The sound of the music almost knocks me over as the door to the amphitheater swings open. My head bobs to the beat
as I scan the room for a familiar face. Darcy waves at me from across the room. She hugs me tight and screams in my ear, “How was your summer?”
“It was good,” I yell back, “I slept more than I should have and didn’t work out as much as I should have.”
Darcy shrugs, “Like every summer, eh?”
“Totally.” I glance around the room and wave at the other members of the team I recognize. I spot Rachel at the punch table, “I’m gonna go say hey to Rachel.” before she can ask me to bring her something back, I take my leave.
“Hey!” She beams and hugs me, “You look great!”
“Thanks, you too! Have you seen coach yet?”
She hands me a cup of punch, “Nope, not yet. But you remember how it was for us last year. He’s probably lining up the new kids like a mother hen.”
“You’re probably right.” I notice the sign hanging above the door Welcome Freshmen. I remember what my Freshman Introduction Party was like and how nervous I was. We were pulled this way and that, feeling like a bunch of girls in a police line-up. Coach introduced us one at a time as we walked through the doors. I wonder if any of this year’s girls are as nervous as I was just a year ago.
Rachel elbows me, “We’ve got ten minutes until they parade the fresh meat. Wanna get some air?”
I shrug, “Sure.”
We make our way through the crowd to the side doors. It’s a little chilly tonight but not cold enough that our long-sleeve team t-shirts aren’t enough to keep us warm. “Have you met any of the new girls?”
“No,” she shakes her head, “they’ve kept to themselves since they got here a couple of days ago. Did you hear about the newest recruit?”
I hadn’t kept up on anything all summer, “No,” I shake my head, “I haven’t. Who is it?”
Rachel’s eyes light up as her face becomes animated, “Oh my God, you’re not going to believe it!” She’s practically shivering with excitement, “Jessica Cooper!” She waits for a look of understanding but receives none, “Do you know who that is? You don’t. Do you?”
“Sorry,” I reply, “I didn’t have time to keep tabs on the potential talent pool. I had a little thing known as a life.” She knows I’m picking on her and I know she’ll just overlook that jab.
“She’s a point guard from California. And let me tell you, she’s the hottest thing on campus. She’s gorgeous!”
I shake my head, “You’re impossible, you know that? Are you going to let her move her things into her dorm room before you try to introduce her to her own bed?”
“I’m going to forget that you just about called me a hoe just now. And, for your information, I have yet to see her in person, but I’ve read every article and saved every picture online. And, before you ask, no I haven’t checked to see which room is hers…yet.”
I hold it as long as I can, but eventually the laugh erupts and I can’t stop it, “You should be getting a crazy check! Seriously.”
“Hey y’all,” Megan’s face come through the door, “they’re about to do the walk.”
We take our place along the right wall of the room, against the punch table, as the last few lines of “Run It” play over the speakers. As the starting point guard I’m at the front of the line and will be first to shake hands with the new players. Rachel sings along with Chris Brown and bumps her butt against mine, causing me to giggle and bump back until the song’s over. When Coach Mann enters the room and the music stops, we stand at attention again…sort of.
Christopher “Chris” Mann has been head coach of the Forest Hills University Women’s Basketball team for 8 years. At the age of 52 he says he finally feels like he understands the purpose of basketball. Once asked how old he might be when he understood everything about basketball, he replied, “I coach women. I won’t make it that long.”
When he raises his arms every voice in the room quiets, “Good evening and welcome, ladies and gentlemen. Everyone in here should know me, but in case you don’t, I’m Christopher Mann, the head coach of the Forest Hills Tigers. You can call me Coach Chris or Coach Mann. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to our returning players.” He nods in our direction and smiles, “If nothing else, we’re a good looking team, aren’t we?” I can feel my own face flush red and I wonder if I’m alone. “This year we welcome three new recruits. We’ve got two of the best post players in the country to go along with the two we already have on our roster. The first is Courtney Dixon from Illinois. She’s six-foot three and has incredible speed for someone who plays post.” He turns as Courtney walks through the double doors behind him,
“We’re looking forward to unleashing her talent on the court and scaring the hell out of every opponent we meet.” He shakes Courtney’s hand and she returns his beaming smile with a shy grin of her own.
She approaches us and I take her hand with a smile, “Hi, Courtney, I’m Sara Mayze. I’m the sophomore point guard. It’s great to meet you. Welcome.”
“Thanks, Sara. I’m glad to meet you, too.”
“The next new player we have this year,” Coach continues, “is Samantha Woods. She’s six-eight and has hands bigger than mine.” He turns as a slightly red-faced girl appears behind him, “She’s from Ohio and during her high school career she earned over seventy awards and honors. Maybe we can add to her collection.” He pats her on the back and she heads my way.
“Hi, Samantha. I’m S-”
“Sara Mayze, I know.” She smiles back at me and takes my hand with an intense look, “Please, call me Sam.” She raises my hand to her lips and kisses it, “I’m looking forward to playing with you.”
I swallow hard. For some reason I find it hard to talk but I manage, “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You, too.” She winks at me before taking Rachel’s hand.
I take a deep breath and wonder what’s wrong with my voice. I reach behind me and grab my punch. I wet my throat and shake the cobwebs out of my head before focusing on Coach again.
“The last new player we have is a point guard from California. While I’m thrilled to have Courtney and Samantha, I have to admit that signing this next player was a personal highlight for me.” If he smiles any bigger his face will break, “On a good day she’s just barely six-foot tall but she knows how to use all seventy-two inches to her advantage.” He turns towards the door and I find that I’m holding my breath. No one comes through the door and his smile falters, “Um,” Coach Mann calls, “Jesse?” When his smile returns, my heartbeat seems to accelerate, though I can’t pinpoint why. I hear her before I see her and the world slows down like I’m in some sort of tacky romantic movie.
“Sorry, Coach.” Jesse steps through the door and addresses the room with a warm smile, “Sorry everyone, I guess I got lost in the lobby.” She shoves her left hand into the back pocket of her every-curve-hugging jeans. The tank top she’s wearing showcases tanned, toned arms. Her long brown hair is pulled back into a tight ponytail. The corner of her mouth curves in a crooked smile when everyone laughs, “I’m here now. What did I miss?” She throws her right arm around Coach Mann’s neck and looks around the room casually as he finishes her introduction. Raising her arm causes her shirt to rise and gives the room a teasing glimpse of abs and the curve of a hip.
“Well, we’ll have to work on her directional skills, but let me tell you all right now that it’s better she’s on our side…lost or not.” He glances at her, “It also helps that she’s got a three-pointer that’s more deadly than her smile. Just like someone else I know.”
When Coach’s eyes turn to me, Jesse’s eyes follow. I suddenly release the breath I’d been holding and my spine stiffens under her stare. Our eyes lock and there’s a bit of a gleam in hers. I break the gaze by smiling at Coach. When I look back at her, she’s studying my face. There’s something in her look that sends a cold, clawing shiver down my body.
She gestures towards me with her chin, “Are you talking about Mayze, Coach?”
“Yep, she’s got a pretty killer shot, too.” He’s enjoying this…I can tell. He’s got two damn good point guards who are just competitive enough to make the next few years very interesting. “And she won’t give up her starting position without a bit of a fight. She’s on top and she intends to stay that way.” Jesse turns to face him again, “So if you want the top spot on this team,” he nods towards me, “you’re going to have to scrape or crawl your way over her.”
Her face turns back to mine slowly and I cross my arms over my chest in a silent challenging stance. I know this is all for show, but if she wants to play a little game, I’m up for it. I’ve been waiting for someone with some spunk to join the team. I can tell I’ve just gotten what I asked for, too. When she speaks, her voice is gravelly, “Is that right? Well, I have big hands and lots of stamina. If I can’t dethrone her, I can at least give her a run for her money and make her earn it.”
Her innuendo isn’t lost on me. With a wry smile I yell, “Bring it, Cooper.”
Coach gives her a little push and she begins walking my way as he finishes his speech. Her gait is slow and loose and her arms swing only slightly. As she approaches I stand straighter, push my chest out, and drop my hands to my hips. She’s taller than I so I raise my chin in an effort to seem bold and confident.
When she’s standing in front of me, I notice that her eyes are a deep chocolate brown. She has freckles, probably from all the time she’s spent in the California sun. She speaks first, “Bring it, huh?” She bends her head down a bit closer since she’s almost a head taller than me. There’s a certain air of self-confidence about her, which is intoxicating.
I take a tiny step forward, closing the gap between us, leaving only a few inches of space, “You don’t scare me.” Truth is, she doesn’t scare me…she terrifies me. Not because she’s after my position…because she might be after something else.
In a deliberate move that she knows I won’t miss, she licks her lips and lowers her face a bit more. Our noses are less than three inches apart and I can feel her breath on my face when she whispers, “I don’t want to scare you.” She pulls back just slightly and I feel chill bumps break out all over when her eyes travel down my body. She licks her lips again before returning my stare, “I’d damn sure like to do something else to you, though.”
Part of me is flattered. Another is horrified. Another is scared. I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t say that the biggest part of me is willing and eager! But I refuse to give in that easily…she’s a freshman! I put my hands on my hips and cock my head to the side. It’s a game, Sara…play. I watch her face blanch when I lick my lips slowly and then purse them to moan slightly. “Mmm,” I bite my bottom lip softly and as she watches me her lips open to allow a sigh to escape. I whisper in my best breathless voice, “Really? Like what?”
Her expression falters for just a moment before she meets my stare again and a wicked smile emerges, “Oh, I think you know.”
I wait an instant before responding. My mouth refuses to move as images of skin and limbs and lips flash past my mind’s eye. The urge to kiss her is so thick I could wear it as a coat permanently. Thankfully my facial expression doesn’t give me away. I lean into her a bit, look up at her almost longingly, and whimper, “Yeah, I could think of a few things to do to you, too. But I don’t hook up with anyone until I’ve danced with them.”
She raises one eyebrow, her curiosity piqued, “Oh yeah? Why?”
Since she’s got me heated up I figure turnabout is fair play. My tongue snakes out of my mouth and slowly traces my top lip, and then I whisper, “Because if you can dance with me….” my eyes drop to her chest, “to my music…” my gaze falls lower, to her stomach, “my way,” I thread a finger through one of the belt loops on the front of her jeans and let my eyes drift to her hips, “then I know you’ll be able to keep up with me. You know,” I pause, looking up into her face again, and lean just a bit closer, “when I fuck you.”
She takes a sharp breath and her eyes gloss over. There’s something about the way she’s looking at me that makes her look hungry…ravenous, even. The air is charged and I can feel our individual body heat mingling, creating a fine sheen of perspiration on our skin. I watch her jaw stiffen and the voice that comes from her mouth exhibits just as much tension. Her breathing is shallow and quick. If she moves her head an inch more we’ll be kissing, “You better hope I don’t catch you alone, Mayze. Or I’ll..”
My top lip curls into a snarl and I realize I want her. I challenge, “What, Cooper?” I want her so much I could take her right here and now. I refrain from pulling her into me and having my way with her. When she doesn’t respond I growl, “I told you, sweetheart.” The distance between our lips becomes all but nonexistent when I move closer to whisper, “Bring it.”
We stare at each other; lips so close, bodies tense, and hearts racing. She doesn’t have to say a word, I know she wants me. And I don’t need to say anything, either. It seems like hours even though I know it’s only been seconds. To her credit she gathers her senses and pulls her head up, creating distance. She gets control of her breathing and a slow, seductive, impossibly sexy smile slides onto her face. She winks at me before stepping away, “Nice to meet you, Miss Mayze.”
I relax just a bit and nod, “You, too, Miss Cooper.”
She makes eye contact with Rachel and shakes her hand. Before she moves down the line she looks back at me, “I look forward to dancing with you.” Her voice drops pointedly, “Soon.”
“All you have to do is ask,” I challenge. When she turns away, I grab my punch and drain the glass before filling it again and draining it again.
“What the hell was that?” Rachel asks urgently.
“I don’t fucking know,” I gasp, “but I need another drink and air.”
She refills my cup and pulls me outside, “Holy shit!” I empty the cup again and try to calm my nerves as she rattles off, “I thought you were going to either beat the hell out of her or fuck her death right there!” She rubs her forehead, “Hell, I got turned on just watching y’all!” She laughingly fans her face.
I want to laugh but I’m too worked up, “I don’t know what the hell I was thinking! But she challenged me.” I look at Rachel’s face, “Was she playing with me? Just toying with me? I mean, do you think she was serious?”
“Are you kidding?” She grabs my shoulders, “She wasn’t toying with you. She didn’t do that to scare you. She wants you. Naked. Writhing. In her bed…or yours…I don’t think she cares where.” Shaking her head, she sighs and releases me, “If she wasn’t serious, I’ll marry a dude and make my mama happy.”
I take a few deep breaths and try to get my thoughts in order, “I didn’t expect this. God, I have never had…” I grope for a word, “had…chemistry with anyone that fast! Ever! Not like that!”
A lazy smile plasters itself on Rachel’s face, “You’re so gonna get laid this year!”
I roll my eyes, “Oh, good God, Rach!” I can’t stop the laugh.
“What?” she exclaims, “Let me live vicariously through you, okay? Jesse Cooper, one of the hottest basketball players in the world, just put the moves on my best friend. Jesse Cooper wants you! Like, in the best way possible!” Her eyes narrow as her smile fades, “I hate you.” She laughs, “God, I hate you!”
Somewhere behind me I hear a click but I don’t turn around. The music from inside escapes, and I’m grateful because silence would have been deafening. I watch as Rachel’s face turns white. Again the world slows down and a chill travels my spine…a stark contrast to the heat coming from the body now pressed fully against my back. Rachel’s mouth opens slightly and her eyes widen as I feel the breath on the back of my neck.
When an arm slides around my waist and a hand splays over my stomach, there is no need for anyone to tell me who it is…my body knows. She pulls me back firmly, and, with a desperate sigh, my eyes close. Her heartbeat, which is fast but not as fast as mine, is strumming against my spine. I can feel hips pressed against my ass. I realize with a certain amount of pleasure that I fit perfectly against her. She smells of shampoo, gum, perfume, and sex – good sex. Her breathing is bordering on panting, and mine matches hers when she tilts my head to the side, exposing my neck to her. I have all but melted into this woman. Every sense is on high alert. I quiver when I feel her lips slightly graze my skin as she whispers, “May I have this dance?”
Savi Smith is a novelist, poet, writer, & journalist. In short, an avid lover of words. “I write my truth so that you may find & live your own.” Come back to I Bleed Ink next Wednesday for the next chapter of Freethrown.