This story is a sequel to my stories , Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) . You may want to read the preceding stories before reading this one. Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) can be found on my on my website – mickeyminner.com
Patricia Calvin sat impatiently on the thinly padded examination table. Except for her Jockey briefs, she was unclothed from the waist down, and her long bare legs hung over the table's side swinging lazily. She squirmed on the stretch of white, coarse paper that separated her from the table's padded surface, its sharp, razor thin edge digging into the back of her bare thighs. To take her mind off her uncomfortable situation, she looked around the room.
The examination room, rectangular in shape with unadorned sterile white walls, was typical of any doctor's office. The examination table was pushed within inches of one long wall yet still monopolized the small room. A waist high counter lined half of the opposing wall and a single straight back plastic chair had been placed at the end of the counter. Above the counter and fastened to the wall were three cabinets; their glass doors providing an unobstructed view of shelves stacked high with carefully labeled medical supplies. A basin sat in the center of the counter top, a swan neck spout curving up and over the stainless steel sink.
Hearing footsteps in the hallway outside the room, Pat turned toward the door. A woman wearing shorts, t-shirt, and running shoes under a brightly colored, flower patterned lab coat pushed the door open.
“Has anyone ever told you you don't dress like a real doctor,” Pat commented sourly, her irritation at being left so long in the cold room seeping through.
Unaffected by the tone, the doctor smiled. “Good afternoon, Pat,” she responded cheerfully. “I see you still have a problem with waiting.”
Pat grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, Jillian. But you know how I hate sitting around doing nothing.”
“Ah, yes, I know. You are a busy woman, after all,” Jillian said overly serious to the head coach of the Missoula Cougars, the local professional womens' basketball team. She placed the chart she had carried into the room down on the counter and turned to face her impatient patient. “Then we better get straight to the reason for your visit,” she said leaning against the counter and folding her arms across her chest. She gazed at Pat with a critical eye. “I've reviewed everything and nothing I've seen would change what I told you after your surgery.”
“Pat, you, of all people, should know that players come back after knee surgery all the time. What makes you think your knee isn't also capable of doing the same?”
“I just want to be sure.”
Jillian smiled. “I don't suppose this change of heart has anything to do with a certain point guard you recruited last season?” she asked innocently while retrieving an orthopedic hammer from a drawer.
“Can you just answer my questions,” Pat grumbled.
Jillian moved to stand in front of her petulant patient and lifted the blanket covering her legs. She lightly tapped the hammer against her injured leg just below the scar on her knee. “You're reflexes are good,” she stated after Pat's foot instantly sprang upward. “You're in good physical shape,” she added taking a step back. “The only problem I saw on the x-rays was you're starting to develop some arthritis in the knee. That's to be expected but if it starts to bother you, we can go in and try to clean things up. Otherwise, if this is really something you want to do, I say go for it. We'll keep a close eye on the knee and see how it takes the additional strain. Just make sure you use the knee brace,” she added letting the blanket drop back down over the exposed legs.
Pat looked down at her bare toes peeking out from under the thin blanket. She raised her head to meet the doctor's eyes. “Will you put that in writing?”
“Already have.” Jillian turned back to the chart and pulled an envelope out from between some of its pages. “I figured you'd want something to show Mac—here you go,” she said handing the envelope to Pat. “If Mac has any questions, she can call me. I am correct to assume you give permission for me to discuss this matter with her… if she calls?” Pat nodded. “Good. You can get dressed now. Say hi to Sherry.”
Pat smiled. “Thanks. I will.”
“And good luck. This gives me a great reason not to feel guilty for renewing my season tickets,” Jillian said then pulled open the examination room's door and slipped out.
Left alone, Pat opened the envelope and removed the single sheet of letterhead it contained. After reading the doctor's comments, she carefully refolded the paper and returned it safely back inside the envelope. Then, with a pensive smile, she hopped off the table, retrieved the pair of jeans hanging on the back of the door and began to dress.
Sherry Gallagher stood at the free throw line watching as her practice shot swished cleanly through the net.
“That's ninety-eight,” Pete Sunndee counted when the ball dropped into her waiting hands. “Want to call it good for the day and go grab some lunch? Hey, it was just a suggestion,” she defended after receiving a stern glare in response. She bounced the ball back to Sherry. Both women played point guard for the Missoula Cougars and regularly practiced together. “Do you really think it would hurt to cut this short by a couple of attempts?”
“No, it probably wouldn't hurt,” Sherry said preparing for another practice shot. “But it would drive me crazy the rest of the day.” She took a deep breath. Two bounces and a pause; one bounce and a pause; then she launched the ball toward the basket.
“Ninety-nine,” Pete noted catching the ball and sending it back to Sherry. “I suppose we could all do with more practice from the line.”
“You do pretty well. What did you shoot last year? Eight-seven percent?”
“Coach wants more.”
Sherry frowned as her final shot bounced off the back of the rim and away from the hoop. “Damn, that's a game loser.”
“Don't be so hard on yourself,” Pete said, trotting after the errant ball. “You only missed six times.”
“I know. But I hate missing the last one; it's bad luck.”
Dribbling the ball between her legs and around invisible defenders, Pete worked her way toward Sherry who was walking to the side of the court where she had left her water bottle. “Bad luck for what? We haven't even started tryout camp.”
Sherry groaned. “Don't remind me.”
“Gee, you almost sound like you're looking forward to it,” Pete teased.
Sherry unscrewed the top of the bottle and took a mouthful of the cool liquid. “You know, as bad as tryout camp is, I think I might actually be,” she said after swallowing. “It would mean an end to the endless hours of reviewing tapes and evaluating players.”
“Finding out that being a coach isn't all fun and games?”
Sherry laughed. “It sure isn't when you're living with the head coach.”
“Speaking of… where is our fearless leader?”
“I'm not sure. She said she had something to do and would meet me back at the house later.”
Pete tucked the ball into the crook of her arm then waggled her fingers at Sherry. “Ooo, keeping secrets already? You know what that means.”
Sherry glowered at her friend in mock annoyance. “Stop it.”
Pete laughed. “Yeah, you're right. She would no more cheat on you then I would on Keith,” Pete said of her husband.
Sherry laughed. “That's the truth.” She felt a rumble in her stomach. “Hey, didn't you say you were buying lunch?”
“Eating, yes. Buying, no.”
“Tell you what,” Sherry said reaching out to snatch the ball away from Pete. “If I make this, you buy. If I miss, I'll buy.”
Pete grinned knowing the distance to the basket was well out of Sherry's normal range and, more importantly, her comfort zone. “And I get to pick the place.”
“Deal.” Sherry smirked devilishly. “But only if I miss.” When Pete nodded, she turned and squared up to the basket. She bounced the ball once then sprung into the air. At the apex of her jump, the ball left her hand arcing toward the basket. It ricocheted off the backboard and dropped through the hoop barely disturbing the net on its way through. She playfully backhanded a dumbfounded Pete in the solar flexes. “Did I mention that Pat's been helping me on my long shot?” she asked casually before bending over to grab her water bottle and trot off the court toward the locker rooms.
Owner of the Missoula Cougars, Martha Ann Christopher leaned back in her oversized, overstuffed, leather chair to study the woman sitting on the opposite side of her equally imposing mahogany desk. “Are you sure about this? It won't be easy.”
Pat nodded. “I know.”
“Have you talked to Sherry about it?”
“I don't need to—I know what her response. What I need to know is what you think about it.”
Mac pressed her fingers together. She studied her coach as she considered the proposition that had just been presented to her. “I want a repeat this season, Pat. A second championship is going to be hard enough. But to add this on top of it…”
“I spent the past few months thinking about this and considering all the possibilities, good and bad. I know it won't be easy but I really want the chance.”
“People thought I was nuts when I named you head coach. But you came through and made me look like a genius. I have great faith in you as my coach; I did then and I do now. But this… I'm not so sure. I demand a lot from my players.”
“As you should.”
“I demand more from my coaches.”
Pat nodded in agreement. “I can resign as coach,” she offered hesitantly.
Mac bolted upright, slamming her open palms down on her desk. “Like hell you will,” she barked leaning on the desk to glare at Pat. “The Coach of the Year does not resign the very next season. Not unless you're at the end of a very long career. Which you are not !” Mac walked around her desk to the wall of glass that overlooked the arena and glanced down at the empty arena floor. “I offered you this same opportunity two years ago,” she stated in a calmer voice. “You turned me down.”
“I wasn't ready then.”
“But you're ready now?”
“This could go wrong in a lot of ways.”
Pat stood and moved to join the team owner. “Write it into the contract, the minute you think it's become too much, I'll give it up.”
Pat didn't hesitate. “Whichever one you want.”
Mac turned. “You're sure about this?” she asked locking eyes with her coach.
Pat's return gaze didn't falter. “I'm sure.”
“Okay. I'll have a new contract for you to sign tomorrow. But,” Mac jabbed her index finger into Pat's chest, “you will stop when I say stop.”
Mac lowered her finger and held out her hand. “I always hoped you'd change your mind,” she said. “Now, get out of here so I can call our PR department… this is sure going to help sell tickets,” she declared with a wide grin.
“Glad I'm good for something,” Pat said wryly clasping hands with Mac.
“It's a business, Pat. What can I say?”
“Sometimes, it's hard to remember to look at that way.”
“You've adjusted pretty well.”
“Thanks. I better go home and fill Sherry in.”
Mac stopped her. “You have considered what this can do to your relationship? It's going to be hard enough for the two of you this year without adding more.”
Sherry had joined the Cougars the year before as a rookie guard and had promptly fallen in love with the head coach. She wasn't alone in her feelings; Pat had also fallen in love with her. However, relationships between coaches and players weren't condoned by the league or by the Cougars' owner. In order to honor the conduct clauses in their contracts, the women had tried to suppress their growing attraction to each other until after the end of the season when Sherry had offered to resign, even after receiving Rookie of the Year honors. But Pat had devised a better solution; she, with Mac's approval, had offered Sherry a position on her coaching staff.
“If I think it's becoming a problem, I'll back off. I won't risk what I have with Sherry to satisfy my ego.”
“But the question is… will you know?”
Pat thought for a moment. “I expect you to tell me if I don't.”
Mac gave a short nod. “Fair enough. But, maybe, you need the same deal with Sherry. Make sure you talk about it... all of it.”
“Hey, I was beginning to wonder about you,” Sherry greeted Pat when she walked into the house they shared. She picked up the remote control, hit the pause button then flipped the remote and the clipboard in her lap onto the coffee table.
Pat dropped onto the couch. “Sorry, my meeting with Mac took longer than I expected.” She wrapped an arm around Sherry's waist and pulled her close for a kiss.
“You went to see Mac?” Sherry asked after their lips separated. “Why didn't you tell me? I would have waited for you at the arena.”
Pat slumped back against the couch pulling Sherry with her. “I wasn't sure when I would get out of there. Any prospects?” she asked of the players frozen on the television screen.
“I made notes on a couple but most are so-so at best. We must be getting down to the bottom of the barrel.”
Pat leaned forward to reach the remote. “Mac always keeps the tapes of players who tried for other teams and got passed over for last.” She ejected the tape and turned the set off. “She'd love the chance to rub another owner's nose in it if we happen to find someone they passed over.”
“She's a complicated woman,” Sherry commented off-handedly.
“Yes, but she has a point… you never know what we might see that no one else did. Though, I've yet to discover any diamonds-in-the-rough in them.”
“Now you tell me.”
“Sorry. We always get these just before the start of camp, they're usually just players who won't admit they don't have the skills to play pro ball.”
“Like me?” Sherry asked without censure. “I was passed over by every team, including the Cougars, but I kept dreaming.”
“Scouts sometime miss what they're not looking for.”
“Even Cougar scouts?”
“Then it's a good thing you showed up at my game to scout Dawn. Who knows where'd I would be today if you hadn't.”
“I hate to think about that,” Pat admitted. “My whole life has changed since that night.”
“For the better I hope.”
“Definitely.” Pat tightened her hold on Sherry. “I can't imagine not having you around. You do so much for me.”
Sherry laughed. “Like cooking and cleaning.”
“We eat mostly take-out and we have a maid service… lawn service… and snow removal service.”
Sherry sighed contently. “Ah, the good life.”
“At least, all the money Mac throws at us goes for a good cause.”
“That it does.” Sherry kissed Pat's cheek. “So, are you planning to come clean or do I believe Pete's hypothesis that you're stepping out on me.”
Pat gave Sherry a puzzled look. “Why on earth would she think that?”
“She wanted to know why you weren't at the arena today. I told her you said you had,” Sherry held up her hands and made quotation mark gestures with her fingers, “things to do.”
Pat rolled her eyes. “Oh, good heavens,” she groaned.
Sherry giggled. “She was kidding.”
“She better be. I went to see Jillian.”
Sherry sat up abruptly. “Your knee? Are you having problems?”
“No. Calm down,” Pat said pulling her upset lover back to her side. “The knee's fine. I went in to get the result of some tests she had done.”
“Pat!” Sherry bolted upright again. “What the hell is going on?”
“I'll tell you if you'll let me,” Pat reiterated. “I had some questions—”
“Have you been having problems? I didn't notice—”
Pat grabbed the agitated woman and gently clamped her hand over her mouth. “Sherry, please. Give me a chance to finish a sentence, will you?” When her lover nodded, she continued. “I've decided that I want to try playing ball so I asked Jillian to give the knee a good look over.”
Sherry pried Pat's hand off her mouth. “You mean… play ball as in play for the Cougars?”
“As a player?”
Pat laughed. “Well, yes.”
“Wow!” Sherry started to relax then a thought crossed her mind and she jerked around to stare at Pat. “You're giving up coaching?”
Pat shook her head. “No,” she assured the concerned woman. “I just thought since we had one player slash coach in the family, why not two?”
Sherry collapsed against Pat. “Holy shit!”
“Not quite the reaction I was anticipating,” Pat said worriedly.
Sherry placed a hand on Pat's leg and pushed herself back just enough to look into her lover's face. “Pat, this is great,” she exclaimed excitedly. “I've wondered what it would be like to play with you. Not that kind of play with you,” she shrieked at Pat's playful leer. “Geez, this is so great. Pete's gonna freak,” she squealed then dropped back down against Pat. “I take it your meeting with Mac was about this?”
“Is she good with it?”
Sherry popped upright again. “She said no?”
“Damn it, woman.” Pat growled. Grabbing Sherry around the waist, she lifted her off the cushion then moved her to the end of the couch where she plopped her down. She picked Sherry's feet off the floor and swung her legs up onto the couch then sat on top of them. “Now, maybe we can talk about this without you jumping and down like a yo-yo. Stay!” she demanded when she tried to squirm out from under her.
Sherry slumped back against the arm of the couch then gazed seductively at her lover. “Then make it quick cuz I want you to jump my bones. You big, strong woman, you.”
Pat laughed. “That's quite a change in subject.”
“Well, you did just pick me and dump me over here.”
“I had to, you were making me dizzy.”
“Okay, I promise not to jump around any more. Now, get off my legs.”
“I'm not sure I can trust you.”
“Pat, get off my legs before I bounce you across the room.”
“Think you can?”
Sherry grinned. “I've spent most of the off season in the weight room… at my coach's insistence, I might add.”
“So who's the big, strong woman now? Maybe you should be the one to jump my bones.”
“Come on, I give. I said I won't jump around anymore… and you're heavier than you look.”
“Gee, thanks. That's good for my self esteem,” Pat muttered then raised herself up just enough to allow Sherry to free her legs.
Sherry scooted around to sit beside Pat. “Okay, what is Mac's problem?”
“She thinks it may be too much for me to do both. But she's willing to give me the chance on the condition that I give up playing and just concentrate on coaching if, and when, she thinks things have gotten out of hand.”
“What kind of things?”
“She wants a repeat championship. That's going to be difficult under normal circumstances. She's afraid I may not be able to handle the pressure as coach let alone as a player slash coach.”
Sherry frowned. “Nice to know she has such confidence in you,” she muttered derisively.
“She has a point.”
“Pat, you coached the Cougars to back-to-back winning seasons. They've never done that before. You coached them to a championship last year— another first for them. How much proof does she need that you can handle this?”
“Playing and coaching is different than just coaching.”
“You don't have to tell me that. But I know you can do both,” Sherry stated confidently.
“I'm just not so sure about me being able to.”
Pat patted her thigh. “You'll do fine,” she said reassuringly. “Besides, you're only an assistant coach. There's more pressure on the head coach so I have to admit that Mac has a right to have doubts. After all, she has to look at things from a business standpoint.”
“I'll bet she's already calculating the extra ticket sales this will generate.”
Pat laughed. “As a matter of fact, she was doing that when I was talking to her.”
Pat sobered. “She's also concerned it may make things difficult between you and me.”
“Let's be honest, okay?” She waited until Sherry nodded. “You are already stressed out over the additional duties you're taking on as an assistant coach. Right?” Another nod. “So think about it. You know how I get during a season. And getting back into shape to play again will take some extra effort… especially this close to tryout camp.”
“Pat, you trained with me all summer. You're in perfect shape—”
“Let me finish. I haven't played, I mean really played, in a couple of years. It's going to mean extra hours on the floor. You know what it was like last season… we barely had time to talk to each other.”
“I think that was more due to other circumstances, don't you?” Sherry asked apologetically. She had spent most of her rookie season trying to suppress her growing feelings for her coach and she'd be the first to admit that she had not been too successfully resulting in Pat having to insist they have no contact off the court.
“Okay, I'll grant that we did make things hard on ourselves last year. Falling in love with one of my players wasn't too smart in many ways, especially when you consider what it could have cost us.”
Sherry gazed lovingly at her partner. “I'd give everything up for you.”
Pat smiled sadly. “You almost had to.
“But it didn't come to that. So, why the concern now?”
“Just because we have Mac's full support doesn't mean we won't get some heat from the press and the league. Admit it, Sherry, this season could be even worse for us than last season was.”
“Last season was great,” Sherry protested. “We won the championship. And you were named Coach of the Year.”
“I'm talking about the off court crap we had to put up over our relationship.”
“I wouldn't call what we had a relationship. Besides, the league can't come after us again… their inquest couldn't find any violations of the conduct code.”
“That doesn't mean people like Palmer won't try.”
“He wouldn't dare,” Sherry sneered remembering the baseless charges of improprieties the other coach had leveled against Pat on her player's behalf during the previous season.
“He won't but there are others who think like he does.”
“They can kiss my ass.”
“They better not.”
“Honey, we can't do anything about people like that… we already talked about this. We just have to live our lives as we see fit and to hell with the homophobes out there.”
Pat gazed at Sherry. “However, things play out— we're both going to be under a lot of stress. We need to understand that now so we don't crack under it later.”
“If you're really this concerned about what might happen, why do it?”
Pat shifted. “I want to have the chance to play with you,” she said quietly.
Sherry lifted a hand up to gently rest against Pat's cheek. “I want that, too, sweetheart. But I know what this means to you and I know the fears you've had about testing your knee. I think you've more than earned a chance to prove you can play at this level… don't you?”
“But, there are no guarantees—”
“You were a great player, Pat… you still are. I've seen you at practice; you've still got the moves. You've still got the touch. It won't take you any time to fill comfortable back out there on the court.” Sherry saw a flicker of doubt sneak into Pat's eyes. “Honey, do you want this?”
“Yes,” Pat answered in a whisper.
“Then I'm willing to do whatever is necessary to make it happen.”
“What if it comes between us?”
“It won't. It may mean sacrificing some of our personal time together and I understand that. But we can always make it up after we bring another championship trophy back to Mac.”
“Are you sure?”
Sherry tenderly cupped Pat's cheek and gently turned her head so she could look into her eyes. “Are you?”
Pat sucked in a deep breath and released it. “Yes.”
“Then let's give our fans what they want, you on the court.”
Pat grinned. “You and me on the court.”
“Works for me.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too. Now that that's settled,” Sherry grinned, “use your big bad muscals to carry me into our bedroom and make mad passionate love to me.”
Pat laughed. “Muscals?”
“Yeah, these big things right here,” Sherry said squeezing Pat's biceps. “Now, quit wasting time, tryout camp starts soon. This may be our last chance for awhile.”
Pat slid into a prone position. “I've had a long day,” she said looking into the eyes gazing lovingly back at her. “My muscals are tired so how about you ravaging me right here?”
Sherry took no time in accepting the offer. “With pleasure, my love,” she declared before doing just that.#
To Be Continued...
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