Gwen was showered in a rainbow of confetti as she continued her free fall towards the ground.
“Accio Broom!” she yelled as she managed to straddle it before landing onto the field.
Gwen coasted to a stop as she approached the ground. She ignored the sudden swarm of fans as she looked around for Darren. Through a hole in the crowd, she saw him walking towards the locker room.
“Darren, wait!” She ran to catch up, but he brushed her off and kept walking. “You don’t under-”
“No,” he snarled, cutting her off, “I understand perfectly.”
They reached the locker room, and she tried to follow him inside, but he slammed the door before she could manage.
“Darren, please, don‘t be this way,” she said as she tried to stay calm.
Gwen refused to be ignored.
“Darren,” she called. “Open this door immediately.”
Darren opened the door, glaring at her. He stalked back and sat down on the nearest chair, not waiting for an explanation.
“Look, Greg, or whoever you are,” he said through clenched teeth. “I let my guard down. I liked you and I sure as hell thought you liked me. I was an idiot. Anything else you care to add or does that pretty well cover it?”
“I didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” she said softly. “I just truly wanted to be a Kenmare Kestrel.”
"So you decided to get back at me for the way I treated you at try outs? You charmed yourself to look like a man to get your revenge?"
What he said did have a hint of truth in it. "I admit, I was mad for how you treated me. I wanted to get back at you guys. But it wasn't about revenge...just to prove a point - that a girl can play just as good as any guy. I didn't mean for it to come to this...or," Gwen paused to fight her emotions, "to fall in love."
Darren looked at her. “Do you think that after what you’ve done, I could still love you? Not only did you lie to me, but you’re also a woman.”
“I don’t see why it should make a difference. I thought you were in love with me”
Darren sighed. “You just don’t understand. I’m gay. I’ve known it for years. When I met Greg I thought that I had finally found someone that I could love. But now when I look at you, you’re not him anymore. It doesn’t matter that you’re the same person, you’ve completely changed to me.”
Darren sat on the chair, as he defeatedly held his head in his hands. The enormity of what she had done finally hit Gwen.
“I’m so sorry,” she began softly. “I didn’t think any of this would happen.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Darren finally said, quietly. “ My life will be over soon enough. One good thing to come from all of this is that I can no longer live a lie, hiding who I am like there is something wrong with it.”
“Me, too,” Gwen said, giving him a small, hopeful smile. “They accepted me, you know. Maybe they’ll surprise you.”
"Maybe," he said with an air of doubt in his tone. There was nothing that could be said after that. The wounds were too raw for forgiveness to heal them. So she left.
As Gwen walked the stadium's passage way, a man appeared to her. "Ms. Morgan?"
"Albert Flemings; owner of The Harpies." Gwen's eyes widen. "You've displayed some nerve by what you did to the Kestrals. Someone like you could prove useful on our team."
"Your only saying that cause I'm a woman and that's all you hire," retorted Gwen.
"True, but we only hire the best."
Gwen considered it for a moment. Her dream had always been to play for the Kestrels and playing for the team had been everything she hoped it would be. But she knew that because of what she had done and what had happened between her and Darren, she would have to leave. Maybe it would be easier just to take this offer, than to keep fighting to be on a team where she didn’t belong.
“OK,” she said. “When do want me?”
“As soon as possible – we should find it fairly easy to get you out of your current contract.”
“Well sir,” Gwen began, mustering as much of a smile as she could. “I guess you have a new Seeker.”
Gwen and Flemings were just shaking hands, to seal the deal, as Fawn Brown came out from behind the wall where she had been hiding, waiting for Gwen to exit the locker room.
“I was just putting the finishing touches on my story about the hidden deviants riddling our signature sport, but this is much better!” Fawn fairly smacked her lips at the deliciousness of her scoop. “Imagine! The star Seeker abandoning her team on the eve of the Finals!”
"I'll give you the exclusive to the story on one condition." Gwen folded her arms as she waited for Fawn to comply.
Fawn looked at her curiously. "What condition?"
"Drop the issue with Darren."
"What?" Fawn asked almost balking at her request.
"You don't ever bring up the subject on Darren and I'll tell you everything; from the charm I used to change into a man to why I'm signing with the Harpies."
Fawn considered her words very carefully, "Deal. But mind you Gwen, the subject can't hide forever. Just know that he won't be outed by my quill."
“Thank you,” she replied gratefully.
With that, she turned away from the reporter and walked out of the club. She gave it one last look as she left. Her time here had been amazing, she found it so hard to believe that this was it, especially after the way things had ended with Darren.
But then she realised that it would not be the last time she would see them at all. Because now she was a member of a rival team, which meant that next season, she would have to come face to face with them all once again.
Gwen put on her Quidditch gloves and flexed her hands. It had taken all year, but they finally fit perfectly, the leather having become supple enough to feel like a second skin. Gwen flinched a little at the thought of “second skin” as it brought back all of the pain she had caused Darren.
Gwen smiled at the thought of him. He had come out at the end of last season, after the Kestrels won the cup. His team had accepted him, mostly, with a few players turning in their notices.
Gwen swiftly shifted her focus and approached the pitch. She looked around at the fans cheering before she finally settled her eyes on the opposing team--the Kenmare Kestrels. Darren was leading as his team followed closely behind. She didn’t acknowledge them, just as they ignored her.
She heard the commentator yelling from the box as the two teams met in the middle for the captains to shake hands. She tried to catch Darren’s eye as he extended his hand, but he was purposefully looking away.
Sighing, she listened to the referee briefing the teams on playing a fair game. He blew his whistle, and the players mounted their brooms.
As she rose into the air, Gwen realised how much seeing Darren again had affected her. She thought she had put him behind her but being so close to him and seeing how desperately he tried to avoid her had made her feel sick. She would try to talk to him after the match. But first, she had to prove herself to him – she had to show that she could win this game.
Both teams’ scores began to creep up. Each had excellent Chasers and, despite some excellent keeping, goal after goal was scored, greeted by cheers from the crowd. Unfortunately, Darren had been so busy ignoring Gwen that he’d nearly gotten his head knocked off by a Quaffle, but had managed to swerve in the nick of time.
At that point, Gwen decided to ignore him as well and returned her full concentration to finding the Golden Snitch. She had yet to spot it, but had seen the other Seeker's flight pattern change a few times. False alarms, so far, but Gwen was determined to beat him to it.
Finally, the whistle blew signaling the end of the first half and both teams descended, retreating to their respective lockers.
Gwen, despite trying pushing Darren to the back of her mind, couldn’t help but dwell on her time with the Kestrels as she approached the lockers. She was about to walk in when a strong arm grabbed her and pulled her around the side of the building.
She looked up to find her self face to face with the aforementioned.
“Darren, what are you-”
“Find me after the game,” he hissed, and then he was gone.
Gwen entered the lockers and half-listened to the rest of the captain’s pep talk, all the while thinking about Darren’s sudden appearance.
It seemed like seconds when the second half began. Her mind raced furiously, wondering what Darren could possibly need to say to her after all this time. But she got back to business as she caught that familiar gleam of gold.
"There you are, you pesky bugger." Gwen looked to the other Seeker to see if he had seen it. But his flight pattern hadn't changed. "Once a bloke, always a bloke," she said as she steered towards the direction of her prize.
Gwen kept her pace slow, to not arouse suspicion from the other Seeker. But that quickly changed.
The other seeker sidled up by Gwen, as he’d obviously noticed she had veered off her path, even if at a snail’s pace. He followed her sight line, but she’d quickly looked away, even while planning her escape. He distractedly looked where she had been looking and she went for it, swooping swiftly to where she had seen that elusive streak of gold. She had a decent jump on him, but he caught up to her quickly and the two of them dived at the same time, arms outstretched.
“Go get ‘em Gwen,” Darren thought as he watched their descent.
Gwen fought to stay ahead, but the other Seeker was too fast. He edged forward, gaining a solid lead. The other players had noticed that the two were fighting for the Snitch, and both pairs of Beaters began whacking the Bludgers at the opposing Seeker.
Gwen ducked as a Bludger came soaring towards her head, causing it to almost unseat the other Seeker, who had seen it a fraction of a second too late to have a clean getaway.
She was suddenly ahead of him and had her arm extended, ready to grasp the Snitch between her fingers.
But out of no where, the rogue Bludger nipped the tail of her broomstick, causing her to momentarily lose control.
Although she quickly regained her balance, those few crucial seconds were enough for the other Seeker to come from behind, grabbing the Snitch.
"KESTRALS WIN!" yelled the announcer.
The other Seeker proudly waved his hand, showing off the golden ball before he turned to Gwen. "You were a better player back when you were a man."
As soon as he said it, the Seeker found himself on the receiving end of Darren's fist. "Sorry mate, my hand didn't see you."
“You’d be a better man if you weren’t so cocky!” Gwen hissed back, emboldened by Darren’s gesture.
Darren smiled broadly at Gwen and motioned for her to follow him.
Gwen felt the same old weakness in her knees she’d felt last year when he smiled at her like that and followed him to a secluded corner of the player’s entrance.
“I thought you had us for a minute,” Darren started, shyly.
Gwen looked at him, a year’s worth of words rushing through her mind. In the end she said nothing. She just watched the crowd carry him away from her.
Darren held her gaze as he tried to yell to her, but she couldn’t hear him as he was being dragged off the pitch. She was disappointed over the loss, but she was more concerned with the task at hand; she needed to find Darren again.
She wondered aimlessly around, looking for Darren or his team. Just then, Joseph Randall, one of her favorite teammates from the Kestrels ran up and caught her by the elbow.
She turned and smiled as she recognized him. “Hey Joey,” she said as she punched him lightly on the shoulder, “it’s been a while.”
"Yeah" Joey laughed as he rubbed his arm. "So much has changed since you left. I still don't understand why you had to go, but I respect you still."
"Well thanks, Joey. I appreciate it." Gwen responded.
"I should thank you. Your boldness helped Darren to come out...which helped me come out too," Joey started to smile awkwardly as he continued to talk. "I don't think Darren and I would have found each other if it weren't for you."
"You and ...Darren? Well, that's...wonderful!" Gwen tried not to sound hurt despite the slight twinge in her heart.
Joey was a sweet sort of guy, Gwen thought sadly. She turned to leave, deciding it was best for all concerned if she simply left it alone. There was no reason to dredge up hard feelings if Darren was happy now.
She slung her broom over her shoulder, and weaved her way through the crowd, heading out to her team's locker room. She had just made to open the door when she heard him.
“Gwen,” Darren said softly, as he fought his way through the mass of people and stood before her. “I wanted to see you before you left.”
Gwen stopped, but didn’t turn to face him. She was overwhelmed with emotion, and she was sure that the smallest thing would make her cry.
“Gwen,” Darren repeated softly, “look--I know you talked to Joey. I wanted to tell you myself, but…”
She was on the verge of tears as she turned to look at him. “Darren, I loved you--no, I do love you,” she corrected herself. “I know you could never love me back, but knowing that there’s someone else is almost too much to take.”
Darren closed the gap between them and embraced her tightly."You know me, " he whispered in her ear as he held her, "You know my heart better than anyone. And you know I would never mean to hurt you."
She knew he was being sincere and felt herself calming down. "I'm sorry. Seems so hypocritical of me to not want you to be true to yourself."
Darren smiled at her, "And I was a bigger hypocrite back then, Gwen. I want to say thank you. And to finally say now, since my pride wouldn't let me say it before, that you're the best Seeker that the Kestrals has ever had."