Authors: Ruthie Robinson
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #African American
She was a good player, quick and fast, but not inter
ested in playing college ball. Actually she’d been more
than a little burned out by the constant practices, games, and tournaments. Playing soccer could be rewarding, but it was also hell on the body, and, as her mother loved to
say, “It don’t pay the rent.” Her parents wanted her to get
an education, first, no distractions. They were old school
that way. So college soccer had been discouraged.
hese days she just played for fun on her brother’s team, “The Graduates.” Her brother Sam founded the
team, which competed against other teams of graduates
within the university recreational system. Sports were big
at the university, especially football, but for those athletes that were good, but not great, or who wanted to pursue
school full-time the university offered the chance to get
involved in sports via the intramural system.
As intramural systems went, this was one of the oldest
and largest among US colleges. The intramurals had dif
ferent levels of play, A, B, and C, with A being the most
skilled. A team’s composition could be all female, male, or co-ed, as The Graduates were. The winners of each level received a t-shirt, placement of their team’s picture on the intramural website, but, most importantly, brag
ging rights. Sam had petitioned for Reye, an undergrad
uate, to join his team, which consisted of eight men and
Sam had been both drill sergeant and coach at prac
tice today. Their team placed second in the playoffs in
Division A last year and he wanted to win it all this year,
driving the team nuts with his demands. They were cur
rently tied for first with another team, The Wizards,
which they would encounter soon. All of the teams met
and played each other twice, and the best record won the
Reye remained behind after practice to perfect her
shot, specifically her aim, and stood now kicking the ball
into the goal. Sam walked over to stand in as goalie. He
considered spending this time with Reye as fulfillment of
ne of his big brother duties. You know, check in with
little sister, answer questions, provide guidance and
wisdom to her youth. They were one year apart, so Reye
found his behavior hysterical when it wasn’t annoying.
“What’s up baby girl? How’s school?” Sam said as he
caught the ball from Reye’s kick, rolling it back to her.
“I’m still here,” she answered, kicking again. “What about you, still resolving the world’s problems?”
“You know me, no problem too big or too small.” He
caught the ball and held it. “You need to visit your parents,” he said. “You haven’t been in a while.”
“Yeah, I know, and I will. I haven’t been in a mom
mood lately.” Sam liked to pretend that their parents belonged to her solely; that way he could also pretend
that they weren’t related. He’d started this pretending in
high school, and it was now a long-standing joke
between them. Reye, however, did tend to avoid her
mother, visiting when she knew her dad would be
around, to act as a buffer.
She loved her mother, but she was a pusher. She
pushed them to play sports; for the boys it was football,
baseball, soccer, and track, and for her, basketball, volley
ball, soccer, and track. She pushed them all to be the best
in academics, a worthy goal for parents born with talented children. It worked for her brothers as they met and exceeded their mother’s expectations. She was the
ugly duckling in the sea of swans, excelling at sports only.
Reye stood in front of the ball Sam had rolled to her. “I
met a guy coming home from Dallas about a week and a
half ago. We were both running late and he helped me m
ake the flight. I gave him my number, but he hasn’t
called,” she said.
“I bet you put the old bum rush on him,” he said,
holding his hands up in front of his face to block the ball
Reye had just kicked at him. “You do realize that some
guys like to pursue the female,” he added.
“Whatever, Sam. You know I don’t play by any rule
book. It’s too much trouble, and the rules don’t make
sense to me anyway. Why isn’t being me enough? Why do
women have to pretend to get a man? What’s wrong with
going for what you want, if you’ve determined what that
is? And anyways, life is short.” Sam watched her and
waited until she stopped ranting. He rolled the ball back
“If he’s interested, he’ll call you,” he said.
“Maybe,” she said, gathering up her ball and ending
the discussion. “Do you think we’re ready for the next
“Of course we’re ready. I’m in charge here, right?”
Reye rolled her eyes heavenward. “And humble, too.”
She walked over to her truck and Sam followed, watching
as she exchanged her cleats for flip-flops and hopped in.
“Take care, baby girl. I’ll see you next game.”
“Yeah. You, too.”
* * *
Later on that week, Reye walked into the East River
Community Center located east of town, a more eco
nomically challenged part of the city. She was here at the
equest of one of her professors. Professor Wallace had
suggested strongly that she volunteer her time in a program offered here that allowed kids with learning prob
lems to get help after school. Since she served as Reye’s
advisor and played a major role in Reye’s ability to grad
uate, she took her professor’s advice and made an
appointment with the director of the program, Dr. Susan
She approached the main information desk, where a
young girl sat talking on the telephone. A striking pink
hairpiece was interwoven into long black twists that hung
down the girl’s waist and lay against light brown skin.
Small in stature, she sat behind the desk manning the
receptionist station while talking on the telephone. Reye
walked over, stood next to the desk, and waited for the
young lady to complete her call. She appeared to be in
her mid teens, but who knew these days. Young girls grew up so fast. Eleven-year-olds could pass for early twenties
nowadays. Reye took a moment to look around the inte
rior of the center. The area next to the desk contained
small couches and tables; standard city issued furniture,
where children sat slouched and huddled talking
together. One brave child sat alone reading a book. On
the other side of the entry was a room that held com
puters and more children. The walls were made of glass
so she you could see in. All ages sat around the com
puters, playing games or, for the more studious ones,
Reye turned at the sound of the phone being hung
up. The receptionist looked up. “May I help you?”
hat was it with women? thought Reye. From little
girls to full grown adults, regardless of race, they could
run an eye over another woman and sum her up faster
than you could blink. Add another second and they
could recite your dress and shoe size, the cost of your
attire, and if said attire worked for you or not. Reye was
treated to such an assessment from the young woman,
and, judging by the sour turn of her lips, Reye hadn’t measured up.
“My name is Reye Jackson, and I have an appoint
ment with Dr. Susan Houston.”
“Let me call her.” She picked up the phone, dialed,
and sat in silence for a few seconds. “Dr. Houston there
is . . . .” She paused and looked at Reye. “What did you say your name was?”
“A Reye Jackson is here to see you. Okay,” she said,
and placed the receiver back in its place.
“Have a seat, she’ll come and get you when she’s
ready,” the girl said to Reye as she picked up her telephone, hand moving swiftly on the keys, texting.
Dissed by a teenager, how sad,
Reye thought. She found a seat next to the door to sit her disappointing ass down.
Ten minutes later, a woman in her early fifties
appeared. A neatly trimmed afro sat atop a handsome
face covered in dark brown skin. She was neatly dressed
in a cream-colored business suit with matching three-
inch pumps. Gold jewelry adorned her hands and ears.
She walked over to Reye with both of her hands
Well, hello, Reye, I’m Dr. Susan Houston. You may
call me either Doctor or Susan. Professor Wallace has told
me so much about you.”
Reye thought to herself as she returned
“Yes, you,” she said as if she’d reached into Reye’s
brain and plucked that thought out. “Did you have any
trouble finding us?”
“No, no trouble at all. I grew up in Austin, so I know
my way around.”
“Great. Let me show you the center while I tell you
about our program,” she said and turned away after indi
cating that Reye should follow her. “Children come to our center after school for assistance with homework.
Most of the children require some type of assistance in
the three R’s, and we do our best to help. But, like most
non-profits, we always fall short of recruiting volunteers.
Professor Wallace told me that she felt that you had a par
ticular talent, a gift, even, and, more importantly, a heart
for those children who had difficulties learning.”
“Professor Wallace told you that? About me?” She
voiced her thoughts out loud this time.
Dr. Houston laughed, a small sound, like little bells.
“She probably had me confused with someone else,”
Reye said jokingly. “I would think you would need the
best and the brightest to teach kids with learning issues,
and that is
“I think you underestimate yourself,” Dr Houston
said. “Professor Wallace told me that you dedicate your
self ardently to those tasks set before you. We need vol
unteers who have that passion, and it’s a bonus if they
come with an insiders view into our student’s struggles.”
Dr. Houston stepped into a room Reye hadn’t seen earlier. Five children, four boys and one girl, sat around
those little tables and chairs that she’d outgrown by
kindergarten. Pencils, scattered papers, and books littered
the tables. A tall, slender Hispanic young man leaned
over the back of a student’s chair, talking. They all turned
at the sound of the door opening.
“Hello, children,” Dr. Houston said as she moved to
stand in the middle of the room. “I have someone I
would like you to meet.” She turned and pointed to
Reye. “This is Ms. Reye, and she is visiting the center.
She may work with some of you after school, like Javier.”
The young man smiled while five pair of eyes stared at Reye. Dr. Houston introduced Javier, also a volunteer, who had been with the program for two years.
They spent time observing him work with the children. He moved between the children answering ques
tions and redirecting them when they became distracted.
After about ten minutes, Dr. Houston stood up to leave,
and Reye followed.
“Thank you, Javier and children, for your time,” Dr.
Houston said. She led Reye from the room. Outside the
door, she turned to Reye and asked, “Well, what do you
Reye paused for a second to look around the center again. “If you and Professor Wallace think this is a good
idea, I’ll do my best to help you.”
“Great,” Dr. Houston said and beamed.
When do you want me to start, and how many days
would I be here?” Reye asked.
“Well, I was hoping you would be available to work
at least three days a week. Monday, Wednesday, and
Friday would be preferable, but we are flexible. Do you
think that would work?”