As I take the ball, a small, almost undetectable smile flashes on her face.
God, I love her. I sigh and pretend to be annoyed, “Ok. You’re not squaring your shoulders.” I dribble, “A free throw is supposed to be fluid. Just one long, continuous process of motions without pauses.” She stands to the side, hands on her hips, amusement in her eyes, with her back to Sam, “One long, slow motion?”
“Something like that, Cooper, yeah.” I manage to not laugh as I shoot. When the ball slides off my fingertips, I turn to look at her, “I don’t even have to look,” I hear the swish, “I know before I even let go that it’s going in.”
She doesn’t even watch the ball, her eyes lock with mine and I can see that her breathing is quick and shallow, “I see.” She retrieves the ball and approaches me, “Show me how?”
My eyes narrow and I nod, “Sure. Come here.”
She gives me a look and says, “Girl, you need to remember I ain’t stable right now.”
I motion with my hand and ignore her statement, “Come on, I won’t bite.” She shakes her head and I see her jaw is tight, straining against making some sort of comment, I’m sure. “Stand behind me, please.” She moves into place behind me but not close enough, “No, come closer. You’re going to want to get right up against me so you can feel the motions.”
She sighs in my hair, “Now you’re just being mean, damn you. I’m going to feel plenty.”
“Put your arms around me, Cooper, and stop complaining,” my tone isn’t light and fun. I’m being curt and forceful for show, “Now, you dribble twice,” our arms move together, but I’m the only one touching the ball, “and bring it up to line up your shot.” I aim, “Roll the ball off your fingertips, and follow through.”
The ball swishes through the net right as she whispers, “I want you.”
I swallow hard and go after the ball, “Okay, think you got it? Show me your stance.”
She sighs and squares herself to the goal, “Is this right?”
“Close,” I nod and walk to her. “Spread your legs more,” I say with the slightest smile.
Her eyebrow twitches, “That’s not the first time you’ve wanted me to do that.”
“Yeah, but it’s the first time I’ve ever had to ask.”
Clearly being challenged and unprepared for that, she nods, “I’m going to eat you alive for that.”
I check her feet, “That’s good.” As I walk around the side of her to come up behind her, I mumble, “Promise?”
The sound she makes in response is low, powerful, and deep inside her chest, “Mhmm”
Putting my hands on her still naked waist, “Bend your knees a bit.” I feel her take a deep breath and I move my hand to her stomach and press, “Straighten your back.”
“Fucking hell,” she whispers.
“Now dribble,” I bend with her, “set your shoulders and aim,” I press against her back fully, enjoying the feel of her muscles moving, tense and hard. Then I whisper, “Let the ball roll off your fingers,” the ball is in the air when I finish, “and me off your lips.” I move away from her as the ball goes through the hoop, “Good job, Coop!” She bends in half, hands on her knees, breathing erratically and eyes closed. I bring her the ball, “You okay?”
She stands up again, takes the ball from me, and looks me in the face, “You…” she starts and has to stop to shake her head, “are going to be the death of me, Sara Mayze.”
I glance at Sam and Ashley, who are now sitting with their backs turned, talking to other team members, and then turn back to her, “But what a way to go, hm?”
“You wanna know how I’m gonna go, Sara?” She gets very close to me, her eyes kind of wild and her whole body trembling a bit, “When you got to bed tonight, no matter where you are, know that I’m in my bed, wet, hot, wanting you. And that I’ll likely be whispering your name over and over while I will my fingers to feel like yours. While I try like hell to make my lips taste half as good as yours. While I bend and move alone, I’ll be wishing like fuck you were there over me, under me… wherever… just there. And that, when I’m done, I’ll cry your name into a pillow along with a thousand tears because you’re not there. You won’t be there. You will be with someone else… in some other place… doing something similar. That’s how I’ll go, Sara. Alone. Wanting you every moment… because I love you.” She walks past me and into the locker room.
Stunned, I feel the tears fall before I realize I’ve started crying. A hand on my shoulder startles me and I turn to face Ashley.
“Aw, honey,” she pulls me to her. “We have to end this shit. You’re dying and it’s killing me.”
“I don’t want to hurt her or anyone else,” I sob openly into her shoulder.
She pets my hair and whispers, “I know, sweetie. I know.” She pulls back, “You should get your bag and go to your room. Sam’s showering and wanted me to tell you she’s going to class and will call you after.” She wipes a tear off my cheek, “Go to the room and cry or shower or whatever. Think about what you need to do, maybe?”
I nod, “Okay. Thank you.”
When my phone goes off at 7:30pm, I’ve showered, dressed for bed, and turned off all the lights. I’m grateful it’s a text and not a phone call. My voice wouldn’t work since I’ve been crying since I left the gym. The light from my phone is bright and makes my eyes water, but I can’t stop the smile when I read that it’s from Jesse.
“about earlier..im sorry. i love you, sara.”
I text back, “i’m sorry, too. i thought you wanted me to play along.” For some reason, knowing she’s not mad at me makes me happier than I was, but it also makes me cry a little. I didn’t mean to create the kind of need that’s painful. I just thought we were flirting. I didn’t reply to the ‘I love you’, hoping she’ll assume I’d return it without typing it.
My phone vibrates again, “north stairwell in 10?”
“10 mins. be there.” I jump out of my bed and pull on a hoodie while slipping my sandals on. I silently thank God that I’m on the first floor and Jesse’s on the third while Sam’s not even in this building. I push open the door to the stairwell and catch her coming down the steps.
“Damn, I didn’t get to hide,” she pouts.
“I can close my eyes if you want me to,” I close them but can’t stop smiling.
“No,” she pulls me to her, “I want to see your eyes.” Concerned, she asks, “Have you been crying?”
I can’t lie to her, “Yes.” I stop her from saying anything, “But, I’m going to fix it.”
“How?” She gives me a sidelong look, “You’re not going to run her over, are you?”
I giggle, “I could tell you, Coop, but… then I’d have to kill you. And I want you to have plausible deniability.”
“You might as well, because being away from you is already killing me.”
“Aw,” I pull her lips to mine, “I’m hoping that, by this time tomorrow, we’ll either be together or well on the way.” She leans in and kisses me deeply, leaving me fuzzy-headed and dizzy. I sigh against her shoulder and she relaxes into me. For the first time, however, there’s this gnawing ache in me for Sam’s arms. I miss her smell. Her laugh, or rather, the longing for it, makes me a little depressed. I know how much I’ll hurt her when this is over. And I know how much it’ll hurt Jesse if I don’t do it. The one thing I don’t know is how much I’m going to hurt myself when I do whatever it is I’m going to do.
God, help me.