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Hurts So Good

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When summer ended in Riverdale, the autumn always brought cool breezes and damp air. The water in Sweetwater River was frigid and collided with the rocks, splashing up onto the grassy land. The weather always seemed to mirror the town’s mood and today was no different. Everyone donned a gloomy expression as the rain trickled down from the grey covered sky. The time passed at an exceptionally sluggish rate. It seemed like the hands on the clock above the chalkboard weren’t ticking. By the looks of it, Mrs. Burnell didn’t appear to be in the mood for lessons either. She had handed out a worksheet and popped in a VHS to pass the time. It was a easy way to teach but not to at the same time. No one was going to pay much attention, anyway.

FP had been chewing on the end of his pencil, a bad habit. He was craving a cigarette and deciding whether or not to skip the last twenty minutes of class. That wasn’t a foreign thing for him either and honestly, he doubted Mrs. Baxter would even notice. Closing his notebook, FP shoved it into his backpack and quietly got up from his desk. The room was dark and he kept along the walls as he slipped through the cracked open door. Easy as pie. He shrugged his bag onto his shoulder as she headed outside to the smoker’s pit in the side lot of the high school. There were always a few people lingering around: burnouts, loners, stoners. He took out the pack of Marlboro Blacks, placing the cigarette between his lips as he lit it with a white lighter shortly after. He nodded towards a duo that was sitting at the old green picnic table. FP slouched against the wall, flicking the ashes away from him.

A forest green Volvo wagon pulled into the parking lot, the brakes creaking and the engine making a slight whining noise. FP glanced over seeing the car park in its regular spot.  He raised his hand to his mouth, inhaling the nicotine, pushing himself off of the brick wall and wandered over in the direction of the car. He opened the driver’s side door once he was in arm’s reach, holding onto the frame of the door.

“You need your brakes fixed, and someone to look at the engine.”

Alice got her bag from the passenger’s seat, stepping out of the car as she glanced at FP with a unimpressed look. “I’m aware.” She replied, closing the car door. She had a free first period.

“I can look at it for you, you know.” FP suggested. “Fred and I fixed up the bus and it’s been smooth sailing since the summer.”

Alice breathed a stiff laugh. “And what do you call it? The Shaggin’ Wagon ?” She asked. “How’s the success rate for you?”

FP licked his lips as he half smiled at her, taking another drag of his cigarette. “Good boys don’t kiss and tell, Ali.”

She rolled her eyes, starting in the direction of the school. “What did I tell you about calling me Ali? That’s not my name. And you know I absolutely hate it.”

“I’ve been calling you that since we were nine. What makes you think I’m going to change my ways now?” FP looked at her as he met her stride. Alice was always a quick walker; she always had somewhere to be.

“Perhaps because we aren’t nine anymore, FP. We’re practically adults and a name like Alice is taken more seriously.”

FP laughed. “Right. Alice sounds like the name of a ninety-four year old grandmother that sits around all day knitting her grandchildren socks.” He held out his cigarette to Alice but she pushed his hand away. “Now you don’t smoke either? We start senior year and now you’re a whole different person?”

“I’m trying to get into a nice college so I can get away from this place.” Alice stopped before the stairs, turning around to look at the tall dark haired boy. “I quit after Hal and I got back together. So no, I don’t smoke anymore and neither should you. You’re going to die when you’re forty.”

His shoulders shrugged, running his fingers through his hair. “I’m going to hell anyways, sooner the better.”

Alice shook her head, going up the concrete stairs to the school. “Ali.” FP called. She stopped and turned back around, raising a brow at FP. He had a teasing smirk lining his lips. “You looked. That’s your name.”

“Fuck off, FP.”

His smirk transformed into a grin and he let out a deep chuckle. Alice yanked opened the door and let it fall close behind her. “Ali, Ali, Ali…” FP murmured to himself. He flicked the burnt out cigarette onto the pavement and headed back inside just as the bell rang.

The hallways filled the students with hundreds of conversations floating through the air. FP made his way through the crowds and went to Fred’s locker. “Who’s looking like top dollar today, Freddie? Is it Samantha Applebaum, Carrie Willcott or Vanessa Adams?” FP tipped his head to the side as Samantha wandered by, her skirt hiked up just enough to let the imagine run wild.

Fred turned around to take a look, shaking his head. “She’s dating Royce Yates.”

“And Royce Yates is also dating six Vixens.” FP replied. Fred made a face. “You don’t hear the locker room talk, Freddie, it’s a whole other world. Speaking of which, practice until forty-thirty then I’ll swing over to jam.”

Fred shut his locker, adjusting his maths book. “I think I’m heading to Pop’s with Mary after school.”

FP groaned. “Again? Really Fred, Mary Williams? You’re in a band now! There are so many more chicks you could go for.” They had their next class together, FP kept in time with Fred as they walked. “Take, for example, the Brookwood twins: Malorie and Valerie.”

The two platinum blonde girls held their books to their chest as they walked down the middle of the hallway. Head’s always turned when they strutted through the school and you’d be lying if you said you never had a crush on the both of them. A group of boys moved out of the way, calling out to the girls.

“Malorie and Valerie?” Fred laughed but did watch the girls as well, it was hard not to.

“Hi FP.” Both girls said in unison as they passed by them.

FP smirked, nodding to them. “Malorie. Valerie.” He greeted. Valerie turned back to glance at FP, flashing him a quick coy smile before turning down the hall with her sister. Fred shook his head, starting to walk again. “As your best friend, I can ask Valerie if her and her sister would like to double date.”

“I see how supportive you are being.”

“I’m just trying to help you out. Mary…. Or Malorie. Mary… Malorie.” FP pretended to weigh the options but he was being biased. Fred ignored him which wasn’t uncommon, going into the classroom. Fred took his seat in the back of the class and FP followed, sitting on top of the desk next to him. “Listen Freddie Andrews, it’s our last year here and I need you to have fun, not be locked down.”

“Who says I’m not having fun?” Fred asked. “Starting the Fredheads was probably the best idea we’ve ever had.”

“Exactly!” FP exclaimed. “So live your senior life to the fullest, don’t let Mary tie you down.”

Fred’s brows furrowed as he looked over at his friend. “You realize we’re not even dating.”

“Doesn’t matter--”

“-- Get off your desk, Mr Jones.” The classroom door shut as their maths teacher, Ms. Shawson, wandered into the classroom. “Don’t make me tell you again.”

“You look nice today, Miss.” FP slid off the desk and into his seat. “Is that a new haircut? No, definitely a new blouse.”

Ms Shawson was an attractive woman and there was usually a student complimenting her daily. And she was a decent teacher even if the subject was unappealing. She set her belongings down onto the desk, giving FP a flat smile. “How kind of you for noticing, Mr Jones.”

“Of course, Miss. Anytime.”

FP leaned back in his seat, twirling the pencil between his fingers as attendance was being taken. His eyes scanned around the classroom. He noticed Alice hadn’t shown up yet. That was odd. Then again, she was part of student council and ran the poor kept Blue and Gold. That was going to be extinct soon enough. Alice could get out of class whenever she wanted and it wouldn’t make a dent in her student records. Alice was the smartest person that FP knew and he wasn’t even sure why she was still in Riverdale when she could be in a place that thrived with her.

“Thank you for joining us, Alice. Please get ready for the quiz, you have two minutes left to study.”

Alice sat herself in the desk diagonal from FP, in front of Fred. She appeared to be slightly flustered; her hair pulled back which meant serious business. His gaze lingered on Alice for a few moments as she skimmed over her notes.

Ms. Shawson came by with the quiz paper, placing it face down on FP’s desk. “Focused, Mr Jones?”

FP looked up at Ms Shawson, giving her a crooked smile. He flipped over his paper as she started on the next row of students. In all honesty, FP wasn’t that great at math, but he had to keep it up so he wouldn’t get kicked off the football team. He had appearances and an image to maintain. So keeping himself at that sixty percent average was a long term goal.

“You have twenty minutes. There are three sections: short answer, long answer and multiple choices. No cheating, try your best.” Ms Shawson set a timer on her desk. “Begin.” She glanced over her students as their heads looked down at their papers. She sat at her desk, beginning to mark other assignments.

FP tapped his pencil against his desk as he looked over the quiz. He was annoyed, when in life was he going to need to know about exponential growth and decay? How the hell am I passing this class? The time was winding down quickly and FP scribbled down some answers, colouring in the bubbles. The buzzer went off. FP wrote his name on top of the page before getting up to hand in his work. The line of students moved lazily, dropping off their papers into the basket on the desk. Alice placed her into the basket, turning around sharply and smacked into FP’s chest.

“Watch it, Ali.” He gently grabbed her arm. “You good?”

“Fine.” She brushed passed him, going back to her desk to prepare for the lesson. He handed in his quiz, walking back down the aisle to his desk.

Before he knew it, the class had ended and everyone was barging their way out of the classroom. Alice was the first one to slip out. “She okay?” Fred asked as he got up.

“Who knows. Come on.” FP patted Fred’s shoulder as they left the classroom.

“Well, look who decided to show up.”

FP wandered into the locker room after the last bell of the day, gym bag hanging off his shoulder. He raised a brow at Royce Yates. “Excuse me?” He went over to his locker, juggling the lock before tugging it open.

“You’re late. Coach was asking where you were.”

FP looked at the clock on the far wall. “It’s 2:34… Practice doesn’t start for another ten minutes.”

 

Royce shrugged. “Maybe you’re fired as captain.”

FP unzipped his bag and went ahead to change into his pads and practice uniform, shoving Royce into the lockers before walking to their coach’s office. FP knocked on the door as Coach Powell was finishing writing on the whiteboard. “Coach?”

“Jones.” Coach Powell was a burly man, tall like a tree. He capped the dry erase marker and turned to look at his star player. “Friday’s going to be a big night.”

FP nodded. “First rivalry game of the season.”

“Correct.” Powell pointed at FP. “And we’re going to have to go for gold, all your focus needs to be on this game. Baxter High won’t go down without a fight.” That was figuratively and literally. At a game last season, one of the running backs from Baxter High had gotten into a fight with Floyd Clayton which caused the benches to clear. Clayton left with a black eye and the other guy was bruised like a peach.

“There’s going to be scouts out there, Jones, all season. Some from big schools. And they’re going to be looking at you.”

FP nodded again. The thought of facing Baxter High wasn’t an issue. There would be a lot of shit talk and harassing, but the thought of scouts being there… That was a huge deal. A scholarship was a ticket out of Riverdale and would plunge FP into a new world. It was a unfathomable opportunity.

“Remember, this is your team. They listen to you. Get theirs head in line.” Powell patted the side of FP’s arm. “Get to the field.”

No pressure at all.

Before heading out, FP grabbed his water bottle and his helmet. He jogged out to the field, circling up his teammates as Coach started to go over the drills. It felt like an extra-long practice. FP hit the showers after. He was usually the last one to leave, putting on his letterman’s jacket. His mind continued to linger on the scouts that were arriving in two day’s time. He figured he’d talk to Fred about it when he wasn’t rendezvousing with Mary. Pushing open the doors, FP left the school and headed to the back parking lot to his old rusty blue pickup truck. He spotted Alice at her own car, leaning against the driver’s side with an irked expression painted across her face.

“Still here?” He called out to her.

Alice looked over, presenting an even more annoyed eye roll. “I was busy with the paper and now my car won’t start.”

FP tried not to laugh. “How am I not surprised.”

“Shut it.” Alice hissed. “I called a tow truck from the payphone.”

“When?”

“An hour ago.”

“If I offer to drive you home, are you going to accept it?” FP asked, brushing back some of his damp hair. Alice looked over at him, arms crossed with a firm face still. “Or you can wait here for another hour.”

Alice opened the car door and took out her bag. “Let’s go, Jones.”

FP got out his keys as they crossed the parking lot to his truck. Alice’s home was slightly out of the way but he honestly didn’t mind driving her to the Southside. Their relationship was always a little up and down. They met when they were kids by chance of being in the same grade school class. He teased her, she hit him and it had commenced their unconventional friendship. He always had Alice’s back when the boys would get under her skin but she was a tough girl and hardly took anyone’s bullshit, including his own.

“Where did you ask to get it towed to?”

“Home.” Alice replied.

FP glanced over as they idled at a red light. “Want me to look at it tomorrow?”

She shook her head, “My dad will look at it if it gets here tonight.”

Sometime he didn’t understand why Alice wouldn’t let other people help her. It wasn’t like he was jumping hurdles for her, fixing cars was something he was interested in. But he let it go, turning up the radio slightly to mask the silence. Alice started to hum along to the music as the light turned green and FP pressed down on the gas. He smiled to himself; he knew she was a sucker for Cheap Trick.

The song ended just as FP rolled up in front of Alice’s home. “Let me know if you need anything.” FP placed his arm along the back of the bench seat. “Do you need a ride in the morning?”

“You realize I have a boyfriend, right? Hal?” Alice reminded him. FP looked away, resisting an eye roll. “Don’t start this again.”

“Start what?”

Alice gave him a look but FP knew exactly what she was speaking about. They had an argument in the summer about Hal when she and him were briefly broken up. He wasn’t worth her time; FP had said that to her a million and a half times sober and drunk.

“I’m not saying anything.”

“As you shouldn’t.” Alice unbuckled her seatbelt and pushed opened the squeaky door. She jumped out, taking her backpack with her. “Thanks for the ride.”

“Don’t mention it.” FP replied, his tone had slight edge to it. Nonetheless, he gave Alice a half smile as he placed both hands back onto the steering wheel.

The truck door swung close. Alice slung her bag over her shoulder as she unlocked the front door to her home and disappeared inside. FP shifted the gear into drive, making a U-turn to head back Northside.

When Friday rolled around, the school was buzzing with the excitement of the first rivalry football game of the season. The Vixens were all in their yellow and blue uniforms, strutting down the hallway; ponytails swinging and poms poms shaking in the air to get the students going. It was a write off of a day when all anyone wanted to do was sit in the bleachers and watch their team destroy the Baxter High Ravens. FP sat slouched over on a bench in the locker room. Music was blaring through the speakers with the kicker rallying up the boys. FP finished tightening and tying his cleats as Coach Powell came into the room.

“Big game tonight, boys.” Coach Powell clapped his mitten hands together. “Stay focused, be a team, and listen to your captain.” A few people gazed over to FP’s direction as he peaked between his dark hairs in front of his eyes. He could hear Royce muttering ‘for now’ under his breath to another teammate who snickered. “Get on out there!”

There was a scramble to grab water bottles and helmets as the team started to jog out the double doors to the field. FP got up from the bench, taking his own helmet and closed the locker door. “Let’s go, Jones.” He prepped himself. Another moment later and FP was jogging out. The bleachers were packed shoulder to shoulder with students, parents and the rival school. There was shouting and cheering, signs and banners. No wonder why they called Riverdale the town with pep. The Bulldogs were already in a huddle as FP joined, listening to the final rundown from Powell before the group broke and went out to the field.

FP wandered up to the referee for the coin toss. On his left side was Floyd Clayton and the right was Ricky Mantle. They were greeted by three Ravens.

“Jones.” The Raven’s captain smirked at FP. “Ready for an ass kicking?”

FP laughed, adjusting his helmet under his arm. “All talk, McKay. Need we to reminder of last season?”

“Gentlemen.” The referee cut in, looking between the two captains. “Someone call it.”

“Tails.” McKay called as the coin flipped in the air.

FP kept his eyes on his opponent, waiting for the results. “Tails it is, Ravens get first ball.”

“Remember to keep your head up, Jones.” McKay words had a tinge of warning to him as he pulled on his helmet. He turned, running off to his team.

FP ran his tongue along his front teeth, turning around to walk back to the bench. “Go for his knees, Ricky.” He told the lineman. Ricky nodded, patting FP’s arm before joining the defensive line. He sat on the bench next to one of the assistant coaches, looking over the clipboard as the game started. Fred stood with Mary in the bleachers and down in front of them was Alice with her book and pen, taking down notes to write up for the Blue and Gold.

The start of the first quarter was dominated by the Ravens. Coach Powell was shouting from the sidelines, already stressed out. By chance, the Raven’s fumbled the ball and Ricky Mantle got it just in time to run five yards before being tackled. Bulldogs possession. “Get out there, Jones!” Powell instructed, clapping his hands. “Let’s go!”

FP put on his helmet as he went out into the game. “We know they’re game play, we know their tactics. They’re going to go right nine out of ten times so you block on the right and I’ll throw left. One will come through the middle, block him. Got it?”

Their circle broke, everyone lining up in their positions. FP took his place behind the center, calling out the play before the ball was snapped back to him. His eyes scanned around as the two teams formed into one cluster. Floyd Clayton was wide open on the left just like FP expected. His arm lounged back and shot forward with the ball spinning in a perfect spiral. Clayton caught it, cradling the ball as be began to sprint down the field. First down, the end zone insight. Another snap of the ball, a quick pass and the Bulldogs scored the first touchdown of the game.

By halftime they were tied at 21. And by the end of the third quarter, they were still squared up. The time was winding down in the fourth quarter; the Riverdale Bulldogs will possession of the ball. It was starting to mist, the grass slippery. FP gripped the ball as she searched for an opening. Royce Yates was guarded by one man but he was quick and fierce. FP pointed for him to go right. Royce deeked out the Ravens player before he was wide open and FP the ball to him. Royce’s cleats dug into the ground as he ran and within the matter of moments he was in the end zone. The crowd erupted with cheers and excitement that it was almost deafening. FP was relieved, letting his head fall back as Clayton and Mantle attacked him out of pure joy and testosterone.

There was high fives all around, and even though Royce and FP didn’t see eye to eye they were cordial when it came to wins. The Ravens had emptied their side of the field.

“Hey, FP.” One of the Vixen’s caught his attention as he started to the locker room. “Victory party tonight at my place. Coming?”

FP wasn’t shy about taking a once over of her, nodding. “Without a question.”

She smiled flirtatiously, tapping his chest with her matching blue nails. “See you then.”

He watched as she moved her hips strategically in a swaying motion as she walked away to rejoin the other girls. Victory win all around. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Alice collecting her things. “Hey dollface, does the star reporter want a quote from the star football player?”

Alice straightened up, looking at FP. A slow smirk appeared on her lips. “You know, I should go get a quote from Royce. He did get the game winning touchdown after all.” His eyes narrowed at Alice, unimpressed with her tease. “What’s wrong, FP? You can’t always be the superstar.”

“My ego is suffering.”

She laughed, tucking her notebook and pen into her bag. “You’re a big boy, you can handle it.”

“Mhmm.” He hummed. “Come to the party tonight.”

“With you?”

He shrugged. “If you want.”

Alice’s attention move behind him seeing Hal waiting with a scowl on his face. “I have a date. So if you’ll excuse me.”

“Well when your date finishes early, stop by the party.”

She waved him off, brushing past him and over to Hal. Hal placed his arms around Alice’s shoulders, eying FP carefully. FP flashed him an amused grin almost chuckling to himself. Shaking his head, FP headed to the locker room to change.

He was ready for a few beers.