“I know. I saw you on the cover of some trashy magazine at the grocery store.”
Closing my eyes, I exhale loudly. “It’s so embarrassing. What’s Mom saying?”
“You don’t even want to know.”
“Just tell me.” God, seriously I don’t want to know, but he’d tell me regardless.
“At first, she couldn’t believe you even had a job. That’s all she could focus on. Then she didn’t understand how you got it in the first place, and that you were working for such famous people—direct quote.”
“Did you tell her you helped me get the job?”
“No way. I wanted her to think you’re fully capable of taking care of yourself.” Gabe pauses for a moment. “You are, you know.”
I say nothing to that particular statement. I don’t feel like I can take care of myself. Instead I end up making a big mess out of everything.
“Is she embarrassed? Is she ready to disown me for life?”
“Funny enough, she doesn’t believe any of it.”
If I weren’t already lying down I probably would’ve fallen onto the floor at that particular statement. “Are you serious?”
“Oh yeah. She insists you would never do something so crazy.”
“She’s right.” Now it’s my turn to pause. “You believe me, don’t you?”
“Hell yeah, I believe you. I know you wouldn’t bone your boss. I mean, sure. He’s famous and he’s good looking or whatever the hell, but you’re not crazy, Syd. Not that crazy, at least.”
“Gee, thanks.” Despite my sarcastic tone, relief floods me at my brother’s reassurance. I close my eyes against the tears that suddenly threaten. “I’m so scared they’re going to fire me,” I whisper.
“Are they mad over what happened?” Now Gabe sounds pissed. “You can’t control the media. Neither can they.”
“No, no. They’re not mad. Not at all. They’ve been really cool about the entire thing. But still. I’m a nuisance. I’m the Naughty Nanny—that’s what one of the gossip blogs called me and they’ve all started running with it. Can you believe it?” I’m the farthest thing from naughty. I had a few boyfriends in high school, the most serious one my senior year, and yeah, we had sex a few times before we broke up, right as he was about to leave for college.
And I’ve been single ever since. I haven’t even wanted a boyfriend. I’ve been too busy trying to figure out how to survive to worry about finding a guy.
“Well then, just roll with it. All this gossip will eventually die down, right? It freaking has to. And once it does, they’ll forget all about you and your supposed affair with Drew Callahan. The Naughty Nanny will disappear and you can go on with your life,” he says.
“It’s just so unfair that I’m being dragged through this.” I can whine with my brother. He’ll let me, but only for a little while. “I’m innocent. Drew’s innocent.” And they definitely don’t want to mention Fable fainting at the restaurant. They want all of us to keep it a secret, and I’m fine with that. Truly, they’re lucky no restaurant employees saw it happen.
“Life’s unfair sometimes, sis. You just have to learn how to roll with the punches and keep making it happen,” Gabe says.
“Okay, Mr. Cliché,” I tease him. But then I get serious. “Thank you for talking to me. For supporting me.”
“I will always support you. And talk to you. Anytime you need me, don’t hesitate to reach out, okay? I love you.”
“Love you too.” After I end the call, I realize I still need to get ready before I go talk to Drew and Fable.
I grab clothes and head into the connecting bathroom, hurriedly turning on the shower.
Practice this last week has totally kicked my ass. It’s been brutally intense, hours on end of doing drills, catching the ball again. And again. And again. Most of the time, I make it. Sometimes, I miss. Or I drop it. I tripped over my own goddamn feet and went slamming into the ground just this afternoon. A few of the guys laughed at me—I’m sure they were glad it wasn’t them—but I picked myself up and shook it off every single time. The more I go out on that field to practice, the more I want to be there. I need to be there.
I’m still on the team, too. They haven’t cut me yet. There was a preseason game last Saturday night and I got to play in the last part of the third and all of the fourth quarter. I only caught a single pass but was tackled before I could make it into the end zone.
Not bad for my first official time playing for the 49ers.
The whole Drew and Sydney affair has been the talk of the locker room. They say women like to gossip? Pretty much every locker room I’ve spent time in over the years has been full of speculation and rumors. They don’t talk about the scandal in front of Drew for fear of pissing him off, but they’re all whispering about it. Except for me.
I’m the only one who knows the truth.
Drew called me first thing this morning and asked if I’d come over for lunch at their house today. Said he wanted to talk to me about something. I figure it has to do with the team, so of course I said yes. I know some of the other guys are irritated with and jealous of my friendship with Drew. I can’t help it that I’ve known him for so many years, that he practically treats me like family.
And I’m not stupid. I will take advantage of every bit of information Drew feeds me—and he feeds me a lot. He wants to help. I willingly accept that help any and every chance I get.
The moment I enter the Callahan house, though, I realize whatever we’re going to talk about has nothing to do with football. Drew takes me to the kitchen, where Autumn is sitting at the counter eating and Fable and Sydney appear to be making lunch. Drew gets us both a beer and hands the bottle over before grabbing his own, snapping off the cap and taking a long drink.
“We need to talk to you,” he says after he swallows, his voice deadly serious, as is his expression.
I’m a little taken aback by his dire tone. And the way he pushed the beer on me. He’s not a big drinker, especially before the season starts. And neither am I. I don’t bother opening the one he gave me either. I don’t want it.
“What about?” I ask warily.