"Can we take a seat here?"
I look up to see who it is that intruded my conversation with Ava and notice Tori looking at me with a glint in her eyes.
I smile at her but then my face turns sour when Ava starts grinning at the person standing next to Tori and then back at me.
If she doesn't stop I'm grabbing her salad fork and stabbing her eyes out!
"Just ignore him and think of him as a plant," Tori says earning an elbow punch.
I was slurping on my juice and choke on that.
"Are you alright?" James asks with concern. I give him a vague nod and then glare at my best friend who was laughing her head off.
A stranger cares but my best friend is a monster.
Once she's done with her retarded laugh, she looks at me expectantly to introduce Tori to her.
Dream on girl. I'm mute.
She gets my silence and stares at me. Then she deepens her stare and I still remain quiet.
She grabs a tomato and throws it at me.
Oh ho ho. Wrong move girl.
"Ava's throwing her tomatoes!" I say aloud and she slaps my arm.
Too late, the person I wanted to hear it heard it loud and clear.
The lady behind the counter knew who exactly Ava was.
"Stop that, girl." She scolds and Ava scowls.
Revenge is a bitch sweetheart.
I smirk at her and she rolls her eyes at me but then we start laughing.
This happens every time Ava throws something at me.
"The reason why you two don't need a boyfriend is because you guys love each other more?" Tori asks with a laugh in her tone.
"You bet!" I say confidently while Ava nods with a wink.
Tori laughs while giving James a teasing look. He rolls his eyes at her and remains quiet.
"But we're currently open for potential suitors," Ava says out of the blue looking at James with a glint in her eyes.
I nudge her down the table but she ignores.
"Once Judy gets a boyfriend, I'm hunting mine down." She finishes.
"Which is why you'll be going to prom with me honey. I'm not looking for a boyfriend." I say with a sweet smile trying to throw Ava off.
But the girl just grins at me.
"Oh, but you don't have to look Judy pie. There's already one found." She says with a secret smile.
"I don't want a boyfriend Avangeline." I try to sound menacing but she never takes me seriously.
Tori looks at both of us with amusement while her brother sits awkwardly.
You should never have sat for lunch at our table Howell kid.
"How long have you two known each other?" Tori asks and Ava beams. She's always happy when someone asks that question.
"Since we were in second grade," Ava says with pride. Tori looks astounded I must say.
I guess our friendship period really is a long time.
Ava doesn't stop there. She goes on making me want to choke her.
"I became friends with Judy ever since I wouldn't give her basketball back and she started throwing a tantrum. She threw everything she could find inside her bag at me." Ava was reminiscing the good old times while I scowled.
Why was she getting so personal with strangers?
Tori was chuckling.
I just sigh and force a smile.
"You took a basketball to school in second grade?" She asks amused. I just shrug.
"How long have you been playing?" Was her next question.
It was directed to me but my best friend just had to butt in.
"She started when she was six. But she held the ball first when she was only one." Ava says bouncing.
Tori really looked surprised now.
"Whenever she used to cry, her dad would give her a basketball," Ava said to the Howell siblings.
"Your dad played basketball?" Tori asked impressed.
I bite the inside of my cheek to keep myself from yelling in frustration. I hate it when someone prods into my family.
"He didn't. Dad runs a gym. A guy back then who had been training under dad was a basketball player and left his ball at the gym. So dad used to give it to me." I say and plead with my mind that she wouldn't go any further with the questioning.
"And your mom?"
I sigh. It always leads to this. First, they ask about dad, then my mom.
I remain tight-lipped but Tori looks at me expectantly waiting for a reply.
"I'm her mom!" Ava jumps in with a wide smile.
Tori stares at my friend weirdly but what Ava said made me smile softly.
It's true. Ava really was a mom to me. Whenever I hurt myself in matches, she's the one who would disinfect my wound for me. When I go hours without eating, she's the one who would always grab me a bite and force me to eat.
Ava had always been with me and so teasingly she calls herself my mom.
"I live in a single parent house Tori," I say with a forced smile and her expression morphed to guilt.
"Your dad must be one hell of a man to give his one-year-old baby daughter a basketball to play with." James jokes and this makes me grin.
"He had no idea what else to do. I mean he could have simply carried me whenever I cried. But he panicked and gave me the one thing that was beside him at the moment. A basketball." I chuckle and James goes along with me.
"The kid who forgot it, didn't come back for it?" He asks and this made me laugh even more.
"He did. But then I'd gotten so attached to it, I'd cry if dad tried to take it away. Poor kid had no choice but to leave it back. Dad gave him a discount on his membership." I say with an eye roll.
Tori who had been silent, looks relaxed, now that the tension wasn't high.
"You said you're in basketball?" I ask James trying to make a conversation with the kid.
He nods vigorously.
"I play Power forward." He said pridefully and I gawk at him. He wasn't just in the team. He was one of the top five.
Both the Howell siblings were in the top five.
I wouldn't be surprised if their parents were coaches.
"You should play against Judith some time. The girl is a total badass on the court." Tori says judging her brother and he flushes.
He's too innocent.
I check my watch and find there's only five minutes until lunch break is over. I quickly shove the remaining of my sandwich into my mouth and grab Ava's water bottle.
"I'll get going Ava," I say getting up and jumping over the table bench.
Tori looks at her own watch and then back at me confused.
"Judy likes to be in class on time," Ava says to help Tori with her confusion.
"How can you be a nerd AND good in sports?" Tori asks with a head shake but she was smiling.
I just give her shrug. What else am I to do?
"You uh... Want me to walk you to class?" James asks and I stare at him.
I don't need a Chauffeur dude. I don't say it out loud though.
I give him a do-what-you-want look and grab my bag before walking out the cafeteria after giving Ava a wave.
James struggles to his feet and then rushes past his teammates who were whistling after him.
He points his middle finger at them and then dashes to match his steps beside me.
I sigh as I quicken my steps to reach class fast. James didn't find it difficult to keep up. With his long strides, he could have easily passed me a long time ago.
When my history class gets closer, I sigh in relief.
"Well, this is it. Thanks for uh, accompanying me? Anyways bye." I say hating the awkwardness.
He just flushed, rubbing the back of his head embarrassed.
James doesn't say anything, so I open the door and walk inside an empty classroom except for the teacher who was already present.
"Bye Judy," James calls out as I close the door.
He called me Judy.
Now, why does this make me Infuriated?
I drop down on the court floor, rolling like a ball.
Practice had been so body wracking, I'm most definitely sure I won't be able to do my usual evening running and workout today.
Shooting drills, running laps, offense, defense, darn layups, passing, rebound, goodness know why we must do all these in a single practice.
And then after all that, we had practice matches.
The seniors and the other team members were used to such hellish workouts and so they weren't rolling on the floor like me.
Actually I was the only one rolling. Nora was seated on the bleacher, panting aloud.
A laugh makes me strain my eyes and I find Cassy and Tori laughing at me.
Cassandra asked us to call her Cassy and I did straight away. Nora didn't really talk much.
"What are you laughing at?" I croak like a frog.
"Where's the superhuman from a few minutes ago?" Cassy teases and I groan.
I'm capable of handling anything and everything when my feet are planted on the court. But outside the sidelines, I was a jellyfish.
"Leave me alone. The coach is heartless I tell you. What's with that Spartan training?"
"You'll get used ter it sooner Judey." The senior whom I'd played a match with on the first day, said with a grin.
Her name was Clara. She was from Texas.
I groan like an old granny with arthritis as I sit up. This sends the laughing duo to another fit of laughter.
I scowl at Tori and Cassy.
I tried ignoring Tori cause it felt weird looking at her, what with her brother trying to get on my good side.
But it was difficult because the girl was a genuinely good heart and it was fun being around her.
I scramble to my feet and drag my legs to where my bag was. Nora was listening to music.
"What are you listening to?" I ask. I'm not much of a fan of music. But Nora is always with earphones so I felt like asking.
She doesn't reply. Most probably because she couldn't hear me.
I tap her on the shoulder and she looks at me. She takes her earphones off and stares at me.
"What are you listening to?" I repeat.
She doesn't reply. Instead, she hands me her earphones. I take it from her and insert it into my ears and she starts the song.
~Hello, can you hear me? I'm in California dreaming about who we used to be.~
Wow, the song was boring. It goes on and I was almost close to dropping off to sleep.
But then the next line shakes me awake.
~Hello from the other side~
The lady screams and THIS makes me grin wide.
Nora stares at me like I've gone mad, but my mind was just planning on how to use this line when someone calls.
"Coach says we can leave," Señora says as I remove the earphones.
The other teammates' nod and one by one they leave the gym in groups.
I grab my sports bag and drop it on my shoulder, waving bye to the ones left.
Nora only nods but I keep smiling until I can force a smile out of her.
I notice a very familiar face peeping into the gym.
What's she even doing here? Classes were over hours ago.
I took quick strides to reach her and she grins when she sees me.
"Bye Nora," I say aloud and don't wait for a reply. Not that she'd give me.
Oh, girl was I wrong.
"Bye Judy." She said barely audible since I was almost at the door. I turn around and find her looking at me. I grin wide and she just shrugs and gives me a rare smile.
I leave the gym with Ava who was scowling now.
What the hell happened in a second to ruin her mood?
That could wait for later. I've something better to talk!
"Have you heard the song ~Hello?" I ask Ava excitedly.
"Uh that's like real old? And since when have you started listening to music?" She asks me her eyes furrowed.
"Oh, I don't like the song. It's just the part where she goes "hello from the other side". How whack it'll be if I yell that to someone who calls and goes hello." I was skipping now just thinking of the lovely prank.
"You still didn't tell me why you started listening," Ava says shaking her head at my antiques.
"Nora always listens to it," I say with a brush but then Ava stops.
I look at her confused.
"Who is this Nora you always speak of?" She demands.
"Uh, my teammate?" I say unsure.
"Just teammate? Not a friend?" She drawls on the word friend.
"I don't know. I don't think I could call her a friend cause I barely see her out of the gym." I say but Ava scowls.
Great. She needs a boyfriend but I can't get a friend?
"Girl, I could have tons of friends but there's only one Ava for me. One best friend and that's all I need." I say draping an arm through the crook of her elbow.
She seems unsure but then she pushes away all other thoughts and smiles at me.
Dad, good grades, basketball and Ava.
That's all I'll ever need.