And the game surely begins.
The sun is high in the sky and bits off dirt and grass are torn out of the field every time the ball is kicked towards the goals. I am (as well as three other guys) a defender, and it means that my job is to keep the attackers from the other team from getting close to our goal. My small size does not do me good in this position, and neither does my lack of soccer skills.
“Stewart!” Our goal keeper, David Cochran, shouts after about fifteen minutes, and it takes me less than a second to react. I spin around, turning my back to our goal and Cochran. The opposite team has gotten hold of the ball so quickly, that I did not have to time catch up. Marcus Cooper is sprinting after the blond haired guy with the ball - but the blond appears to be faster and is headed directly towards our goal. As I closer to him, I can tell the three other defenders are following.
What happens next, happens fast. In my attempt of preventing the player from scoring, I get in close physical contact with him, and the next thing I feel is the back of my head hitting the ground hard.
All sound fades, and for some seconds I lie on the ground, eyes shut and a heavy grogginess weighing me down.
“Barbara!” A concerned male voice sounds like a distant cry, but when a hand slips under the back of my head, I understand that the voice is not distant - I am. Someone lifts my head lightly, before moving a hand to my back and helping me up in a sitting position.
I let my eyes flutter open.
“You okay?” Marcus Cooper asks kindly. His brows are furrowed.
“Yeah,” I breathe, but I feel light-headed.
The guy who accidentally gave me a too hard shoulder push, is now slowly walking closer to me. His hands are dug down in the pockets of his shorts and his eyes are turned to the ground in shame.
“Hey, I just… Man, I’m sorry,” his gaze flickers to mine shortly, before he looks away again.
“It’s okay,” I assure him in a faint voice.
“You sure?” Marcus demands and looks to the blond guy and then back to me.
I nod and let my heavy lids cover my eyes until there all can see is a dark red colour.
“Heyhey,” Marcus’ voice raises a little, “don’t shut your eyes.”
I want to sigh loudly at his unexpected concern. I can shut my eyes without drifting off into eternal sleep. Actually I am quite positive that shutting my eyes will help on the headache that is starting to cut through my brain.
And there the voice is. At any other given moment, I would have jumped up on both feet and tried to act casually fine - but truth is that I feel too exhausted to do so. Soccer is not that exhausting, so maybe, just maybe, the hit to my head was harder than I thought.
I can hear his footsteps getting closer.
“We should get her to the nurse,” he then says and I can feel the corners of my lips pull slightly upwards. Is he concerned?
Marcus Cooper agrees and I can feel him place his free hand (the one not supporting my back) under my bent legs.
“No-no, I’ve got it,” Harry stops Marcus and for a second a dead silence falls around us. It takes some time before Marcus supposedly agrees and lets Harry be the one to help me. Had I felt just a little less light-headed, I would have smiled like an idiot - and when Harry slips an arm under my knees and my back, I instead do what I am capable of; I breathe in deeply and let him lift me from the ground easily.
I can feel the sun burning against my face as Harry, with much ease, carries me across the field. With his every step I am lifted a little higher and then fall back down again. He is trying to be careful, and I want to insist that I can walk myself - I probably can if I try, but there is a particular comfort in being held by him. A comfort that I do not want to let go of.
“That was one bloody hit,” he then speaks and I am positive that his eyes rest on me for a second. My neck is starting to ache from the way I am holding up my head. I could let it fall down, but I am not sure that I want him to see me so weak. I could also rest it against his collarbone, but I do not want to seem dependent on him.
“Mmhm,” I mumble quietly.
“You sure you’re okay?”
After that he falls silent and I am now only focused on two things:
His arms holding me and the sounds that appear around us, as I try to make out which way we are going.