Chapter One

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Our last game of the season was an away game against the Sea Lions

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Our last game of the season was an away game against the Sea Lions.

Winning the championship in Columbia County meant our team would progress to the Mini Soccer Washington State Tournament. Almost nobody knew about the competition, but it was the sole reason any of us Dragons joined the school's under-funded and underappreciated team in the first place; the promise of the two-day long playoffs in Seattle that was exclusive to the small pool of championship county winners in Washington.

Nobody on our team cared about being the best in our state. We focused on the part where we got to spend three glorious nights in the Bolton hotel, lounging in fluffy bathrobes, taking advantage of the indoor hot tubs, and sneaking out of the hotel rooms at night. Hungover games against the other teams were all part of the deluxe experience.

The only way to get there was to win against our town rivals who'd beat us last year and ended our two-year winning streak.

It was the final year of high school for most of us on the team and our last opportunity for us all to avail of the getaway together, so under no circumstances could we lose to the Sea Lions again.

Eduardo Santiago stood in between the aisles in the bus on the way to the Ridgeway Institute and gave us an inspiring captain speech. Every goal we scored unlocked a new hotel add-on. Score one and you could raid the hotel's mini-fridge without him stopping you, score two and you could throw a hotel room party, and score over three goals, and he'd let us sneak into the Bolton pool at night for a private Dragons' bash.

That's why he was captain. He knew the best way to motivate us: bribery

I otherwise spent the rest of the journey ten-minute drive listening to a Phil Collins playlist and got my head in the right mindset to win.

The Sea Lions' school sat on the outskirts of town. Their high security gates took forever to get through, but once inside, my team wasted no time clambering across the cobblestone path and sprinting inside toward the fancy guest locker room. It seemed like a lot of wasted energy. By the time I made it inside, they fought over who got first dibs on the pristine benches like we'd be in there for over fifteen minutes.

Royal blue lockers, graffiti-free shower stalls, and large cubicles split the space into three distinct sections, making it easy to slip away unnoticed when Dan Liu showed off the impressive high-pressure shower spray.

I leaned against a locker on the other side of the room. It had the number seven painted in yellow below the ventilation holes, matching the number on my jersey.

It was hard to appreciate the fancy ribbon stuck to my assigned locker, the lovely citrusy scent permeating the air, or the fact no dirty socks laid around when my boyfriend spammed my phone with video call requests.

My thumb hovered over the screen.

While he might've been my boyfriend, we were also on a break, and he wasn't supposed to contact me until later tonight.

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