Don't Die, My Love

By: Lurlene McDaniel

True Love 02




“I’ll get the door!” Julie Ellis called, bounding down the stairs from her bedroom. She yanked open the heavy front door to see Luke Muldenhower on her front porch. He grinned as she pulled open the glass storm door and threw herself into his arms. “I’ve missed you,” she cried, snuggling against his chest.

“Blame your father,” he said, kissing her. “He’s the one who made the team stay for the championship game. It wasn’t fun watching the finals, feeling like it should have been us playing for the state title.”

Indiana’s Waterton Warriors football team, whom Julie’s father coached, had made it all the way to the state football finals in their division. On Thursday, the school had shut down. Buses were chartered and most of the town had taken the trip to Indianapolis for the playoffs. Waterton had lost in the semifinals, and while the students and fans, including Julie and her mother, had returned glum and deflated, the players had remained behind until Saturday night to watch the game for first place.

Her father had returned only hours before. And Julie had been waiting anxiously for Luke to drop his stuff at his house, then come see her. She was sorry they’d lost, not only for the sake of school pride, but because she knew how much winning meant to both Luke and her father.

She led him into the living room, where a fire crackled in the fireplace, warding off the late-November chill, and sat him down beside her on the sofa. “Believe me, Mom and I’ve heard every detail about how bad things went for us. If only time hadn’t run out … If only Bobby Spencer had hit his man in the end zone with ten seconds left on the clock in the third quarter … If only the referee hadn’t called a holding penalty on the final play …” Julie ticked off the reasons she knew by heart. “Dad’s been over every minute of that game and why we lost it.”

She gave Luke a pouty look. “But enough about the game. This is our first date in months that doesn’t revolve around football, and I don’t want to talk about anything except us and how wonderful you think I am.”

He laughed and hugged her. “You’re wonderful.”

“And?”

“And I love you like crazy.” He pressed his forehead against hers and kissed the tip of her turned-up nose.

“That’s better,” she said with a sly smile. “Forget about football tonight. Next year, you’ll be the senior quarterback, and you’ll take us to the state finals. For now, the season’s over. Let’s talk about the Christmas dance. It’s only three weeks away. Do we want to double with Solena and Frank? You know how they’re always fighting with each other.”

Luke didn’t have a chance to answer, because Bud Ellis, Julie’s father, walked into the living room. “I thought I heard you come in,” the coach said.

Instantly, Luke was on his feet, his hand outstretched. “Hey, Coach. Sorry about the game.”

“Not your fault,” Bud Ellis insisted. “I should never have pulled you out and put Spencer in. You were doing great, but you looked tired.”

“It’s this flu. I’m having trouble shaking it.”

“You look like you feel all right now,” Coach said, his gaze flitting between Luke and Julie’s radiant face.

“Julie’s good medicine,” Luke said, taking hold of her hand and pulling her up alongside him.

“We’ve got a date,” Julie told her father. “No more football season. No more curfews.”

“You have a curfew,” her father reminded her.

“Curfew, shmurfew.” Julie put her hands on her hips. “Tonight we’re going bowling and then we’re going to eat a goopy, gooey hot fudge sundae, and since tomorrow’s Sunday, Luke can sleep in ’til noon before he has to come take me out to the mall.”

“Hot fudge sundaes! Sleeping ’til noon!” Her father looked horrified. “Don’t go spoiling my prize quarterback and making him soft, Julie-girl.”

Julie knew that would be impossible. Luke had a muscular physique to die for, made harder by the playing season plus hours of daily weight training in the gym. “The only soft thing about Luke is me,” she said with a flounce of her blond hair. “And whose side are you on anyway? I’m your flesh and blood.”

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