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Chapter 8 - Taylor

I frown lightly as I notice that over the course of the week that Greg looked tired but content. And no matter how many times I asked him what was going on he wouldn’t tell me. He said that he would tell me coming Thursday; he said that he would have a clear answer then. My mood was slightly sour as he told me that, I really wanted to know what he was doing. I did see him leaving and entering the gym on more than one occasion, so I obviously noticed that he was fitter and more muscular.

Ronnie grinned at me and had the smug look of someone who knew something I didn’t and it concerned Greg. I glared in her direction whenever she was looking my way, much to her amusement. I must have been losing my MOB touch since she doesn’t cower like everybody else when faced with my glare. It became so obvious that even Syl was concerned for me. “Are you okay fratello? You are frowning a lot lately.” I look up from my desk where I was frowning at my homework. My eyes softened as I turned in his direction, lifted him on my lap and cuddles lightly with him. “It’s just that I can’t stand the fact that Greg is keeping a secret from me. You know I don’t like secrets.” I felt him nod as I rested my chin on his head, he was fiddling with a lose strand of me sweater. “I think I know what it is, but I promised Lo I wouldn’t tell anyone.” He looked so pleadingly at me that I couldn’t get it over my lips to ask him what it was. This was the first time anyone ever had asked him to keep something a secret from me.

When the awaited Thursday rolled around, I was cranky, moody and snappy. I even made Syl cry this morning with my snarky reply to his question if I could pass him the Mill for his cereal. Gordo managed to calm him down and offered to drop him off at school. Everybody at school skirted around be, not wanting to release my unearthly anger on them. Every other person except Greg met my eyes, not even the toughest teacher dared to hold my gaze longer than a few seconds. It was lunchtime and everybody anticipated a fight, the air was thick with tension. They all held their breath as Greg spoke to me “Will you come to the gym after class? I want to show you something.” Inwardly I cheered, he’s finally gonna tell me what the hell was going on! On the outside my face was cool; I managed to even look bored as I replied “Sure, no problem.” After that Greg left his seat and went to sit with his new friends table. Friends he had since yesterday, making me frown at their intention. I had seen one or two of them look at him lustfully.

I groaned in happiness when the school bell sounded, releasing us for the day. I was making my way to my locker as I saw one of the guys at Greg’s new table stand there in front of my locker looking all tough and shit. “What do you want?” I growled, not happy to having my way blocked by some no name punk. “I want you to leave Greg alone Thompson, he been through enough shit already.” I snorted at his commanding tone, “Well isn’t too bad for you that he invites me on his own to meet him at the gym, and besides we work on a project together for Mr. Rush’ class.” His tough act faltered at hearing Rush’ name, everybody knows how much of a nag he is. The man is known for it. He shrugged his shoulders, “Whatever, besides Rush leave him alone.” He purposely bumper into me as he made his way towards the exit.

“Did that guy purposely bump into you?” Rafa’s unbelieving voice sounded in my ear. “He must have a death wish.” I just shrugged switched my books and made my way over to the gym, with Rafa and Ronnie following me like the guard dogs they are. While walking, I send Gordo a text saying I would be later today; I was meeting up with Greg at the gym. He told me to be careful and that Meredith would leave some dinner for me if I wasn’t home on time. With that done I met up with a nervous looking Greg, he kept fiddling with the strap of his gym-bag. “So, what did you want to show me?” Greg twitched at hearing my voice so close, he didn’t notice my arrival, something he always did. He must be really nervous. “Oh, Taylor you’re here. Good. Come follow me.” He guided me past the cafeteria, the bulletin board with announcements of the names that had made it into the teams. I stopped dead in my tracks as I noticed Greg’s name in the column of the third string Volley team.

After Greg called out to me once I managed to make him believe I was interested in this year’s baseball and basketball teams, which I was. I enjoyed playing baseball and basketball in my free time. Greg held open the door leading to the stands, “Please take a seat I’ll be out soon.” Rafa sat down next to me groaning “Why are we even here? You’re not interested in playing sports.” Ronnie rolled her eyes as she slapped him upside the head “Please tell me you did look at the bulletin board, Greg’s name is on there.” She hissed between her teeth. Rafa’s eyes widened “Really he made the team?” I shook my head “He made the third string Volleyball team.” Rafa whistled impressed by Greg’s skill. The girl team training at the moment looked our way and Rafa grinned cheekily almost bashfully, earning another slap from Ronnie for disturbing them during their training.

“Do you guys even know the first thing about Volleyball?” Nancy’s dull voice sounded from my left. Shaking our heads, Nancy sighed and made her way over before sitting down at my left side. Rafa looked at her in question, trying to place where he had seen her. Even Ronnie looked thoughtful at her. “Rafa, Ronnie meet Nancy Chambers. Greg’s younger sister. Nancy, meet Rafael Dinozzo and Veronica Andreozzi.” They shook hands and pleasantries before she started her explanation about Volleyball and its rules.

The rules are pretty simple; the primary objective in volleyball is make the ball hit the floor on the opponent’s side of the court, while simultaneously preventing it from dropping on their side. Each team is allowed a maximum of three contacts before it must send the ball back over the net. The preferred sequence is a dig (an underarm pass made with the forearms), followed by a set (an overhead pass with the hands), and then an attack (overhead one-handed hit directed over the net and towards the opponent). Teams are also permitted to block the ball as it comes over the net. The resulting contact does not count towards the three contacts per side. In theory, this means that a team could technically contact the ball four times (with the first contact being a block) without penalty. Also the six players rotate clockwise through six different positions on their side of the net. There are three front row positions (left front, middle front, and right front) and three back row positions (left back, middle back, and right back). Teams rotate with each new server, and no person can serve more than once.

Volleyball can be categorized as a “rebound” sport because the rules prevent participants from contacting the ball for a prolonged amount of time. Players are not allowed to carry, palm or throw the ball. No part of a player’s body or uniform is allowed to touch the net, but, participants are permitted to play the ball out of the net during a volley and a serve. Volleyball matches are broken up into individual sets (also called games); a team must win a majority of the games in the series in order to win the match. Most matches are made up of either three or five games. Before the start of a match, the referee will conduct a captain’s meeting and a coin toss. The winner of the coin toss has the option of choosing to serve or to receive the serve. The privilege of the “first serve” will then alternate between teams in subsequent games. The first team to 25 points wins the game, but play continues until one team wins by at least two points. For example, if the score is tied at 24-24 and team “A” scores point 25, the game is not yet done because neither team has gained a two point advantage.

Volleyball is played on a rectangular court measuring 18 x 9 meters. The court is divided into two equal parts by a centre line and a net. The net resides over the centre line and stands at a height of 2.43 m for men and 2.24 m for women. There are five fundamental skills in the sport of volleyball: serving, passing, setting, blocking, and hitting. While it is natural to have a greater inclination towards certain skills and not others, a player should have a general grasp of all the basic skills.

Although the rules sound simple, it’s very different matter when I watched Greg’s team finish their warm ups and play a friendly game against their own. For a while the only sound heard were the slaps of sneakers on the gym hardwood floor and the pain-filled grunts as both teams duck and dive to save the ball from hitting the floor. After a team made a point they switched sides, I jolt with surprise as the coach blows his whistle just as Greg smashes the ball over the net, making it bounce behind the player trying to block it. During the whole game I had noticed that Greg’s skill were a little more developed or sophisticated than the rest of his team. I smile and wave as Greg looks up to me with a beaming smile, his team won by the point made just as the whistle was blown.

Greg blushed an adorable red as he sees me; Rafa, Ronnie and Nancy stand there waiting for him. “Great game Greg! I send mom a test on your winning point, even made a picture of it.” Nancy turns her phone to Greg to show the picture of a highly concentrated Greg push the ball over the net and the blocker reaching for it. Greg groaned “I really wish she would stop asking for those kinds of pictures.” I snicker lightly as I pull Greg to my chest, shocking everybody present. “Awesome game Greg. I didn’t know you even played Volleyball?” Greg sighed as he leaned against my chest and mumbles something I couldn’t hear properly.

“What?” I try to lean back so I can hear him, but he clingy even tighter to me, making it impossible to hear him speak. Smiling mischievously I take Greg by surprise as I lift him and make my way out of the gym, ignoring the surprised looks. Once outside, I stop beside his car and return his feet to solid ground Greg is blushing a fierce red and swats my chest. Faking pain, I gasp and grab my chest, making Greg roll his eyes but smile lightly at my horrible acting antics. “Just a question, your skills on the field suggests that you have played a higher rank than you do now?” Greg looks uncomfortable and I am about to ask him to drop it when he answers.

“I did, I used to play first string back when I was about twelve. We were a day away from play our final championship game when my dad decided to contact me, claiming he wanted to make amends for what he had done to me.” I glare as I remember the elaborate scar on Greg’s back, not really wanting to think of all the other scars littering his body. During his training you could clearly see the burn and cut Marks’ surrounding his arms and legs. “Needless to say I was out of it that day and we lost. Big time too, I can still see the disapproving and disappointed faces of my teammates I kept messing up the game. They could switch me out fast enough, even though mom had told the trainer what had happened. After that day Volleyball wasn’t a fun thing for me anymore, even from his place across the country that man managed to take away the one thing I enjoyed.”

His eyes were so sad that couldn’t resisted crushing him to my chest whispering soothing words under my breath, rocking from side to side as he cried. Nancy looked about to burst into tears, she must have picked up and connected the dogs about Greg’s past. Seeing as he wasn’t in a state to drive home safely, managed to continue him to let Ronnie and Rafa take Nancy home, and we would follow behind them as I dropped him off. After dropping them both of I would drive Ronnie back to school so she could pick up her car and go home. Greg fell asleep during the short drive and Zach helped me with getting Greg out of the car and into his bed. After being undressed and then redressed in a pair of sweatshirt and a really old T-shirt, I left Greg’s room on tippy toes as not to wake him.

Downstairs I was met with the concerned parent-unit, Zach had sought support by Santiago as I assumed Nancy had told them all what had happened. Suddenly I was wrapped in a fierce hug from Zach; I returned the gesture immediately, as he whispered in my hair with a voice cracking with emotion and concern. “Thank you for bringing my boy home safely Taylor.” I squeezed him once before let me go “Of course Zach. I will do anything in my power to keep him save and destroy all the demons who scare him.”

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