A and D (39)

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I had never ever – even once – imagined that Coach would cry. It was mind-blowing – and freaky. We were used to seeing him strict and tough. For us to see him weeping was just . . . all out bizarre.

We stared at him, dumbstruck.

Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t bawl or something. But his voice was shaking and tears continuously came out from his eyes as he continued to talk about our undefeated season to being the State Champions.

“. . . best season in my whole life – even if I had to put up with these stubborn rascals,” grumbled Coach on the microphone, as he gave his speech on stage in front of all of us, “I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to coach you all.” There was a loud applause – the team and I cheered. “And now, I hand this Most Valuable Player award to one of the greatest players I have ever had the good fortune of coaching. He’s not only a Star player, he’s also a damn good leader,” he paused dramatically. The team looked at me, smiling. Ethan and Luke were smirking. Finally, Coach finished, “. . . Aaron Ford.”

The audience clapped. Others cheered. Some whistled.

I stood up from my seat and walked up to the stage. Coach gave me a strong-grip handshake after passing me the trophy. He didn’t seem satisfied because he patted me on the shoulder like he always did.

“Your mother would’ve been be so proud of you, son,” he whispered, so that only I could hear.

I nodded and smiled. “I know, Coach.”

He nodded once, and gave me the stage. I faced my fellow classmates, all smiling up to me. They were waiting for me to say something.

“I thank God for giving me this award,” I started, gesturing to the trophy in my hand. I smiled. “I thank my teammates for helping me bring the Stallions to the State Championships. Of course, I thank Coach for improving my skills in Basketball.” I paused and looked at the trophy for a moment.

I wished Dad was here – he was attending a meeting so he couldn’t come. Besides, this was Prom. Why would he come?

I wished Mom was here. I was pretty sure that she would be jumping with joy.

Most of all, I wished Dakota was here with me.

“The thing is,” I said seriously, “it wasn’t only me that brought us to be the State Champs. It was a team effort. We all worked hard for it and we all deserve a trophy. And seriously, we wouldn’t be this good if Coach hadn’t trained us to be like this. He didn’t just teach us game techniques; he also taught us something I would remember for the rest of my life. That’s teamwork and discipline.”

I stopped. I tried to search my friends from the crowd, but it was hard because the spotlight was directed at me. So I gave up, and just smiled.

“A lot of people have asked me why I gave Ethan the last shot in the State Championships,” I recalled. “They said that I could have all the glory. Well, this is my answer: To bring what’s best for the team, I have to sacrifice that ‘glory.’ And you know what? I didn’t regret one bit of it. So this trophy is for all of us.” I raised the slightly heavy thing up and I heard a loud roar of applause. When the volume went down, I added, “Can I still keep this, though?”

They laughed. I grinned.

I waved. “Thank you, everyone,” I said one last time, before leaving the stage. I went to sit beside Ethan, Luke and Alyson.

At that moment, Annabelle entered the ball room. All eyes turned to her – including mine. She smiled at everyone as she passed them.

With that red dress, she looked stunningly . . . well, hot.

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