It started innocently enough, as these things always do. Ashlin was someone I had always been close to, always felt I could trust. Naturally, we ended up in the same clique in high school. She was the cheerleading captain junior year, when it all went down hill.
I had been a star tight end on our school’s football team since I joined freshman year. It was not my first love; no, that title belongs to music. I was the guy on the team that didn’t quite fit in – the guys only tolerated/liked me because they had to or Coach would yell.
So, quite understandably, when I quit the team senior year, they all jumped me. Told me that I cost them a perfect season as they punched me. Told me I would never amount to anything with my “silly singing thing” that I had going.
Ha. I hope they’re reading this (if they’ve finally learned to read).
Ash was the one to find me after that, half shoved into the dumpster behind the school. She had just gotten out of practice, and was probably off to see Brett (aka the Flavor of the Moment for her and the team’s quarterback).
But she saw me first.
“Charlie!” she called, horror written all over her face. “Charlie, who did this to you?”
Now, let it be known that I am a tough guy. To put up with football conditioning, you have to be. But I had just been beaten within an inch of my life and it hurt. My lips were swollen and bleeding, so even though I said, “Your idiot boyfriend and the rest of the team,” it probably just sounded like mush.
She was crying then. That’s probably what I remember the most. Tears just started pouring down her face, which is how I knew that she had understood me. Always had. “Oh, you poor thing,” she whispered, fingertips lightly caressing my cheek. “Let’s go get you cleaned up, yeah?” Helping me to my feet, she maneuvered me over to her truck.
Ashlin is not your typical cheerleader. She’s not blonde, not overly popular, doesn’t rule the school, and is generally just a nice person. And smart. I don’t think her GPA has ever been below a 3.8. But she is much more…scene…than you would think. Someone you really couldn’t picture as a cheerleader, let alone captain, if you saw her by herself. Wears skate shoes and hoodies when she’s not in practice, would never be caught dead in her uniform unless she absolutely had to…kinda the anti-cheerleader. But she still works just as hard – if not harder – than the other girls on her team because she’s so small. Probably only 5 foot 2 and no more than 120 pounds.
But moving me into her truck still wasn’t easy. I wasn’t much help, which wasn’t totally my fault, but still emasculated me. Somehow we managed it, though, and before I knew it we were back at my house.
“So…?” her tone asked what she felt was too awkward to.
“Nobody’s home, Ash. Dad and Tara went on some Daddy-Daughter thing. Come in and help patch me up?” I offered her a hand out of the truck. She took it.
Before this gets any further, Ashlin is…well, kinda a time-share girl. Saturday through Thursday, she’s mine. But Friday? She’s his girl Friday. Him being Brett Smithson, star quarterback, every girl in the school’s crush, general meathead.
And today, the day of my beat down? Friday.
So, naturally, I was kinda worried. “How much does Brett know about us?” I asked as she put Neosporin on my various cuts and wiped the blood away.
She paused just long enough to raise an eyebrow at me. “He knows I’m only ‘with’ him so he’s not swarmed by every freshie fangirl in the school. But that it’s only show. He’s a big boy, he can think of an excuse as to why I’m not at Britney’s party.” Seeing my still-questioning look, she added, “But he does know about you and I, Charlie. Probably why he hurt you so much…”
I could tell she was beating herself up about it. I cupped her chin in my fingers, searching her eyes with my own. “It’s not your fault. I knew the risks when we started this.”
“But it’s still not fair!”
I smirked. “No one ever said high school was.”
Truth was, I don’t think I ever really understood how dangerous our relationship could be. Sure, there were the footballers to worry about, but what’s twenty-some people compared to the entire school? Apparently, that was the reality. If word got out about us, the drop-our star and the head cheerleader, well…let’s just say I’d probably hurt a lot more than I did then.
But what’s a few scrapes compared to having someone who loved you?
Ashlin did. She told me every chance she could through her actions. Even just ditching out on Brett to help me – that said it. Of course, she said it too. Just not as often as those moments when I just knew.
Her sudden sigh brought me back to the moment. “Charlie, what if I just left him? Face it; with where I stand in the hierarchy of the school, you’d be untouchable. You know everyone knows the cheer squad could take down almost anybody. We would be fine, we wouldn’t have to sneak around…”
I kissed her forehead softly, murmuring into her hair. “I love you, you know that. But…well…”
“But what, Charlie?” her tone was laced with tears.
“Well…I don’t know! I just want to be with you, Ash.” My head was spinning. Hadn’t I dreamed about the moment when I could walk the hallways holding her hand and not be ridiculed? “I just…I want…” I sighed, realizing the words just wouldn’t come out. “I just want you to be happy. I can deal with whatever everyone else throws at me, as long as you’re okay. If they start in on you, though…well, I’m not making an promises that I won’t get into any fights.”
The next day, after spending the night together (relax, we just talked late and ended up falling asleep on the couch. I, being a gentleman, carried her to my bed and took the couch for myself), I limped into school, her on my arm.
The first thing I noticed was the brief glances and then double-takes. It seemed like everyone was a bit shocked, but no one particularly seemed like they were going to kill me. “Huh…” I mumbled. “Weird.”
Ash just beamed up at me. “See? I told you it would be fine. Stop worrying so much.”
And the funny part was, even the people who glared at me couldn’t have done anything. I was on Cloud 9, floating through the hallways with my own personal angel.
“Come on a Monday, come on a Tuesday, they’ll never know. Pop all the corks for Wednesday, play with me Thursday, but you’ll always be his girl Friday”
Obviously based upon the song "His Girl Friday" by The Academy Is... (go look it up on YouTube. It's amazing)