Ready for this week’s prompt?
Until the end of the conversation, I didn’t even realize who he was.
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The buzzer echoed throughout the gymnasium. Jamie shifted her weight from foot-to-foot and kept an eye on her coach. She was anxious to get back onto the court and help her teammates out.
“Sit down, Jamie,” the assistant coach said and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. “You need to rest that ankle a bit before you can get back out there.”
“I’m fine,” she said through clenched teeth and shot an anxious look up at the scoreboard. “And we’re behind. Put me back out there, coach. I can get us some points.”
“No way. You’re out until the second half. The doctor doesn’t like the look of that swelling. Sit down and take some weight off of it. Better yet, put an ice pack on it.” She nodded to one of the student go girls. “I’m serious, Jamie. We could really use you out there in the second half, but if that swelling doesn’t go down, forget about it.”
Jamie huffed in irritation and plopped down into a nearby chair. She crossed her arms and scowled with disappointment.
“Here you go, Jamie,” Tina said and gently placed an ice pack on her left ankle.
She grunted. She didn’t really mean to be rude, but she was just so disappointed – she really wanted to get back out there. Her new boyfriend was in the crowd watching somewhere and she wanted to impress him. Instead, she was stuck on the sidelines.
“This blows,” she muttered.
“Yeah. Doesn’t it?” A man’s voice sounded behind her and she twisted around to get a look. She didn’t recognize him. Even though he was sitting, he looked tall. He was rather rigid and he looked uncomfortable.
She lifted a brow at him.
“Uh, yeah.” She didn’t know what else to say and turned back to watch the game. They were down eight points. She balled her hands into fists. This was the last game of the season her senior year. She really wanted to wrap up the year with a big win.
“So, what happened to your ankle?” The man behind her asked.
She narrowed her eyes. She was really in no mood to chit-chat. But because her mother brought her up to be respectful, she took a breath, slowly counted to five, then turned around to answer him.
“I twisted it about two minutes into the game.”
“On that lay up?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yeah. Number 32 bumped into me as I was going up and I came down the wrong way.” She shrugged. “It really doesn’t hurt. I’ve had worse.”
“Man, that really sucks.”
She nodded, her mouth set into a grim line.
“It’s not the same without the star athletic out there.”
She lifted a brow, then eased into an embarrassed smile. “I’m not the star athlete,” she sputtered out.
“I beg to differ. I’ve watched enough games this season. Plus, your stats are impressive. Are you going on to play college ball?”
She took another breath before shrugging. “I’d like to, but I haven’t heard from any scouts yet. I was hoping …” she paused, then straightened her shoulders, her voice determined. “If I don’t get recruited, I’ll figure something out.”
“I hear there’s a scout tonight,” the man said, his eyes roaming over the bleachers on the other side of the court.
She followed his gaze, her eyes skimming over the faces of the people, their features indistinguishable from that distance. “Yeah. I heard that, too.”
“This could be your last chance.”
She turned back around to face him. “Dude. You’re not helping.”
He laughed and put his hands up to indicate a silent truce. “Sorry.”
She could feel a bubble of irritation building at the base of her stomach. She turned away from the man so she wouldn’t say something she regretted and gave her ankle a gentle twist to test for pain. There was a slight twinge, but overall, it felt pretty good. She forced herself to relax. They had three minutes before halftime. She would lie down on one of the benches in the locker room for most of the fifteen minutes they had until the second half and that should do the trick. She would do her best to baby her ankle for the next 20 minutes, but whatever happened, she was going back out onto that court after halftime.
“So, is your mom here?”
Jamie blinked. What was this guy’s problem? Was he some sort of perv? Was he stalking her? She turned around and shot him a dirty look.
“Of course. My mom comes to every game.”
“I see. And your dad?”
She exhaled her irritation. “Dude. What is your problem? Stop asking me personal questions!”
“Sorry.” He looked at over the crowd once again. Jamie watched him cautiously. “So, is your mom close by? Can you see her from where we’re sitting?”
Jamie’s mouth dropped. He was seriously crossing a boundary here. “What the hell? Are you a stalker or something? Why are you bugging me?”
“Look. I’m sorry,” he said and leaned toward her so the girls on either side of her wouldn’t hear. She backed away from him as his face got closer. “Just tell me, did your mother remarry? I know this is a weird question coming from a stranger and all, but I … need to know.”
“I’m not telling you anything. And if you continue to talk to me, I’m telling the coach you’re bothering me.”
He raised his hands again in a sign of surrender. “Again. Sorry.”
The buzzer sounded to indicate the second quarter was over. Jamie felt instant relief. This guy was really making her uncomfortable.
Two of her teammates helped her off the court and toward the locker room. She probably could have walked on her own, but she didn’t want to take a chance on aggravating her injury any more than she needed to.
When she got into the locker room, she gingerly laid down on a bench. She bent both knees and rested her left leg on top of her right leg. She thought if she elevated it a bit, that would help.
“Are you okay?” Her mom threaded her way through the other girls toward her.
“Fine,” she snapped and then sighed. It wasn’t her mom’s fault this had happened. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths to try and calm herself down. In addition to the whole ankle drama, she couldn’t shake off the weird man who had been talking to her. There was something odd about him.
“I saw you were talking to the scout,” her coach said.
Jamie’s eyes flew open. “What??”
“The man sitting behind you. He’s a scout for Columbia. You didn’t know?”
“Uh, no,” Jamie said and slowly sat up.
“We’ll talk later,” coach said and gave her a wink.
“Scout?” Jamie repeated and gave her mom a grief-stricken look.
“Scout?” her mom repeated. “Well. He went into sports after all.”
Jamie felt sick to her stomach. She had been so rude to the man! But why had he asked her all those questions about her mom? It didn’t make sense. She rubbed her forehead in confusion a few seconds before her mom’s words sunk in.
“What? You know that guy?”
Her mom’s face colored. She crossed her arms and took a sudden interest in her shoes.
“Mom? What’s going on?”
“This is not the time to talk about this. You still have the second half to get through.”
“Whatever. You know me. There is no way I can concentrate if I don’t know what’s going on.”
Her mom sat down next to her. “Promise you won’t be mad?”
Jamie cocked a brow. “Mom,” she said, her tone laced with warning.
She sighed and placed an arm around her. “I’m sorry. I had no intention of bringing this up now, but …” she sighed again. “I had no idea he would show up tonight. Though now that I know that he’s a scout, that sort of makes sense.”
“Who IS that man?”
“Jamie. Sweetie.” She gave her a gentle, loving smile. “That man is your father.”