“Where the hell are you putting all of that?” David laughed, softly as he watched Legacy wolf down a stack of pancakes. They’d taken a walk had stopped for breakfast, or in Legacy’s case, a second breakfast.
“Don’t look at me all judgy,” she mumbled with a mouthful of food. She chased it with a swig of coffee and choked, “So, are we going to talk about it?”
“Yes,” he nodded sympathetically, reaching across for her hand. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted to talk about it but I’m here for you, you know that.”
“Not Amanda, dumbass. I’m talking about the real reason you cut out on your shindig tonight.”
“You were in trouble.” David protested.
“Mah!,” Legacy barked her best game show buzzer sound. “Try again.”
“Legacy, come on…”
“No, you come on. What’s your deal?”
David took a long, a really long sip of coffee, and squeezed the bridge of his nose before answering. “I don’t have a deal… I just wasn’t all that excited about going. Every other city I’ve been too this past month was so great. What is it they say? A prophet is never welcome in his hometown? The closer I got the more my hands started to sweat.”
“What did they say when you canceled?”
“Haven’t called yet. The store opens at 10. My promoters are going try to talk me out of canceling so I’m calling them myself.”
“Or…” Legacy drawled, “we get back in your rental car and go. It’s a 5-hour drive, 6 at the worst. Nothing bad is gonna happen and I’ll go with you.”
“You have your own stuff. Don’t worry about me. Anyway, I’ll be able to reschedule it.”
“Yeah but you won’t. You’re chickeshit and a fraud,” she shocked him with her harsh statement.
“Sorry, but if you don’t do this, that’s exactly what you are. You, who is always going on about overcoming failure and doing what scares you. You should read your own book. I wonder what advice you would give you.”
“Have you read it?” He challenged.
“Of course I did, twice,” she smirked. “It’s brilliant but a huge waste if you don’t see this through.”
“I wrote about some dark stuff, about growing up dead ass poor, and quitting football, and leaving school. All true but it’s not all stuff people want me writing a book about.”
“You didn’t air out anyone’s dirty laundry but your own.”
“No, but I make it sound like there’s something wrong with growing up in a trailer park.”
“No, you make it sound like it was hard growing up in that trailer park. It sounds like a real craphole.”
” It was. It is. But the people that lived there… most of them anyway, were hard-working people.”
“And, some of them weren’t. Some of them didn’t know enough to want something better than molding walls and nearly freezing to death because of the holes in the floors.”
“You did read it!”
“I told you I did, but you told us all of that before. No one should have to live like that.”
“Well, we did and if you read the book, you know what it’s not about.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Anytime I go home all anyone wants to talk about is football. They want to talk about double overtime in the playoffs and national championships, and how I was robbed of the Heisman, which by the way I wasn’t. This book is about my life before and after football, not football.”
“You are the hometown hero. You can’t blame them for wanting to relive it”
“It’s stupid. It was over a decade ago. And I didn’t become what they wanted me to be.”
“No, you didn’t. You became something more. Don’t you see? That is your superpower. You had a gift that was taken away from you but instead of making excuses like a lot of other people do, you turned that energy into something else. That’s the kind of example that changes people’s lives a hell of a lot more than double overtime and Heisman Trophy’s. But you already know this!”
David quietly considered what she said. He did know. It was the reason he’d written the book in the first place, the reason he did everything and he’d gotten a little rich and little famous because of it. Some people, his people, might not appreciate that. The people he’d left behind thought he was a traitor. Fortunately, the rest of the planet saw it differently. “You’re pretty smart for ditzy dress designer.”
“Well, you’re a big dumb jock what do you know?”
David smiled, ” You really think you should go?”
“Yes, yes I do. I think you should face those ghosts and realize they’re not that scary. And I think you need to make your decision quickly so we can get going.”
He shook his head, still not convinced. “When was the last time you went home?”
“Don’t turn this on me.” Legacy began to get defensive.
“I’m not. All I’m saying is that you know how hard it is.” David reminded her.
Legacy nodded. “I do. But people don’t show up at a book signing to heckle the author. Anyone who shows up has probably already read it.”
“You’ll be surprised. There will be people standing in line with my college jersey wanting me to sign it. ”
“That doesn’t surprise me. I bleed blue and gold too, remember? I was a fan before I was your friend. When I found out that Carrie was going to get to meet you on your stupid reality show, I was so jealous.”
“Really?” David crinkled his nose.
“You are the reason I love football!”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Well, because of my dad really. I got stuck having to go to his house on weekends and it was always on. WVU on Saturdays, the Steelers on Sundays. By the time you came along, I was watching on my own, out of habit more than anything. But you were… superhuman. I was sad when you left college early but it’s a good thing you did.”
“I know.,” He’d played just one season with the Chargers. Well, ‘played’ was an exaggeration. He wore the uniform and warmed the bench, which was fine. He was a 20-year-old kid who’d been lucky enough to be there at all. He had to earn his place on the field. He’d played a half in one game of the regular season. In the off season, he developed a blood clot in his lung. The team had no choice but to release him but they’d honored his contract and he’d earned a paycheck for 2 more years. “I miss it every day. I think that’s why I don’t want to go back and relive it. I’m so grateful for everything I’ve been able to do…”
“Like move your parents into a nice house?”
“Yeah, like that. But I play football in my dreams. Literally, when I’m sleeping, it’s so vivid I can smell it. I don’t want to go down memory lane with strangers.”
“What about with people who know you?”
“Not them either. If I’d have been about to play out a full career and been as good as everyone said I would be, then maybe. Somehow, I think that would have been okay with everyone but when I decided to find success and be something outside of the box I was supposed to fit into, they all acted like I was some kind of a traitor.”
“Who did that?”
“Everyone. You’ve seen my parent’s house. It’s in a nice, safe neighborhood but it’s not far from where we used to live. My mom will run into people we’ve known forever and they won’t speak to her. They all act like we think we were better; like we turned on them.”
“Okay,” Legacy said carefully. “I’m about to step in it but I don’t care.”
“I’m the only one who seems willing to pick the Brittney scab.”
“This has nothing to do with her.”
“Yes, it does. You didn’t turn your back on anyone but you think you did.”
“What! Why don’t you just say it?”
David sat for a long time quietly staring at his plate. He picked up his fork once or twice and Legacy just waited.
“I abandoned her okay?” David continued to push bites off food around his plate, his jaw tight, refusing to look up. Legacy yanked the fork from his hand and took both of his hands in hers.
David continued. He knew that Carrie had already told Legacy long ago about all of this. It wasn’t Headline News but he’d never said any of this out loud to Legacy.
“I was supposed to go back for her. I was supposed to get her out and I let football get in the way. And by the time I went back she had married my best friend.”
“For God sake. You were 20 years old and football was the way out. She gave up on you, David not the other way around.”
“Maybe,” David shrugged, taking his hands away, picking a piece of mushroom out of his omelet, studying it like it was the most interesting thing he’d ever seen.
“Do they still live in a shitty trailer park?”
“No, Matt works for one of the cable companies or something. He’s some kind of a technician, I dunno know. He can’t be making a lot of money but it’s enough that they don’t have to live like that anymore.”
“What does she do?”
“I don’t really know. They have a kid. A little boy. I only know this much because our 10-year reunion was 2 years and it was on the Facebook group.”
“Were there pictures?”
“Did she look happy?”
“She didn’t look unhappy.”
“Well then…? Seems to me like you can let this go.”
“Said the pot to the kettle.” David winked, finally looking up at her.
“My baggage is different. And my life wasn’t as hard as yours.,” Legacy insisted.
“I don’t know. I think about that sometimes, about how much easier you and Carrie had it. But Carrie’s mom died and your dad left. I grew up with two parents who love me and who love each other and who did their best. I don’t think that I would trade with you. And I definitely wouldn’t trade with Carrie.”
Legacy shook her head in agreement. “Your mom and dad gonna be there?”
“Yeah,” he nodded, sadly.
“That settles it then. We are not letting Jack and Lydia Troy down. Eat your eggs. It’s a long drive.”