Sneakers over heels

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Chapter 37

As I switch off the alarm clock by my bedside table, I know for sure today was going to be a wonderful day. I throw away the pillow I had been suffocating myself with and sit up straight. So many thoughts were running wildly through my head. Today was the big day. The final showoff. Summer league’s final game with the Hawkettes facing off the Sky Rockets. I played since the start of the season and managed to pull my team to the final table. But all that doesn’t matter. How I play today is what is going to decide my talent and my seniors future. I had practiced my butt off yesterday without a break until I passed out. I remember dad’s face vaguely from the night before as he had tucked me into bed.
Today is the day I’m going to show dad the fruit of our hard work and dedication.

The Sky Rockets were one of the toughest team my girls had faced in the last season. They had barely won the game with a mere free shot. We have all put in our efforts and dedication for today’s match and we will not go down without a fight.
I swing my legs to the side of my bed and wiggle my feet into my fuzzy slippers. I stand up and stretch myself feeling great. I am in best shape that I’ll ever be in. All those time I spent running, in the gym and practice was definitely worth it.

I throw on a pair of shorts and my hoodie. Grabbing my phone and headphones I run downstairs to get into my beloved sneakers. Dad was still asleep since it was five in the morning. He didn’t have any extra work today and was asleep like the dead. I put on my shoes silently and then creep outside locking the door behind me without making a sound. The cool morning breeze felt great on my skin. I welcome the goosebumps that broke out. Taking a deep breath, I start jogging down the street.

I finish my morning run and get back home. As soon as I open the front door I’m hit with the strong smell of blueberry pancakes. I throw my shoes off and scuttle towards the kitchen. Popping my head in I find dad in his apron making breakfast.

“Morning dad.” I walk up to the man as he turns around to face me, his gray eyes which I inherited twinkling with excitement.

“Morning honey.” Dad replies as he gives me a soft peck on the crown of my head. “Grab your self a plate. I’m done with the pancakes.”

I fetch two clean plates, one for dad and one for myself. Dad brings over the hot pancakes and drops them on my plate. He tops it with his homemade blueberry sauce. Yum! I stab the pancake with a fork and push in a big piece into my mouth.

“Zis ish sho gwood dad.” I say with my mouth full. He hits me with the back of his spoon.

“Talk after swallowing. You’re going to choke.”

I only grin at him and continue stuffing myself with the pancakes. Dad’s blueberry pancakes were a die for and he knew they were my favorite.
As I grab more pancakes, the front door blasts open and in barges my best friend.

“I’m here for the celebratory pancakes!" she hollers and before we could counter or let alone do anything she grabs a fork and stuffs herself with my pancakes from my plate which I had just filled.
I stare at her in shock while dad just shakes his head well aware at how barbaric she can be.

“I knew uncle Jack would be making pancakes today since it’s an auspicious day!” She finally spoke after satisfying her craving greedy stomach. I sigh but then smile. I could never stay mad at her.

“Oh oh oh!” She exclaims throwing her hands all over the place. I hit them aside. The fool was going to stab my eyes if she continues her hooligan dance. “I’ll be there in my Judith t-shirt to cheer you on!” She grins extra wide as she does this weird cheering pose.

That’s what she wanted to say out so badly?

I chuckle lightly at the blockhead. “What would I do without you Ava?”

“You’d be crying in a corner without your personal cheering squad.” She replies proudly and I scoff as I hit her arm. Rude much!

I finish up my breakfast and wash up my plate, placing it on the plate rack and then grab myself a cold water bottle from the refrigerator. I sit myself back on the table as I stare at the back of my dad’s body. I let out a sigh, unbeknownst Ava was watching me closely.

“What’s wrong Judy? what’s bothering your pretty head?” She asks as she sits beside me after dropping her fork into the sink. I turn to her and before I even open my mouth to say a word she gives my hand a squeeze and her special Ava smile.

"Judy, you’ll be great out there. I know it. You have nothing to be worried over. You’re definitely going to bring the championship back home. Don’t you dare doubt yourself. That’s not my Judith. I believe in you and so does everyone else. So hold your head high with that confident look you always have plastered on your face. You’ve got this. I know you do.”

God. What would I do if I didn’t have Ava beside me?

“Thank you Ava.” I give her an awkward hug and she returns it with a smile. A hand pat’s my head and I know it belongs to dad.

I love them both.

I make way to the bathroom and strip butt naked and stand underneath the shower, letting the cold morning water run throughout my body as I let thoughts of today’s game wash over my head. I’m done with my bath in 10 minutes and get out of the shower. Wrapping my body with my towel, I walk into my bedroom and rummage through my cupboard for a pair of clean undies and sports bra. Putting them on, I turn to the side of my room where my Hawkettes uniform was hung on the wall. I gaze at it in wonder and it stares back at me with its red and white glory. Taking my uniform off of the hanger I put it on and throw my Hawkettes jacket over the uniform, pulling the zip up as the final preparation. Picking up my bag, a pair of clean socks, I walk back downstairs to join my Dad.

Today’s game is held at one of the oldest arena in Minnesota. I had visited the place when I was younger with Dad to watch a couple of games and so I knew the court pretty well. But this is going to be my first time standing on the court as a player and the thought alone sent a rush of sparks throughout my body. Dad and I arrive at the spot, and with a quick kiss on his cheek I wave and run off to join my girls. A security guard is positioned outside the entrance of the players side of the building. I exchange a few words with him and soon we’re cracking lame jokes until Coach Harlot clears her throat taking the both of us by surprise. The rest of the girls were behind her. Senora shook her head at me while Cassy and the rest were holding back their laugh.

Whats so funny?

Inside the locker room everyone bustles around getting ready. There wasn’t much to say and I was pretty sure everyone were feeling nervous. I pull my loose hair up into a ponytail and then sit on the bench to tighten my shoe laces. Tucking my uniform top into my shorts,I’m done getting ready. The whole team huddles up and Senora starts with her chant.

“This is the moment we all have been waiting for girls. The moment we have been striving for since the start of the Summer League season. It’s now or never. Today we bring home the title as champions of the Summer league. It is time to show the whole of Minnesota and further just who we Hawkettes truly are. Play for each other. And most importantly, Play for yourself!” she finishes and we all grip each others shoulder tight letting the words sink into us.

“LETS GO HAWKETTES!” we scream in unison one final time and straighten up as coach opens the door for us to exit.

As we exit the locker room in a group the first thing I find is an awkward guy. As he notices us he pockets his phone and stands straight prior to leaning on the wall.“I’ll catch up quick.” I say to the girls and then all walk away with a nod. Except for Cassy. She just had to wink at me.
Does she think I’m crushing on every guy on this planet?
I slap her arm and she saunters off chuckling. Goodness that girl and her humor. I walk up to the guy and I easily notice him tense up.

“You do realize you’re sticking like a sore thumb in the hallway of the ladies locker rooms.”

He chuckles awkwardly. “Yeah. I had two coaches give me the cold eye and a teacher in charge warning me to leave at once.”
I laugh unable to hold back. The poor guy’s been through a lot it seems.

“I was planning on hiding in the janitor closet until you girls show up.” He sighs.” What were you girls even doing in there for so long?”

“You know, the usual? Motivational speech. Group hugs. Selfies...” To the latter he made a face and I laugh. God, he’s such a gullible guy. He joins in on my laughter as well but then we stop. And then silence follows.

“It’s been a while James.” I say and he gives me a sad smile.

“Yeah.”

We don’t talk to each other and just remain quiet. A couple of girls walking by give him the flirts and I chuckle. He surely is a chick magnet.

“I’m sorry Judy.” He starts. I don’t have to take ignorance. We both know why he was apologizing. “For the way I acted back then. I didn’t mean to be a son of a bitch. I swear. It just... Happened.”

I only shrug. What more could I possibly do? I didn’t want to mess my head in such a critical moment and so I tried to make the conversation short so I could get back to my girls in the court.

“I heard from Tori about what’s been happening to you. Saw your last match,” I winced at that. The crappy way I had played made me want to crawl into a hole. “Kind of guessed something must have happened between you and the guy.” He continued.

So much for not wanting to mess my head. Travis’s face pops into my vision and all I could think of was his beautiful eyes and his breathtaking smile.

“Tori came over to one of my practice matches and I sort of had her spit it out about you. I’m also sorry that I smiled when she told me all about it.” I frown as I give him a blank expression and he responds with a guilty look on his face. “Tori already punished me with a head slap. And the guys guessing what must have made me grin like that got pissed. Leon kicked me on the knee while Jeremy gave a karate shot to my lower abdomen.” James winces at the memory while I soared.

The guys were too sweet.

“The rest of them tried to murder me for my I’ll intentions.” He finishes with a tired sigh. Wow, just how much did they make him go through?

“I’ll cut it short, I’m sorry for everything. I won’t say for sure that I will give up on you but I will try. So please, don’t ignore me like I have been doing.” He finishes with a sad smile. I touch his shoulder and give it a squeeze.

“I’m not going to do that. We will always be friends James. Don’t forget that. And Thank you for summing up your courage and talking to me before my match. I feel so much better now.”

“I know you’ll play great out there and kick ass but just in case my good will is of help. Good luck Judy.”

“Thank you James.” I appreciate his words with all my heart. I never had many supporters on my side since my younger days. And just because I had a team now doesn’t mean I'm going to ignore the heartfelt words of others. James’s words really meant a lot to me.

“I better get going before I’m reported as a pervert to the security here.” He says in a rush with an awkward chuckle. But before he could run off someone stops him.

“There’s a pervert in the hallway!” A girl’s voice interrupts. I knew it was Tori even before turning around. I chuckle at the scowling face of James.

“Oh shut up, I’m leaving.” He snaps at his sister. Even though the two of them bicker all the time I know just how much they care for each other. Sometimes looking at the two of them makes me wish for a sibling of my own.

“Oh right before I go. I’ve got something for you.” He pulls his phone out and taps on the screen a couple of time and then points the screen at me. A video. I tap the play button and at once I’m met with the faces of the boys of the Westview basketball team.

“Good luck Judith!” Everyone screamed at once taking me by surprise. I stare at the screen, then at James who was giving me a friendly smile.

“The guys wanted to wish you luck as well.”

Damn. Am I popular or something? What the hell. This is making me want to tear up at the support I was receiving.

“We’ll be watching the match from the audience box.” With that he finally ran off.

“All good?” Tori asks as I walk up to her and we walk through the tunnel towards the arena. I give her a firm nod and she smiles.

“Listen Judy,” she stops and so do I. “I didn’t let you play today just because you asked to nor because everyone else felt they wanted you in the game. No, I let you play today is because I know you will take us to the championship trophy for sure. Everyone believes in you but I believe in you more. I know for sure if its you then we can dream of holding the trophy. So get out there and show them just who Judith is.”

I hug her. I’m not one for hugs if it wasn’t Ava but my body moved on its own. Tori seemed taken aback but then she gently pats my back. “Thank you Tori. I will do my best out there.”

I step into the arena and blink a few times to get used to the lighting's. I must say I hadn’t expected the whole place to be packed. Every seat is taken and I even find a majority of people holding hawkettes banner or wearing jackets of our color to show their support. I jog over to my teammates and Senora quickly goes over today's plan. She is then called to shake hands with the oppposing team captain and the referees and judging panel. In the mean time I do some warm ups to strengthen my leg muscles. I take a deep breath and then my focus is all on today's game.

“Hello there. Judith Drakeyer if I’m correct? The new sensation this season defeating countless schools.” A sudden voice perks up from behind me. He was holding a microphone and a cameraman was behind him most probably filming us. “Have you anything to tell to the audience watching today’s match?” he asks with a big bright smile. He should have come a little sooner. When I'm in full focus I barely talk to anyone. And he was being a distraction.

“Please enjoy the game.” I say and with a curt nod I go to stand with my girls.

“I’m sorry but Judith doesn’t talk much before a game.” Senora who had miraculously appeared out of nowhere apologizes and then without delay questions were shot her way and she answers them like the responsible captain she is.

“Hey look over there.” Cassy who had been busy arguing with Tori hollers gaining all our attention. Thankfully the reporter had left and we could breath in relief without having to worry about being filmed. “There’s a temporary hoop.” She points out and the rest of us turn our focus to what she was pointing at. True enough the gym court didn’t have the usual backboard hoops but the baskets with metal stands attached to the ground. “Why the hell do we even have such a thing in this day and age?” Cassy remarks unaware of the shadow that loomed behind her.

“Its because this is one of the oldest court in Minnesota Cassandra.” Coach Harlot explains and Cassy smiles nervously for using foul language in the presence of the drill sergeant. “A basket is a basket no matter the form. Don’t mind the details and just play your game.”

I keep staring at the metal hoop. Not because it’s not a usual thing to see at a court nowadays. But because it was unsteady. As a referee slightly bumped on it I find the hoop stand jerk. It’s dangerous to play a game with a hoop that hasn’t been well secured to the ground. The pole holding the net hoop was made of metal and if it happened to fall on someone, some serious injuries would take place.

“The hoop is unstable coach.” I point out. She notices as well and then walks to the score table to have a word with the judges. Since they will get it fixed I divert my attention from it.

“How heavy do you think that thing is?” Cassy asks still fixated on the thing. Sighing I turn back to face her.

“If it falls on someone they might as well be considered disabled for life. Kapeesh?” Cassy just stares at me in bewilderment. Shaking my head at her I turn my attention to the mass crowd and try to find my girl. It wasn’t so difficult since she was screaming her lungs out standing beside the boys team who weirdly held on to a banner with our name on it. I laugh at their weirdness but then stop at once. No, not because Dad was with them but because of the person squashed in between dad and Ava.

Travis.

Our eyes meet one another and for whole minute I find myself entranced. If it was not for Nora trying to get my attention I would have been fixated in his gaze for all eternity. I felt myself breathless as I quickly divert my eyes.

Why? What was he doing here?

“Are you alright? You look like you’re about to faint.” Nora who was standing beside me spoke as she shook me out of my trance. I look at her and then at my girls who equally carried worried expressions.

No Judith. This is not the time to be having a breakdown. Everyone is counting on you!

“I’m fine Nora. I just had my head in the clouds for a second there. Lets go.” And I pull her along with me. I snap back into game mode as I take a seat on the bench with the rest of them. The announcer begins to read the opposing teams names first. And then its finally our turn. He starts off with Senora, announcing her name, height and position. Then he moves to Kaera. Cassy. Rekha, and then finally its my turn.

“Standing at 5’, number 14, Judith Drakeyer.” The announcer says and I rise to my feet to join the girls in the court. No one gasps. No one mocks and no one screams insults. Majority of the audience cheers and screams my name as I make my way to the rest of the girls who were waiting for me. I would have danced and cried in joy if it wasn’t for the pressure I was feeling and the excitement that was keeping in check. The starting five of the opposing team stretches out their hands for a handshake and the five of us do the same. We all then get in position for the tip off.

The whistle blows and the summer league final game begins.

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