Leif flew through the air, rising farther and farther as he neared his target. His arm swung up, his “weapon” grasped firmly in his hand. He brought it down hard, slamming the basketball through the hoop that he then grabbed with both hands, hanging on for a second in victory.
“Boom!” Hung exclaimed. “That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!”
Leif dropped to the ground as the ball went out to Wendel and Peter so the two-on-two game could resume. Leif and Hung exchanged glances. Years of playing together let them communicate their intentions with only looks and subtle gestures. The tall Korean moved in after Wendel while Leif covered Peter who had the ball.
The score was tied and the next point would win the game. Leif allowed himself a quick glance at the watching crowd; specifically Angela, Peter’s girlfriend. Leif had been pining over the petite Chinese-Brazilian girl for two years on Earth. The first year he was too shy to talk to her, and this last year she had been with Peter.
Making matters worse, Leif was sure that Peter had only started dating Angela because he had found out that Leif liked her. The rivalry between Leif and the dark-haired, olive-skinned boy—whom Leif had watched many girls swoon over—had existed since grade school and had only gotten worse over the years.
“Eyes in the game, Blowgun,” Peter taunted as he dribbled the ball. “I want to beat you because I’m better, not because you’re wondering how Angela and I are gonna celebrate my victory tonight.”
The statement returned Leif’s full attention to Peter, eliciting a smile. Leif’s last name was Balogun, but because of his African heritage and the need for general ridicule, Peter had nicknamed him Blowgun. Unfortunately, it had stuck.
Peter feinted left, then shot right. Leif kept pace, but Peter managed to pass the ball to Wendel. The large black teen spun around Hung and ran for the net. Leif moved to intercept as Wendel jumped. He knew he could stop the shot. Unfortunately, he also knew that a human couldn’t. He wondered if anyone would really notice his burst of speed in the heat of the game. And Angela was watching.
Leif jumped and collided with Wendel, but not in time to stop the ball from dropping through the net while the two of them tumbled to the ground. He cursed under his breath in Elven. He hated having to throw a game.
The crowd cheered and rushed in. Angela hugged her boyfriend, and Peter made sure Leif got a good view as he received his victory kiss. The scene was thankfully blocked by Hung’s hand as he reached down to help his friend up.
“It was close, man,” Hung comforted.
“I shouldn’t have let them get so far ahead,” Leif muttered.
“Hey, we played a good game. Came from behind to almost snatch that victory.”
“Almost,” Leif grunted.
“Serves you right,” a fluid voice said.
Leif turned to find Cassie smiling at him, her long blue hair catching his attention as always.
“You think I didn’t see what you tried to do there?” she asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Leif lied.
“Come from behind to impress a girl,” Cassie said disapprovingly.
“Wait. What?” Hung exclaimed. “You did that on purpose? Dude, we had fifty bucks riding on this game!”
“Sorry, man,” Leif apologized.
Cassie shook her head. “How many times do I have to tell you to just be yourself?” she asked, and then put her hand on his cheek. Her pale skin seemed to almost glow compared to his dark complexion. Sea blue eyes sparkled as they looked into his. “The real you is amazing. The people closest to you know that.”
“The real me?” Leif asked.
“Not this,” she said, gesturing at his body. “This,” she said, touching his heart.
“Hey Blowgun,” Peter called out. “Time to pay up!”
As Cassie walked back to the crowd, Hung admired her slim swimmer’s body and the way her hips swayed. “Angela’s fine and all,” he said, “but sometimes I really wonder why you let Cassie go.”
“The relationship just lost its fire,” Leif said as they walked over to the victors. “We’d become more friends than a couple, so we officially became just friends.
“Dude, I saw how she looked at you,” Hung said. “She doesn’t want to be ‘just friends.’”
Leif looked over at Cassie who had taken position behind Angela and was pointing at her while puckering her lips for a kiss.