chapter forty

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I've been running a lot lately.

Running mile after mile on the track as punishment for showing up hungover as fuck to practice every day. Running to keep my mind on something, anything other than the memory of Abby leaving me, again. And running from the terrifying reality that she won't ever come back to me, no matter how much I want her to, because she can't.

"Okay, listen up,"

I don't look away from the inside of my locker as Coach's voice echoes through our locker room. His pissed off level has finally eased back down from might have a heart attack any second to his normal kind of pissed, but easily set off level.  He's adjusting his tie for the hundredth time since he walked into the locker room an hour ago, and I can feel the anxiety radiating off of him from across the room.

"This is a big one tonight. This is what we've been working for the entire season. Every 6:00 AM weight room workout, every practice that ran late, every sprint, every mile on the track, every minute that you've put toward this sport was to get you to this point. I have confidence that we'll be able to keep our undefeated title, but you need to be the ones who believe it, you need to be the ones wholly focused. You need to not let those assholes get into your heads again like UCW did, otherwise you can kiss Vegas and the final goodbye. This is a mental game as much as it is a physical one and you need to be prepared,"

I can feel Luke tense beside me, but his little rivalry with Wilder isn't what Coach is talking about. He's talking about me almost getting into a fistfight and beating the shit out of Ty Marcus for talking about Abby. He's talking about me losing my cool on the court for the first time since I've played for him. He's talking about me needing to get my head back on straight because this is the biggest game of the year aside from the final and I can't fuck it up for us. 

There's more media coverage on this game than any of our past ones, there are news reporters from every big sports network waiting to interview us right now, and there are more scouts and head coaches watching than ever before. This is a huge game for me, and I can feel his eyes boring into my back, like he's trying to make sure I know it.

I know it, how could I not? 

Every muscle in my body has been painfully tense since I woke up this morning. And while it's easy to say that it's because of the game tonight, I know that it's not. It's because I wake up every morning still expecting to see Abby in bed next to me, cuddled up in my arms while her soft snores ease me back to sleep just to enjoy the moment for a little bit longer. But she wasn't there this morning. She hasn't been there for a while. And that has been weighing down on me more than any game ever could. 

And even though I know I should be trying to relax and focus on our new plays, and defense tactics, and try to get my head straight, I can't seem to stop thinking about her. About whether or not she'll be at the game. If she's just as fucking broken as I am. If she's already called up Damon for a date to help her move on. If she's already forgetting about me.

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