Authors: Nikki Wild
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Everything I owned fit inside one small, pink backpack. I’d slowly given away everything else during the last two weeks. It wasn’t that I wanted to travel lightly. It was that I didn’t want any reminders of this place once I was gone.
I took one long last look around the room I’d spent the better part of the last twelve years in. My eyes raked over the threadbare blanket littered with little faded green flowers, the stained carpet, the old, ratty, yellowed lace curtains that were hanging there long before I’d ever arrived to this hell-hole.
I sniffed the air, the stench of old cigarettes, stale beer, and piss-stained floors etched so deeply into my nostrils, I knew it would take months for it to go away.
. I smiled at the thought of what
meant to me now. Anywhere away from here was going to be good enough for me. I grabbed the backpack, threw it over my shoulder, and walked out of that room as fast as my feet would carry me.
I was leaving a week earlier than planned.
I was missing the prom tonight. I’d miss graduation next week, too. But those were just silly ceremonies designed to make confused, aimless kids feel like they’d accomplished something.
But I knew better. I knew the real accomplishments lie ahead. Not just for me, but for all of Highland High’s Class of 2005. We lived in the tiny, crumbling town of Ault, Colorado. There were exactly 274 students in the entire school, and we made up a little more than a tenth of the 2000 or so residents in the whole town.
So, to say that accomplishing anything of note inside this town was difficult was an understatement. Ault stood for ‘A Unique Little Town’, but the only thing that was really unique about it was that it might just be the
of all the similar little towns scattered across Colorado.
There was nothing for me here and there never would be.
I’d been planning to leave since I was ten years old. My eighteenth birthday was last week and I was keeping the promise I’d made to myself.
At the last minute, I’d been suckered into staying for the stupid prom and graduation. That was just a momentary lapse of judgement, and now that I’d regained my senses, I was sure beyond a doubt that leaving and leaving fast was the only way out of the mess I’d dug myself into.
I walked out into the musty living room, staring down at Clyde. He’d been my foster father for the last twelve years. I’d arrived in Ault when I was barely six years old - taken in by him and his wife Claire who’d succumbed to breast cancer just three years after I’d arrived.
Clyde descended into a dark circle of booze and depression after Claire’s death and he never came up for air. I raised myself, more or less.
This morning, just like every morning, he was passed out cold on the worn and dirty couch, wearing the same clothes he’d been wearing for two weeks. It would probably take him at least that long to figure out I was actually gone… Unless the beer in the fridge ran out first.
I didn’t bother telling anyone I was leaving. There was nobody to say goodbye to. Nobody that mattered, anyway. There was one person who had somehow found his way into my heart, but that didn’t matter anymore.
My life had been put on hold before it ever began but now it was time for me to push the fast forward button to my future.
I walked over to the kitchen counter and began scrawling a note to Clyde.
I’m gone. You can find your truck at the Ft. Collins train station. It’s been real.
, I made two tuna sandwiches and wrapped them in saran wrap. I opened the fridge and placed the note on top of a six-pack of Miller Light and put one of the sandwiches on top of it and placed the other one inside my backpack.
I zipped it up and carried it out into the bright Colorado sunshine. A beautiful blue sky stretched out over the boring brown horizon, the only view I’d ever really known. Dead brown grass surrounded the dirty white trailer we lived in, extending out past our backyard and into a rodent infested field that was littered with old cars and illegally dumped trash.
I couldn’t believe the time had finally come. I’d spent years imagining this day, planning for it, saving for it. And now it was here.
I couldn’t help but smile with pride, even if my plan
run into a few wrinkles along the way. I’d drifted off the path for a minute, but I was back on track now.
Leaving early was the right decision. I knew it without a doubt. Sure, I was petrified. I’d be alone, with nobody to depend on, nobody to call for backup, and I have no idea how everything is going to work out.
But I’d always been alone. I was good at being alone.
And anything I could encounter out there has to be better than what I’m leaving behind.
I lifted my chin, took a deep breath, and jumped in Clyde’s rusty old truck. It started up right away, instead of sputtering and coughing like it usually did. I took that as a good sign and pointed it in the direction of Ft. Collins, which was about twenty miles down the road.
My heart began pounding as the reality of my situation washed over me. Streams of cars passed by on the main drag out of town full of formally dressed teenagers with teased hair and painted faces. They were on their way to the Highland High Senior Prom.
I swallowed hard as I thought about the one thing I
possession I hadn’t had time to give away in my rush to leave.
My beautiful prom dress.
It was stunning. All white, with a flowing, breezy sheer skirt and silver trim around the edges of the sweetheart neckline. It was the prettiest thing I’d ever owned. But now, it hung all alone in the closet of my old bedroom - unworn - with the tag still attached. As much as I needed the money, I couldn’t bring myself to return it, even if I’d had the time.
But I had no use for it now. Just like I had no use for this place, or anyone who lived here.
All of that was over now. My life here was over.
My stomach fluttered as I reached the edge of town, the roads and trees and houses and everything else that I’d ever known, quickly disappearing in the rearview mirror.
I wasn’t sure what my future held, but it had to be better than that view.
he faint sound
of a camera shutter woke me up. After I realized that it wasn’t a part of my dream, I cracked open an eyelid, ignoring the throbbing pain in my head. A cell phone was inches from my face and I groaned, pushing it away.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I growled, rolling over.
“You’re so adorable when you sleep, Jesse,” she replied. It took me a minute, but the events of last night came rushing back. I clicked through my mental rolodex, trying to remember who I’d been partying with the night before.
That’s who that voice, and the phone, belonged to. She was the head cheerleader for the Denver Mustang’s and like every other cheerleader, she had the cookie-cutter body that wouldn’t quit to go along with her perfect face and flowing, blonde hair. The cheerleaders all looked alike. Shit, most of them sounded alike with their singsongy voices and air-head attitudes. They even
“You’d better not Instagram that shit,” I growled.
“Oh, come on,” she pouted. “Why not?”
“Don’t fucking do it, Brandy, I mean it,” I demanded.
“Alright, alright,” she said, putting her phone down on the nightstand and curling up next to me in bed. She ran one expertly manicured red fingernail down the front of my stomach, outlining my abs with her as her hand traveled down below my navel.
“Stop it,” I said, grabbing her hand and pulling it away before she could grip my shaft. I rolled over away from her.
“Jesse!” she said to my back, her words full of admonishment. “Nobody’s ever said no to me!”
“Yeah, well there’s a first time for everything, ain’t there?” I growled. “Look, you’ve already woken me up, goddammit. I’m going for a run.” I jumped out of bed, leaving her alone in the bed, looking a like a perfect, tiny naked blonde doll with wide eyes and a huge pout on her face.
“Can’t you do that later?” she whined.
“Nope. It takes a lot of work to stay this magnificent,” I replied, stretching my arms over my head. She shook her head and rolled her eyes as she watched me get dressed.
“Come on,” she said, sliding her hand down and sinking a finger into her pretty pink pussy. I looked down, watching her, tempted for a moment as I remembered the way she’d tasted last night - like sweet oranges. She was delicious.
But I rarely ate the same meal twice, and certainly not three times in a row. I’d fucked Brandy twice already and I wasn’t about to do it again. I had rules about these things.
The last thing I needed was some chick getting attached and causing drama in my life.
I’d planned my life perfectly and so far it had all played out according to my very detailed, very well-thought out plans. I wasn’t about to let anything in my life upset all of that.
“Gotta go,” I mumbled, as I laced up my custom-made Nike’s. I walked over to her, kissed her forehead, and walked to the door before turning back to her. She really was a perfect specimen of a woman… Outside of the lack of braincells and the fact that she already has a husband…
And I’m no fucking home wrecker either.
This girl never wore a ring out on the field, and she didn’t say a goddamned word about the man until
we’d fucked last night. That alone was enough to kick her straight out of my bed, but I was fucking tired and decided to let her leave with dignity in the morning.
“Make sure you’re gone when I get back. I have work to do.”
Her eyes flashed in disbelief, but I shut the door before she could start arguing with me. It was easier this way. Easier to be a cold sonofabitch in these situations. Any sign of kindness was misinterpreted as something more serious, more meaningful, and Jesse ‘Colorado’ Collins didn’t do meaningful.
I had too much shit going on in my life to bother. I’ve been the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos for the last five years and I’d worked my ass off to get here.
It wasn’t easy, but football’s been my life forever…
Hell, it’s in my
My father was the quarterback at Colorado State even before I was born, and so was my grandfather before him. My destiny was set long before I was a gleam in someone’s eye. Neither of them had ever made it to the pros, though. I was the first in the family to really succeed on that level, and my folk’s never let me forget for a moment how proud they were.
It was a lot of pressure, sure. But I could handle it. I was used to it. Hell, at this point, I’d walked through so much fire, I was pretty sure I could handle anything. I wasn’t cocky, although some might disagree. I liked to think of it as confidence. When you’re mowed down daily by 300-pound defense linemen and you can still walk the fuck away, it tends to build up your ego.
I’m not going to apologize for it, though. I don’t apologize for anything. That’s why I make sure to think everything out before I do it. I make sure all my bases are covered before I make a move. I don’t make mistakes. I’ve never apologized for anything in my life, and I have no plans on starting now. If I never fucked up, I never had to say I was sorry.
My three times rule was in play for a reason. It was part of my plan to stay unattached and happy.
So was my morning run that I made sure to get in every single day before breakfast, no matter where I was. I pulled on my sunglasses, turned on the ‘Map My Run’ app on my phone, put my ear buds in and blasted Bruce Springsteen as I headed towards the elevator. Grady Bishop was waiting for me by the elevator doors. He was my loyal bodyguard, and he’d been doing this long enough to know my routine.
“Morning, Grady,” I nodded.
“Morning, boss,” he replied, following me into the elevator.
He wasn’t much for talking. But neither were any of the members of the Denver Broncos Security Team. That was part of their charm, if you asked me. If they were doing their job right while we were out in public, you wouldn’t even be aware of them… Unless they were needed. Then, in a flash, there they were taking care of whatever needed to be taken care.
Grady was an ex-cop who had dreams of being in the NFL in high school. Once he got into college, he realized he didn’t have that special something that’s required on the field. That didn’t mean he wasn’t big, mean and intimidating.
Well, not to me, because
scared me. But to anyone else that encountered him? They would keep their distance.
I’d resented his constant presence in the beginning, but I’d had no say in the manner, so I’d learned to tolerate him. At least he could keep up with me without complaint.
My penthouse was in downtown Denver and twenty-five floors above the Mile High City. The doorman greeted us with a nod as we made our way out of the building. I pulled up the hood of my jacket, hoping that I could get through this run without being recognized, and within seconds I was pounding the pavement of downtown Denver with Grady following a safe distance behind.
I’d started to really enjoy life in the city… And it was a far cry from where I’d come from.
I’d grown up outside of Ft. Collins in a tiny little town called Ault, and I’d been dreaming about leaving the whole time. My great-great-great grandfather, Colonel William O. Collins, had founded the tiny fort town of Camp Collins in 1860, which later became the city of Ft. Collins. My family had stuck around the area ever since, and not one of them had ever gone much further than walking distance from each other… You could say Colorado was in my blood. It was a part of my fabric. Fuck, I’d earned the nickname of ‘Colorado’ in high school because of it, and it had stuck all throughout college at Colorado State and followed me all the way to the pros. The press ate it up and when it was time for the draft, Denver was all over me in the first round. I was tired of the whole manifest destiny bullshit myself. I’d have been just as happy sitting on a beach in Miami…
But hell… If being ‘Colorado’ sold tickets and jerseys, then I knew better than to complain.
And besides that… The rewards were out of this world. My penthouse, my house in the country, my sports cars, my horses, my money…the women. All of it was amazing, better than I’d ever dreamed of as I sat in that tiny shithole town imagining what my life was going to be like when I grew up.
Although, I wasn’t sure exactly how grown up I really was just yet. Sure, I had all these adult things in my life, like Brandy’s exquisite pussy back there, but none of it made me feel like I’d actually become an adult. I didn’t have a wife or kids or even a mortgage to worry about, because everything was paid for. I certainly didn’t have a conventional job. None of the things I thought made you an adult when I was a kid were a part of my life now.
That doesn’t mean that what I do have isn’t incredibly fucking wonderful. I love every minute of it. I’m grateful for it all. Every single fucking day I say a little prayer of thanks. Every time I buy a new car, or a new house, or bring home a new woman… I know how blessed I am. And every time I hear the roar of the crowd, I know I’m
where I’m supposed to be. Colorado has been good to me.
But it’s a hell of a lot of pressure. Sometimes, when I’m running through the hustle and bustle of downtown Denver, passing by all the suited clones on their way to their cubicles, I wonder if I’m missing out on something. I wonder if they feel the same pressure that I do.
But then I realize how amazing it is to be me and I smile, run a little faster and sweat a little harder. All the physical pain? The long hours of practice? The lonely life of a star on the rise?
It’s all fucking worth it.
I count my blessings every day.
That’s what I was doing - counting my blessings - when I rounded the corner by the 16th Street Mall. I had the right of way as I crossed the street and bounded into the crosswalk.
I didn’t even see the little bastard coming.
He didn’t see me either, because he had his teenaged nose jammed so far in his fucking cell phone that he didn’t realize he was about to plow straight into the 2016 Superbowl MVP.
I felt my knee explode with the impact and I tumbled up and over the car, smashing the windshield on my journey before bouncing off the roof and making a beautiful little swan dive straight into the asphalt. A string of cuss words flew out of my mouth a as a lifetime of best-laid plans quickly evaporated into thin air. For a brief moment, I thought about how fucking stupid it would be if I died right here in the street. They’d probably make some fucking anti-text-and-drive law and slap my name on it. Somebody would make a sad commercial begging kids to put down their phones while “arms of an angel” played in the background and pictures of my smiling face flashed on screen.
I opened my eyes half expecting to see an angel, but the only thing hovering over me was Grady’s huge ass.
“Don’t move, boss!” Grady said, bending over and putting his jacket under my head. “Call an ambulance!” he demanded to the quickly growing crowd that had formed around me. The last thing I saw before I passed out from the pain was the horrified look on the pock-marked kid’s face over Grady’s shoulder, his iPhone still clutched tightly in his stupid little hand.