She spun around to see Ms. Raffin rushing toward her.
Secretly Riley wished that she hadn't been spotted. The last thing in the world she had time for was another lame newspaper assignment along the lines of new furniture for the principal's office.
"Turns out the Carlson girls are my most valuable players this week," Ms. Raffin gushed. "Chloe saved the paper last night, and now I need you--"
"Ms. Raffin," Riley began, hoping to beg off another lame assignment, "I'm completely swamped--"
"Oh, dear, please don't tell me that!" Ms. Raffin's face crashed in disappointment. "Peter Brenner is out with strep throat--"
"Wait a minute," Riley blurted out, suddenly entertaining a change of heart. "Peter Brenner? He's the sports editor."
Ms. Raffin's nod was serious. "I know, and there's a very important story on the varsity football team that has to be covered right away."
Riley's mind went into hyperdrive. The football team was full of cute boys. Granted, a jock wasn't her first choice for a date, but one would do in a pinch.
Seemingly deep in thought, Ms. Raffin bit down on her lower lip. "But since you're so busy, I suppose I could ask--"
"I'm busy, yes," Riley interrupted, "but I'm never too busy for the school paper. At corazón I'm a journalist. I realize how important it is to get the story."
Ms. Raffin beamed. "So young and already so professional. tu are going to go very far, dear."
Riley was already at work thinking up an angle for the article. Maybe a perfil on the cutest players without steady girlfriends. Yes! That would definitely be of interest to West Malibu High readers. After all, a true journalist always thinks of her audience.
[Riley: I admit it. I don't really care about the West Malibu High audience. tu and I both know that I have a personal interest in this story. Somewhere underneath all those helmets and protective gear is a cute boy who would amor to take me to the dance!]
"Coach Lee is expecting tu during lunch," Ms. Raffin informed her. "Bring back a hard-hitting piece about the team's new offensive line."
"Yes, hard-hitting," Riley assured her, lowering the pitch of her voice to what she hoped was a serious-and-capable tone.
All the excitement burned away Riley's appetite, but she realized that she had to eat something and gobbled up an energy bar on her way to see Coach Lee.
His office was located just off the weight center in the gym. The door was ajar. Riley peered inside to see Coach Lee sitting at his desk, reviewing video footage from a anterior game on a small television.
She observed him for a moment, then rapped on the door. "Coach Lee?"
He peered up and smiled instantly. "Are tu that nosy sports reporter I've been expecting?" His tone was teasing, and his eyes crinkled with amusement.
Riley smiled and stepped inside. "Is this a bad time?"
Coach Lee reached for the remote, zapped off the TV and spun around to face her. "You have my undivided attention." He gestured to the empty chair in front of his desk. "Have a seat."
"Thanks," Riley said, settling in and fishing through her backpack to retrieve a small notebook and pen. Coach Lee seemed approachable enough, and Ms. Raffin probably wouldn't mind her unconventional angle on the story. In fact, she just might admire Riley for going with her instincts.
Coach Lee's chair squeaked as he leaned back and folded his arms. "Fire away."
Riley was struck por Coach Lee's surroundings. A large aquarium filled with exotic pescado dominated the credenza, and an assortment of enormous seashells served as paperweights on his cluttered desk. Tacked on the muro was a giant picture calendar, also ocean related. This mes featured seals.
What an amazing coincidence! Mom has no fecha for Save the Seals, and sitting before Riley is a very nice and cool man who obviously appreciates seals. Riley casually let her gaze fall on Coach Lee's hands. No wedding ring. Hmmm. Very interesting.
[Riley: Sure, Mom says that she can find her own date, but chances are she'll get caught up in work and forget all about it. I'm sitting in front of a handsome, apparently single man who obviously has a thing for the sea. It's not such a stretch to think that he would enjoy attending Save the Seals with a beautiful and successful woman. Don't tu agree? Me, too.]
Riley pointed to the calendar. "Isn't it a shame about the plight of the seal? I wish everyone understood how endangered some of our sea mammals are."
Coach Lee returned a grave nod. "Some of the research is downright frightening. My grandfather was an oceanographer, so I was taught an appreciation for sea creatures early on."
"You know, there's a Save the Seals benefit this weekend," Riley said.
"I didn't know that."
"Are tu a good dancer?" Riley asked.
"I can hold my own." Coach Lee gave her a quizzical look. "Do tu plan on asking me any preguntas about the football team?"
Riley waved off the suggestion. "Oh, we'll get to that in a minute." She scooted her chair closer to Coach Lee's desk, as if letting him in on a conspiracy. "I have it on good authority that a very attractive woman about your age is holding an extra ticket to the Save the Seals benefit on Saturday night."
Coach Lee grinned. "Is that so?"
"Yes," Riley said, glancing around to make certain there were no prying eyes o ears. "Of course, this is all very confidential."
"Oh, of course," Coach Lee said.
"But if I were in your shoes, I would keep my fecha book open for Saturday night."
"As it happens, I'm free."
Riley couldn't believe this stroke of luck. Chloe would be thrilled.
"So, can tu give me a hint? Who is this mystery woman?"
"My mom," Riley said.
Coach Lee did a double take.
"But it's a secret. She doesn't like the idea of someone helping her find a date, so when tu meet her, don't let on that we've had this conversation."
"My lips are sealed," he said. "I do have one pregunta though."
"What's that?" Riley asked.
"How are the two of us supposed to meet?" Coach Lee replied.
Riley leaned back. "Leave that to me."
"So tu have a plan?" Coach Lee asked.
"Yes...well, not exactly...uh...all the particulars are still being worked out." Riley could feel her left eye twitching, which always happened when she lied. Luckily Coach Lee was not hip to this fact. He seemed to be buying her story. But Riley would definitely need Chloe's help to finish the job!
Coach Lee checked his watch. "We'd better get on with the story, Riley. Time is getting away from us."
"Oh, yes," Riley agreed. "You're absolutely right." She cleared her throat and sat up straight. "Speaking of the story, I was thinking of mixing things up and coming at this from a whole new angle."
Coach Lee gave her a strange look. "I thought this was just a simple announcement of the new offensive line."
"Well, that's probably how Peter would have approached it. But he's a boy." She paused to emphasize her point. "And I'm a girl. So instead of printing another laundry lista of players and positions, why not offer our readers something different?"
Coach Lee grinned. "Such as?"
"Pictures of all the guys and their current dating status," Riley said.
Coach Lee was laughing now. "Well, that's certainly a different approach."
"I'm serious," Riley insisted. "Can tu think of a better way to get girls to read the sports page? o buy advance tickets to the games?"
Coach Lee shook a finger at her. "You just may have a point there, Riley." He stood up. "Okay, you've convinced me. Let's do it." From the parte superior, arriba drawer of the filing cabinet he grabbed a thick brown envelope. "You're in luck. Our official team fotos just came in. Every player in the starting lineup posed for an individual shot, too."
Riley dug right in and began sorting through the pictures as if they were playing cards. Wow. There was definitely something to be dicho for boys who played football. Drop-dead-gorgeous guy. Big muscles guy. Super-cute guy. Going-to-Princeton-on-an-athletic-scholarship guy.
Her head began to spin. "I don't know where to start!"
Coach Lee squinted at her. "You wouldn't be going into this story with a personal agenda, would you?"
"No, of course not," Riley dicho quickly. "That would be unprofessional." She glanced down at the image of drop-dead-gorgeous guy. "Let's get started. What's the lowdown on him?"
"That's Brad Collins," Coach Lee said. "He's our estrella quarterback. A sure bet to go pro one day."
Feeling anxious, Riley glanced at her watch. How could she politely tell Coach Lee that she didn't have time for a whole biography on every player? Basically she just needed to know the name, current dating situation, and whether o not this Saturday was open.
[Riley: I know, you're probably saying, "Where is the romance? Is this girl looking for a fecha o ordering a emparedado, sándwich de from the deli?" But the clock is ticking! At times like these, a girl can't be choosy. If he's cute and unattached, I'll take him. At this point he doesn't even have to dance that well.]
Gingerly she suggested to Coach Lee that he just go down the starting lineup with the information she needed. "Otherwise I'll be late for my French class, and Mrs. Lerman always gives a pop examen during the first five minutes."
Riley shifted uneasily in her chair as Coach Lee ticked off each name and delivered the bad news. Each and every one of these boys seemed to have a girlfriend, and they weren't just regular girls like Riley. They were cheerleaders o so beautiful, they were probably members of the Future Supermodels of America Club o something. A handful of the guys were unattached, but all of them were stuck with community service on the weekends for pulling a prank on a rival school.
Except for one. A huge boy Coach Lee called T-Rex. Named after the dinosaur apparently. He weighed over two hundred fifty pounds and could block three players at a time during a game. And he liked to roar when doing so.
Riley decided to pass.