Harry was shaking me awake in bed the next morning.
"Huh?" I asked with my eyes still closed.
"It's 10:30, get up." he said. "We've gotta start getting ready to go to the game."
"That's not until 7:30." I groaned turning over.
"Just get up we have to help upstairs." he said.
I opened my eyes finally and saw him already standing there with his green sweatshirt on. He was ridiculously excited and I couldn't blame him, he's been wanting to go to a game at Lambeau for a long time now and he's getting his chance. I rolled out of bed and got dressed putting on my khakis and the spare Packers sweatshirt he laid out for me to wear.
We went upstairs to see Kaine and her dad in the kitchen getting a few things together.
"You boys ready for today? It's gonna be a lot of fun." he asked.
"I've been looking forward to this since we booked the flights sir." Harry said.
"Everett isn't feeling so great so dad's coming with us instead." Kaine said while she packed a bunch of lager in a cooler.
"Shame isn't it." her dad joked.
Kaine turned around to walk over to the fridge and I realized she had an old jersey on.
"Still wear the Favre jersey huh?" Harry asked.
"I will always wear this Farve jersey. He started 297 consecutive games in his career that man is a legend and will always be a Packer at heart." Kaine said rather passionately.
"She was born at the beginning of the Favre era so she was born and raised with him as our QB. Nothing's gonna change that. Little Coop will get to know Rodgers the same way she did Favre." Mr. Westbrook said. "And I grew up during the glory years I'll always wish Lombardi was still the coach."
We continued packing up the coolers and started piling things by the door to bring out to the car. Kaine was taking things out of the oven and putting them in boxes to bring with us. Her dad disappeared downstairs for a while trying to find something.
"Need a hand?" I asked.
"Just put them by the rest of the stuff but careful not to burn yourself." she said.
I nodded and carried the boxes over not touching the pans. Mr. Westbrook emerged from downstairs again holding a few coats.
"Here boys, take these." he said holding out the jackets to us.
They had the logo monogrammed in the corner to make us even more decked out in the team's gear. They were heavy coats too to keep us warm so we gladly accepted them.
"You all ready to get going?" he asked.
"Absolutely let's get out there." Harry said with a nod.
It was around noon when we left the house and the drive took about 45 minutes in traffic. We waited another 15 to get into the parking lots where tons of fans were already set up outside.
"We're meeting up with the people in our box. We normally park in the east corner of the lot so we'll see if they're there." Kaine's dad said.
"How long have you guys had these seats for?" I asked.
"They were my grandfather's seats, they just keep getting passed down through our family, that's how most people with season tickets are." he explained.
"And they'll keep getting passed down right dad?" Kaine asked.
"Oh yeah, these will stay in the family forever." he nodded. "We're good friends with the people in our box, I'll introduce you all."
We pulled into a spot and all hopped out. Kaine and her dad were hugging everyone around them, Harry and I leaned against the car as coolly as we could trying to stay out of the commotion. I nudged him when I saw a familiar face from yesterday at football. Harry shrugged not sure of what his name was again.
"Was his name Ryan?" I asked quietly.
"Yeah that's it, the one Everett was freaking out over because he looked at Kaine." Harry said with a little laugh.
Kaine gave him another long hug and I started to fidget a little annoyed. It was also at this moment that Kaine's dad called our names out and waved us over. We walked over to him and his buddies and shook all their hands smiling politely and speaking when we were spoken to.
"These are Kaine's friends from the city, couple of smart kids." he said bragging about us like we were his own.
"Well you certainly don't have Brooklyn accents." one of the men laughed.
Harry and I traded off on giving the spiel on how we ended up in New York and how long we'd been at Wolfe and what we do there. It was practically the story couples give about the first time they met, we had it memorized and rehearsed since we told it so often.
We broke off after a while and started unloading the cars getting ready for our tailgate. Harry was helping one of the guys set up the grill while Kaine and I set things out.
"So Everett asked me the other day how you knew Ryan so well." I brought up casually.
"He's just one of Dylan's friends, they became friends through our dad's and soon enough were in the same school district so I just know him from here." she half lied.
"You can't lie to me, you do that thing with your lips when your lying." I teased.
She bit her lip trying to cover for it.
"Come on you can tell me." I said pushing her further.
"Don't tell Ev he'll freak out." she warned.
"You have my word." I said.
"That's all true about them being friends and whatnot but he and I have fucked a few times in the women's bathroom at these games." she said. "Not since I've been with Ev but we just have a history."
"Yeah I won't tell him." I laughed a little trying to hide my pang of uneasiness. "Does Dylan know?"
"Oh god no, and he won't know." she said seriously.
She didn't say anything about Harry not knowing.
"My lips are sealed." I said.
"Pinkie promise?" she said holding out her little finger.
"This again?" I asked and hooked my finger with hers. "Promise."
She smiled satisfied then continued getting things out of coolers and setting them on the tables her dad and his friends set up. I started heating things up on the grill while Harry was slicing rolls for leftover turkey sandwiches.
There were thousands of football fans in the lot all doing the same things we were. Football on Thanksgiving was big just in the households of Americans but when you were actually at a stadium tailgating before a game it was even bigger. There was excited cheering, music, and just so much energy all around. This was much more eventful than Harry and me sitting on the couch drinking beers all day. I was in desperate need of a beer just thinking about our tradition.
"Niall, come give me a hand?" Kaine's dad called.
I walked over to him and his friend who were trying to get something out of the hatchback of a car.
"Yes sir?" I asked.
"Can you get in the back seat and push the end of this last tent through the back? It's getting caught on something." he said.
"Yeah no problem just get ready to catch it." I said.
I got in the backseat and unhooked the drawstring that was caught on a notch and gently pushed the folded tent through the window. When I felt it go though and the men catch it I got out and helped on the other end.
"Thank you son." he said and clapped me on the back.
"No problem." I said helping the other man take it out of the bag and starting to set it up.
"We can take it from here George." Mr. Westbrook said dismissing the other man.
George nodded at us and grabbed a beer from the cooler walking away. Kaine's dad and I opened the canopy and the frame of the tent and set it up about the lawn chairs set up on the far side of our little tailgating site. I finished tying the corners down and he had a beer in his hand for me as soon as I was done.
"Thank you." I said taking it graciously and popping the top off.
"I hate to say it but I'm glad Everett got sick so I could come today." he said.
"I'm glad you could come too. He doesn't seem to get on very well with Harry and me but you seem to." I shrugged.
"I've noticed. He never really warmed up to our family and he's especially defensive around Kaine's friends. She likes him though, that's all there really is to say." he said.
"As far as she's told me he's good to her, some squabbles here and there but all around good." I said.
"He better be good to my girl." he nodded.
"I'm always keeping my eyes out for her." I assured him.
"I'm glad she has you." he smiled.
We talked a while longer until his friends called him over to help them grill and I sat on the truck bed drinking my beer. Harry came up to join me and we chatted for a little until we were told the food was about done. I was put to work making coleslaw and Harry took the condiments out of the cooler.
We filled our plates with the leftover Thanksgiving foods and sat around in trunks and in truck beds. I was sat with Harry and two other guys in the bed of a pickup.
"How'd you become a Packers fan?" one of the guys asked us.
"My freshman roommate in college was from Manitowoc area and was a huge fan so he passed it on to me." Harry said.
"I'm more of a Cardinals guy myself. But I always liked to watch football when I was younger." I added between bites.
"How'd you decide you wanted to come to America for college?" the other one asked.
"My Ma forced me when she found out I was accepted to Columbia. I applied on a long shot but just planned on staying close for uni in Ireland. But then I got in and she pushed me on the plane here." I said laughing at the memory.
"I had a few friends living in New York at the time so I wasn't so afraid to come over. Still hesitant but it was just school." Harry said.
We kept eating for a while until Kaine came up with Ryan and they sat on the floor of the bed to eat their food. I stepped down and grabbed a few more beers out of the cooler and brought them back up handing them to the rest of the guys. About an hour and a half before the game we started packing everything up.
We walked from the parking lot toward Lambeau Field. The stadium from the outside was insane and I knew just how excited all these fans were going to be for a home game on Thanksgiving. I was excited, I've only been to a few NFL games and these fans were dedicated ones. I was freezing my ass off in this heavy jacket but there were some guys walking in with their shirts off and their chests painted. True dedication.
Our tickets were scanned at the door and Kaine's dad lead the way to the seats. We were up on the box level and he held the door open for all of us. The box had indoor and outdoor space which I was glad for. I was cold and wanted to warm up a little before the game started.
As the evening continued Harry, Kaine and I tried to pace ourselves with the number of beers we were drinking. However the rest of the guys in the box were not and were slowly getting more and more obnoxious with each beer they had. We made our way to the outdoor seats and looked out on the sea of green and gold in the stadium and Harry was grinning.
"I've been wanting to come here for years. And this is the absolute best game we could've come to." Harry said putting his arm over Kaine's shoulders.
"You're not gonna cry on us are you H?" she asked.
"No but you better watch out for the rest of the guys in the box." he said releasing her.
She took the seat between her dad and me. We sat around talking until things got started.
We got to see Favre's number 4 being retired on the North end zone of Lambeau and I've never seen so many grown men crying in my entire life. It was really an emotional sight to see one of the most celebrated Packers in person.
The excitement began when we scored our first touchdown. Everyone was on their feet at once and Kaine was totally overjoyed. She had her arms around my neck instantly celebrating the 6 points and I put my arm around her waist to keep her steady. Harry was on my other side and nearly knocked me over with how excited he was. The whole stadium was celebrating and loud and it was something I'd never seen before. Packers fans were truly the most dedicated NFL fans I had ever witnessed.
As the game went on the Bears were catching up and eventually got the win in the last quarter. We fell to the Bears 17-13 but it was still a great game. Rodgers had some excellent plays and we put up a great fight. The atmosphere of the stadium made it all worth it.
Most of the guys in our box were pretty drunk and their sons had to help escort them back to the parking lot. Everyone said their drunken goodbyes until the next game. Kaine smiled and waved at her father's friends and hugged some of the sons goodbye.
"Sorry you guys couldn't have seen them win." Mr. Westbrook said when we got into the car.
"It doesn't matter, we got to see Favre." Harry said with a smile. "And it was a pretty good game."
"Experiencing the best crowd in the NFL was one of the coolest things I've ever done." I added.
"Yeah, us Cheeseheads are alright aren't we dad?" Kaine asked.
"I sure think so." he smiled.
The rest of the drive back was pretty quiet, it was late and the traffic was heavy. I dozed off for a while and woke up when we were close to the house.
When we pulled up to the house and grabbed the coolers out of the trunk. We got back inside and Kaine's mom was waiting up for us to ask us how it all went. We talked for a little while then excused ourselves off to bed.
On Friday morning we woke up to a nearly empty house with only Kaine's grandparents, Lucy and the baby home. The rest went out for Black Friday shopping. I was up before Harry and I went upstairs to find cereal set out on the table and Lucy feeding Cooper.
"Hey, could you take over a second. I've needed to go to the bathroom for like two hours now but I can't leave him home." Lucy said.
"Yeah no problem at all. Take your time I can watch him a while." I said.
"Thank you so much." she said standing up and handing him off to me.
I sat down in her chair taking over feeding Coop and smiling at him while watching the news. I set him in his little rocker chair and poured myself a bowl of cereal while he played with the toys hanging above him. Harry came upstairs and sat on the floor next to Coop for a while and talked to him.
"I'm not quite ready to go back to New York." I said.
"It's been nice being away hasn't it?" he asked.
"Let's just say I'm not looking forward to work on Monday." I said.
"I'd much rather stay here to hang out with Coop." he said lifting him out of the chair to hold a while.
Coop was laughing and smiling while Harry bounced him up and down in his arms. I ate my breakfast quietly and when I was done took Cooper from Harry so he could eat his own. I sat down on the couch in the next room over and laid him on my chest then took my phone out to check my work email. I had a lot in my inbox that I really didn't want to deal with next week. Cooper nuzzled his head into my neck and started to drift back off to sleep.
"H can you grab me my computer? It's just next to the bed downstairs. Our clients are driving me absolutely crazy." I asked.
"Why can't you?" he asked looking up from his phone.
"I've got a baby on me." I said and motioned to him.
"Alright fine." he said getting up.
I heard the backdoor open and Kaine and Everett walked into the kitchen with their arms full of bags.
"Hey how'd the shopping go?" Harry asked when he reemerged upstairs.
"Got a few good deals, most of the bags are my mom's gifts we're bringing in." Kaine answered.
Harry handed me my laptop and I slowly shifted so that I wouldn't wake Cooper. I opened it on my lap and logged back in opening all the programs I would need.
"What are you doing?" Kaine asked sitting down next to me.
"Work." I groaned.
"What exactly do you do Niall?" Everett asked setting down more bags.
"You know how you instantly get graphics whenever you turn on a computer?" I said.
"Yeah." he nodded.
"I can do everything from code a computer from the bottom up to writing a program that can add two plus two." I answered.
"So what kind of classes did you take in your primary schools to know you wanted to do this?" he asked.
"I didn't know this is what I wanted to do. I took a shot in the dark and it ended up working out for me. There weren't really and specialized classes I took in Ireland." I shrugged.
"I teach senior English in a high school down in Texas and these kids are having the same problems. They're all applying for college in these coming months and none of them know what to do." he said.
"Well I was really great at language and composition classes in my school in England and all I knew is that I wanted to get into something like that. I applied looking to go into publishing but I slowly got interested in the advertisement industry and that's how I got involved with Wolfe. You've just got to tell your students to take a shot." Harry added.
Everett was leaning against the counter in the kitchen trying to take in everything we were saying and nodding. I linked my computer to my work one and tweaked a couple websites and sent them off to clients while the rest of the family walked in. Teddy came into the room and took Cooper off my chest to hold for a while and so I could readjust.
"What time is your flight tomorrow?" Teddy asked us.
"I think around 10." Kaine said.
"Wanna hitch a ride with me? Our flight is at 11:30, no sense in making multiple trips." he offered.
"Yeah that sounds alright. It'll be a tight squeeze trying to get all our stuff into your rental but we'll make it." she said. "Ev when do I have to drop you off?"
"We gotta leave in a couple hours." he said.
"Seems like we just got you all back together and now you're leaving again." Mrs. Westbrook said from the kitchen.
"We'll be together for Christmas again." Teddy said back.
I continued doing my work from my seat for another half hour while the family talked to each other. Harry and I went downstairs to shower off and start getting ready for the day. Harry got on his computer as well and started doing work for one of his clients. I was just putting pants back on when there was a light knock on the door.
"Come in." I said with my shirt in my hand.
"Hey do either one of you want to come to the airport to drop Ev off with me?" Kaine asked.
"Uh yeah I can I think I'm caught up on work." I nodded.
"I've gotta get on a conference call in a half hour with these arses." Harry groaned. "I don't understand what the hell is wrong with this, it's within the branding of the place."
"Who's it for?" Kaine asked.
"That whiskey brand I work with that looks like it's branded by a five year old with a pack of crayons." he said.
"Oh god maybe they'll rebrand then. It's about time, try to convince them that'll give Louis a good project over the next month." I said.
"I'll try, see you in a couple hours probably?" he asked.
"Yeah are you about ready to go Niall?" she asked glancing down a my bare chest.
"I am now." I said slipping my shirt on.
Everett, Kaine, and I were out the door 15 minutes later in the wagon. I sat in the backseat and put my headphones on so that I could give them a little privacy to talk. He obviously didn't want me there but he knew Kaine couldn't drive back alone so he accepted it. They were talking quietly and I couldn't hear much of their conversation over the music. We pulled into the terminal parking and Everett pulled over onto the curb.
"Niall, wanna just find a parking spot and Kaine will text you when we're done here?" he asked.
"Yeah no problem." I said and we both got out of the car.
I grabbed his bags off the back seat and handed them over to him.
"It was nice to meet you." I said holding out my hand for him to shake.
"You guys are alright I guess." he said shaking it back.
"Have a safe flight." I smiled and let go.
I got behind the wheel of the car and Kaine told me to swing back and pick her up in 15 minutes. I nodded and waved at Everett again and pulled off the curb. I was freaking out a little because I was driving Mr. Westbrook's Mercedes and didn't want to fuck anything up. It was nothing like my Rubicon, it seemed so much more elegant and fragile. I was tense pulling into a spot in the parking lot because I was too nervous that I was gonna scratch it. I don't know why Kaine's dad just let anyone drive his car around.
It was going to be nice to have an evening around Kaine and her family without Everett breathing down her neck. I couldn't figure out if he was serious or not when he said Harry and I were 'alright' but I still didn't get the sense he was all that keen on us being her friend. I got the text from Kaine after a while and swung back around to the terminal to pick her up. She got back in the car and grabbed a tissue to blow her nose.
"I think I'm getting sick from being out in the cold all yesterday." she said.
"Or you were just crying because Everett left." I teased.
"Oh god definitely not that. I'm not one of those obsessive girlfriends who cries whenever we're not together. Heck I don't even cry that much." she said.
"Alright whatever you say." I laughed lightly. "So where does Teddy live?"
"He's in Virginia, and Dylan's in Boston. So they really could just come visit me in the city no problem but you know how busy work can get." she said.
"Yeah I know it, I miss one day and I missed an entire redesign. I've gotta work at it when we get back." I said.
"I thought you told me you didn't have anymore work to do?" she asked.
"I didn't want you driving alone, the roads are a little sloppy and you're the worst driver I've ever seen. You'd never make it back in one piece." I teased again.
"Oh shut up." she said slapping my arm.
We chatted more like this for the rest of the ride back to her house while listening to the radio. When we got back inside I planted myself and the counter next to Harry to get back to work on the website.
"We've got to do entirely new branding for that whiskey in the next three weeks." Harry muttered to me.
"Three weeks? Do they know that's impossible?" I asked.
"I forwarded Louis the email with all the new shit they want done and I know it'll look so much better when he does it but Liam's probably going to have to help him. We might need to bring in a creative intern and a technical one to get it all done." he explained.
"And if we don't get it done?" I asked.
"We'll probably lose the client. They're not a huge one but I know Rhodes and HQ won't be so happy if we lose them."
We worked simultaneously wrapping up other projects so that we could give the new one all the attention it needed on Monday. By five o'clock Harry and I had to stop our work to get ready for dinner which we'd be going to once Kaine's parents got back from dropping their grandparents at the airport. I went downstairs to try and finish off one project in our room while Harry showered off. Kaine walked in and sat down next to me on the bed and peeked over my shoulder.
"You're still fixing up that gun brand's website?" she asked.
"Yeah, they said they want to have an explosive impact on their clients." I said making a bad pun.
"You're too much." she laughed.
We sat in silence for a little longer until I finally finished off the code and gave the website back to the owners. I shut my computer and let out a breath.
"You look puzzled what's going through your brain?" Kaine asked.
"Why did you move to New York away from all this?" I asked motioning with my hands.
This question was on my mind since we got here. She had a nice family in a nice neighborhood with a nice community and nice shiny cars.
"That's what's bugging you?" she asked.
I nodded in response.
"I wanted something new and my own. You can only take this small town life so long before you need a change. I love my family and this house and everything about this town but I needed something bigger and to free my mind. I needed New York and to get away from everything I knew for a while. Why did you think I didn't tell you much about my family and home life?" she said.
"I just thought you were a private person." I shrugged.
"I didn't want you to know how incredibly simple my life before you was." she said.
Not just before New York, before me.