Three Years Later
I paced back and forth in the suite in AT&T Stadium, as nervous as I had ever been in my life. From our vantage up here I could see the entire field and the stadium that was packed with fans, who were steadily cheering for the team that was about to take the field.
“It’s just another game,” I muttered to myself. “Just like any other game.”
I was excited, too. Really excited, but it was buried under all the nervousness. A beer would have helped calm me down. But of course, I couldn’t drink.
Not while I was nursing.
I glanced over to where Bill was sitting. A tiny bundle of baby was swaddled in his arms, and he was gently bouncing him up and down. Michael, my son, was four months old today. He had wisps of black hair on his egg-shaped head, but he wore a permanent smile as he gazed up at Bill.
“Aren’t you the cutest?” Bill cooed at him. “Just the cutest little man! Yes you are!”
Barker, my editor, appeared next to me. “And the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.”
“Who would’ve thought Bill loved babies?” I said.
“People are full of surprises.” Barker nodded out at the field, where the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders were dancing in formation. “How’s he doing?”
“He’s fine,” I said. “As far as I could tell, at least.”
Barker grunted skeptically. “Bet you’re itching to write about this.”
I looked sideways at him. “I’ve still got six weeks of maternity leave.”
“Of course you do. But that doesn’t mean you’re not itching to get back at it. If you change your mind and want to toss an article or two my way…”
He was right. I was itching to write. Being on maternity leave didn’t mean my brain shut off. I was constantly writing pieces for the Herald in my head. I couldn’t help myself. I loved what I did.
But I kept them in my head. I had a new focus in my life, and it weighed just fifteen pounds.
My life had changed so much in the past three years. Barker trusted me with the Herald’s biggest stories. The kind of investigative journalism I had always dreamed of pursuing. I got first pick of all the stories that came across the desk.
The one thing that saddened me was that I had to be taken off the Frenzy assignment. Both because I was busy with other work, and because it was a conflict of interest since I was dating Colt and DJ. But I still fed Bill juicy bits of football gossip, both about the Frenzy and the Cowboys.
And I still got to write the occasional football article.
The door to the suite banged open and my two Frenzy lovers barged inside. Colt and DJ were both wearing fitted suits; Colt’s was grey and DJ’s was navy blue.
“Did we miss it?” DJ asked.
“You’re just in time—the game’s about to start.”
“I meant the cheerleaders, Ace!” DJ said. “Aww man. They’re walking off the field.”
I gave him a playful smack on the arm. “What took you guys so long?”
“Our plane was delayed taxiing to the gate,” Colt explained.
“Hah!” DJ barked a laugh. “The real reason is that Colt drives twenty under the speed limit, like a blind grandpa. No offense, Billy Bob.”
Bob blinked. “I didn’t take any offense, but I’m offended you would think I’m offended! I’m only forty-five!”
“I don’t know, man,” DJ said. “You’re looking a little thin up top…”
“Not everyone has luxurious Fabio hair,” Bill said.
DJ ran a hand through his thick blond hair and tossed it like a shampoo model. “True that.” He scooped Michael out of Bill arms and exclaimed, “THERE’S MY LITTLE FOOTBALL! Ready to score a touchdown?”
He held Michael in the air like a football and ran circles around the room. Michael squealed happily, filling the suite with baby noises.
Colt put an arm around my shoulder and kissed me on the cheek. “You talked to Kody?”
“Not since we left the house.”
“He’ll be fine,” Colt said. “Relax.”
Colt gave me a look.
“Okay, I’m a nervous bundle of energy,” I said. “This game is huge. I hate feeling so helpless.”
“You’ve been with us for four years now,” Colt said. “You should be used to it by now.”
He kissed me on the cheek again. “I drove slowly so DJ would miss the cheerleaders.”
I heard a gasp behind me. “I KNEW IT!”
Suddenly the crowd noise in the stadium rose to a frenzied pitch as the Philadelphia Eagles made the kick-off. The Cowboys caught the ball in the end zone, and then Kody Murphy jogged onto the field.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Just like any other game.”
There was a television in our suite playing the national broadcast of the game. I caught a snippet of what the commentator was saying: “…his first career start, and it comes when the Cowboys desperately need a win. A victory against their rivals will give the Cowboys one of the NFC Wildcard spots…”
“This feels familiar, huh?” Colt said.
I chuckled. “It kind of does. Kody taking over for the starting quarterback with the playoffs on the line…”
“At least when he took over for me, he had a few games to get into a groove,” Colt said. “But this game, the last of the season before the playoffs…”
I shot him a glare. “You’re not helping calm me down.”
“Kody has nerves of steel. There’s nobody I trust more in this position.”
Kody stepped up to the center and the ball was hiked. He dropped back with the ball held in his hands, scanning the receivers. He turned to the left side of the field and pulled his arm back…
…And was sacked in the side by one of the Eagles defenders.
The crowd collectively groaned as he took the hit. Kody was hit so hard that he fumbled the ball. It bounced along the field until one of the Cowboys linemen dove to recover it.
I glanced at Colt. “You were saying?”
DJ stepped up on the other side of me with Michael in his arms. “See that man on the field, slowly getting up? That’s your daddy! He got sacked on the first play of the game!”
“DJ!” I snapped.
“I’m just telling the little football what’s going on. Look, he’s back on his feet. Everything’s alright. There’s a lesson there, Mikey. No matter how many times life knocks you down, you always got to get back up. I know you can barely sit up on your own, but this advice will make sense in a few years.”
The Cowboys chose a running play next, and they gained a few yards. That left them with third down and fifteen thanks to the sack. Kody took the hike and dropped back. Another Eagles defender was rushing toward him but this time he spun out of the pocket to avoid it. He ran horizontally along the field away from the defenders, pointed downfield, then hurled the ball. It soared through the air to a wide-open receiver who caught it square in the chest, then sprinted the entire length of the field for a touchdown.
I screamed like a maniac. Colt pumped a fist coolly. DJ raised Michael high above his head and bounced him up and down.
“Your daddy’s the best quarterback in the family!” DJ loudly announced.
“Hey! He learned that spin-out move from me,” Colt said.
I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew the first possession was always the toughest. Now Kody could relax and get into a groove as the quarterback of the Cowboys. And with an early lead, it took the pressure off.
My nervousness was replaced by a swelling feeling of pride. I was so proud of my three football lovers, but especially Kody. He had overcome so much in his life to get to where he was. He worked harder than anyone I knew—even harder than Colt or DJ. For the past three years we had been one big happy family living together in DJ’s mansion. The four of us were happier than we ever thought we could be. We had even had a child together—the first of many, I hoped. I wanted to fill that big house with a dozen tiny versions of Colt, DJ, and Kody.
But throughout the past three years, most of the attention had been on Colt and DJ. They were the stars of their team while Kody was just the backup. The backup on the Dallas Cowboys, but a backup nonetheless. Now Kody was finally getting his big chance, and he was succeeding.
When you were with someone—or three someones—their successes felt like your own. And right now I was prouder than any other moment in my life except for when I first held Michael in my arms.
“You’re doing it,” I whispered to myself. “You’re doing it, Kody!”
Kody jogged off the field after the touchdown. After high-fiving his teammates he held his hands above his head, steepling the fingers together in an A symbol.
“Dude! That’s my move!” DJ said.
I smiled widely. I loved making DJ play-upset. “I don’t know. I like it better when he does it.”
“But he doesn’t even call you Ace!” DJ complained. “That’s my thing!”
Colt put an arm around my waist and kissed my hair above the ear. “You must’ve given him a good pre-game pep-talk, Ace.”
“Stop it!” DJ demanded. “Stop calling her Ace!”
“Michael’s not the only baby in the suite,” Colt muttered behind a smile.
“Hey Ace,” Barker asked. “You sure you don’t want to come back to the office tomorrow?”
DJ pointed a threatening finger at my editor. “This isn’t funny anymore!”
Bill got up from his seat. “I’m getting a hotdog. You want anything, Ace?”
We all laughed loudly at DJ’s protests, one big happy family.