Toni walked into the Athletic Complex at Washington University a half hour before the game was to start. The first thing she noticed were the banners hanging from the ceiling. She counted eleven NCAA National Champion banners including 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001. Having lived in St. Louis all her life, she was still surprised at the depth of basketball history at Washington University. The next thing she noticed was that both teams were out on the court warming up for the game. The Wash U. Bears were wearing white uniforms with red lettering and trim while Emory was in emerald green with golden yellow trim.
Moving past one end of the court to the Wash U. Side of the building Toni noticed the name 'Pennington' on the back of one Wash U. jersey. When the player turned to face the basket, Toni took in a sharp breath. Cynthia had her hair tied back into a ponytail and Toni caught a good view of her face while she concentrated on the basket. Even without makeup, she was stunning. As Cynthia set for the shot, her full lips slightly parted and brown eyes locked on her target, her legs propelled her upward as she flicked the ball toward the basket. Toni followed the ball as it sailed through the air and into the net without even hitting the rim. As she glanced back, Cynthia was already in the air again letting go another shot.
Toni watched as Cynthia drained seven out of ten shots from the three point line. Damn she's good! As Cynthia turned to move to a different part of the court, Toni noticed her long lean legs and tight rear end. Woah there girl. Need to stop going there. Friend! Friend! Friend! When Cynthia turned to resume shooting from the top of the key, a teammate fed her balls to shoot as quickly as possible. After she made another seven of ten shots, Toni noticed Cynthia moving near to where she was standing at the corner of the court. As Cynthia approached Toni smiled and waved.
"Yep! Told you I'd make it."
Cynthia would not have recognized Toni and was glad that she had waved.
Toni had on tight jeans covering some cute black boots along with a navy blue cardigan sweater covering a black silk blouse which convinced Cynthia that Toni was not just a knight in a brown jumpsuit. Cynthia also noticed that Toni had pulled her hair out of the loose bun she had seen on Sunday and now the jet-black hair framed her striking face. She cleans up pretty, hard to believe I thought she was a guy at first! "Hey!, I'm glad you made it. I'd like you to sit with my brother Danny. He's a few rows behind the bench," she said pointing at a young man in a knit shirt and sports jacket. "Just introduce yourself to him, I told him you might come."
"I will. Good luck today!"
"Thanks, I'll see you after the game."
Toni gave Cynthia a quick wave and headed off toward her brother Danny. She noticed that Danny had already seen her. He probably saw me talking with Cynthia. As she climbed into the stands he stood up, "you must be Toni, I'm Danny. Cynthia had quite a story to tell on Monday. I'm glad you were able to help her out of that jam."
"It was my pleasure."
"Please sit, we can chat a bit before the game starts."
As they sat down, Toni saw that Danny was giving her the once over. Sorry guy, your sister is more my type. I'll have Cynthia let him down easy after I tell her about me tonight. "I think Cynthia said you are going to Mizzou?"
"Yes, I'm in the veterinary medicine program there. The program is great, but I miss being in a big city. That's one of the reasons I come to as many of Cyn's games as I can. I really like St. Louis. I'm thinking of setting up here after I graduate."
"How long before everyone has to start calling you Doctor?"
"I'll get my doctorate next spring. Arching one eyebrow he asked, "now, how about you? What's a nice girl like you driving a truck for?"
"It's what I love to do. I've always loved driving. It was either racing or truck driving, and my family just didn't have the money for me to get into racing. I lucked into a position where I am home daily. Driving is fun, but... living in a sleeper cab isn't," she said with a smile.
"Say, the game is going to start in a few minutes, can I treat you to some soda and popcorn?"
Toni smirked, "like I told Cynthia, I never pass on free food."
Chuckling Danny asked, "great, is a Coke okay?" After Toni nodded he continued. "Great, I'll be back in a few minutes."
When Danny left to get the snacks, Toni turned her attention back to the court and Cynthia as the teams were finishing with their warm-ups. As Cynthia neared the bench a few rows in front of Toni she looked up and waved. Toni smiled and waved back noticing that Cynthia had broken a sweat. She looks even better. Toni! You have got to stop thinking that way. Both teams were gathered around their respective benches with the coaches giving last minute instructions to their players.
As Danny walked toward the concession area, he turned back to the stands to get another look at Toni. Wow! What a beauty. Those jeans are tight! I thought my eyes were going to bounce out of my head as she walked toward me. Danny saw Toni wave at his sister, and he turned back toward the concession area. I'm definatly going to have Cynthia see if Toni has any interest in me.
Danny headed back to the stands and Toni with two cokes and the popcorn. As he handed Toni her the soda he got a glimpse of large black eyes peeking out from under her thick eyebrows. Her hair framed her face perfectly, and her naturally dark skin tone was set off by her dimples as she smiled her thanks. Wow! Just plain Wow!
The tip-off went to Wash U, and the team moved into attack mode. Toni saw that Emory was playing a man-to-man defense but the person covering Cynthia was having a hard time keeping up. Cynthia was moving in and out of the paint and from the top of the key out to the wings. As Cynthia moved to one side of the court, another Wash U. player set up a screen for her. As her defender ran into the screen, Cynthia received the pass, stopped and popped from behind the three point arc. Twenty seconds into the game and the Wash U. Bears were up 3-0.
Three minutes of game time later, Emory was forced to call an early time out. Wash U. had built on their lead and defended Emory harshly. It was 17-4 and Cynthia had 9 of the teams points. Danny leaned over to Toni and said, "now comes the double team."
When play started Emory scored a basket to get within 11 points. As the Lady Bears brought the ball up the court, Toni saw that Danny was right. Cynthia was now drawing two defenders. The Bears looked to be running the same play they started the game with, but when the second defender stepped out to cover Cynthia as she came off the screen, Cynthia made a quick bounce pass to her open teammate who scored a quick lay-up off the glass.
"Told you, Cyn will make them pay if they continue the double team," Danny stated with pride.
Toni could only nod her agreement. She was stunned at the high level of play Cynthia was exhibiting. While she knew Cynthia was the teams leading scorer, she had also known that Wash U. was a Division III school and hadn't expected the high caliber of play being displayed. She leaned over to Danny and asked, "why isn't she playing for Tennessee or Uconn?"
"She had full blown scholarship offers from those two as well as many others. She came here for her education. I see you know something about basketball, did you play?"
"Yes, I got a few scholarship offers, but I wasn't that good." Toni was almost in shock at her new friends skill level. "I think she could play in the WNBA right now if she wanted to."
"Probably, but she'll be finished with basketball after next year. She's been in love with the idea of being a doctor for as long as I can remember."
Their conversation settled down as the Bears continued to play well. Emory went on a slight run as the contest moved toward half time and pulled back to within ten points. Cynthia put an end to Emory's run by hitting two three-pointers with under a minute left in the half. As the teams went into the locker rooms, the Washington University Bears held a commanding 48-31 lead over their opponents.
Danny and Toni talked about the game and Cynthia's play during half-time. Danny could tell that Toni was a huge sports fan and was impressed with his sisters play. They talked about others sports and Danny found out that Toni enjoyed hockey, football and baseball as well. She was definitely a St. Louisian as all the St. Louis teams were her favorites. Danny was surprised that Toni knew about the Seattle pro teams, and she asked Danny if he was a fan of them. Danny found himself admitting to being a closet Yankees fan, and asked Toni not to repeat that information to Cynthia. She's like a dream come true. She's beautiful, loves sports, and is quite intelligent. I really hope she isn't seeing someone. As they continued to talk, Danny lost himself in Toni's large black puppy dog eyes.
The second half went much like the first. When Cynthia was doubled teamed, she dished the ball to open teammates. Otherwise she was scoring at will. On the defensive end of the court she was racking up rebound after rebound, and even had a few steals. Toni noticed that Cynthia never seemed out of breath. She's in fabulous shape. Her stamina is amazing. After the game was out of reach for Emory, Cynthia's coach pulled her out of the game to bar injury. Although Emory came back a little at the end, it was an easy 95-68 victory for the Wash U. Bears. Cynthia finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 15 assists. She made all four attempts from beyond the three point line and made all her free throws as well.
After the players left the court, Toni turned to Danny. "Wow!"
Smiling, Danny pointed toward the Athletic Complex lobby. "Let's wait for her in there."
They walked to the lobby area chatting more about the game and Cynthia's play. Danny was sure that he and Toni were getting on well and they moved on to other subjects. Toni admitted a fondness for mystery novels while Danny talked about his interest in World War II history. Twenty minutes later, Danny noticed Cynthia approaching.
Danny smiled at Toni, "ah, here she comes now. I need to get started back to Columbia, so let me have a minute or two with her, then I'll leave you two to your fun."
"Sure. It was nice meeting you Danny."
"Yes." Danny's face took on a serious expression. "I'm very glad you helped my sister that night. I hope you two become friends, if only so I can get some recommendations of mystery authors."
Toni laughed. "I hope so too, and I'll write up a list of authors for you."
At that point Cynthia walked up to the pair and they all exchanged greetings. Danny looked at his watch, "Sis, come over here for a minute so I can say good-bye. I need to get headed back."
Cynthia looked at Toni. "I'll be right back."
Toni nodded and the two siblings stepped away. When they were far enough away that Danny was sure Toni wouldn't overhear them, he stopped and turned toward his sister.
"Great game Cyn."
"Thanks Danny, I'm glad you came. So what do you think of Toni?"
"I like her. I think you two will become good friends. She was really cheering for you during the game." Danny smiled, then he lowered his voice a bit more. "Um, if you could find a way to see if she would have an interest in me, I'd really appreciate you letting me know."
Cynthia giggled. "I'll see what I can do for you Romeo. Now give me a hug."
After they hugged Cynthia said, "You be careful going home. I'm sure Toni and I will stay out late tonight, so tell Mom and Dad I'll call them tomorrow."
"I will. Call me too if you have some good news for me about Toni."
Toni watched Cynthia as she walked off with her brother. She was wearing some hip-hugger jeans that not only hugged her hips, but had a tight hold of her ass as well. Toni! Get a grip! Hmm, I'd like to grip a little of... Toni! Toni tried her best to get her thoughts under control as Cynthia hugged her brother then walked back toward Toni as Danny headed out the door.
Grinning, Cynthia held up a set of keys. "Here you go, time for me to pay my end of our bargain."
Toni smiled, "honestly, I can't wait."
The two women headed out the doors to Cynthia's vehicle. Toni opened the passenger door for Cynthia with great flair. Giggling, Cynthia settled down into the passenger seat. Toni walked around to the other side of the car and climbed in. Cynthia watched Toni as she got familiar with the Lexus. She had a childlike smile on her face as she explored the car's features.
When Toni finished her exploration she turned to Cynthia. "I'm ready, buckle up, let's see what this baby can do."
A short time later they were driving down Forest Park Parkway heading toward the Inner Belt. Cynthia watched as Toni shifted through the gears. There was a certain elegance to her movements that Cynthia hadn't expected. Well, she certainly looks different when she isn't wearing her truck driving jumpsuit. Cynthia smiled as the car eased its way onto the Inner Belt and headed north. She is really enjoying herself. That lopsided smile hasn't left her face yet.
Cynthia knew that Toni was ignoring the speed limit, but she felt safe. She noted that Toni often made a quick check of the mirrors and kept a close eye out for surprise moves from other motorists. They quickly reached the 70 interchange and headed west past the airport.
"So, what do you think?" Cynthia asked.
"It's great!" Toni said with enthusiasm. "The response is almost unreal and this baby can move!"
"You look like you are having a great time."
"I am, I am! I'll hit 270, drop down to 40 and head back towards the University that way. I only wish this was a tight and curvy road that went on for miles, that would be spectacular!"
Cynthia smiled at Toni's exuberance. "Maybe next time we can take a short road trip, but tonight I want to eat. I hope you like Italian."
"I love Italian. By the way, my brother asked me to thank you for your thoughtfulness. He took Cheryl out to Tony's and they had a fabulous time."
"That's great! It was the least I could do for him, and Cheryl too. I'm still very thankful to you and your brother."
At that moment, a loud rumble came from the vicinity of Cynthia's stomach. Toni glanced at Cynthia with a wry grin on her face. "Damn girl! We need to get some food in there!"
Cynthia blushed at her stomach's betrayal. "We'll get there soon enough, enjoy your drive."
They settled down into an easy and comfortable silence punctuated by the roar of car's engine. Thirty minutes later they were back on Skinker headed back to the university.
At a stoplight near the school, Toni turned to Cynthia with a smile. "I want to really let you know how much I enjoyed driving your car. It's an experience I won't soon forget and I have you to thank for it."
"No problem, I had a great time just watching you drive, you really enjoy it."
"Yes I do." Toni thought for a second then continued. "We should pick up my vehicle and I'll follow you to wherever we are headed for dinner."
"Sounds like a plan. We aren't headed too far, just over to the Delmar Loop."
"Great! I love it over there, it's a great place to hang out."
They turned west onto Forsyth and headed back to the Athletic Complex parking lot. Toni parked the black Lexus next to her bright yellow Dodge Durango just as Cynthia's stomach betrayed her yet again. Both women laughed and exited the vehicle. Cynthia moved around to the drivers side of the Lexus while Toni unlocked her SUV.
"I'll follow you, Cynthia."
Toni followed Cynthia's car back out to Forsyth. Heading north on Big Bend they soon reached Delmar and turned east and headed to one of St. Louis's entertainment districts. Cynthia led Toni to a parking lot that was filling up quick, but they both managed to get a space. They met on the sidewalk, and Cynthia led the way into Cicero's.
They entered the restaurant and nightclub and were quickly ushered to a table in a back corner of the place. As they started to look at their menu's their waitress arrived and asked what they wanted to drink.
Cynthia saw Toni was looking at the beer list not quite sure what to order. "I'll have a Diet Coke."
Toni continued looking at the almost endless beer list. "My God! There are so many choices."
Cynthia giggled. "Well choose before my stomach rumbles again."
"Okay, Okay. Um... Well I guess I'll have an Franziskaner Hefeweizen on draft please," Toni ordered with almost perfectly accented German.
The waitress left to get their drinks while Cynthia stared at Toni. "I didn't know you spoke German!"
"My Dad's mother was from Germany. All of us learned a bit of German from her, but I started studying it in middle school. In high school I was taking college credit courses." Toni smiled, "of course it allowed me to have pretty private conversations with Grams."
"I bet. So, see anything on the menu that you like? Feel free to indulge your culinary wishes."
Toni's eyes sparkled with laughter. "Oh I plan on it. Free food always gets me hungry. Your stomach may be making noises, but it will be hard pressed to keep up with mine."
"Oh! I sense a challenge! After a game I usually stuff myself silly, so lets see who can eat to win."
"I don't sense a challenge, I sense a wager. Stakes?"
"Loser buys our next dinner?"
Toni smiled and stuck out her hand. "Done!"
After they shook on their wager, they turned back to their menu's. The waitress brought their drinks and said she would return for their orders in a few minutes. Both continued to page through the menu when Cynthia's stomach rumbled in protest yet again. Cynthia started to blush when Toni's stomach joined in chorus with hers. They both broke into a giggle.
When the waitress returned, they were ready to order. They decided to share a Combination Appetizer Platter, and both ordered the Tomato Tortellini Florentine soup to start out their meal. For their dinners, Cynthia ordered the Chicken Breast Parmigiano with a side of Fettuccini and a Caesar salad, while Toni ordered the Chicken Marsala with a side of Spaghetti and a Caesar salad. The waitress left and the two women chatted lightly as they anticipated their meal.
After the appetizer platter and their soups arrived, both women attacked the food with gusto. With equal shares of toasted ravioli, fried mushrooms, onion rings, fried zucchini, potato skins, and cheese sticks they quickly finished off the platter and started in on the soup. The challenge of the wager still fresh in both of their minds, the soups quickly disappeared.
Wiping her mouth after finishing her soup a spoonful ahead of Cynthia, Toni smiled. "I'm impressed. You're keeping up."
Cynthia chuckled, "it's not a race Toni."
The waitress brought out their salads and some warm bread in a basket. The salads were both attacked while the server refilled their drinks. When the server returned with the drinks, both salads were finished.
Placing the drinks on the table the server smiled. "Okay girls, who locked you two up for a week with no food?"
Both Cynthia and Toni giggled then both started to talk about their wager.
The server laughed. "I get the point girls, I'll be right back with your dinners. Sure you got room?"
Cynthia and Toni exchanged quick looks then nodded at the server enthusiastically.
The sever headed back to the kitchen leaving a trail of laughter behind her. Returning quickly she placed a large plate in front of each woman, plus a smaller plate with their side pasta's and some more warm bread in a basket. The server watched with fascination as both women tore into their dinners with wild abandon. Shaking her head in disbelief, she wandered on to another table.
Midway through their dinners, both women were slowing down. It was still neck and neck in the challenge though, and they both concentrated on their meals. Toni was facing the rest of the restaurant and noticed their server bringing other employees out to take a peek at the two women and their appetites. Toni mentioned this to Cynthia who turned to look as one of the cooks gave them both a thumbs up and a big smile. Both women waved at the happy cook, then turned back to their food with a renewed vigor.
They both managed to finish their dinners at the same time. The server came back to clear the plates. "I don't suppose you girls would like dessert?"
Toni looked at Cynthia with a gleam in her eye. "You know it!"
Cynthia grabbed the dessert menu and glanced at it quickly. Grinning at Toni, "I'll have to go with the Chocolate Suicide."
Toni looked up to the server and agreed, "one for me too."
With a look of wonder on her face, the server bustled off to get the desserts, and more refills for their drinks.
When their desserts arrived, Toni groaned. The pile of Chocolate goodness was huge. Cynthia smirked at Toni as she grabbed a spoon and began to devour hers. Toni also grabbed a spoon. Chocolate Suicide is the correct name for this, especially after that meal. Digging into the dessert, Toni realized she wouldn't be able to finish it. If I lose, and she eats like this all the time, I could go broke!
Cynthia knew Toni was slowing down and probably wouldn't finish the dessert. It was an impressive display though. When the last bite of the Chocolate Suicide passed her lips, she heard Toni groan. "Okay, okay, you got me. I'll buy dinner next time." Toni put her spoon into the dessert bowl and pushed it away.
"Oh goodie! I love winning!"
"I can see that, I think you love gloating too."
"Yes, you might have a good point there."
"Boy, am I gonna pay for this meal tomorrow."
Cynthia raised an eyebrow. "Tell you what, we'll finish our drinks and let this food digest for a bit, then we can walk the loop."
"That's a good idea, I haven't been down here for about a year. We can do some shopping and check out the Walk of Fame."
At 7:30 PM they walked out of the restaurant. They waited for Delmar to clear of traffic and crossed over to the other side. They passed several stars on the Walk of Fame including cartoonist Mike Peters, NFL Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf, and actor Kevin Kline before they arrived in front of Vintage Vinyl.
Cynthia pulled on Toni's arm, "let's go in here, I want to check out some music."
They entered the large music store and browsed for a few minutes. Cynthia gravitated toward the 80's section while Toni was looking over some of the new Metal CD's. Toni didn't see anything new that really interested her so she glanced over at Cynthia who was happily flipping through 80's dance CD's. Toni walked over to her as Cynthia pulled a CD out of the bin. Looking over her shoulder Toni read the artist.
"Taco?" Then a bit louder. "Taco?"
Cynthia blushed a deep red. "Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone but I secretly crave 80's dance music."
Toni chuckled at Cynthia's embarrassment. "Your secret is safe with me, I'd never tell anyone that I even knew someone who bought a Taco CD."
Cynthia punched Toni lightly on the arm. "I'm ready. Let me go pay for this."
They both walked to the front of the store where Toni's eye caught a display. She stopped and grabbed a CD then quickly followed behind Cynthia. As Cynthia was checking out, she noticed that Toni was also purchasing a CD. "Okay smartie, what are you buying?"
"It's a CD for a local band. I used to be in a band with one of them back when I first got out of high school."
"Let's see." Cynthia turned over the CD in Toni's hand. "Rocket Park, hmm? You'll have to let me listen to it sometime."
They paid for their items and left the store. Continuing their walk east on Delmar they stopped to look at various stores while also checking the various stars on the Walk of Fame. They passed stars of other notable St. Louisians like actor John Goodman, rocker Chuck Berry, actress Betty Grable, singer Tina Turner, and jazzman Miles Davis. After reaching the end of the loop, they crossed over to the north side of Delmar and started back.
As they were looking at the star and plaque for actor Buddy Ebsen two men passed them headed in the opposite direction. After they passed, Cynthia turned because she noticed they were holding hands. Toni, sensing Cynthia's movement turned to look.
"You would think they wouldn't flaunt themselves like that in public." Cynthia continued, not noticing that Toni had stiffened beside her. "I mean, why do they have to share that with the rest of us?"
"Let me ask you something." Cynthia turned to Toni with surprise hearing the anger in her voice. "If you were walking here with your boyfriend, would you hold hands with him in public?"
"Why, of course, but I..."
Toni cut her off. "Then why is it so wrong for two people, regaurdless of their sex, who care about each other to hold hands?"
"I don't understand why you are angry about this." Cynthia pleaded.
Toni gently took Cynthia's arm and led her over to a nearby bench motioning for her to sit. "Look Cynthia, I really have enjoyed getting to know you. I thought we could build a good friendship. You are funny and intelligent. I can't believe you are this close minded about this."
Sensing something was very wrong, Cynthia began to cry. "Look, I'm sorry. I've just never seen people like that before." Then with a hint of fear in her voice. "You don't think they heard me do you?"
Toni leaned toward Cynthia, her face still flush with anger. "Cynthia, they didn't hear you. But I did."
"I'm very sorry, I didn't mean to say anything that would anger you like this. Please, I do want us to be friends. Tell me why you are so angry."
"Cynthia, I also want us to be friends. But I don't think that can happen now. Perhaps we should just say good bye."
Cynthia looked up into Toni's scowling face. "No! Just tell me what's wrong with you!"
Toni looked down at Cynthia and sighed. "There's nothing wrong with me Cynthia. That's the point. We can't be friends because of your feelings on this issue. We can't be friends if you feel the way that you do." Toni sighed again. "I was waiting for the right time tonight to tell you, because I tell everyone. But now it doesn't really matter. We can't be friends because I don't think you can deal with the fact that I am gay."
Cynthia's mouth opened in shock as she continued to stare up at Toni. Unable to speak, she continued to stare. Toni waited for a response, then sensing one would not be forthcoming, she shook her head sadly and turned away to walked back to her SUV. Cynthia continued to sit on the bench, still shocked. Eventually she stood and returned to her car slowly. As she sat down in her Lexus she looked at herself in the rearview mirror and began to cry.
Continued in Chapter 4
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