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Earth, As it is in Heaven
By: Roman Genesis
Champions of the Heart
Life was beautiful once again. I saw Sebastian everyday and everyday I fell in love with him all over again. We shared everything together and in those weeks between the District Championship and the State Championship, we became closer than I ever thought we would. He was becoming an extension of me and I could no longer imagine a life without him. Shannon had even told me several times that the Sebastian she knew now was not the same Sebastian she had befriended all those years ago. She told me I made him a better person and I knew he made me a better person.
Yes, everything was perfect back then, but perhaps things had become a bit too perfect. Good times have a tendency to lull a person to sleep...
"You can't let them get to you Trevor," Mike said. "That's exactly what they want." I had a nightmare the night before about Ryan and his friends showing up at the video store. In the dream though, they got the chance to finish what they started.
"I know," I said. "I just can't believe they would do something like that."
"Do you think you'll be okay for the game tomorrow?"
I looked up at him and smiled from my spot on his floor. "I've never been more ready." We had been having the longest and hardest workouts of the year in the past few weeks getting ready for the big game. The coach made us perform drill after drill when we weren't in the weight room. I could sense the urgency in the whole team. They wanted this victory. They wanted it so bad.
The town also jumped on the preparations. Huge signs that read, "Good luck at State," adorned the front of a lot of stores in the area. This thing was turning into something personal for everyone because Stillwater was the next town over and I suppose we always carried a grudge against them. The State Championship just magnified that grudge a hundred times.
It was personal for everyone, but no one was taking it as personally as I was. Everything I had depended on this win. It would be so easy for this town to blame me for a loss and they would somehow find a way to blame it on my homosexuality if they could. Ryan Fieldmore's personal attack against me was another motivator in my desire to win. If I couldn't show him up in the big game, I didn't know what I would do. Ryan had to pay one way or another.
I actually convinced Sebastian to come to my game with Shannon. It was a miracle that he had come to the District Championship game and I thought it was going to take an act of god to get him to come to the State Championship. He agreed though without hesitation and I began to see what Shannon was talking about. Sebastian really had changed. He never ceased to amaze me.
The days before the game were getting pretty intense, not only because of the game, but because the holidays and the end of the semester were coming. Everything was coming to a boil and the game was going to be the pinnacle. "The make or break point" I guess you could call it.
Because we had more victories we were allowed to host the big game, but because Stillwater wasn't that far away, a lot of their fans were coming too. A certain amount of the seating was designated for them and because there were going to be so many people, inside and outside the field, the sides were going to mingle whether anyone liked it or not. Conflict on and off the field was inevitable
The night of the big game finally arrived and my mother came in while I was getting ready. She wished me luck and told me how proud she was of me. That alone was enough to lift my spirits, but what happened next absolutely took my breath away. My father came into the room and it looked like he really wanted to tell me something.
I put down my shoes and looked at him as he stood there by the door. My father had barely spoken a word to me in the past few weeks and there was no way he was coming to wish me luck. "Trevor," he said after a while. He was really struggling with whatever it was. "I just want you to know that I'm really proud of you."
I sat there in shock as he continued. "I know I haven't been much of a father to you and I'm sorry for that. I never really knew how to act around you since... Since you told us the truth."
I lost it right there. Tears were rolling from my eyes as I rushed over and put my arms around him. For the longest time I had thought my father hated me and now he was saying that it was never the case. I wanted to hate him back, but this whole time all I had wanted was for him to be proud of me. "Thank you," I whispered.
My parents ended up going to my game, the first one they attended since my coming out and I couldn't have been happier. As I walked out onto the field I saw them up in the stands, not to far from where Sebastian and Shannon were sitting. I looked further up the stands and saw Eric with his friends. Down near the end zone I recognized Sebastian's parents. Everyone was cheering and waving and holding up signs that read, "We love you Trevor." I continued looking through the crowd and I was surprised when I saw Vanessa with her friend. Both were on their feet cheering as loud as they could. I recognized almost everyone in the stands. I even saw Reverend Stickler in the stands. This time without a sign. I was so happy at that moment, but also a little bit nervous.
No one understood like I did that my fate rested on this game. Acceptance or rejection by the town was going to be based entirely on our performance here. Me and Sebastian's fate was sealed the moment this game was over.
We won the coin toss and decided to receive the ball. Our man got it to the thirty-five yard line and our offense ran out onto the field and lined up. I looked across the way as Stillwater lined up. In most games, the other team is made up of faceless, nameless kids that you would probably never see again. They were merely obstacles to go around. Here, it was completely different. I knew these boys. I had practically grown up with them.
I caught the eye of their safety, Bryce Underwood and we just stared at each other. I remembered something Nathan had told us in the locker room before the game. He had explained to everyone exactly what had gone down at the video store in an attempt to make this game more personal for everyone. They bite, and the entire team was enraged beyond belief. I always found it interesting how a common enemy can unite a team.
My warriors lined up for the first play of the game and I looked down the line at the boys who had given so much to be here. I saw Mike, ready to pound the other team at the line. I saw Chad, ready to go long and make incredible receptions. I saw Nathan, ready to hike me the ball and hold off the other team long enough for me to get my pass off. I saw Anthony, a few yards behind me, ready to run up and take the ball from me and dart straight up the middle to dodge left and right as he worked his magic and make it through the deadly sea of boys.
These were my champions and this was our finest hour. "Hike," I yelled. And with that call, the game had begun. Anthony ran up behind me as Bryce came in for the kill. He quickly got around Nathan and headed straight for me. This game was about to meet a very quick end, when Anthony jumped in front of me and slammed into Bryce, giving me just enough time to find Chad down the field and get off a pass.
Like always, Chad's magic fingers pulled the ball in for an amazing twenty-five yard gain. The crowd's screams went up into a frenzy. If only the whole game could have been that spectacular.
Reality set in though and their defense stepped up to meet the challenge. These guys weren't just some other team. They had made it to State for a reason. Our first drive ended in a field goal, and our offense ran off to make room for theirs. Ryan's offense was able to hold off our defense and their drive ended in a touchdown. Ryan was playing to the crowd like a fucking circus animal. Just watching him win this game was bringing back horrible remembrance of the video store. "Okay guys," I said in the huddle. "We need a touchdown this time."
What we needed and what we got were two different things though. Under Bryce's perfect leadership, they were able to once again hold us off and force us to settle for a field goal. The score was now 6 to 7 and we were losing. For the rest of the first half, we basically held each other at bay and forced the other team to punt.
We walked into the locker room at half-time just thankful that we were keeping the score as close as it was. These guys were playing twice as good as they were at our homecoming game and we had still lost to them. "Okay, we're going to have to start playing football out there," the coach yelled at us. We started talking about plays, but I wasn't really paying attention. Bryce had sacked me way to many times and as much as I hated to admit it, I found myself scared to go back out there. I was getting beat up pretty bad. I hated Bryce for what he had done to me, but there was nothing I could do about it. I could still see them standing over me. Now you're going to die queer. It was still running through my head as we marched back onto the field.
Our defense was able to hold off their first drive and we made out way out onto the field. Anthony was running a little better than usual and we were making pretty good progress. My receivers were stepping up their game and making catches that usually were only made by Chad. At their twenty yard line we broke the huddle and ran back out. We had one more play before we would be forced to accept a field goal. We had to do this.
"Hike," I yelled. I took the ball and fell back. I looked for Chad, but saw that he had two guys covering him pretty tight. Then I saw Anthony breaking past the line and into an opening. This was it. I threw the ball to him and he caught it five yards from the goal line, but he was quickly able to scramble over it with little interference.
"Touchdown" the score board read. The place erupted in cheers. The score was now 13 to 7. We could do this! We could beat them. We gave the game over to the defense and we watched impatiently for out next turn out on the field. We were pumped and wanted to get back out there. Our hopes came crashing down though as they marched down the field, reception after reception until they themselves had gained another touch down. 13 to 14. We were once again losing by one point.
We were now in the fourth quarter. Things were getting deadly serious. I broke the huddle and we marched back to the line. We were in pretty good scoring position so we ignored the cold as we got set for the third down. It looked like Bryce was coming in this time, but there was nothing I could really do about it. "Hike," I yelled. Nathan handed me the ball and I saw Bryce coming in. I spun around prematurely and ran straight into Anthony, the ball popping from my hands. I was knocked over by a wall of people and totally lost track of the ball in the chaos. If Stillwater came up with the ball...
I looked up as the referees pulled boys off the pile. As the last one stood up, I saw that it was Bryce. He had the ball. I cursed as I stood up and began to walk off the field. The crowd stopped cheering as the realization sank in. There was only a few minutes left on the clock and we were still down by one. Things were not looking good. Bryce ran into me as I was walking off. "Thanks for the ball fag," he said laughing. He ran off to his side of the field and I just stared after him. They were going to pay. One way or another, they were going to pay.
Their offense was once again marching down the field and the coach ended up having to call a time out to see what the hell was wrong with our defense. It really looked like they didn't want to win. I'm not sure what he said to them, but whatever it was, it worked. They ended up holding them off at the thirty yard line and they were forced to accept a field goal. 13 to 17. We were now down by four with about two minutes on the clock. Nothing short of a touchdown was going to save us.
We ran out onto the field and I think every
single one of us was praying for a miracle. The crowd began to chant
"Trevor Trevor Trevor" as we lined up. They hadn't done that since
I came out. It lifted my spirits and the realization that this game
meant more to me than anyone else once again invaded my mind. Everything
was on the line with these last few minutes.
First down ended in a gain or three yards, but luckily Anthony was able to get out of bounds. We weren't so luck with the second down because I was able to get it off to one of my receivers for a gain of twenty, but he couldn't get out of bounds. One minute left. We ran back to the line as the clock ticked. We were out of time-outs so I spiked the ball to stop the clock. Second down and ten. Thirty seconds on the clock.
We lined up and got ready. "Hike," I yelled. I fell back and looked for Chad. Bryce was coming in again and I was running out of time. I saw Chad spin around near the sideline and I threw it to him like a bullet, but it bounced off his chest and deflected away. I cursed as we got set up for the next play. There was only eighteen seconds on the clock.
I yelled "Hike," and Nathan passed me the ball. I fell back, but saw that all of my receivers were covered. I saw an opening and began to run the ball. I had to get out of bounds. The clock began to tick down toward the inevitable as I ran for dear life. One of their guys was closing in on me and I knew if I didn't get out of bounds that this game was over. I leaped through the air and out of bounds at the last second.
I looked up at the clock and saw seven seconds left. I went back over to the line and I could see the defeat all over the faces of my players. Fourth down, seven seconds left, on their forty yard line, and down by 4. Things did not look good. We had one play left and it would decide this game for us. "Everyone go long," I said. They nodded solemnly and we walked back to the line.
We got in formation for perhaps the last time ever and the crowd grew deadly silent. I've never been a very religious person, but I would have been a fool not to pray now. Please god, I need this, I said in my mind. For some reason, it didn't seem like anyone was listening.
I looked up at Bryce who was across the line, still unsure if he should come in to sack me or go out and cover a man. I made up his mind for him. I winked to him and I saw his face contort into disbelief right before I yelled "Hike." He came running at me full speed and the last few seconds of the game ticked away. I fell back as I waited for my men to get to the end zone. Nathan rammed into Bryce, holding him and another guy back as well as he could. The line was falling apart and I knew it was now or never. I threw the ball as hard as I could toward the end zone before I was knocked to the ground by an avalanche of bodies.
People were screaming as I finally lifted myself up and saw Chad running from the end zone with the ball, raising it high over his head in triumph. I couldn't believe my eyes. I got up, tore my helmet off, and ran toward him as fast as I could. I looked around and saw that my whole team was converging on him. I grabbed onto him before anyone else got there, and before I knew it, we were both getting lifted into the air. The whole place was going crazy with people jumping down onto the field and running out to us. We were pretty close to the stands and I looked up and saw Shannon and Sebastian in the crowd. I began to crawl over the sea of people toward them. They were both just staring down at me triumphantly. Perhaps they knew how important this was for us. I crawled up into the stands and rushed over to Sebastian.
Without a moment's hesitation I took him in my arms and kissed him. The whole town continued to cheer, not even hesitating for a moment as they watched Sebastian and I. I knew then that we had won. We had shared this love with the whole town and even those people who could not accept it, at least they tolerated it. I loved Sebastian more than life itself and that moment seemed to go on forever.
I kissed him harder as my mind drifted far away from this football field. We were once again out in the woods, under the street lamp, and in his room. We were everywhere we had ever connected and my heart felt that it would burst with joy.
I said it before, though, and I'll say it again. Perhaps things were just too perfect back then. Perhaps there was something we should have seen that day in the stands with the whole town watching us. It was the eyes of a single individual staring at us motionless from their spot in the crowd. It was the penetrating look of envy that would be to late to identify when it was all over.