Home > Scoring the Player

Scoring the Player
Author: Rebecca Jenshak








“These shoes were a bad idea,” I shout over the music as Jane, Violet, and I push our way through a crowd of people in the backyard of the off-campus house party.

I nearly twist an ankle when someone knocks into me and throws off my balance on these four-inch heels. Then someone else bangs into me from the other side, steadying me somewhat but also making me feel like I’m in a human pinball machine.

It’s the first week of a new school year, and the parties have been amazing. It’s only Wednesday night and I’ve lost track of how many different off-campus houses and frats we’ve been to this week.

Jane comes to a stop on one side of the yard and turns her head to look at me and Vi, excitement sparkling in her eyes. “I had no idea there’d be so many people here tonight. The football guys know how to throw a party.”

She’s right. It seems like the entire student body is here. It isn’t a huge house or outdoor space, which makes it feel even more crowded.

“Have you seen him?” Violet asks, while she cranes her neck to look around the party.

“Who?” I’m careful not to meet her gaze. “Your boyfriend?”

“No. Gavin is coming later. He had a basketball thing.” When I give in and look at her, she arches a dark brow and tips her chin so that her long, black hair falls over one shoulder. “You know who.”

I do know, but I stay quiet anyway.

“Felix Walters,” she says pointedly, amidst my silence. “The cute QB who is totally crushing on you.”

My own laugh catches me off guard because her words are so ludicrous. “He does not have a crush on me.”

Felix Walters is the most popular jock on campus. He’s the face of the university’s nationally-ranked football team, rumored to definitely be going to the NFL, and he hooks up with only the most beautiful girls. A lot of them.

“I think Vi’s right,” Jane says. “He always makes a point to come talk to you when we see him out. Sunday night at The Hideout and then again at the hockey guys’ apartment, Monday night at Phi Kappa Theta, Tuesday at Sigma.”

My face is on fire. He’s so far out of my league that even thinking about talking to Felix makes me hot and sweaty. I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’ve dated so infrequently; I can count them all on one hand. I’m not the kind of girl guys clamor to be with. Let alone guys like Felix. I’m too shy. Too awkward. Too average. I’m not at all like the girls he dates.

Instead of responding to their ridiculous claim that Felix has a crush on me (ha!), I focus on the party and finding Daisy. She left before us to meet up with her boyfriend Jordan. I finally spot them across the yard, hanging with a group of guys, hockey players, I think. I don’t spend a lot of time scoping out the people in their circle.

Jane and Violet are the outgoing half of our foursome. Jane is enthusiastic and fun at every turn. So fun that she often convinces me to live outside my comfort zone. The four-inch heels, for example. And Violet is confident and stunning, and so head-over-heels in love with her boyfriend Gavin that she wants everyone to be as happy as she is.

I love them, but right now, I need a dose of reality that I know Daisy will provide. Felix is not into me. He’s a nice guy, that’s all. But still, my skin is buzzing with adrenaline at the thought.

Earlier tonight, the four of us (Jane, Violet, Daisy, and I) wrote wishes for the new school year on paper and then burned them. When Jane suggested we ‘put our desires out into the universe,’ I thought it was kind of silly. But as I held the paper in one hand and the lighter in the other, I felt a flutter of something. Nerves mixed with anticipation and…hope.

I’ve made lots of wishes in my twenty years—on birthday candles, shooting stars, fallen eyelashes, fountains, wishbones, dandelions, pennies, and on clocks that read 11:11. I don’t remember all the things I’ve wished for, but I know the big things have never come true.

I’m still me. Dahlia Brady, shy and awkward, destined to never have a boyfriend.

There are worse things, I know. And it isn’t that I hate who I am or anything. I am a great friend. I’m athletic and kind, and am generally optimistic and happy.

It’s just that being shy and awkward makes it hard to do things like date, or even talk to guys. I like my life, but I’d also like to make out with a hot boy (or many hot boys) on the regular.

“I see Daisy,” I say, nodding my head in her direction and then taking off that way.

Relief washes over me as we get a foot away from our friend. A smile spreads across her face and she opens her stance to greet us.

Only, when she does, I get a good look at one of the guys standing with her. Felix.

I avoid staring directly at him, while I hug Daisy. Jordan says hello and the group quiets as the circle opens to let us join.

My skin pricks and I know Felix is looking at me. It’s always like this. I don’t know what it is about him, but I’m extra awkward around him. We aren’t exactly friends, but Felix is friends with Daisy and Violet’s jock boyfriends, so we seem to keep running into each other.

Summoning every ounce of courage possible, I glance up. His eyes are a gray blue that is a stark contrast to his jet black hair. He’s tall enough that, even in these heels, he still towers over me, and his chest is broad, biceps straining against the white T-shirt.

Here’s the thing about Felix. He’s suuuper hot. No question about that. But it isn’t just that he’s a hot guy that throws me so off balance when he’s nearby. He remembers things, asks me personal questions, gives me the type of attention that most guys, hot or not, don’t really give me. I like his voice and the way he smiles at me like he’s happy I’m around. And I admire that he’s this successful football player with big dreams but still likes to kick back and have a good time.

He’s definitely not trying to get me naked, but he likes me well enough to carry a conversation (usually a one-sided one). It’s unnerving.

He isn’t the first guy to do this, though. It’s part of my curse, I’m afraid. Guys that can get past my whole shy and awkwardness, want to be my friend. I’m sporty and safe, and they get a sense right away that I’m not about the drama. Because I’m not.

Here’s the thing about all guys. They say they don’t like drama, but in the end, they always choose the girls that are all about the drama.

“Hey, Dahlia.” Felix’s deep voice wraps me up in a warm caress. “I’m glad you came.”

I open my mouth to reply. My lips form the word, but no sound comes out. I manage a small wave with an inaudible “hi,” which only makes my face flame hotter.

I tend to have two responses to uncomfortable situations: I freeze or I blurt out something embarrassing. I guess all things considered, freezing is the less horrifying option. If I told him all the things I’m thinking, I’d never be able to show my face again.

He smiles at me, despite my awkward silence. “Did you just get here?”

My chin dips in a nod.

“Do you need a drink?” he asks. His dark gaze does a slow sweep over my tank and shorts that show a lot of leg, and finally down to the very tall heels I’m precariously balancing on. When I still don’t respond, he looks to Jane and Vi, extending his drink invitation. “We’ve got beer, seltzer, and there was still some vodka and Wild Turkey last time I checked.”

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