“Boys,” Sarah-Maybeline said with a knowing look on her delicate features. She sat on Vanessa’s bed, her long dress bunched up beneath her. Vanessa sat at her desk and kept her head down on her math homework.
“You know,” Sarah-Maybeline said, “you should really go for this football thing.”
“Why on Earth would I do that?” Vanessa snapped, “I have more than enough on my plate between my classes, Toastmasters, and my job.”
“Your job at McDonalds.” Sarah-Maybeline lifted an immaculate auburn eyebrow.
“Yes, Sarah-Maybeline. McDonalds.” Vanessa straightened and turned around to look at her. “it’s teaching me valuable life skills and the money will help pay for college.”
Sarah-Maybeline fell forward and lifted her feet behind her. Vanessa wondered if Sarah-Maybeline’s mother would be scandalized to know that Vanessa was seeing her bare feet and shins. “You know what teaches valuable life skills?” Sarah-Maybeline said, “Football. You know what pays for college? A football scholarship.”
“I’m not going to get a football scholarship. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” Vanessa turned back to her homework.
“Maybe not, but you will get attention.” Sarah-Maybeline paused for effect, propping her head up with her forearms and swaying her legs at the knees, “from bee-oh-wai-ess.”
Vanessa’s pencil stopped moving, all the math going out of her head. She was done with bee-oh-wai-ess. She was a strong and independent woman. There was no need and there would be no need for them in her life. She refused to let such a frivolous matter have any effect on her future.
Vanessa stood with Sarah-Maybeline in a wide green field overlooked by the ever-present Adirondack mountains. Sarah-Maybeline showed her how to grip the football with her fingers on the laces.
“How do you know how to do this?” Vanessa asked, incredulous.
“Five brothers, eighteen male cousins. I’m the only girl in my family, remember?” She took Vanessa’s shoulders and whispered in her ear, “So you can count on me to know boys.”
Vanessa lifted her arm above her head. She flicked her wrist and the football twirled and landed a few feet away.
“No no no, put your whole arm into it. Your core, too. Twist away from the direction you’re throwing, then send it all forward at once. Here, let me show you.”
Vanessa and Sarah-Maybeline looked like they were from another time in their long muted dresses. Vanessa figured a football looked out of place in her hands, but to see Sarah-Maybeline twist back and send the ball sailing far overhead to land out of sight behind a rolling hill was something else. She looked so at home in both a long dress and with a football that for a moment it was easy to believe the two were not in conflict with one another.
Now Vanessa was eager. She and Sarah-Maybeline ran over the hill to the ball, and she picked it up again, trying to mimic Sarah-Maybeline. “Correct my position,” Vanessa ordered. Sarah-Maybeline pulled her shoulder back, rearranged her fingers, and lifted her arm.
Vanessa’s arm lurched forward and the ball landed on its tip in the dirt a couple yards away. “That’s improvement!” Sarah-Maybeline assured her, “Now think about keeping the ball going in a straight path throughout your throw. The most perfect starting position won’t matter if you let it all loose the moment you start moving.”
Vanessa stepped forward and picked up the ball. She assumed the position and let Sarah-Maybeline correct her. “Now, Vanessa, remember to keep it straight. Focus. Throw like you mean it this time.”
Vanessa put her mind on the ball and imagined it going in a straight line as the rest of her body moved in a fluid motion around it. She took a deep breath and unwound her tensed posture into what felt like the perfect throw. She watched with dismay as the ball began once more to flip side over side. It didn’t fall, though. It just kept going higher and higher like gravity had no interest in it.
“Wwwwwwwwwoooooooooooaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!” Sarah-Maybeline cried, her wavy brown hair lagging behind her as she bent her knees to jump up again in triumph.
Sarah-Maybeline returned to normal and they watched the tiny dot in the sky as it finally began to descend, disappearing in the trees high on one of the mountains in the distance well to the left of the direction Vanessa had been hoping to throw.
Sarah-Maybeline tackled Vanessa to the grass. “Oh my goodness gracious. You are the coolest person I know! You are going to get so much money and everyone is going to want to be your boyfriend.”
Vanessa was stunned.
“First off,” Sarah-Maybeline considered, straightening up, still pinning Vanessa to the ground, covering most of her body in her long dress, “we need to buy my brother a new ball.”