That’s the best we’re going to do.
We have to wait while Brookes explains the rules to Nell, and I take a moment to talk strategy with my team. I look at McClain and Moore and say, “You two. No taking it easy on your girlfriends. Don’t let them get past you just because you think you won’t get laid tonight if you don’t.”
That only gets me a sarcastic reply of “Sure, Coach.”
Brookes got first choice, so my team takes the disc first. Predictably, Brookes’s team is playing man-to-man defense, and he’s got the girls matched up with their boyfriends. It’s clear within seconds that those girls are willing to play dirty. Technically, Ultimate is a no-contact sport, and you can call foul if things go too far.
McClain and Moore certainly aren’t calling foul when their girls make contact. I make a short pass to Ryan, who just barely manages to catch it before Keyon goes sailing past him trying to knock the disc to the ground. I take off running, but Brookes is hot on my heels. I pivot and change directions a few times, trying to shake him off, but he stays too close. The rules of the game dictate that you can’t run with the disc, so Ryan’s stuck where he is until someone from our team gets open enough for him to make a throw.
He flicks his wrist, sending the disc sailing toward McClain, and I watch with dawning horror as Dallas slips in front of him and intercepts the disc.
The game continues in that vein for the next five minutes, and we’re down three to zero when Stella calls a time-out.
“Hey,” I say. “I’m the captain. I call the time-outs.”
“Yeah, well, we’re getting our asses kicked, Captain.”
No arguing with that.
Stella stands with her hands on her hips, and even sweaty, she looks pretty. How do girls always do that?
“Let me guard Keyon,” she says.
“Why? No offense, gorgeous, but he’s a lot faster than you.”
“He’s faster than Ryan, too. And like I said . . . only one person on this team has boobs.”
“Absolutely not,” Ryan cuts in.
Stella rolls her eyes. “Come on. He’s a freshman. I’ll do a little flirting. Maybe a little pouting about how hard the game is. He’ll be an easy mark.”
Ryan glares. “You don’t have to throw yourself at him for some stupid game.”
She ignores him and looks at me. “What do you say, Captain?”
Ryan crosses his arms over his chest and directs his angry stare at me. I’m not sure whether his pissy mood is just because he’s got a thing for Stella and doesn’t want her flirting with another guy, or if his protectiveness has more to do with what happened at that frat party a few weeks ago. I don’t know the specifics. Stella certainly doesn’t talk about what happened, and I know Silas and Dylan are the ones who found her passed out in a room after she was left there by one of the guys on the team. Silas fought with the guy, Jake Carter, and I got to the scene around the same time as the cops. Carter has since been kicked off the team, but he hasn’t been arrested, and he’s still enrolled in classes. I’ve heard a lot of speculation about what happened in that room and afterward and what will happen next from people on campus, but no one here has said a word about it. Not to me anyway.
No one ever comes to me for serious conversations. I shake off the slight sting that thought causes. It’s not like I want serious. I spend most of my time making it abundantly clear to everyone that my name doesn’t even belong in the same sentence as that word.
But for a moment I wish that people trusted me a little more. Then I’d know if letting Stella flirt with Keyon is a bad idea. From the way everyone else tiptoes around her, I assume that some serious shit went down. But at the same time . . . Stella acts like nothing has changed. I might not be trusted with everyone’s secrets, but I do know Stella well enough to know that she doesn’t take well to other people telling her what to do. If she wants to guard Keyon, who am I to tell her no? Silas and Carson are staying silent on the matter, so I’m guessing they don’t want to get in the middle of it either.
I meet her determined gaze and nod. Ryan curses, and I say, “It can’t hurt to try. If it doesn’t work or you want to switch back, Stella, all you have to do is say so.”
She smiles sweetly in return and says, “You guys can thank me now.”
A few minutes of flirting later, and suddenly Keyon decides he’d rather guard Stella than Ryan. While Nell is scrambling trying to figure out who she’s supposed to be on, Ryan scores our first point of the game.
Next time around, Brookes tries to help her pick up the slack, but he can’t help her with Ryan and successfully cover me at the same time. Carson puts his flirting on pause long enough to zip one high and long in my direction. I sprint under it, crossing into the end zone. Brookes is a few feet back, and I make a diving catch to put us within one.
Brookes calls a time-out, and while they talk I fold Stella into a sweaty hug.
“Have I told you how awesome you are?”
She shrugs. “I can always stand to hear it a few more times a day.”
“Well, you’re awesome.” Her smile looks easy, genuine. Until, that is, I spend a few seconds too long staring and assessing it, then her posture goes rigid, and I step back and avert my eyes before I do something to piss her off.
When we come out of the huddle, I’m too confident.
A habit of mine.
Dallas and Dylan toss the disc back and forth a few times, and I groan when Carson and Silas make no effort to intercept or knock down the pass. I’m pretty sure it’s a distraction, so I stick tight to Brookes, and I notice Ryan edging closer to me, too. He must have the same idea.