A.N.- I'm very excited for this new chapter, the beginning (with the football game) was originally from Chapter 18 but I realized it flowed better this way so I changed a few details. I hope you enjoy it!
Born To Run
Kristen had never felt more ridiculous in her life, perched on the back of a red and white '55 Belair convertible, being driven at two miles an hour down Main Street, dressed in a pale pink formal gown and matching elbow length silk gloves. The car radio was playing their school anthem along to which Prince Terry, beside her, was humming loudly. She glanced over her shoulder at Pete, riding in the car behind her. He looked almost too gorgeous in a white tux with red bowtie and cummerbund, his blond hair slicked back beneath his crown. She tried to catch his eye but he was too busy waving at the onlookers to notice. Gloria Stone looked like a princess or a debutant in her white gown, patterned at the hem and over the bodice with red leaf-and-scroll. She and Pete looked good together, she thought, anyone would've thought they were a couple, of course they hadn't intended to match, red and white were the school colors, still…
"This is the best day of my life!" She shot Terry a sidelong glance, arching a brow at him. He must've been serious, the boy was positively glowing…she scooted away just a little. It was hard not to get swept up in it though, crowds of people, the whole town it seemed, waving at you, cheering for you…
"Kristen! Hey Kristen!" Cheryl and Josie were standing together at the end of the street, waving wildly. "You look amazing!" She was really admiring her own handy-work, she had spent nearly an hour putting Kristen's hair up, and another half an hour getting her makeup just right. She should have been grateful, but all she kept thinking was that it should have been her mother. It should've been her mother fussing over her, playing with her hair, smoothing her skirt, taking endless pictures…but she was away at another spa, apparently she felt Kristen was now 'out of danger' as far as her precious plans were concerned and so was no longer important.
"Thanks! Have you seen my Dad?!" He, at least, could be counted on to make an appearance, as a member of the City Counsel and owner of practically half the town, his attendance was almost mandatory. She couldn't help wondering though, if he didn't have to be there, would he bother? Or would he, like her mother, have something more important to attend to?
Cheryl shouted something, maybe a reply, but the car was too far away for her to make it out above the din of the crowd, the radio, and the marching band playing three cars ahead.
They progressed slowly up the main street before turning down a bisecting road toward the school. There were people already queuing for tickets at the gate when they pulled at last into a rear parking lot filled with parade floats, band members, cheerleaders, and the team mascot, a skinny kid with bright red hair carrying the oversized Minuteman head under one arm and a fake musket under the other, he was sweating profusely.
Kristen lifted the train of her dress, preparing to hop down, but Pete was there suddenly, taking her hand. Once she had both feet safely on the ground he kissed her, "hey beautiful."
"Listen I gotta go suit up, I'll see you after okay?"
"Okay, good luck!" She called after him.
He turned once to wave before disappearing into the school. Cheryl and Josie found her a second later, "I'm so glad the two of you are back together!"
"You look amazing Kris!"
"Come on Kris we've only got about fifteen minutes," Joyce called from outside the girls locker room, "unless you were planning on cheering in that?"
"Um, no," she slipped off her heels and, picking up her hem, sprinted inside and down the hall. The other cheerleaders, in uniform from the parade were already there.
The coach was mid pep talk, "okay girls, as we all know, this is a big night, this team needs all the support they can get, I want you to really fire them up, get the crowd involved…"
Joyce unzipped the back of her dress and she stepped as she unpinned her hair. She pulled on her uniform shell and skirt, Joyce brushing her hair into a ponytail and tying in some ribbons. She was just slipping on her shoes by the time they'd finished their warm-up cheer.
The late afternoon sun blinded them momentarily as they ran out onto the field, screaming and waving their pom-poms as if their lives depended on it. The stands were packed on both sides; the opposing team's cheerleaders, in purple and gold, were already on the field, building a pyramid to the delight of their supporters, who were nearly as numerous as the Minutemen's, this may not have been their homecoming, but it was still an important game.
"And entering the second quarter now with the Tigers leading the Minutemen by just one point after that PAT at the end of the quarter, Tigers in possession, and the kick—caught by #33 Howie Frye at the 20, the 30, the 40, the Tigers coverage is right on him, defense is kicking it into gear, Waynesburg #21—huge defensive tackle, breaks away, Frye doesn't see him—and he's down, down at the 45..!" The commentator's voice cackled through the radio speaker, filled the shed.
"Aw come on guys!" Mick mutter at the radio as he lined up the old fuel line he'd just removed with a length of new hose, measuring it out before cutting it. He tossed the old hose away and slipped the clamps loosely onto the new one.
Mick glanced up from where he was attaching the line to petcock, surprised to see Al leaning in the doorway, arms folded, a snide grin split across his face. It was the same look Mick gave Davey when he caught him with his hand in the cookie jar. "What?"
"I said bullshit, acting like you don't care about football, like you don't miss the game, its bullshit."
Mick blinked, where was this coming from? It wasn't like Al to call a guy out like that, usually he didn't care enough to bother. "I never said I don't—."
"Save it, you ain't fooling me Townsend."
"Whatever you say man…" Mick went back to his bike, attaching the other end of the hose to the carburetor nipple and screwing the clamps back into place.
"Scrimmage at the 45, Millerton still in possession—and the snap, #15 Quarterback Pete St. James looking for a pass, #12 looks open—the pass—I don't believe it, oh I don't believe it..!" there was a muffled roar from the crowd that nearly drowned out the commentator, "Interception! A brilliant interception by right outside #81 Ted Varela—and he's at the 30, the 20, the 10—oh they just can't seem to catch him… Touchdown Tigers!"
Mick was frozen, screwdriver posed in hand, staring off into space as if he could see the play happening…
Al grabbed him by the back of his collar, tugging him upright. "Come on, let's go."
"The game you jackass…"
Mick pulled his shirt away, "I don't want to see the damn game…besides I've gotta finish replacing this fuel line and—."
"Here's the kick, and it's good! One point field goal for Waynesburg bringing the score to 14 to 6."
"Fine," Mick brushed his hands off on a rag and pulled on his jacket, "lets go."
The visitor's side went wild as the field goal was pronounced good, their excitement seeming to zap all the energy out of the home stands.
"That's alright, that's okay, we're gonna beat you anyway!" Kristen cheered along with the rest of her squad, while keeping one eye on the field. She could tell just by the way Pete carried himself as the Minutmen returned to the line of scrimmage that he was angry, more than angry, not that she really blamed him. This was one of the biggest games of the season, probably of his whole high school career. She scanned the crowd, wondering where the Penn State recruiter was and if he could tell how hard Pete was working to keep his team together.
He called a timeout, pulling his team into a huddle, Kristen was almost sure she could hear his voice, shouting over the still cheering Tiger fans. She glanced at the time clock, there were still ten minutes left in the quarter, and another half to go, they would catch up…they had to. Kristen, if she was perfectly honest with herself, had never cared about football. To her it was just a silly game that got everyone so riled up, that had caused yelling matches to break out over her kitchen table between her Dad and brother, that turned guys like Pete into angry, violent goons. …She didn't want to think about how he'd be if he didn't get the scholarship. Oh he could still get into Penn, his grades were good enough and if all else failed his father could always make a generous donation but she knew he wanted to play football more than anything.
They broke the huddle and returned to the forty-yard-line with renewed vigor. The last daylight was fading behind the western hills, the kickoff shot the football up through the sunset sky, up, up, the whole stadium seemed to hold its breath as it came down, falling smoothly into the arms of the running back who doubled as the returner. Everything felt like it had been moving in slow motion but now it sped up to double time, Howie streaked down the field behind a line of tackles, forcing him to run laterally across the field before he was sent out of bounds just shy of the thirty.
There was a collective groan from the home crowd as the teams regrouped, meeting once again at the forty.
Mick watched the sky fade from golden pink into a deep purple, the streetlights just beginning to come on, Al was pushing eighty, barreling down the street as if the devil were on his heels, making Rosie squeal as he whipped the car around, turning onto main street. But there were no cops around to see, and stop him, everyone was at the game. He had the radio tuned in to the game but what with the roar of Al's engine and the wind whipping past his ears he couldn't hear it anyway. So what if Millerton lost? It wasn't his school anymore, in fact her should be happy, he would love to see that stupid smug grin wiped permanently off Pete St. James' arrogant face, and for Kristen to see it happen.
Al reached behind his seat, holding out a brown-paper wrapped bottle to him and Mick took it. It irritated him that he still cared even after she'd gone back to that scumbag. He couldn't seem to shake the thought of her in that tight black dress, legs wrapped around his hips, hands wrapped around his neck, twining through his hair as she kissed him, her touch sending thrills through his body…and the way she'd looked at him, like he was really somebody… He took a long swig from the bottle and nearly choked. It was like drinking liquid fire!
"What the—the hell is this?!" he sputtered.
"Moonshine," Al responded with a laugh as they turned toward the high school, "my cousin's got a still."
The parking lot was packed, even the streets surrounding the school were filled, some cars had been forced to park on the side lawns surrounding the school. Al pulled the car around the back, behind the stadium, and parked in the trees. They hopped the low fence that separated the track from the fields and from there it was easy enough to slip behind the bleachers.
Mick blinked against the bright stadium lights as they climbed up into the stands, packed with student, parents, alumni, the Mayor was there, seated between John Keaton and Walter St. James, talking quietly amongst themselves while out on the field halftime was just getting underway.
"Just in time for the best part," Al laughed as they found a vacant spot on the highest row. Rosie nudged him but he only grinned, kissing her.
Kristen was easy to spot, taller than most of her teammates, her golden blonde hair pulled back in a high ponytail, shining in the bright lights, Her short pleated skirt doing little to hide her long tanned legs. They were performing a toss; throwing a girl high into the air, she did a toe-touch and was caught smoothly. It would've seemed effortless if he hadn't noticed the look of concentration on Kristen's face behind her false smile. He took another swig of hooch and this time didn't notice the burn.
"Damn," Al whistled lowly when the girls performed a series of splits and high kicks, "flexible aren't they…"
"Yeah, flexible uptight bitches," Rosie glowered at him, grabbing the bottle of moonshine from Mick and taking a sip.
"Come on baby I'm only joking," he said as he lit a cigarette, "besides you did that in bed last night remember?"
Rosie blushed, "Al…" she murmured, eyeing Mick, but he hadn't heard, his eyes were fixed on Kristen, lost in his own thoughts.
"Hey, Earth to Townsend," Al gave his head a shove, "jeez ya space cadet."
Mick knocked his hand away, "cut it out man."
"You're really gone on her huh?"
Mick reclaimed the bottle from Rosie as he stood up, "back off…" he muttered, heading back down the stands, taking another swig as he went. He could feel the alcohol working in his system already, heating in his blood—damn this stuff was potent. He dropped down onto the cement walkway at the base of the bleachers near the twenty-yard-line letting his feet dangle over the edge, his arms resting on the railing's bottom rung. He knew he shouldn't have come, he didn't want to be here…She hadn't seen him, or if she had she was ignoring him, he wasn't sure which was worse.
Their performance ended in a mad waving of pom-poms as the players retook the field and they jogged off toward the sidelines. Mick saw #15, Pete's number, running a little behind the others, waving toward the cheerleaders, Kristen waved back, smiling broadly at him…He felt sick.
Kristen brushed a loose strand of hair back behind her ear as she headed over to the water cooler, filling a paper cup. She scanned the crowd, hoping in spite of herself that her Mom had showed up after all—Mick.
She froze, there he was not ten feet from her, sitting on the edge of the platform, taking a long swig from a paper-bag wrapped bottle. He looked…well, he didn't look good, but that didn't stop her heart from skipping a beat. What on earth was he doing here?!
"It's a football game Kristen," she reminded herself, "he's here to watch the game." He wasn't even looking at her, he was staring out at the field, eyes hard as he watched the players take position for the kickoff.
She turned back to the field, trying to focus on the game, but it was lost on her, a blurred mass of color and movement, suddenly seeming random and chaotic. She didn't even notice Waynesburg return the ball, or the forward pass that earned them a first down.
Mick watched the two teams bearing down at each other over the line of scrimmage, he remembered the feeling…shifting his cleated feet in the grass for better traction, shaking the sweat from his eyes as he stared down the opposing lineman, the play as it was called and—hike!
The center snapped the ball back to the quarterback who jogged back into the pocket, making for a long pass but feinted, rushing instead through the wide opening left as the Millerton defense moved to block the supposed receiver. Before they knew what was happening the quarterback was streaking down the field, by the time he was taken down by a tackle he was already passed the ten-yard-line.
The visitor stands across the field erupted into wild cheers, and Mick found himself smiling grimly, last year such a play by an opposing team would've devastated Mick, now he felt a morose sense of gratification in watching them lose. "Come on Tigers!" he shouted, "slaughter 'em!"
Kristen blinked, brought out of her daze by the sound of a familiar voice…but she couldn't have heard him right, Mick wouldn't be cheering for the other team. She turned, looking over at him,
"Go Tigers!" He shouted, raising his bottle into the air, the people in the stands behind him looked a bit annoyed but no one moved to stop him. Kristen's lips pressed into a thin line, and before she really considered what she was doing she marched toward him, hands on her hips.
"What are you doing?!" she shouted up at him.
He glanced down at her, offering a grin that didn't reach his eyes, "Watching the game, what's it look like?"
She folded her arms, "Yeah right, I heard you, you know."
"So it isn't funny!"
"Who said I was trying to be funny?"
She stared at him, her eyebrows lowering, remembering the picture in the trophy case, "They're your team!"
"Were," he corrected, taking another sip from the bottle, the last swill, "they were my team."
She rolled her eyes, he looked like a caricature of a bitter old man, staring out at the field half drunk, reminiscing about the glory days, but he was too young to be bitter…it didn't fit. "Mick…"
"Hey Kristen!" she glanced over her shoulder to see Betty, her hands on her hips, tapping her foot impatiently, "this isn't social hour!"
"Hey honey," Mick shouted back, "in case you hadn't noticed there's nothing to cheer about!"
"Townsend why don't you get lost!"
"Betty, why don't you go suck a dead dog's dick!"
"Mick!" Some of the players were starting to notice the uproar, distracting them from the game. The Coach turned his head, trying to figure out what was causing it. "You should go…" Kristen warned, he was obviously a little blitzed from whatever was in that bottle and eager for a confrontation but there were cops here, and the mayor, not to mention her father. She looked over to where he was sitting but he was too deep in conversation with the mayor to notice…yet. "I'm serious."
Mick stood up and at first she thought he was actually going to leave but then he swung himself over the railing, dropping down onto the track beside her. He straightened, standing less than a foot from her, she bit her lip, unable to push away the memory of the last time they'd stood like this, in the back of the bar…she shook herself mentally.
"Why?" He asked, folding his arms.
"Because you're making a scene."
He smirked, "worried what everyone's gonna think Princess?"
"You're gonna get in trouble."
He rolled his eyes, "oh no, what are they gonna do? Expel me?"
"Hey Townsend!" Kristen felt herself being shoved out of the way as Pete barreled past, he made to tackle him but Mick dodged and Pete nearly fell into the wall before regaining his balance, wheeling.
"Pete!" Kristen shouted, "Pete stop!" she grabbed his arm as he made to swing but he shrugged her off.
"Stay out of it!" he snapped at her.
He swung but Mick dodged him again easily, "Why don't you stay out of it Pete?!"
He moved to dodge another blow but suddenly there were hands on him, grabbing his arms from behind. He tried to shrug whoever it was off but he was too strong for him. Pete grinned, moving toward him, fist cocked.
"Patterson, St. James—let go of…Townsend?" The Coach had been marching toward them, the ref only a few paces behind, but he stopped short when he saw who had started all the trouble.
"Hey Coach…" Mick said sheepishly as Ray released him.
The coach stared at him for a long moment, as if he were seeing a ghost, he gave his head a brief shake, "I think you better go kid."
"Sure," he straightened his jacket, jamming his hands into his pockets, "I was just leaving…Hey Kristen," he glanced at her briefly just before turning away, "see you later."
Pete stared after him, fists clenched, murder in his eyes until the coach grabbed him by his collar, "What the hell was that St. James?!" he shouted, face inches from his.
"That dirty little son of a gun was—."
"I don't care! You're the damn captain of this damn team! You don't walk off the field! I don't care if he's making time with your mother, you stay on the goddamn field!"
"What?! You can't—!"
Oh I can, St. James, I really can, you and Patterson both! Sit!"
Kristen stared after Mick, stunned, she'd never been afraid of Mick Townsend before...not really, and it wasn't that she was afraid of him now, exactly, she'd seen him angry before, she wasn't sure what the difference between those times and this was...except maybe he reminded her just a little bit of her father, when he'd come home drunk and irrational, looking for a fight, ready to blow his top at anyone who gave him an opportunity. She'd thought he was different but now she wasn't so sure, she wondered if all men were that way… If they were, she wanted nothing to do with them.
Pete pulled into the school parking lot and turned the car off but didn't move to open his door, he continued to grip the steering wheel, knuckles white, eyes staring straight ahead, unseeing. Kristen moved to put a hand on his shoulder but he jerked away, running his hands over his face and through his hair with a groan. "I can't go in there Kris…" he murmured.
Kristen could see them through the wide front windows, almost the entire student body, in gowns and suits, waiting to get into the gym. The feeling was a bit subdued from what it had been yesterday at the pep rally and that morning at the parade, the loss had come as a shock. She spotted their group of friends, Ray and Cheryl, Josie and a few others waiting for them by the doors, she almost waved but didn't. "You don't have to…" Kristen said, she understood, the town needed a scapegoat and almost everyone blamed Pete.
"Yeah I do, they're all waiting for me—."
He glanced at her, "come on, I can't just blow them off, it's my fault we lost the game!"
"We were losing pretty badly before that," she meant to tease but he only frowned and slumped back against his seat. "Let's get out of here okay?"
Kristen nodded. Pete sighed, starting the car. He turned back out of the parking lot and down the street, not in the direction Kristen had expected though, they were heading north. "Um…where are we going?"
"I just need to blow off some steam."
Kristen wanted to ask just what that meant but didn't want to stir him up, he was coping pretty well considering everything and she wanted it to stay that way. They pulled into an old gas station not too far from the factory, at first Kristen thought he was just getting gas but there were no lights on, the place was clearly closed. He turned off the engine and opened his door, "wait…what are we doing?"
"Just come on Kris, it's deserted." He climbed out of the car and shut his door behind him, stooping to pick up a rock from the cracked asphalt. He arched his arm back, chucking it at one of the garage door windows, "Pete..!" Kristen hissed even as the rock hit its target, shattering the window.
"Are you crazy?!"
"What? It's a dump already Kris, what does it matter?"
"You really think we're gonna get arrested? Cops don't even patrol down here, come on, you try."
"Aww come on," he leaned down, offering her a grin.
She sighed, climbing out of the car clumsily in her floorlength homecoming gown, and picked up a rock, "I can't believe you talked me into this!" She threw the stone but it missed the window, managing only to dent the garage door itself.
"Bet you can't hit it!"
Kristen picked up another rock, aiming more carefully this time, she managed to hit it, she never thought the sound of breaking glass could be so satisfying. Pete knocked out the last two windows easily. Kristen thought that was the end of it until he picked up another stone, "dare me to hit that?" He asked, nodding to the large front window.
"No way! Someone will call the cops for sure!"
"You worry too much!"
"Pete don't—" He threw the rock, it struck the window right in the center shattering the whole panel, bits of broken glass flying everywhere, the sound was deafening.
"Hey!" a voice shouted from the window of a nearby house, "Hey you hoods! What the hell you think you're doing?!"
"Shit," Pete laughed, grabbing her arm, "come on!"
They hopped back into the car and tore up the street, heading toward the factory. "You think they saw us?" Kristen's heart was racing but she was more excited than nervous, she hadn't felt this relaxed around Pete…ever.
"Nah," He wrapped his arm around her, "damn that was fun, huh?"
"Yeah I guess."
"Well I mean, what if the gas station wasn't closed down? That's expensive glass…"
Pete shrugged, "My Dad probably owns it so he'll be the one paying."
Kristen conscience eased, "that's true." Pete pulled off the road across from the factory, not too far from the racing strip and killed the engine, "don't tell me we're going to do some more vandalizing?" Kristen laughed.
"No," he pulled her close, "I just thought of another way to blow off steam."
Kristen should have expected this, she knew, and by now she should've been ready for it, but she wasn't, she was even less ready than she had been at the Reservoir on Labor Day. Still, she didn't protest when he began kissing her, his tongue probing her mouth. His hands ran up her sides, squeezing her breasts through the pale pink chiffon of her dress, she flinched and he must've thought it was a positive reaction because he pushed himself on top of her, reaching down to hike up her skirt. She just lay there mutely while he undid his belt buckle, she didn't dare look down, didn't want to see…his hands were on her hips now, fingers slipping beneath the line of her underwear- Kristen felt panic rising inside her, she couldn't believe this was happening, not now, not this way, not with Pete. Her whole body trembled and she felt as if she'd just woken from a dream, "I don't want to do this…"
"Come on baby," he murmured, kissing her.
"I really don't want to do this Pete."
"Please baby," he massaged his hand over the outside of her underwear.
"No, I don't want to," she moved to extract herself from beneath him but his grip was suddenly firmer.
"Come on, it'll be fine," he said, pushing her down into the seat beneath him.
"I said no!" she shoved him back.
"Don't be like that," he kissed her roughly, looping his fingers through her underwear as if about to pull them down. She kneed him in the groan and he doubled over, groaning, she fumbled for the car door handle. "What the hell Kristen?!" he growled. She finally found the handle and pulled, the door popping open, she shoved Pete off enough to slide out of the car, landing in the gravel on the side of the road. Pete stumbled out after her, grabbing her wrist. "Where do you think you're going?"
"Let go of me!"
"Just calm down would you?!" he pulled her back, "we were just having a little fun baby…"
"Let me go!"
"Come on, just come back in the car, we'll take it slow…"
Was he seriously still trying to get in her pants? He'd just tried to rape her! She managed to break one of her wrists free of his grip and slapped him, "I said let go!"
"Knock it off!"
"No!" she moved to slap him again but he grabbed her wrist, wrenching it painfully. She kneed him for the second time, breaking free of his grip. She started to run but tripped on her skirt, falling hard, scraping her palms and knees. She lay there, too stunned to move for a moment, waiting for Pete to grab her, but he didn't.
"You know what? Fuck this…" he growled, "find your own way home bitch!" She heard the car door slam and the engine rev to life, tires sent up a spray of dust as he pulled back onto the road and drove off. Kristen sat up slowly, pulling her knees up and hugging them against her chest, watching his car lights fade through a blur of tears. She picked herself up slowly, it was only beginning to sink in how late it was and where she was, she would have to cross the entire town to get home and she wasn't sure she was even brave enough to walk through the north side right now. She was barefoot, her flimsy dress torn, the hem shredded. There was nothing else to do though...she picked her away along the road back toward town, walking in the grass beside the road, hoping if a car passed they wouldn't see her. She didn't want to have to explain…
Mick sat on his bed, idly strumming his guitar, the effects of Al's moonshine had worn off hours ago, replaced by a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He felt drained but not tired enough to sleep, his mind was working double time, replaying the events of that evening over and over…Whatever feelings Kristen might've had for him before, they must be gone now. He'd been a jackass and ruined the game, not just for Pete but for everyone, his old teammates, the school, the whole town even. He was sure Dexter would have some choice words for him tomorrow. What was it about Kristen that made him act so crazy?
A light knock on the screen door brought him back to reality, he stood, pulling on his jeans and went to the door—She was the last person he expected to see on his doorstep tonight. She was barefoot, dressed in the tattered remains of a pink ball gown, her makeup smeared and her eyes bloodshot from crying. "Kristen?" he pushed the door back and she fell against him with a sob that shook her whole body. He wrapped his arms around her, feeling tears seeping into his shirt where she'd buried her face. "Shh," he soothed, maneuvering her into the room, "it's okay, I've got you…" He sat down on the bed and she curled up against him like a frightened child. He stroked her tangled hair gently, it was then that he noticed her palms, scraped and bleeding, and the bruises beginning to form on her arms. He felt anger building up inside him, ready to burst, but he knew it wouldn't help, not now. He'd have to take care of Pete later. Instead he pulled Kristen a little closer, rubbing her back as he hummed softly,
"Don't worry baby,
Everything will turn out alright,
Don't worry baby,
Don't worry baby…"
A.N.- Please take just a second and leave a comment/review! I really appreciate feedback!