“Touchdown!” My hands raised in a goal post celebration as I watched the girl I love catch the perfect pass I’d thrown, and run five more yards into the endzone, number forty-five hot on her heels. She didn’t even seem nervous.
Just as she spiked the ball in celebration, the enormous cornerback hit her from behind with all the momentum and force of a freight train. She hit the ground and didn’t move.
I ripped my helmet off as I ran, desperate to reach her. The field was in pandemonium as coaches and referees and players rushed forward.
The refs had no excuse this time. The call was obvious from the other side of the stadium. Targeting. Forty-five was ejected from the game. A little late now! I wanted to scream at that referee. I wanted to beat the tar out of that bully. I wanted to get to my Jonnie.
Never had thirty-five yards seemed so long. My legs were pulling through molasses for how slow they were moving.
Several other players and one referee had reached her faster than me and were crouched or knelt by her side. I wanted to push them out of the way so I could get to her.
“Is she okay?” I fell to my knees near her head, where she lay still, her helmet on, and her left arm tucked under her in an unnatural position. The only comfort in her being unconscious was that she couldn’t feel that dislocated shoulder—yet.
No one dared move her in case she had a neck injury, until the team doctors from both sides of the field were there and they rolled her carefully onto a board, stabilizing her head and neck.
I was vaguely aware of Logan’s arms, and other players around me, and Aiden quietly praying somewhere nearby, and ambulance sirens, and people everywhere, and Jonnie’s mom and dad, and people rushing around, and the Gator rushing forward, and her being lifted onto the back, and the team and I running after it, meeting the ambulance at the back gate.
The medics had her onto a gurney in mere seconds and I could no longer see her as they turned to wheel her away.
“Jonnie!” I called out in one last ditch effort to somehow reach her.
“Skyler,” a weak voice cried back.
I rushed forward past the coaches and team doctors to her right side so I wouldn’t jostle her left shoulder. “I’m here, babe, I’m right here.”
“Did you see my touchdown?” Somehow her little weak voice held a smile.
“Yeah, babe, I saw it.” I reached for her hand and leaned forward to kiss her lips over and over, desperately, clinging to her hand. “I saw your touchdown.”
“I’m your playmaker,” she whispered and cringed. “Don’t you forget it.”
“You’ll always be my playmaker, babe.” I kissed again. “Always.”
“Okay, man, we gotta get her to the hospital,” one of the paramedics insisted. “I need you to step back.”
“I love you, Jonnie.” I kissed her one more time before someone pulled me back, and I stumbled. Someone held me up as my knees buckled, Logan? Aiden, maybe? I didn’t care. I was just glad they were there for me. As I tried to stand, I knew I couldn’t drive on my own. I choked out a request. “Somebody get me to the hospital.”
We turned around to see two cheerleaders on either side of Amberlyn, holding her as tears ran down her face.