I kissed Alvarrez.
This should be the part where I tell you I regret everything, and that it was just the alcohol making me do things I don’t want to—but no. I don’t regret anything. I was aware of everything I said and did, and I definitely don’t regret kissing her.
If anything, I feel relieved. For being able to talk to Alvarrez, even in her drunken state. Will she even remember what happened? Although the tequila she drank that night has a tendency to make people forget important things, I hoped she doesn't.
The following week went by fast. While our varsity players are out competing with other schools, it’s our job to cover every event they join. Being the editor-in-chief of the school paper, it’s my duty to overlook and cover the extracurricular activities of our school.
Our school is hosting this year’s volleyball events, making it easy for Thea to cover their games. However, other sports are scattered across different schools. All my editors are tasked with documenting them while my job is to collate everything. From time to time, I go over and check and help them.
I barely saw Alvarrez. The only time I ever see her is when the women’s volleyball team has a game and when I come over to watch their game to check on the status. Whenever she watches Kristina’s games, I always see her in the player’s bench, chatting with the coach. How she is allowed in there, I had no idea. Alvarrez has her way of getting involved in the things she wants to take part in.
Today is the last day of the games—their championship match. The only sports who made it to the finals are the soccer team and women and men’s basketball team. I watch the girls as they were warming up. Alvarrez is right in front of me, wearing her blue and gold jersey with the number 23 on the back. Her hair is tied up in a tight ponytail. A black knee support on her left knee. She oozes confidence even with her back to me. I grab my camera and snap a picture.
Diane approaches her. “Are you gonna be okay?” I hear her whisper, gesturing to Alvarrez’s knee.
“Chill. I got this.” Alvarrez flexes her knee as if to prove her point.
“Fine, but the slightest hint of danger and you’re out.”
“That’s not really for you to decide.” She gives Diane a sarcastic smile.
Diane opens her mouth to say something but catches sight of me. She pauses, at the same time, Alvarrez turns around. I get the feeling that Diane just inwardly rolled her eyes at me. “Whatever. Just be careful. I don’t want a repeat of what happened last year.” She finally says before running to her teammates.
“Are you injured?” I ask Alvarrez.
“I wouldn’t call myself injured. My knee’s just acting up for the past week, but I’m fine.” She says. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ll cover the game,” I look behind her and see her coach gesturing for them to huddle up. “I think your coach is calling you. Good luck, Alvarrez.”
“Do I get a good luck kiss?” She asks this with an innocent look plastered on her face. I stare at her, mouth agape. Then she laughs, ruffles my hair like I’m a child. “I’m kidding. Thanks, Gray.” She says before running to their coach.
I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. So she does remember. “You guys are back on speaking terms again?” Max appears beside me.
I bring my camera up to my face, scanning the venue for a good shot. “I guess we are.” I find Kristina. This time, she’s the one on the bleachers. She’s holding one end of a banner with the words, “ROAD TO 4-PEAT”. On the other end, I was surprised to see Georgia holding the banner. I snap another pic. “What is she doing here?”
Did I say that out loud? “Oh. No one. Never mind.”
Max gives me a weird look. “Okay? Anyway, do you know their opponents? They look like they came here to play MMA and not basketball.” She nudges her chin to the court.
The buzzer rings and all the players come to the center of the court. On our side, Alvarrez and her ex, Diane, are the only players I know by name. On the opponent’s side, two, tall, bulky girls stand out, and one of them has a nasty glare directed specifically at Alvarrez. When the two players pass by each other, the other girl purposely bumps Alvarrez’s shoulder. That can’t be a good thing.
“I heard that Alex and that Jersey Number Five had a beef with each other.” Max supplies.
I instinctively look at Alvarrez. “Really?”
“Yup. Last year, Alex had to leave the game for a whole quarter because that number five accidentally elbowed her in the face.” Max explains, making air quotes on the word ′accidentally’.
I gulp. “I’m sure they’ll be fine,” I tell her, hoping I’m right.
The game starts and the crowd cheers. We are in enemy territory, so the other team’s cheers seem louder. The men’s basketball team were also in the bleachers, watching the game. They are scheduled to play right after this game.
This is the first time I’ll be seeing the basketball team play in their full strength. For the past years, I’ve only caught glimpses, a few minutes from their games before leaving to check on others. Most of the time, I’m assigned to the men’s team. This year, however, I make the rules.
I finally understood why Thea’s shots are always centered around Alvarrez. It’s because she is the core of their team. I know next to nothing about basketball, but even I can tell who’s calling the shots. With a raise of Alvarrez’s fingers, the team responds.
By the time the first half ended, our team was up by fifteen points. Our players are amazing—especially Alvarrez and Diane. There’s something about the way they play—the ploys to confuse the opponents, the synchronization of their moves, their confidence in each other’s abilities. Watching them is like watching a pas de deux—a beautifully choreographed dance of two.
It’s in the second half where the opponents make their move. They started double-teaming Alvarrez. It’s an unusual strategy. If they’re going to guard someone, it should be Diane. She’s the lead scorer in the game. It only makes sense for them to be guarding her heavily.
Everything happened so fast. One second, Alvarrez was dribbling the ball, her pointer finger raised, two girls guarding her. Just before she passes the ball to her teammate, Jersey Number Five appears from behind her and tries to steal the ball. The three guards covered Alvarrez’s from all angles, trapping her inside. Thankfully, one of her teammates come to the rescue, the ball comes flying out of their trap, and they score. The crowd boos.
Then Alvarrez is in the ground, clutching her knee. She’s right in front of me and even I didn’t see what happened. Everyone runs to her. Diane is the first to reach her. She kneels next to Alvarrez and examines her knee. “Alex, what happened?!”
“Ah, fuck.” Alvarrez sucks in a breath through her teeth.
“You!” Diane stands up, pointing a finger to Five, who’s wearing a smug smile. “What the fuck did you do this time?!”
Alvarrez grabs Diane’s hand. “Dee. I slipped.” She tugs on Diane’s hand and hoists herself up. “They already know injuries won’t stop us from snatching the championship. Why bother, right?” Alvarrez smirks at Five.
Her words wiped out the smug smile on Five’s face and replaced it with a scowl. “I’ll fucking destroy your knees, Alvarrez.” She threatens before leaving.
“What was that for? Did you really have to—”
Diane abruptly stops when Alvarrez whispers something in her ear. “Fuck.” I hear Diane say before she goes to their coach and asks for a time out.
I run over to the other side of the court where their bench is. I try to get as close as I can without alerting them of my presence. Alvarrez is sitting down on the benches, examining her ankle. Her coach is standing in front of her. “I’m subbing you out.” He says.
He rests a hand on Alvarrez’s shoulder. “You’ll return at fourth. Save your strength.” A look of relief flashes on Alvarrez’s face. She nods. He squeezes her shoulder, then pats it twice before talking to his team.
The buzzer rings, signaling her teammates to get back on the game. She gives them a thumbs-up. After deciding that Alvarrez is okay, I went back to doing my job. I made a mental note to check on her after the game. Just as I was walking away, I catch a glimpse of Alvarrez going outside the gym.
The play style of the team changed with the absence of Alvarrez. A girl I don’t recognize—probably from lower years—with cropped blonde hair took her place. Their moves became aggressive. Diane, most of all. She’s purposely making the other team foul her, making her shots inaccurate. Their team is crumbling.
I check the benches for Alvarrez—still not back. What’s taking her so long? I go out of the gym to look for her. I search the vicinity of the gym only to come back empty-handed. I check the restrooms and even asked the guard if she went out but still no luck.
Thinking we missed each other, I make my way back to the gym. That’s when I heard voices coming from the stairs.
“Dude are you sure you can play? This doesn’t look pretty.” A female voice says.
“Yeah. You should sit this one out.” Another one adds.
I round up the corner and see Alvarrez, Kristina, and Georgia’s surprised faces. Kristina is wrapping bandages around Alvarrez’s ankle. Georgia is holding an ice pack.
“Gray,” Alvarrez says. “What are you doing here?”
“You were taking too long to come back, so I came to check on you.” I step forward to take a closer look at her ankle, which is abnormally enlarged. Are ankles supposed to be color purple? “That looks bad.”
“Trust me, it hurts more than it looks.” Alvarrez comments. Kristina continues to wrap the bandage around her ankle, careful not to put too much pressure on it. “How’s the game?” She asks.
I shake my head. “The opponent’s catching up. Your team is in disarray.”
Alvarrez clicks her tongue. She covers the bandage with her socks, puts her shoe on and tries to stand up, stumbling halfway. Georgia comes to her rescue, wrapping her arms around her waist. “Thanks.” She mutters. She gives her injured foot a few trial kicks before putting pressure on it. “I’m good. You two can go back. I’ll see you after we get that trophy.”
Georgia shoots me a sideways glance. She hesitates before following Kristina to the direction of the gym, leaving me alone with Alvarrez.
“I hope you got in a few nice pics. I haven’t changed my profile picture for, like, a year.” Alvarrez jokes. Here she is, barely able to stand without someone supporting her and she still thinks they can win? She must’ve read my mind because she adds, “Look, I can still play. It’s just a sprain. I’ve been through worse.” She smirks. “Plus, I can’t wait to see their faces after going to such lengths and still manage to lose. That’s priceless.”
I actually manage to smile. Classic Alvarrez. “Of course you do. I should’ve seen that coming from a mile away.”
Our short conversation gets interrupted when the sound of trouble came calling for us from the gym. Alvarrez and I shared a look of panic before running to the source. What welcomed us is the sight of Jersey Number Five hovering above Diane. She’s saying words that couldn’t possibly be about good sportsmanship. Diane’s face is contorted into a look of barely restrained anger. It looks like either of them is about to throw a punch any minute, but luckily, their coach comes to the rescue.
“Time out! Time out!” He yells while making a T sign with his hands, redirecting everyone’s attention to him. A referee whistles and the players disperse to their own corner.
As the players were walking to their bench, Alvarrez says one word. “Coach.”
A look of understanding passes between the two. Alvarrez drags Diane to the farthest bench. She makes Diane sit. “Are you okay?”
“I should be the one asking you that.” Diane scoffs. “Give me one minute, and I’ll put that bitch on the bench forever.” She growls.
Alvarrez kneels on one knee in front of her. She takes Diane’s hand as if she’s about to propose. “Dee.” She says calmly. Too calm for someone with a sprained ankle and has her team relying on her. “Remember what I promised you last year after getting injured?”
Diane looks Alvarrez in the eye. I could only imagine what she’s seeing at that moment, but I figure it’s those eyes that soothes the soul. She bites her lower lip. “Yes.”
“This is me keeping that promise.” Alvarrez stands up and kisses Diane’s forehead. My hands move on their own. They grab the camera hanging from my neck and snap a picture. Diane looked as surprised as I was. “Anger dulls your senses. Remember to keep a clear head when you enter that court.” Alvarrez reminds her.
I don’t know what Alvarrez promised her, but that seemed to do the trick. Once the players got back on the court, their expression was more relaxed.
I nearly jump when someone speaks next to me. “Did you just take a picture of that?” Max is standing beside me, her eyes directed at Alvarrez.
“That was so cute!” She squeals. “You think they’ll get back together?”
“No,” I tell her. “I think that was more of a kiss that says I’m here for you rather than a kiss that suggests romantic feelings.”
“Huh,” Max examines me. “And you can tell because?”
“Because I know Alvarrez.” And she loves me, I almost add.
“There’s something you’re not telling me.” I was about to argue with her, but she puts up a finger. “And I’m not asking you to tell me—not right now, at least. Let’s focus on the game.”
I go over to the opposite side of the court to get better shots. While taking pictures, I notice that the other team keeps on hurting our players. Whether it’s intentional or not is hard to say. But from where I’m standing, I can see that Alvarrez is definitely thinking it’s intentional. She’s not smiling.
However, this changes as the fourth quarter starts and Alvarrez takes her place on the court.
“I thought you weren’t going back.” Jersey Number Five greets her.
“Nah, you have to try harder than that.” She smiles sarcastically even I get irritated. She can be really annoying when she wants to.
It’s easy to see the difference when she’s on and off the court. Her teammates trust her—and for good reason. Once Alvarrez gets a hold of the ball, she dribbles it slowly. She takes a look at the scoreboard that reads 50-45, in favor of the opposing team. “Let’s make that forty-eight.” She announces before stopping just behind the three-point line and lands a clean three-pointer. The crowd cheers.
Show-off, I smile to myself.
Diane actually laughs. “You really shouldn’t have pissed her off.” She tells Five before running to the opposite side of the court.
Maybe they really shouldn’t have, because after that, it rained threes. And every time Alvarrez gets it in—she always does—she looks at Five with the most annoying smirk on her face.
Five eventually snapped and used her fifth foul on Alvarrez, resulting in her getting kicked out of the game. I pity the kid.
Our school ultimately won, of course.
Alvarrez was holding the trophy while her teammates were throwing her up and down. It was then that I realized she was wrong. The look on their opponent’s face wasn’t priceless. It's the look on hers. This is priceless.
And guess what she did after their celebratory moment?
She ran to me, all sweaty and smiley-faced. "Hey, Max! Take a pic!" She yells.
Just as Max was about to take a picture, she puts her sweaty arms around my shoulders. The wetness makes me cringe and I push her away. "Yuck!"
"Thanks, Max!" She yells and runs away before I could even protest. I turn to glare at Max but she, too, was already gone.
If that pic was supposed to be a commemorative pic, I'm fairly sure both me and Alvarrez don't look our best. And maybe that's not so bad after all.