The first time Clarey met Evan, a football flew over her head. That was over a year ago. Most of the kids in the neighborhood were mainly boys. The girls were either in high school or were still running around in their diapers. Burying her nose in fictional mystery books was her only pastime. Her two best friends don’t live nearby and they weren’t allowed to go to her house except when there were sleepovers and that was only a once-a-month thing. She really didn’t have any other options at that point, so hanging out with the boys was the only way to meet more friends.
“Can I play with you guys?” She asked as she retrieved the ball that hit the wall behind her. She tossed it back to Lance Milliken, the spiky blonde-haired boy that lived down the street from her. His cheeks were plump and red from the sun.
He eyed her up and down and scoffed. “You? Play football? I don’t think so.”
“Why? Is it because I’m a girl?” Clarey asked. She knew girls could play football, too. She wasn’t born yesterday. This kid thinks she’s stupid. Her dad and her brothers were the ones that taught her the rules of the game. She tried playing basketball with them at one time at school but that didn’t work out well.
The dark-haired boy, Evan, stepped in behind Lance. She could hear him whisper something to him. He took the ball from Lance and tossed it back to Clarey with a not-so-friendly smirk. “Here. Let’s see what you got.”
Evan was one of the new boys on the block. He goes to her school, too. All she knows about him is he is good friends with Lance.
Clarey caught the ball in her hand and ran swiftly across the field with her pigtails flapping noisily against her shoulders. She was wearing an oversized black shirt with a white skull printed on the front paired with ripped faded jeans and black sneakers that made her look so much like a little boy. To top it off, she always wore her lucky dark gray ball cap with an SD on it.
“Almost there, Clarey,” she muttered under her breath. “Don't give up now, you can do this.” As she was nearing touchdown, one of the boys suddenly tackled her and they both rolled over the muddy grass.
“Get off me, you jerk!” Clarey cried, pushing Lance away from her. He was huge and heavy and almost crushed her tiny frame.
Lance stood up and laughed. “You cry baby! You weren't supposed to play with us boys anyway!”
“Whatever.” Clarey made a face at Lance as she wiped away the grass stains that stuck from her shirt.
“If you don't want to be tackled, then don't play football!” Lance yelled.
“You're such an ass, Lance!” She shouted back. The rest of the kids came running up to them.
“Oh, am I?” He grabbed the ball from the ground and spat out the gum he was chewing. “Why don't you just go back home and play with your dolls?”
The curly brown-haired boy, Frankie Corleone, heard what Lance said and decided to chime in to tease Clarey as well. “Yeah, go home, Clarey! Go home and play with your dolls!” He laughed and Lance gave him a high five in return. Her hands were becoming clammy and her heart was beating so fast. She wanted to punch Lance in the face so bad, but her hands remained balled up to her sides.
A boy named Trevor came running up behind them. He immediately helped Clarey up to her feet. “Are you okay?”
Clarey who was as red as a tomato brushed her arm away from the boy. “I don’t need your help.”
“Leave her alone, guys,” Trevor commanded. “I mean it.”
“Oh, shut up, McAllister,” Lance snapped. Trevor pushed him hard causing him to fall hard on the grass. His face furious, he quickly stood up and started to wrestle and punch Trevor.
An older and taller dark-haired boy came running up to them and tried separating the two boys. “Both of you, knock it off!” Calvin boomed. It was Clarey's older brother. Behind him was her younger brother, Caleb, who was seven.
They eventually stopped and began giving each other death glares. Trevor had blood dripping down his nose. He wiped it away with his left hand. Lance with a bloody right eye just grinned in satisfaction. But Trevor started to pounce again as soon as he saw him smiling.
“I said knock it off!” Calvin shouted once more as he pulled Trevor’s shirt.
Evan sat down next to Clarey on the bench. He didn’t say anything. She was disappointed in him for not doing anything earlier. “Next time, just stay away.” Evan said quietly before taking a swig of his bottled water.
Clarey whipped her head in his direction, clearly ashamed for wanting to be friends with someone like him who’s nothing but a bystander. All she wanted was for them to accept her. Was it really that difficult to let a girl play along with the boys?
Everyone was quiet for a while when a black limousine slowly drove up to the curb. A few minutes later, an older lady came out. She was wearing a peach-colored tweed suit with a diamond and pearl necklace. The bright red lipstick she had on made her face pale. She was very pretty with straight black hair. Evan recognized her as soon as she slipped out of the limo.
“It's my aunt,” he mumbled. “I wonder what she wants?” He said goodbye to Lance and started walking towards her. She cupped Evan's face and whispered something in his ear. She bent down to hug Evan after that. The boys all looked at each other cluelessly. Evan and his aunt slowly went inside the limo and it roared away from the field.
“Mom, is Evan moving away?” Clarey sat down in front of the window with her bowl of cereal. There was a big truck parked outside Evan's home where furniture was being hauled out by the movers. She didn't see a sign of Evan anywhere. The last time she saw him was from a few days ago when she tried to play with the boys.
“As far as I know, Evan and his sister are moving out to live with their aunt in London,” her mom explained as she was cutting some collard greens at the kitchen table. “I’m not sure if they’ll be selling the house. But they're probably never coming back.”
“Well, I'm glad.” Clarey abruptly closed the curtain in front of her. She continued to eat her cereal.
“Clarey,” her mother gasped. She quickly wiped her hands off a towel and went over to Clarey's side, placing her hand on her daughter's shoulder. “That's not nice. This is a crucial time for Evan and his family, you know that, right? Evan just lost his parents.”
She stroked her daughter's braided hair, kissing the top of her head. Clarey pulled the curtain again to the side.
A tiny tear escaped her eye.