Sneakers over heels

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Chapter 35

I sit on the bench staring at the game in front of me with dead eyes. I felt lifeless. I was drained out.

I wasn't waiting to be put into the game. No. I was subbed out.

I had played shamelessly and horribly in the game. I didn't assist my girls. I didn't score a single goal. I created a path not for my teammates but for the opponents to score.

I was a mess.

Coach couldn't stand it anymore and pulled me out before I could jeopardize the game any further. I walked out as Nora took my place passing a worried look my way as she walked past me. I sat on the bench quietly. No one dared say a word. They didn't know what to say. I've never played this bad. Even coach hadn't said anything. She just stared at the game in front.

As the final buzzer goes off, I look at the scoreboard. I hadn't been able to keep up with the game. I didn't know who had been leading and who was losing. With barely scoring a single point, the Hawkettes had won the match.

Senora and the girls walk up to the bench. They share a few words with the coach and everyone makes way to the locker room. No one said a word to me. Senora had her fists clenched but she never looked my way. Cassy throws a quick sympathy look at me and follows the team to the locker room. I remain seated on the bench. I couldn't bear facing them in the closed locker room.

What has happened to me?

Have I always been this weak? How could I have let a single person ruin my mind? My game? My concentration?

I lost track of time as I remain glued to the bench. Ava had run over as soon as the audience cleared a path for her to run over to me. She had tried pulling me out of my trance but I couldn't register a single word she had said. Her voice made me remember another Heatherfield and it hurt and so I blocked her voice out. Sighing she walked away. Or so I thought.

Someone stops in front of me. The only reason I force myself to look up at the person was because I recognized the worn-out canvas shoes. As I look straight at the gentle grey eyes that was looking at me I could feel the tears starting to well up.

I played shamelessly in front of the one man I wanted to prove myself to.

"If you are doing something you love, then hold your head high and do it proudly." Dad says as he gentle pat's my head. I couldn't even give a reply and so I hang my head back in shame. "There are times when you will find yourself drifting further from the path of your dream. But you are the one in hold of ypurself. You decide what you do next. As long as you are able to get back on track it doesn't matter doing silly mistakes on the way sweetheart. You are not in the wrong. So lift your head. My daughter never looks down ashamed.

How could I not lift my head when he says it so confidently? I look up at the man I was proud to call my father. He gives me a warm smile as he wipes the tears away.

Ah, so that's why I felt my cheeks wet.

"Go on. Get going. The girls must be waiting. You're more important to them for them to toss you away. They know your worth Judy. And so do I."

Dad squeezes my shoulders encouragingly as he pulls me to my feet. Slowly he pushes me towards the direction of the locker rooms. With a curt nod I pick up my towel and walk to where the Hawkettes were.




I lost track of how many days it's been since I last saw Travis.

No he's not ignoring me. He's far from ignoring. He has been trying every way he could to meet me. Ambushing me at school. Trying to talk to me at dad's gym. He even came over to my place while dad was at home. Dad figured something was going on what with me running to my room at the sight of Travis. He had smoothly handled the guy and asked him to leave as I was not in a state to meet anyone. And it hurt me alot. Because even then dad hadn't tried to force me to speak up. He respected my privacy and let me be hoping I'd come to him when I needed him.

I made up my mind to concentrate on my games. The upcoming match was of great importance to my seniors. And to me. The finals of the Summer league tournament. We had pulled off this far and we are now standing on our final stage. I had to be in top shape to lead my team to victory. I was their ace shooter. I had to be in my best.

"Judith! Keep your eyes in the game." Senora yells from the other side of the court. The ball she had passed to me bounced away.

I was supposed to catch that passing ball perfectly. Darn it!

"Sorry Señora." I call back. She just sighs and turns away.

Get a grip Judith!

But it was no use. I was by far the worst player.

How did I play all this time? How do I make a basket?

Señora marches up to me. She wasn't pleased at all with my performance. She had stayed silent after the havoc I created in the previous match. I knew she would blast any moment. And I guess now is that moment.

"What has gotten into you? Did you see the way you played?" She snaps right in my face.

I was about to tell her there were no mirrors to see myself play but stop before I get chased out the court.

Now is not the time to be a smartass Judith. So zip it.

Instead I hang my head. Something I keep doing lately.

My other team members grow quiet as they try to eavesdrop on my conversation with our captain.

It wasn't so hard. She was practically yelling for the entire school to hear.

"Judith I know your our ace player. But don't think I wouldn't swap you out and replace you with another player." Her voice menacing. But it's the fact that she was willing to throw me off the team that shook me. I stared up at her in shock. What!?

"I'm sorry. I can't risk players walloping on personal issues and bringing down the team. This is a final warning." She turns and goes to call out the rest of the players to get back to the game.

Final warning? What the fuck?

I was so bloody annoyed I threw the face towel I'd been gripping. I stomp my feet on the ground multiple times to vent out my anger.

Taking deep breaths I calm my self. It isn't her fault Judith. You have no rights to get mad at any of them. You deserve such cold cruel words.

As the whistle is blown I get back into the game.

I try. I try so hard to remember how I used to play. Everytime I stood in form to shoot, my hands shook and the ball made an ugly noise as it jammed on the backboard and fell to the ground.

Why? Why does Travis's face come back to mind over and over again?

I can't concentrate on my fucking game!

The final whistle is blown and the girls walk to the bleachers to grab their bags without a word. Nora stops in her track as she looks at me pondering over if to walk up to me or not. She then sighs as she joins the others by the bleacher.

I grab the rolling ball and stand in front of the hoop. I bend my wrist and curve the ball into position. I shoot.

The ball bangs on the edge and falls to the outside.

Fail.

As I sit by myself on the bleacher, Cassy throws her towel over her shoulders and sits beside me without speaking a word. She was trying to point out she was there for me.

And it hurt.

"Tell me." I start not sure as to why I'm even asking such a question. "What does it feel like to actually fly? How is the view from up that high? Please tell me." Cassy whipped her head my way as she stared at me in shock, completely out of words.

"Judy?" She almost whispered as if she was afraid I'd break at her words. "What's up with you?"

"Sorry." I chuckle like some dead doll. "I'm not sure what I'm saying. Forget it."

Since when have I ever felt that way about jumping that high?

"What does it feel like to shoot perfect shots? How is it to know you'll never miss a basket?" Cassy questions with so much sincerity in her voice my eyes burn with unshed tears.

"You foolish girl. You're perfect the way you are. How does the view look from up there? Girl it's the same Everytime. Don't even dream it to be something extraordinary."

I couldn't stop myself from chuckling. I feel like crying but I'm laughing as well?

"I will remind you something you told us all when the summer league began. 'Even though being short puts you at a disadvantage in basketball, it doesn't necessarily mean your helpless'. I believe in you Judith. I really do. I hope you come back to us as the Judith we all know." With that she got off the bleacher and ran over to Tori who had her eyes on us. She gave me a soft smile and then started some conversation with Cassy.

"Judith?"

It was Señora. She most certainly is here to warn me once more.

I didn't give up on Travis just so I could be kicked out of the team!

"Are you alright?" She asks taking me by surprise.

"Umm..."

"By any chance, does your inability to play be because of the guy who hasn't been coming over to the gym?"

Woah. Where is this leading to? She's right since Travis hadn't showed up at the gym recently. But that's because I wouldn't meet him even if he tried coming.

I raise a brow as I stare at her confused.

"Everyone in the team thinks so." Señora says with a shrug. "He's always by the gym door on time, ready to whisk you away as if we're keeping you captive in here."

I wanted to chuckle at that. Laugh even.

But my heart was too hurt to laugh.

I remain silent. Señora sighs as she takes my hands on hers.

"Listen Judith. I don't know what happened. But please remember that the next match is of dire importance to the seniors. To me. If we ever wish to get into a decent college, this is our only way." She grips my hand, her eyes boaring into mine with such frustration and desperation.

"I can't tell you who to meet and who not to. It's entirely up to you.

I shake my head, thinning my lips to a straight line. Senora had never forced me to not see Travis. She need not sound so guilty when she's not in the wrong. "I'm begging you. You're important to us Hawkettes. Don't let us down."

I loosen my hands from her grip and grab hers with mine.

"We are winning the next match if it's the last thing we do. Just give me a day. I'll sort my shit out. I WILL be able to shoot again. I WILL be at my best. Trust me." I didn't know I could hold so much force in my tone. Senora gives me a firm nod

"And please go get some rest. You look like the walking dead." She gives me a teasing half smile. Truth be told it's been difficult falling asleep these days. I couldn't forget what had happened at the alley. The ugly heart wrenching feeling I had felt and how I had run back in tears and heartbroken. I can understand why she was saying such a thing. My eyes were swollen red with dark circles and eye bags underneath.

That is how much Travis has affected my life.

As Senora makes way to her abandoned bag she pauses suddenly, turns her head around and says something which turns my inside over.

"If I must say, you were at your best when you were seeing that guy Judith."

With that she leaves making me feel even more crappy and lost.

Wonderful. Just what I needed. To make myself feel even more hopeless.

One by one everyone leaves as I stare at the ball with intensity. Sighing aloud and feeling tired I Push myself to keep walking towards the bleachers to pick my bag and find an annoyed Ava. Her hands held firmly on her hips like some angry mom. A look she always gives me when I commit a crime. According to her that is.

"I swear in the name of Starbucks, I did not try to kill your dormouse." I say before she could frame me for something I hadn't done.

Yes I've tried like a gazillion times but that tiny annoyance always escaped.

"Someone else tried to." She says with a scoff.

Wow. There's another sane person out there who sees her pet as an annoyance?

"What's going on between you and Travis?" She asks out of the blue making me drop the bag I'd picked.

I stare at the empty gym. Everyone had left leaving me behind with an annoyed best friend.

I sigh deeply not sure what to say her.

"Travis came home like days back or something after he met up with you and ever since he's just shut himself in his room."

What?

"He barely talks to anyone. Trashes stuff around the room occasionally. Goodness know what's happening in there."

I remain silent unsure what to say. Ava doesn't care and continues complaining.

"I tried sending my pet dormouse to fetch Travis" to this I stared at her with shock.

What the fuck? Like that's gonna help?

"You actually opened his door and threw your pet inside?" I ask in shock.

"Not really. I just left it outside his door and asked Dormy to eat its way in."

Okay this girl is utterly insane.

"But Travis must have heard the scraping noises. He opened his door, kicked my poor Dormy aside and shut it once more" she finished with a sigh.

And I laughed.

I couldn't stop myself from laughing. Thinking back to Travis opening his door only to find a midget at the bottom, a dormouse no less set off another set of laughter .

But I stopped as soon as I started. Somehow I couldn't continue laughing.

"It's not just Travis. I haven't seen you laugh, hell, I haven't seen you dissing guys in like forever Judy. I'm really worried here." Ava had a constricted look on her face.

She really cared but I didn't know how I was to explain to her what had happened.

I just put on my bag over my shoulder and trudged towards the exit of the gym trying to avoid conversation that would include me having to talk about what had happened.

"It was mom." Ava says which makes me halt.

Turning to face her I look at her confused.

She sighs like she's battling with herself if to reveal some deep dark secret to me or not.

"It was mom who made Travis do it." She said and I still had no clue what she's going on about.

"Oh come on Judy. Your top of the class and you still can't get what I'm trying to say!?" She throws her hands around in frustration.

"Ava you have to be more specific. What did your mom do?" I ask urgently.

"She's the one who forced Travis in asking you to choose between him and basketball." Ava finally revealed the truth.

It was like a slap in the face.

Mrs. Heather field did that?

"Why Ava?" I realized talking to her brought so much pain. "She is like a mother to me. I don't understand. Why did she do something so cruel?"

Ava remained with a tight lip but her face held so much worry.

Tears prickled the back of my eye threatening to fall out any second.

"It doesn't matter. Travis knew how much I loved basket ball. He should have defended me when his mom asked him to do something so mean. It's unforgivable. Please don't give excuses Ava."

I've been in so much pain ever since Mom died. I don't want to shed any more tears thinking I've been betrayed by a lady I considered a mom. I can't let my heart feel any more pain and suffering.

"Thing is, mom knew as well." Ava says making me look her in the eye. I wait for her to continue. "Mom knew how much basketball meant to you. How much it means to you even now. That you wouldn't let go of it even if the world were against you. She used this to her advantage and cornered my brother."

It was like my breath was being cut off. It was getting harder to breath as seconds passed and Ava revealed the truth.

"My mother knew how you would respond if you were ever asked to choose and that is precisely why she had forced my brother into asking you such a question threatening to talk to your father if he did not go by her rules."

I shook my head in disbelief. I have always loved Mrs Heather field. How could she betray me like this? Did she hate me dating her son so much that she'd use such measures?

"Sad part is, Travis appeared only now. He has no idea of the life little Judith spent. What made her persue basketball with a dying passion. What made the sport her life force." Ava finished with a grim look plastered on her face. She even had tears fill her eyes.

What she said was true. Travis doesn't know the past me. What I had gone through to get where I am today. Yes I have told him about it but he hadn't been there to see it. Like how his mother had.

The insults thrown at dad for raising a child who was not worthy and good for anything. People ridiculed him. They even asked him to leave me somewhere and start a new life. But dad had stood strong for me. When kids and adults laughed and mocked me for trying out for basketball with my miniature size, dad always gave me extra training to make me better. The workouts, late night tears, pleading to god, dad's humiliation. I will never forget any of that.

Which was why I had made up my mind one night. I was going to stand on a court and have people acknowledge me. I was going to bring pride to my dad who had been humiliated.

And that is why I had been practising and studying with a monstrous drive so I would be better than the others. Why I never gave a shit to dating and romance.

Travis had been different. He wasn't like those guys who dated to use girls. He had genuinely been a wonderful guy who's company I enjoyed.

But, I wasn't going to throw away my dad's and my dream for a guy.

I'm sorry Travis.

"I'm sorry Ava. I just can't do this anymore."

Ava felt the anguish that was fighting inside of me. She took quick strides towards me and threw her arms around me hugging me close. She knew how much I hated dating. How much I wanted to give Travis a chance.

Ava is and will always be my one and only best friend.

"I will always be on your side Honey but let me tell you this. I have never seen my brother so happy like he did when the two of you were going out. He has a lot restrictions on him and so he doesn't always get what he wants. But for the first time he had put extra effort in obtaining what his heart had desired and for the first time he felt happiness. It broke my heart when I saw him crying the other day." She stopped talking and I stopped breathing. "He was crying Judy. My brother broke down crying and all I could do was stand by and do nothing."

Why? Why must love be so hurtful? Why do people fall in love if it's going to be so painful?

I hugged Ava as tight as possible. "I'm scared Ava"

"Of what?"

I was reluctant in saying her but I have to. I needed to get it off my chest. The guilt that was creeping in.

"Last time when Travis asked me to choose between him and basketball..." I pause for a moment to take a breath. "I almost chose him, Ava."

Ava gasped as she removed herself from her best friend's hug and stared in shock. Had she heard right?

Judith had never protiorized anything above basketball, and now here she is saying something unbelievable.

I hadn't wanted to accept the fact and I forced it inside of me shutting it with a lid, but talking to Ava made me pull it out. I was ashamed. And embarrassed.

I wasn't worthy to realize such a thing after what I had done to him, but I can't help myself anymore.

"Ava..." I couldn't believe I was sobbing which took my best friend by surprise. "I think I'm in love with Travis."

That's right.

He wasn't just someone I was dating. Slowly but surely, Travis had crept into my closed heart.

Finally. Ava thought as she pulled her best friend in for another hug . "You silly girl. I always knew you loved my brother. I just wanted you to realize it yourself. I just wish it hadn't have happened in such a circumstance." Ava hugged a miserable Judith.

"I'll talk to Travis. I'm sure he will..." I cut her off mid sentence.

"Don't." I say in a rush. I pull back so I can see her face clearly. My vision was blurry with the tears welled up in my eyes. Her face looked distorted and funny. "Don't tell Travis what I just revealed to you."

"But why Judy?"

"Once the summer league is over I'll go to him myself. I know it's like I'm choosing basketball first and going to him afterwards. I want to run over to him this instance. But, I promised senora I'll give my best at the finals. I can't give up now. I just can't."

The girl had never felt this small. Not only by height, but now even her strong presence felt small and all Ava wanted to do was protect her best friend.

"Travis will understand. So just do your thing. I'm sure he will wait for you."

All I could do was nod as I come to terms with two important things.

I love basketball.

And I'm in love with Travis.

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