14 Mayıs 2023

Free Throws


February 21, 1996Clang. The basketball impacted on the front of the rim and ricocheted away at an odd angle.“Damn it!” Tracy yelled out as someone passed the ball back to her. She dribbled several more times, raised the ball once more… clang. Another miss.Tracy couldn’t shoot free throws. She had always been miserable at it—ever since she was a girl playing little league. Now, here she was a freshman on the college basketball team and she still couldn’t shoot them. She tried, she really tried. She’d spent hours practicing but never could get any better. Fortunately, she was really good at everything else or she wouldn’t have received the partial scholarship that she did.“All right ladies, let’s shut it down!” the coach shouted across the gym. “Hit the showers,” she added.Tracy slammed the ball onto the rack in frustration and stormed into the locker room. She was furious with herself for not being able to crack that one remaining element of her game. The one thing that might have prevented her from playing for a division-one school. She loved the team she was on and she loved her teammates. There was still that lingering thought in her mind though, “what if”. What if I shot free throws better in high school? Could I be playing for a division-one school right now? Probably not… but still, she wondered.She flung herself down on the bench in front of her locker, pouting, and began fumbling with her shoelaces. So lost in her own thoughts, she was only vaguely aware of the other players around her, starting up the showers, changing their clothes, laughing and talking amongst themselves. Suddenly, an unfamiliar voice startled her out of her introspection.“Hey, it’s not that bad,” the voice said as Tracy felt a big, firm hand on her shoulder.Tracy glanced at the hand and followed the long arm all the way up to its owner. Kellie Pratt. She was a senior, one of the oldest girls on the team. Kellie was the starting center and one of the tallest women that Tracy had ever met personally. The other girl smiled down at Tracy, who reluctantly returned the grin. She didn’t feel like smiling.“Do you want to work on it?” Kellie asked. “Your free throws, I mean,” she explained. “I might be able to help you.”If Tracy had been a senior, she would have probably said, “Thanks, but no thanks,”. Instead, she heard herself respond, “When? Right now?”Kellie nodded. “Sure, why not? You’ve still got your shoes on.”Tracy hesitated. All she really wanted to do was go back to her dorm room.“Just for a little while,” Kellie encouraged.“Sure, okay,” Tracy finally agreed as she retied the one lace she had managed to undo.Kellie had never shown much more than politeness towards Tracy. Sure, it was a small team, so they all knew each other on a first name basis, but after all, she was a senior, and Tracy was just a freshman. They didn’t really have much in common—other than both being basketball players. Kellie didn’t have the most outgoing personality and usually kept to herself. However, she had never been antisocial either.A few minutes later, the two girls were back on an empty court, shooting free throws by themselves. The gym seemed so much larger, so much quieter without all the other girls there. The sound of the ball bouncing against the floor echoed throughout the arena.“My freshman year, I shot about twenty-five percent from the line,” Kellie explained with a good-natured chuckle. “This year, I’m at about sixty-five percent.”Tracy giggled. “Twenty-five percent? Really?” she asked in disbelief.“You can go ahead and say it. That’s really, really bad. I know,” Kellie joked.The two young women continued practicing for about thirty minutes or so, before calling it a night. The next night, they worked some more and the night after that as well. By the middle of the next week, it had basically become a standard routine.In a strange way, Tracy had grown to look forward to her after-practice sessions with Kellie. They got along well with each other and Kellie had a very simple, pleasant manner of talking that made Tracy feel at ease. She was funny too. Tracy never failed to laugh during one of their free throw practice sessions.Aside from practicing her free throws, Tracy also learned a lot about Kellie. She was from a small town on the eastern side of the state. Her parents were farmers, Beşevler escort bayan but she was studying to be a physical therapist. Kellie was also a four-year starter for the basketball team and, as a result, she was slowly approaching the record for “most points scored in a career” for their college.“You’re still thinking about it too much,” Kellie coached that Wednesday night, towards the end of their sixth session. “It’s just one fluid motion. Just bring the ball up and shoot, like you do any other shot.” She dribbled the ball twice. “Like this,” she said as she raised the ball and took a shot, sinking it.Tracy mimicked her new friend’s motion and made her own shot as well. She was forced to admit, she was getting better. She had noticed a marked improvement over the last week, or she probably would have given up already.That evening, they had stayed behind extra late. All the other players had long since gone, even the coaches, janitors, and anyone else left in the building had evacuated as well. They decided to call it a night and made their way into the locker room.Kellie picked a shower stall, disappearing behind the curtain, and Tracy entered her own. She tested the water for temperature, disrobed, and stepped into the stream of water. Just a few minutes later, she exited the shower, refreshed, a towel wrapped firmly around her torso.Kellie too stepped out of the shower just a moment later. Tracy turned to speak to her, and to Tracy’s surprise, Kellie did not have a towel wrapped around her. She was using her towel to dry off, but Tracy was staring at all God had given Kellie. Stare is the only word that applied, because Tracy couldn’t take her eyes off the other woman.Kellie’s body was—well, stunning. Tracy had never even considered Kellie’s physical attractiveness before. She was so tall, and carried herself in such a plain, simple way, that Tracy had never really thought of her as “pretty”. But now, seeing her completely naked for the first time, seeing those incredible, athletic legs, still glistening from the shower, her flat tummy, her firm breasts—yes, Kellie was big, but everything was proportionate. She had a great body.Tracy had really been caught off guard. The two girls had been in this situation before, five times to be exact, but both had retained a good deal of modesty. Neither one of them were the type to go parading around the locker room naked (some of the other girls on the team did so without hesitation). Tracy assumed that their recent history together had probably made Kellie feel comfortable enough around her that she could do something like that and it wouldn’t bother either of them.Tracy’s stare lasted only a second or two before she averted her eyes. She wanted to look longer, she really did. But she knew she couldn’t.The two chatted as they dressed, and made their way out of the locker room and back across the gym floor, just after ten o’clock. Tracy followed Kellie to one corner where they found all the correct switches and turned off the huge overhead lights. The enormous empty building was spooky in the darkness. They hurried across the floor and exited through the main entrance.“How are we going to lock the—” Tracy started, but stopped in mid-sentence as she watched Kellie pull a key ring out of her pocket. “You have a key to the gym?” she asked in amazement.A moment later, the doors locked, Kellie turned towards the parking lot. “You want a ride?” she asked.“Sure,” Tracy instantly agreed. It had been unseasonably warm that day, nearly eighty degrees, and Tracy had decided to walk to practice. But now, she was exhausted, and as late as it was, she really had no desire to walk back.She hopped into Kellie’s car, a small, black, Dodge Daytona from the late ‘80s, and they quickly made their way from one side of the small campus to the other. As they drove, Tracy noticed how far back Kellie had the seat pushed.“You need a bigger car,” Tracy joked, glancing down at Kellie’s legs.Kellie shrugged. “Well, when I turned sixteen, my parents and I were looking at vehicles and I liked this one. Besides, my parents could afford it.” She smiled weakly. “At the time, that was all they really cared about.”Tracy nodded, feeling bad that she had tried to make a joke and had never even considered Escort Çankaya why she might be driving such a small car. Tracy’s family was a little better off than most and sometimes she forgot that finances played a role in such decisions. They made the rest of the short drive in a sort of awkward silence.The dorm they lived in was not an athletic dorm. Their college was too small to have a dormitory committed just to athletes. In fact, Tracy didn’t even live with another player. Her roommate was her longtime best friend, Heather. Tracy knew that Kellie lived on the third floor. She knew this because they had been on the elevator several times together and seen her get off there. Aside from that, this was all she knew of Kellie’s living situation.As they stepped into the elevator together, Tracy punched both buttons, the three and the seven. She and Heather’s room was on the seventh floor of a seven story building. This was also known as the freshman floor.When the door opened on the third floor, Kellie started to walk out when she turned to Tracy. “You want to come hang out for a while?” she asked suddenly.Tracy raised her eyebrows and hesitated for a moment. For the second time that evening, Kellie had caught her off guard.Apparently noticing her hesitation, Kellie added, “I don’t have a roommate or anything, if that’s what you’re worried about.”“Sure,” Tracy replied, suddenly realizing that she really did want to go hang out with Kellie in her room. In fact, it sounded like an amazing idea. She stepped off the elevator, leaving it to roll up to the seventh floor, empty.She followed the older girl down the hall to room 314. A moment of keys jangling, the knob turned, and Kellie opened her door wide, inviting Tracy inside.“So, this is my room,” Kellie said, nervously.Tracy was amazed by its plainness. There were no posters on the walls. No pictures. No signs, or banners, or old jerseys, or—well, anything else. Kellie had a small thirteen-inch television, a mini-fridge, and a stereo. The best word that Tracy could use to describe Kellie’s dorm room was “Spartan”. The room had the standard pair of twin beds that all dorm rooms had. Both were made up, but it was clear that one was Kellie’s bed, while the other had never been slept on.“Damn, it’s hot in here!” Kellie hollered almost instantly.Indeed, it was very warm. The temperature from earlier that day had made all of the dorm rooms hot. Everyone had their windows open with fans going, trying to find alleviation from the heat.Kellie strode over to her own window and slid it open wide. “They won’t turn the air conditioning on until after spring break,” she informed. “Same thing happened two years ago. A big heat wave like this came in and everyone roasted.” As she spoke, she picked up a large box fan and placed it in the window, wedging it between the window on one side and the window frame on the other. “That’ll help considerably,” she announced.As she turned the unit on, Tracy immediately felt the relief of the cooler, outside air. Unfortunately, the old box fan hummed and, at first, made it difficult to hear each other. But they adjusted, and in moments, they were chatting away with each other as if there was no fan in the room at all.Kellie first switched on her small television, leaving the volume turned off, and then retrieved an ice pack from the top portion of her mini-fridge. She eased onto her bed, stretching out her long legs. She placed the ice pack on her left knee and glanced at Tracy who was watching with interest. “These old knees have taken a pounding over the last eight years,” Kellie joked.As a half hour turned into an hour, Tracy continued to feel more and more comfortable in the room. She stretched her own legs out in the empty twin bed, with her back against the wall. They talked with each other so easily. It didn’t seem to matter what the topic was.Kellie talked about how she had become interested in physical therapy and Tracy explained the difficulties she had in just trying to pick a major. Kellie told Tracy about small-town life in the eastern part of the state, and Tracy told Kellie about small-town life in the western part of the state—turns out, there’s not much difference.Suddenly, Kellie sat up and turned towards Tracy, dangling Cebeci escort her legs off the side of the bed. “You know what,” she started, “sometimes I almost feel like a stranger on that team.”Tracy matched her pose, sitting up, and adjusting herself so that her own legs were on the side of the bed. Their legs were both so long, that their bare knees knocked against each other in the middle. “What do you mean?” Tracy inquired, genuinely interested.“I mean, it doesn’t feel like my team anymore,” Kellie attempted to explain.“But, you’re a starter. You’re one of the team captains. One of the team leaders,” Tracy argued.“I know, but,” Kellie paused seeming to try and find the right words. As she did, she placed her big hands on Tracy’s knees and wobbled them from side to side—a playful gesture, but one that did not go unnoticed by Tracy. “I guess what I mean is, all my friends are gone,” Kellie concluded. “All the girls that I grew up with, all the girls I played with for the last three years. They’re just—not here anymore. Slowly, one by one, they all graduated.”Tracy reached out and put her own hands on top of Kellie’s. “I’m your friend,” she said, smiling. “Aren’t I?” As she spoke the words, she suddenly understood so much more about Kellie. This is why she always seems so distant from the other players. This is why she has never really associated with us.“Yes, of course, you are,” Kellie responded. She gazed deeply into Tracy’s eyes, fixing her with an intense stare.Tracy returned the stare, focusing on Kellie’s eyes for the first time. They were very pretty eyes. Eyes that held so much emotion, sadness, longing, warmth, tenderness, and intelligence too.Their hands were still touching. No, suddenly, Tracy realized with a start, that the two were now holding hands. When did that happen? She couldn’t remember.Silence reigned. The hum of the box fan and some noisy girls yelling down the hall were the only sounds Tracy could hear. Her mind quickly filled with dozens of questions, her heart raced with hopefulness, mixed with a hint of insecurity and doubt.Kellie suddenly jerked her head towards the television screen. “Five-day forecast!” she blurted out, cutting through the tension of the moment instantly. “Damn, it’s going to be ninety-two degrees tomorrow!”The television was in such a position that Tracy couldn’t see it clearly from her vantage point. So, she absentmindedly moved over to Kellie’s bed, sitting down just behind her, looking at the screen over her shoulder.“Ninety-two?!” Tracy repeated. “It’s still February!”“No kidding,” Kellie replied. “Look at that, if it actually gets that high, it’ll be a record.” She turned back around, facing Tracy, who was now much, much closer to her. Kellie turned her body away from the television completely, giving her full attention to her young friend once more. “So, where were we before my short attention span kicked in?” Kellie teased.Tracy decided to take the initiative. She took Kellie’s hands in her own again and cautiously offered, “Well, I’m not sure, but I think maybe you were getting ready to kiss me?” She spoke the words as a question, raising her eyebrows hopefully as she did so. If she was wrong, it could ruin a friendship that was only a week old.“Was I?” Kellie asked, mischievously. “Oh, yes, I was,” she continued. She leaned in and kissed Tracy’s lips. A surprisingly delicate kiss for a woman who was so forceful and dominating on the basketball court.Tracy kissed back. She felt Kellie’s tongue inside her mouth. It was soft, gentle. The kiss was sweet, and simple—just like Kellie’s dorm room.As Kellie kissed her, Tracy couldn’t help but think her new friend seemed confident and sure of herself. Kellie knew she wanted to be kissing Tracy. There was no hesitation or reservation to it at all. Just strength. It wasn’t aggressive or overbearing, it wasn’t forceful or intimidating—just strong. Like Kellie.Tracy, meanwhile, was a nervous wreck. Her lips trembled with each kiss. Her hands shook. Her heart pounded inside her chest. The two girls had become fast friends in such a short period of time. Are we spoiling what could be an otherwise great friendship? Why is she interested in me? She’s so much older. I feel like a child compared to her. But ultimately, those thoughts were washed away. It didn’t matter. It felt good. It felt right.Kellie pulled her lips away for just a moment and put a reassuring hand on Tracy’s thigh. Those strong, confident hands. “You’re shaking,” she observed. “It’s okay,” she soothed. The other hand now gently moved to Tracy’s shoulder. “Have you never kissed a girl before?”

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