Chapter 48 The Big Day

Did I miss home?

Would it make me a bad person if I said not really? I have never been real close with my family, so the distance away was something I needed. I was making friends here. Real friends. School had started up, and while it was challenging, the teachers made me interested. The student body was full of different groups and cliques of people, but you weren’t tormented any time you tried to hang out with them. They were, for the majority, accepting of the newbies and helped each other out with homework and were generally understanding. But most of all, I loved the basketball team. I was, of course, competing with the girls for spots, but we understood why. We were a family. I was going to be playing in college where hundreds of people would come pay to watch me play. Not me specifically, but still. Nothing about it brought up memories of my former life.

Of my life before Jason.

The only thing I missed from home was Jason. It would always be Jason. He was my rock, my best friend, the only family I needed or wanted. I missed his smiles, the way his face lit up every time he saw me. I missed his gorgeous eyes and the way his body always fit with mine. I missed the feeling of being home, of being safe, of being in the right place when I was with him. All the amazing things of college could never give me what Jason gave me.

Jason taught me what happiness and love felt like, and whenever someone would make me laugh, I’d be reminded of all the times we laughed together. I was learning many things for my future here at Duke, but Jason was the best teacher I had ever encountered. I would never learn from another human being as much as I learned from Jason.

“I love you,” Jason whispered as he moved above me, reacquainting our bodies from the long months we had missed. And boy did I miss it, and from how quickly everything was over, he must have missed it, too. I didn’t mind how quickly things went. The fact that he was here, and I was holding him in my arms was enough for me.

“I love you, too,” I breathed into his neck, smelling the shampoo he used for his hair earlier. I hugged him tightly to me, wrapping my legs around his waist, relishing in the skin to skin contact between us. “God, I missed you.” I pulled my head away and cupped his face in my hands, staring up at him. Retracing all the lines and curves of his face to memory.

His hands were cupping my face as well, and he was trying to brush the hair away from my face. His gaze was full of longing and love, and one that I had missed all too much. “I missed you more than you’ll ever know,” he assured me with a smile that melted my heart.

Pulling his head to mine, I kissed him once more before he got up and we went used a towel to clean up before spilling back into the bed and holding each other tightly. The movie was almost done by now, but there was still a ways to go. I nestled into the crook of his shoulder and intertwined my legs with his. My left hand and his right hand finding their way together, and I closed my eyes. Reveling in moment.

“What are you thinking about?” Jason asked me after awhile. It seemed we both had abandoned any hope of actually seeing any part of the movie, but that was fine by me. There were better things to do to occupy our time.

I adjusted so that I could look up at him. “I was just thinking that you’re all I really miss from home.”

“What about your parents? I thought you guys were getting along so well before you left,” Jason asked curiously, his eyebrows raised.

Nodding, I nestling back into his shoulder again. “We were, but it’s too little too late, you know? I still have all those years of resentment built up. I’m not mad at them anymore, but i’m not going to book the next plane home on a weekend I have off just to see them. I’d do it to see you. You’d be the only reason, Jason. You’re all I really need.” I could feel him smile at that, and he used his left arm to caress my back then. “I’m just so happy you were able to come up here this weekend for my first game.”

Jason smiled, too. “I couldn’t miss it!”

I rolled back on top of Jason, kissing him on the mouth, biting his bottom lip playfully. “I’m going to be playing even better tomorrow with you here,” I told him as I trailed kisses along his jawline. I made a mental note to thank my roommate tomorrow. I owed her big time for this.


Basketball in hand, I took my place behind the starters right before we rushed the court, running all the way around it moving to our side and starting lay-ups. After I rebounded the ball and threw it to the next person in line for lay-ups, I rushed to the center of the court and looked around. The shot clock had 14 minutes and 23 seconds on the board. The bleachers were packed with fans. Not as packed as they would be for the men’s team later that night, but way more than anything I was used to.

The butterflies in my stomach started up as I searched the crowd, looking for friendly faces. I found Jason after awhile, honing in on him. He had gotten quite a good seat. Middle of the court, middle of the way up. He’d be able to see everything. I was starting to get nervous. So many people I would be watching me if I screwed up. I was not about to let that deter me. I had come to far for that now.

All too soon, the game had started. I didn’t see any playing time until the ten minute mark of the first half. I was sitting on the bench for what felt like forever when Coach grabbed my jersey and threw me towards the game table where I knelt and waited for the clock to stop before I could go in. In that moment, I made eye contact with Jason, and he gave me an encouraging nod as the whistle blew and I went in and replaced the starting point guard. Here it was. The make or break moment.

How’d the ball get into my hands? Who threw it to me? I glanced up and saw a defender rushing towards me, thinking she caught me daydreaming. Well, she had, but I snapped out of it just as she was reaching for the ball, and I pivoted away from her and started down the court, calling out the play I wanted. Eyes up, eyes up, Elijah. Gotta see the court. Where’d that defender go, know where she is. The defender was coming up behind me, hoping to strip me of the ball, but I managed to do a between the legs crossover, but the defender saw it coming and slapped the ball out of bounds.

I was inbounded the ball, and I was looking for a girl to roll open. I saw Maddison down low working to get open, and she was picking for Rose, and I knew if she rolled back the basket, she’d be open for a nice, easy lay-up, so I passed her the ball, meaning to lead her to the correct position, but I threw it too far, and it went between her fingers and out of bounds again. Their ball, and I got that turnover.

Shit. The whistle blew, and they were ushering in the substitutes. One of them came in for me. Me? Already? But I was only in for two plays! I rushed the bench, fire in my eyes, upset for the chance I wasn’t given to do anything. Coach was up in my face before I could even sit down. “What were you thinking? We’re not all about the tricks here. The tricks get you in trouble. Remember that.”

“I’m sorry, Coach. You got to give me another chance. I can do better,” I assured her.

“I don’t have to do nothing, now sit down.” She wasn’t happy, and it didn’t help that we were down by ten points, either.

I sat, hanging my head, I watched Jamaica excel on the court, and the more she excelled, the more playing time she got. And here I sat. Half time came and went and we were well into the second half. Coach hated me. I’d never see another minute again. With five minutes to go, Coach wanted to give her starting point guard a rest. We were down by five, now. But she wanted her starter rested for the last half.

“Elijah, I’m putting you in. Don’t let me down,” she warned, pushing me to the table.

I didn’t say anything because there wasn’t any need for words. I needed to prove I could do it not just talk it. I rushed in fully aware this time. I was thrown the ball, and I maneuvered my way out of the full court press. I refused to use any of the tricks for fear of messing up again and having coach take me out because of it. Instead, I kept to the basics.

Calling out a play, I threw the ball to a guard and went to screen for the opposite guard, but right as she brushed off my shoulder, I noticed an open spot under the basket on the other side, and I lost my man running down the side. Jamaica saw me open and tossed me the ball for an easy two points. I rushed back to the other end, high fiving the girls as I got into position. Knees bent, body low. I got this. My girl had the ball now, and I shuffled in front of her, blocking her way. I was focusing on her belly button. Eyes could lie to you, could trick you. But the body moved where the body moved. There was no trickery there.

She passed it off, and soon she wound up with the ball again. She tried a pump fake and dribble around me, but I saw it coming and swatted the ball away and started rushing down the court. I had a wide open lay-up, but I saw Maddison coming up on the other side, I passed her the ball and gave myself an assist. Down by 1 with two minutes left in the half.

A commercial timeout was called, and we rushed to the benches. I took a seat next to the other girls, grabbing my water bottle. The starting point guard would have been rested by now. I’d be getting pulled out, so I stood up to let her sit down, but Coach put her hand on my shoulder and forced me to sit. “Pay attention, Elijah. Here’s the play I want you to run.” She drew up a quick play on her board and we put our hands into the circle. “Blue Devils on three! One. Two. Three!”

Rushing back onto the court, I glanced over at Jason, giving him a smile and a wink, which he hurriedly returned. Focusing back on the task at hand, we were pressing the other team hard. Full court. We were to stay so tightly on our person they couldn’t move without us on them. My girl was thrown the ball, but I managed to step in front and steal it away, shooting an easy two pointer from seven feet away.

Up by one. Now we just needed to hold them there. Back to the press. But they managed to get it up the court, and we fell into place in a zone 1-3-1 defense. I was the one up top. They ended up putting a shot off, but fell up short. We were able to rebound it, and I was thrown the ball to bring up the floor. I glanced at the clock. Fifty seconds left. I threw a pass to Maddison, who ended up not being able to shoot, so she passed it back. I called out another play and threw it to Jaimaca, but the ball was picked off, and their girl was running in for a layup with seven seconds left in the game.

Why did I have to mess up with so little time on the clock, especially when we were ahead by one? Rushing back down the court, I pushed my body to the max, racing to get in front of her. I got in front of her and stood my ground. She plowed into me as she shot. The ball went up and went through the net. She made it just as the clock went off.

I made us lose. I gave up the winning point. But the referee was blowing a whistle and waving his hands. He was calling a charge. The basket didn’t count. The basket didn’t count! We won! The girls on the court rushed to me, helping me off the floor, pulling me towards the bench where the rest of the girls were patting me on the back and chest bumping me and celebrating.

I made eye contact with Coach and she just nodded, a hint of a smile on her lips. We shook hands with the opposing teams and went into the locker room for the post game talk from Coach. After a quick shower, I rushed back into the gym searching for Jason. I found him after a few minutes, rushing into his arms.

“You did amazing out there!” he exclaimed hugging me so tightly to his chest. “I’m so proud of you!” he kissed her fiercely on the lips, his own adrenaline pumping from the intensity of the game.

“I was so nervous. After my screw up, I wasn’t sure she’d ever let me play again!” I admitted. “But I’m so glad she gave me a second chance. That was the most amazing game I’ve ever played.” I couldn’t help but hug Jason again as I bounced in my excitement. “Let’s get out of here and go celebrate!”