In the Middle: Ch. 8

Brad started drinking the night his father left, the night of the homecoming game.

I remember Brad was so excited for the game that night. He didn’t seem nervous, even though everyone knew he was the star player and it was one of the biggest games the team would have all year. If they lost, Brad would most likely be blamed. And on top of that, there’d been rumors scouts were planning to appear to offer scholarships to the best players.

But Brad didn’t seem to mind the pressure at all.

“Save a seat for my dad,” he told me when I spoke to him before the game started. I was dressed in our school colors, navy and green, my t-shirt broadcasting Brad’s jersey number. “He said he’d be coming tonight.”

“Of course,” I said, trying to hide my surprise.

Over the summer, Brad’s dad had confessed to having an affair with one of his clients, Elena Ross. His parents were trying to work things out, but they’d been fighting a lot lately. Most nights, Brad’s father wouldn’t even come home, and if he did, he was usually drunk. I expected if his father did show, he probably wouldn’t show up sober.

I was right.

His dad showed up with a few minutes left on the clock, smelling like a distillery, his eyes red and glazed. He took the seat beside me without a word, staring straight at the field. His head bobbed and he kept shifting in his seat, as if it were taking all of his effort to stay in one place.

“How’s he doing?” his dad asked.

“We’re winning. Thanks to Brad, as usual.”

“Yeah, he’s a good boy.” He cleared his throat. “You’ll take good care of him won’t you? And his mother?”

“What?” I asked.

“I’m leaving tonight. Elena’s pregnant.”

“Wait. What?”

The crowd jumped up in a chorus of cheers. I snapped my attention to the field, and saw Brad being hoisted up by his teammates who were cheering for him. I saw him look toward the stand, saw his smile broaden and saw the thumbs-up he shot me and his dad.

I hoped he couldn’t see the expression of shock and fear written all over my face.

His dad stood up, and clapped a hand on my shoulder. “You’ll tell him for me, won’t you? It’ll soften the blow, coming from you.”

I looked up at his father, speechless. 

“Well, it was good seeing you, Sarah. Take good care of him, you hear?”

His rough and clammy hand gave my shoulder a final squeeze just as the final buzzer signaled the end of the game. I watched him stumble his way through the crowd, and disappear, leaving me to pick up the broken pieces of a life he left behind.

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