Inning 23 ★ Collision Course

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My forehead rested against the school bus window. We were on our way to Lake Apopka for the training camp. I drowned the sounds of the chatter on the bus with loud, angry, rock music. I had the pleasure of sitting by myself at the front of the bus, since Domingo had joined us as a chaperone as well. He and dad were sitting together talking about anything but the plans we'd discussed in the week leading up to this day. Those were a secret.

I had a strange cocktail of feelings in my belly. I was thankful to Santi for looking out for me, the way he always did. I felt nauseous that I couldn't fight him off, fight for us. My dream was everything to me. He understood this, but I felt selfish for just straight up accepting that this was a sacrifice I was willing to make. I lay awake for hours the past few nights, debating with myself over if I should just go up to dad and the Principal and whoever and tell them that yes, I could date whomever I wanted because that had nothing to do with my job or my responsibilities. How dare they impose a rule on me that didn't apply to anybody else.

But at the same I couldn't just go and demand that the rules be changed the moment I realized they didn't suit me anymore. I'd been fine with that little clause when I got in on the team, because the thought of wanting to be more than a friend with any of these idiots hadn't even crossed my mind.

One of said idiots threw a shoe at the front of the bus. I saw dad stand up from the corner of my eye to reprimand the poor sucker.

I sighed. I'd never been boy crazy. The whole concept was anathema to me. I had way better things to do with my life than place all my eggs in a guy's basket. This was the first time I had my doubts.

Because it was Santiago. He wasn't just any boy. He was my favorite boy. And I guessed now I'd have to learn that he'd never be mine, in the full sense of the word, that he was just my favorite friend, period. I'd have to learn to be fine with not having him close to me all the time once we went to college. Worse of all, I'd have to learn to be perfectly a-ok when he brought a girl home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. And even attend his wedding with someone else.

I raised my knees up so that I could hug them against my chest and hide my face. I didn't want anybody to see I'd suddenly started crying and that the waterworks were coming with a tide. The thought of looking up at the altar and seeing him look at some woman with the same eyes burning with feeling he'd looked at me with, was hurting way more than I cared to admit. I was going crazy all by myself. He probably wasn't thinking about any of this.

I was only realizing after I lost him how much I'd actually wanted him.

The drive to the cabins took us an hour and a half approximately. We got there with plenty of time to train for the entire day, pass out at night, have a special training game tomorrow Sunday and drive back to school before everybody went home. It was going to be grand. I couldn't wait for it to be over. I was feeling so emotionally drained already that I didn't really want to put an effort on anything other than rolling out of bed. I also hated that the stupid, throbbing ache in my heart didn't let my brain enjoy this amazing chance.

The guys at the back of the bus helped offload all the food and stuff we brought with the funds. All easy stuff that Domingo, dad and I could prepare easily while the boys trained. Hot dogs, burgers and the like. I wished we'd brought giant pints of ice cream just for myself. Alas.

"Are you okay, honey bunny?" dad asked once I descended the bus. "You look kinda tired already, and we haven't even started."

I wiped my face and came up with a quick excuse. "Yeah, I'm fine. I just dozed off for a bit, I'll perk up soon."

I didn't.

After the initial madness of everybody choosing their cabin and bunk mates, we were able to begin practice. Pretty much the entire morning was drills. The best part was walking through the lines of guys running on their spots or doing jumping jacks and just bask in their suffering. It relieved mine a tad, until I walked in front of Santiago. For the past week we'd come to a silent but mutual agreement of not really making eye contact. We had lunch together with the guys and shared the same spaces we did as before, but there was no real interaction.

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