Romance Fiction posted May 2, 2021 Chapters:  ...31 32 -33- 34 

This work has reached the exceptional level
First Cross Country practice with the girls.

A chapter in the book Football - A Novel

Football Chapter 16 part 1

by barbara.wilkey

Katherine struggles raising her four sons by herself. Is Gabriel the father figure the boys never had?

As the team huddled, Gabriel glanced at Katherine and grinned.

The boys took the field for the extra point. Gabriel nodded at the quarterback, who then called cadence. They went for a two-point conversion and made it.

Harold screamed. "Wow! And in the first game! Coach Hudson must be confident in these boys. What was he thinking? What other tricks does he have up his sleeve this year? It's going to be a fun year."

The fans in the stadium jumped up-and-down while they cheered.

The score at half-time was three-to-fifteen.

Katherine sighed. "What was he thinking?"

Joshua took a drink of his soda. "Mom, did you see that?"

"Maybe he wanted to try it before conference play starts."

The final score was nine-to-twenty-nine.


Chapter 16 part 1

As Katherine opened the front door and saw Gabriel and Reggie, she called, "I was wondering if you'd come by this morning."

Gabriel studied his feet. "Can I be honest?" When she nodded, he continued, "I couldn't find an excuse to come by this weekend."

Her cheeks tinged pink. "You don't need one. You're welcome anytime." She hesitated. "The boys missed you."

"I missed the boys."

Katherine set her watch. "I guess we'd better get started."

As they jogged, Gabriel asked, "You ready for your first cross country practice?"

"I think so. I'll find out for sure during practice. I thought we'd warm up with exercises and then run the hill. Warm up and cool down are important. I want to emphasize that. All I remember from my cross country days is running."

"That's pretty much what you do."

Katherine turned to face him. "I do have a question." She waited until he acknowledged her before she continued, "What were you thinking going for two during the first-half of the first game?"

Gabriel laughed. "I wanted to see how much about the game you understood."

"So it had nothing to do with showing off? It had to do with me." She hesitated. "So you were testing my knowledge?"

He grabbed his chest. "Now you hurt me to the core."

"Oh please." She shook her head. "I never thought you'd be into drama." Waiting a few seconds, she searched his eyes. "If it had to do with me, you would've had an excuse to come by this weekend."

"You're right. The truth is I wanted the other conference coaches to think about it, to put them on edge. I know they're talking about it. It was a bold move, but I have confidence in my team. They're a good bunch of kids."

Katherine's timer went off.

As they switched directions, Gabriel gulped. "I have a confession." After a pause, he continued, "I didn't come by because I was worried you'd be self-conscious about what we discussed the other night."

She stopped in her tracks. "I don't understand why, but for some reason I'm relieved I told you."

"I'm glad."

Silence continued until they arrived at her home.

Katherine started walking up the sidewalk to her front porch. "Any suggestions for your breakfast? I'm running out of ideas."

"Nope, you've made perfect choices so far. I like the surprise element." He started jogging toward the school. "You hear that, Reggie, she's glad she confided in me? She trusts me. That's a good thing."

After school, Katherine changed into workout clothes and waited outside the girls' locker room.

Gabriel came up behind her and slightly tugged her pony tail. "I'm glad you got the right locker room," he teased.

She turned. "Ha, ha. You're just a barrel of laughs."

"I thought so." His eyes met hers. "Seriously, if anything at all comes up, text or call. Even if you just have a question. I mean it."

She nodded. "I will."

"You'd better."

Gabriel called to Reggie, "Come on, slow poke." He shook his head. "He's the epitome of lazy."

Out of his office meandered Reggie with a yawn and a stretch. He paused by Katherine to get petted.

She knelt and rubbed his large head. "He's precious."

"I'll go with my best bud, but not sure precious fits." Gabriel started to leave. "Catch up with you later." When she agreed, he continued, "So you don't have to make an extra trip back, I've got Jordan."

"Thank you. It's going to take a few days to make this schedule work. Mom has the younger boys. I think my timing will be good to pick up Joshua, at least I hope so. Then I'll start dinner." She smiled as the first three girls came out of the locker room. "I need to get busy. I don't have an extensive coaching staff."

"Where's Angie?"

"Still changing. She had a late student."

Four more giggling girls joined the group.

Gabriel called over his shoulder, "Have fun."

Katherine walked to the door of the locker room. "Come on! We're waiting. It doesn't take that long to change."

After all fifteen girls were ready; Katherine introduced herself and Angie, and then had each girl introduce herself. Angie took attendance.

Katherine started, "The two most important parts of cross country are the warm up and the cool downs. If you don't do them properly or rush them, you'll injure yourself. In a few minutes, we'll start. Our first meet is Saturday morning at eight o'clock. I'll want you here at seven."

Sandy raised her hand. "Mrs. Riley, didn't you run cross country?"

"I did. That brings me to my next point. Practices need to be so hard that the meet's easy. We'll run five kilometres each meet. They'll actually be fun. So let's go outside and begin our warm-up."

Judy asked, "How far is five kilometres?"

"Three point one miles."

When everyone stood on the grass, Katherine, continued, "Okay, from now on, we'll meet here at..." she glanced at her watch, "at three-forty-five. That gives you twenty minutes to get in here and get changed. If you can't make it on time and can't give me a good reason, then you can run extra laps. Understood?" The girls nodded. "Good. My hope is you get home in time to have dinner, complete homework, and get to bed on time. Maybe even have time for fun."

Katherine described the warm-up exercise as she modeled it. Angie followed her and they both watched and paused to help any girls who struggled.

After thirty minutes of warm up, they jogged toward the hill off First Street. When they arrived, the girls complained about how steep and long it was.

Katherine smiled. "I told you practice would be difficult. Yes, it's steep. We're going to run up and down it three times. Some of you won't make it, and that's okay. It's your first attempt. Do your best. That's all I ask. Mrs. Brooks and I'll run with you." She released a deep breath. "We may not make it, but that's okay."

Rhonda asked, "You're not going to sit and watch. You're actually going to run?"

"Why would we watch and let you have all the fun?" Katherine started up the hill. "Let's do this. I find it's easier if we follow the cadence of a song. One of my favorites is 'This is My Fight Song.' Sing along if you know it. We're going to fight this hill and win."

Katherine sang. Angie only knew the chorus but soon caught on to the rest. The girls quickly learned the chorus.

The first trip up the hill, Katherine and Angie made it, all but two girls made it without walking the last few feet. The second trip up, seven girls had to walk partway. The third trip, Katherine barely made it, Angie had to walk at the end and all but two girls had to walk.

As they jogged back to school, they met the football team. Gabriel jogged in place beside Katherine, and asked, "Well?"

Jogging in place, she said, "We did okay. I'm proud of the girls. All but two dropped out on the third try. Not bad."

He nodded. "Walk it out."

"I know. I'm not an amateur."

"Sorry. Occupational hazard. I've watched you jog."

When Gabriel and Jordan arrived at the house, Katherine and the boys were setting the table. Jeremy ran up and hugged Gabriel's thighs. "I've missed you and Reggie so much. I'm glad you came. Are you eating dinner with us?"

Gabriel eyed Katherine. "I'd better go. I just wanted to say hi."

Katherine put her hand on the extra chair. "I think this chair and place setting has your name on it."

"Oh really?" His eyebrows rose.


After dinner, Katherine and Gabriel cleaned the dishes, while Jeremy took his bath and the rest of the boys finished homework.

Folding a dishtowel, Katherine said, "I'm sorry about Jeremy. He really enjoys having you around."

"Don't worry about it. I enjoy being around."

"I'm glad you feel that way." She paused. "How many times do your boys run the hill?"

"Five, but that being said, the linemen never make it five." Gabriel laughed. "I'm not sure some of them make it three. I'm surprised you tried three times on the first attempt."

"Had no choice. Our first meet's Saturday. I don't want the girls to be embarrassed." Her eyes searched his brown eyes. "In case you're wondering. I made it three times. Angie almost did."

"I wasn't wondering. I knew you would. Angie runs with Bill every day. That's why I asked her to help. I knew she was a runner." He avoided her eyes. "To be honest the first time we met I noticed your form. I could tell you were a runner."

Before Katherine could comment, Jeremy called, "Mom, story time."

Gabriel nodded. "You'd better get to that story." He watched her walk up the stairs. As much as I enjoy being around her, I can't have dinner here every night. That P.I. is out there taking pictures. Until she works out her schedule, I'll have Bill bring Jordan home.

Thank you Rachel Platten for 'My Fight Song'. A friend and I used to actually jog to this back in my jogging days,


Katherine Riley: age 33 - widowed: husband died 6 months ago. She moved to Texas from NYC with her four sons.

Daisy: Katherine's yellow Labrador

Gabriel Hudson: High School football coach and former NFL defensive lineman

Reggie: a very large English Mastiff

Jeremy: Katherine's six year old son. He's in first grade.

Jordan: Katherine's fifteen year old son. He's a sophomore.

Joshua Katherine's thirteen year old son. He's in 8th grade

Joel Katherine's eleven year old son. He's in 6th grade.

Paul Edwards: High School principal and Gabriel's friend.

Rodney Frost: Math department head, at least for now.

Angie Brooks Math teacher and Katherine's friend.

Frank Collins Math teacher.

Rebecca and Harold Hudson Gabriel's parents

Sarah and Bob Beck Katherine's parents, Bob is deceased

Frank Collins math teacher

Alan Green an Assistant Principal

Sandy Frost Rodney Frost's wife

Sam Auto repair shop owner

Bill Brooks Assistant football coach, Gabriel's friend, and Angie's husband.

Harold Hudson Gabriel's dad and football announcer.



Thank you google images for the photo of a running hill. I also want to thank everybody for the helpful reviews. This novel is not actually about football, but is part of the background. High football is a national pastime in Texas. This post is a little under a 1600 words. Sorry about the length. The place I felt I could break it up caused too short of a post. Thank you for having patience with me.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.

© Copyright 2021. barbara.wilkey All rights reserved.
barbara.wilkey has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.