Authors: M.E. Carter
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Change of Hart
Copyright © 2014 M.E. Carter
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ow the hell do they always know I’m coming?” I asked my manager Adam in an irritated voice, leaning forward to look out the window of our black SUV at the sea of news reporters. “Do they not understand that this is about the kids?”
Adam chuckled and pressed the lock button on his phone before putting it in his pocket and looking around. “Probably some well-meaning mom on the PTA alerted the press, hoping to get some publicity for the school.”
I snorted. “This isn’t about publicity for the school. I won’t answer their questions, Adam. Especially not that bitch, April Gill.”
As the starting defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys, I was well known in the area. As the best in the country, I was hounded relentlessly by the media. I tried hard not to let it get to me. It was part of my job. And sure, it was fun seeing my name in lights. But it could get old. All the male reporters wanted to buddy up to me and chat like we were old friends. All the female reporters batted their eyes at me and acted like they wanted to take me home with them. The only reporter I ever got along with was Catherine Hernandez. But of course, she was good enough at her job that she and her husband moved to California so she could take a gig in San Diego. It was times like these when I missed seeing her in the crowd.
“You don’t have to answer any questions,” Adam assured me. “But be ready, Jason. I’m willing to bet they will be in the school during the pep rally.”
I sighed as our driver pulled up to the curb. I didn’t usually make public appearances at schools. After coming home four years ago to play for the Cowboys and setting several records in that time, the big wigs liked to reserve me for higher end events like galas for the American Cancer Society and big events being put on by one of my sponsors. It’s not like I minded doing things like this. But I wasn’t really in charge of my own publicity so I usually just went along with it.
But when I got a call from my high school buddy, Lindsay Miller, who happened to be the music teacher at this school, I couldn’t resist. She was my next-door neighbor when we were kids and we were choir buddies all through middle school. Yes, I admit it. Jason Hart was in the middle school choir. The only thing I could do was carry a tune. Lindsay, on the other hand, had an amazing voice. Scored almost every solo.
She was also one of the only girls that still treated me like a person once we got to high school, and not some varsity football god. Even back then I craved for people to just like me for me. Sure, I enjoyed the notoriety. What seventeen-year-old kid wouldn’t like getting laid by the hottest girls in school? But to Lindsay, I was just Jason . . . her friend and next-door neighbor.
We ended up at the same college, but lost touch as my life became more about getting drafted into the pros and her life became more about her music degree. Thank goodness for Facebook. I was stoked when a random memory caused me to look her up online and friend request her.
“Jason, can you give us any insight into next week’s game?”
“Jason, do you realize you are on track to break the record for most sacks in the history of the NFL?”
Dear god, the car door had just opened. I didn’t even have my foot on the curb before I was surrounded by cameras and had microphones in my face. One good thing about choir . . . I learned how to smile through every performance.
“Thanks for coming out guys,” I said as I made my way through the crowd and to the front door. “But I’m not here to talk football today. This is all about the kids.”
I kept walking, ignoring the questions being thrown my way, until I reached the receptionist inside the first door. She had a team jersey on and a starry-eyed look. I’d recognize a hard-core fan anywhere.
“Hi, I’m Adam Roberts,” he said to the receptionist. “This is Jason Hart. He is supposed to be speaking at the ‘Back to School’ pep rally today.”
“OHMYGOD IT’S JASON HART!” I heard the shriek over my shoulder and turned just in time to see Lindsay jumping up and down like she used to when she made fun of me in high school.
“Can I have your autograph? Can I have your babies?” She squealed with her hand over her mouth, stifling a laugh.
I smiled wider than I had in ages. “Girl, quit your fangirl act and get yourself over here to give me a hug,” I said as she ran over to me, throwing her arms around my neck. “You just couldn’t resist making fun of me, could you?” I asked, laughing as I held her tight.
“I thought your followers were bad in high school,” Lindsay joked. “But geez, these reporters have been camped out here all morning!” She pulled away and smacked me on my shoulder. “How the heck are you, my friend? And forget all this football nonsense. How are you really?”
She always did cut to the core like that. To her, football was what I did, not who I was. More than once I had kicked myself for letting her get snatched up by her hot shot accountant husband. But dang, it was nice having my friend back.
“I’m doing ok,” I said, looking around at the school that she called her second home. “Working a lot. Training a lot. Pretty much the same thing I’ve been doing since you’ve known me. How are you?” I asked. “Looks like you’ve got a pretty sweet gig here at Mountain Park Elementary School.”
She laughed. “Not as sweet as the gig you have, but I can’t complain. Husband is great. Daughter just turned five and she’s great. Job is great. I couldn’t ask for more.”
“It can’t be that great. Don’t you have to teach kids how to play the recorder?” I asked with amusement.
She scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Don’t remind me. I wasn’t happy with the way the fifth grade performance had been going, so this year I came up with the brilliant idea of adding fourth graders to the mix . . . you know, to give them an extra year of practice before the show.”
I laughed. “And how is that going?”
She sighed and rubbed her fingers in circles on her temples. “I’m about to take out stock in Tylenol.”
“Your ideas always were better before they came to life,” I joked.
“Tell me about it,” she said. Adam walked up and slapped a white sticker on my shirt.
“Here, man,” he said. “School policy. Everyone coming in has to have a name tag.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Adam, this is my good friend Lindsay Miller.”
Adam stuck out his hand for Lindsay to shake. “Oh, that’s right! You’re the one who coordinated all of this. I’m impressed. Usually we can’t get him off the field to do any PR. I appreciate you helping us show that my boy has a heart.”