My Thanksgiving MVP
I left my family in the bleachers to head for the snack shack in the corner of the North end zone for some hot chocolate on the cold Thanksgiving Day morning. My brother was a sophomore defensive back for the St. Anne Saints but the offense was on the field so I figured I had a few minutes without missing any of his play.
I noticed the new kid JT Stevens ahead of me in line. I was kind of surprised to see him at the game as there had been no indicated as far as I was aware that he had any interest in sports or football.
Actually, it was hard to know much of anything about JT because he hadn't really said much about himself since coming to our school in September. He was a junior like me but I hadn't gotten a chance to talk to him mostly because I was too busy with my friends and school activities. I noticed that JT spent most of his time alone - reading books in the corner of the cafeteria or in the library - and that he hadn't made any friends at St. Anne's which was a relatively small and close-knit place.
JT seemed like a nice enough guy - he was polite to the teachers and I hadn't seen him picking on or bullying any kids so as far as I could tell he wasn't a jerk. Some of my classmates thought he was weird because he wasn't particularly social or outgoing but I chalked it up to being the new kid and not necessarily because he was a closet psychopath.
I thought he was kind of good looking in an understated sort of way and I found myself curious about him more than anything else. What was his story? Where did he come from? Why St. Anne's (he didn't strike me as particularly Catholic or religious)?
Seeing him standing there in in line, I felt the urge to practice some of the stuff we were taught about all the time at Catholic School and at Sunday CCD - be nice to people, reach out to them, be willing to give them a chance, and be like Jesus whenever possible.
"Hi JT!" I called.
He glanced back, apparently surprised to hear his name being yelled out. He didn't seem to recognize or acknowledge me. I don't think he realized it was me who called his name.
"Hey, JT!" I called again and when he turned around this time I waved - subtle and effortless but noticeable.
He pointed his finger at his chest as if say "Who, me?" and I nodded with a laugh. He stepped back and joined me in the line.
"You go to St. Anne's, right? He asked, slightly confused.
I was sort of insulted by the question. Surely he had seen me around - was I that unnoticeable!? People tell me I'm attractive. I'm relatively popular in a comparatively small school. I'm on the Student Council. I didn't think I was insecure until he asked that question!
Now I found myself doubting my very existence. Did I walk through the halls of St. Anne's Catholic School in invisible anonymity!? I brushed my hand through my long brown hair sticking out from under my warm blue wool hat. I hoped it looked alright. I never considered myself a cool kid but I'd like to think I was a good kid worthy of notice among my peers. And this new guy wasn't even sure if I went to the same school as him!? I was feeling slightly humbled.
"I'm Chrystene Dawson," I informed my new companion.
"I think I've seen you around," JT acknowledged.
"You like football?" I asked.
"My cousin plays for Tech," he said
"My brother plays for us," I proudly replied.
"He's Number 11," I told him. "Defensive back."
"My cousin's Number 32," JT said. "Running back. This is his last game so I thought I should attend."
"I'm sure he appreciates it." I couldn't help but smile at my snippy remark.
We had made it to the front of the line. One of the tech booster moms asked us what we wanted.
"Hot chocolate for me, please," I said politely.
"Coke," JT ordered.
"It's 33 degrees out on Thanksgiving morning," I said, rolling my eyes. "You're getting a cold coke?"
"I'm thirsty," He shrugged.
"Why not a hot chocolate or coffee?" I suggested.
JT ignored me and got his coke. I waited a moment to see if he'd be a gentleman and offer to pay for my hot chocolate but he was already stepping away from the counter so I handed the lady two bucks and took my hot chocolate.
"Hey, wait!" I called to JT who was walking toward the tech side of the field.
He turned and looked at me with surprise.
"Where you going?"
"To sit with my cousin's family," he shrugged.
"But you go to St. Anne's!" I protested. "You're a Saint! You can't be a traitor and sit over there!"
"Where am I supposed to sit?" He asked with confusion.
"Well, you could sit with me," I said sheepishly. "I'm with my parents and kid sister."
"Wouldn't that freak them out?" He asked.
He was probably right. I hadn't really been dating much and I'd probably catch my father off guard if I showed up with a boy unannounced at a football game as if I had picked up a stray.
"Well, we could watch the game from here for a few minutes," I said, gesturing to the end zone ropes. "Together," I added quietly.
JT considered my option for a moment. I don't think he was expecting such an offer. "Okay," he mumbled.
Blue County Technical High School was leading easily, 27-0, near the end of the third quarter now. They were much bigger and had more kids than puny St. Anne's who maybe suited up eighteen or nineteen kids.
"My brother says there's only going to be about sixteen kids on the team next year," I complained. "We need more guys to go out for the team."
JT shrugged as we watched the action. Tech had the ball and we watched his cousin make a couple of impressive runs.
"Did you play football where you came from?" I asked after a few minutes.
"No," he answered.
"Where did you come from?" I wondered.
"Somewhere else," he answered.
"Where do you live now?"
"Greenville," he replied. "With my cousin's family."
"Oh," I said, caught by surprise. I thought better than to ask where the rest of his family was. "Do you like football?" I asked hopefully.
"Never played," he said. It sounded like he was sad about that.
"You could play for the Saints!" I said with enthusiasm. "Next year."
"You can't just walk in off the streets and play football for the first time as a senior," JT said, rolling his eyes.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because I'd suck," he groaned.
"Oh, I doubt that," I said with sincerity. "Besides, the more the merrier. It would look better if we had more guys on the team no matter how good or bad we are."
"Why don't you go out?" JT challenged.
I felt myself blush. "My father wouldn't let me, I'm sure," I admitted. "The league would say no too, I bet."
Tech scored again and JT's cousin ran in the two point conversion and now it was 35-0 a few minutes into the fourth period. People on the St. Anne's side of the field were beginning to leave.
"My poor brother," I said with pity. "He loves the game. He loves to play even if he isn't the best player out there. But who wants to get their ass kicked like this?"
"Nobody," JT replied.
"Don't you want to serve in the fires of hell with him next year?" I asked. "I adore my brother. I'd hate to see him have to suffer through this again. There's only going to be one senior besides you so it's a young team and they'll learn from this season. They have a good coach. Would you at least think about going out for the team?"
I had no idea why I was so suddenly interested in recruiting JT Stevens for the Saints football team. Who was I to suggest such a thing? I didn't even know the guy.
"I guess it wouldn't hurt to think about it," JT mumbled.
I smiled happily. "That's all I ask," I said with satisfaction.
Tech was playing all its substitutes now and I was hopeful maybe we could score a touchdown to avoid the shutout. I noticed that JT was paying more attention to the Saints side of the field now, observing the players and the coach.
"Who is the Coach anyway?" He asked.
"Coach Phillips," I replied. "He's not at the school. He's an alumni who was one of the best players ever. He runs his own business in Hillsboro and has time to give. Lonnie says he's pretty fair."
"My brother," I explained.
"He's okay?" JT asked.
"The best," I beamed. "Just don't tell him I said that!" I added, slightly embarrassed. "He wouldn't want his big sister sticking up for him."
"He's lucky you do," JT observed.
"You have any siblings?" I dared to ask.
He shook his head no.
"Well, I'd say your cousin's family is pretty lucky to have you," I said with encouragement.
"I think I get in the way," JT said. "They don't say anything but it must be true."
"They wouldn't have you there if they didn't want you there," I insisted.
He gave me a funny look. "Are you always this Pollyanna-ish?"
I was hurt by his comment. "I like to be positive," I said defensively.
He didn't say anything as he glanced out at the field. "Don't mind me," he said after a few awkward moments. "I tend to feel sorry for myself."
"It's okay," I said with a smile.
I turned to see my kid sister Dottie approaching.
"We thought you were kidnapped!" She said with exasperation. "Where have you been?"
"I was watching the game with JT," I explained. "He's from St. Anne's too."
Dottie threw JT a suspicious look. "Oh," she said after a moment's pause. "Well, I'm supposed to bring you back."
"It's okay," JT said. "I should get back to my cousin's family."
"Happy Thanksgiving, JT," I said warmly. "Thanks for watching with me. I enjoyed our talk."
"It was nice," he said awkwardly.
"I'll see you at school," I said before leading Dottie away.
"Is he your boyfriend?" Dottie accused.
"No," I laughed.
"Is he going to be your boyfriend?" Dottie wanted to know in her little sister way.
I smiled. Maybe? Hopefully? It was the first time I had talked to a boy out of the blue like that. I liked the way it made me feel.