These words are ours and ours alone, Heidi and S.C. They belong solely to us. We'd love to hear what you think, tell us they're wonderful, they suck, they touched you, they made you cry, whatever. Just tell us. June, 2011.
Stevie walked over towards the third base dugout where she'd left her bag. Pulling out her rag, even though she hadn't worn her gear, she rubbed down each piece and put it in its individual protective bag as she began packing her catcher's gear into her softball bag. Wiping down her helmet, she placed it in its bag then tossed the bag in her softball bag. She was serious about softball, she had a full ride scholarship to Texas A & M that had been offered to her last spring, and she sure wasn't going to mess it up now. Her parents had finally broken down her sophomore year and bought her, her own set of catcher's gear when she made the varsity team. Every time she wore it she very diligently cleaned it afterwards and other than the expected nicks here and there, two years later the gear looked as though it could still be new.
With her gear stowed in her bag, Stevie tossed in her mitt, zipped up the bag, and then placed her bat in the bat holder. She'd found the purple softball bag last year and begged her parents to buy it for her, they had told her the pink one she had was just fine. When her birthday came around in July and she was playing summer ball she was ecstatic as she opened the last gift and not only was it the purple bag she'd drooled over, but her name had been embroidered down the front of it. As she picked up the bag she looked down at her name Stephenie Jane Wilcox. She'd wished her parents had just put Stevie, but they never did approve of that and still called her Stephenie. Shaking her head, she walked over to the bleachers. What a wasted afternoon, she thought to herself. No reason for her to even be at try outs there was no competition for catcher and even if there was everyone knew she was the best anyway. Yet she couldn't leave. If she wanted to play she was required to be there.
Stevie tried to focus on what was going on out on the field, but her thoughts were more on classes starting on Monday, she was not ready to start school again. Try outs were almost over, they were batting now. She could care less if her team mates could hit the ball or not. She wanted a strong defense. It was all about the defense as far as she was concerned. She watched as her long time friend Alli stepped up to the plate, now Alli could hit. Much to the coaches' dismay, she'd basically hit any pitch thrown at her, even if it wasn't a strike. Stevie had never seen Alli strike out or be walked. Stevie got lost in her memories thinking of the game last year where Alli had hit three home runs over the fence, then came up to bat again with bases loaded. The pitcher tried to intentionally walk her by pitching in the middle of the left handed batter's box. Alli let two balls go by, figured out what was going on, swung at the third and though not her usual hit, she still hit a triple. Stevie knew Alli would make the varsity team, she'd been on it with Stevie the last two years playing short stop, and they made a good team, lots of outs when runners tried to steal second base.
Being jerked back to the present as the coach bellowed “Jessica Johnson,” for the third time. Stevie looked around, assuming it must be a freshman- she'd never heard the name even though she did know most of the freshmen. Finally, up walked this tall somewhat muscular brunette with hair just below her shoulders, much the same colors as Alli's. Sticking a batting helmet on her head she steps up to the plate. The coach pitched a ball to her. She hit a grounder right between first and second. Stevie rolled her eyes, ‘Yeah so what just about everyone here can do that' she thought to herself. Coach pitched another ball, Jessica laid down a bunt that stopped dead in its tracks about a foot and a half in front of home plate, spun in a circle but made no forward progress. Stevie thought to herself, ‘Okay that's useful.' Next pitch came in, Jessica slammed the ball, pop fly down the third base line about two yards shy of the home run fence, the ball dropped, hitting the ground about six inches inside fair territory. Stevie suddenly hopped Jessica was not a freshman or the coach pulled one of her exceptions and put her on the varsity team.
Coach Ryans blew her whistle and told all the girls to line up on the first baseline. Looking over in the stands, Coach Ryans yells “Hey Wilcox that means you too, unless you're not playing this year.” Stevie left her bag where it was and headed towards the first base line. ‘Here we go again' she thought, ‘Coach Ryans will read off several names, they'll head to the third base line and that will be the varsity team.' Sure enough Coach Ryans began reading from the list of names. Stevie noticed that it was pretty much the same girls as last year; they only lost two seniors, their pitcher and right fielder, so she wasn't surprised. Stevie looked down the row at her teammates, just wanting to go home. She heard Savannah Dawson's name called. Granted, the sophomore could pitch, Stevie would give her that much, but even so, Stevie couldn't stand her and wanted nothing to do with catching for her. Last on Coach Ryans list was Jessica Johnson. Stevie's eyes opened wide, ‘who was this girl?' Coach Ryans explained that everyone left on the first base line would be part of the JV team and be reporting to Beth Riley for practice beginning Monday. Coach Ryans turned towards the third base line and looked at her team. She thought she had a good strong team for this year. “You will all be on the varsity team. You will meet me and coach Adams on this field at three pm sharp on Monday. I will not tolerate tardiness.” With that, she turned and walked off the field.
Without a word to anyone, Stevie walked through the dugout over to the bleachers to grab her bag and head home. She wanted to be anywhere but the softball field at that moment. She couldn't believe that she was going to have to catch for Savannah. Alli hurriedly packed her stuff, running to catch up with Stevie. Stevie was nearly to the parking lot when Alli reached her. “You wanna a ride home?” “No thanks, I'll walk.” Was Stevie's curt reply. “I'll see you Monday at school, or maybe sometime this weekend.”
Alli stopped and watched her best friend go. Something was definitely eating at her. Stevie never kept things from Alli; she always talked to Alli when things were bothering her, why not today she wondered. Alli walked over to her car opening the trunk and tossing her bag in. As she was closing the trunk she heard footsteps behind her. She turned to look. “Oh, hi, you're Jessica Johnson right?” “In the flesh and blood, but you can call me JJ. You're Alli, right?” Alli wasn't sure what to think, she could only nod her head, and the girl was a little intimidating standing at least six feet tall. She just wanted to get in her car and go home, but JJ wasn't moving anywhere. Alli hated small talk, but figured that was her only way out of this.
“So, I haven't seen you around before. Is this your first year playing?”
“Nope, I've been playing ASA ball since I was eight years old, had to play on the ten and under team, we didn't have any younger teams. “ JJ replied. “Have you played any other positions?” asked Alli. “Never played anything but right field, I like it out there.”
Alli looked at JJ. Okay, so she's been around the block a time or two. “What is ASA ball? And is this your first year playing high school ball?”
JJ looked towards the ground then back up into Alli's emerald green eyes. “We, my parents and I, just moved here from Texas at the beginning of the year. I'm a senior this year. Going to go back to Texas at the end of the year, gonna go to the University of Texas in Austin and study Mechanical Engineering, I want to be a piping designer. We were living in Austin; dad got a job transfer, so here I am. As for ASA ball, ASA is American Softball Association. They mostly do tournaments for teams, some in the spring, but heavy in June and July, we get to play just about every weekend. It's a lot of fun. I'll miss it this summer.”
Alli wasn't sure what to think. JJ had way more experience than her or even Stevie, who'd been playing summer league ball forever. Alli looked at JJ, “Well it was nice talking to you, and I need to get on home now. See you Monday.”
“Monday it is.”
Monday morning Stevie walked into homeroom, first class of the day. Looking for a place to sit, she saw Jessica over against the far wall. Rolling her eyes, Stevie took a desk in the back near the door. The bell rang and in came Mr. Watkins, Stevie's homeroom teacher for four years now. Mr. Watkins welcomed the students back and gave his usual speech about hoping to have a good year and being excited that they are finally seniors this year. Stevie was only half listening as she was trying to figure out why she'd never seen Jessica before, especially with her being in her homeroom class. Mr. Watkins calls roll. “Jessica Johnson.” “Here, JJ if you don't mind please.” “Welcome to Lakeridge High School. Says here you're from Austin, Texas.” “Yes, Sir.” Mr. Watkins continued down the list of names.
Once roll call is complete Mr. Watkins pulled out yet another meet your class mates' worksheet, as he had every other year. Stevie rolled her eyes, she didn't want to walk around and find out who's who in her homeroom, she just wants homeroom to be over and get out of there before Jessica realizes she's in there also. Wandering the classroom Stevie did everything she could to avoid Jessica. Stevie heard her name, turned and looked only to find Jessica right behind her. “Um, Hi Jessica.” “You can call me JJ.” “Okay Jessica.” “I prefer JJ if you don't mind” JJ said as she looked down her list, then asked Stevie “Are you an only child?” “Yeah, just me.” “Wow that must be really weird, don't you get lonely? I have five older brothers.” “No, I like it.” JJ was taken aback by Stevie's curtness; she stood there trying to figure out how to get Stevie to actually engage in a conversation with her. JJ had watched Stevie during tryouts on Friday and noticed her rock hard body; she obviously took care in keeping herself in shape. JJ liked this; she discretely let her eyes roam up and down Stevie's body, while trying to think of something else to say. JJ could tell she was going to be in trouble. She was very much attracted to Stevie and it seemed that Stevie wanted nothing to do with her. It was going to be a long season if she couldn't find a way to break through to Stevie, she had to have her. Without saying a word, Stevie turned her back to Jessica and walked off. Just then the bell rang. Everyone headed out of the room towards their first period class.
Stevie headed to her next class, her favorite. As she turned the corner she nearly ran right into Alli as she was coming out of the bathroom. “Hey, where's the fire?” Alli asked her.
“Just trying to get to my history class that's all. Where are you headed?” Replied Stevie.
“Chem, which I need to graduate, wish they would have told me that sooner, I would have taken it last year and not have filled it with study hall.”
“Man, you have to take that with sophomores? That is going to suck!”
“Yeah I know, but according to Ms. Downs I'm not the only senior that has to take it.”
“Well, see you at lunch Alli.” Stevie took off down the hall and swung into the classroom. She found a seat up front and quickly sat down before anyone could try and convince her to sit somewhere else. This was the only class she sat up front in, she loved history. As seniors they had the choice of taking Early US History or North American History. Stevie had chosen Early US History because she'd always enjoyed learning about all the things that led to the US fighting for their independence. She hoped that in this class they would learn about all the little things that lead to the early colonists fleeing their home countries and coming to the US in the first place as well. She was a little bummed out though, because Alli had chosen to take North American History.
The teacher walked in just as the bell rang. Stevie didn't want to turn around and see who else might be in her class. All she knew was that Alli wasn't and beyond that, she really didn't care, she'd find out soon enough when the teacher called roll, anyway. The teacher called roll, Stevie didn't recognize a single name on the list. After homeroom, she was grateful for that. She was assigned a text book and then a syllabus was passed out. Stevie wasn't sure what to make of that, she'd never seen such a thing before, a teacher telling them up front everything they'd be covering and when. They went over some key points on the syllabus, Stevie rolled her eyes when she saw the group project and the fact that she'd have two 5 page papers t write and a final at the end of the year covering everything from day one.
Stevie walked out of the classroom wondering if she'd really made the right choice. She glanced at her schedule, double checking where she was going next. Grumbling to herself, she headed towards the math hall. Stevie thought she'd had plenty of math but the guidance counselor had convinced her that it would be better to take math her senior year because then she wouldn't have to take a placement test when she got to Texas A&M. Grudgingly Stevie had agreed and was now headed into AP Calc even though she'd had Mr. Farmer for pre-calc and calc and couldn't stand him.
Stevie sat in a desk as close to the door as possible so she could make a quick exit when class was over. She leaned back in her chair and watched as the rest of the class slowly trickled in. With a quick jerk hitting her knee on the bottom of the desk, Stevie could believe what she'd just seen. In had walked Jessica, just what she needed. Stevie watched her closely to see where she was headed. Jessica went to the front row dead center and sat down. Stevie groaned; all she wanted to do was disappear under her desk. As if homeroom wasn't bad enough, now Jessica had showed up in her math class and apparently was really serious or was going to be the teacher's pet. Stevie listened to roll call; once her name was called she opened her binder and began drawing softballs on the top page of paper giving no heed to what the teacher was saying. A book was thrust in front of her; she looked up into a set of the most beautiful aqua colored eyes. Stevie blinked, and realized it was Jessica. Rolling her eyes, she took the book, pulled the half sheet of paper out of the front and filled it out. Handing the paper to Mr. Farmer as she walked out of class, she was beginning to think things couldn't get any worse.
Stevie headed to her locker, needing to get rid of these books. She'd been hoping to make it clear till lunch, but didn't feel like dragging two books to Creative Writing. As she walked through the halls she felt like she was in a foreign world. All her friends had been seniors last year and graduated except Alli, she didn't really know anyone anymore. Stevie's mind wandered to softball. What was the deal with Jessica anyway? It wasn't like they'd even interacted till this morning in homeroom. Something just didn't feel right to Stevie, the girl just felt like trouble. Stevie reached her locker just as Alli was pulling the door open. Alli's back was to Stevie, a sly grin spread across Stevie's face. She shifted her binder and books to her right hand, snuck up behind Alli and wrapped her left hand around her waist, pulling her back against her. Alli shrieked, turned her head and saw Stevie.
“Stevie! You know I don't like it when you do that.”
Stevie's face broke out in a huge grin, “Yeah, I know, I'm sorry. I just couldn't help myself. Where are you headed to now?”
Alli pulled her one inch binder out of the bottom of the locker, “Spanish.”
“Yuck, I'm so glad I only took the minimum two years.”
“Come on Stevie, it's not that bad. We have a lot of fun. I heard this year we get to write an essay or story or something all in Spanish, I can't wait.” Alli said as a smile crept across her face. “Well, gotta go, see you after class, meet you back here for lunch.”
“Better you than me. Yeah, right here, I want to dump all my stuff before lunch.” Stevie watched as Alli bounced down the hall. She dumped her books on the top shelf which was hers since she was taller than Alli and headed to Creative Writing.
Stevie headed down the hall and noticed Jessica heading off in the direction that Alli had just gone. Stevie slid behind some other students and watched Jessica as she passed by. She noticed that Jessica did not have the body of an athlete, though she was thin and well toned. She looked at the way Jessica's shirt was fitted, perhaps a little snug through the chest, but it accentuated her firm flat stomach. Her shorts revealed the muscle definition in her legs with each step she took, and the short sleeves on her shirt showed the bulging bicep in her left arm, which held her books. Stevie couldn't help but turn her head as Jessica passed, eyes glued to her butt. Stevie bumped into someone, not looking where she was going, mumbled an apology and continued towards class. Stevie grabbed her pony tail, running her hands down the length of it. She wanted nothing to do with the girl, but geeze she sure was a looker.
Alli sat in the middle of the classroom as others filed into her Spanish class. She knew that Mrs. Dupree would be teaching her Spanish IV class, she was the only Spanish teacher who taught beyond Spanish II. Alli was beyond excited about Spanish this year; she loved the language and had enjoyed learning about the history of it and all the different dialects last year. She was lost in her own little world, reminiscing about last year, when she heard her name. Shaking her head then turning to her left she found she was face to face with JJ. JJ was the last person she expected to see in this class. “Hey JJ. How has your day been so far?”
JJ took a deep breath before answering Alli. “It's been okay. Stevie's in my homeroom, so that was nice this morning, but then she wouldn't hardly talk to me, she seems to have a major attitude. She turned up again in my AP Calc class that was even worse. I don't understand why some people are so stand offish.”
Alli wasn't sure what to think of JJ's comments. This was her best friend she was talking about, and she'd never seen Stevie act like that. Alli shrugged her shoulders. “I don't know; I haven't had any classes with her this morning.” Trying to shake it off as something innocent.
Thankful that the bell rang and Mrs. Dupree began speaking to them, Alli turned to face the front of the classroom. She struggled the first few minutes of class. She knew there would be no English spoken in class, but on the first day? She hadn't spoken or heard Spanish since May. Slowly she caught up. Like about every other class, Mrs. Dupree handed out books, they filled out the slips of paper stating which book they had, and then Mrs. Dupree handed out their workbooks. Alli really liked the workbooks; they seemed to help a lot. Then much to Alli's surprise, Mrs. Dupree started to talk about their first major assignment. She quickly opened her binder and began taking notes. They had till Monday to write a three paragraph summary of their summer vacation. The bell rang and everyone filed out of the classroom. Alli turned to JJ, “Can you believe she gave us an assignment already?”
JJ looked at Alli, personally she was glad to finally have something, “It was bound to happen sooner or later. We have a week, it should be okay.”
“Yeah, I know. I just can't believe she gave it to us today, could have at least waited till tomorrow.” Alli said shaking her head. “I gotta run I'll see you at practice.”
“See you then.”
Alli and JJ parted ways heading in opposite directions. Alli wondered if she was lost. The school wasn't very big, everyone had lunch now, and JJ surely wasn't headed in the direction of the cafeteria. Not giving it any more thought she headed to her locker. Stevie was already there. Alli saw an opportunity for revenge. The commons where all the lockers were was really loud as everyone put their books away to head to lunch so it was easy to creep up behind Stevie. Wrapping her arm around Stevie from behind, Alli reached up and grabbed Stevie's right breast in her hand, while in the same moment she leaned in and softly nipped at Stevie's left ear lobe. Stevie gasped, and then leaned back against Alli. Not quite the reaction that Alli was hoping to get, but knowing Stevie, she should have known better.
Alli released Stevie's breast, Stevie spun around and looked down into Alli's emerald eyes. “You know you can do that again.”
“Yeah, yeah, Stevie I know. Always a cheap thrill. You just can't get enough of me.” Alli retorted placing her free hand on her hip.
“Hey, if you're gonna offer, you think I'm gonna pass on that? You really should know me better than that by now. Look how much fun we had over the summer.” Stevie said with a smile.
Allie blushed, remembering the summer and how much time they'd spent at each other's houses lying naked on the bed watching TV as it simply was just too hot to even think about wearing clothes. The longer she thought about it, the redder she turned.
This only amused Stevie even more; she hadn't quite figured Alli out yet. “Hmmm, looks like someone really did have a good time this summer. Maybe we should give some of that playing around another chance.”
Alli's mouth dropped open. She swatted Stevie on the shoulder, even more embarrassed now. “Are you about done, so I can put my books away and get my lunch?”
Stevie stepped back, “All yours, darling dear sugar pie honey of mine.”
Allie wanted to just climb in the locker and close the door. She wondered what had gotten into Stevie, she wasn't like this just before Spanish, and this was nothing like what JJ had described either. Alli had known for years that Stevie liked girls, it'd never bothered her. Stevie was just her friend, but lately Stevie had become a little flirtatious with her and she didn't know what to think about that.
“Alli, you find your lunch yet, or should I just push you in and close the door?” Stevie asked as she began to chuckle.
Alli's mouth dropped, now it was like Stevie could read her mind. “No, I'm coming.”
The rest of the day was uneventful as far as Stevie was concerned, until she walked into seventh period. She'd been talking to Alli in the hallway and was almost late to class. As she looked around the room, she noticed one single empty chair. Wow a full class, then she looked to the left of the chair; there sat Jessica. Stevie swore under her breath. She was trapped now. She had no choice but to sit there, which meant Jessica was going to be her lab partner too. As if it wasn't bad enough that she had to start her day with this girl; now she had to end the day with her as her lab partner. Plastering a nice looking smile on her face she walked up to the aisle to the seat that was empty, dropped her notebook on the table with a loud bang. This caught everyone's attention. She was glad Mrs. Anderson wasn't in the room yet, she would have blown a fuse.
All eyes on her she looked down sweetly at Jessica. “Wow, seems like we're just going to be spending all day with each other, how lucky, we even get to be lab partners.”
Jessica could feel the sarcasm dripping from Stevie's voice. She wasn't sure how to respond to her. She knew class went till two forty, and then she had to be out on the softball field with the catcher by three. So far this was not going well and she had no idea why. Trying to remain positive, she looked up at Stevie who was still standing, “Guess we'll at least be able to help each other out. I hate biology. They said I needed another science class though, so it was either AP chemistry or AP Biology. So here I am, wish you guys had physics here.”
Stevie felt her blood begin to boil. She loved Biology. She was here by choice, and now she had a lab partner who didn't want to be in the class to begin with. This was going to go really well. She sure wasn't going to do all the work and let Jessica skate through. “Well, you'd better learn to like it, because I'm serious about it, I'm not going to let you drag my grade down and I'm not going to do your part for you.”
With that, Stevie sat down, turning her back to Jessica just as Mrs. Anderson walked into the classroom. For the eighth time that day, roll was taken. For the third time Stevie herd Jessica tell the teacher she'd like to go by JJ. Stevie rolled her eyes and thought whatever; I'll call her whatever I feel like. Again, books were passed out, check out slips filled out and turned in. Stevie kept looking at the clock, why was class going so slow?
Mrs. Anderson explained that their first unit was going to be on micro-organisms. Groans were heard throughout the room. A smile spread across Stevie's face. That meant she got to grow all kinds of stuff in the petriee dishes and then look at them with the microscope. She'd find out real fast just what kind of student Jessica was and what kind of stomach she had. Finally the bell rang. Stevie made a dash for the door, heading to her locker. She didn't see Alli anywhere in sight. She didn't have any homework, so tossed her binder on the top shelf with her books, left her back pack hanging in the back of the locker, grabbing only her house key out of the front pocket, closed the locker and took off towards the locker room. She'd lucked out; she was able to get a double wide locker in the locker room. So far no one was in there, she gave a big sigh of relief, quickly changing, stuffing her school clothes in the empty side pocket of the bag along with her house key and headed out to the softball field before anyone else came in the locker room.
Once Stevie reached the softball field, she dumped her bag by the bleachers and took out her mitts and cleats. She changed into her cleats and left her tennis shoes on the ground next to her bag. She went out on the field and looked down at her watch; it was only 2:45. She had fifteen minutes before she was supposed to be there. She walked up to home plate, took off, and ran around the bases; she started off in a nice easy simple jog. As she approached home, she simply rounded it and continued up the first base line again. Each time she hit home plate she turned and went up the first base line, picking up speed, working out all her frustration of the day running around and around.
Coach Adams approached the field, didn't see anyone around, and then she spotted movement between the bases. Stopping about twenty yards from the field, she watched closely, not sure if her eyes were playing tricks on her or not. About five minutes later Coach Ryans showed up. “Hey Ryans, do you see that down on the field?”
Coach Ryans looked over to the field then back at Coach Adams. Not wanting to draw any attention to what was going on she turned back to Coach Adams and replied, “Yeah, I see it, I'll go check it out, how long has it been down there?”
“I don't know, I saw it when I came out the side door, been standing here watching for about five minutes, trying to figure out what it is.” Coach Adams looked over towards Coach Ryans, this was her first year coaching Varsity, while Coach Ryans had been doing it forever it seemed, though it was really only about ten years.
“Don't worry, I'll get it all straightened out, may take me a while. When everyone gets out here, get them running out to the home run fence and back a few times, and then loosen them up by playing catch. After that do some hitting to them, basic grounders and pop flies, if I'm still not back get them hitting.” Coach Adams looked at Coach Ryans like she was crazy, but didn't ask any questions as Coach Ryans had turned to go and the players started to trickle down the hill.
Coach Ryans stepped out on the field. She stood by home plate, preventing Stevie from rounding towards first again. As Stevie approached home plate she looked up and saw Coach Ryans standing there. She didn't want to talk to Coach Ryans, she just wanted to run.
Stevie ignored the Coach calling her name, sped up and head towards first again. “That girl has some speed on her.” Coach Ryans said to herself as she watched Stevie come around the bag. As Stevie came down the third base line, Coach Ryans started calling her name as soon as she rounded the base. Stevie knew she was stuck. She came to a stop about five feet in front of Coach Ryans. As she looked down at her watch then back to Coach Ryans. “It's only five till. I've got five minutes left before practice. I'd like to finish.”
Coach Ryans looked at Stevie. She'd dealt with this before. Must have been a really bad day. “Fine Stevie, let's jog together then, we're going down to the track.”
“I'm running the bases Coach. I play softball, I don't do track.”
“Well today, you and I are going to jog around the track.” Coach Ryans bore holes into Stevie's eyes with her own.
Stevie knew she'd lost this battle and it was that or go join the team and she was not going to do that, nor was she sure that Coach Ryans would even let that be an option. Stevie turned and took off towards the track without a word. Coach Ryans was taken by surprise as Stevie headed towards the track in a nice easy jog. Reaching her side she fell into step with Stevie. Stevie may have been jogging, but Coach Ryans was running next to her, they continued in silence till they reached the track.
“Are we done now Coach?” Stevie asked, thoroughly annoyed.
“Nope, now we're going around the track, I don't see cross country out here so it shouldn't be a problem.”
Stevie's legs were getting tired, but she wasn't about to let Coach Ryans know that now. Onto the track they went. Coach Ryans again let Stevie set the pace and fell into stride with her, grateful that she'd played soccer all summer and that Stevie was going easy on her. “So Stevie, you gonna tell me what's going on today?”
“There's nothing going on Coach.” Stevie replied, continuing to look at the ground.
“Stevie, how many years have you played on my team?” Ryans asked.
“Guess this would be the third, and your point?”
Coach Ryans heard the defiant attitude creep into Stevie's voice. Not a good sign. They'd now gone four times around the track, that's a mile. Coach Ryans wondered how far Stevie had run all together, she knew though that Stevie would run things off then settle down and it would be like nothing ever happened. “Stevie, yeah this is the third year here at the high school. So cut the crap, we both know that I know you better than that. We're gonna keep going around this track till you decide you're ready to talk.”
Stevie picked up the pace, hoping she'd loose her coach. She did at first, but wasn't going to look back and see how far behind her she was. She'd check it as she rounded the corner. Stevie didn't get the chance, Coach Ryans caught back up to her before she hit the corner. Stevie had all kinds of words running through her head, none of them pleasant, and most of them would get her benched for at least one game, if not kicked off the team all together, so she just kept her mouth shut.
Stevie continued to pick up the pace a little at a time, still in a nice easy jog, surprised to see Coach Ryans never left her side. This only added to Stevie's frustration, she thought about breaking into a run. She knew her coach meant well, but she also knew that she really had no reason to be upset. Nearly doubling her speed, Stevie took off again as the tears began to roll down her face. “Fuck!” She muttered under her breath. Then she looked up ahead and saw Coach Ryans standing in the middle of the lane she was running in. She thought about changing lanes, but knew Coach Ryans would just change too. She thought for a moment she could kick it into high gear and just go around her Coach, but knew that would only prolong things. Slowly as she came down the one hundred yard straight away, Stevie slowed her pace until she came to a stop in front of Coach Ryans.
“What do you want to know Coach? I don't have anything to say, so just tell me what you want to know.” Stevie looked down at the ground, not wanting Coach Ryans to see her face.
No such luck. “Okay, how about we start with why you are crying Stevie. You've been on my team for fall and summer ball for two years already, and you've played on my summer team for four years now. And never once have I seen you cry. Not even when you got hit by the ball and it broke your arm. You finished the game and didn't bother to tell me till the end of the game. This isn't like you.”
“So why does it matter to you? Don't you have a whole team back there to go coach?” Stevie asked without lifting her head, but pointing towards the softball field.
“Coach Adams has it under control. Right now, all I've got is you. You wanna go sit on the bleachers? You look a little tired; you've run an awful lot.”
Stevie blew out a breath in pure frustration. She didn't want to talk about anything but apparently she was being given no choice. Without a word, Stevie walked over to the bleachers and up the steps taking them two at a time all the way to the top. Coach Ryans held her breath. She was deathly afraid of heights, but knew she had to do this. Making her way up, she finally made it to the top and sat down next to Stevie.
“Took you long enough Coach.” Stevie replied smartly.
Coach Ryans ignored Stevie's comments. Normally she'd have kicked her off the field and sent her home a long time ago just for her attitude, but didn't feel that was going to help today. Coach Ryans sat next to Stevie, but didn't say a word.
Stevie looked up at Coach Ryans, “So, don't you have something to say? It was after all your idea to come out here.”
Coach Ryans took a deep breath, she'd been hoping Stevie would start the conversation, but guess that wasn't going to happen. “Tell me about your classes today Stevie.”
“You don't want to hear about my classes. What do you really want to know?”
Coach Ryans knew either something happened over the weekend or at school today, she chose to stick with the latter of the two. She decided to play it cool and just talk to Stevie, see if she could figure this out without Stevie realizing it. “No, really, what classes are you taking this year?”
Stevie looked up at Coach Ryans. Wondering where this person had come from. She'd never seen Coach Ryans like this. Coach Ryans was always tough. For that matter, she'd never had a single adult ask her anything about school, not even her parents once she got into softball. “Well, like everyone else the day started with homeroom. Then I went to Early US History, AP Clac and Creative Writing. I had lunch with Allie. Then like every other senior I had Government, after that was Economics, and then ended the day with Health and AP bio.” Stevie answered in a monotone voice.
“Which one's your favorite Stevie?”
“How should I know, all we did was get our books.” Stevie said as she stood.
Coach Ryans placed a hand on Stevie's arm. Stevie looked down at Coach Ryans' hand and sat back down. “So, you have any classes with Alli?” Coach Ryans asked. She saw this wasn't going to be an easy task.
“No, not a single one. I got cheated. “Stevie said folding her arms across her chest.
“Anyone else you know in your classes?”
Stevie rolled her eyes. Where was Coach Ryans going with this, didn't she get it, she didn't want to talk about school and most definitely didn't want to talk about who was in her classes. She was there to play softball. Stevie looked at her watch. “Coach, it's almost four.”
“I've missed half of practice, can we go back now?”
“Not yet.” Coach Ryans said, setting her hand on Stevie's thigh.
Stevie looked down at Coach Ryans' hand then turned her head as fresh tears began to slowly roll down her cheeks.
Coach Ryans' wasn't sure what to think. Stevie was right, practice was half over, but she had confidence in Coach Adams to move things along, and somehow this felt more important. She knew it wasn't going to hurt Stevie any to miss one practice, especially the first practice of the season. “Stevie, who'd you see at school today?”
Stevie clenched her teeth together trying to find an out in what Coach Ryans had just asked her, finally answering, “Just Alli a few times at our locker and then we ate lunch together.”
Coach Ryans could tell Stevie was holding something back. “No one else?”
“Coach, everyone graduated, how the hell would I have seen them?” Stevie yelled.
Coach Ryans smiled inside, now we were getting somewhere. “So no one you knew at all is in any of your classes?”
“Maybe.” Stevie spit out before she realized she'd said it.
“Who'd you see Stevie?” Coach Ryans asked, turning to face Stevie a little more.
“What difference does it make who's in my classes?”
“Well, I imagine you're going to have to do group projects sooner or later.” Stevie just continued to stare at the press box, refusing to face Coach Ryans. “And I'm willing to bet with the classes you have you're going to have a lot to keep up with, you may want someone to study with. So I think it matters a lot.”
“Well it doesn't matter at all, I'm here to finish what I have to so I can go to Texas A&M next year and study Computer Science. We don't even have any computer classes here, just typing, and I already know how to type, that class was a total waste of time. So what difference does it make that Jessica's in half my classes?” Stevie immediately covered her mouth with her hand and brought her feet up on the bench so that her back was completely turned to Coach Ryans. She couldn't believe what she just said.
Coach Ryans wasn't sure what to think of Stevie's statement, she knew Friday was the first day she'd met Jessica, and Stevie didn't really participate in tryouts, so she wasn't sure what Stevie really even knew about Jessica or how exactly they'd met. Coach Ryans couldn't figure out what Jessica could have done to upset Stevie so much. She was quiet for a moment. Then finally asked, “I take it you don't like her much.”
“Why should I?” Stevie snapped.
“Stevie, I can't speak about your classes, but out here we only have eleven players on the team this year. You're going to have to figure out how to work with her if we're going to have a strong team this year.”
“Doesn't matter, I'm behind the plate, you've already got an infield, obviously she'll be in the outfield, our paths won't cross.” Steve said as she stood to leave again.
Coach Ryans gently rested her hand on Stevie's arm. Stevie let out a big sigh and plopped back down. “What? You got your answer, can I go finish practice now, there's only fifteen minutes left.” Stevie's frustration level was rising.
“Stevie, what do you think about Jessica being on the Varsity team?” Coach Ryans asked looking straight into her sky blue eyes.
Stevie rolled her eyes. “Doesn't matter what I think, you're the coach.”
“Stevie, you're the catcher. You've been playing catcher for years. You know that the catcher has ultimate control on the field, so it matters a lot to me.”
Stevie looked closely at Coach Ryans, trying to decide if she was really serious or not. Finally deciding it didn't matter if she was serious or not, the only way she was going to get Coach Ryans to let her go was to answer her dumb questions. “I think it's stupid. So what if she's a senior. It's her first year at the school; she's got no business being on the varsity team. She should have to earn her way up the ranks to Varsity just like everyone else had to.”
Coach Ryans thought for a moment, she could see why Stevie might think that. “Stevie, how much of tryouts did you watch?”
“I don't know it was a waste of time if you ask me.” Stevie snapped her mouth closed she couldn't believe she'd just said that to her coach. Stevie knew if she wasn't careful she'd be in trouble, Coach Ryans had the upper hand here, she was the coach and Stevie needed to play this year in order to get her scholarship.
Coach Ryans looked at Stevie, “I can see how you think that Stevie, for you it probably was a waste of time. There wasn't anyone to even tryout against for your position. Besides, Texas A&M has already offered you a full ride scholarship to play catcher for them. But did you pay any attention to the other girls?”
Stevie rolled her eyes not wanting to admit what she'd seen. “Yeah, I saw some of it.”
“Okay, tell me what you saw about Jessica.”
Stevie held her breath. She didn't want to answer that question. She knew Jessica belonged on the Varsity team, she was good. She deserved the spot, didn't mean she wanted her there though. What bothered Stevie the most was she couldn't figure out why, it just felt wrong.
“Stevie? What did you see?” Coach Ryans asked, little more general this time.
Stevie let out the breath she was holding. “I saw some of the girls catching pop flies, and some of them hit.”
Coach Ryans questioned Stevie's vague answer in her own mind. “Did you see Jessica do either of these?”
Stevie rolled her eyes yet again, it was now almost 5:30, practice was well over, everyone had gone home and she was still sitting on the bleachers with Coach Ryans. She just wanted to go home, her anger was building inside, she didn't want to have this conversation, yet she was stuck. “I saw Jessica hit.”
“And what did you think about how she hit?” Coach Ryans asked.
“Anyone can hit a ground ball right between first and second, and all the teams we play will field it and throw her out at first, what good is that?” Stevie replied just as if she'd smacked Coach Ryans across the face.
Coach Ryans ignored Stevie's tone; she knew if Stevie saw that then she'd seen more than that. “What else did you see Stevie?”
Stevie really didn't want to answer Coach Ryans question, she'd already realized that Jessica had fairly earned her spot on the Varsity team. She turned and faced Coach Ryans. “She laid down a perfect bunt, and she hit a ball, a fly ball, just shy of the home run fence that dropped just barely in fair territory down the third base line. She's a lefty, it's gonna go that way. Can I go now?” Stevie retorted, becoming impatient.
Coach Ryans knew she was pushing Stevie, but also knew it needed to be done. “So Stevie, do you think that's gonna help our team?”
“I guess so. She can hit, always need someone who can hit. Put her fourth in the line-up, load up the bases, she'll hit ‘em all in.”
A smile crept across Coach Ryans' face. She knew Stevie knew the game well. “Now you're starting to think like a softball player.”
Stevie rolled her eyes. “Yeah, okay, she'll be good on the softball field, doesn't mean I want her in my classes, or on my team.” Stevie added under her breath. “She doesn't know anyone except the kids on the team. I don't need her hanging on me in class.”
“Stevie, what goes on in the classroom, stays in the classroom. No one says you have to hang out with her, or even sit by her—“
“I refuse to sit by her, well ‘cept in biology, I don't have a choice there. I was the last one in the room.” Stevie shot out interrupting Coach Ryans.
“Like I was saying, you don't have to. But on the softball field, I need you to put all that aside and work as a team.” Coach Ryans wasn't sure what kind of response she was gonna get and held her breath, waiting for an answer.
“Coach, when have I ever not played as a team with anyone?”
Coach Ryans and Stevie jogged back to the field. Coach Adams had cleaned everything up and appeared to have left for the day. Coach Ryans hung around while Stevie changed her shoes. Once her cleats and mitts were in her bag Coach Ryans piped up, “See you tomorrow at three?”
“Yeah, I'll be here.” Stevie replied rolling her eyes. She didn't even want to go to school tomorrow.
“I hope tomorrow goes better during school.”
“Thanks.” Stevie still wasn't sure what to think about this side of Coach Ryans. Stevie knew she'd been downright mean and rude to her coach and never once had her coach said anything about it.
Stevie was sitting on the bench in front of her locker getting dressed, today was their first game of the season. She was really glad right now that she'd scored with the double locker, because none of the other girls did, so she was off by herself. She let her mind wander back through the last two weeks. She'd spent a lot of time thinking about what Coach Ryans had told her and knew she was right. She didn't have to like Jessica being in her classes or being on the team, or like her as a person, but she had to learn to work with her, especially on the field so that they worked together as a team. She'd tried hard to put her personal feelings aside and let that happen. She knew Jessica had earned her way onto the Varsity team, she didn't care about that and had realized that she never really had. She really had nothing to base not liking Jessica on either; she'd never done anything to give her a reason to not like her. Something about her just didn't feel right to Stevie. Jessica made her uncomfortable when Stevie was around her and she didn't like that one bit. Stevie had never been intimidated by anyone, and Jessica didn't intimidate her either, exactly, it was just plain weird. She hoped today would go well and that they really could work together. The team they were playing could really hit, they needed a strong right fielder.
“Hey, you ready for this?”
Being shaken from her thoughts, Stevie looked up to find Jessica leaning up against a locker a couple down from hers, dressed and ready to go.
Stevie rolled her eyes. She didn't want to talk to Jessica; she just wanted to get ready for the game. “Yeah, I think it'll be a good game.”
Jessica eyed Stevie, “You seem pretty confident; I heard they're a pretty tough team to beat.”
Stevie chuckled, “We've beaten them every time we've played them in the last two years, may have been close, but we've won, don't see why today would be different.”
Jessica took the hint from Stevie's voice and without another word turned and headed off towards where the rest of the team was gathering.
Stevie sighed in frustration. ‘Why is this girl being so nice to me, I don't get it.' Stevie put on her cleats, knowing she wasn't allowed to wear them in the locker room, but not caring. Then she headed over to where the rest of the team was standing with Coach Adams waiting for Coach Ryans. Stevie looked around, didn't see the bats or the batting helmets. “Hey Coach!” Stevie hollered from the back.
“Where are the bats and the batting helmets?”
“In the back office.” Came Coach Adams reply as if that's exactly where they should be.
Stevie rolled her eyes. She hadn't paid much attention to this new Coach, but got the feeling she was more a tag along. “Can I go grab them?”
Coach Adams stared at Stevie in disbelief; she's a senior after all. “Stevie, you know students aren't allowed back there.”
Again Stevie rolled her eyes, yeah, she knew that, but Coach Adams obviously saw no need to get them so she thought she'd at least give it a try. “Okay, can you go grab them, so we have them for the game then?”
Coach Adams mumbled something that Stevie couldn't hear but made a few of the girls up front chuckle as she turned and headed to the back office. Stevie didn't know who, but once Coach Adams was out of ear shot someone said “Stevie, it's a good thing you're captain and Coach Ryans' favorite to boot.”
Stevie just smiled, knowing it was true; she really could get away with just about anything. The thing that Stevie didn't get was why Coach Adams hadn't brought them out in the first place and why they were all gathered in the locker room to begin with. She looked at her team mates, then over to the side door. “I don't know about you guys, but I'm gonna head down to the field and start warming up. Standing around here isn't going to help my game any.” Stevie turned and headed to the door.
Someone said “Coach Adams said to wait for Coach Ryans.”
“Has Coach Ryans ever expected that before? You do what you want, I'm going to the field, see you there.” With that, Stevie was out the door and gone. Shaking her head as she walked down to the field, Stevie didn't get it. Never had they waited, they always met down at the field. As Stevie approached the field, she saw Coach Ryans drawing the chalk lines. ‘Oh boy, she's gonna have a field day with this one.'
As Stevie approached the field she called out “Hey, Coach Ryans, you got that that? Need any help?”
Coach Ryans looked up, “About time you guys started showing up. Can you grab the frame for the batters' box?”
A grin spread across Stevie's face. “Sure, no problem. Why don't you let me do the batter's boxes, you've got the lines done. I think you better head up to the locker room.”
“Stevie? Is there something wrong in the locker room?”
Stevie chuckled, “You might say that.”
“Stevie! Spill it, what's going on?”
“Coach Adams has the whole team standing there waiting for you so they can all come down to the field.”
Coach Ryans stopped in her tracks, half way down the third base line bringing the chalkier to Stevie, “Tell me you're joking.”
“Nope, serious as the day is long.”
“Those girls have been on my team for how long? And now they can't remember that we always meet on the field. Hell, even for practice we meet on the field.” Coach Ryans said to no one as she headed up towards the locker room.
Stevie was glad she'd decided to come down. She'd heard Coach Ryans get upset, but had never heard her use that kind of language. She tried to imagine what coach Ryans was going to say when she reached the locker room. She for sure didn't want to know what she was going to say to Coach Adams after the game, okay, so she was a little curious. All she knew was Coach Ryans was beyond not happy and she was glad she was not going to be on the receiving end today. Just as she finished chalking the batters' box, she looked up to see the team headed down to the field, but she didn't see Coach Ryans or Coach Adams.
The girls walked into the dugout, hung their bags on the hooks behind the bench, pulled out their cleats and started changing into them. Stevie rolled the chalkier over to the shed and brought the bucket of balls back with her, sitting them on the ground at the end of the dugout. She headed to home plate to retrieve the batter's box frame and as she headed to the shed with it, saw the rest of the team grabbing their mitts and heading out of the dugout. Stevie noticed they all had very somber looking expressions on their face, she hoped whatever Coach Ryans had said to them they could shake off so they could play a good game, and this was going to be a tough one as it was.
Stevie hung the frame on the wall in the shed on the three hooks and headed to get her mitt out of her bag so she could warm up. She saw that the team had grabbed balls and were playing catch in left field as she came out of the shed. As she got closer, she saw Savannah still sitting in the dugout braiding her hair. Stevie rolled her eyes. All that time in the locker room and she hadn't taken care of that yet. Stevie walked into the dugout, reaching into her bag which was on the first hook looked down towards Savannah, “You ready to warm up yet? We're already running behind.”
Savannah glared at Stevie she couldn't believe that anyone would even think to talk to her like that she was the star of the team after all. “As soon as I'm done with my hair, I'll put on my cleats, then get my mitt and then we can warm up.”
Stevie rolled her eyes; she couldn't believe what had just come out of this sophomore's mouth. Almost as though she thought she was the most important part of the team and everyone could wait on her. A game's a game, it's gonna start whether she's ready or not. Without a word, just shaking her head, Stevie headed out of the dugout towards the rest of the team. She found where Jessica, Morgan and Alli were playing catch in a group of three. Alli stood on one side of the line, alternating between tossing to Jessica and Morgan. Stevie thought for a moment, and realized she was stuck. Jessica was on the end. The only choice she really had was to grab a ball, go stand next to Alli and play catch with Jessica. She'd managed to avoid Jessica so far, now she was caught. Grabbing a ball, she headed down to the end of the line and stood next to Alli. “You guys wanna break this three-some up?”
Alli turned to Stevie “Sure thing.”
“Okay, well Morgan's on the inside, so have fun, I'll warm up with Jessica.” Stevie said to Alli with a half smile on her face.
Alli was a bit surprised by Stevie's actions, but it made sense.
“Hey Jessica! This one's coming your way. It's just you and me now.” Stevie yelled to Jessica.
Jessica looked up, surprised that Stevie was talking to her, yet angered that she still insisted on calling her Jessica. She figured Stevie might as well get used to catching her balls anyway; she'd be throwing to home plate if she got the ball.
Stevie tossed the ball to Jessica who tossed it back. Slowly Stevie started throwing with a little more power behind the ball. Jessica just grinned. ‘So she wants to play that way, does she?' Jessica launched one right to the tip of Stevie's mitt. The ball caught the mitt just above the pocket with such force it knocked the mitt right off Stevie's hand. “What was that about?” Stevie yelled at Jessica.
“Oh, I thought you thought I wasn't throwing it hard enough since you kept throwing the ball harder, so I threw it harder, sorry about that.” Jessica replied, trying to keep the smile off her face.
Stevie retrieved her mitt and the ball that had rolled out of it. She launched the ball at Jessica, more than a little ticked. Jessica felt the sting on her hand when she caught the ball in the pocket. Obviously Stevie didn't get it. Jessica wasn't interested in playing games, but if Stevie wanted to play games, then today she'd play along. She was already in a foul mood for trusting Coach Adams and getting chewed out for it. She looked towards the field and noticed neither Coach had made it to the field yet. With a sly smile on her face, she threw the ball to Stevie, wishing she had a regular mitt on and not a catcher's mitt, and launched the ball right into the palm of Stevie's hand. She smiled with satisfaction when she heard Stevie groan. She watched Alli look over at Stevie, but couldn't tell what they were saying.
Stevie was spitting mad. She couldn't believe what was going on. No one had ever thrown a ball that hard into her mitt, from any distance. Her hand hurt, not that she was going to admit it, and she didn't even admit it to Alli. She threw the ball, launching it about twenty-five yards over Jessica's head. Jessica just laughed as she chased after the ball. Stevie's eyes were glued to Jessica's back side as she watched her run after the ball. ‘Why does someone who looks like that have to be so annoying, if things were different, I'd so go after her.'
Jessica picked up the ball and realized she was a little short for a right field position, but close enough to show off her stuff. As her face lit up, she released the ball. Stevie caught the ball no problem, but the force of it knocked her to the ground. Jessica tried hard to not laugh out loud as she ran back to her place in line.
Alli looked down at Stevie. “Stevie, what is going on? I thought you were going to get along with JJ.”
“We're gettin' along just fine Alli.” Stevie replied, pulling herself up from the ground. As she reached her feet she saw Savannah sauntering down the line of players. “Hey Jessica! You're going to have to play with Alli and Morgan again; I gotta grab my helmet and warm up Savannah.”
“Sure, whatever.” Jessica said with a smile.
Stevie jogged off towards Savannah. When she reached Savannah she said “Come on Savannah, let's get you warmed up, we've only got fifteen minutes before game time. Let me get my mask, and we'll go in front of the dugout.”
“Oh, I'm not ready to start pitching. I need to warm up my arm for at least ten minutes.” Savannah said as Stevie passed her, and continued to walk towards the rest of the team.
Stevie rolled her eyes. ‘This is so not going to be a good game.' Stevie went in the dugout and grabbed her helmet. As she came out of the dugout she saw Coach Ryans walking onto the field, but Coach Adams was not even in sight. Stevie tucked her helmet under her arm, stood in front of the opening into the dugout and waited for Coach Ryans to reach her.
“Hey Stevie, how are things going?” Asked Coach Ryans.
Stevie rolled her eyes, “Couldn't better unless I had a hot poker in each eye.”
Coach Ryans looked at Stevie. This was not the Stevie she knew, something was under her skin. “Stevie, what's going on?”
“Nothing really, just a spoiled pitcher who sees no reason to warm up and a right fielder who from twenty feet throws the ball so hard it knocks my mitt right off my hand. How is that for starters?” Stevie stared at Coach Ryans.
Coach Ryans looked at Stevie. She could tell that Stevie was beyond just a little bit upset. She also knew that what Stevie was saying, if it was really true was going to be a problem. “I'll go get Savannah, get her to come down here and start warming up. Then I'll figure out what to do with everything else. This is going to be a rough game Stevie. I've always told you the catcher's in control of the field. You have to maintain control today. Don't let the game get away from you.”
Stevie nodded her head and headed towards home plate along the fence line to wait for Savannah. She wondered where Coach Adams was while she waited for Savannah. She was kicking the dirt, half lost in her thoughts when she heard Savannah “I thought I told you I wasn't ready to warm up yet.”
“I'm not the one that told you to get over here and warm up, don't be made at me. You see that team over there though.” Stevie pointed to the green team in the outfield beyond first base. “In ten minutes we'll be out in that field right there,” pointing to the diamond, “And you'll be pitching the ball to me with a batter in the box. So you make the decision what you want to do.”
“Stevie, it's not like you're the boss, that's what the coach is for, stop acting like you're in charge of everything.” Savannah said, crossing her arms.
Stevie rolled her eyes. “Savannah, number one, Coach sent you down here, number two, I am the captain of the team, that means next to Coach I am the boss, and number three, I am the catcher. Everyone knows the catcher is the one in control of the field during the game. The Coach isn't out there playing. Now, are you going to warm up or not?”
Savannah flicked her braid over her shoulder. “I'm not warming up with you, that's for sure! I don't know if I'm even going to pitch to you during the game. Coach Ryans can either find a different catcher or a different pitcher.”
Stevie rolled her eyes and leaned against the fence as Savannah strode off towards the outfield. ‘This is either not my day, or it is going to be a really long season.' Stevie just watched as Savannah approached where Coach Ryans was in foul territory towards the team out in the field. Stevie wished that she was close enough to be able to hear the conversation between Savannah and Coach Ryans.
Coach Ryans saw Savannah approaching her from the field. She was not in the mood to deal with Savannah again today. She had already had to track her down once to go warm up in the first place, that's what she should be doing now. Coach Ryans acted as though she didn't see Savannah approaching her. Savannah continued walking towards Coach Ryans until she was standing next to her. Coach Ryans tried not to show her irritation, seemed everything that could was going wrong today. Finally looking over at Savannah she asked “Savannah, I thought I asked you to go warm up with Stevie? Why are you down here and not warming up so you'll be ready to pitch?”
Savannah straightened her back and pushed back her shoulders, “I do not want Stevie to catch if I am going to pitch. So either she goes or I go.”
Coach Ryans let out the breath she was holding. “Savannah, Stevie is the catcher for this team. If you want to play on the varsity team, she will be your catcher.”
Shrugging her shoulders Savannah replied, “Guess I don't want to play on the varsity team.”
“Your choice Savannah, head on down to the JV field, I'll be there in a few minutes.”
Coach Ryans called the team in. “Girls, head on in to the dugout, batting roster is posted just inside the door, and so are your positions for the first inning. I know I need to go down to the JV field and talk to Coach Riley. Stevie, there's the umpire's go let them know you're the captain and where I am, you can do the plate talk if they are okay with that, otherwise I'll be back as soon as possible.”
Stevie headed out towards the plate with the extra batting roster to talk to the umpires, while Coach Ryans headed the other direction towards the JV field.
Coach Ryans approached the JV field; she knew that Coach Riley had a freshman and a sophomore who both pitched. She hoped that Riley would part with one of them, and bench Savannah for the game. However she had no idea how Coach Riley would react, nor how the pitchers would react either. She rounded the edge of the of the varsity homerun fence, cut through the outfield towards the JV diamond. Coach Ryans saw Savannah sitting on the bench that served as the dugout for the JV team.
Coach Riley finished up her plate talk with the umpire's and saw Coach Ryans approaching the diamond. She headed out to meet her, she didn't know what happened, and just that Savannah had shown up and said Coach Ryans had sent her down. She'd added Savannah to the bottom of her line-up, but had no idea what was going on.
Coach Riley met Coach Ryans at the edge of the grass behind second base. “Coach Ryans, is everything okay?”
Coach Ryans shook her head, “I wish I could say it was. Did Savannah say anything when she came down here?”
Coach Riley shook her head, “Only that you told her to come down here. I thought she was your only pitcher.”
“She is my only pitcher, but she refuses to pitch if Stevie is going to catch—“
Cutting Coach Ryans off, Coach Riley piped in, “Stevie has caught on the varsity team for three years, and she rules that field. I've never seen a better catcher.”
Coach Ryans looked at the ground. “Yeah, that's my problem. You're right, Savannah is my only pitcher. You have two pitchers though, right?”
Coach Riley looked at Coach Ryans, she couldn't believe what she was hearing and what coach Ryans was asking. “You want to borrow one of my pitchers?”
Coach Ryans nodded, looking down at the ground. Coach Riley didn't want to give up her pitcher, she wasn't sure either one on them could actually pitch the whole game. “Coach Ryans, what about Savannah?”
Coach Ryans looked up at Coach Riley, “If possible, I'd really appreciate it if you benched her. If you need you play her, that's up to you. I can't deal with her attitude towards Stevie today; there are enough other players that are unhappy with Stevie as it is.”
Coach Riley was shocked. How could someone be unhappy with Stevie? “Okay, Jill's the better of the two. I don't know if she's ready to pitch a whole game or not, but she's my best. I think you're right about benching Savannah, but do you want her benched here, or benched up there?”
Coach Ryans thought about what Coach Riley just said. She was right probably more effective to bench her with her teammates. “You're probably right, but will your other pitcher make it through the whole game?”
“Honestly Coach Ryans, I don't know, but she'll have to. Let me go get Jill and Savannah, I'll send them both up to the varsity field.”
“Thank you Coach Riley.” With that Coach Ryans turned and headed back to the varsity field.
As Coach Ryans approached the varsity field she saw Stevie out at the plate with the other team's coaches and the umpires. Looked like Stevie was going over the ground rules. She jogged up to the plate, smiled at everyone, but didn't say anything. When Stevie finished, the plate umpire handed Coach Ryans the batting roster, and asked if this was her official roster. “I need to make one change please.” The umpire handed her the slip of paper, she pulled a pen out of her pocket scratched out Savannah's name and wrote in Jill's then handed it back to the umpire. “I don't know Jill's, number but as soon as she gets up here I'll get it to you.”
The umpire quickly reminded both coaches of basic guidelines for all games, looked to both coaches, “Ready ladies?”
Both coaches responded “Yes” in unison.
“Coach, get your girls out in the field, let's get this game going.”
Jill came running up towards the field Savannah lagging behind. Jill ran up to Coach Ryans, “Coach Ryans, so what's the plan today, Coach Riley just told me you needed me up here today?”
“Jill, I need you to pitch today. The girls just went out on the field, we're ready to start, I don't know how much you've warmed up, but you've got five warm up pitches, then you'll have a batter.”
“Coach Ryans, I can't do that.” Jill stated as her eyes got as big as saucers.
“Jill, I know that you can. Not only that you can, but that you are going to, and you'll do just fine. Stevie is catching; she'll walk you through it. Just pitch it down the pipe, let ‘em hit, the rest of the team will field the ball and take care of it. Nothing fancy.” Coach Ryans searched Jill's face as the color started to return to it.
“Okay coach, I'll trust you.” Jill took one last look at Coach Ryans and headed to the pitcher's mound. She looked towards home plate, where Stevie gave her a thumbs' up. She stepped up on the pitching rubber, looked at Stevie, closed her eyes, tried to relax even though she felt like she was going to puke, and pitched the ball.
“Perfect Jill, just like that every time.” Came Stevie's words of encouragement.
Jill started to settle down and get into a groove.
While Jill was warming up, Coach Ryans turned towards Savannah, “You are part of this team. You can decide what you want to do. Today you are going to sit on the bench. After today you have three choices, you can pitch and Stevie will catch, you can sit on the bench, or you can quit the team.”
Savannah looked at Coach Ryans, dumbfounded. She'd never had a coach not let her call the shots. What made Stevie so much more important than her? She couldn't believe what she was hearing. She walked down to the end of the bench in the dugout without a word and sat down. She was fuming mad, she didn't want to give up softball, but wanted nothing to do with that cocky catcher. Whether she sat on the bench or quit the team, she was giving up softball. How dare Coach Ryans bring up a JV pitcher for the game?
Coach Ryans ignored Savannah; she didn't care what the girl did. She watched as Jill pitched each pitch straight down the pipe, big fat meatballs. The kind of ball any girl wants to get her hands on and smash to the outfield. First three batters never even swung the bat. Nine pitches and they were coming off the field getting ready to bat.
Stevie was out in the batter's circle watching the pitcher. General rule of thumb, catchers made the best hitters, they watched so many pitches come in, they knew what to swing at, what was a strike that they didn't want to hit, what they could take for a ride and what they'd better foul off. Stevie stepped up to the plate, first pitch came in. Stevie saw it was a low outside pitch, questionable if the ump would call it a strike, but if she kept her eye on it, she could hit it from the bottom side and send it flying. Stevie made her decision, loaded her bat, brought it around, made contact, swung clear through and took off for first. With Coach Adams gone, there was no coach at first, Stevie was on her own, and she picked up the ball just as it went over the left fielder's head. Rounding first she headed to second, her eyes locked on Coach Ryans. Coach Ryans signaled her to come to third; she swung wide around second, then heard Coach Ryans yell “Get down.” Diving head first into third, Stevie was tagged out, but then the third basemen dropped the ball, so she was safe. Stevie looks at Coach Ryans “That was close.”
Coach Ryans chuckled, “Well, get your wheels going; even I can run faster than that.”
Stevie shook her head and turned towards home as Alli stepped up to bat. Apparently Stevie scared their pitcher because she walked Allie, but their catcher stopped everything, leaving Stevie on third. Morgan followed Alli; Coach Ryans gave Alli the steal signal. First pitch Alli didn't give it a second thought, just took off for second. Their catcher went to throw down, knowing she was far ahead of Alli when she saw Stevie halfway down the third baseline. Changing her mind, the catcher threw to third. Stevie wasn't past the third basemen, so it was an easy dive back to third. Morgan stepped up to the plate. Coach Ryans sent her to the left handed batter's box. Morgan shook her head, but Coach Ryans insisted. Reluctantly Morgan headed to the left handed box, she'd never been in the left handed box, what was she supposed to do there? Coach Ryans gave her the bunt signal. Morgan had no clue how she was going to pull that off; she couldn't even bunt right handed. First pitch came in. Morgan saw it coming, it was a low one, maybe too low, but she put the bat on the ball. The ball dropped six inches in front of home plate. Morgan ran to first, Stevie was again halfway down the third base line, Allie was two feet from third, the catcher took it all in, knew she was in trouble no matter what she did. She looked up, saw her pitcher in the pitchers circle, and just threw the ball back to the pitcher, Alli and Stevie returned to their bases.
Jessica came up batter number four. She looked to coach Ryans for a signal and got none, going around to the left handed batter's box, she continued to look at Coach Ryans with big eyes. Final Coach Ryans said “Do what you think is right.” Jessica knew it was now or never. She let the first pitch come in, didn't even watch it, watched her team mates to see what they were doing, everyone was practically at the next base by the time the ball reached the plate except Stevie who was halfway down the line. The umpire called a strike. Coach Ryans raised her eyebrows. Jessica saw this and yelled “Got it under control coach.” Coach Ryans couldn't do anything but trust her, she knew the girl could hit.
Next pitch came in right at Jessica's shoulders, a grin spread across her face. The umpire was quick to make a call, called it a ball as Jessica brought her bat around. No one in the field moved, the umpire called it a ball, the ball sailed over the head of the outfielder, it dropped two feet shy of the homerun fence and two feet in from the foul line. As soon as her team mates saw the ball was over the out fielder's head they took off. Everyone, including Jessica, crossed home plate before the ball even hit the ground. The visiting team finally reached the ball, turned to see there were no runners on the field and threw the ball to their pitcher, while getting a tongue lashing from their coach. Their coach moved everyone back. Basemen behind their bases.
Jill came up to bat, she didn't know what she was going to do, she didn't know any of Coach Ryans' signals, and she was on her own. She saw everyone backing up. She loaded her bat; first pitch came straight down the pipe. She brought her bat around, stopped short, and knocked the ball to the ground, making it roll down the third base line. The pitcher ran to the ball, didn't touch it, waiting it to roll foul. Jill was on first. The ball stopped dead in its tracks. Six inches within fair territory. Again came the tongue lashing from the visiting coach.
Through the batting roster they continued. Everyone had batted; this was obviously going to be a long game. They already had 16 runs, with two outs. Rebecca was up to bat again. She was by far the weakest batter on the team. She'd struck out last time after hitting nine foul balls. Better than usual. Walking up to the plate, she knew everything rode on her. Two outs, she didn't want to be number three. She looked down to Coach Ryans, who simply said “If it's there take it for a ride.” The first pitch comes in and Rebecca made contact early, sending the ball towards right field over the homerun fence, but on the outside of the fair/foul post. Rebecca took a breath and walked back into the batter's box. That's one strike. Next pitch came in clear over left handed batter's box. Okay one and one. Third pitch was a little high, but right over the plate, Rebecca swung, caught the underside of the ball popped it up over her head; the catcher threw off her mask and made the catch. Rebecca was out.
Rebecca headed to the dugout, took everything she had to not throw her helmet. She grabbed her mitt and heads out to second base. The first one out on the field.
The game continued on. Jill did an excellent job pitching. Part way through the second inning she shifted herself about three inches to her left on the pitching rubber. The first pitch after she moved Stevie gave her the thumbs up when the umpire called it a strike. She was no longer pitching meatballs down the pipe; she was pitching down the outside of the plate. Every pitch right at the belt buckle. The visiting team stood frozen in place. Only one or two batters even swung their bat. Inning after inning, three up, three down. While the Lady DAWGS continued to run the bases.
At the top of the fifth inning the visitors were up to bat. No one has a clue what the score was; all they know was the visitors hadn't scored a run yet. The visiting coach comes out, enters a substitute. Stevie wondered why so late in the game, there was no way they were going to catch up, though for the first time they did have two base runners. Stevie took one look at the girl and realized she'd seen this girl before. She can hit. Those girls were coming home. They had one out. She wanted a shut out game. Stevie pulled off her mask as the umpire enters the substitute. She looks at Jill “Jill! Play it straight.” Then Stevie turns to Jessica. “Jessica, it's coming to you get it in quick, let's keep them from scoring.”
Stevie stepped behind the plate. Jill pitched the ball straight down the pipe right across the belt line; the girl turned on the ball sending it straight to Jessica. Jessica caught the ball. Stevie was standing just behind the third baseline, two feet towards third, holding her breath. The runner from second had tagged up and was now rounding third. Stevie saw the ball in the air, coming at her. No cut off, what was Jessica thinking? Stevie tracked the ball, caught it, and groaned as it hit her hand. The runner started to slide, Stevie takes one step forward, tagged the runner on the feet two feet in front of the plate. The plate Umpire rang the girl out. The visiting couch came out to argue that Stevie was in the base path, the Umpire clearly explained she was behind the base line until she had the ball in her hand. Since it was the end of the fifth inning and the Lady DAWGS were clearly up by more than ten runs, that was the end of game.
The Lady DAWGS ran in off the field, threw their mitts in the dugout, and tried to control their excitement as they gave their cheer to the visiting team. Returning back to the dugout, Stevie walked up to Jessica and put her arm around Jessica's shoulder. Jessica turned her head and looked at Stevie, not sure what to think. “That was one major throw JJ, where'd you learn to throw like that? You were clear out by the homerun fence.”
“Don't know Stevie, just always have. Now you tell me, how come you didn't run today out on the bases?”
“What do you mean, JJ?
JJ looked at Stevie, she knew why she could throw the ball that far, she could throw it harder than that, given the opportunity, super strength will give that to you. She'd seen Stevie get out on the field early and run the bases, she was nearly a blur on the bases. There were way too many close calls in that game where Stevie was concerned. JJ had already figured it out, watching her run, watching her behind the plate, but realized just then that Stevie had no idea that she had the super power of speed just like her super power of strength.
“Stevie, I know I haven't been your favorite person, but what do you say about coming over to my house for dinner tonight? There's something I want to talk to you about.” JJ watched the expression on Stevie's face searching for some kind of response.
“Umm, JJ, I usually go have Ice Cream with Alli after a win.” Stevie said feeling kinda guilty as it was her and JJ that made the final play. “Tell you what. I'll go get ice cream with Alli, and then I'll meet you at your place.”
JJ looked at Stevie, feeling a little blown off, but knew that gave her some time. “Okay, that works Stevie, how about seven.”
“Great! See you then.”
Stevie stood on JJ's front porch, not really sure she wanted to be there. After having ice cream with Alli she knew she'd only agreed because she'd been caught up in the moment of the excitement of the final play that they had made, ending the game. She finally raised her hand to knock on the door as the door was pulled open. There stood JJ, in a tank and boxers. “Were you just gonna stand there all night or actually knock on the door?”
“I was about to knock.” Stevie replied sheepishly.
“Well, come on in, we'll go upstairs to my room, my brothers are all hanging in the family room. That will give us a little privacy because I wanna talk to you about something.” Not giving Stevie any choice, JJ turned and headed towards the stairs.
Stevie's mind was racing; she had no idea what JJ could want to talk to her about. Yeah, they'd made a great play, but they'd never had any real conversations before today. Stevie followed JJ up the stairs to her room. Entering JJ's room as JJ held open the door; Stevie walked in and saw she could sit on the floor or on the bed. Not excited about either option, but thinking it would be rude to sit on the floor, she sat at the foot of the bed. JJ closed the door and sat up by her pillows with her back against the wall and her feet tucked under her.
Looking at Stevie, JJ knew she had to approach this just right. “Stevie, I know you get down to the field everyday early and run the bases.”
Stevie shrugged her shoulders, “Yeah, I liked to get real warmed up before we start practice.”
JJ took a deep breath, “Stevie, I've watched you run the bases before practice, you practically fly around those bases, but today in the game, it was like you weren't giving it your all.”
“Hey! I give my all in every game. What are you trying to say?”
“Stevie, before practice it really is like you're flying around the bases, I can't even tell it's you; all I can really see is a blur of color going by. You're that fast.”
Stevie sat quietly. She knew she was fast, but there was no way she was that fast, how could someone run so fast that they were just a blur?
JJ thought for a moment, this wasn't going as she had planned. She didn't know what else to say to Stevie without revealing herself. “Stevie, think back to the last play today.”
“I caught the ball out by the fence and threw it straight to you right to home plate. How many others have you seen make that kind of throw?”
“Honestly JJ, I've seen it once or twice, but never with that accuracy, and never with that much power, it hit my mitt harder than when Jill was pitching.” Stevie turned her hand over and showed JJ where it was still red. JJ grabbed Stevie's hand to take a closer look.
“Stevie! Are you okay? That looks like it hurts.”
Stevie felt the electric current go through her hand; she snatched her hand away from JJ. “Yeah, it's fine, just red now.”
“Stevie, I didn't throw that ball very hard. Well, not very hard for me.”
Stevie got a puzzled look on her face. “What are you talking about JJ?”
“Stevie, there are some people in my family who have umm, well they have certain abilities.”
“What do you mean certain abilities? Like ya'll have some super powers or something.” Stevie rolled her eyes as she made that comment, like yeah right, get real, she thought.
“Well now that you mention it yeah, I do. I have the gift of strength. So for me that was just kinda a little harder than a toss.”
Stevie just stared at JJ; she didn't know what to think. She'd never heard of such a thing, and didn't understand.
JJ continued, “Stevie, I think you have a super power too, I think you have the super power of speed.”
Stevie was really feeling uncomfortable now, she just wanted to go, and this was getting too weird for her. “JJ, I've never heard of such a thing. I know that I'm fast, but super speed? That doesn't even make sense.”
JJ was quiet for a moment. Then Stevie spoke up again, “JJ, I still have homework I have to do, I need to go.” Stevie got up and headed towards JJ's bedroom door.
JJ jumped up, opened the door, and without a word escorted Stevie downstairs and out. Stevie walked out to the curb and climbed into her car. Stevie knew something was different about her; there was no way that the average girl could through the ball like she could. Something was totally different about JJ. She was pretty strong and had made that throw, but to have super power strength, Stevie didn't believe it, that stuff was only in comic books. Stevie didn't know what to think about what JJ had just told her, but she wasn't going to spend any more time thinking about it tonight.
Stevie walked into Biology Monday afternoon. She looked at the counter and rolled her eyes, she'd forgotten over the weekend that they were doing a lab. JJ was sitting at the table with her book out, ready to go. Stevie didn't want to do anything with JJ, especially a biology lab. She looked at the table; there were some celery stalks, several beakers, and some food coloring. Stevie chuckled to herself, she'd done this lab in regular Biology her sophomore year. She made her way to the table and sat down next to JJ with her back turned towards her. She didn't want JJ to have the chance of bringing up their previous conversation.
Mrs. Anderson walked in the room just as the bell rang. She passed out the directions for the lab and instructed everyone to make sure they recorded their data.
Stevie finally turned to JJ, “Okay, let's get this going JJ.”
JJ took the three beakers and filled them three fourths of the way full as the directions stated. As she went to grab the third beaker and fill it, she tipped over the first one she'd filled. Stevie reached out, catching it before the water spilled out or the beaker hit the table and shattered. JJ caught this action out of the corner of her eye; she saw how fast Stevie moved to catch that beaker. This only made her surer that Stevie had the super power of speed. JJ decided to test Stevie again. As she set the third beaker down she knocked the middle beaker over, again Stevie reached out and grabbed it before it hit the table, or spilled any water. JJ was certain Stevie had the super power of speed, but how was she going to convince Stevie of it? She'd tried once already and that hadn't gone over well at all.
Stevie dropped the food coloring into the water, one red, one green and one blue. JJ picked up one of the stalks of celery and began to put it in the beaker with red water, catching the side and knocking the beaker over. Again Stevie reached out and grabbed it. “JJ! Pay attention to what you're doing, that's the third time you've knocked over a beaker.”
JJ just smiled, “Yeah, but you caught every one of them, you're so quick.”
Stevie wished that class was over and she could just get out to the field. They had another big game tomorrow and they were going to practice hitting for most of practice. Stevie knew they needed to work on that some.
Stevie was pulled back to class as yet another beaker was tipping. She grabbed it again. “JJ, come on. Can't you at least pay attention to what you are doing? This is ridiculous.” JJ didn't say anything, she knew she'd pushed Stevie as far as was a good idea. She needed to just play it straight, get the lab done and get down to the field as quick as she could after class was over.
Stevie finished writing up the lab results, nothing she hadn't expected as JJ cleaned things up. She was beyond frustrated with JJ and her knocking everything over, she just wanted to get down to the field. As Stevie wrote both their names on the top of the page the bell rang. She grabbed the paper, set it on the table at the front of the room and raced to the locker room. She even bypassed her locker she'd leave her books in her sports locker and take care of it after practice.
Stevie hit the locker room, only to see JJ already in there changing. She clamped her jaw shut, she couldn't figure out how JJ had done that, JJ was still in the classroom when she had left the classroom. Stevie ignored her, went to her locker, got changed, grabbed her bag and headed out to the field. She jogged down to the field, dropped her bag at the end of the fence and took off onto the field. Stevie hit third base as she came on the field, headed towards home, and then started her usual pattern around and around, picking up speed each time she went around.
Coach Ryans stepped out of the dugout and leaned against the fence near home plate. Coach Ryans had watched Stevie run the bases like this for four years now at the beginning of every practice, picking up speed each time she crossed home plate. Coach Ryans had never seen anyone who could get the kind of speed that Stevie could. Once Stevie got going and set in her pace she was just a blur going around the bases.
Completely lost in her own thoughts while watching Stevie run, Coach Ryans didn't even notice when JJ walked up beside her and leaned against the fence next to her. JJ could see that Coach Ryans was watching something, but didn't see anything. JJ watched closely, then saw a blur of black with red streaked through it. “Hey, Coach Ryans. What is that out on the field?”
Coach Ryans was startled, just realizing someone was next to her. She wasn't sure how to answer JJ; she'd known Stevie for four years, she'd seen her warm up like this always, knew the speed that Stevie possessed, but that Stevie never used it during a game, just that she was quick, nothing to what her potential was. Coach Ryans thought about it for a bit. She knew for sure that Stevie had this super power of speed, and was beginning to suspect that JJ had a super power of strength, especially after the game on Friday. Though she wasn't sure what to say to JJ, or if it was her place to say anything at all.
“Coach Ryans, is that Stevie?” JJ asked.
Coach Ryans was startled, decided to just be straight with JJ. “Yeah, that's Stevie. She's just running the bases, warming up.”
“Coach Ryans, why didn't she run like that in the game?”
“I don't know JJ, she never has. She has this ability of super speed, but doesn't use it. Let me ask you something JJ.”
“Friday, at the end of the game. You caught that hit out by the home run fence and then threw it all the way to Stevie at the plate. It looked like you put no effort into that throw. What can you tell me about that JJ?”
“What do you want to know Coach, I just threw the ball. I caught it, and then I threw it to Stevie for the next play.” JJ wasn't sure how much she should say to Coach Ryans.
Coach Ryans turned so her side was against the fence and she was facing JJ, “JJ, you looked like you barely tossed that ball, yet it soared. How far can you throw a ball?”
“I don't know Coach, never just threw a ball to see how far it would go.” JJ was getting the feeling that Coach Ryans was onto her super strength, and that she also knew about Stevie's super speed.
“JJ, have you ever heard about people having, say extremely good abilities at doing something?”
JJ knew that Coach Ryans knew what was going on. JJ wasn't interested in playing games; she respected Coach Ryans to much for that. “Coach, you mean like super powers, like Stevie out there having super speed, and when you saw me throw the ball thinking I have super strength?”
Coach Ryans was taken back. “Yeah, just like that.”
“Yeah, Coach. I've got five brothers most of us have some kind of super power. I already know I have super strength. I tried to talk to Stevie after the game Friday night about her having the power of super speed, but that didn't go so well.”
Coach Ryans was surprised. She thought it was great that JJ knew she had the super strength, and was surprised, that she'd figured out Stevie had super speed, but even more surprised that JJ had confronted Stevie on it. She'd only seen this a few times in her coaching career.
“Coach, have you ever talked to Stevie?”
“No, JJ. I've never said anything. I've just watched. I see what she does, and how she plays in the game, and for some reason she just doesn't use it to its full potential in a game.”
“Coach, I think we should talk to her.”
Coach Ryans look at JJ. She knew with these two using the super powers together on the field, it would really help the team.
“Let's go get practice started, JJ.”
Realizing the subject was closed JJ headed towards the outfield where the rest of the team had begun to gather.
The team gathered around home plate listening to Coach Ryans. They were half way through the season, hadn't lost a game yet, but they just weren't hitting the ball. Coach Ryans was trying to figure out how to best address this to the team when Morgan spoke up, “Coach Ryans, is Savannah ever going to actually pitch?”
Coach Ryans looked up. “That's a decision she has to make.”
Morgan didn't understand what that meant, but let it go. “Coach, is Coach Adams coming back?”
Coach Ryans tried to stay calm, she was trying to put together practice and now all these questions. “No, she will not.”
”Okay team, listen up. We've got a great record so far. We're half way through the season, we haven't lost a game, but we're still not hitting the ball.” Coach Ryans paused. “I've pulled out the pitching machine. Stevie, I want you to get your gear on and catch. Everyone else, you're going to bat. And you're going to keep on batting till everyone is hitting the ball. Everyone should be able to hit the ball to the outfield. You'll each get five pitches at a time, then to the next one, and we'll keep rotating through till the end of practice.”
Coach Ryans sent seven girls to get batting helmets on and sent everyone else with their mitts to the outfield to throw the balls back in. Morgan came up first. Stevie groaned. She knew she didn't need the practice hitting, but she didn't practice catching either just because Morgan couldn't hit. The balls came in, Morgan swung at everyone. After each pitch Coach Ryans reminded her not to take her eyes off the ball. Finally, the last pitch, Morgan actually hit the ball.
Several more players came up to bat, they were lucky if they hit half the balls. Stevie was getting tired of doing all the work. She pulled her mask off, she was getting hot. She'd been in her gear for an hour. JJ came walking up to the plate. She couldn't remember if JJ had hit already or not, but Stevie sure was going to have some fun this time. Putting her helmet back on Stevie got back into position. “So JJ, think you can get it past first base?”
“I can do better than that.”
“Oh that's right you have super strength. Better find it and start hitting the ball.”
“Oh I'll hit the ball.”
“Yeah, yeah, all talk no action. Bet you don't even swing your bat.”
“You watch it Stevie.”
“Whatta gonna do, tackle me, pin me to the ground with your super strength?”
In came the ball, JJ was so focused on what Stevie had been saying she hadn't been paying attention, didn't see the ball coming and didn't move her bat at all.
“Told you, you weren't even gonna swing.”
“You're just jealous because I can hit better than you.”
“Yeah, then why am I back here and not there hitting the ball?”
In came the next ball, JJ swung, made contact and the ball sailed over the home run fence.
“Told you I could hit the ball.”
“Yeah, just luck. Let's see you do it again.”
Next three balls came in; JJ sent them all sailing over the fence. As she walked away from the plate she turned back, “Told you I could hit them.”
Stevie kept her mouth shut. She already knew JJ could hit. She and JJ were the only ones on the team that could hit in reality. She just wanted to see if she could distract JJ enough to throw her off. It'd worked on the first pitch. Then JJ just focused on the ball and talked crap with Stevie, never taking her eye off the ball.
Coach Ryans called all the girls in to the pitcher's mound. “Nice job girls. You started hitting the ball. Now, in our game tomorrow I want to see you swinging those bats and hitting that ball. If you don't swing the bat, you're not going to hit the ball.”
Everyone grabbed their stuff and headed off the field. JJ had a Biology test tomorrow that she needed to study for, she was going to fail, and she needed Stevie's help, but didn't think Stevie would. She hung around waiting for Stevie to clean her gear and put it in her bag. As Stevie walked off the field, JJ caught up and walked next to her. “Umm Stevie, I need your help.”
“You need my help JJ? What could you possibly need my help with?”
“That Bio test we have tomorrow. I really need some help with the Punnet squares and the dominant and recessive genes. I can't get it all straight.”
“You're kidding, right? You're in AP Bio and you don't understand basic genetic traits?”
“We never studied them at my last school in Bio. That was part of AP Bio only. I'm really lost. Can we just forget everything, I'm sorry I've given you a hard time, I'm begging you I really need your help here.”
Stevie didn't have anything else to do tonight. She was ready for her test, and had no other homework. It would at least give her something to do. Besides she'd decided JJ was alright, not that she was going to let JJ know that though. She'd nearly missed the ball that Alli didn't hit when JJ was walking away from the plate earlier because she was busy watching JJ walk away. “Okay, but I really need a shower. I'm headed to the locker room to do that now, and then I'll go home get the car and head over to your place.”
“I was going to grab a quick shower too, so why don't we just go take our showers and then I'll just give you a ride?”
“Sure that works, I just need to call my parents when we get to your house.” Stevie couldn't believe it, this girl that she didn't understand why all of a sudden she'd gone from couldn't stand her, but thought she was hot, now she was beginning to think wasn't so bad.
The two walked up to the locker room, Stevie couldn't keep but think about seeing JJ naked. She'd been watching JJ walk through the halls since the beginning of school. Stevie knew she was beyond hot. Now she was going to be naked in the shower with her. She could feel the heat rise in her stomach. Stevie groaned.
“You okay Stevie?”
“Yeah, I'm fine.”
The girls reached the locker room and grabbed their shower stuff. Stevie stripped by her locker leaving her sweat drenched clothes on the floor in front of her locker. She'd given up on modesty long ago. Walking across the locker room, she found JJ already in the shower, with the one next to her turned on, warming up for Stevie. Stevie couldn't take her eyes off JJ as she approached the shower. JJ had her head tipped back, eyes closed, rinsing out her hair. Stevie couldn't help but think how hot JJ was. She looked even better with no clothes on. Stevie knew she had to keep herself in check.
Stevie stepped under the spray of the shower and groaned as the hot water ran down her back. JJ glanced over at Stevie, she'd heard Stevie groan. Stevie's eyes were closed, was she just groaning over the shower feeling good? JJ wondered. JJ couldn't help but notice that for her somewhat stocky build, Stevie was very solid muscle and well toned. JJ felt the heat rise in her stomach. She saw Stevie's head begin to come up and quickly bent down to pick up her conditioner.
Stevie opened her eyes to be greeted with the same view she'd been watching all year, only this time it was free of clothes. She realized she had to get this shower done and get out of there before there were problems. She looked down and realized she'd forgotten to grab her shampoo. “Umm, JJ, you mind if I borrow your shampoo, I seem to have left mine in my locker.”
“Sure no problem, turn around.”
Stevie was confused but did as she was told. Her back to JJ, she closed her eyes, just glad to not be looking at that gorgeous body. Then she felt JJ's hands on her head, massaging the shampoo into her scalp. Stevie's head fell back as a deep moan escaped. She was completely unaware that she'd made any sound. A smile spread across JJ's lips. Maybe she'd break through this ice queen after all. “Okay, rinse.”
Stevie rinsed the shampoo out of her hair, while JJ shampooed her hair. Just as JJ finished rinsing her hair, Stevie turned to her again. Before Stevie could say anything, JJ just smiled, “Turn around.”
Stevie complied. She could feel the desire building within her. What was she supposed to do with it? There wasn't really anything she could do. She realized that studying Bio at JJ's was going to be pure torture. Feeling JJ making sure that the conditioner was thoroughly worked though Stevie's hair; she grabbed her bar of soap and began to soap up Stevie. Finally no choice JJ took a deep breath, “Okay turn around.”
Stevie was lost, sensations surging through her body that she'd never felt before. She turned to face JJ. JJ started with her shoulders and worked down to her feet, soap everywhere except Stevie's breasts. Closing her eyes she ran the bar of soap across Stevie's breasts. Stevie moaned again leaning into JJ. JJ had to brace herself not to fall over backwards. JJ leaned in towards Stevie, seeing Stevie's eyes closed. JJ leaned a little farther and gently pressed her lips against Stevie's. She wasn't sure how Stevie would react, but she couldn't help herself.
JJ felt Stevie's lips part just slightly as she deepened the kiss. Much more than JJ had expected. JJ wrapped her arms around Stevie and pulled her under her own shower. Stevie ran her tongue across JJ's bottom lip. JJ parted her lips, granting Stevie access to deepen the kiss more.
The two held each other close, arms wrapped around the other's waist, exploring each other's mouths. Breathless, JJ backed away. She searched Stevie's face for any kind of reaction. Stevie's face was blank, but she could see her chest rise and fall rapidly. Neither girl moved their hands from the other girl's waist.
Stevie didn't know what to think. She'd never thought about kissing JJ, all she'd ever done was check out what a nice ass she had. Slowly, Stevie dropped her hands to JJ's ass, and pulled JJ closer to her, reclaiming her lips. JJ completely gave in, welcoming Stevie wholly.
Stevie was walking to school, thinking about all the things that had happened since school started, especially with softball. She found that Jill was getting better each game. She was glad that Savannah was being so stubborn, as she didn't want to catch for Savannah, just as much as Savannah didn't want Stevie to catch for her. Stevie had too much riding on softball this year to make any waves though, so she'd said not a word. Game after game, Savannah sat on the bench. The team worked well together, they hadn't lost a game yet. They had only a few more games till play offs, then hopefully to the championship games. Stevie and JJ had become known for their double play when fielders would hit a pop fly to right field. Coach Ryans would move JJ to center field when they played teams that could place the ball better when they hit.
Not paying attention to where she was going, lost in her own thoughts, Stevie walked right into the back of someone. She looked up and began to apologize. The brunette pony tail flipped across Stevie's face as the girl turned around. Stevie knew she had no right to be angry, yet it angered her just the same until she saw those aqua eyes staring back at her. Suddenly Stevie couldn't remember what she was going to say, all she could do was stare into those familiar eyes.
First annoyed, after nearly being plowed over, JJ's anger ceased as she turned and saw the long curly blonde locks that she so wished to get her hands on. “Hi, Stevie!”
Still slightly stunned Stevie replied, “Hey, JJ.”
“Stevie, I was just about to head to home room, wanna walk with me?” JJ asked, looking for any excuse to spend more time with the blonde.
“I just got here, I need to go by my locker first, but if you don't mind coming with me, sure.” Stevie replied in a half whispered voice.
“Sure, no problem.”
The two headed towards Stevie's locker. Just as they were approaching she saw Alli and inhaled sharply. Then she saw Alli close the locker door and head off in the other direction, so she released her breath and continued, hoping that JJ hadn't noticed. Alli knew that Stevie didn't care for JJ and Stevie wasn't ready to try and explain to Alli why she now was sort of hanging out with JJ.
Stevie grabbed her books for her morning classes and the two girls headed towards home room. They walked into home room, not expecting anyone to be there as it was still about five minutes before the first bell. However Mr. Watkins was sitting at the desk up front. Stevie and JJ turned at looked at each other, their teacher generally made it into the room before the second bell rang. Hearing them enter, Mr. Watkins looked up, “Oh, just the two I need to speak to.”
Again Stevie and JJ looked at each other. Stevie raced through the classes they shared trying to think of what trouble they might be in. Trouble always got back to the home room teacher. She could think of nothing. She stood next to JJ waiting for Mr. Watkins to continue. He slowly rose from his desk with a slip of paper in his hand. “I'm not very happy about this, but it seems that Coach Ryans would like to see both of you in her office this morning during home room. I do not think students should be removed from home room; we do very important things during this time. Nonetheless, I have no choice in the matter. You might as well go on down now.”
Turning around and heading out of the room, JJ kept her eyes on Stevie. Once in the hallway JJ spoke, “Okay, first since when do we do anything important in home room, and second why is Coach Ryans even at school this early in the day? She doesn't have any classes till after lunch.”
Stevie didn't know what to tell JJ. Coach Ryans had no reason to be at school already. Their game wasn't until Friday, it was only Wednesday. Stevie looked at JJ and just shrugged her shoulders. The girls walked silently down to the locker room and then to the far end where Coach Ryans' office was. Coach Ryans' door was open; she sat with her back to the door, hunched over her desk writing something.
Stevie had never spoken to Coach Ryans outside of practice and wasn't sure she really wanted to know, but softly knocked on the opened door and said, “Coach Ryans, Mr. Watkins said you wanted to see us.”
Coach Ryans jumped. She hadn't heard either bell ring yet and wasn't expecting Stevie and JJ for a while. She turned in her chair and smiled. “Stevie, JJ, yes, I'd like to speak to you both, come on in, have a seat. JJ, please close the door behind you.”
JJ began to feel her palms begin to sweat as she did as she was asked. Sitting in the chair next to Stevie, both girls gave Coach Ryans their full attention. Neither had a clue as to why they were there.
Coach Ryans spoke up, “So I bet you are wondering why I wanted to speak with you.”
“Yes.” JJ and Stevie replied in unison.
“There's a few things that I think we need to get out in the open girls. You two have quite the reputation for your double plays. JJ catching a deep pop fly, runners' tagging up then trying to steal home, JJ throws the ball to you Stevie and they are tagged out.” Coach Ryans paused for a moment. Both girls grinned, they were very proud of that little maneuver. “Stevie let me start by asking you, do you notice anything different about how JJ plays right field than others have in the past?”
Stevie thought for a moment, “Well, she catches everything, and throws the ball where ever it needs to go, even all the way home if necessary, but others have done that before Coach. I don't understand.”
“Stevie, what does it feel like when you catch the ball when JJ throws it to you?” Coach Ryans asked, leaning forward towards Stevie in her chair.
Stevie took a deep breath; she wasn't sure where this was leading. “It feels like I just caught the ball Coach. Except when JJ throws it, if I'm not careful and it hits my palm it's quite a stinger and my hand will be red even the next day.”
Coach Ryans turned to JJ, “JJ do you want to explain to Stevie why it is that there is so much power and force behind the ball when you throw it home to her?”
JJ knew what Coach Ryans was talking about and could see where this conversation was going. She remembered the last time she tried to talk to Stevie about it. She did not want to go there again. “Coach, why don't you start, and I'll fill in any holes?”
“Sure.” Coach Ryans turned to Stevie. “Stevie, some people are just born with special abilities, JJ happens to be one of them. I've seen this before in my coaching career.”
Stevie looked to JJ, remembering the conversation they'd had in her bedroom that seemed eons ago now. Then back to Coach Ryans as she continued.
“Stevie, generally, these abilities give the person the ability to do something super well. Are you following me here?”
Stevie looked at Coach Ryans, she didn't want to but she was, “Yeah, Coach I follow.”
“Good. Now hear me out for a minute, I know this is all new to you and may sound a bit weird. JJ has what is called super strength.”
Stevie looked over to JJ, who simply nodded her head.
Coach Ryans continued, “That simply means that when it comes to things like throwing the ball to you from the home run fence, or when she's at bat, hitting the home run fence, both things you've seen her do, right?”
Stevie nodded her head.
“It doesn't take a lot of effort from her because she is super strong.”
Stevie thought about it for a minute, thought about how the season had been going, the things JJ had already told her, then turned to Coach Ryans. “Okay, so what does that have to do with me?”
“Stevie, there are other ‘super abilities,' let's call them. You've played for me for four years now.”
Again Stevie nodded her head.
“Stevie, how do you start practice every day?”
Stevie sighed. “I always show up early and take a few laps around the bases. I start out jogging and go a little faster each time I go around.”
“Right Stevie!” Coach Ryans exclaimed. “Now, hear me out. I've watched you do this for four years remember. I don't think you realize just how fast you get going—“
“Coach, I just run like any other kid.”
“Stevie, hold on, let me finish. It's not like any other kid. I stand there, I watch you, and I always have. This year JJ has stood next to me and watched you. Stevie, when you get going, we don't even see you, we just see a blur of color go by.”
Stevie shook her head. “I don't get it. How is that possible? What are you saying?”
“Stevie, JJ and I think you have the super power of speed.”
Stevie shook her head, “If I did then the other team wouldn't ever even see me going when I am on the field. I get thrown out on a steal all the time Coach.”
Coach Ryans looked into Stevie's sky blue eyes. “Yes, Stevie that is true. You are quick, especially behind the plate. I think you don't realize you have super speed, so you don't use it.”
Stevie looked at Coach Ryans and then at JJ. “This is what you were talking about in your room wasn't it?”
JJ simply nodded.
Stevie wasn't sure what to say. She stared down at the floor, she wasn't going to doubt anything Coach Ryans told her, and she had never lied to her before, why would she now? She felt bad now that she'd stormed off when JJ had tried to talk to her. Looking up she looked to Coach Ryans, “So Coach, what do you want me to do?”
“Well Stevie, obviously we can't have you out there running top speed. I think though that now that you're aware of it, that you could pick up your speed both when you're catching behind the plate and when you're running the bases. “
Stevie thought about it, but didn't know how she was supposed to do that, she didn't really understand all this. She guessed she'd figure it out though. “So Coach, how is that going to help the team? Just because I can go fast, doesn't help anyone but me. JJ, she's got strength. That's why she's always fourth in the batting line-up. We load the bases, she brings us all in. That's why she's in right field, she catches the ball, throws it to me, and I make the play. I don't get it.”
Coach Ryans had already thought about this, and knew that Stevie had a pretty valid point. “Stevie, you're good at getting your mask off your head when a batter pops a ball up in the air.”
“Yeah so what?”
“Pick up your speed Stevie; you can catch every one of those.”
Stevie thought about it for a moment. She realized that, that probably was true, and she could see how that would benefit the team.
Coach Ryans continued, “You're really good at judging when that runner on first is going to steal second. Most of the time you get ‘em. Pick up the speed a little; you'll get ‘em every time, even on a passed ball.”
“You think so, Coach?” Stevie questioned.
“Yeah, I really do. Today's Wednesday. That means we've got two practices before our game on Friday. I want you to try something for me.”
“I'll try anything you ask Coach you know that.” Stevie piped up quickly.
“Yes, you've always been willing to try Stevie. First the easy one, I want you and JJ to stay after practice and work on picking up speed going around the bases, but maintaining control so that it just looks like you're super quick, don't look like you're some kind of speed demon. You two think you can handle that?”
Both girls simply nodded their heads.
“Good. Now, today during practice, my plan is to have everyone in position, some people will be doubled up, but that's okay. I want Jill to pitch just like she would in a game, I'm going to stand in the batter's box with a bat, I'm going swing the bat but not hit anything. Stevie, I want you to catch the pitch and throw it. Throw it to first, throw it to left field, to third, short stop, where ever. Just as if it were hit. Work on picking up the speed of your reflexes. Then we're going to do some stealing plays, Jill still pitching, and you going for the steal every time, even if it's a passed ball, stay with the ball, get your speed up, and make the throw.”
“Okay Coach.” Stevie wasn't sure she completely understood, but figured she'd get it after a few pitches.
Just then the bell rang.
“Okay girls, we've got two days to work on this till we play Richland. I think we can pull it off. Now get on off to class, I'll see you on the field.”
JJ and Stevie headed to Calc. Neither one had started their review guide for the test they had coming up on Friday. Neither really cared either. They held the top two highest grades in the class. Sneaking into the back corner, JJ sat down next to Stevie. Stevie looked at JJ and raised her eyes brows but said nothing.
JJ leaned over and whispered, “Have you started the review guide?”
Stevie held up her blank paper, “No, have you?”
JJ just shook her head. “Wanna come to my house after practice and work on it?”
Stevie shrugged, “Sure.”
Stevie slowly changed into her uniform, contemplating the game she was heading into. She wondered if Coach Ryans was right and if this was really going to work. She knew this was the first test, that there were only a few games left before the championship game. So far they were undefeated, why change things now?
JJ approached Stevie. “You ready for this, Stevie?”
“I don't know, JJ. I kind of feel like I am doing something wrong here, that we are cheating in some way.”
JJ gently laid her hand on Stevie's shoulder. “Stevie, we have something that is extra special and unique to us. It's like Jill being about to pitch. Could you go out there and pitch the ball?” Stevie just shook her head. “It's just like that Stevie. Jill uses her ability to pitch to pitch to the batters. We should use our abilities as well.”
Stevie finished tying her shoe and stood, “I guess.”
JJ slid her hand around Stevie's back, pulling her close, “Of course we should.”
JJ softly kissed Stevie on the lips, then grabbed her hand, “Come on, we gotta get down to the field.”
“Hang on JJ, I need my gear bag.”
Without letting go of JJ's hand Stevie reached into her locker, grabbed her gear bag, closed the locker and re-locked the lock on it. Throwing her gear bag over her shoulder, she pulled JJ into a tight hug, “Thank you, JJ.”
Stevie then kissed JJ gently brushing her lips with her tongue. Stevie stepped back “Let's go.” And dragged JJ towards the locker room door that led to the field.
Stevie dropped JJ's hand as she pushed opened the door. Heading out onto the grass that lead to the softball field, Stevie noticed everyone else was already down at the field. “Come on JJ, everyone else is already down there.”
The two took off towards the field, JJ knew Stevie was just barely jogging for her, but was still having a hard time keeping up with her.
Coach Ryans saw the two girls coming towards the field, she felt the muscles in her chest relax. Everyone else had been on the field warming up for almost ten minutes already. She was beginning to worry that Stevie was having second thoughts about this, but knew that JJ would pull her through it.
Stevie and JJ walked onto the field and headed straight to the dugout. Stevie dropped her gear bag and looked out on the field. “Damn,” she muttered.
JJ snapped her head towards Stevie not believing what she just heard. “Stevie, are you okay?”
“Yeah, I just wanna run like always, but I guess since the other team is here, and … well everyone is here, I can't.”
JJ felt bad, she knew what Stevie meant. “Yeah, probably not a good idea.”
Coach Ryans approached the dugout. “'bout time you two made it down here. JJ, go on out there and start warming up with everyone else. Stevie, you can't run here, jog over to the track, they have a meet somewhere today, run a few laps and come back.”
Both girls nodded and headed out of the dugout, Coach Ryans slapped them both on the back as they went. “Good luck girls.”
When Stevie got back from the track, the Umpire's walked onto the field and called for coaches. Coach Ryans and Stevie walked out to home plate. The plate Umpire went through all the standard guidelines and rules. Both teams agreed they'd bat their rosters. They all shook hands. Going back to the dugout, Coach Ryans announced they were batting their line-up. Coach Ryans turned towards Savannah, “You're still benched, and you're not batting.” Stevie tried to hide her smile as she grabbed her mitt from the dugout and her teammates took the field to start the game.
Jill struck out the first two batters. The third batter hit a single. The fourth batter hit a short fly over the second baseman's head. JJ ran towards the ball, grabbed it, looked up and saw the runner rounding second headed towards third. JJ knew if she threw to third the runner would turn and make it back to second. JJ made a quick decision. “Alli!” JJ yelled as loud as she could as she threw Alli the ball.
Alli heard her name, looked up just in time to see the ball coming; she reached up, caught the ball and turned and tagged the runner making the third out. Alli ran towards the dugout, tossing the ball towards the pitching rubber.
When the team entered the dugout and looked at the batting line-up, they noticed that Stevie was now the leadoff batter and JJ was in the number five slot. A few girls asked Coach Ryans about the change, she simply shrugged them off and told them not to worry about it.
Stevie stepped up to the plate. She watched the first pitch, called strike. Stevie was ready now. She swung at the next pitch but missed. She stepped out of the batters' box, looked down the third base line to Coach Ryans. Coach Ryans nodded her head. Stevie took a practice swing and stepped back in the box. She knew most likely the next pitch would be a strike and it wouldn't be a meatball. She had to keep her eye on the ball, not take it off for one single second. She watched the ball come off the pitcher's hand it looked low, but Stevie could tell it was going to be above the knee. She loaded her bat, swung just as the ball came across the plate, made contact and took off towards first. Before Stevie even hit first she heard Coach Ryans “Go two!” Stevie rounded first, headed to second, as she rounded she picked up the ball deep in left field, the fielder was almost to the ball. Stevie speed up just a little, looked towards Coach Ryans who was waving her on. Stevie rounded second and saw Coach Ryans' hand pointing towards home. Just as Stevie approached third, she caught the ball being thrown to the cut off; her first thought was to stay at third, but Coach was sending her home. As Stevie rounded third she barely heard Coach Ryans “Pick it up.” Stevie knew she could make it if she picked up the speed just a little she'd make up, but couldn't go too fast. She slid into home, just as she stood the catcher caught the ball. Stevie stood rooted in place, she'd hit the ball just about where she always did, but usually only made it to second. A smile spread across her face as she realized Coach Ryans and JJ really were right.
The next three batters made it on base. JJ came up to bat with the bases loaded. JJ learned by watching Stevie, she watched the first pitch. Called strike. She knew what she was looking for. Second ball came in, it was higher than JJ liked, but she wasn't taking chances, it was still going to be a strike. JJ loaded her bat, made contact and ran towards first, never taking her eyes off the ball. As JJ rounded first, she saw the ball drop just the other side of the homerun fence. Everyone else saw it too; by the time JJ rounded third all three base runners were headed down the third base line towards home. They rounded home and lined up along the third base line towards the dugout. JJ rounded and ran in front of the girls towards the dugout, each one reaching to smack her helmet, and then follow her into the dugout.
Rebecca came up to bat, saw that the pitcher was throwing strikes, swung at the first three pitches and struck out. Liz made it on base, followed by Katelyn. With one out, runners on first and second, Stevie shook her head as Morgan stepped up to the plate. Morgan watched the first pitch just like Stevie taught her, a strike. This was a good pitcher. Morgan swung at the next two, striking out. Casey walked up to the plate, she knew she'd either hit the ball and bring in Liz and Katelyn who were now sitting on second and third, or she'd strike out. She knew she lost focus sometimes and had a hard time keeping her eyes on the ball. With two outs, there was a lot of pressure on her. Casey looked at Coach Ryans, who patted the top of her head. Casey nodded; let the first pitch go no matter what. Casey watched the outside pitch get past the catcher, and saw Liz coming down the line. Their pitcher never came in to cover. Liz scored, Katelyn advanced to third.
Before stepping back into the box, Casey looked at Coach Ryans, again she tapped her head. Casey stood and took the pitch, called strike, but the catcher missed and back to the fence it went. In came Katelyn. Bases now empty, Casey took a breath, and they still had two outs. She looked down at Coach Ryans who tapped both shoulders. Her call. Casey saw the next pitch come in, it was high, but looked under the shoulders, and she swung and missed. Casey stepped out of the box. One-two count, two outs. Casey took a breath, looked at Coach Ryans who tapped both shoulders again. Casey had to make the right decision. She laid off the next two balls. Stepping out of the box, full count. Casey tried to breathe, she had to focus. She knew her only chance was to fake a bunt and slap. Sticking her bat out as the pitcher began to pitch; she pulled her bat back, saw the pitch was low and held back. “Strike three.” Casey turned towards the umpire in disbelief as she headed to the dugout; the ball was clear down at her shins. Casey said not a word, put up her helmet and bat, grabbed her mitt and headed out to center field.
Jill walked the first batter with a three-two count. The next batter hit a pop –up on the first pitch straight to Alli, ball caught. Followed by two strike outs. Coming in off the field at the bottom of second, the Lady DAWGS had the lead seven-nothing.
Sarah was up first, hit a pop fly right to the short stop who caught, but dropped the ball. Safe on first, Sarah looked over to Coach Ryans who slid her left arm down her right arm, then her right leg. Sarah didn't want to wait till Stevie hit the ball, she wanted to try and steal, but Coach made the calls. Sarah watched as Stevie held off the first pitch, big fat meatball straight down the pipe. She shook her head, ‘Stevie never swung at the first pitch no matter what, what a waste.' Passed ball, Sarah could have been on second. Sarah watched, Stevie swung and hit the next pitch, straight to the third baseman. Sarah took off, she was pissed, she could have stole second on that first pitch now a quick toss from third and she'd be out. The third baseman charged the ball then overthrew to first, the team fell apart, making errors all over the place, but managed to throw Sarah out at third. They tried to get Stevie at second, but over threw into right field and Stevie scored. Ryans held off the girls, loading up the bases again, let JJ hit them all in. They were now up thirteen-nothing, with one out. Rebecca made it on base, but Katelyn hit the ball straight down the first base line and was tagged out. Morgan stepped up to the plate, two outs. Stevie didn't even bother to watch, just finished putting her gear back on. Stevie heard the sound of the bat hit the ball, and looked up, only to see the pitcher catch the line drive Morgan just hit.
Before anyone could head out into the field Coach Ryans stopped them all, “Gotta hold ‘em girls. We're up by thirteen, let's keep it that way. Stevie, JJ, come here.”
Stevie and JJ walked to where Coach Ryans was standing just outside the dugout. “Girls, we're at the top of three. All we have to do is hold them through the top of the fifth. Let's back off a bit. Tone it down, JJ especially in the field, let them get on base, don't let them score. We're going to pull back on offense too, no more home runs girls.” The girls nodded. “Get out there.”
Going out top of five, the Lady DAWGS were up seventeen-one. They had plenty of room. JJ let them score two runs. Even so, at the end of the top of the inning they were still up by fourteen. They had ten run them, Umpire called the game. Lady DAWGS remained undefeated.
Heading up to the locker room, JJ ran to catch up with Stevie who was walking by herself. “Great game Stevie.”
“Yeah, works well. I never realized. Feels kind of weird.”
“You'll get used to it. You wanna come over and hang out?”
Stevie looked at JJ, she really did, but had already promised Alli she'd go to pizza then spend the night. “I can't JJ; I already made plans with Alli. We haven't spent much time together.”
“Okay, see you Monday then.”
JJ headed to her car, severely disappointed. She had news she wanted to share with Stevie.
Stevie caught up with Alli in the locker room. Alli was in the shower, Stevie decided she'd better shower too if they were going to pizza first. Stevie grabbed her stuff and headed to the shower. “Hey Alli. We're still on for pizza and your house tonight?”
Alli glared at Stevie. “You mean you don't have plans with JJ?”
Stevie knew Alli had the right to be upset with her. “No, I made plans with you; I'm not going to go making plans with her too.”
“Okay, then we're on.”
Stevie couldn't help but remember the last time she showered in the locker room. She and JJ, she wished it was JJ there now and not Alli. She shook her head. She didn't understand what was going on with her and JJ, but she couldn't stop thinking about her. She knew she liked girls, heck; she'd had a crush on Alli for as long as she could remember. These things she felt when JJ was around though, that was totally different.
Stevie jerked back from her memory and looked at Alli. “Yeah?”
“Remember I was telling you about Paul?” Stevie nodded. “He asked me to go to Homecoming.”
“Are you going to go?”
“Stevie! Of course I'm going to go. What about you?”
“I don't know.”
Stevie turned off the water and went to get dressed. Once dressed she headed over towards Alli's locker. Alli was just tying her shoes. “You ready?”
“Yep, you still on for pizza?”
“Sounds good to me.”
Stevie and Alli headed to the pizza parlor and got caught up on classes and everything at school. They talked about the rest of the softball season and who they thought they'd end up playing in the championship game. Stevie was pretty certain that they'd end up playing their rival Pearl, but Alli disagreed.
Finishing up their pizza, Alli paid the bill and they headed to Alli's house. Both girls were tired and they decided to head straight to bed when they got to Alli's. Stevie hadn't remembered to bring anything to sleep in. She knew Alli's clothes would all be too small for her. It wasn't like she and Alli hadn't slept naked in the same bed before, but something didn't feel right about it tonight. Not wanting to bring any attention to it, Stevie simply stripped down to nothing and climbed in Alli's bed. Alli watched Stevie, she thought back to Stevie's comment that seemed years ago, but was just at the beginning of the school year. Did Stevie really want to continue what they'd done over the summer? Not wanting Stevie to think anything was different; she stripped down to nothing and climbed in next to Stevie, even though she wasn't real comfortable with the idea.
Both girls were asleep in minutes. Alli woke in the middle of the night as Stevie was moaning and calling JJ's name. Alli had wondered if something was going on. Alli shook Stevie. “Stevie!”
“Stevie, we need to talk.”
“Yes, now, Stevie. What's going on between you and JJ?”
Stevie was instantly awake and not only felt her face turn red, but felt the wetness between her legs. “There's nothing going on Alli.”
“Come on Stevie. Don't play games with me, you're always spending time with her, I hardly ever see you anymore. Now you're spending the night at my house, sleeping in my bed, and you wake me up calling out her name. And you want me to believe there is nothing going on?”
Stevie didn't know what to say. She didn't know what exactly was going on.
“Look Stevie, I know you like girls. I know you've had a crush on me forever, but would never cross any lines because we're friends and you know I'm not into that. I don't care if you like JJ, but be straight with me.” Stevie looked at Alli a calmly stated “That's kind of hard to do Alli since I'm gay.” “Ha Ha just spill it Stevie.”
Stevie told Alli about the afternoon in the shower. She told her that she didn't know what was going, on because nothing else had happened.
“Sounds like you got it bad for her Stevie. About time someone caught your eye.”
Stevie blushed. “I don't know Alli. Maybe I do, but what's the point in getting anything started. We're seniors. I'm going to Texas A&M next year and she's going to University of Texas. I don't want to start anything that's not going to go anywhere.”
“Stevie, they're only like a hundred miles away from each other. That's like nothing.” Stevie didn't say anything. “Stevie, you need to talk to JJ. Find out just how much she likes you. I know she's totally into girls too. I don't think the shower thing was so innocent”
“What? How do you know that?”
“We've talked a few times.”
Stevie knew her secret was not a secret anymore, at least not from Alli.
“Stevie, is this why you've been avoiding me?”
Stevie shook her head, even though she knew Alli couldn't see it.
Alli reached over and pulled Stevie to her, resting Stevie's head on her shoulder. She could feel Stevie's tears on her shoulder. Alli began to stroke Stevie's hair, telling her it was okay, till Stevie finally fell back asleep.
The Lady DAWGS had made it through the rest of the season remaining undefeated. Going into the championship game Stevie had been right; they were playing their rivals Pearl. Pearl had lost only one game, and that was to them. That was a one-nothing game. Coach Ryans was reminding the team of this on Thursday at practice. With this being the championship game, it was scheduled for Saturday, instead of their usual Friday game days.
“We've got to get our bats on them early in the game. I think we've found a leading line-up that works well; we're going to stick to that. Stevie, you'll start us off. I'm looking for that home run, just like you've been doing. Then we'll have Alli, Jill and Rebecca, you three load up the basses. JJ, then you come up, hit them all in. Following JJ, Liz, Morgan, Katelyn and Casey will bat. Since it's the championship game, we can't bat our roster. So Emily and Sarah you'll only bat when you come in the game.”
Coach Ryans paused, looking at her team. “We're going in undefeated, they've lost one game, to us, and so we'll be the home team. We played them at the beginning of the season; we've improved since then, as I am sure they have also. So don't let it go to your heads that just because we beat them before, that it'll be is pickings this time around.
“We're going to work on hitting today. Liz, Morgan, Katelyn, Casey, Sarah and Emily, we've got to get your confidence up. You can all hit and hit well, but you are our weakest batters. I want to make sure you're ready. Tomorrow, we're not going to have practice, I want you to be rested up for Saturday. Jill, you're pitching, Stevie you're catching, JJ I want you shagging balls, everyone else, nothing but hitting today. Any questions?”
Everyone looked at Coach Ryans, but no one said a word.
“Let's go then.”
The big day had arrived. Stevie was down at the field long before anyone would arrive to start prepping the field for the championship game. She did her usual running of the bases, and then headed towards the dugout to get her gear out. JJ walked into the dugout, “Thought I might find you here.”
“Didn't know that you were looking for me.”
“Yeah, I went by your house but your mom said you'd already left for the game.”
Stevie's eyes got big; Alli was the only one who'd ever been to her house. That was just something she didn't do.
JJ saw the look on Stevie's face. “Just thought I'd offer you a ride, but I see you made it. Wanna catch some balls?”
“Umm, sure. Why don't you head out to right field and take the balls and throw them to me at the plate?”
“Sounds good.” With that, JJ grabbed the bucket of balls and headed out towards right field.
Slowly the team began to trickle down to the field. Coach Ryans was lining the field for the game when Pearl showed up. Pearl took their infield and was just finishing up as the Umpire's showed up. Stevie walked out to the plate with Coach Ryans for the plate talk. Same usual stuff, Stevie was relaxed and calm; she had no doubt that they would win this game.
Stevie went back to the dugout, grabbed her helmet and headed out to the field with her team to get the game going. Jill had managed to perfect this great curve ball that came across the plate dead center, and then curved out away from the batter. When they had good umpires she got lots of strike outs with it, when they were not so good, that was a different story. Stevie hoped today they had the good ones, they should have the best, and it was after all the championship game.
Jill tested out her curve ball with her first pitch. Called strike. Stevie knew they had a good one today. This was going to be a sweet game. Jill struck out the first batter. The second batter hit a pop fly to left field that Morgan missed, but got it in quick to keep the batter on second. Third batter up, Jill pitched a wild pitch right off the bat. Stevie lost track of the ball and the runner stole third. Stevie threw the ball back to Jill and slapped her mitt against her leg. “Nice and easy Jill.” She called out. Stevie watched the next ball come straight down the pipe; she saw the batter load her bat. This one was going far; she only hoped it went to right field. Stevie held her breath as the ball sailed in the air to right field. The runner from third was nearly home when JJ caught the ball. The umpire called the batter out. JJ launched the ball to Stevie, the third base coach was yelling at the runner to go back to third. The runner slid into home. Stevie caught the ball, tagged the runner, and the runner was called out as she had not tagged up after JJ had caught the ball.
Stevie rolled the ball towards the pitcher's mound tearing off her chest protector as she went. As soon as she stepped in the dugout, Alli was on one side, JJ on the other undoing her shin guards. They'd gotten this routine down since Coach Ryans had changed the lineup. Jill grabbed Stevie's batting helmet, the one with the purple unicorn on the back. Stevie pulled her batting gloves out of her back pocket and was grabbing her bat as she heard the announcer call out “Batting first for the Lady DAWGS, Catcher, number eleven, Stephenie Wilcox.” Stevie rolled her eyes; she hated it when people used her full name. The announcer continued, “Followed by short stop, number three, Allison Michaels. Let's see what this dynamic duo has in store for us today. The two have played on the same team since the early age of ten.”
Stevie looked over at Alli who stood behind her, both out in front of the dugout watching the pitcher. Alli just shrugged her shoulders. Everyone knew they'd known each other forever, but no one knew they'd always played ball together.
The umpire called for the batter. Stevie walked up to the plate. She stood with her bat resting on her shoulder, legs straight, no intention of swinging at the first pitch, she wanted to see what this pitcher was going to bring her way. Ball in the dirt didn't even make it to the plate. Stevie didn't even look at Coach Ryans. She didn't change her stance; she just waited for the next pitch. Ball, clear over Stevie's head, Stevie was beginning to think this was going to be a long game. Third pitch came in, Stevie ducked as the ball came straight at her head. She was getting frustrated she wanted to hit the ball. Stevie now had a 3-0 count. She set the end of her bat on the ground and leaned on it, waiting for the next pitch to come in. Finally a strike, it was low, but still it was a strike. Stevie readied her stance, hoping for another low ball. In came the pitch, just below her waist. She loaded her bat, made contact and sent the ball over the center fielder's head. The ball hit the homerun fence, dropping inside the playing field. Stevie rounded the bases, not bothering to look at Coach Ryans, this was a no brainer, and she was going home. Just for show, Stevie slid into home as the ball reached third base. Popping up, she gave a thumbs up to Coach Ryans on her way into the dugout to start putting her gear back on. Alli got on base with a walk, and then stole second, and then third, leaving Jill with a 3-0 count. Jill swung at the next pitch, meatball, straight to the short stop. Alli stood about seven feet off third base just behind the third basemen, daring the short stop to throw the ball. The short stop threw the ball to the third baseman, Alli chuckled as she dived back to third, placing Jill on second. Rebecca hit the first pitch right to the short stop, Alli again stood just behind the third baseman. The short stop just threw the ball to the pitcher.
The announcer's voice boomed over the loud speaker, “Next in the lineup, with bases loaded is number eight, new to Lakeridge this year, Jessica Jo Johnson.”
Stevie could imagine JJ rolling her eyes, and knew it was happening by the sheer grin on Coach Ryans' face. JJ watched the first pitch come in. She couldn't resist. Meatball straight down the pipe. Swinging her bat, the ball sailed over the home run fence, only to be lost in the trees some twenty yards beyond the fence, bringing everyone in.
Liz and Katelyn were able to get on base and steal their way around the bases. Katelyn was thrown out at home though, on a steal on a passed ball. Morgan came up, hit the ball right at the second baseman who made an easy toss to first and she was out. Stevie was impressed; at least she was hitting the ball now. Two outs, bottom of the lineup, Casey walked up to the plate. No one on base. Casey stayed off the high one that came in first, then popped the second pitch straight out to center field. In a diving catch, the catch was made, making the third out.
The team headed out to the field for the second inning. Coach Ryans pulled Morgan and put Emily in left field. Jill took one warm up pitch, called balls in, and pitched one more pitch to Stevie who threw it right back to Jill. Stevie had learned long ago not to throw down to second, an easy throw that she didn't need to demonstrate. The first batter hit the ball to center field, where it dropped just in front of Casey. Casey picked up the ball, fired it to second, keeping the runner on first. Stevie set up her target way outside. Jill nodded and pitched right to Stevie, Stevie knocked the ball down into the dirt, giving the runner a head start, picked up the ball and fired it to Alli who was waiting at second for the tag. Right on cue, Allie caught the ball and tagged the runner before she even had a chance to think about sliding into second. Jill struck out the next two batters and Stevie was up again. Through the lineup they went again.
Top of the third inning Pearl was beginning to catch onto Jill's pitching. Jill walked the first batter, Stevie set up for the lefty in the middle of the right handed batter's box. Yeah, so they gave them a base runner. Next up was their catcher, hitting a single, moving their first batter to third. Then came their strong man, Piper. Piper had a reputation for hitting homeruns. Stevie smiled, signaled to Jill to pitch it just over the outside edge of the plate. She knew Piper was a sucker for those pitches and always hit them to right field. Sure enough, Piper hit the ball straight to JJ. JJ caught the ball, fired it to first, getting the second out, without a second thought Katelyn turned and threw the ball to Stevie, the runner had tagged up and was headed towards home. Stevie caught the ball while the runner was still ten feet from home plate. The runner started to head back to third. Stevie chased her down, applied the tag and she was out.
Coming into the dugout for the bottom of the third inning, Coach Ryans pulled Stevie and JJ aside and told them to lay off, let them score, let them catch up and think they had a chance. Stevie and JJ both rolled their eyes but agreed. Backing off Pearl started scoring and the Lady DAWGS started hitting singles, the announcer questioning the loss of fire they'd began the game with.
Going into the seventh inning, the Lady DAWGS were up by one, twenty-one to twenty. All they had to do was hold them and the championship game was theirs. As they headed onto the field Coach Ryans tapped JJ and Stevie on their backs and said “Go get ‘em.”
Jill struck out the first batter. Looking good so far. The next batter hit a double. Piper was approaching the plate. Stevie knew what she had to do, she signaled for Jill to pitch down the outside edge of the plate. First pitch was a ball; it bounced off the back stop and rolled towards first. The runner stole third. This was too close for Stevie. Stevie gave Jill the same signal and moved her target in just a little. Piper took the bait. Pop fly right to JJ. JJ caught the ball and without even thinking, threw the ball to Stevie. The runner had tagged up and was headed home. Stevie charged up the third baseline and tagged the runner five feet before home plate. Before the Umpire could even call the girl out, Stevie tossed the ball to the pitching circle and headed towards the dugout. The team dropped their mitts, came out gave their cheer and politely shook hands with all of Pearl's players.
The state representative walked onto the field, an awarded Pearl the second place trophy and then turned to the Lady DAWGS and awarded them the first place trophy, along with the mini trophies for each of the girls. The girls ran to the dugout, packed their bags and headed to the pizza parlor as planned. JJ hung behind, waiting for Stevie to clean and pack up her gear.
“Stevie, you feel like pizza?”
“Not really. What do you have in mind?” Stevie's mind was whirling.
“My parents took my brothers to the football game at Jackson State, the game should just be about starting know, you wanna come hang out at my place?”
“Sure, sounds good to me.”
The two headed for JJ's house. JJ opened the door, dragging her softball bag in, Stevie having left hers in the car. “I don't know about you, but I need a shower, Stevie.”
“For sure, let's go.”
JJ was a little surprised. But didn't say anything. The two girls headed to JJ's room where JJ grabbed two pairs of boxers and two tank tops, while they stripped out of their uniforms. On the way to the bathroom, JJ grabbed two fresh towels and wash clothes from the hall closet. JJ turned on the shower and stepped in once the water was warm. She felt a cool breeze down her back as Stevie opened the shower door and stepped in under the faucet behind her. Stevie wrapped her arms around JJ's waist, pulling her tight against her. “JJ, remember the last time we were in the shower?” JJ only nodded. “I think this is even better. Here, let me do that for you.” Stevie washed JJ's hair, and then scrubbed her down slowly and methodically. JJ was consumed with the feelings of ecstasy that rose through her body. When she couldn't take anymore and knew Stevie was just playing, she turned and circled her arms around Stevie, gently kissing her at first, and then sliding her tongue across Stevie's lips, probing for Stevie to give her access. Stevie opened her mouth, granting JJ full access. JJ pulled Stevie as close to her as humanly possible and relished the pure and simple taste of Stevie. Before she lost control, JJ broke the kiss, and returned the favor to Stevie and washed her.
Finishing in the shower, JJ handed Stevie a towel and both girls looked at the boxers and tanks and shook their heads. JJ picked them up as they headed to her room. Stevie lay on JJ's bed on her side, soon joined by JJ. JJ found herself being pulled into Stevie and right back into that kiss that had started in the shower. This time, Stevie let her hands wander across JJ's breasts and stomach, though her mouth never left JJ's. JJ moaned softly into Stevie's mouth. Stevie took this as her cue to slow things down. She slowly pulled JJ back down, ending with a soft peck on the check, then tucking her head into the crook of JJ's shoulder, where she promptly fell asleep. JJ wanted more, but knew Stevie was right.