m just going to have to spend the rest of my birthday all alone…” I taunted her.She continued her pursuit, stopping short of the couch. Susan moved slowly, first clockwise, then counterclockwise. Each move she made I mirrored, keeping my distance.Sticking my tongue out at her, I continued my taunting, “I guess I’m just going to die a spinster, forever alone..”In response, she burst into motion, turning the corner around the couch. I barely had time to react. I vaulted over the couch and ran towards my bedroom. Susan was just a streak of crimson in pursuit behind me. I was able to just keep a couple of paces ahead of her, but as we entered my bedroom I didn’t have anywhere to go. I turned around, but before I had a chance to go anywhere I was tackled onto my bed.Straddling me, she looked down grinning, “So what’s my prize?”I thought for a moment, but then said simply, “Just name it.”Thinking for a moment, she climbed off of me and the bed telling me, “Stand up.”I obliged her, moving close. Decisively she reached up behind my head, pulling me down towards her. I accepted her kisses, as her tongue reached out running along my lips. Parting them, her tongue at first gently then more eagerly entered into my mouth. I returned the favor, sliding my tongue into hers. In the past, it had been scary, and a little thrilling, to imagine what it would be like to kiss another girl, but this was right.

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