I liked him from the moment I met him. I was in 9th grade and he was in 8th. I was trying to join the varsity ice hockey team and was the first girl to do so. I was getting a lot of crap from everyone, including the athletic director at school. The whole school knew I had to take the fitness test that afternoon and pass to be allowed to try out. I was going to do it if it killed me, just to make a point. It was lunchtime and he wished me good luck in the cafeteria.
After school, a bunch of guys came down to the track to hassle me as I was taking the test. I was a chunky kid, and everyone knew I couldn't run a mile and a half in 11 minutes-I couldn't even run a mile in 11 minutes. As I ran, tears streaming down my face from the harassment, I heard him cheering me on in the bleachers. I never would have finished if it weren't for him.
After all was said and done, I didn't meet the boys requirements, but I did meet the girls, so the school had no choice but to let me try out. Did I mention I had taught myself to ice skate 4 months before the season started? I wasn't good at all. Most of the guys had been playing hockey for 10 years. It turns out he was one of the best players on the team, even though he was only an eighth-grader (he was assistant captain by 9th grade). He helped me a lot that first season. My playing improved 200%, even though I never even dressed for a game (I sat and took stats until my junior year, when I was allowed to dress for games-in 4 years, I actually played in 6 games, for a total of less than 10 minutes).
Everything was great until one of the seniors realized I liked him. It spread like wildfire through the team, and everyone started treating me differently. Most of the guys stopped talking to me. He refused to help me at practice. I got made fun of when I couldn't do something or missed a pass. I took a slapshot to the back of my knee (that a guy did on purpose) and I had a bruise for 6 months. It was humiliating, but I refused to give up. I didn't want to give them the satisfaction.
So I played for 4 years. I took crap from everyone, in school and out. I vividly remember him and his friend shoving me into a locker one day at school. I kept thinking that maybe it would all blow over and he would be nice to me again. It never happened. My pride was the only thing that kept me from slinking home and never going to another practice. I cried in the dressing room (or bathroom, depending on where practice or the game was) every single day.
He never liked me back. He never talked to me again. And it hurt. My only consolation was when we played the top-ranked team in the league finals and one guy checked me-hard. There was a bench emptying brawl after that. It made me feel like he still cared. Like my whole team actually cared. All the heartbreak and tears made me a stronger woman. I eventually found someone who loved me for me, and that is what matters. But I have never forgotten him, and I think he will always hold a place in my heart.
This was written in response to this week's Red Writing Hood prompt from Write on Edge. Since my story encompassed 4 years, I couldn't write it in the moment, so I hope that's alright. I just wanted to tell the story of the first boy who broke my heart.