“Icing the Kicker,” Chapter Six

The interview is unofficially over.

The group breaks up as Danté and Lance hotfoot it to the main school building in hopes of making it to their first class of the day before the bell rings.

Scott, meanwhile, lingers behind with Coach Thomas.

It ran longer than I initially expected, but DAYUM if this isn’t going to be one HELL of a story!

I already have the green light from the four of them to use everything, right down to Danté seeing Scott kissing another male at the Bluegrass Drive-In a year ago, although that person’s identity will not be disclosed to anyone. Including me. Scott made that abundantly clear right after our interview.

I can live with that, and good on Scott for respecting the unidentified party’s right to his privacy. While Scott really seems to be embracing his sexuality now that he isn’t keeping it a secret anymore, not everyone is ready to be dragged out of the closet before they’re comfortable doing so of their own accord. If ever.

“Um, Miss Granger?” Scott says nervously, quickly shifting from foot to foot like I used to as a kid doing the pee pee dance whenever I had to wait my turn because the nearest bathroom was occupied. “I meant to tell you earlier, but, uh, my moms want to talk to you before you write the story. They’re going to meet you here. They’re on their way right now and should be here shortly.”

There’s a saying about the bottom of your stomach dropping out, or something to that effect. That’s the way I feel this very moment. Y’know, the feeling you get when you’re in an elevator and it’s as if part of your body is plummeting while the other half freezes in place whenever it moves up or down? Yeah, THAT. At least, in my experience.

The last thing I need in the entire fucking world is a confrontation with two mama bears who are totally against the Daily Herald doing Scott’s story when I should be on my way back to the office right this second so I can help the others get the sports section done for deadline later on this morning. Scott’s mothers are not just opposed to my involvement, personally, but to that of anyone who is affiliated with the paper in ANY way. THAT is exactly how vehement they are about protecting Scott. And as I mentioned earlier this morning, who in their right mind can blame them for wanting to keep him safe?

“I’m really sorry, Miss Granger, but they insisted,” he adds. “You know how moms can be.”

Yes, I certainly do, having grown up under the watchful eyes of the formidable Meggy Granger. My dad might be a retired Navy SEAL, but Mom is the boss and all of us know it.

“It’ll have to be quick,” I concede, but only because I’m too hot, tired and fungry to argue my way out of meeting with his moms. “I really need to get to the office, but I’ll give my, um, boss a call and let him know I’m going to be a little later with this, uh, bonus interview.”

I dig around my purse until I find my cellular in its usual resting place at the bottom of it and proceed to clumsily text Richard, something I rarely do because I find that dialing a telephone requires far less effort. Knowing Richard as well as I do, he’ll be prowling and growling around the newsroom right about now instead of sitting at the desk in his office as he impatiently awaits my arrival. As it is, I’m taking the coward’s way out by texting him when I’d rather hear his voice, but I’d much prefer to hear it when he’s not ranting and raving about me not being there for deadline even though the others on our four-person sports staff can handle themselves just fine. It’s a matter of principle to him, and there’s just no budging him from his rather, um, vocal stance on it, either.

My phone, which is set on “vibrate,” shows that I have yet to miss any texts from my husband. Today, anyway. That will change drastically in the near future, but I decide to do what I always do before getting inundated with his messages by putting the phone back into my purse and unintentionally — with the exception of this one time — forgetting about it.

“I’ll stay with you for the interview, of course,” Coach Thomas reassures me more than I care to let him know. “No guests are supposed to be in any of the school buildings without permission and supervision, but I’m sure you’re already aware of that, Piccolo.”

Whatever.

I’m just glad I don’t have to face Joyce and Jill Ericsson alone because this is one interview I’m dreading. I was hoping to take the chickenshit way out by talking to them over the phone later on instead of having to deal with them in person.

I know they’re going to try to dissuade me from writing Scott’s story, but that’s not going to happen. I’ll simply reiterate to them his desire to share his tale with others who might be enduring the same struggles as him. If that doesn’t deter them, I don’t know what will, short of me requesting Coach Thomas to pull Scott from class to confront them, himself. I don’t like having to resort to those kinds of tactics, but I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure his story makes it into print. And online, of course. Can’t forget about the fucking Internet.

“Thanks, Coach, I appreciate the moral support,” I reply tartly, as Scott hastily exits the office, which now has a MUCH less claustrophobic feel to it

“It’s the least I can do,” he says, ignoring my sarcasm. “You’re going to have your hands full with those two.”

As it is, they’re standing in the doorway, causing a panic within me that’s so great, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my shit together a second time. And judging by the apparent displeasure on both of their faces, there’s no mistaking that they overheard Coach Thomas’ remark.

The claustrophobic feeling that just left me also is back in full force merely by their presence in this room.

We both get up from our chairs simultaneously, him to offer them seats as all Southern gentlemen are apt to do and me to shake their hands — gestures more out of habit as a result of our respective upbringings than anything else. Once we get through all the social niceties and are once more sandwiched in our seats after Coach Thomas manages to snag a third chair, I address the reason for their visit in hopes of keeping this impromptu meeting as short as possible because I can already hear the phone vibrating from within my purse on the desk.

I ignore it, determined to get the fuck out of here, and soon! I have enough on my plate without having to worry about my husband’s short fuse when I get back to the paper — IF I ever DO make it in this morning, what with all of these spontaneous visits to Coach Thomas’s office and all — but you better damn believe I give as good as I get. IN SPADES. I’m just not in the mood for one of our legendary knock-down, drag-outs in the newsroom because he doesn’t like having me out of his sight AT ALL after I nearly got killed in my own office a year ago. If he had his way, I’d be permanently chained to my desk with him holding the only key to the lock.

As for the fiercely protective Joyce and Jill Ericsson, both are in their early 50s but can easily pass for 30-year-olds. They’re in excellent shape due to their jobs as rural carriers for the Ruffian County Post Office, walking almost as much as they drive on a daily basis. They also play in an adult soccer league in Bluegrass, so it’s no surprise they look as good as they do.

There’s no doubt whose blood Scott shares, either, as Joyce’s azure eyes measure mine. She’s as tall as her son and has a similar athletic build. She also sports the same sun-bleached hair, although hers falls all the way to her waist. Jill, on the other hand, is a few inches shorter with dark, shoulder-length hair and striking tiger eyes reminiscent of Sophia Loren, but those physical differences don’t make her any less Scott’s mom than Joyce.

They did an exceptional job of raising him to be the outstanding young man he is today.

“Look, I know the two of you don’t want me to do the story on Scott — you’ve made that crystal clear more than once — but please understand that I didn’t pressure him into doing anything he didn’t want to do,” I tell them, mentally crossing my fingers, toes, arms, legs and eyes that I’ll finally get through to them this time. “Remember, Scott is the one who approached me, not the other way around. And he did it because he trusts me to tell his story. I just wish you would, too, because I’d never do anything to hurt your son. Please believe that. Go ahead, ask Coach Thomas. He’ll vouch for me. I have no agenda whatsoever. I only have Scott’s best interests at heart, and I truly believe his story can reach so many people who might be going through the same thing as him but just don’t have the outpouring of support that he does.

“I’m not doing this to make a name for myself; I’m doing this because I KNOW in my heart that it WILL make a difference for the better in somebody else’s life. Who knows? It might even save someone’s life, and that’s why I think it’s so important to share his story with everyone. Don’t you think so?”

There. See if you can argue your way out of that one.

I fumble around in my purse for effect until I make contact with my trusty tape recorder, making a big production of pulling it out and putting it on the table to let them know loud and clear that I’m ready to share their responses with everyone. Not that I think it will ever come to that since I know they don’t want to come across as a couple of assholes hellbent on holding their son back, but they DO need to know that I refuse to be cowed by them.

My only hope is that they don’t see my very real fear of them because, as I keep pointing out, everyone knows I make the best poker opponent because of my famous ability to remain stoic in all situations … at all times.

And yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is sarcasm at its finest.

Fine,” Joyce seethes.

Shew! That was easier than I expected. If you consider easy facing two moms who look as though they hate your guts simply for doing your job.

OK, so maybe, just MAYBE hate is too strong a word.

“If anything bad happens to our son because of this story, we’re holding YOU responsible, Miss Granger,” Jill leans in menacingly close to warn me, “so you better hope for your sake that it doesn’t.”

I swallow. HARD.

OK, OK, so perhaps hate isn’t too strong a word, after all.

“Duly noted,” I quip, unsuccessfully attempting to lighten the atmosphere

Instead, the two women give me even chillier glares than the ones they’ve been giving me nonstop since their unanticipated arrival before rising from their chairs and walking out of the office single file without uttering another word.

Fuck me running! Talk about intense mama bear syndrome!

I hope I never run into those two in a dead-end alley, not that I’ll ever be stupid enough to give them another chance to corner me like that again.

Guess I won’t have to worry about getting any quotes from them for Scott’s story, either.

You know what, though? I think I can live with that.

I can most assuredly work around it.

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