Winning the Game Chapter Excerpt: Rush

Sunday, November 30, 2014


This is an excerpt from another novel I was working on in high school, and never finished. It's actually almost done, and with a ton of work and rewriting, it might be good enough to turn into an ebook. I'll keep you posted. :)

In her dream, she was on the soccer field. Sweat was dripping down her face. She was nervous as she stood in front of the goal. She could hear her rapid breathing, she could feel her heart pumping in her chest, and she could smell the freshly mowed grass beneath her feet. The soccer ball was underneath her foot, and when she looked at Parker and saw his dazzling smile, she knew what she had to do. She lifted her foot and kicked the ball into the net. A crowd she couldn’t see cheered behind her as her teammates lifted her off the ground in praise. When they set her down, Parker took her into his arms. He was just about to kiss her when her alarm buzzed her awake.

“What the hell.” Joyce groaned from her bed. “Are you insane? Who the hell gets up before the sun?”

Karissa ignored the rhetorical question as she hurried to get dressed. Joyce pulled her covers over her head and was asleep again within seconds. Before leaving, Karissa checked herself in the mirror. Her red sports bra and black spandex shorts hugged her minuscule curves tightly while leaving her exposed in all the places she was visibly toned. Her oversized glasses almost looked out of place when combined with her outfit, and her hair was half-hazardly coiled into a bun at the top of her head. But she wasn't trying to impress anyone. She just wanted to keep the sand out of her eyes and her hair out of her mouth.

At least that's what she told herself.

Karissa arrived at the vending machine right on time yet Parker was already there waiting for her. She was surprised to see that there were two other people waiting there with him. One of them was a guy she recognized as one of the fullbacks on the soccer team. He had the kind of muscles and height that made Karissa feel like he could roll her into a ball and use her for baseball practice if he wanted to. However, his light blue eyes and warm smile contained just enough gentle playfulness to ease his intimidation factor. The girl wrapped in his arms obviously didn’t think he was so intimidating as her thin lips were curled into a smile as she gazed up at him with her sapphire blue eyes. She towered over Karissa yet possessed the same strong body. Her strong facial features were highlighted by her pixie cut, and Karissa was almost more intimidated by her than her boyfriend. She hoped this girl wasn't going to be trying out for the team as well. She'd surely beat Karissa in the competition

“Karissa! Hey!” Parker greeted, his lips curling into a wide grin at the sight of her. “These are some of the friends going with us this weekend. This is Jack and his girlfriend Mikaela.”

“I go by Micky.” Mikaela corrected, shaking Karissa’s hand.

Up close, Karissa could see the tan lines around Micky’s neck. She had obviously spent too much time lounging at the beach.

“It’s a pleasure to meet both of ya’ll.” Karissa said, and Jack’s thick lips curled into a big smile at her words.

“Holy shit.” Jack said. “Parker was telling the truth. You really do have the cutest Southern accent!”

“Why thank you!” Karissa said.

“We should probably get going now.” Parker suggested, and with that they all walked to Parker’s car.

“Hey, I was thinking about hitting the surf tomorrow morning. Do you know how to surf?” Jack asked Karissa as Parker drove them all to the beach.

“I sure do.” Karissa answered. “I s’pose I’ll just have to see how much homework I have to get done.”

“What's your Major?” Micky asked.

“Kinesiology.” Karissa replied. “My folks made me choose it, though.”

“She’s the girl I was telling you about, Jack. She’s the one who wants to try out for the team.” Parker said.

“No shit! You don't look at all like you play for the other team!” Jack said.

"What?" Karissa asked. "What other team?"

"You know...the other team."

Karissa blinked, confused. 

"You're a lesbian, right?" Jack asked, and Karissa immediately glared at Parker.

“You can tell them I wanna join the team yet you ain’t tellin’ them I ain’t interested in girls? Come on now, Parker! This just ain’t right!” Karissa said, and Parker chuckled.

“Trust me. It’s probably best they don’t know.” Parker responded. “Unless it bothers you?”

“Well, it sure ain’t pleasin’ to have everybody assumin’ I have the mind of a guy! I can be girl and a good player at the same time, ya know!” 

“Hey, don’t feel bad.” Jack interjected. “We just know that the only girl brave enough to be part of a team full of guys is one who has the mind of a guy herself. Any other girl wouldn’t be able to handle us. Isn’t that right, babe?” Jack asked Micky, and Micky rolled her eyes.

“That’s for sure. I’m not even part of the team and I can barely handle them!” Micky agreed. “You’re a brave girl.”

“Oh, I’m sure it ain’t that bad. The game is worth it.” Karissa argued, and Parker smiled at her.

“It really is.” Parker concurred. 

The beach was a beautiful sight to see once they arrived. A cool breeze drifting by directed their gaze immediately to the sun rising over the ocean. The sight was enough to make Karissa wish she could just lie down on the soft sand and fall asleep. She didn’t, though. Instead, she jogged alongside Parker as Jack and Micky followed a few yards behind. A few gulls shrieked overhead as they sliced through the air, but it was the sound of the waves battering into the shore that Karissa was focused on. She was also distinctly aware of Parker keeping pace beside her. She inhaled. This was the most peaceful moment she could ever remember experiencing.

“What are you thinking about?” Parker suddenly asked her.

“Oh, nothin’ special. I just like runnin’ out here. It’s gorgeous.” Karissa replied. “Why do ya ask?”

“No reason. Just trying to start a conversation I guess.”

“Well then, what are you thinkin’ ‘bout, Parker?”

“Soccer. I can’t wait for the season to start. I’m tired of all this training. I want to compete already.”

“I can imagine. Trainin’ was the hardest part back in Georgia on my club team, and it ain’t the trainin’ that was hard. It was the darn waitin’ that was hard. We go through all that trainin’ without ever playin’ a single game. A scrimmage or two I s’pose, but that doesn’t count. It’s the action that counts ‘cause it’s the action that gives you that rush.”

“Yeah. I miss that rush. It’s probably the best feeling in the world.”

“And you can’t forget that feelin’ of victory when you win a game. Nothin’ can beat that feeling either.”

“Did you ever play soccer for the schools you went to, or were you just on the club team?”

“Oh, I played for school too. My school team just ain’t very good. I blame the coach. You know he rarely showed up to teach us? He didn’t teach us a darn thing. He just expected us to go out and win our games all by ourselves. Such a shame too. I know with proper instruction we could’ve won those games.”

“You mean you couldn’t win the games for them?”

“It’s a team effort, and there wasn’t no team effort. I tried to teach what the darn coach wouldn’t, but most of them girls just didn’t want to learn. News spread fast around my school, and any class where the teacher ain’t present most the time was a class everybody signed up for, whether they liked it or not.”

“Sounds harsh. But I guess your club team did a lot better, huh?”

“It sure did. We were number one in state. Woulda made it to nationals too, but our best goalie was out sick, and we were stuck with the girl who was tall and afraid of the ball. Poor girl was hated for so long she had to quit the team!”

“I guess our backup goalkeeper is lucky I never miss a game. Not too lucky, though. I mean, not getting any playing time is probably just as bad as being hated by the entire team.”

“I sure would think so. There ain’t a point to being on a team if you can’t play.”

They didn’t have a race this time. Instead, they just kept running at that same steady pace for miles before finally turning around and heading back. Parker and Karissa kept their conversation going almost the whole time while Micky and Jack chattered away with a conversation of their own. Karissa was surprised at how well Micky was able to keep up although she shouldn’t have been. Perhaps it was just because Karissa had grown up being the only girl athletic enough to keep up with all the boys, and Micky being able to do the same was shocking.

At the end of their run, before getting into the car, Micky threw off her men’s tank and short shorts. She was wearing a skimpy bikini underneath which allowed her to run straight into the waves with Jack accompanying her. She looked at Parker with a baffled expression. The water was probably freezing, and this was not to mention that none of them had brought towels with them. However, when Parker took of his t-shirt, and ran into the ocean as well, Karissa didn’t care about any of that anymore. She hadn’t brought any swimming clothes with her, but her outfit was close enough to work with. After putting her glasses safely in the car, she plunged into the water, the salty iciness of it feeling amazingly satisfying on her skin. She laughed when a wave hit her, nearly knocking her over. This was her first time swimming in the ocean since her last surfing lesson, and it felt incredible.

She let down her hair before diving under the water again. She knew her hair was going to be a curly mess once she came up for air again, but she didn’t care. This was invigorating. It was almost as great as the rush of playing soccer and winning the game. She had no fears, no worries, and nothing else that could have been labeled negative, even though she could hardly see without her glasses.

Coming up for air, Karissa realized that Parker was standing right in front of her. He was so close that Karissa could actually see him. She could see the way his lips were curled in a complacent smile, and the way his golden eyes sparkled like the metal they represented at the sight of her. He looked as if he was in awe of her, and when he quickly took her hand, Karissa felt as if she was in awe of him too. However, any thought that this might be a special moment between the two of them was shattered as soon as it became clear he only took her hand to lead her back to the shore.

“Come on. I don’t want you to be late to your first class.” He directed, dropping her hand as soon as she started walking with him.

Jack and Micky were already on the shore when she and Parker arrived. Karissa had been under the water for longer than she thought. Then again, she had been the last one to dive in, and everyone else had probably just been going in for a quick, refreshing dip after the long, intense job they finished.

Karissa tied her hair up in a bun again before getting into the car, and she was glad to be able to see again once she put on her glasses. Parker smiled at her before starting the car and beginning the rather short drive back to the university.

“That was fun. We should come running with you two more often.” Micky spoke with a grin. “How often do you two do this?”

“Every other day.” Parker answered before Karissa could.

Karissa would have told Micky that this was only their second time running together, but she liked Parker’s answer much better. She liked how he made it seem as if they had known each other for much longer than they had, and that they frequently spent their time together. Therefore, she kept quiet as a small smile spread across her lips. She wasn’t sure whether it had been the run, the swim, or Parker that placed the smile on her face, but every one of them was entirely great so it didn’t matter to her.

“It was nice meeting ya’ll.” Karissa told Jack and Micky once they were parting ways in the dining hall.

“It was great meeting you too, Karissa. We should do this again some time, and I’ll be seeing you tomorrow, right? You’re going to the concert with us?” Micky asked, and Karissa nodded.

“I wouldn’t miss that concert.” Karissa assured.

“Let me know if you want to go surfing with us.” Jack urged. “Or I guess let Parker know since you already have his number.”

“Sure thing.” Karissa grinned.

Karissa turned to leave, but Parker pulled her back and wrapped her in compressing hug. Karissa felt her heart jolt at his touch, and she was left utterly shocked and speechless. However, she pulled herself together once Parker let her go, even though his act of affection had sent tingles rushing through her entire body.

“I’ll see you around five thirty.” Parker said. “Oh, and Karissa?”

“Yes, Parker?” Karissa asked with wide, glowing eyes.

“Next time don’t leave without saying goodbye.”

The light in his eyes and the smile in his voice made it sound like a joke, but Karissa could tell that he really meant it. She nodded her head at him before walking away with the corniest smile on her face. She was glad that her father wasn’t there to see her smiling in such a way. She could only imagine what he would be telling her at that moment.

“Yer lettin’ that dern pretty boy get in yer head, Karissa. Ya know that ain’t no good now. He’s gonna break yer dern heart, and I ain’t gonna be there to protect ya. Ya hear me, Karissa? Ya better cut yer ties with him right now befer it happens.”

Karissa shook her head. Her dad could be right, but Karissa didn’t want to think so. Besides, Parker wasn’t romantically involved with her. He probably never would be either. They had a deal: a lesson for a lesson. He was just being a good friend to her, and that’s probably all he wanted to be. After all, Karissa was sure she was just “one of the boys” like she always had been. She didn’t think she was Parker’s type. 

Maybe if he had grown up with her he would understand. Maybe if he knew the outdoors had been the only place to go, that soccer was the only thing that got her off the ranch, and that she was the only girl in a family full of older boys who worked on the ranch with her. Besides her teammates, the only woman Karissa interacted with was her mother. She couldn’t help it if she was raised in a testosterone-ruled environment.

Parker didn’t know this, though. Nobody at the university knew this, and until they visited the ranch themselves, they probably never would. Karissa was “one of the boys” and the opposite of a “real girl.” She was used to being in this category.

But for the first time, with Parker, it was a disappointment.

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