Gina Lenetti and I sat quietly in Coach Martin's office.
I had no idea what our fate was going to be.
"Imagine my surprise when I was told to come to the principal's office to pick up a couple of my players," she said as she sat down in her chair. "He wants me to handle the punishment. And we're going to do that."
It started off with a little teasing from a couple of football players, Josh Bryan and Chuck Lawrence. I didn't like being called a sissy and shoved Chuckie into the lockers, only to be penned up by our quarterback.
"Mr. Lacy, I can understand why you did what you did," she said. "But you're going to have to put up with the teasing if you're going to be on this team. You're going to have to be our version of Jackie Robinson."
I understood the example. I wrote an essay on him during Black History Month in the sixth grade. It won a prize. His first season in the Major Leagues, he was told he couldn't retaliate, regardless of the racial slurs tossed in his direction.
"Miss Lenetti, I'm a bit baffled by your behavior," Coach Martin said. "I thought high sticking was an ice hockey offense."
I was a bit surprised by her behavior, too. The entire time, she had been riding me, trying to make it so hard for me, that I'd quit.
But when Josh had me penned against the locker, she came up from behind and whacked him right between the legs. It left him in severe pain.
We tried not to laugh at Coach Martin's "high sticking" reference.
But she wanted an explanation as to why Gina came to my defense. I wanted one, too. No one was more surprised by what she did than me.
"Coach, I still don't want him on the team," she said stoically. "I'm still going to make things hard on him until he quits. But he's my teammate until he does. No one picks on a Lady Tiger except those of us on the team, at least not as long as I'm captain."
Coach Martin cracked a smile. And then she got serious.
"Keep it up and you won't be captain much longer."
She picked up the phone and called Coach Parker into the office.
"I'm handing these two over to you," she said.
"OK ladies, I'm going to run you until you puke, now move!" Coach Parker yelled, pointing to the door.
We stood in line waiting on our uniforms.
It was picture day. It was one week before our first game.
Things were sort of dying down. The teasing was getting a little old, so I wasn't getting teased as much around school.
Our fearless leader, Gina, and the rest of the eighth graders, were still hard on me, but I couldn't tell whether it was because I was a boy and they were trying to run me off, or whether it was their regular treatment of us "seventh grade maggots" as they referred to us.
They were also hard on Kim and the rest of the first timers.
There were a couple of parents meetings and a heated school board meeting.
Coach Martin did her best to calm their fears in explaining I wasn't a 6-foot, 200 pound gorilla out to harm their daughters. Many of them attended practice and found out their daughters stood just as good a chance of harming me.
None of the teams in our conference seemed to be upset about me playing, especially when they found out I was 5-5 and weighed 120 pounds.
"We have majorettes bigger than he is," one of the opposing coaches told her.
There seemed to be more of an uproar about Beth playing football, that she was going to get hurt. But from what I heard about her in practice, she seemed to be holding her own.
"Here's your skirt, your bottom and your jersey, Mr. Lacey," Coach Martin said when she handed me my uniform. "I'm going to let you in on a little secret. No. 7 was my number, too. My dad liked it because Mickey Mantle wore that number. But I liked it because of John Elway. I want you to wear that uniform with pride."
I looked at the green and white uniform. The jersey was white with green letters spelling out "Lady Tigers" on the front. The number 7 was on the back. The skirt was green with white paw prints along the side. The bottom was green, but with "Lady Tigers" written across the back side in script.
"I'll wear it with pride," I said.
We were told to carry the uniforms home after practice and hang them up.
I walked into my deserted locker-room. It was actually the volleyball team's locker-room. But since practiced and played at different times, I was assigned there to change and shower.
I slowly put the uniform on, walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I turned around a couple of times.
I hate to admit it, but I liked how it looked on me.
I always had to knock before I entered the locker-room where the rest of the girls were, which was where we held our team meetings.
"Wow, only two bandaids this time," Kim said when I entered their locker-room in full uniform.
"Yeah, I think I'm actually getting the hang of this leg shaving business," I said.
"It will be second nature to ya once the season gets over," Kim said.
"That's what I'm afraid of," I laughed.
"Alright Ladies, listen up!" Coach Martin said. "The football team is finishing up with their pictures. As soon as they are done, we'll take the field for a team photo and individual pictures."
We grabbed our sticks and headed out when we were told the football team was done.
I heard someone whistle as we were heading to the field.
I turned around to see Beth Garrison in full football gear, holding her helmet.
"Man, Lacy, you sure look cute in that skirt," she said.
I smiled, and did a little curtsy.
"Hold on you two, I want to get a picture," a woman said.
It was Beth's mom.
"You two look too cute!"
Beth rolled her eyes..."I've got an idea."
She got down on one knee. She told me to sit on her knee.
It was a classic football program photo, usually with a cheerleader sitting on the football player's knee, or the field hockey player or volleyball player sitting on the football player's knee.
"Please Ms. Garrison, I hope you're not putting this on Facebook," I said, grabbing my stick and heading to the field.