Recently, Write2Ignite held a fall-themed short story contest for writers of young adult fiction. We are pleased to announce that our winner is “H2O-CO” by Gayle Veitenheimer! Please visit Gayle’s Facebook page here and enjoy her story below:
Squeals and giggles pierced the fall evening, grating against Greta’s ears. She frowned. Mallory Johnson had attached herself to Brett Mabry. One arm wove around his bulging bicep. The other arm draped over his shoulder pads. Homecoming was three weeks away. Candy, flowers, and poster board signs appeared at random moments as guys courted dates for the upcoming dance. Brett was prime Ho-Co material, and the cheerleader was marking the team’s star receiver for herself.
Greta sighed. Why did a water girl like her always fall for the guys the cheerleaders picked? Her life felt like a Taylor Swift song. Mallory caught her glance and glared. As Greta’s fists clenched, the squeeze bottle in her hand shot an icy blast into her eyes and nose. She spluttered and coughed. Wiping her face on her sleeve, Greta tucked wet strands of hair back in her ponytail. She caught Brett’s stare from the corner of her eye as Mallory pointed and laughed. Smooth, Greta.
Cheeks burning, Greta refilled the bottle and set it on the bench. She opened the cooler, wishing she could crawl in and disappear. Need more ice. She grabbed the handle and hauled the rusty metal beast to the ice machine in the field house.
Scoop. Dump. Scoop. Dump.
Cleats clicked on concrete as the team filed out to the field.
She grinned as players greeted her and grabbed pieces of ice before warm-up.
“Good luck, guys.” She raised a fist. “Go get ‘em.”
One by one, they fist-bumped her back. “Thanks, Water Girl.”
She tugged the handle of the ice chest. It scooted a few inches before grinding to a halt. When would the booster club invest in some new coolers? Some with wheels?
“Need some help?” Brett’s blue eyes stared down at her.
She tripped and almost fell. “No, I’m good. Thanks.”
“I’ve got it. Here, hold this.” He pushed a red helmet toward her. She clutched it as Brett took a firm grip and pulled. The cooler slid obediently behind him. Stupid cooler. She gave it a death look.
“By the trainer’s table?”
“No problem.” Brett placed a hand on her shoulder.
She jumped. Why did she have the jitters?
“Mabry! Get over here!”
“Yes, sir.” Brett rolled his eyes. “Sorry, gotta’ go.”
She smiled and nodded.
Her hands were sweating.
“Can I have my helmet back?”
Greta shoved the helmet toward Brett and wiped her hands on her jeans. “Good luck.”
Mallory’s voice echoed behind her. “Good luck, Brett. I know you’ll do great. See you after the game.”
Greta wanted to gag. Instead, she continued her prep. Water bottles. Full. Ice. Check. Gatorade. Ice packs for the trainers. More coolers in the locker room for halftime. Check. Check. Check.
Tonight’s game pitted Greta’s school, Central High, against crosstown rival, Northside. As the season wound down, both teams held perfect records.
Someone was going down tonight. Her boys were ready.
Pads smacked. Sweat flew. Players battled for yardage. Greta and her partner, Wendy, sprinted onto the field for each timeout and worked the sidelines in-between, taking encouragement and Gatorade to the thirsty boys.
“You got this. Hold ‘em, D.”
Northside scored as the buzzer signaled the end of the second quarter. Greta winced as a coach chewed out the safety. Down by six, the team trudged to the locker room.
Greta prepped for the second half. Taunts of “Water Girl” pelted her like ice cubes. The cheerleading squad snickered while Mallory acted out Greta’s icy face wash. A touch at Greta’s elbow startled her.
“Hey, Greta. Can I get an ice pack?”
She plunged a hand into the cooler before those blue eyes could undo her again.
“I’m fine. It’s for Jake. Catch ya’ after the game, okay?” Brett held up a fist, and Greta bumped it. He winked and trotted back to the locker room.
Her knees buckled, and Greta sank into the bench.
Wendy gave her a look. “I saw that.”
The crisp fall evening suddenly felt very warm.
“Don’t get any ideas, Water Girl.” Pompoms swished, and Mallory brushed past her with a flick of her skirt.
Greta picked up a fully loaded water bottle.
Count to ten.
1, 2, 3, . . .
She put it back in the tray at around 7, 8, 9.
Fans cheered and cowbells rattled as Central kicked off to Northside. The Central defense held firm. Greta sighed in relief. For two more quarters, the teams fought for every inch. With three minutes to go, the score was tied. Central had the ball, and the quarterback led the offense in a steady march down the field. Greta tried not to bite her nails. Brett ran a post route but the quarterback took a hit as he released the ball. Pass incomplete. Greta’s heart sank. The clock read less than a minute to go. The running back broke loose for a first down. The coach called a timeout. Greta and Wendy grabbed the water bottles and rushed onto the field. They circled the boys as Coach talked the offense through their final push.
Back on the sidelines, Greta paced, scanning the line for Brett. Surely they would run that pass play again. The quarterback dropped back. Brett darted forward then cut toward the goalpost. Was this it? The ball sprang from the quarterback’s hand. And found Brett’s. He tucked the ball and dove for the end zone.
Greta and Wendy screamed and hugged. They high-fived the guys on the sideline before meeting the incoming offense with some Gatorade. The kicking team headed out, and the kicker booted the extra point.
5-4-3-2-1! Fans swarmed the field. The teams shook hands, and coaches corralled their players for a few final words.
Greta hung back as the celebration began. She collected the water bottles and packed each one in its tray. She bit her lip. Mallory stood by Brett. Whatever. Tears blurred her eyes. She made some extra ice packs for the trainers, then stared down the heavy cooler. She stooped to grab the handle when the toe of a cleat came into view.
She followed the cleat up past a sweaty sock, a grass-stained uniform and into her favorite pair of blue eyes.
“I think you missed one.” Brett held out a plastic pink water bottle.
“No I didn’t. I always count, and we don’t have . . . any . . . pink . . .”
“Greta, here!” Brett thrust the water bottle at her.
It was wrapped in poster board:
HEY WATER GIRL,
TAKE A TIMEOUT
AND COME TO
H2O-CO WITH ME.
Homecoming? Brett Mabry was asking her to Homecoming?
“Well?” Brett leaned forward.
Greta beamed. “I’d love to. Thanks.”
A lady yelled and waved from the bleachers. Brett groaned. “That’s my mom. She’s dying to get a picture. Do you mind?”
“Not at all.” Greta clutched her sign and the precious pink water bottle. Together they smiled and toasted their Gatorade while Brett’s mom captured the moment.
Greta returned to the waiting ice chest.
“Need some help?”
They each grabbed a handle and headed for the grass to dump the ice. Funny. This time it didn’t seem heavy at all.