Comfort Zone

Pre-game

They’d played well together, after all, if they can just beat the next team, the gold medal game will be their next match. It’s the Olympics, and here they are, playing another American team for the chance to play in the final game for a gold medal.

Except that Kelli can’t stop that nagging voice in the back of her head, “You’ve seen how they look at each other,” the voice taunts, “they’re still so buddy-buddy. They smile at each other. There’s a history there. What, do you think you’re that good on the court-and in the bed-that you can keep her from looking at Molly? Dream on, Kelli.” She stands and shakes her head to quiet the voice just before she feels Mandy’s hand on her back. She turns slightly to face the smile that melts her resolve.

“Hey sweetie, you ready?” Mandy’s eyes are bright even behind the sunglasses.

When she utters the question, all other voices are drowned out for Kelli. She nods first, then adds, “Yeah. I’m ready.”

Mandy grabs her hand and pulls her to the court, “Then let’s kick some ass!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After Set 1

Mandy takes her seat and grabs a water, “Damn that was awesome! Do you feel the energy?”

The pre-game jitters (and nagging voice) are gone, so Kelli returns the smile, “Yeah, it’s great!”

“We just need to feed off that and shut these bitches down.” Mandy wipes her face quickly with a towel.

“Yeah. It’s honestly easier than I thought it would be. It’s like they’re tired.”

Mandy nods and steals a glance at Molly and Emily, “Yeah. I think they were up all night having sex or something.” She turns her attention back to her towel without thinking about what she’s saying, “Molly always got like that. She couldn’t focus after a night of sex.” She chuckles to herself then makes eye contact with Kelli, “That’s probably why she couldn’t perform very well. Because it took her forever to get me off and that meant very little sleep.”

Kelli’s face pales before contorting in disbelief, “What?”

Mandy, taken aback at Kelli’s facial reaction, retracts, “What I mean is that when we’d have s-”

Kelli stands, frustrated, and mutters under her breath “I know what you meant, I don’t fuckin’ want to hear it. Let’s talk strategy, okay? I’m done with this part of the conversation.”

“Okay. I’m sorry, Kelli.” Mandy stands next to the woman, who is inconsolable, “I’m really sorry.”

“Oh,” Kelli breathes hotly, “I just bet you are.”

Mandy’s eyes fall to the ground and she sighs, “You have no idea.”

“Get out of your comfort zone out there, you’re playing like a pansy. Let’s put this one to bed and fuckin’ be done with them.” Kelli starts towards the court and then throws over her shoulder, “And smile.”

Mandy closes her eyes for a moment to calm herself, then she plasters a smile on her face and follows Kelli.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Last few seconds of set/game

They’d played with tension and anger for the entire set. Their hugs were perfunctory and short. Their words cordial but emotionless. Mandy was dying inside, needing feedback that was genuine, words that were heart-felt. She had to make Kelli understand she’d messed up.

After match point #2 Kelli sighs with anger and approaches Mandy, “Come on, babe. We can do this. Just one more.”

Mandy’s eyes water as she mumbles, “Please don’t be mad at me.”

Kelli reaches out and touches Mandy’s arm, “I’m not anymore.”

Mandy’s shoulders fall with relief, “Thank god.”

Kelli smiles, “Let’s do this.”

“Hell yeah.”

They begin the longest volley of the match. It’s almost as if Kelli’s in a power play against Molly McKale’s memory. The ball goes back and forth over the next like Mandy’s affections seem to go between herself and Molly. Back and forth, back and forth, driving Kelli to the verge of madness.

“I will win, damn it,” flashes through Kelli’s mind just before she slams the ball hard to the other side of the net. “It’s over.”

Before she has a moment to think about it, Mandy’s in Kelli’s arms, legs almost wrapped around the woman’s waist. She doesn’t think about the cameras that are clicking. She doesn’t consider the microphones close to the court when she speaks, “I love you. And now I’m in my comfort zone. Oh god, I love you.”

Kelli’s eyes fill with tears, “And I love you. So much…so much.”

Their hug, though brief, is just enough to dissolve the anger from before, the tension from earlier, and the doubt from Kelli’s mind. They part long enough to congratulate the opposing team. And even though Molly hugs Mandy for a little longer than Kelli would like, she’s not worried. Mandy loves her and they’re about to win the gold medal. That’s all she needs to know.

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