The Reluctant Quarterback

amfoot

“You have got to be kidding me!”

“Mel, if there was any other way, you know I’d take it. We came out here to Podunk, North Nowhere for your benefit, and yet I still have to do my job.”

“But why does it have to be me, Daddy?”

“Because you throw twice as far on your worst day than any of these jokers can manage.”

“Daddy, I have hardly any upper body strength, or weight for that matter. Most of those guys could pick me up with one hand. I’d be destroyed out there.”

“Now come on sweetie, you know as well as I do that the secret to a good throw is technique more than strength. You don’t just need to throw it a long distance, you need to get it where you want, when you want, and you can do that. As for the other thing, you’re quick and nimble enough to dodge these guys.”

“But Daddy, I was going to try out for the cheerleaders next week.”

“And you know how I feel about that. Skimpy little uniforms they wear, I think I’d have trouble letting you parade yourself around in public like that even if there wasn’t any chance of something slipping out and ruining everything.”

“You know I’d take better care than that. No-one would ever know.”

“I still don’t like the idea of my daughter showing off that much skin. I mean what if one of these Neanderthals took a shine to you?”

I bit my lip as I looked out at the football team running lengths of the field. “Well some of them are kind of buff.”

“Now don’t you even think of going down that route, young lady. Guys this age want only one thing, and no daughter of mine is going to risk them succeeding, especially given the little surprise you have hiding in your panties.”

I looked over at my dad, fuming with frustration and trying to decide which argument to fight. There were a lot of advantages to having a father on the school teaching staff, especially as football coach. For one thing he was able to sneak the peculiarities of my situation through the board of governors without too many people finding out and spreading the news of my ‘delicate situation’. For another he was able to arrange for me to have special bathroom and changing room privileges so that I would never have to undress in public. The permission letter put it as ‘an embarrassing deformity in a personal area’, which isn’t that far from the truth.

The downside was that he knew more about my capabilities than would be normal in a new school. If my dad hadn’t been coach, I could have fumbled and thrown like a girl until they gave up on me, but Dad knew I was better than that. I smoothed out the pleats of my skirt as I thought through his request. It would probably mean outing myself and I had worked so hard and come so far.

“At least come down and try out. You never know, those hormone things the doctor put you on may have messed you up. Give it your best shot — and I’ll know if you don’t. Give it a go, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll say no more about it.”

“And what if it does?”

“Then we talk about it. There may be a way of pushing it through so most of the school doesn’t need to know.”

“How’s that?”

“Details later, but you’re still technically a boy, so no problems letting you play there. I can probably talk to some of the league organizers and explain your condition. If they give us a written waiver without listing reasons then that’s all we need. You get to play as you are, and everyone but us, the head and one or two others thinks that we have a girl on the team.”

“I get to design my own uniform.”

“What?”

“I don’t care what you think, I am not going out in public wearing the school football uniform. It’s ugly, uncoordinated and totally the wrong color for my complexion.”

“If we redesign yours, then we have to redesign everyone else’s to match.”

“That’s one of my conditions.”

“We’ll talk about it later. Will you at least try out? You can change in my office and use one of the spare uniforms.”

As I said, one of the advantages of having a parent on staff is special considerations. I headed for his office while he headed down out of the bleachers to shout at his charges.

The office smelled like any boy’s locker room, which is to say old sweat for the most part. As smells go, it’s not the most offensive, right up to the point where the gear you’re putting on is impregnated with it. I locked the door and stripped down to my bra and panties. The bra wasn’t anatomically necessary as all it did was hold up a couple of lumps of silicone, but what it — and they — did for my self-confidence meant that I had no intention of taking it off.

I stood in front of the mirror, enjoying my reflection. It hadn’t been an easy ride, convincing my parents that I didn’t feel like a boy inside, regardless of the evidence my body offered, telling the doctor that I didn’t want to live any more of my life as a male than I had to and persuading him to prescribe blockers to stop me developing any more male characteristics than I already had, starting to live full time as a girl despite the negative response of almost everyone in my school and neighborhood, eventually moving out here in the back of beyond and starting again without the prejudice of people telling me what I should be.

Two years I’d been on the blockers and two years my body hadn’t developed. I was the very definition of the term androgynous, so much so that I felt they ought to change the word. Melandronous had a nice ring to it, and who was this Andrew fellow they named it for in the first place anyway?

No there wasn’t much shape to my body. None of the curves or lumps or bumps that would echo the way I felt inside, but my legs and arms were thin still, and my body hairless. It would do for now. Another year and I might be able to pester my parents into starting me on estrogen, then things would go my way.

A bang on the door shook me out of my reverie and hurried me into the uniform and out onto the field. I ran out onto the field to the expected chorus of jeers from the rest of the team. The uniform was several sizes too large for me and my false breasts disappeared with most of the rest of me somewhere in the padded shoulders and baggy jersey. The shorts, which should have been tight, flapped around my knees, and the way I naturally ran, knock kneed and loose limbed, was about as girly as I could manage.

“Coach, you have got to be kidding.”It wasn’t the only protest, but the rest were in much the same vein, so I won’t bore you with them. Suffice to say that Dad wasn’t ready to hear it.

“She gets a fair try out, and if she does better than you lot have managed, she get the quarterback position and you get to do what she says.”

“The league will never allow her to play coach.”

“You leave the league to me. Get into your positions and let’s play some football.”

The attacking team huddled around me like so many mountains about a twig.

“Okay guys, I don’t know your plays, so let’s just do it this way. You guys block their guys, you two cover me and take out anyone that gets through or around our blockers, you two run down the side as fast as you can and look for the ball when you get close to the end zone. Everyone happy? Okay hut, hut or whatever.”

We broke and took our positions, play was called and the ball came back to me. My fingers found the laces and lined up on them. The blockers broke against the defense onslaught and three enormous figures bore down on me. The half back came past me and took one of them down, the other two carried on charging my way. Down field, both receivers were approaching where I wanted them, the one on the left a little clearer of opposing players. I had just enough time. The ball left my hand, lancing upwards at a near perfect forty five degrees, straight as an arrow and spinning like a bullet.

There was nothing more I could do for the ball, so I turned my attention to the approaching threat. The human avalanche to my left was aiming to tackle me around the waist, while the one on my right seemed to have a full body check in mind. Their combined momentum set against my almost non-existent mass promised more pain than I wanted at that moment. On reflex, I bunched my legs under me and launched over the one to my left. I didn’t take into account the added weight of my armor though, and had to vault off his head to clear him.

I tucked myself into as tight a ball as I could manage and rolled off my shoulder, coming back to my feet in time to see the ball land perfectly in the receiver’s hands just as he crossed into the end zone. The cry of triumph from the other end of the field was taken up by the rest of the offensive team, and for a fraction of a second I could think of no more satisfying sound. Then the two players who had been trying to sack me collided behind me and I found myself changing my mind.

Well that is a girl’s prerogative, isn’t it?

The rest of the try out went just as well. I ran a series of different plays, switching between long and short passes, and even running with the ball myself. Of course I didn’t survive the afternoon unscathed, but quick reactions and a supple body allowed me to escape most of my take downs relatively unscathed. The last play of the afternoon ended up with me sending a perfect pass to the right hand receiver, but not avoiding the thundering charge of a linebacker who put me down hard enough to break one of my bra straps. The cheers were short lived that time as the players all turned towards me with smiles dying on their faces.

“What?”Sometimes the simple questions demand to be asked.

“Your tits, dudette. Are they meant to be lopsided like that?”

I looked down to find only one of my assets where it should have been. The other had slipped down over the middle of my stomach as what remained of my bra struggle valiantly against impossible odds to maintain some semblance of order.

“Oh shit.”My first reaction was to run and hide, but the milk was spilt already. Oops perhaps not the best of metaphors. I stood my ground. I’d shown these guys I had guts this afternoon, now wasn’t a time to undo that. I did that magical maneuver where a woman removes her bra without taking her top off — only this was easier as I only had to do it one side — and held up the prize, complete with wobbly bits. “So I’m a late developer. I’m not the only girl in school who gives nature a bit of help.”

It was the right thing to do. The entire team cheered as a couple of the blockers lifted me on their shoulders and carried me back into the sports hall. Coach Dad made them put me down before I cracked my head open against one of the concrete supports, and I was directed to his office to shower and change. Yeah, my dad has his own shower. I stripped off the stinking gear and dropped it by the door. I heard raised voices through the cheap wood, my dad’s first.

“So who’s up for having a female quarterback?”

This was followed by a chorus of assent. If anyone was against it, then they either kept it to themselves or were drowned out by the majority. I kicked myself. No literally, then hobbled to the shower picking out a fresh towel as I went. The hot water did a lot to cleanse, not only the sweat and stench from my skin and hair, but also the deeper frustration at having been played.

This was supposed to have been a tryout with option to turn down, but Dad had just pushed the rest of the football team onto his side. I wouldn’t have any rest from them until I agreed, and when I did, any image the others might have had of me as a girl would be lost.

I used up more of Dad’s shower gel and shampoo than I needed to — more out of spite tan anything — and dressed back into my school uniform. With a loosened strap here and a handy reef knot there, I managed to repair my bra to functionality if not elegance. My short pixie cut took less than fifteen minutes to dry, but even so, the rest of the team were changed and waiting for me when I emerged.

Brent Miller, the linebacker who had stuffed me in the last play stepped forward with a sheepish grin on his face.

“I, er… Sorry about that last tackle Melanie. No hard feelings, huh?”

“Buy me a new bra and we’ll call it quits.”That raised a few cheers until they noticed my raised eyebrow. “Thirty six C, white lace, under wired. They have some nice ones on sale in Macy’s.”

Brent shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “You’ll have it tomorrow.”

My estimation of the guy went up at that, although I did tell myself to reserve judgment until he came through on the commitment.

“So how about it, Mel?” It was Mike Jenner speaking. He’d played right hand receiver and taken my last throw of the afternoon. He wasn’t that bad a player and would most likely be quarterback if I weren’t there. “You gonna take us to the championship?”

Reluctance must have been written all over my face, because the rest of the team started chipping in and chipping away at my resolve. This was just what Dad had planned all along and I could see him smirking in the background. I could all but hear him thinking, even if he couldn’t have a son he’d damn well have a quarterback in the family. The end was inevitable.

“Okay, but I have conditions.”

The corridor fell silent and two dozen pairs of ears turned my way.

“First, you blockers get a hell of a lot better at your jobs. Today was friendly and I still went down way to many times. I do not want to end up with a broken nose or a mashed in face for my troubles.”

The offensive line suddenly found their shoes worthy of intense scrutiny. They mumbled their intent to do better.

“Second, I get to redesign the uniform. I mean, whose idea was it to combine brown, gray and orange anyway?”

There were a few shrugs, then Rich Ketchum — one of the corner-backs — piped up.

“Hey, it can be pink with flowers and frills for all I care. With you playing, we got a shot here.”

There were nods and noises of agreement all round.

“Third, nobody tells anyone about my… you know… my thingies.”I jiggled my breasts at them, enough to get their eyes popping.

“You do that a few times around the school and no-one would believe us anyway.”I didn’t see who said that, but it made me smile. My add-ons were pretty realistic.”

“Lastly, someone gives my dad a wedgy. I mean, I need some payback for being talked into doing this.”

The whole team turned to look at me dad, then chased him out onto the field. He stayed ahead of them for two whole laps of the field — have I told you my dad’s pretty fit for his age — then dragged him back to where I was waiting on the bleachers. Of course no-one had the guts to actually do the deed; they respected him too much, and in the end I had to let them off the last condition.

-oOo-

“You have got to be kidding me!”

Kim’s hand rested on my arm — a gesture of friendship, nothing more, but it was the sort of thing I’d always wanted in my life. There had been a time in when I’d looked for something romantic in my relationships with girls, something erotic, but as the girl inside me had grown and taken over, I realized that what I’d really been searching for was friendship, complete with all the tactile gestures that men tended to shy away from.

“Yeah, I know. Totally rad eh?”

“Yeah, but how did you get to try out for the football team anyway? I mean, I didn’t think they let girls play.”

Yeah, keep on thinking that. I would continue to do my level best to make sure you guys (well girls, but you know…) keep on seeing me as a girl, and you just accept it.

“Well, my dad’s the football coach, and you know, he taught me to throw and stuff. So when he figured that none of the players on the team had a good throwing arm, he figured I’d either get them to try harder, or he’d get me on the team.”

So far no lies there, just that he’d done it to try and distract me from being a sissy, as he’d called me at the time. In a way it had helped as he’d grown in me the courage I needed to tell him about who I really was inside. To give the man his due, once I’d stood my ground and made him understand, he’d worked hard to accept it, and even gone out of his way to help me. Moving to this backwoods was a step down the promotion ladder for him, and one from which he’d probably never recover, but he knew I needed to be somewhere quiet to start my real life test, somewhere I could make mistakes and not end up in some big newspaper somewhere. Quietsville worked for me too as I was actually one of the prettier girls in the school here, and made friends far more easily than I’d imagined.

“So, like, how is your dad going to get it so you can play?”Amy wasn’t the brightest in our group, but she was easy going and a great friend to have most of the time. The question was surprisingly astute for her.

“My dad’s going to write to the league. He has some pull with them, and he thinks he can make a case.”

“So you’re really going to go through with it?”June asked incredulously. “Aren’t you afraid of getting hurt with all those big guys out there, or maybe having your face mashed up? I mean it would be a shame ‘cos you’re so beautiful.”

I loved the compliment and all but preened under the attention. “There is some risk I guess, but I’m pretty confident I can dodge most of the hits that come my way. Besides our team would cross burning coals to take care of me; I think they’ve all got a bit of heroine worship going on.”

“Isn’t there some law against sportsmen using drugs?”Like I said, Amy isn’t the brightest.

“Yeah, Amy, there is,”Kim was the patient one in the group, and took it on herself to explain things to Amy while the rest of us struggled not to laugh out loud. “It’s just that Melanie here was saying the team worships her like a heroine, you know? Like a female hero?”

“So what’s this thing with the uniforms then?”Amanda had been half listening at the edge of the table, but couldn’t help chipping in.

“Well I wasn’t going to agree to this lightly, I mean after all it’s going to put a strain on my rep, so I set some conditions, one of which was that I got to design to design new uniforms. I mean, aren’t those colors just the worst?”

“So, do you have any ideas?”

“Well as it happens…”

-oOo-

“You have got to be kidding me!”

Michael held up one of the new uniforms at arm’s length and between fingers and thumbs as though he was afraid he might be contaminated by it.

“You know, when I said what I said, you know I was only joking, right?”Rich’s face had gone through pale and was edging towards green.

“Yeah,”I said brightly, “but you did give me some ideas. In fact most of my ideas.”

“Come on guys, you agreed to the conditions just like I did.”Dad hadn’t been too happy either. In fact his reaction, when I’d suggested it, had been pretty much the same as the football team’s right now.

The jerseys were longer than usual, more like tunics, pink with purple flowers and white ruffled lace around the bottom. The pants were the usual, but brilliant white, and the socks were a hot pink that matched the tops. The colors were just right for my complexion, and the frills and patterns would leave people in no doubt as to what I was. As for how it would affect the rest of the team, some of them had been acting like jerks around some of my girlfriends and this would help bring them back to reality. Besides I had an argument. It had worked with Dad, now to see if it would work with this lot.

“Have you guys ever heard the Johnny Cash song, ‘A Boy Named Sue?’”

There were shrugs and blank looks all around so, I pulled out a CD player and set it on the side. My dad had often told me the secret to success was in the six P’s — Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance — and I’d taken it on board, especially being as vulnerable as I knew myself to be. I found the song and played it through. The room was quiet by the time it was done.

“Now my dad – sorry, the coach – is right. As a football team, you guys don’t amount to much just yet, but you have potential. I figure that the moment you hit the field wearing these, people are going to start laughing, at which point you will have a choice to make. As the song says, you can either get tough or die.

“Now you all agreed with Rich when he said he didn’t care what the new uniform would look like, just as long as I play. Now’s your chance to prove it.”

I grabbed my own uniform and ran off to my dad’s office to change. Mine was a lot smaller than the others, and slightly different in design. With the lads, the frilly bottom of the jersey hung just below the waist. It wouldn’t tuck into the tight trousers without looking even more ridiculous, but at least it didn’t look like a skirt. Mine was pinched at the waist and fell to the top of the thigh. Depending on how you looked at it, it was either too big or it was designed to look like a girl’s top. Either way though, it left me looking like the girl I wanted everyone to see. I’d even altered the padding so that some of it surrounded my false breasts. This had the effect of enhancing them just a little more, which was kinda the idea. I settled the helmet — white with a pink strip down the middle — on my head and curtsied to the girl in the mirror before going to find my team.

They looked soooo cute. I mean, imagine a mountain range wrapped in gingham and you’ll be close to the effect. The shoulder padding gave them the appearance of wearing puffed sleeves, and the frills around their midriffs were so pretty.

“Okay guys, time to dial down the blushes a little, the red really clashes with the uniform. Now remember, people are going to be laughing at you when we go out there, and they’re going to call you names you don’t deserve. The way to come out on top is to show them that they’re wrong to ridicule you. I don’t want to see anyone fighting back because they’ve been called a faggot or something, and I don’t want to see any of you believing the crap they’ll be saying about you either. You are great players, this is an awesome team and we are going to go out there and take our first step towards winning the league. Are you with me?”

The cheers were a little more than half-hearted, which was probably as much as I could hope for at this stage.

“Come on then, let’s go show them what we’re made of.”I ran down the hall towards the field at the head of two dozen effeminate gorillas, heading for their doom.

-oOo-

“You have got to be kidding me!”The PA blared out to a fair sized crowd, given this was a home game in a small town, and at the beginning of the season. “Folks, it looks like our home team is looking for a new name. Perhaps the Podunk Pansies would work. Hooooie, I guess that’s what you get for letting the coach’s daughter redesign the uniforms.

“And there she is out front, folks. By special waiver from the league, Melanie Baron leading the team onto the field as the new quarterback in this first game of the season, and a grudge match against Huieville. Let’s hope that we fare better this time than last season when the visitors trashed the home team thirty seven to sixteen.”

The rest of the commentary was lost as the crowd gave way to booing and jeering. From the angry looks directed at the bench, I figured my dad would be answering a whole lot of difficult questions after the game.

I could give you a blow by blow, but the game was pretty much a walkover. We won the toss and chose to receive, making it to the thirty yard line before going down. I headed out with the rest of the offense, ready to rumble. Muttered comments of ‘faggots’ and ‘sissies’ came from the opposing team, and I knew the outcome was sealed. The first play saw all of their defensive line on the ground and the receivers well ahead of their safeties and corner-backs, leaving me a choice of easy long throws for the first touchdown of the game.

Our defense played just as well, intercepting the ball, sacking their quarterback before he could line up for a throw, pushing in close to their receivers and tacking or intercepting the fumbles. I don’t think they made ten yards in the first quarter.

By the end the score was fifty seven to nothing in our favor. Most of the new uniforms had been well and truly christened with quite a few torn jerseys and most of the frilly bits around the bottom hanging loose. Well it was only for show the first time out, and in retrospect not the cleverest design for a football uniform. The girls and I would spend a bit of time patching up the tears, and would remove the extraneous fluff at the same time.

Back in the dressing room, the guys were roaring out their victory with renewed confidence. It had been a mean trick to play on them, but it had worked so well. The boy named Sue had bitten back and no-one would be so quick to dis us again.

As expected, there were a lot of angry parents in the school the next day, and my dad was called out to answer for his actions. The news made it round the school as kids from the Phys Ed class he should have been taking ran from room to room, spreading the news around the school. One of them found me in a seriously dull biology class.

I ducked out of the classroom, ignoring my teacher’s protests, and grabbed hold of the kid before he ran off, demanding more details.

“Look, all I know is that coach Baron has been called up to the principal’s office, and there are a bunch of angry parents up there too.”

“Do you know where the rest of the guys from football team are? Which classes they’re in I mean?”

“I’ve seen a few of them, but…”

“Okay, go back to those classes and call them out, and if you see any others chasing about like you, get them to do the same. We can’t let the coach face this on his own.”

It took a remarkably short time before most of the team was assembled outside the front desk. We could hear raised voices from the direction of the principal’s office, and I couldn’t stand to wait anymore. With the guys I had in tow, I strode behind the counter and into a very crowded room full of enraged adults, none of whom were showing a particularly good example to us minors.

“Principal Masters.”I called over the hubbub, then again, louder. “Principal Masters!”

My dad turned at the sound of my voice, and everyone else followed suit. Seeing the crowd of hulking teenagers behind me, the principal took the opportunity of the lull in conversation to take control.

“Miss Baron, gentlemen. Why are you out of class?”

It wasn’t the best of efforts as it opened matters up for renewed chaos as my team mates all tried to answer at the same time. I held up my hand and they shut up immediately.

“I’m sorry Principal Masters, but we felt that, before everyone says something they’ll likely regret, we ought to say a few words.

“Firstly, the uniforms were my idea. My dad, the coach, only agreed to them under protest and after the rest of the team had agreed to me having a free hand in the redesign.

“Secondly, yes the guys were a bit upset about the new uniform, but I think they agreed to the idea behind my designing it that way. In the end, results speak louder than anything, and our performance yesterday was, at least in part, down to the fact that your sons ran out onto that field looking like a bunch of girls. I needed something to bring out their aggression, and facing the kind of taunts they were given yesterday did just that.

“Guys, I’m sticking my neck out on the line here, but how do you feel about it?”

“Well a bit foolish to begin with,”Mike spoke up as voice for the guys, “but, yeah, after some of the things we were called out there, we just got mad and showed them the best way we could. We really kicked some ass yesterday, so I certainly don’t have a problem with the coach, or the new uniform.”

There were grunts, nods and mumbles of agreement from the rest of the lads. Unanimous support.

“So will you be going back to the old uniforms after today?”The question came from one of the parents, and was addressed to my dad. He didn’t get a chance to answer.

“Hell no, Dad!”it was Rich. There was something of a resemblance when you looked for it. “Look we agreed to let Mel design the uniform. We even said — I even said — that she could make it pink and frilly and we all agreed. We can hardly argue against it now, and it did help our game.”

There were a few more grumbled comments, but the situation was diffused. Principal Masters looked me sternly in the eye, then cast her gaze over the rest of the group.

“Thank you, Melanie. Thank you, gentlemen. Now perhaps you would mind returning to your classes and apologizing to your teachers. We’ll overlook the breach of school rules this once, but don’t let me catch any of you out of class without permission again, you hear me?”

Was it my imagination or was there just the slightest twinkle of mischief in her eyes? We mumbled our assent and headed back to our different classes.

-oOo-

“You have got to be kidding me!”

“What is it Daddy?”

“Look who we’re up against in the finals.”He held up a letter for me to read.

The season had gone amazingly well. We’d had a few close calls, but overall we hadn’t lost a single game.

The guys’ uniforms had looked a lot less girly after we’d taken the lace frills off the bottom of the shirts, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t still girly. Pretty much everywhere we went, we were met with the same arrogant disrespect from crowd and players alike. That drew out the same aggressive determination in the guys, which resulted in some of the best football seen in our little corner of the state.

I kept my own uniform looking as immaculate as I could, repairing any tears and tatters after each game. It meant that no matter how girly people thought the rest of my team were, they only ever saw me as a girl. The league waiver got us round any objections to my playing, and between my throwing and the team’s resolve, we ran away with the score most of the time.

Dad and I worked out some pretty cool and unusual plays, which left the opposition running every which way but the one that could stop us. During the practices, I worked with Mike, teaching him the techniques for throwing that my dad had taught me, and within a few weeks he was throwing further than me, if not with the same accuracy. There were times when I’d be showing him how to hold the ball, when we shared an intimate moment or two. It didn’t go beyond the smoldering eyes stage, but I could feel he was into me, and I can’t deny I felt something too. Heedful of Dad’s warning though, I made sure it never went anywhere. It was tough, but sometimes you gotta be.

The guys did a pretty good job of fulfilling condition one of our agreement too. There weren’t many plays I was involved in that ended with me facing down a stampede of defenders, and most of them I was agile enough to dodge. Of course there were the inevitable mistakes, rare though they were, and one time, late in the season, I ended up as the filling in a linebacker sandwich. I bruised a couple of ribs in that one, and sprained a knee.

That benched me for a couple of games, but with Mike able to take my place on the team, we still managed a pretty good showing. The games we came closest to losing were the ones where I pestered my dad into believing I was ready to come back. The first, I held out to the end of the second quarter before ceding to the inevitable, leaving Mike to bring us back from the seven point deficit. The second I managed through the whole game, but I wasn’t throwing anywhere near my best, and we only came out two points ahead.

Still, in the end what matters is winning the games, and we did that over and again.

I leaned over my dad’s shoulder and read the letter.

“No way!”

“Yeah, I know. What are the chances we end up playing your old school?”

-oOo-

“You have got to be kidding me!”

“No it’s what I heard. This is the place coach Baron went after he quit last year, and that pantywaist faggot of a son of his is playing quarterback.”

“No way! Do you think he still dresses up like a girl, or do you think we beat that out of the little sissy?”

“From what I hear, he dresses like a girl all the time now. His entire team thinks he’s a girl, all the kids at his school think he’s a girl, even most of the teachers do. Hell, he even plays football pretending to be a girl; has this special waiver letter from the league saying he can play even though he looks like a girl. He even has his entire team dressing up like faggots”

“Sounds like the little freak still hasn’t learnt his lesson. What say we finish the job we started, Jimmy?”

“You know me Moe. I hate to leave a job unfinished.”

Usually I was the one to calm everyone down before a game, but this one had me freaking out big time. I knew most of the guys on the football team from my old school, mostly from the way they hung onto my arms and legs while James or Moe jammed my head down a toilet and flushed. If I’d heard the conversation between the two linebackers, I wouldn’t have been able to play. It didn’t help that I had to change on my own. Despite my not wanting to be a guy, being caught up in the game like this, I actually felt I was missing out on the camaraderie of the locker room. I joined the guys looking, and feeling, a little sick.

“Hey, come on Mel.”

Brent gave me one of those sideways brotherly hugs. He has issues with his weight and doesn’t have the confidence to approach girls directly, which is a shame because I have at least two friends I know wouldn’t mind dating him.

“We made it to the final, and that’s more than our school’s ever done. Whatever happens today, we’ll be heroes. And what’s that you’re always telling us? We’re great players, and an awesome team. With you on our side, we’ll wipe them off the face of the Earth.”

I managed to force what I hoped was a convincing smile, and turned to lead the team out for the last game of the season. Mike wasn’t fooled by my act. He jogged up alongside and leant down next to me.

“Listen, I know something’s got you worked up. If it’s personal I won’t pry, but whatever happens, the whole team has your back. You’re what got us here. You are the best player here, and that’s tough to admit with you being a girl and all, so if we can run out here with our heads high and full of confidence, then so can you. This is your moment, Melanie. Savor it, ‘cos you earned it.”

And he was gone, spreading out with the rest of the team onto the field. I wanted to tell him about my old school and the way I’d been treated. I wanted to tell him about me and the choices I’d made, but this wasn’t the time or place.

The commentator tried to big us up, calling us a big city miracle from a small town school — a fairy tale story come true as we beat the odds to get here — but the crowd still booed and jeered us for our team colors and for having — or seeming to have — a girl on the team.

My old school fielded its team and good natured shoulder barging became a little serous as insults were traded, or more accurately handed out for free by the other side. I recognized a few guys from the old place, but they ran past me without noticing. For a moment I wondered if I’d escape unscathed, but then I caught sight of Moe, staring at me like bull in heat. He pointed two fingers at his eyes then turned them on me. A quick scan of the field and my eyes fell on James, also staring back. He waved at me when he saw me looking, and suddenly my mouth was too dry to swallow.

Moe Weston and James Carter — no not the former president, the dickhead. They had been the bane of my life before I figured out I needed to change who I was. They had continued to torment me as I fought first with my own emotions, then with my parents to accept that I wanted to be a girl. They had been their most obnoxious when I made my first attempt to transition, and it now looked like they weren’t done with me yet.

We lost the toss and kicked off to them to start the game. I sat on the bench with the rest of my part of the team and chewed at my nails until they fumbled at our forty yard line. We took possession and it was time to get into the game.

I called a play that would test their defenses and took position to receive the ball. What happened next was planned and malicious. Their defensive line came in hard and took out most of the blockers on our team, leaving space for Jimmy and Moe to jump across and charge straight at me. I had time for a short pass to tight end before I was caught between my two former torturers.

The collision hit me so hard I was sure I both heard and felt my ribs crack. It also twisted my knee, and this time I definitely felt tendons or ligaments tear. I fell to the ground biting back tears and hugging my injured knee.

“Hey Mel.”I think it was Moe speaking, but I wasn’t paying much attention. “Whoever gave you the idea you were ready for a real game? You know you and your pansy friends are going down.”

A referee ran across to see what had happened and gave the two of them a caution for excessive and unnecessary roughness. The crowd booed them, and I found myself hoping that any scouts in the stands had taken note, and that these two losers had successfully ruined any chance of a football scholarship with that play.

My dad came ran on, glowering at the two bullies until the smugness on their faces melted away. A quick examination of my knee and I was carried off the field. We’d made fifteen yards and held onto the ball so the offensive drove on with Mike taking my place.

I missed most of the first quarter while our school nurse bound up my injuries. She was one of the few people at school who knew my true nature, so there was no surprise at my flat chest or the modest bulge in my underwear. She bound up my chest, offering me her best guess that I had badly bruised or possibly fractured one or two ribs. I could breathe more easily once I was bound up, but moving my arms hurt like hell. The knee, she told me, had a torn or stretched ligament. She sprayed something on it to dull the pain, and put on a support bandage. I put my uniform back on regardless of her protestations that I shouldn’t play again. She reported the same to my dad who pointed me to the bench. I was frustrated, but I knew he was right.

The game was a tight one. Moe and Jimmy kept on with their rough tactics, but by then we were wise to them and Mike made use of play after play which foiled every plan they made. The lead bounced back and forth through the second and third quarters with anyone’s guess as to the outcome.

We went into the fourth quarter two points down but just as determined to win as we had been throughout this season. Possession went back and forth for an agonizing seven minutes until a field goal put us even further behind.

Mike tried to push back, but the defensive line was good, and progress was slow. We made ten yards, then another twenty. Time was running out and it would be touch and go for us to make it in short advances like we were doing. Then things went completely pear shaped.

Mike made a play with a short pass which took us to our forty yard line, but he didn’t see the two guys from the defensive line who made it through to him. He was tossed high in the air and came down on his head and shoulder. It was a bad landing and he was stretchered off on a spine board.

I was torn. I wanted to go with him to make sure he was alright, but I also knew there was a game to play, and with thirty seconds on the clock, we were looking at a long pass to be in with a chance of winning. Dad looked at me with an expression torn between sadness and desperate hope.

“You can go with him if you have to,”he said, “but bear in mind, all you’ll probably do is wait around at the hospital for hours until the doctors decide they’ve done all they can for him.”

I stared at him, hating him for his logic and knowing he was right.

“I don’t want to ask you this sweetie, but we have just one shot at this game, and you’re it. If you think you can do it that is, I mean. I know you’re in a pretty bad way yourself.”

“If I do this, you let me try out for the cheerleading squad next year.”

“If you do this you won’t be letting your team down.”

I stood my ground. I can be as stubborn as him sometimes.

“Okay, cheerleaders next year. You remind me of me sometimes. Despite the skirt.”

I checked with the nurse, who told me I was being an idiot. I knew that, and managed enough girlish charm to persuade her to bind up my knee even tighter, and give me some more of that spray on both leg and chest to numb the pain. The crowd cheered me as I jogged onto the field, doing my best not to limp. My team huddled around and waited for me to say something intelligent.

“Right guys, you remember the first play I got you to do for me, way back when I was just trying out for the team? We have twenty three seconds on the clock, so that’s what we’re gonna do, and it’s our only chance, so let’s make it count. All or nothing guys, death or glory.”

Famous last words.

We took our positions, I checked positions and called for the play. The ball came to me and I ran back into a clear space. The right receiver was blocked, no hope that way. Moe and Jimmy had made it past the offensive line and were bearing down on me like two steam trains. Throw or dodge, I didn’t have time for both.

Left side, Jason Crow, left receiver was pulling clear. Perfect position. I lanced the ball into the air. Forty five degrees, spinning well. It didn’t take that much strength, so I didn’t even feel the pull on my chest as I snapped the ball into the air. Then I was in the middle of a train wreck. There was a brilliant flash of pain and everything went black.

-oOo-

I opened my eyes, blinked a few times and struggled to focus on the red blur in front of me. It resolved itself into an enormous bunch of roses with Mike standing behind them.

“You had us all worried for a while there Mel.”Was it my imagination, or was there a catch in in his voice?

“You can talk you great lummox. I mean what the hell were you thinking, landing on your head?”

“I think at the time I was thinking ‘shit this is going to hurt’. I don’t remember it too clearly. Anyway, no spinal injuries and no concussion — unlike yourself by the way — so, apart from keeping me in for observation for a day or two, I have freedom to roam the corridors.”

He came into my room and offered me the flowers.

“They’re lovely Mike, but there’s something I need to tell you.”

“That you’re a dude? Yeah, those jerk linebackers yelled it out to anyone who would listen, and the guys told me when they came to visit. It’s cool. It’s not what I see when I look at you, but it’s cool.”

“Actually it’s more complicated than that; most people don’t understand – Jimmy and Moe in particular. You see, all my life I’ve felt more like a girl than a guy. I tried to be normal, but a couple of years ago I had to admit to it. I told my folks and they eventually came round to my way of thinking. I’ve been taking drugs to stop me turning into a gorilla like you, but it won’t be until I’m quite a bit older that they let me start doing stuff to make my body more physically female. For now I’m kind of stuck in the middle, which is why I sort of.. I er…”

“Why you never led me on in practice? Yeah, I get that now. I couldn’t figure out what your problem was at the time, but now it makes sense, and I appreciate the consideration.”

“You’re not mad at me?”

“Funny thing about wearing pink for a year. It kind of changes your perspective a bit, makes you more ready to try and figure out things from the other person’s point of view before getting all judgmental about it. You’re about the gutsiest person I know, and that’s just from watching you on the field. The guys told me what you did in that last play, and I have never heard of anything so brave.

“You know, when jocks like me call people sissies and faggots, it’s because we see those kinds of people as weak and cowardly, running away from life because they can’t handle it. That’s not you though, never in a million years. The kind of guts it took to take the field for that last play tells me you’re nothing like that.

“I mean I don’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, but I do get that it takes more balls than I’ll ever have. You’re okay with the guys in the team Mel — Melanie. You have any trouble with anyone, anyone at all, you just come find one of us.”

“And you and me Mike? Are we okay?”

“You tell me.”

And with that he leant in and kissed me on the lips. It may have been the concussion, but there was definite electricity there, and the sound of fireworks going off somewhere.

“I’d better go get your dad. He’s been frantic with worry since you were brought in yesterday. I only managed to chase him off to bed with the promise that I’d keep an eye on you and wake him the moment you came too. Before I go though, is it okay if I call you?”

I gave him a bewildered nod and he stood and headed for the door.

“Oh shit, Mike wait. What happened in the game? Did we win?”

He stopped long enough to smile over his shoulder at me and shake his head.

“You have got to be kidding me!”