The rest of the day went by extremely slow. It seemed drawn out, as if the Fates were teasing me; that and Fang had the same morose expression on his face all day. I tried to talk to him, but he just shrugged me off. I felt horrible, and the Looks Iggy and Gazzy were shooting me - all judging and it's-your-fault - made me feel worse. It got so bad I wanted to go drown myself in a puddle. And then bury my head in a hole.
At lunch, Fang refused to eat - that was the biggest shock of all, I think - and he just... sat there, all distant. Iggy and Gazzy's accusing looks just. Got. Worse. I hung my head in shame.
I hadn't meant for the joke to go this far. But what I didn't get was why Fang was so damn upset in the first place. The only conclusion I could draw was that there was something more than he was letting on. But, really, what's so important about the number 13?
Right before our last period of the day, I decided to confront him. This whole prank wasn't worth how much he was hurting.
I stopped by my locker to pick up my jersey and put it in my backpack, then I headed over to Fang's locker where he was lazily chucking notebooks in. I stood next to him and leant on the locker beside his.
"Hey." He nodded in greeted and shoved another book in there, trying to get it to fit inside the clutter. I frowned and continued, "Listen, Fang, I need to talk to you. I know you always have number thirteen and it's your lucky jersey or something, and I know you're upset you didn't get it this year, but it's just a jersey, and-" Fang cut me off by slamming his locker shut and glaring at me.
"Max, no, you don't know. You don't know anything, OK? Just leave me alone." Then he turned on his heel and slunk off.
What the hell is his problem? I was just trying to give the damn thing back, and he gets all up my ass for nothing! Forget this! I'm not giving his stupid jersey back - and I'm going to make sure he knows damn well that it was me who took it, too.
I stomped off to my next class with a determined look in my eyes. I was a woman on a mission, and I'd crush anyone who stood in my way. I spent the rest of afternoon classes thinking up a devious plan.
Finally, the last bell of the day rang and we were released to go home. Or, in my case, stay at school until practice.
I headed back to my locker to retrieve my sports bag and dump my books. When I got there, Nudge was leaning against the locker, a large bag in hand.
If I wasn't so P.O'ed at Fang, I'd be worried by the mischievous glint in her eye. "Hey, babe," she said, grinning. "Excited for the game tonight?"
I made a face at the nickname and shoved her aside so I could get to my locker. She'd gotten this little obsession of calling me 'babe', after reading Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. She thinks she's Vee reincarnated. I just tried to humour her.
"Hell yeah. I am so going to kick butt! I have practice in thirty minutes, and after that it'll be game time. You going?" I asked, grabbing my gym bag.
"No freaking duh! I wouldn't miss the chance to watch all those guys - and their sexy bodies get all sweaty and flexing, and-" I cut her off by laughing at her. She was a bit - UNDERSTATEMENT! - boy-crazy.
"So, what's in the bag?"
"Well, I had a little chat with the principal. And he agreed to let me start a cheer squad to cheer you guys on! It's amazing how quickly the uniform company can ship an order when you're using Daddy's credit card number." She smirked, holding up a silver, green and black - skimpy - cheer uniform.
"Wow, Nudge, you got the bitchy, spoilt cheerleader downpat!"
Nudge laughed. "Then I succeeded! But you know you love it!"
"Just... don't embarrass me tonight." I shuddered at the thought.
She rolled her eyes at me as we walked down the hall to the bathroom - which is where I change, since this school is kinda sans girl's locker room at the moment, since it was an all-boys school.
"Oh, hey," I said suddenly. "I was wondering if you wanted to hang out this weekend. We haven't really had a lot of time to hang out together in a while, and I miss it. You can come home with me after the game, and we can do something tomorrow."
"I'd love to, Max! Duh! I was just thinking that in Science today! Because Becky - you know Becks? - was having her friends over, and I was like, 'God, I haven't spent time with Max in forever', and then - mmph-" I slapped my hand over her mouth, effectively cutting off word-flow.
"Nudge, calm down. Please. I gotta get ready for practice now," I added as we reached the bathroom. I kinda wanted her to go so I could put the finishing touches on my Get Back at Fang plan.
"Okie dokie. See ya later! I can't wait for tonight and tomorrow! It'll be so much fun!" she enthused, giving me a hug. I gave her a small wave as she skipped down the corridor, and ducked into the bathroom where I changed into my gym shorts and a cutoff t-shirt.
When I got to practice, Coach was already calling off drills and tell us the lineup for tonight. Fang - obviously - Jessy, Iggy, Gazzy, Connor, Spencer, and I were all starts. Fang was still a little pissed off, and I couldn't wait 'til he knew I was the one with his jersey. We did some practice drills - focusing on our free throws - before Coach let us change into our uniforms. He said he didn't want to wear us out before the game. We were to all be ready and in the locker room in twenty minutes, for his quick team pep talk.
I made my way back to the bathroom and changed into my lucky number thirteen jersey, with the matching basketball shorts. I pulled my hair back into a messy ponytail, then pulled my warm up pants over my uniform and zipped my jacket up, concealing the jersey number - I wanted to shove it into Fang's face at just the right moment.
Before I headed over to the locker room, I gave myself a last look over, smirking at what I saw.
This was going to be awesome.
I walked down the hallway, to the locker room and stood in front of the locker room door. I knocked a few times - I didn't want to walk in on some exposed boys.
When no one answered, I opened the door and put a hand over my eyes. "KNOCK KNOCK!" I screamed. "Girl entering so put some freaking clothes on!"
There were a few chuckles and 'Yeahs' before I dropped my hands from my eyes. Just as I did, Iggy screeched, "WAIT! I'm not decent yet!" in a lame attempt to make me feel uncomfortable.
"Oh, please, Ig," I snorted. "It's not like there's much for me to see, is there?"
"That's what she said!"
"How would she know?"
"You got told!"
Iggy just glared. "Har-har, Max. Funny. For your information, there is plenty to see, thank you very much," he spat at me, putting on his jersey while I continued to chuckle.
"Sure, Ig, whatever helps you sleep at night." I patted his head and the others snickered again.
Coach then came in with his play book in his hands. "OK, guys. You've been practicing pretty damn hard, and I'm proud of you. We have a good team this year, and I know if we get our heads in the game and work together, we'll crush these Barren Cougar wimps. Try your best and give your all. OK, let's get out there, guys!" he finished loudly, thumping those closest to him on the back.
There were a few 'whoops!' before we jogged out of the locker room, and into the gym as we heard the crowd erupt with loud cheering and foot stomps. It was pretty intense.
We made our way to the sidelines, where the bench was, to start stretching. As I warmed up, I scanned the crowds for Ari and Angel. After a minute, I found them standing at the top of the stands, with Angel screaming and shaking her pompoms, just as she said she would. I smirked and gave her a wave. Her eyes lit up and she flashed me a huge smile.
Iggy was jumping up and down excitedly as he prepared to rip his warmup pants off - they were the ones that had the snap up buttons along the side.
"I've always wanted to do this," he confided in me, grinning and grabbing a fistful of cloth, ready to rip at 'em. He jerked his hands upward, trying to get them free of him, but he just ended up pulling himself off his feet.
I smirked and watched him as he scrambled up. "Ig, it's like this," I said, grabbing my pants and ripping them off of me, before throwing them up into the air. They landed on Iggy's head. There were whoops and hollers from the crowd, and I stuck my tongue out at Ig as he ripped my pants off his face, scowling.
"And that's how you do it."
"Oh, shut up," he muttered, knocking my shoulder as he brushed past me to get in the huddle. The ref blew his whistle, signaling that it was game time. I quickly unzipped my jacket and threw it on the bench - the moment of truth. I jogged over the the court when a rough hand caught my arm - bingo.
I turned round, coming face-to-face with a very pissed off and slightly confused Fang.
"Max, what the hell? What are you doing with my jersey?"
I batted my eyelashes innocently. "Whatever do you mean, Fang? I didn't know this was your jersey - it doesn't have your name on it, now, does it?"
"Max, seriously. Give. It. Back. Now," he spat.
"Well, Fang, I tried to give it back after I saw what a mess you were, but then you snapped at me. So, no. I think I'll keep it. It looks nice on me, don'tcha reckon?
"Max, please. I need that jersey! You don't understand what it means to me!" he pleaded. I felt a bit guilty again, and the look on his face was practically breaking my heart.
I leant in closer. "Why does it mean so much to you?" I whispered.
He looked away. "Max, I just - I can't, OK? Now now. I just - it's really important to me, OK?"
I gave him a sad look, and was about to cave. I put my hands on the edge of the shirt and started to pull it up when I was interrupted by the whistle. The ref told us to take the court - now. I shot Fang an apologetic look, before jogging over to the middle of the court. Coach told me to to do the toss up.
Fang shook hands with the opposing team's captain, and I took my place in the center of the court. I extended my hand to the opposing player, to shake.
The jerk - Kyle, I think - just smirked and crossed his arms, refusing to shake it. "You've gotta be kidding me! The girl ain't seriously playing, is she?" he asked the ref, who simply nodded. His mouth dropped open, before he smirked again. "Babe, shouldn't you be over cheering me on in one o'them sexy outfits?"
"First off, Jackass, my name is Max. Maximum Ride. Not babe. And you better remember that name, 'cause it's going to haunt your dreams after I beat your sorry ass. Secondly, no, I don't belong cheering you on - you actually should be cheering me on, sweetheart, because I'm obviously more tougher than you. So back off."
He winked. "Ohh, feisty. Just how I like 'em. So the name's Maximum Ride, huh? How 'bout you come over my place after I win and I can show you the maximum ride of your life."
"OK, listen here, bub! I am not above violence, and I will rip your fucking head off-" I started as I went to pounce on the sorry ass, but I was stopped by the strong hands of my teammates who had seen the whole thing go down.
"Max, calm down - this douche isn't worth it!" Iggy said, holding me back as I glared at the scum grinning at me.
I went to retort, but someone beat me to it. "What's the matter, Hatch? Afraid of getting your ass handed to you by a girl?" Fang spat at him as our other teammates glared. I smiled softly; my team was backing me up.
"No, Venom, I just don't reckon girls should be running 'round playing a man's sport when they're just gonna get hurt. Their place is on the sidelines, cheering us on and looking hot in their ho-outfits, not on the court where they could break a nail! The only time she should be on this court is to do their slutty halftime show dance, or giving us our victory kiss after another great win."
"Excuse me-" I started, shrieking, but was cut off again.
"That's so sexist, you fucking ass! Max is ten times the player you'll ever be!" Fang hissed. Aw, Fang defending my honour. Normally I'd rip his head off because I'm not some damsel in distress, but I think I'll let is slide - this time.
"Yeah, Hatch! Max is flipping beast! She could tear you to shreds in a matter of minutes!" Iggy growled, putting a hand on my shoulder.
"So F-off," Gazzy added, coming up behind me, too.
Hatch was about to retort when the ref yelled; "We have a game to play here, guys!"
We nodded reluctantly, and the crowd booed, probably hoping for a fight. My teammates gave me a slap on the back before returning to their spots, and I smiled at them gratefully before turning to Hatch. It is so on.
He smirked as the ref threw up the ball. In a matter of seconds, I made my move and jumped for the ball, claiming it and dribbling it down the court. Hatch just stood there, frozen, with his mouth hanging open as I passed the ball to Iggy, who dribbled it down the court a bit more and passed it back to me. I took the shot at the two-pointer line, and the ball went in with a swoosh. The other team were too shocked to even get their defense together!
The crowd went nuts and the gym rumbled with loud cheers and foot stomping. They struck up the band and started playing Land of a Thousand Dances. I smirked and hi-fived my teammates, fist-pounding Ig and Gaz. Hatch was still standing with his mouth open. Oh, this was gonna be a fun game.
The refs blew their whistles again, and we took our positions. Barron got the ball and made their way down the court. Some blonde kid went to make a shot but missed, and we snatched the ball to make our way back to our side. Gazzy passed me the ball and I threw it to a very open Fang, who caught it, lined it up with the hoop, threw it, and - missed?
Fang, the basketball-never-miss-a-shot-star actually... missed?
Everything was dead silent as the ball bumped against the rim and bounced off, falling to the squeaky floor with a thud. Then the entire gym gasped in shock, the events catching up to them.
I looked at Fang with wide eyes as Connor snatched up the ball and took a shot. He made it for one point. Our side cheered, but not as loud this time - they were still shocked that Mr. Superstar himself missed. Heck, I was still shocked he missed. And, by the looks of it, so was Fang. He tried to shake it off, but you could tell it was still bothering him. We started up again and Barron stole the ball, made their way down the court and shot it, making it in for one point.
Pacific Coast: 3, Barron: 1
Jesse stole the ball and made his way down the court, passing it back and forth between Gazzy and me. Finally, as we made it to the basket, we passed it to Fang so he could redeem himself. The crowd hushed as he threw it up again and... missed? Again?
Everyone gasped - again - and a few booed as Barron stole the ball and made their way to back to their side of the court. I made a snap decision and ran after the guy with the ball, stealing it and dribbling it down the court. I threw it up when I hit the three-pointer line. It went in with a swoosh as the crowd went nuts with cheers, and the band played their music to keep the crowd pumped.
Pacific Coast: 6, Barron: 1
My team gave me hi-fives and pats on the back as I called for Coach. When I finally caught his attention, I gave him the timeout signal. He gave me a skeptical look, before nodding in agreement. The ref blew his whistle and we went to Coach and huddled up. Right before I huddled, I grabbed Fang's arm. "What's up with you?" I demanded. "Why are you so off your game?"
"No idea, Max. I just can't think straight. I keep thinking about my sis- I mean, um, some things and I don't know... I guess I might be superstitious or whatever, but I've never played a game without that jersey."
That's it, I thought. I couldn't hurt him like this. Even though I wanted to know why the damn thing meant so much to him before giving him his jersey, I couldn't take it anymore. He'd tell me when he was ready.
I shook my head and pulled the jersey off, so now I was just in my basketball shorts and neon green sports bra, feeling very exposed. I tossed the jersey at Fang's head, and it snapped up in surprise. His eyes went wide when he saw me standing in front of him with so little on. I heard many a wolf whistle, and could feel Ari's eyes boring into the back of my head, but I couldn't care less.
"What the hell, Max?" Fang demanded, his gaze a little below my face. If you know what I mean. I cleared my throat and he focused on my eyes. He then looked away, obviously embarrassed for being caught checking me out. "So are you gonna give me your jersey or are you gonna let me stand here, exposed to the world?" I asked, and he started.
"Um, yeah," he muttered, reaching for the edge of his shirt and yanking it off, exposing his chest. All abs and chiseled muscle and... Hot damn, could that boy be any finer?
I was brought out of my thoughts when Fang threw his jersey at me. Blushing, I pulled it over my head swiftly and walked over to Coach, not before catching the smirk on Fang's gorgeous face. Crap - I'd been caught. Well, I thought wryly, Now we're even.
Coach finished giving us plays and pointers, and the ref blew his whistle - yet again - and we started. The game was pretty intense, but I swear, the minute Fang changed into that jersey, he did a complete 360. Because now... he was on fire. He made twenty shots by himself! It was pretty close in the beginning, but then we got on a roll. I made shot after shot, neck-and-neck with Fang, as did the rest of our teammates.
The final score read; Pacific Coast; 42, Barron; 21.Coach finished giving us plays and pointers and the refs blew the whistle- yet again- and we started.
It was our first victory of the season - and definitely not the last - and the crowd went nuts as I threw the ball up, three seconds left on the clock, making the shot easily.
The whole team came running at me at major speed, swarming me in a mob of sweaty guys. Oh, God, Nudge would be so jealous. They lifted me up and hoisted me on their shoulders, jumping up and down at our victory. I smiled a sickly sweet smile at Hatch, who looked baffled and didn't move from shock.
They guys let me down and we all lined up to shake the other team's hands, as was required. Like good sports, we told them 'good game' - except for Hatch; we all 'accidentally' missed his hand, giving him dirty looks instead.
We stood there, jumping up and down, screaming like maniacs and hugging each other as the band played our fight song and the crowd exited the stands, congratulating us and screaming out in victory.
When the stands were mostly cleared out, Ari and Angel came up to me and the team. Angel ran to me and I swooped her up and hugged her close as she waved her pompoms in my face. "You were amazing, Max!" she squealed in my ear.
I laughed a bit and gave her a tight hug. "Thanks, Ange."
I set Angel down and Ari came up to me giving me a quick brotherly squeeze. "Good game, Max. Except for flashing every boy in our school," he scolded me with a disapproving look, which I just waved off.
Just then Nudge came barreling over to me, nearly knocking me down. "WHOA! You were beast, Max! A sexy, sexy beast out there!"
I chuckled at her and hugged her back. "Thanks, Nudge. Must've had something to do with that random cheer squad."
She smiled brightly at me, and I couldn't help but smile back. I felt like I was on cloud nine, and the celebration shouldn't stop here.
"Hey, Ari, can we invite the guys over for a victory after party? Please?" I asked, whipping out the ever-so-dangerous Bambi eyes.
He looked hesitantly at me before nodding. "OK, Max, sure."
I let out a happy squeal and punched the air. I bellowed, "Hey, guys! Wanna come over to my house for a victory party? Bring your swim gear!"
I let out another cheerful whoop as we stacked our fists and broke off. I gave everyone my address and they said they would meet me at my house in thirty minutes. I took Nudge home with us; no need to take her home to get her things because she forever leaves emergency clothes supplies at my house, for these purposes.
I was on such a high, nothing could possibly bring me down.