#Poser (Hashtag #5)

by Cambria Hebert

The Bromance

(AKA Prologue)


I suck at good-byes.

Yeah, sure, technically this wasn’t good-bye. Still felt like it. Still sucked.

It was more of a see ya later.

But how do you say see ya later when it’s more like see ya in a couple months? Especially when you’ve seen that person practically every single day since you were in first grade?

I’d never say it out loud at the risk of someone taking away my man card, but Rome and me had a bond.

We weren’t just friends. We were brothers from another mother.

And the part I would never speak out loud? Bromance. We had a bromance, okay?

I knew this day was coming. Everyone knew it was coming from the second the ink dried on his contract with the Maryland Knights.

Hell, I knew this was coming from the first moment I saw him throw a football.

Knowing something didn’t make it any easier.

So many changes lately. Most of them I was doing good with; some weighed on me more than others. Like a lot more. But I never really thought Romeo leaving for training would feel like such a rift in my life.

But here I was.

Feeling all sentimental and shit.

It was embarrassing.

When this conversation was over, I was gonna have to go do something manly like build something with my bare hands.

Or maybe I’d just eat some sprinkles.

I pulled up next to the Hellcat and parked. I knew he’d be here. If I were in his position, this is where I’d be too.

I walked through the tunnels, past the locker rooms, and into the stands. The field stretched out before me like the ocean at the beach. The field was immaculate, vibrant green, cut meticulously and slightly damp from the sprinkler system.

Even in the off-season, Alpha U knew where its priorities lay. This football field represented so much more than a sport.

To me, it was family. It was life. It was an escape.

Rome was standing at the railing, looking out across the field we’d played on more times than I could count.

I couldn’t believe it was over. We’d played our last game together and didn’t even know it at the time. I was glad, though. I wanted that last game to be exactly as it had been. Nothing but the sport and the fun. Nothing but watching each other’s backs and keeping our heads in the game.

It made for good memories.

I stopped beside him at the railing, silent.

We stood there for a while. I knew his thoughts mirrored my own.

“I’ll never quit you, B,” Romeo said eventually, a hint of sarcasm in his tone.

It wasn’t the first time he said that to me. I swung my head to scoff at him, but the sound never made it out. His words might be a joke, but their meaning wasn’t. There was no smirk on his face, no laughter in his eyes.

He meant it.

“I’ll never quit you either, Rome.”

He lifted his fist from the rail and held it between us.

We pounded it out.

Pounding it out made everything official.

“Seems like I worked my whole life for this. I waited and thought it might never come,” he said, still gazing out across the field. “But damn, it came fast.”

“You having second thoughts?” I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye.

He shook his head. “It’s just hard to walk away, you know?”

I did know. For a guy who planned to live his whole life in the moment and just for fun, things got complicated. Things got real. It was hard to live in the moment all the time when you sometimes worried there might not be another one.

Or that past moments would come back to destroy what was today. I shook off the thought. This wasn’t about me. This was about my best friend, my brother, and saying good-bye.

“You got Rim now,” I replied. “You got responsibilities beyond throwing a ball.”

He nodded and looked down at his hands. I knew he didn’t want to leave her. Hell, I’d be the same way, especially after everything they’d been through. Just a couple weeks away from Ivy when she went home at the beginning of the summer had tested my patience. I couldn’t imagine leaving for months at a time.

“But that don’t mean you’re walking away. This is for her too. You gotta build a life, bro. And with this job, this opportunity, it’s gonna give you both a hella good one.”

“She said the same thing.” He half smiled.

Didn’t surprise me one bit. Rim knew football was in Rome’s blood. She’d never stand in the way of that. I clapped him on the back. “My sis knows what she’s talking about.”

“I need you to do something for me.” He looked at me. “Not sure how you’re gonna feel about it.”

“Dude.” I sighed dramatically. “I told you. That was a one-time thing. If I go running across campus in my boxers again, I might give the old ladies in the office building heart attacks.” I gestured to myself. “It takes a strong ticker to handle all this.”

“I don’t wanna see you in your damn skivvies.” He flashed a smile. “Though I’d pay to see Ivy’s reaction to that shit.”

“Hell,” I muttered. “I’d never hear the end of it.”

Romeo’s smile grew wider into a shit-eating grin. “Rim says Prada has taken quite a liking to you.”

“Damn rat,” I spat. But then I smiled. It was hard not to love her when she’d come prancing up to the door in a stupid pink outfit when I walked in. And okay, yeah, maybe I let her sleep with us.

“Who’s whipped now?” Romeo laughed.

“You kiss your momma with that mouth?” I cracked.

He laughed and pushed off the railing to sit in the row of seats behind us. I dropped down beside him.

“What do you need?” He had to know I’d do it. We had each other’s backs like that.

“I rented a house.” A ring of keys appeared in his hand, and he spun them around his finger as he spoke. “It’s not too far from campus. Nice neighborhood, fenced-in yard, security system, garage…”

“But you’re leaving for training in like a week.”

He glanced at me.

Ah. He was leaving, but Rim wasn’t.

I laughed. “You rented her a house? She’s so pissed, isn’t she?”

The grimace on his face said it all. “She wasn’t too happy. Took some work to get her to come around.”

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