The venue for the team building is different every year. Last year, we stayed in a camping site. The year before that and on our first year on the team was in a resort. This year, we will be staying in a lodge beside the sea.
We left the school after our classes ended and rode the school bus to our destination. It was already dark when we arrived, but that did not stop the girls from roaming around the area. Diane and I stayed with coach Martin to check the lodging.
After placing the bags on one corner, Coach Martin spoke. “I heard you guys broke up.”
Diane and I shared a panicked look. Dating among teammates is strictly forbidden in sports. We both knew the consequences we had to face if Coach found out and did it anyway. Up until now, Coach didn’t show any signs of having found out about our relationship even though all of us knew that he’s aware. It wasn’t easy to miss a gossip about two girls from the basketball team dating, even more so if Diane, the hottest female jock in school, is involved.
When no one spoke, Coach turned to us. “Don’t look so surprised. You know I know what’s going on with you two.”
Still, we both didn’t dare say a word. “I’m not going to kick you out of the team or anything,” Coach assured and I slightly relax. “I just want to know if it’s true because seeing you two together, I don’t think anything has changed.”
“It’s true,” Diane admitted.
Coach’s lips pressed into a thin line. “I see. That’s too bad.”
“What do you mean?” This time, I’m the one who spoke.
“I always thought you two would end up together,” he says. “I’m not blind, I see how you two look at each other during training. I left it alone because your relationship was healthy, it never negatively affected our team, even now. And I’m proud of you both.”
I don’t know what to say. Coach is strict during training, but sometimes he’d treat the team out to a meal after. He messages us after training asking if we were already home. He cares. Words aren’t enough to let him know how much he influenced me, so I gave him a big hug. Diane did the same, and that’s when our teammates came inside.
“Hey, group hug!” Someone shouted and they all joined the hug one by one.
The lodge has two medium sized bedrooms. Coach Martin volunteered to stay on the sofa in the living room saying he doesn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night because of girl gossip. He allowed us to pick the room we wanted to stay in. There are 12 of us in the team, resulting in 6 persons in each room. Alyssa, Mika, and I are in the same room as the freshmen.
The next morning was spent making ourselves feel comfortable at the place. Alyssa and I went to the beach and looked at the neighboring houses. Most of them are empty save for the ones that are also being rented.
We walked along the shore as the waves brought the cold water to reach our ankles. Our footprints washed away as fast as they were created. Alyssa struck up a conversation. “I can’t believe this is the last time I get to do this with you guys.”
“Yeah. Me too. What are your plans after we graduate?” I find myself asking her.
“Go to college. Get an athletic scholarship. Graduate again. Find a job,” she laughs. “Mundane stuff. How about you? Will you keep on playing?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think I can balance my studies and still keep on playing,” I tell her honestly. “But we’ll see.”
“Shame. You’re a good playmaker.”
We talk some more about things we plan to do after graduation until we found our way back to the lodge. By the time we arrived, the team was getting split into two groups for the activities coach prepared for us. I picked the side where Diane isn’t, as usual, because we like competing with each other. I like seeing the annoyed look on her face when I beat the shit out of her.
Almost all of our activities were done in the sea. It served as an entertainment and training for us because moving in water requires more effort than in land.
The first game we played was cops and robbers, followed by tug of war. We walked up until the water was just below our knees and the occasional waves served as a challenge. The team that loses in each game has to do 50 push-ups and run five laps around the lodge.
Diane’s team won the first game while we won the second. The game of dodgeball we’re playing right now settles the winner. We compromised the rules of the game since playing at sea is much more difficult. In our version, each team gets 12 throws per round. Once the team has used up all 12 and there are still players remaining, we switch. There will only be a winner once a team has been eliminated within 12 throws. And currently, I’m the only person alive on our side. If I get eliminated within the next three throws, my team loses.
I could almost see Diane’s smirk behind me when she asked, “Hey if we win, do I get a prize?”
“If you lose, do I get a prize?” I retorted back and Mia decided to use that chance to throw the ball at me. Playing dodgeball in the sea was harder than I imagined. I was barely able to dodge the throw but it set me off balance.
The moment the ball was past me, I turned around just in time to see Diane catch it, pull her arm backward for momentum, and throw it into my direction. I tried to dodge it again, but this time, a wave pushed me back, and that’s when the ball hit me—right in the face.
“Ow fuck!” I cursed as I fell on the water, clutching the left side of my face.
Diane laughed as she made her way beside me. “Sorry,” she managed to blurt out in between laughs and held out a hand to help me up.
“Thanks,” I muttered.
“Okay, that’s enough!” Coach Martin yelled from the shore. “Diane’s team, it’s your leisure time. You can do whatever you want. Alex’s team, do your punishment first before taking a break.”
My team groaned in unison as we proceeded to do the workouts.
It wasn’t until later that night when the plan Diane made was put into action. Some of our teammates sneaked out during the afternoon to buy a cake for Alyssa. It’s a simple surprise but it warms my heart because it’s the thought that counts.
Personally, I don’t like surprises. I know, it’s weird because who doesn’t like surprises, right? I just don’t like the fact that people are plotting something behind my back, even if it’s for my sake. I hate not knowing.
The juniors are tending to the bonfire and Coach had just finished grilling the barbeque when Diane called for the whole team. We huddled around the mini bonfire we always make and the girls started singing happy birthday.
The whole day, we were told not to greet Alyssa and we pretended to forget it was her birthday. Of course, that put her in a sour mood. And seeing her face right now, biting her quivering lip and fighting to hold back the tears that welled from her eyes, it was worth it.
Diane and I were sitting next to her on the sand and Mika brought out the cake with a single candle for her to blow. “Come on, make a wish.” Mika smiled.
“I thought you guys have forgotten my birthday you fucking idiots,” Alyssa cursed and wiped a tear from her cheek. She looked at Coach. “I can’t believe you were in on this too, traitor.”
Coach laughed at her and defended himself. “For the record, I was only told by your captain to shut up and not greet you.”
Alyssa then turned to Diane and gave her a big hug. She whispered something in her ear then proceeded to blow her candle. Diane and I look at each other, and at the moment she blew the candle, we smashed the eggs we were holding behind our backs to her head, using the force to make her slam her head, face first, into the cake.
No one else knew about the eggs, so the surprised look on everyone’s face was expected along with the burst of laughter that followed. Alyssa was fuming and she started chasing us around the shore just to wipe icing on our faces. The girls and even the coach joined in, ending up with icing on everyone’s faces.
Once the team has calmed down and washed their faces, I brought out the little something I prepared for them. When Diane saw what was inside the cooler I brought, she immediately closed the lid and scolded me. “Are you out of your mind? We’re not allowed to drink on school activities!”
“Not if the school doesn’t find out,” I looked at Coach Martin, “Right coach?”
Coach took one drink out of the cooler. “It’s your last year, don’t be so uptight,” he popped open the cap of his beer and lifted it as if encouraging us to do the same. “You guys have Alex to thank for this.”
“Oh my God, I can’t believe you talked Coach into this,” Diane said in a small voice but with a hint of excitement. For the past years, we have tried to talk Coach into letting us bring alcohol in team buildings, but he never budged. Maybe it’s because this is the last time we’re going to be together like this, that he agreed.
“Don’t get too drunk, girls. Alex, you’re in charge.” Coach ordered as he went back inside the cabin with his beer, leaving us to enjoy the night.
The girls cheered and started taking their drinks out of the cooler. I made sure to prepare a lot since I know some of the girls have high alcohol tolerance, also taking into account their favorite drinks.
“Let’s play a game!” Leah shouted as we huddled along with the bonfire. Always the initiator. We decided to play Most Likely. It’s a game where someone asks who’s most likely to what and the person who gets the most votes has to drink.
“I’ll go first,” Mia spoke. It’s nice to see that the freshmen are easily getting along with the team. That’s the point of this team building after all. “Who’s most likely to get drunk first?”
All of the girls except for the freshmen turned and pointed to me with silly smiles across their faces. “Hey, I’m not!” I protested.
“Well, the majority of us are pointing to you.” Leah handed me a shot of Tequila. “Prove us wrong, then.” She smirked and the others watched carefully as I downed the drink and I instantly regret it. It felt like a trail of fire was making its way down my throat. I grimaced at the taste and almost threw up.
“What the fuck,” I snatched a bottle of Smirnoff Mule and drank it as a chaser. “It tastes like the devil’s piss.”
I was tempted to light a cigarette but I don’t want to set a bad example to my teammates. I controlled myself. Maybe later when everyone’s asleep.
We continued playing and switching games when we got bored with the one we’re playing. The next was Never Have I Ever, followed by a few more games until half of the team was passed out.
“I fucking told you I’m not the one who’s most likely to get drunk first,” I said to no one in particular.
The only people left now are me, Diane, Alyssa, Mika, Leah, and two other sophomores—Pat and Evy. I can tell all of us are already a bit drunk, considering the number of drinks we finished. I had only three, Diane’s at six, Leah and Pat had four each, Evy had seven, and Mika had five.
“Let’s call it a night,” I suggested. “You guys had too much already.”
“Good idea.” Mika agreed.
Some of the girls set up a tent outside the lodge while some stayed inside. As for me, I laid out my sleeping bag a few meters away from the shore where I could have my own space.
I went around each of the rooms to make sure everyone’s safe and we’re complete before I headed out to my bed. Once I was alone, I lit a cigarette. Finally.
On my right hand was my unfinished Smirnoff bottle and on the left is my cigarette. To make this moment even better, I played Sleeping At Last’s album, “Atlas: Space,” from my phone. It’s what I always play when I have trouble falling asleep.
I gazed at the endless body of water in front of me. The stars are out and a quarter moon illuminates the night. I stare at it, the way I always do.
“You’ve always liked the moon.”
“It’s beautiful.” I turned and looked at Diane who was holding her own sleeping bag beside me. If we were still together I would’ve added, ‘and so are you,’ and we’d start making out. But we’re not, so I shut my mouth.
She set down her things and fixed her sleeping bag. “Is it okay if I sleep next to you?”
I nodded and returned my gaze to the sky. A strong gust of wind made me shiver. I clutched my hoodie closer to my body for warmth. We sat together in silence as I occasionally took a sip from my drink and a hit from my cigarette until both were finished.
Diane rested her head on my shoulder, her hands clutching her arms. It was then that I noticed she wasn’t wearing a jacket. I removed her head from my shoulder, “Aren’t you cold? Here,” I took off my hoodie and made her wear it. I picked up the blanket I have on my bed and used it to cover myself.
“How am I supposed to get over you if you keep on doing these things to me?”
I looked at her. “I’m not doing anything.”
Diane sighed and averted her gaze. “You’re too nice.”
I had a feeling that if we keep talking like this, it’s going to end up in something I would regret. We’ve had a drink and it feels like we’re the only ones in this place. The sea, the music, the moon. Everything’s perfect.
“We should go to sleep.”
“Aren’t you going to give my prize for beating you in dodgeball?”
It was my turn to sigh. “What do you want?”
I snapped my head in her direction, shocked by her request. “That’s not fair.”
She chuckled. “I knew you’d react like that. I’m kidding.” She lied down on her sleeping bag and spread her arm over my space. “Come here, let’s sleep together. I know you’re cold.”
I stared at her arms, debating about whether I should accept her offer or not. In the end, I gave in. “No funny business, okay?” I warned her.
Trusting her to keep her words, I lied down with my back facing her. We snuggled against each other under the blanket and I welcomed the warmth that came with it.
Diane’s arm snaked its way around my waist, pulling me closer to her. “You’re so warm,” she whispered close to my ear.
Being like this together with Diane brought me a feeling of nostalgia. It reminded me of how much I missed this. I feel myself relax into her embrace.
“I never thought I’d get the chance to hold you like this again,” she continued. “Thank you.”
“Good night, Dee.”
“Good night, love.”
The last thing I remember before surrendering myself to sleep was the sound of waves from the distance, Diane’s arms around me, and how I wished Gray was the one holding me instead.