It has been a while since Everett Mancini had worn a suit, let alone a tuxedo, but weddings call for this kind of outdated formal attire. Everett, or Ret, as he introduces himself to others as, prefers cold beer out of a can to an overpriced glass of wine, three days worth of scruff over a naked face, and most definitely basketball shorts with a t-shirt instead of a stark white collared button down with a tie around his neck.
But again, weddings call for you to wear a tuxedo, so for her, Ret went through the pain in the ass process of getting fitted for one, now here he stood, clean shaven, white bow tie around his collar, wearing his grandfather’s EM monogrammed cuff links, with suspenders hidden underneath his navy jacket, for her, because for her, there wasn’t anything Ret wouldn’t do.
It was a picture perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky. Sidney had always imagined it this way, when she was busy boring Ret with the details of how their day would go. She spoke with such certainty even though she was projecting something deep into the future. It was always going to be the middle of June. That was never up for debate. She would joke to him constantly saying, “My year, those April showers will bloom the best flowers, but sometimes them silly April showers show up in May.”
Ret wasn’t the type of guy who knew much of anything about flowers, but he’d bet she was right, she always was. There was little doubt in his mind that these gardens had never seen a better bloom.
As the breeze blew just perfectly through Ret’s slicked back jet black hair, cooling the heat given off from the new summer sun, a tear fell from his brown eyes temporarily staining his white button-down as he caught sight of her deep in the distance in nothing but white.
Ret wasn’t trying to hide it as he reached into his breast pocket for his flask, also his grandfather’s with EM monogrammed into the silver. He opened the top allowing the smell of the Jack Daniel’s to linger in his nostrils for a moment. Then he lifted it to his mouth allowing the warm whiskey to pass through his lips. The expression on his face unable to conceal that it was whiskey he was drinking, as you could tell the big gulp he had just taken burned the entire way to his stomach. Still, that didn’t stop him from lifting the silver flask back up, taking down another sip, then another, before killing the contents of it. Ret used his right forearm to wipe his mouth choosing to leave the tear on his cheek as he continued to stare out in the distance at her.
You probably guessed it by now, Ret isn’t the type of guy who let his emotions show very often, let alone shed tears in public, but everything changed when it came to her. Ret realized he was only truly himself because of her. He was different, thanks to her, but not thanks to her in a sarcastic way, different doesn’t always mean bad, in this case, the furthest thing from it.
Ret put the flask back in his breast pocket, wishing he had more whiskey to help him suppress his tears. So he just watched, and waited, as the distance between them grew less and less. Her hand through her fathers arms, his behind his back at attention. Just like the first day he had laid eyes on her, the only thing he could tell for certain was that she was beautiful, even though the only thing he could tell for certain was that her hair was long and blonde.
Ret drifted off, reminiscing of the first day he had met Sidney. She wasn’t a cheerleader, but still she was hanging around off to the side during football practice, watching. When he first noticed her in the distance looking like a scout paying close attention to detail, he could not stop peeking over his shoulder trying to catch another glimpse of her. Even though she was far away he could tell she was beautiful, despite the only thing his eyes could tell for certain was that her hair was long and blonde.
At this point in time, Ret wasn’t QB1 yet, he was a freshman, brought in to be groomed behind the senior quarterback Max Patterline, who helped lead this team to a state championship last year. Though everyone and their mother knew it was the defense and running game that were responsible for the trophy in the school lobby, and Patterline mostly was in charge of not screwing anything up.
It was easy to tell that when it came to playing quarterback, Ret had it, whatever it was. The game was slower for him then it was for others. He could easily read a defense and it didn’t hurt that he had a cannon for a right arm. Still he knew it would be hard for coach to bench Patterline for him coming off a State championship.
With practice being over Ret made his way towards the locker room but was intercepted by a stunning blonde. “Hey QB1,” she said sounding excited
Ret looking over his shoulder for Patterline but not seeing him replied back, “Hey,” as if he was asking a question.
“What you unsure if you wanna talk to me or not?”
“No it’s not that. It’s just that I’m not QB1. Patterline is. School won the ship last year with him.”
“You’re not QB1 yet,” she rebutted as she playfully punched his shoulder pad. “I seen you out there, you ain’t half bad. It could happen. Probably sooner than you think.” There was an awkward pause before she spoke again saying, “Aren’t you going to ask me my name?”
Ret was caught up in the beauty of her eyes, them being a color he had never seen before. He could not tell if they were more green, or more blue, but he was intent on finding out. He stuttered as he replied back still not asking her name, “Yeah. No. I mean yeah, I’m Everett Mancini, but all my friends call me Ret.”
“I know what your name is. I just spent the last two hours listening to coach scream Mancini wrong read! Mancini my sister can throw harder than that!” Even though he still didn’t ask she told him her name, “And, I’m Sidney, by the way.”
Nervously scratching the back of his head due to embarrassment Ret answered, “Well nice to meet you Sidney. I gotta get washed up and changed quick, you going to still be around in like 20 minutes?”
“Make it 10 Mancini. I can’t wait around too long for the back-up QB,” she said as Ret for the second time caught himself lost in her eyes.
Ret never showered after practice, choosing instead to wait until he got home to wash up, but today, with her waiting outside, he scrubbed harder then a frustrated mother trying to get crayon off the wall. Never in his life had he washed up, dried off and gotten changed so quickly, as he couldn’t wait to get back outside of the locker room to her.
He saw her in the distance again reading a book as she waited. When he got close enough, he could see that it was his favorite book in her hands, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. “Love that book,” Ret said, as he got close enough to Sidney.
“I can’t get enough of that Ponyboy Curtis,” she responded. “This has to be close to the tenth time I’ve read it.”
“I love the part about watching sunsets. I think it’s really cool how we all see the same sun, no matter where we’re at in the world.”
“What’s a jock like you doing reading books? Aren’t you supposed to be pumping iron instead?” She exposed her smile, a smile that could stop time, a smile that would make any guy jump through hoops of fire to get her to crack one.
“Shh,” he said with his pointer outstretched over his lips. “Don’t tell anyone. Maybe that’s why I’m only the back up QB, too much reading, and not enough iron pumping. Not to change the subject, but how you getting home Sid? Is it okay if I call you that?”
She smiled at him then said, “Well you’re walking me, duh?”
“So a back up QB walking home a non-cheerleader that seems to know a lot about football,” Ret postured as he pretended to drop back with an invisible football in his hand, “Go long!” he yelled. And to his surprise she started running. He launched an imaginary football in her direction. She made a leaping catch and spiked the football throwing her hands in the air. Ret ran towards her to celebrate the fake touchdown not knowing he’d never be the same again. From that first day Sidney made him different, good different, and he knew it.
Another tear dripped down his cheek as he thought about the favorite touchdown he ever threw. It was the first time in his life where the two things he loved the most came together.
After they finished their touchdown celebration Ret and Sidney began walking towards her house.
Ret asked, “So what you doing hanging around practice?”
“I love football,” Sidney responded. “Always have since I was a little girl. I used to watch with my dad every Sunday.”
“He passed a while back. Heart attack. He used to joke that the New York Jets were the reason his blood pressure was always so high. Anyway I still watch every Sunday. I feel like he’s right there next to me screaming at the TV along with me.
My dad taught me a lot. I swear before I knew my ABCs I knew what it meant for the quarterback to be in shotgun. That’s why it was no bullshit when you should be QB1. Trust me I know what I’m talking about. You got it.”
“I don’t know. The way coach barks at me all practice it doesn’t seem like he thinks that.”
“He’s riding you, because he knows you have what it takes to be great.”
“If you say so.”
“Trust me,” she said before smiling at him, and he knew he could.
The rest of the way they made small talk, what’s your middle name, favorite color, all the nervous questions boys and girls ask each other when they’re nervously fifteen and unsure of what they’re feeling.
“Well…this is me.”
“When can I see you again Sid?”
“I’ll be at practice tomorrow, you could walk me home and I can walk you through all the things you did wrong. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings since we just met today, but try not staring down your first read. If you had a better free safety he’d of took your lunch all practice.”
“I look forward to it. See you tomorrow Sid.”
They didn’t know how to say goodbye to one another so they just stood there in silence. Before Sidney smiled at Everett and ran up the stairs. Right before she turned the doorknob he called out to her, “Hey Sid!” She turned back to hear what he had to say. “When you watch the sunset tonight, think of me, cause I’ll be thinking about you.”
“Stay gold Ponyboy,” she said back through grinned teeth.
That night Ret watched the sunset through his bedroom window. Thinking about Sid. Only fifteen he didn’t know what he was feeling as he caught himself again wondering if her eyes were more green than blue or blue than green. He laid on his bed throwing the football just high enough that it almost hit the ceiling before it came back into his hands. He couldn’t wait for practice tomorrow, for once not because he got to toss the pigskin around, because he knew she would be there.
It was odd for him, being excited for something other than football. Ret always had a football in his hand. Constantly getting scolded by his mother for playing with a ball in the house. Countless vases and picture frames were broken as footballs took awkward bounces around the Mancini house.
It was evident from his first day of peewee football that Ret was going to be a star. Even at a young age you could tell. As he got older both his love for the game and body grew making him the perfect combination of physical talent and passion. It wouldn’t be long before every college in the county wanted Ret Mancini to be the quarterback of their team.
Sidney and Everett shared the sunset that night, even though neither of them was certain the other was watching. It was a mediocre sunset, yet special to the two of them, as young love filled their hearts even if they did not know it yet.