I made a special effort to go into school that friday. To be honest, I wasn't even sure I should play football; but something was telling me it would be my last chance. Barely able to summon my energy, I changed slowly and Heidi helped me onto the pitch. By far I looked the worse one on the team, pale and wasted and defeated. Almost.
I got into position, this time as a midfielder so there were more people close to me who I could pass to.
"Should you really be playing?" Miss Davis said privately to me.
"Just one last game, Miss. One last game and then I'll leave." We locked eyes and, tears welling, we nodded. She understood.
For the first few minutes, I did a bit of passing; only to return to my position, gasping and with my hands on my knees. From the corner of my eyes I could see Heidi and Miss Davis exchanging agonised glances. I hated to be doing this to them, but it wasn't about them anymore.
Feeling a sudden rush of strength, I told Lucy to pass me the ball. Shrugging, she tapped it over to me.
Surprising everyone, I charged down the pitch, the ball somehow never breaking contact with my boot. Midfielders rushed at me, I dodged them easily and carried on, not caring how often I stumbled. No air was flowing through my lungs and I could feel my legs beginning to buckle underneath me. I booted the ball towards the goal. The goalie caught it easily, but I didn't care, I carried on running right up to the goalpost where Miss Davis stood refereeing.
I ran straight up to her and collapsed in her arms.
How strange we must have looked, a teacher cradling a bag of bones with eight people surrounding them. The last one was dear Heidi who came running over with my bag and my water bottle. Downing half my water, I took two pills from my bag and leant back into Miss Davis. Normally this would be awkward and cringing, but ti was neither. It was natural.
"I...I can't do it...anymore." I gasped.
"It's alright, Alli,just relax. You'll be alright in a few minutes." Heidi said through strained lips. She knew too.
Miss Davis picked me up and settled me with the bags under a tree, where we always left them. Pain was ripping through my body, the cold air tearing at my head.
They played for another five minutes.
Suddenly Miss Davis had me in her arms again. I was only half aware of what was happening, all speech rendered useless in my throat.
"One last game. That's what we promised, that's what you'll get." She whispered in my ear.
If I could have, I would have smiled at her kindness, she had no idea how much that meant to me; that she was trying to make me happy. Vaguely I was aware of Miss Davis taking up my midfield position, me still in her arms. It wouldn't have been hard; I weighed little and had no energy to protest or move.
All at once the ball was at Miss Davis' feet and she was running effortlessly. Some unseen force seemed to be guiding her as she flew past the defenders and our strikers, until they were far behind us.
Setting me down on my feet but keeping hold of my elbows, Miss Davis angled me infront of the goal.
"Kick it, kick it Alli." She whispered.
Half blind, I flung my foot out with all my might, which was not a lot, towards the white blob I presumed to be the ball. The goalie didn't move again and my shot went straight into the back of the net. Once again there was no cheering as I collapsed as Miss Davis swept me into her arms again. Inside my head I was cheering, delighted at the fact that I had scored while I was as good as dead and not even able to walk. I had accomplished the impossible. My breath now came out as convulsive sobs that scared me and everyone else.
"Goodbye Alli."Everyone hugged me closer than they had done before as they left practice that day, now they all knew.
"I love you." I rasped after everyone of them. My words were true, I owed all of them my lives and I just wished they knew how special they were.