A and D (35)

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Aaron:

Eighteen seconds to go, it was a tie.

The Wolves were in possession of the ball.

Humphrey grabbed the ball. I blocked him. He attempted a three-point shot. I touched it, decreasing its speed. But it was rebounded by one of his teammates, followed by a slam dunk.

Their side of the crowd cheered. I cursed under my breath.

Eighty-seven to Eighty-nine, Wolves were now in the lead.

Coach called for a time-out. We huddled quickly, while some of us grabbed a bottle of water. He explained the play to us carefully.

“. . . and then, pass the ball to Ford for the final shot,” he added to all of us, gesturing to me. “Whoever grabs hold of the ball, hand it rapidly to Ford so he could take a three-pointer. Is that clear?”

“Yes, coach!”

“Stallions – on three,” declared Ethan, stretching out his hand. We instantly placed our hand on top of it.

“One – Two – Three – STALLIONS!”

I had to keep my head in the game. This was a crucial time for us. I would think about Dakota later.

“You ready, man?” Ethan asked me. He looked so serious that I knew the intensity of the game was getting to him.

“Keep your path open, you hear?” I ordered under my breath.

“What’s your plan?”

“Just trust me.” I glanced at the time.

Seven seconds left.

I took a deep breath. Anything was possible in seven seconds.

Luke took the ball from the referee. I placed myself on outside the three-point line. He passed it to Nigel, and Nigel passed it to me.

Six . . .

Out of nowhere, the Wolves triple-teamed me.

Five . . .

I tried to find a way out, but they were blocking every path possible.

Four . . .

I dribbled once. I turned, finding myself still blocked.

Three . . .

I half-bent my knees and jumped as high as I could. I was about to make the shot when I saw Ethan wide open outside the three-point line. I knew right away that his angle was better than mine, so I tossed the ball to him.

Two . . .

Ethan caught it. Without stopping to think, he made a jump shot. Everyone watched the ball fly toward the ring. It was probably the most intense one and a half second in my life.

One.

The buzzer went off, as the ball swiftly went in.

YES!!!” I yelled out of joy along with the crowd.

I jumped up and down as I made my way to Ethan. The team and I slammed ourselves to him. We barely noticed the mob of people surrounded us.

Dad gave me a hug. I had no idea how he came to my side so fast. And then, he pulled away because a scout wanted to talk business with him.

Someone – I don’t know who – handed me the trophy. The team gathered in front of the cameras beside me. Coach smiled proudly, as he squeezed my shoulder. I could swear I saw tears in his eyes.

All of us grinned. I held up the trophy. Camera flashes practically blinded us. But it didn’t matter.

WE’RE STATE CHAMPIONS!!!

And just when I was thinking of the girl whom I wanted to be with at the moment, I felt warm hands tap my shoulder. I turned around, and was startled when soft lips touched my mine.

Many people turned their heads toward us – who were sort of making out in the middle of all the chaos.

“Dakota –” I panted, when she pulled away. I nodded my head pointedly toward the crowd watching us. I thought she didn’t want to let anyone else know? Did she make up her mind?

She shook her head. “I don’t care,” she said, smiling up at me.

I felt my lips stretch into a wide grin. I hadn’t smiled like this ever since Mom passed away. I felt the world brighten around me.

“Really?” I asked.

The moment she opened her mouth, I knew that she was going to say a sarcastic comeback.

“Did I just not kiss you in public?” she replied, rolling her eyes. But she still kept the smile on her face.

This night just couldn’t get any better. We were the State Champions, and the girl I was in love with finally agreed to let everyone know that she was mine.

If Mom could see this, she would be beaming with joy.

It just occurred to me . . . I hadn’t told Dakota that I was in love with her yet. I wanted to be the first one to say it – that was one of the reasons why I pretended to believe her last Christmas. Because subconsciously, I knew that what I felt about her was deeper than what I was aware of.

The only problem now was: When should I tell her?

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