Winning the Game: Ch. 1

       Karissa Mercy Jones sat in her Safety and Accident Prevention class, doodling on the blank sheet of paper in front of her. She was supposed to be taking notes on how to prevent a motor vehicle accident so that she may pass the quiz she would be having soon, but she was too angry with her parents to care whether she passed a quiz or not, and it was only common sense anyway. 

Yes, the Sports Medicine degree did suit her. She was in the perfect physical shape, she had a healthy dieting habit, and she loved sports. All the physical fitness classes she had to take her first year of college had barely been any work. Tennis had been hard as she had never liked the sport, and surfing had been a challenge as she had never lived near an ocean, but the mountain biking, canoe paddling, and team sports classes were simple, especially since a short soccer class was included in the team sports class. She’d definitely had her fair share of sports injuries over the years too, and knew she wouldn’t mind helping others heal from their own so they can get back to their game. However, her real passion was in soccer. 

Soccer to her was something she wanted to make a career out of. The thrill of playing and winning the game would be even better if there was a stadium full of devoted fans to cheer her name as she scored the winning goal…

But her parents had refused to allow her to put off college for a year so she could chase what to them was an “impossible fantasy."

They were pure southern horse ranchers, owning a successful horse ranch filled with the finest and friendliest horses, plenty of well-fed cows, a handful of rowdy goats, a few stray cats, and couple loyal dogs who pop out puppies too many times a year. Also, during the summer, the ranch would be infested with pesky little kids who have paid hundreds of dollars to attend the summer camp her parents host. On top of that, you also have the many other southerners who board their horses in the large, second barn and occasionally come out to ride, feed, and take care of them. If they didn’t come, her family was paid another large sum of money to take care of and ride the owner’s horses. This is still not to mention, of course, the crazed teenagers who trespassed during odd hours of the night to go “cow-tipping” making the cows groan like crazy, and forcing Karissa and her family to wake up and take care of the mess.

Needless to say, Karissa couldn’t get away fast enough. Luckily for her, she’d already been accepted to the prestigious Pepperdine University in California, and her parents hadn’t put up too much of a fuss about her going.

“I want you to be different,” her mother had told her. “I don’t want you to end up like your father and I. I want you to be something more. You’re already so much smarter than us. Getting that degree is going to be so easy for you, ain’t it?”

“What nonsense are you feedin’ our daughter, Darlene?” her father had argued. “She’s gettin’ the hell outta here, and goin’ all the way to damn California! California! You know how far away that is, Darlene? How are we s’posed to visit her, if she’s all the way across the country!”

Her mother had just laughed, and kissed her husband’s cheek.

“Oh hun, she’s gonna be fine. Don’t you worry. She’s a smart girl now.”

“What about all them boys? If a pretty boy comes along, you still think she’ll be smart then?”

“Dad! I’ll be fine. I’m not going to let anything get in the way of my studying,” Karissa had assured.

There had been plenty of arguments before it had finally been decided that Karissa was going to school in Malibu, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop her. 

       However, the degree was not the reason she had wanted to come here. It was more about the scenery, and definitely the lack of anything to do with horses that drew her in like a magnet. Spending four years in California would seem more like an extended vacation than anything else. 

     Plus, it was the greatest escape from her parents. 

     Thanks to her near-perfect SAT scores, she had landed a generous scholarship, and the rest of the tuition and living expenses were covered by the hefty inheritance she’d gotten when her grandmother passed away. Karissa knew she was luckier than most, and was determined to make the most of the opportunity she’d been given, even if it wouldn’t have been her first choice.

When class was finally dismissed, Karissa couldn’t have gotten out of the room faster. It was one thirty in the afternoon, she didn’t have another class until four, and she was starving. Instead of running to her dorm room where she would most likely get attacked with malicious remarks from her pompous roommate, Joyce, while just trying to make lunch, Karissa decided to eat lunch in the dining hall instead. She paid for her meal, and looked around the room for someone she could sit with. Luckily, she was able to spot her friend, Nolan, across the room. There was a guy there she didn’t know, but Karissa was known for making friends in record time.

“Hey there, Nolan!” Karissa greeted. “Mind if I sit here with ya’ll?”

“Seat is yours,” Nolan shrugged.
“Hi, I’m Karissa. What’s your name if ya don’t mind me askin’?” Karissa asked the guy sitting next to Nolan.

“Abel,” the guy said as he gave Karissa’s hand a shake. “You’re not from here, are you?”

“It’s my drawl ain’t it?” Karissa asked with a laugh. “I’m from Georgia.”

“Really?” Abel asked with a look of shock on his face. “What’s a pretty girl from Georgia doing all the way in Cali?”

“My parents own a horse ranch. It gets pretty darn rowdy over there. I thought it was about time to give myself a four year vacation.”

“Well, is this vacation living up to your expectations?”

“You darn right it is!” Karissa laughed again. “How do you know Nolan here?”

“Friend of a friend.”

“A smokin’ hot friend,” Nolan chimed in. “Speaking of her, she just texted me. I’m going to go meet her. I’ll catch you guys later.”

With that being said, Nolan picked up his tray, and threw it out as he walked out the door. Karissa looked after Nolan with a confused expression on her freckled face. She was an odd looking girl, but beautiful nonetheless. Her hair was a radiant shade of auburn that looked a bit more purple than red with side-swept bangs that cut across her forehead. Her eyes were big (kids back home used to call her “Bug Eyes”), and a sapphire blue with flecks of gold in them and they were always framed by her thick, 80’s-style glasses. Without them, she could barely see her feet. Her skin was naturally fair, but hours of spending time outside had tanned it a bit. However, her skin still wasn’t dark enough to hide what seemed to her like millions of freckles all over her body. Her lips were thin, but her mouth was wide which was probably inherited from her big-mouth, excessively loud father. She was short, an adorable size, but she still had the curves of a woman. The rest of her was slender and muscled since most of her classes were exercise classes. You had to be in tip-top shape in order to get a passing grade with her Major, and thankfully Karissa was more than just in-shape. She was much stronger than her five foot stature appeared to be.

“How do you know, Nolan?” Abel questioned her, snapping the confusion out of her face.

“He was in my English class last year,” Karissa answered. “We sat next to each other.”

“Are you a sophomore too?”

“Yuppie doodles! What about you?”

“A junior. English Major. I like to write. I’m hoping to get one of my books published soon, but if that doesn’t work out, I can always teach.”

“Wow. I’ve never met a real life author before! Will you take a picture with me? I want proof I knew you before you were famous,” Karissa said, pulling out her cell phone. 

Able chuckled. “Sure, why not?”

She snapped a selfie of the two of them, smiling wide and excitedly. “I’m going to frame this and ask you to sign it when you make it big, alright?”

“Alright. Sounds good.”

She put her phone away, and took a bite out of the apple on her plate. 

“So, what dream are you chasing here?” Able asked. "Besides the extended vacation, of course."

“Well, soccer’s my real dream. I played for a club team back in Georgia, and was offered the chance to train with a pro for a year, but my parents wouldn’t let me put off school that long. I was hopin’ to play here, but apparently they did a budget cut, and got rid of the women’s soccer team here since there weren’t enough women signin’ up for it.”

“Well, maybe you could try out for the men’s team. Last year, they had a woman on the team, and she was probably one of the best players. She graduated, though. But I bet if you try out, you could probably make it in the team too.”

“I’m a little rusty, unfortunately. I’d definitely need to do some trainin’ first, but I’ll look into it.”

“I wish I knew some people on the team to introduce you, but I’m not a sports fan, honestly. Mainly because I suck at every sport known to man.”

“Oh, come on now! With muscles like those you gotta be good at somethin’!”

Abel blushed as he laughed. He probably hadn’t thought that Karissa had been noticing his appearance, but she definitely had. He didn't look like the kind of guy who spent his time writing novels. He had long, stringy-looking, curly, blonde hair, sun-tanned skin, golden eyes, thick, wide lips, and a very muscular body packed onto his average-height frame. There was something different about him, but Karissa liked different, and somehow she knew that she and Abel would be good friends.

“I just work out a lot I guess. My dorm room is right next to the Student Gym, and when I get bored that’s where I go. It helps with the inspiration,” Abel said. “Anyway, my next class starts in an hour, and I still have to type up the essay that’s due. You don’t mind if we continue this tomorrow, do you? We can meet right here at this same table if you’d like.”

“I’d love to, Abel. It was a pleasure meetin’ you.”

“It was really nice meeting you too, Karissa. It really was.”

Abel stood up, slung his backpack over his shoulder, and walked away, leaving Karissa smiling to herself.

She had made a new friend.

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