Sherry carried a glass of water out of the kitchen then walked to the couch and sat down. “Are we going to talk about it?” she asked after several minutes of awkward silence.
“What?” Pat asked not looking up from the magazine she was holding.
“Dammit, Pat,” Sherry snapped setting her glass on the coffee table even though she felt like heaving it at the other woman. “It’s been a week… do you plan to stay pissed forever?” Receiving no response, she continued, “Look, I know I screwed up. I never should have questioned you in front of the team. But you know I didn’t do it intentionally.”
“Put down that damn magazine and look at me,” Sherry demanded.
“I want to finish this article.”
“You should have been able to read the whole freakin’ magazine in the time you’ve been staring at that one page,” Sherry said picking up a pillow from the end of the couch and flinging it across the room.
Pat glared at Sherry after the magazine was knocked out of her hands. “Not one time last year… NOT ONE TIME, did you question me in front of the team. Now, that you’re a coach, you think you can do it?”
“Dammit, Pat, I wasn’t thinking as a coach… I was mad at myself for letting that gal make me look like an idiot.”
“Five times in a row.”
Now it was Sherry’s turn to glare. “And you’ve made me pay for it all week,” she snapped. “Was it really necessary to run us through endless drills on how to stop a quick player like her?”
“Apparently, it was,” Pat barked.
“This is stupid,” Sherry spat out. “You’re pissed at me for questioning you in front of the team, yet you spent the last five days criticizing every little thing I did on the court. If anyone should be pissed off right now, it should be me.”
“That’s what a coach does,” Pat asserted.
“No, that’s what a spoiled brat does.”
The women glowered at each other for several minutes.
“I want to make sure we know what to do next time,” Pat stated abrasively.
Collapsing back against the couch, Sherry sighed. “We’re not even scheduled to play LA again this year,” she muttered.
“Have you looked at the standings lately?” Pat asked harshly. “Los Angeles is only three games behind us. And Buttram is determined to be in the championship game… and to take home the damn trophy.”
“So what? We’re a better team… we’ll beat them again if it comes to that. I don’t understand why you can’t let this go… for goodness sakes, Pat, it’s been a week.”
Pat leaned over the side of her chair to retrieve her magazine. “If you don’t want to take coaching seriously,” she began after sitting back upright, “then don’t. But I do. And right now, I only care about one thing-- holding onto that trophy. That’s it. Nothing else matters. Nothing!”
The declaration hit Sherry like a coiled fist and her expression reflected it. “What about me? What about us?” she asked so quietly her voice was almost inaudible.
Pat regretted her words as soon as they left her mouth and the look on her lover’s face was like a blow to her gut. “Oh, shit… that’s not what I meant,” she said regretfully. “Of course, I care about us.”
“Do you?” Sherry asked, her voice louder and her tone harder. “Outside of practice, you’ve barely spoken to me. We sleep in the same bed but you haven’t touched me all week. You promised, Pat… you promised basketball wouldn’t come between us. Maybe this whole damn thing was a mistake.”
“What do you mean by that?” Pat asked her heart racing in fear of what the answer might be.
Sherry took a breath as she gathered her thoughts. “I want to know… is this how you plan to treat me the rest of the season? Because, if it is… I’m leaving.”
Pat felt the air rush from her lungs leaving her breathless. “God, Sherry, no,” she forced the words out between gasps. Slipping out of the chair, she fell to her knees then scooted across the carpet to kneel in front of her irate lover. “No… don’t say that,” she pleaded wrapping her hands around Sherry’s. “I can’t lose you.”
“I won’t stay, Pat,” Sherry insisted pulling her hands free. “Not if this is the way you’re going to act whenever I make a mistake. I won’t do it. I won’t.”
Tears filled her eyes as Pat fell back to sit on the floor. “Damn,” she exclaimed burying her head in her hands.
As much as she wanted to drop to the floor and envelope Pat in her arms, Sherry determinedly remained where she was quietly waiting for her anguished lover to issue assurances of forthcoming changes.
After several minutes, Pat finally lifted her head to look up at Sherry. “I’m so sorry,” she began tearfully. “I… I just… Oh, hell, I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m just… I guess trying to coach and play wasn’t the best of ideas. I never realized how much—”
“It would change things,” Sherry finished the thought.
Sherry smiled sadly. “Honey, I think we’re both realizing that. But your behavior this past week… I’ve never seen you like this, Pat. And to be honest, it scares me.”
“No,” Pat stated emphatically reaching again for Sherry’s hands but they were pulled back from her grasp. “I’m so sorry… I don’t know what happened… I just was so angry.”
“At what? What was it? What made you so mad?”
“I think it was a lot of different stuff,” Pat admitted.
“Like what?” Sherry repeated.
“Julie’s snarky comments. Jackson’s bullshit. The stress of the season coming to an end and needing to make sure we stay on top.” Pat shrugged. “I guess you questioning me during the game was the last straw.”
“So you decided to take all that crap out on me? Not fair, Pat. Not fair at all.”
Pat hung her head. “I know. I’m so sorry, sweetheart,” she said looking back up. “Can you forgive me?”
Chewing on her lower lip, Sherry studied her distressed lover for several moments. “I won’t go through another week like this, Pat. Not a week… not a day… not a minute.”
“You won’t have to… I promise.”
Sherry sighed. “Come up here,” she said patting the cushion beside her.
“I royally screwed this one up,” Pat declared after sitting on the couch.
“Yes, you did.”
“Will you ever forgive me?”
Sherry slipped an arm around Pat’s shoulders then pulled her close. “Yes.”
“I love you, Sherry. I love you so much.”
“Oh, honey, I love you, too. I can’t imagine my life without you in it.”
“But never again… and I mean that. I didn’t deserve what you put me through this week.”
Sherry shifted to look into her lover’s eyes. “Promise me you’ll be good from now on,” she said her lips twitching into a grin.
“I promise,” Pat vowed crossing her heart with both hands. “Please don’t ever leave me,” she pleaded snuggling against her lover.
Sherry kissed the top of Pat’s head. “Never,” she affirmed. “That is… as long as you behave.”
“I’ll behave,” Pat said tilting her head up to have her lips captured for a long, loving kiss. “I’ll definitely behave,” she declared with lips still pressed against Sherry’s.
The ringing of a phone woke both women nestled together on the couch.
“Ugh,” Sherry grunted after being drawn out of a rather pleasant dream. She disentangled herself from Pat’s arms then shuffled into the kitchen for the nearest phone. “Hello,” she said groggily after lifting the receiver from its base hanging on the wall.
“Oh… hi Mac… yeah, it’s me.”
“I want you in my office first thing.”
“Not now… tomorrow morning, I hope.”
“Sure… I’ll be there. Is there a problem?”
“We’ll talk tomorrow. Don’t be late.”
The phone went dead.
“Goodbye to you, too,” she muttered hanging the phone back up.
“What’s up?” Pat asked when Sherry reclaimed her spot on the couch.
“Mac wants to see me first thing in the morning.”
“You know Mac— short on details, long on orders. And she still doesn’t say goodbye before hanging up.”
“You really need to get over that,” Pat said nuzzling her lover’s neck.
“She won’t change so stop letting it bug you.”
“What do you think she wants?” Sherry asked after several minutes laying kisses down the length of one very long arm.
“With Mac it could be anything.”
“Maybe she heard what a bitch you were all week,” Sherry teased.
Slumping against the back of the couch, Pat grew serious. “That’s a good possibility. She may want to get your take on things before she reams me out.”
Sherry kissed her worried lover’s forehead. “Honey, if that’s the case, I’ll let her know that you’ve already been reamed out and you were appropriately contrite. And remorseful. And repentant. And apologetic. And—”
“Did you learn all those big words in college?”
Sherry grinned. “I did manage to attend a class or two.”
“Nice to know.”
“Anyway… if Mac is planning to take you to task, I’ll put an end to it.”
“Sweetheart, she is our boss and I did act like a jackass all week. So if she wants to take me to task, she can.”
“Hmmm. I suppose you’re right,” Sherry conceded unhappily.
Pat tightened her hold on Sherry. “If it’s any consolation… anything she might say to me would pale compared to what you said.”
“I hope you know I wasn’t trying to be mean.”
“You had every right to say what you did.”
“Doesn’t mean I took pleasure in it.”
“I know, sweetheart.” Pat shifted. “What a day… I’m drained. Let’s never fight like this again.”
“Deal,” Sherry immediately agreed. “Want to do something this afternoon?”
“We could just stay here the rest of the day.”
“We could call for delivery,” Pat offered snuggling closer.
“Closest phone is in the kitchen… someone has to get up.”
“That’s bad planning.”
“Yep,” Sherry said rolling off the couch to stand in front of it. “Let’s see what we can throw together for lunch,” she added tugging Pat up to join her. “Then I’ll treat you to a nice, hot bath.”
“And an early night?” Pat asked hopefully.
“Oh, most definitely.”
Sherry stepped off the elevator and smiled at Mac’s assistant sitting behind a large desk in the middle of the lobby. “Morning, Gail,” she greeted the young woman.
“Good morning, Miss Gallagher,” Gail replied. “Mrs. Christopher is expecting you.”
Sherry nodded walking across the room to the only available door where she paused long enough to take a calming breath before reaching for the knob. She pushed the door open, knowing Gail would have already alerted the team owner to her arrival. “Morning, Mac.”
“Grab some coffee and a muffin,” Mac instructed. She was standing by a credenza at the side of her office pouring steaming liquid into a mug.
“I’ll just have some coffee,” Sherry said spotting a tray of the largest muffins she had ever seen. “One of those would probably put me over my sugar limit for the rest of the month.”
Mac settled behind her desk then waited for Sherry to prepare her coffee. “How are things?” she asked when the assistant coach claimed one of the chairs opposite her desk.
“Fine. The team has really gelled. Things look really good for the rest of the season.”
“Good, good, good.” Mac lifted her mug to her mouth and took a long swallow of the hot coffee. “Now, about Jackson,” she abruptly changed topics as she set the mug back on her desk.
Sherry frowned. “What about her?”
Mac leaned back in her chair. “What is your relationship with her?” she asked bluntly.
“I have no relationship with her,” Sherry retorted brusquely.
“You’re sure about that?”
“Yes, Mac, I’m sure. What’s this about?”
Lifting her cup, Mac took another swallow of coffee. “Seems she’s been telling people around the league otherwise,” she said placing her cup back onto her desk. “I’ve been getting calls.”
“Crap,” Sherry growled. “Her mouth has been flapping since she arrived in camp.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“I haven’t a clue, Mac. Honestly, I’ve never laid eyes on her prior to camp. Never. And we sure as hell have never been in a relationship.”
Picking up her mug, Mac stood then walked across her office to the wall of windows that overlooked the arena. Practice had begun and she focused in on the troublesome rookie. “Hard to believe that your paths have never crossed before now,” she observed calmly.
Sherry stared at the owner’s back. “They haven’t,” she stated firmly.
Mac turned to face her employee. “There has to be something behind this, Sherry. And I want to know what it is.”
Sherry opened her mouth to respond but stopped when Mac waved off any comment.
“If it’s alright with you, I’d like to do some checking on my own.”
“That’s fine with me. I’ve tried and tried to figure out Jackson’s game but I keep coming up blank.”
“Let us see then what Jackson has hidden in her past. Perhaps we can figure this out. Thanks for coming by.”
“Sure,” Sherry replied standing. “You will share any findings, won’t you?” she asked returning her empty mug to the credenza.
Sherry headed across the office.
“Oh, one more thing,” Mac said causing Sherry to stop and turn back to her. “What burr was up Pat’s butt last week? Is there something I need to be concerned over?”
Sherry grinned. “Nothing to worry about… the burr has been removed.”
Mac smiled. “I hope she didn’t bleed much,” she said returning to her desk.
“Just enough that there shouldn’t be a repeat of her bad behavior any time soon.”
Mac laughed. “I like you. Now you better get back to practice.”
To Be Continued...
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