I’ve never met Ily, but during the course of submitting a short then publishing in her Girls Who Score anthology we’ve become online pals. Last year, I was where she’s at right now. The latest virgin editor for Cleis Press. I feel like the geek-guy on NCIS when he passes his “Probie” title onto Ziva—proud and a little relieved to be past the first humps. But I think Ily’s gonna be just fine.
You see, I have my copy of Girls Who Score, and I’ve been reading. And the book is cram-jammed filled with awesome. Ily has an eye for a good story.
Let me tell you about mine. I was never a “sporty” girl. Sure, I spent years in the military working out. I could run and walk, but I don’t have great hand-to-eye coordination and I’m clumsy. So sports have never been my thing. But I have a daughter who played soccer for years and just happens to live across the street, so I picked her brain, had her run through the last minutes of a game, and help me with the language. It’s what writers do. We write what we know although sometimes it’s something we learn from an expert. So, the action you see in this opening scene is something I “saw” as my dd described the action. Hope you enjoy.Excerpt from “Playing the Field”
Sweat stung my eyes. I lifted the edge of my blue jersey and wiped my face, never losing sight of the black and white ball flying across the short, crisp grass.
“One minute left!” Coach shouted from the sidelines.
It’s just a damn game, I reminded myself, but still my stomach plummeted. We needed one point to enter the penalty phase. One lousy point to tie this game up.
The Sharks were playing like damn minnows, letting the Vipers kick our asses up and down the soccer field—our home field. And from their grim expressions, every one of my team members felt the same urgency. This would be the last game of the season if we didn’t win.
For me, it was about more than just the game. The last game was also my last chance to work up my courage to do what I’d been fantasizing about since the team had first started training in early spring.
A green jersey bumped past me, the Vipers’ player turning her head to give me a smirk before loping on her coltish legs down the field to follow the ball. Anger flared.
One lousy point. I stretched my shorter legs, heart pumping so hard inside my chest the shouts from the sparse crowd in the bleachers faded away. My focus narrowed to the ball zigzagging from one Viper player to the next, my own blue-jerseyed teammates showing the strain in their grim expressions as their movements lost fluidity and grace, and they clumsily tried to muscle close enough to steal away the ball.
I stretched one last time, edged up to the player dribbling the ball between her clever feet, then swept out my foot, catching her ankle and sending her sprawling, then stole the ball.
I wasn’t the most graceful player, wasn’t the star, but I had the goddamn ball now. I lowered my shoulder and bumped a Viper out of the way, then pivoted on my toes and aimed myself and the ball toward the opposite end of the field.
From the corner of my eye, I saw her, backing up toward the other team’s goalie box.
Vicky Moldina gave me a little wave, and I tipped my chin, but didn’t want anyone catching my intent, so I ran to the right, skirting their players, lowering my shoulders and putting on the bull dog face I’d been told intimidated the hell out of other teams—something that always set my own team to laughing, because they knew me better.
However, if they’d read the deadly intent in my heart, the searing determination, they’d have wondered who the hell I was.
My thoughts and heart slowed. I repelled the next player who moved in to steal the ball with a sharp, sly elbow. I charged forward, then zagged to the left, leaving two opponents to tumble over one another, and headed on a parallel path with their goalie.
Vicky backed up again, then shot toward the goalie.
I kept on my parallel path, then tried a move I’d failed more often than I’d completed, kicking the ball with my heel to send it like a bullet to Vicky who was poised in front of the goalie’s box.
Our star striker grinned, swept out her foot to catch it—but something happened.
Usually so graceful, her foot rolled over the top of the ball, her ankle turned. She fell in a heap to her knees, then beat her palms against the grass as a green-shirted bitch gave a whoop and stole the ball away, racing toward the other end of the field.
Three short whistles blew. I bent at the waist, hands braced on my knees as I dragged in deep breaths. My gaze remained on Vicky who pushed up from the ground. She met my gaze and mouthed, “Fuck.”
I shrugged and forced a smile. “Just a game.”
We shared small smiles while our teammates pulled together, remembered their manners, and gave Vicky half-hearted pats to console her before lining up to run past the other team, slapping hands and offering insincere congratulations.
I ran behind Vicky, wishing I hadn’t passed the ball to her. Not because I was disappointed with the outcome, but because I didn’t want this to be the memory she took away from the game. I didn’t want our friendship tainted even a little bit.
After we huddled with the coach and offered each other hugs, I trudged toward the showers in the rec center.
“Dinner at Hooters!” Coach called out, and I grinned. We’d have had Outback if we’d won; Hooters had been meant to spur us toward victory.
As players headed to their lockers, Vicky limped toward the coach’s wire equipment cage. She dug beneath balls and netting, then pulled out the first aid bag.
“Did you hurt yourself when you took that tumble?” I asked, my voice a little thick because hell, it was her I was talking to.
“It’s my knee. I felt something pull.”
“Do you need to go to the emergency room?”
She shook her head, sweaty tendrils of chin-length black hair shaking against her cheeks. “It’s probably just a sprain. I’ll wrap it after I shower.” She pulled a rolled ACE bandage from the pack and started to put the bag back into the cage.
I reached for the bag, taking it from her, then grabbed a small jar of Tiger Balm and held it up. “I’ll massage it before you wrap. It’ll feel better faster.”
Her brows furrowed—just a subtle motion, almost indiscernible, but the glance that swept my body was less so. Subtle, that is. “All right. After we shower.”
After we shower. I know my jaw sagged just a bit at the way she’d emphasized that one little word. Drool pooled in my mouth. I followed her as she turned away, heading to her locker to pull out a plastic bag with her toiletries and a fluffy white towel. I did the same, hurriedly, a little nervous now.
I was reading too much into her words. Still, when we entered the open shower room, I hesitated before setting my items on the slatted wooden bench beside hers. When she raked her jersey over her head, I followed suit and stripped.
Most of the girls had already finished up. One by one, spigots turned off, towels slid around nude bodies, and they trailed out the door, leaving us alone.
Good locker room etiquette would have been to choose a spigot on the opposite side of the room, but when she strode to the far corner, out of sight of the open doorway, I followed, choosing one right beside her.
A small half-smile kicked up one corner of her mouth before she turned her head, closed her eyes, and let the hot water sluice over her hair and face, giving me the perfect opportunity to ogle her long, lithe body.
She squeezed shampoo into her palm, then handed me the bottle. With our gazes locked, we began to soap our hair.
Nothing had ever been this hot.
We’d both no doubt showered in open stalls in high school—naked women with slippery bodies—but I, for one, had never been this aware. With her hands raised, massaging her scalp, soap slithered down in long, winding ropes that caressed her shoulders, her small round breasts and taut belly. Her legs parted, widening her stance a little so that I could admire the small, smooth labia framed so perfectly by her muscular thighs.
“My knee’s throbbing,” she whispered.
My gaze darted up, and soap slid into my eyes. I grimaced and turned my red face into the spray before blinking back at her. Her lips were pursed in a smile; her eyes wrinkled at the corners with silent laughter.
God, if she was teasing me because she knew I was queer I thought I might never get over the embarrassment. But she turned, showing me her ass, and then glanced over a shoulder, one dark, arched brow raised. “It’s okay for you to wash it. The others are gone.”