The room was rippling with the power he had, but as I relaxed and lounged back against the wall, I began to pick up what else was coming off of him. And I felt anger. His anger. His bounces were hard and forceful. His shoulders were tense, so was his jaw as he kept his head bent down.
All pro players were phenomenal athletes, but when Reese was on the court, he was different. I should know. I watched him enough. He could move the ball around like it was magic, sending it through legs, outstretched arms, and behind his own back. There were times when he was in the Reese Zone, as the announcers liked to call it, when he almost toyed with his opponents. He could send off a quick round of sharp and abrasive dribbling, then suddenly, whoosh, that ball was either in the air or in the hands of his teammate and his defender had barely blinked.
I watched him for another hour, and he never slowed down.
Bounce, bounce, pivot, then up for a layup. Sometimes, he fell back and tossed it up in a pretty arc, what would be a teardrop shot or a floater. Other times, a hard hit against the backboard. Just over and over again.
A quick rebound.
Or back to the three-point line.
The free-throw line.
He just kept on.
After a third hour, he started to slow down.
Another player came in the side door, but he saw Reese playing, and after a second of watching him, he eased back out.
I didn’t think it was coincidence that Juan Cartion came to stand outside another side door a few minutes later. He made no move to come inside. It was apparent he was there to watch his best friend, and when Reese switched from shooting hoops to walking up and down the court dribbling the ball in short, angry staccato beats, his friend left.
A normal person would’ve lost the ball in two seconds.
Reese never did.
My phone beeped.
Dazed, I grabbed it to see what the alert was.
Trent: Headed to my room. Where are you? I need to get to bed, early flight in the morning.
He wanted to come and say goodbye. I was weird about goodbyes. Just tack that on to the long list of what made me special, but it was what it was. I hated saying goodbye. Despised. Loathed. Strongly opposed. You name it, I was. There was a reason for it, and as I remembered and felt that pressure building in my chest, I shut it down.
It was ironic because that shut everything else off too.
Me: Damian called. Mind if I give you a goodbye hug through our phones? Can you feel it?
Damian was one of the few reasons Trent would believe I needed space.
I felt a burning in my throat. The bark had moved to the side.
I hit send, and there was a small pause.
Trent: Sounds good. Call me if you want to talk.
I pocketed the phone, knowing I wouldn’t call, knowing he knew I wouldn’t call, and knowing we both knew the next time we’d talk was when he came back at the end of this whole preseason training camp.
Turning off the light in the cage, I slid onto the stool behind the counter.
I sat and watched Reese Forster play, knowing this was a special moment in my life. I wanted to protect it, even if that meant lying to a friend.
I was okay with that, and if I explained it to Trent later, I thought he’d be okay with it too.
Babe, forgive me.
Buzz, buzz, buzz.
I swatted at a fly. It was waking me up, and it kept coming around. Finally, hearing another buzz, I bolted upright with my pillow in hand, and I swung. That sucker was going down.
I swung and the pillow hit me in the face. I ate cloth.
I had to sit for a minute and get my bearings, but when I heard another buzz, along with the words of Ricky Nelson’s “Baby I’m Sorry,” which I had programmed at an accidental brilliant moment. The song sounded different because I got the phone to sing it in an Australian accent. Genius, I tell you.
Without looking, I knew who the texts were from, and then I was wishing for the fly instead.
That song played every time Lucas texted, which meant he… I had no clue what it meant, actually. I hadn’t heard a word from him since Newt broke the news to me and I’d left the next day with Trent.
I did the math, which was hard, and we were at the forty-eight-hour mark. So either Lucas just found out or the next girl had already dumped him.
I considered for a second, and my money was on the girl. I rolled over and picked up the phone.
Lucas: Why aren’t you answering my texts?
Lucas: Where are you?
Lucas: Gramps said you came by. I missed you.
Lucas: I miss you now.
Lucas: You’re still not answering— He was covering his ass. There were twenty other texts from him, and I deleted all of them—without blinking, without a second thought, without reading. One by one, I wiped them clear, and once the screen was blank, a satisfied smile came to my face.
I lie back down, closing my eyes. I could get another twenty minutes of shut-eye.
It was louder now that I was awake.
Groaning, I flipped the phone on and hit call. I was ready for him, expecting him to answer.
It rang, and rang, and then, “This is the Luc-machine. Say your piece and I might listen…”
He didn’t answer and he’d literally just texted.
After the beep, I said, “Dude. You were fucking another girl. Your grandpa told me. We’re done, and save your drool. You were the guy to help me get over someone ten times better than you. I used you, so whatever. We’re through. You’re not worth the time it took to call you.” I started to hang up, but brought the phone back to my mouth. “Do not call, text, send smoke signals, think about me, or jerk off to me. Done, Luc-you-bet-your-ass-you’re-an-ass. BYE, Felicia.”
I hung up, then wiped him from the phone and his number too.
Then I realized the last text hadn’t been from him.
Trent: Hey. Call me later. Want to make sure you’re okay.
Well… I sat and stared at it, and groaned. Shit on me.
Me: Sorry I flaked last night. I’m fine. How was your flight?
I studied my phone after that, looking at the history, and saw that Lucas had texted all day yesterday. They just all came flooding in at the same time because reception was iffy on this island.
Well...still didn’t matter. He cheated. We were done.
A new text came in.
That was Lucas.
I laughed, and once I started, I kept going.
I was tempted to tell him I’d met Reese Forster last night, just for some revenge, but it wasn’t worth risking my NDA. He was the type to call Keith and tattle on me, or worse—show up so I would introduce him.
I groaned. I was too awake now. It was five in the morning. I’d gotten four hours of sleep. But in camp life, that was almost eight hours. Reese Forster had kept running drills until twelve-thirty. I could’ve kicked him out at midnight, but I hadn’t had the heart.
I’d turned the light off in the cage, though, so when he was done, he must’ve thought I’d gone.
I was like a creepy statue against the wall, just to the side of the counter. If he had looked in and to his left, he would’ve seen me there. I’m sure that would’ve gone over well, but he hadn’t. He put the ball on the counter, made sure it didn’t fall off, and left, hitting the light switch as he went.
It had been dark, but a little bit of moonlight showed through the screen door, so I could see enough to take the ball and put it on the floor, then feel around for the door handle. My phone was in my pocket. I had been just leaving the cage, pulling my phone out to light the way, when I heard the screen door open again.
It was Forster.
I held still, not moving an inch.
He’d walked clear across the courts and checked the other screen door, shaking it and then locking it after he found it open.
He never turned the light on again, just rotated swiftly, retraced his steps, and locked the first door behind him.
The locks on the screen doors didn’t really hold. If someone wanted to break in, they could’ve just ripped the door open with a bit of extra oomph. But still, his concern had me melting.
I didn’t know where he was staying, but there was a good chance he was at the staff headquarters. They were the nicest place to stay, and Keith had closed it down for campers during this session. Forster was just about the best kind of camper there was, and if that’s where he was going, he would’ve taken the same path as I needed to.
Stalking him in the dead of the night was a step this girl wasn’t ready to take.