The Game Within

May 21, 2008
By Kala Bingham, Hoffman Estates, IL

“With less than five seconds on the clock the fillies are down by one and have the ball out of bounds”. I breathed heavily as I eyed my teammates- this was it. “You could feel the tension in the air as the referee hands the ball to Jacklyn- she passes it in, and the audience begins counting down as the clock hits single digits. They get the ball to half court with six seconds left- but get double-teamed! Suzie finds an outlet to Taylor who takes it up the side- one second! And… Oh! Her opponent is completely faked out! She lines up completely open now and she shoots… she scores! And the crowd goes wild!” I thrust my arms up into the air and grinned as I let the warmth of the sun- my only true audience- brighten my skin. With my eyes shut I let the sound of the basketball bouncing along the driveway drown out as I saw the nonexistent fans rise in eruption. I waved towards where my brother sat, his best friend at his side, both cheering enthusiastically for me. My heart leapt as they waved back and then I turned to hear the final buzzer. The crowd was even louder as the announcer was overshadowed, “And the fillies win!” I felt myself raised by my teammates, and beaming ear to ear I caught a glance of him making his way towards me. My heart throbbed and my senses went numb as I was lowered to meet him. He stood almost half a foot above me, with his short blond hair hidden beneath his cap, “Awesome job, Taylor!” He smiled and I melted, I could feel my mouth go on autopilot as my heart continued to beat more rapidly.
Although I understood it was just my imagination- and that I had control over what was to happen next- I couldn’t suppress the butterflies of excitement from taking flight in my insides. He would congratulate me again, I thought grinning, before our casual chat would lead to prom, and he’d ask in some dramatic way. I opened my eyes and ran to grab my basketball from where it retired in the grass- I needed to distract my mind from this constant distraction pinned in my head. I felt bad though, and slightly guilty that I dreamed up such situations involving my brother’s best friend being in love with me. God, did I feel stupid sometimes- I wish it had been anyone else that I had fallen for; but I suppose it makes sense that the one person my twin finds the most joy in company with would be the one I craved such company from. Kyle Murphy. Tall, blond, and blue-eyed. Quite contrary to my brother and I- not that we were short, but we both sported brunette features. It wasn’t that he was angelic or anything- I could never fall for that sort of guy, someone who’s too perfect. He had that attitude about him that made him a lovable idiot- I blushed and grinned at myself again. I began to dribble around my driveway as my mind wandered- we all shared sports, I thought… mostly. I took another shot from further away.
Swish! I watched the ball bounce again, as I sighed. This was my sport- separate from the two of them. I had always loved basketball, and was pretty decent at it, if I do say so myself. It was my confidence sport- so that’s why I’d use it in my daydreams more often. My mind didn’t really make realistic situations- there would never be a basketball game close enough to prom that’d he’d try and ask me, that’s much too early, but track on the other hand… That was something he, my brother, and I all did- we were runners; well, at least my brother and I were- we had done cross country and track since our freshman year, while Kyle had done track his junior year and then this year has done both- he had previously played on the soccer team, but after meeting my brother he switched. I smiled as I realized how silly it was that I was thinking of this now- but it seems like whenever I have a moment he’s the first thing my mind runs to. I had never felt like this about anyone before, and now that we were nearing the end of senior year he was beginning to drive me crazy- though he didn’t know it. My brother Zaq had introduced me to Kyle after one of my basketball games junior year. He was really funny- and such a nice guy. We ended up going out for ice cream that night and I slowly stumbled into love. I went home feeling miserable and ashamed of my feelings. My brother and I don’t keep secrets from each other, and I’m not one to keep my mouth shut about much most of the time- but this was the one thing I could never tell him. I felt lost and confused and as if no one could help me- I had to go through this pain alone. I didn’t want it to be true- so I just tried to make my feelings disappear. I always enjoyed when Kyle would visit anyway- even though I knew he was there to hang with Zaq. I always had the faintest hope that one day he would arrive on our doorstep asking for me- but the closest I could get was just being able to spend time with them when he was here.
Zaq was actually on his way to Kyle’s right now; after getting his hair cut which mom has been pressuring him to do for months. He had forgotten his video camera the day before. That was Zaq’s passion that introduced him to Kyle. He loved filming and editing- so naturally he was in the graphic and digital arts and video production classes. He spent the majority of his off hours there as well- and it had been last year that Kyle needed shirts for soccer and enlisted the help of the teacher who asked Zaq to put his two cents in. They talked a bit- not at all the way they do now, and the next semester Kyle joined a graphic arts class that Zaq was in and they began talking about all sorts of things and hanging out together. They had always gone to Kyle’s house before he introduced us at my game- I think Zaq wanted him to get to know me outside of our family first- since he’s slightly embarrassed of our parents. They’re the greatest people on the planet- but only when you’re home and it’s just us. Our parents were actually out as well, doing something I can’t remember for our younger brother. So there I was- home alone shooting hoops in my driveway; letting my mind wander astray.
I shot again- ran to rebound and took a few dribbles here and there before taking a quick break to look down the road that steamed with the heat- my heart stopped. A green jeep- I only knew too well, top down, doors off was making its way towards me in the blazing heat. I could feel myself beginning to panic- the butterflies rose again and I blinked hard. When I opened my eyes the jeep was still coming- this wasn’t my imagination. My mind was buzzing and I was forgetting to breath, I choked a little before the driver came into view. I attempted to regain my composure as I saw his smiling face while he honked at me- I let out a hearty wave in response. He pulled off to the side of the road and I could feel my heart pounding through my chest. I swear he could see it, so as he ventured on towards me I decided to take another shot. I lined up, my heart throbbing in my throat. Don’t be so excited, Taylor! I yelled at myself. Just calm down, ever though Zaq’s not home he probably came here without knowing. There’s no way he’s here to see you. As much as I tried to convince myself, my naïve wishful thinking was getting the better of me.
“Taylor!” he called from across the street, “What’s up?”
I smiled back, “not much! Zaq’s actually not home right now…” There it goes again- my autopilot mouth, saying the first thing to graze my mind. He looked slightly puzzled as he closed the distance between the two of us. Of course, being me- I spoke before I thought, idiot. “He actually went out and then was planning on stopping by your house. Funny, huh?” I let out one of those cheesy, girly giggles, as my eyes tried to find connection in his- he laughed as well and I felt relieved.
“You know what’s even funnier?” He asked, bringing his face down towards mine, so that I could feel his breath on my neck as he leaned in to whisper, “I knew that.” Chills ran up and down my spine and I felt my cheeks flush. I tried hard to act natural- say something witty in return- but it was all I could do to keep from melting on the spot. “I came here today because I wanted to ask you something…” My mouth was dry and my heart was beating so hard it might’ve broken my rib cage. My vision went blurry- I couldn’t believe what was happening to me.
“You missed!” I flinched and turned quickly to where he stood- not close enough as I had imagined, but still making his way up the driveway- grabbing the ball I had absent mindedly shot while letting my mind run wild. My face flared- idiot! How could I let myself become such a space case with him right there! “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you miss a shot before.” He handed the ball to me and I received it automatically, without realizing what I was doing. I held onto it tightly, as if my fingers atop its rutted texture gave me some kind of security.
“Yeah… I looked away from his face- too embarrassed to look him in the eye, “It doesn’t really happen all that often. Guess I’m a little off right now.”
“Sorry I ruined your mind set,” he grinned sarcastically. If only he understood how true that statement was. Although I could still feel my insides twisting, I was over the initial shock of his arrival- so I was getting back to my usual self.
“So what’s up?” I asked casually, “What brings you to the fine abode of the Fyte family?” I smiled back jokingly.
“Why, simply this today!” He held up the camera he had pulled out from his bag. My heart sank a little- even if I knew it had to be something to do with Zaq I always kept my hopes up too high.
“You know, interestingly enough, Zaq is not home at the moment.” I lead him into conversation- for I personally found this highly amusing.
“Really? You don’t say… May I ask his whereabouts?”
“Funny thing is,” I smirked, “he is on his way to your house to pick that up.”
“God damn it, ain’t that irony?” He scratched his head under his cap. Not really, I thought, smiling, but I wasn’t about to correct him on that. “That moron should learn to use his phone once in a while…” he continued to sulk, so I simply used this as an excuse for him to hang around.
“Oh, yeah, I know! It’s so hard to figure anything out with him because he never wants to tell anyone what he’s doing or where he’s going. He’s the most difficult person to live with.” I shook my head and laughed, and I heard Kyle join in.
“I guess I should try letting him know I’m hear…” He pulled out his phone and began texting away. “Though he probably won’t respond since he’s driving.” He finished, then closed his phone and stuck it in his pocket. “I guess I’ll just wait around for him to get back- he couldn’t have gotten that far, right?”
I shrugged. “Dunno. He got his hair cut before he was gonna head over, so he may be further than we think.” I watched as he made his way grumbling towards our porch to sit down, and then followed him like a puppy. He sat in a chair close to the door, and I took the one opposite him, he seemed so comfortable all the time, and I felt so extremely awkward and nervous. It was as if this was like home to him- and it didn’t matter what he did because he wouldn’t be expected to do anything else, and therefore wouldn’t be judged. I loved to see that side of him.
He chuckled, “I wonder how he’s putting up with that.”
“Whadda you mean?”
“The hair cut.” He smiled pointing to his own, “He’s never been one for shorter hair, not that his hair is very long to begin with.”
I laughed as well, “That’s one thing our mom never understood, why he liked his longer and I liked mine shorter.”
He smiled back and met my eyes, “So, how’ve you been? Is the season going well for you and the rest of the girls?”
I grinned pathetically; he was making my heart melt by asking me such a simple question without realizing it. “I’ve been doing well, anxious to get out of school.” We both smirked, “and the season has been good so far, nothing too special. I know so far that our 1600 meter relay can make it down state this year, so we’re excited for that.”
“That’s cool,” his eyes wandered into the distance, “our season’s been pretty good too. Coach is actually excited about the number of people we think we can qualify this year.” I followed his eyes to where they stared at the end of the road. Even if he seemed to be comfortable, I could sense that he was just being polite waiting for Zaq. It was in this moment that I realized he wasn’t interesting in me the way I was in him- or at least he would never figure it out on his own if he could ever be. All dreams and wishing of him asking me to prom were thrown out the window, and I decided that the only way to get what I wanted was to go for it.
“So,” I started, and I felt his obliviousness as he looked back to listen and I fought to keep the heat from rising to my cheeks, “have you thought about prom at all? Senior year and all, right?” I tried hard not to make it seem like I was leading him on- though that’s what I totally intended to do. Of course, as I expected, he paid no attention to my hinting, and simply was glad to have a new topic of conversation. Boys can be so dense sometimes.
“Yeah, I know...” he fumbled through words, trying to figure out what he wanted to say, “I’ve thought about it and all, and I think I want to go, but I don’t know who I’d go with or where or anything really.” He kind of rambled off, and I choked back the little pain that came to the back of my throat. If he was being this open with me now, obviously I had never been given a blink of the eye. But I kept the topic alive non-the-less.
“Well, did you go last year?”
“Yeah, with Katie Thomas, do you know her? She plays soccer.”
“No, I don’t think so,” I racked my brain hard to remember, I wasn’t so good at that, but I was pretty sure I had never heard of this person before in my life.
“It was fun, I guess,” he was also brain-racking, “I’d probably want to go again, but I’m pretty sure she has a boyfriend right now.”
“Oh,” I let out a sigh of acknowledgement.
“What about you?”
“Ah, well,” I knew I was blushing, but I pressed on anyway, “I didn’t go last year, so I’d really like to go this year, though it’s difficult with state track and all on the same day.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”
“Yeah, makes life kind of complicated.”
“Anyone ask you?”
I flushed ferociously, “No, not yet, but it’s kind of late by now anyway, I suppose.” Idiot! I wanted to hit myself and shut off my automatic mouth. If that didn’t screw my chances… I should just ask him now, what do I have to lose? His friendship, I sighed. The ability to be here right now just like this.
“Well, guess we’re two birds of a feather.” He laughed and I smirked at yet another of his comments that he did not completely understand himself. I’ll do it. I decided, my heart now hammering in my throat. Zaq will understand, I hope. That would be the only regret I’ll have, is that he didn’t know first. I tried hard to convince the butterflies to settle down as I felt my insides crashing into one another. I took a deep breath.
“What if we went together?” There! I said it; there was no turning back now. My brain buzzed and I could hardly breath. Five simple words and it took me this long to form that sentence. His eyes were surveying mine- slightly shocked, but then they calmed down. “I mean, if you can’t find someone, and I haven’t been asked, but we both want to go, we may as well…” I began to ramble, and he cut me off.
“Is that really it?” His big, blue eyes stared into my muddy brown ones as he took my breath away. He seemed to be surveying my soul, as if all the times I had tried to make it obvious that I liked him were now becoming exposed to him. I felt as though he could see right through me. “Do you want to go with me?”
I hesitated. Just say it, Taylor. Say it, and see what happens, take the risk. “Yes, Kyle,” I breathed heavily, “to tell the truth, I really like you, and was hoping you’d maybe want to go with me.” I had looked away, feeling my entire face become a tomato. Everything I had kept secret for a year and a half had just been exposed in one sentence. That was it, whatever happens now will simply happen- I had done my part to control my life, and this was where I no longer had the reins. With my head slightly turned bashfully, I flashed my eyes back up at him. I could see him smiling from under his cap.

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