Authors: Ruthie Robinson
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #African American
Sam’s strategy was different for each game, depending
on the information garnered from his scouting expedi
tions. Today he wanted Reye to play forward against the
weaker defender and score. In most games, this was an
effective strategy as most men usually underestimated
er, to their misfortune, of course. She would get one or
two goals before they recognized the mismatch and
changed their line-up. Today wasn’t any different. She
scored for the second time a minute before the first half
ended. They were up by two at the half and it was now
time for Sam’s usual halftime speech.
Changes and adjustments were made for the second
half of the game. Sam expected Stephen’s team to correct
the mismatch and play their better defender against Reye.
To counter this, Sam would move up to the front to play
in the forward position opposite Reye. He and Reye
played well together. They’d been playing together since grade school. They’d played against their older brothers,
who’d picked on them. Learning to play together had
been a matter of survival.
The second half started. As predicted, Stephen moved
to play defender against Reye.
“Think you can keep up?” she asked as she stood in
“I won’t need to. You seem the type who quits when
things get tough.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” she asked him. He
shrugged, and the whistle blew starting the second half. The ball was passed to Reye, who received it and began
to move down the field. Stephen stood away from her,
taking time and space to watch her commit to a direc
tion. She ran towards him and he stepped up to block the
ball, stopping her momentum, kicking the ball out of bounds.
“What, you can’t get by me?”
“Watch me,” she said.
She received the ball again and moved it downfield.
Stephen stepped to her and she switched the ball to her
other foot and ran by him. He was quick and able to
catch her, but not before she passed it off to Sam, who
took a shot on goal. The goalie watched it fall into his
hands. Reye walked back to her position and play
resumed. The ball was passed to Reye again, this time
Stephen leaned in with his shoulder and interrupted her
drive. He swept in front of her, aligning his back to her
front, taking the ball away, kicking it out of bounds
again. Reye and Stephen played tough, demanding
soccer, in their own world for the remainder of the game. They pushed, shoved, ran, and fell over each other, one
driving to score, the other determined to prevent it.
Stephen’s team was able to pull out the win, because
Sam’s strategy had left them weak in the defender posi
tion and Stephen’s team had taken advantage. They
scored three times in the second half to win the game.
Both teams walked over to their benches to drink
water and change out of their cleats. Sam walked over to
Reye. “So what’s going on between you and the
She was seated on the bench removing her cleats, and
looked up sharply at his question. “Nothing. Why?”
“Just wondering, you two were all alone on the field.
We all noticed,” Sam said. He moved his head and hands
to include the other players on her team. Reye put her
socks and cleats in her bag and slipped her sandals on while continuing to talk.
No, I just really wanted to win. You know how I dis
like being underestimated.”
“Sure, Reye, whatever you say,” Sam said, preparing
to walk away.
“Whatever, Sam,” she returned. “Are you coming to
“Sure. I’ll be there,” he said, and left the field.
Reye walked over to her truck, meeting both Stephen and Henri en route. “Good game, Reye, didn’t know you
played, let alone so well,” said a smiling Henri.
“Thanks,” she replied.
She looked over at Stephen, who stood covered in a
thin layer of dirt and sweat. She felt his body calling out
to her as she looked him over. His clothing clung to his
body, reminding her of her time spent draped over him.
She moved her eyes from his body to his face and she
could tell from the smug smirk of his lips that he’d caught
He had been wiggling his fingers in front of her
trying to get her attention, and laughed outright at the
look of chagrin on her face. “We are going over to The
Garden for some beer, would you like to join us?” he asked, trying to contain his laughter.
She smiled at being caught, laughing in spite of her
embarrassment. “Our team is going over, too,” she said.
“Seriously,” Stephen said. “You’re a really strong
player. I had to work hard to keep up with you.”
“Thank you. You’re no slouch, either,” she said,
moving to open her truck door. “See you two later.”
* * *
Reye walked into The Garden to find that Sam had
already secured a table for their team. The Graduates
were well into their beers as they looked over their
menus. Everyone had arrived. It was as always, lively at
The Garden after a game, win or lose. It was loud, filled
with the grunts, shouts, and friendly trash-talking that
was found between teams after a game. Saturdays at The
Garden were reserved for festivities surrounding the
other football game, American football. Sundays at The Garden were reserved for the real “futbal”, soccer. Reye
enjoyed hanging here reliving the game, where she usu
ally accepted praise from her fellow teammates for her
exceptional play. She slyly looked around The Garden
searching for Stephen, who hadn’t arrived yet. So she sat, both nervous and excited, surrounded by her brother and
her teammates, but only concerned about the appearance
of one person. As much as she would wish those feeling
away, they didn’t seem to want to go. So why not give
into them? She had always taken pride in her ability to
push past her fears. Why stop now? So, she decided
tonight that if Stephen seemed interested still, she would
go for it. Having reached this conclusion, she sat back, more than ready for him to arrive.
Stephen pulled into the parking lot with Henri riding
shotgun. He cut the engine and stared out the window
for a second, lost in thought. He had been quiet on the
drive over, his mind occupied with Reye. What to do
with her? He hadn’t called her, but he’d felt his connec
ion to her reignite today on the field. He didn’t want any
more rejection, but he wasn’t ready to let it go, either. He
decided that if he detected any interest from her, he’d try
“So what’s up?” Stephen turned at Henri’s question, a
little surprised. He been wrapped up in his thoughts and had forgotten Henri was there.
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean. You still like her?”
“Yeah, so what?”
“You haven’t asked for my opinion, but for what it’s
worth, I think it’s mutual. I watched her scoping you
when you were playing,” he said with a smirk. “Here’s
another question for you. Why her?”
“Damned if I know,” Stephen said. With that said, they headed into The Garden.
* * *
Reye noticed him immediately as he entered with
Henri. He spotted her and gave her a nod in acknowl
edgement. He didn’t come over, but headed instead to his
team’s table. Her stomach dropped. What had she
expected? She looked around her table. She’d been half
listening to the conversation going on around her. It had moved on from the soccer game to graduate school stuff,
which didn’t interest her. She hadn’t wanted to talk
anyway; her mind was occupied elsewhere. Now that
Stephen had arrived, she spent her time glancing covertly
at his table. Unfortunately, he seemed engrossed in the c
onversation surrounding him. Okay, enough of this! She
was going home. In a last ditch effort, she would stop by
his table and congratulate his team on her way out. She
wouldn’t continue to sit here doing nothing, watching
and waiting. Sam laughed at Reye as she stood up to
leave. “You’re leaving?”
“Yeah, I think so. School tomorrow.”
“Sure,” he responded sarcastically. She looked down
at him, giving him the evil eye.
“What does that mean?” Reye asked as Sam looked at
her, pretending innocence.
“You can’t keep your eyes off Mr. Defender is more
“Whatever. I’m out of here.” Taking a deep breath she
walked over to Stephen’s table. All eyes turned to her.
“I just wanted to stop by to congratulate you all again
for your win. We look forward to playing you again, and
we won’t take it so easy on you next time.” She smiled
and they laughed. Most looked at her through bright and shining eyes. Beer made people very friendly. Stephen sat
watching her. She couldn’t read his expression, but after
she finished, he introduced her to the team members as
his friend. Some of them she’d recognized from the fra
ternity party. Henri she knew and Joe she refused to look at. Stephen retold the story of how they’d met at the air
port and that he’d been surprised to see her on the field.
His face as he told the story was unguarded, open, with
that slightly wicked smile of his that left her feeling all
liquid inside. She loved that smile. His eyes were clear,
filled with humor.
At this moment, she wanted him beyond anything
she’d ever felt before. “Well, good night,” she said,
moving away from the table. His teammates resumed
their talking and he stood up to follow her, reaching her
at the door.
“I’ll walk you to your truck,” he said.
“Okay,” she said, walking through the door and out
into the night. It was dark out, the lights from the garden
providing very little illumination. She took the lead with
Stephen following closely, his hand in the small of her back as they walked, both of them quiet. Reaching her
truck she turned to face him. He stood closer to her than
“Thanks for walking me out.” Before she could lose
her nerve she blurted out an invitation. “Would you like
to come over for dinner Saturday night?” He didn’t
answer, just stepped in closer to her, so close that she
could see the new growth of hair on his chin. He placed
both of his hands at her waist and slid them upward to
rest just under her breasts. His eyes remained locked with
hers and his thumbs begin to graze the undersides of
them, a slow movement back and forth. Slowly he moved in and tugged her lower lip in between his teeth before
settling his lips on hers, kissing her softly. She opened for
him and his tongue marched in. She felt like one of those
cartoons that turned into a pool of liquid and slid into a
puddle on the floor. Slowly he relinquished her mouth,
but he still held her.
“I would love to come to your house for dinner.”
eye gazed into his eyes, her mind a blank canvas as she tried to gather her thoughts. They’d packed a bag,
“What time?” he asked, as she continued to stare back
at him. Stephen gave her a small shake and asked her
again, now grinning, “What time Saturday evening?”
“Seven? Do you remember where I live?”
“I remember where you live, and I have your number
that you programmed into my phone in case I get lost.”
He removed his hands from her body and backed away
so she could get into her truck.
“See you soon,” he said as she backed her truck out
and drove away.
He shook his head and smiled to himself as he
watched her truck go down the road. Some of his parts
needed time to cool before he went back into the restau
rant. He wanted her badly. Bare, his skin touching hers,
laid out before him, on top and under him, in all the
ways that were possible. He would have to throw himself
into his studies this week if he wanted to hold on to his sanity until Saturday. Perhaps afterwards, he could finally
put her into perspective. He would scratch an itch that had plagued him since the party. Who was he kidding?
His obsession with Reye had begun at the airport, when
she fell on her butt and then sat there, smiling and
laughing at herself. He couldn’t wait.