The centre snapped the football, and it landed perfectly in his hands. He felt the familiar tightening in his chest, and somehow knew that this was the play that would win them the game. Smoothly transferring his arms to a throwing position, his eyes immediately fixed on an open player. Yes. Jeremiah Lynch was running his route perfectly, and the Croton Cretins, as he liked to call them, were yards away from him, leaving him completely in the open.

He released the ball and felt a satisfied rush as it soared in a perfect spiral. Time seemed to slow, and he watched as Lynch reached for the ball, caught it, and tucked it under his arm. The tailback wove through opposing players, skillfully darting and dodging. It was almost as if a magnet were guiding Lynch, and pulling him into the end zone. When he cleared the last of the obstacles and crossed into scoring territory, the cheer from the crowd was deafening. The roar built and built, and, as always, he felt that he was part of something bigger, something larger than himself. This was worlds away from the satisfaction of successfully unlocking the symbolism of a poem, or immersing himself in the world of Shakespeare, but it was right, and good, and he wouldn't trade it for anything.

The clock ran out, and the team remained on the field, congratulating each other and inviting the spectators to join them. Lynch slapped him on the back and grinned at him, his thick dark hair falling in his eyes.

"Pure magic!" he crowed. "Maypenny, that was magic!"

He grinned back, just as happy, if not as verbose. Words were best saved for paper, he'd found. Essays and poems. That was where he was able to put into words the thoughts and feelings that refused to come out properly when he spoke. And then Delanoy and Vanderheiden were hoisting him onto their shoulders, and parading him across the field and toward the stands, where many of their classmates still celebrated the victory.

When he caught a glimpse of Ellen McFadden, sleek blonde hair pulled back neatly in a pony tail, he scrambled down from his friends' shoulders, suddenly self-conscious of the fact that he was still in his dirty and sweat stained uniform. He ran a hand through his disheveled hair and smiled shyly at her, his heart soaring as she blushed.

"You played wonderfully," she told him, when he'd finally managed to shove Belden out of the way so that he could get to her.

He watched as she bit her lower lip, and had to fight the urge to kiss her. She was Ellen McFadden. Beautiful. Smart. Perfect.

He usually found silence awkward, but the shy little glances she kept giving him rendered him completely incapable of speech, and he didn't feel the least bit sorry about it. If he were talking, he wouldn't be able to focus on the way her hair shone in the sun, or the little dimple that formed when she smiled, or the way her hand twitched, as if she wanted to touch him as badly as he wanted to touch her.

And then, without quite knowing how it happened, he was helping her into his truck. Had he offered her a ride to the after-game party? Had she asked? It didn't matter; not in the long run. The truck lurched as he popped it into gear, and he flashed her an embarrassed smile, complete with reddened cheeks.

But Ellen only smiled. And when her hand that had been clutching the worn leather upholstery edged a little closer to his, he took the hint and covered her delicate, tapered fingers with his own large, work-roughened hand, squeezing gently. Ellen's smile widened, and for once, Maypenny had the feeling he'd done something right where a girl was concerned.

He reluctantly shifted his focus back to the winding country road. She was probably talking—at least, he assumed the surprisingly musical buzzing he could hear was her speaking—but damn if he could understand a word. Instead of trying to reply, he merely gave her hand another squeeze, smiled, and tugged her hand a little closer to his leg. Sure, it made shifting gears more challenging, and the thought of those beautiful, graceful fingers so close to his thigh was more than a little distracting, but it was so worth it to see her blush prettily and drop her gaze.

Much too soon, in his opinion, they reached Jeremiah Lynch's home, a tiny, dilapidated house only a few miles from Sleepyside. The size of the home, Maypenny knew, was irrelevant, since the after-game tradition was to build a huge bonfire to celebrate the win. There would be music, thanks to Webster and his guitar, dancing, thanks to the girls who couldn't seem to get enough of it, and alcohol, thanks to Vanderheiden and his father's technically illegal but widely appreciated bootlegging operation.

He hopped down from the truck and scrambled to the passenger side to open Ellen's door. Helping her down, he was unable to hide either his smile or his flustered surprise at the way she allowed her body to brush against his. Hand in hand, they walked to the edge of the farmstead, where a bonfire was already beginning to blaze. Ellen tucked her arm through his and pressed close to his side as they joined the throng of milling students, and he felt a thrill of possessive satisfaction. Ellen was smart, beautiful, and popular, and she was with him. Him! Sure, he was a talented quarterback for a successful football team, but his lone, bookish tendencies hadn't allowed him to hope that a girl like Ellen would ever be interested in him. And yet, it was impossible to ignore the flutter of her eyelashes, and the way she tossed her hair as she sneaked looks at him.

And then they stumbled across Bruce Campbell, Sleepyside's former star quarterback who had graduated the previous year. And after one cocky smile, Ellen's hair flips and eyelash flutters were suddenly directed at Bruce, instead of at him. He watched, too surprised to do anything as she allowed herself to be pulled from his grasp, and into Campbell's. Before he had quite realized what had happened, Bruce and Ellen were walking away in search of drinks.


Next week was another game, and he didn't intend to lose, he thought, his eyes boring a hole in Bruce Campbell's back.


Author’s Notes

Another entry for CWE #3, this story was based on picture #14.

I love football. *grin* There's something incredibly satisfying about throwing a perfect spiral, and properly executing a route, and I wanted Maypenny to experience both. Because you can't read Shakespeare all day. *wink*

And did you notice the truck? *blinking innocently* I mean, Dan had to get it from somewhere, right?

Thanks to Dianafan for editing and graphicing, as always. *hugs*

Disclaimer: Characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. Story copyright by Ryl, September 2012. Graphics copyright 2012 by Mary N.

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