Danny seems to have it all, but will his need to win destroy everything?
|Danny Fowler sat in the boys’ locker room of Huntersville Secondary School with his head in his hands. Today had been the most important day of his high school career, and he had blown it.
“Hey man, don’t beat yourself up,” Craig Donnel, one of Danny’s teammates muttered, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “Sometimes people choke under the pressure. No one here hates you for it.”
“I hate myself…” Danny grumbled, irritably running a hand through his short spiky blonde hair. Craig frowned, then pointed to the door.
“You can’t hide in here forever like a sissy, Danny. Besides, your girl’s out there waiting for you.” At his words, Danny perked up and raised his head. Natalie was out there waiting for him? Would she be disappointed in him? He was about to head out the door when Craig reached out an arm and stopped him. “Just a sec. I got something here that’ll help win the next big championship,” he winked, slipping a little bottle into Danny’s hands. Danny looked down at the label and frowned.
“Steroids? No thanks, man. I don’t do that shit. It messes you up,” he said, trying to hand the bottle back to his friend, but Craig wouldn’t take it. He shrugged.
“Whatever. Do what you want, but keep it anyway, just in case,” he said before heading off to the showers. Danny hesitated a moment before slipping the tablets into his pocket. There wasn’t any harm in keeping them. It wasn’t like he was going to use them, anyway.
“Hey! Do you need a ride home tonight?” tiny brunette Natalie with her large round glasses, braided pigtails and argyle sweater squeaked. Danny smiled and kissed her, taking her large stack of textbooks. No one knew why the high school quarterback had started dating the school dork. Danny himself didn’t know what drew him to her in the first place. All he knew was that somewhere between her spilling ketchup on his jersey and stammering an apology through mortified tears, he had fallen in love with her.
“Yeah, actually. My mom needed the car for work today,” he admitted. Natalie smiled and smoothed out her sweater, the gold promise ring he had given her almost a year ago glinting beautifully on her finger. He smiled, remembering the night he had given it to her. He had told her he would marry her after college and that he would love her forever. He had a whole wonderful life planned out for the two of them.
Danny flopped down on his bed as soon as he got home and heaved a heavy sigh. His mind drifted to the little tablets Craig had given him earlier that day. Digging them out of his pocket, his brows knit together. He was thinking hard. Maybe a little boost couldn’t hurt. He thought of Natalie and the kind of life he wanted to give her and smiled. She deserved to have a successful athlete as her husband and the father of her children someday. She deserved to have enough money to do anything she wanted, but Danny would never be able to give that to her unless he picked up the pace. Just one or two pills, he thought. For her.
“Danny? What’s wrong? Shouldn’t you be happy? You just won the big championship,” Natalie asked him a year later. Danny gritted his teeth and clenched his fists, trying not to snap at her. He knew why he was so on edge. At first, he had just taken one or two pills like he’d told himself, to give him a boost on the football field. It worked. He’d won the next three games and that exhilarating feeling of winning was more of a drug than the steroids. He couldn’t get enough of it, so he had started taking more and more until he couldn’t stop.
It wasn’t until he started relying on those pills that he noticed he was changing. He had a temper that he’d never had before. He found the smallest things would make him want to punch something and he would go through horrible bouts of depression, even suicidal feelings. He knew these were side effects of the steroids, but he couldn’t stop taking them. I’m finally a winner again. I have a scholarship for college thanks to how well I’ve been playing and everyone thinks I’m the school’s hero. I can’t lose that. I won’t be a loser again, he thought to himself.
“Just leave it, Natalie…” he grumbled, trying to keep his eyes on the road. He just wanted to drop her off at her house and go to bed. Natalie’s eyes filled with tears.
“What’s happened to you, Danny?” she whispered. “You’re not the same person I fell in love with. You’ve… changed and I don’t like it.” Danny’s hands shook with anger and he gripped the steering wheel tighter.
“Well, get used to it!” he yelled at her, then immediately regretted it. “I’m sorry…” he mumbled. They pulled into Natalie’s driveway and Natalie scrambled out of the car, eager to get far away from him. That stung Danny, but he knew he deserved it. He’d been increasingly cold towards her since he started taking the steroids and he had sensed that he’d been pushing her away for quite some time. From the look she gave him now, Danny had a sinking feeling that he had finally pushed her too far.
Sobbing, Natalie slipped that precious gold ring off her finger and handed it to him. “Goodbye, Danny. I don’t know what’s happened to you, but I know that I’m not the most important thing in your life anymore. I hope whatever’s replaced me is worth it.”
The next morning, Natalie received her promise ring with a note attached on her doorstep and a phone call to inform her that she would never see Danny again.
It wasn’t worth it. I love you.
I’m so sorry.
I just couldn’t get enough.
Word Count: 999