“You figure it out.”
The words echo through Asher’s mind as he packs his things. He dad doesn’t even look at him as he heads for the door, just keeps his eyes on his phone, not even acknowledging Asher is there. Asher can’t help but feel angry. This is his father. Yet here he is, throwing him out because he’s not on the football team anymore. Asher had always had a feeling his father cared more about football than him. Now he has proof. He guesses he should just be glad his did didn’t ask for his car keys. Especially since that’s where he might be sleeping for a while.
He spends an hour driving around, eventually pulling over into some side street by the school. He’ll sneak into the school early and change in the morning before classes. No one will have to know. He’s surprised at how easily he falls asleep. The past few night have been taking it out of him though. It was only a matter of time before it caught up to him.
He wakes up to a loud tapping on glass. Blinking his eyes open, he tries to find his bearings. The tapping starts again, and then he remembers where he is. He looks over to see a cop peering down at him. Great. The last thing he needs right now is a ticket. He turns his keys and rolls the window down.
“Is there a problem officer?”
“You can’t sleep here, son,” the officer tells him, at least having the decency to look somewhat apologetic.
Asher puts his seat up with a sigh, “Yeah okay. I’ll go.”
The officer nods and walks off without another word. Asher’s not sure if he’s relieved or not that he didn’t ask more questions. You would think that finding a kid sleeping in their car would be cause of a little bit of concern, but apparently not.
Asher looks at the clock and frowns. It’s going on 2 a.m. He’s not sure where he can even go right now. He knows where he would have gone, before he went and screwed everything up. He’s just not sure how welcome he is there. He still has to try.
The cop is still sitting behind him, so Asher turns the car on and drives off. It only takes a few minutes to get there at this hour. Normally, he’d just walk in, but with everything that’s happening…
He raises a fist and knocks, hoping someone will hear him. When no one answers after a few minutes he knocks again, this time ringing the doorbell as well. He sees a light come on in the hallway then the porch light, before the front door is opening to reveal Coach Baker.
His brow furrows when he sees it’s Asher at the door, “Asher?”
Asher raises a hand to wave, “Hey Coach.”
Coach Baker squints out at him, “Son, please tell me you’re not drunk again.”
“I’m not,” Asher is quick to assure him.
“Then what possible reason could you have for being on my doorstep at 2 o’clock in the morning on a school night?” Coach asks him, raising an expectant eyebrow.
Asher opens his mouth, only to close it again. He’s once again rethinking his idea to come here. Maybe he can just find another place to sleep. Maybe somewhere with a lot of cars so he won’t be noticed.
“Yeah, sorry Coach. This was… I’m sorry for waking you. I’ll just go.”
“Now hold on,” Coach says, putting a hand on his arm. “You came here for a reason, at least I hope. So what is it?”
“It’s…” Asher rubs the back of his neck, his eyes darting around before settling somewhere over Coach Baker’s shoulder. “It’s my dad. He kicked me out.”
“He what?” Coach Baker asks, his hand dropping. “You mean that bastard really kicked you out?”
“He told me to go live with my mom, and that there was no point in me staying there since I wasn’t on the team,” Asher says, unable to hold the words back now that he’s started. “But my mom doesn’t want me around. I was trying to sleep in the car but the cops…”
“Wait a minute,” Coach says, holding his hand up. “What do you mean you were trying to sleep in your car?”
“I didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Asher admits. “No one is particularly fond of me right now.”
“You have made some mistakes,” Coach says, “but you’re still family. We care about you. You’re always going to be welcome here. So if you need a place to stay…”
“Then grab your bag and get in here,” Coach tells him. “You know what room to take. We can figure the rest out in the morning.”
Asher lets out a breath of relief and picks up his bag, following Coach into the house, “Thank you, really.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” Coach Baker tells him, leveling him with a long look. “There are going to be ground rules.”
Asher nods, “Of course.”
“Now get up to bed,” Coach tells him. “You have school in the morning.”
When Asher wakes up, it’s to see two familiar faces peering down at him. He groans and turns over, burying his face in the pillow, “Has anyone told you two that you’re creepy as hell?”
“What are you doing here?” Jordan asks him.
Asher feels the bed dip, and looks over to see Olivia sitting at the end. “But why? When did you even get here?”
“Wait, are you the one that was knocking on the door at 2 a.m.?” Jordan asks.
Olivia looks disapproving, “Were you drinking again?”
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” Asher asks, throwing the covers off and sitting up. He’s momentarily distracted when he notices Olivia quickly look away, her cheeks darkening.
“Do you really have to ask that?”
“I wasn’t drunk,” Asher tells them. “My dad kicked me out.”
“Can he even do that?” Jordan asks. “I mean, it’s not technically his house.”
“Maybe not, but he did it anyway,” Asher sighs. “Not that I’m exactly going to miss living with him. It still sucks to suddenly be homeless though.”
“You’re not homeless,” Coach Baker says, popping his head in the door. “You’re living here. And you two,” he looks at Jordan and Olivia, “go get dressed. Breakfast is almost ready.”
“You’re cooking?” Jordan asks.
“Spencer is,” Coach Baker says. “He was already at it when I walked in there.”
“I love when Spencer cooks,” Olivia says, instantly perking up. “He actually knows what he’s doing.”
“I know how to cook,” Coach Baker says.
“You do,” Olivia agrees. “But Mom…”
“She tries,” Coach says. “You have to give her that.”
“Yo, I just made this delicious breakfast and no one is down here to enjoy it!” Spencer’s voice reaches them from downstairs.
Jordan and Olivia share a look before both running towards the door, only to stop when their father’s voice reaches them, “Dressed first. Then breakfast.”
“But Dad…” Olivia whines.
“You heard me,” Coach Baker says. “You’re already running late. So you can get dressed, then eat your breakfast, and head right to school.”
Olivia mutters something that Asher can’t make out, before turning and heading down the hall towards her room. Jordan quickly follows. Coach stops at the door before he leaves the room. “Same goes for you, Asher.”
Asher nods, “I figured as much, Coach.”
If Asher expects a lot of looks at school, he doesn’t get any. Everyone is too busy talking about the game to care, which is a bit of a relief. It’s bad enough it happened, but he doesn’t want to have to relive his screw up at homecoming again.
Asher sits alone at lunch. He knows Jordan wouldn’t send him away if he sat there, he’s just not sure how he can face the team right now, knowing what he did. He’s not proud of it. At the time he’d only been thinking about proving the team needed him. He was desperate to get back on the field. Now he realizes it wasn’t the way to go about it.
He’s surprised when Olivia sits her tray down at the table across from him. She doesn’t say anything, just shrugs and starts eating her lunch. Asher’s a little grateful for the company, even if his companion is silent.
The rest of the day is uneventful, which he is grateful for. He’s made it through today without any incident. Or so he thinks. He walks out of the school, heading towards the parking lot where his car is when he sees a tow truck behind it.
“What the hell?” Asher asks, running up to his car and facing the men from the towing company. “What are you doing to my car?”
“We got told to come get it,” one of the men says. “Heard it’s been sold off so some poor sod can pay his bills.”
“It’s my car,” Asher says. “You can’t just take my car.”
“Is it in your name?”
“Well then we’re well within our rights to take it,” the second man says. “The owner wants it towed, and that’s who we’re going to listen to.”
“I can’t believe this,” Asher mutters. He runs a hand through his hair and sighs. “At least let me get my stuff out.”
“Already did that,” the first man says, gesturing over his shoulder to where various books, papers, and clothes are scattered. “Have a nice day.”
“Yeah real fucking nice,” Asher says. He walks over to his stuff, and starts trying to fit it into his bag. He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do without a car now.
“You look like you need a ride,” Olivia’s voice sounds nearby.
Asher can’t help but feel relieved that she hasn’t left yet. He grabs his things, throws them in the backseat, and then hops into the passenger’s seat. “I guess you saw all that.”
Olivia nods sadly, “Yeah. I’m sorry. At least most of the school was gone already.”
“One small comfort,” Asher mutters.
Olivia sighs, “Come on. We’ll go back to my house and we’ll pull out the ice cream and you can mope all you want.”
Asher just nods. He sits in sullen silence the whole drive back to the Baker’s house, and then wordlessly follows Olivia inside. No one else is home. Both Jordan and Coach Baker are at practice, and Asher imagines Mrs. Baker is at work.
He heads upstairs while Olivia throws her bag down and heads into the kitchen. Once he reaches the guest room he’s staying in he places his bag down on the desk chair and then falls back on the bed with a groan. Olivia joins him a few minutes later, handing him a bowl of cookie dough ice cream before taking a place next to him on the bed. They eat their ice cream in silence, the only sound the clinking and scraping of their spoons on the bowls. When they’re done, Olivia takes the bowls and puts them on the nightstand.
“I’m sorry this happened,” Olivia says, turning to face him.
Asher’s eyes glance in her direction, “Why? With everything that happened I figured people would say I had it coming.”
“You don’t deserve this,” Olivia tell him. “You made a mistake,” when Asher raises an eyebrow, she sighs. “Okay, a few mistakes. But that doesn’t give your dad the right to treat you like crap.”
“I just don’t know what I did to make them hate me,” Asher says. “Because they have to, right? Or maybe they just don’t care. Which might be worse.”
“That’s on them, not you,” Olivia says. “They’re selfish, both of them. Don’t think for one second that their inability to be parents has anything to do with you. You have people that care about you, Asher. But… you can’t keep living like this.”
“I know,” Asher says. “I know that. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do without football. It’s been my life, and it was my only shot at getting into college, and now that’s gone.”
“That’s bullshit,” Olivia says. “You’re smart. Certainly smarter than I am, which I know doesn’t say much.”
“You’re smart too,” Asher tells her. “You like history, and English. Sure, science might not be your strong suit...”
“Understatement of the year.”
“But you do have things you are good at,” Asher continues. “Being bad at one thing, doesn’t mean you’re not a smart person. We all have our strengths.”
“You really should listen to yourself, you know? You might be great at football, but that’s not all you’re good at,” she says. “You forget how well I know you. And there are things I know about you that no one else knows.”
“I know,” Asher says. He doesn’t say it, but the reason he even started reading so much is because of Olivia. He’d come over and find her curled up reading and would join her when Jordan was busy. He’s not sure when it became a regular thing, but it did. “I’ve missed us reading together.”
Olivia’s eyes search his face for a moment, before her lips lift up into a half smile. “So have I. Maybe now that you’re staying here we can start doing it again.”
Olivia shrugs, “We have to find your new passion again, right?”
“You think that’s going to be in a book?” Asher asks.
“You never know,” Olivia tells him. “Books are underrated. They give you the ability to hold whole world's in your hands.”
“True,” Asher says. “But I’m hardly a writer.”
“You could be,” Olivia says. “But writing isn’t the only thing you can do with a book. You can edit them, or work for a publisher. Or even read about someone doing something and decide that’s what you want to do. There are so many possibilities out there, Ash. You just have to be willing to look for them.”
Olivia curls up beside him, throwing a leg over his as she rests his head on his shoulder, and tells him to turn on the TV. He does as she asks, and let’s himself relax.
Asher knows she’s right. He doesn’t exactly like the idea of having to look for a new career path, but he knows he probably doesn’t have a choice at this point. It’s just enough knowing that he has people in his corner that support him. His parents might not care, but he doesn’t need them. Not when he has another family that cares about him more than they ever did.