Home > Sneaking Around with the Player

Sneaking Around with the Player
Author: Rebecca Jenshak




“Yo, Ricci.” Aaron juts his chin in acknowledgment as we get to the gate for our flight. “A bunch of the guys are going to grab dinner. You in?”

I drop my backpack onto a seat by the window looking out at the runway and take the chair next to it. “Nah, I’m good.”

“Shake it off. We’ll get them next time.”

“Yeah.” Nodding, I give my buddy a playful smile that is all show. “Of course, we will.”

When my teammates are finally gone, I let out a breath and put on my headphones. I don’t feel like listening to music, but it helps drown out some of the airport noise.

We are catching a flight back to Colorado after a tough loss. All losses are tough, but this one stings especially bad for me because I should have stopped the final play, the one that let the other team take a one-point lead with three seconds left.

I’m a cornerback. THE cornerback. The best on my team, maybe in the entire conference. I’m known for my ability to anticipate plays, my quick reflexes, and my all-out, never-give-up mentality.

Once you get me started, there’s no stopping me. Some call me reckless or destructive. Some call me determined. I don’t know which is right. I’m just trying to do my best for my team and for my family cheering me on from home. It means everything to them that I’m playing college ball.

I see a new text from my dad, ignore it, and pull up Twitch to watch my favorite gamer. This guy is legit. He’s a world-class speedrunner on Super Mario. I wonder if his parents critique his every game. Probably not.

While I watch, the seats around me start to fill up. It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving, so there are a lot of families, just a lot of people in general.

A shadow falls over me and I glance up to find a girl looking at me with big, brown eyes, like she might have said something I didn’t hear.

“Sorry. Did you say something?” I ask as I move one headphone off my ear.

“Are you saving that for someone?” She points to the chair next to me, where my backpack sits.

“No. It’s all yours.” I move my bag to the floor in front of me and she drops into the chair.

“Thank you,” she says with a sigh. “You just saved me from watching my ex and his new girlfriend make out like they’re about to get on two different flights. Making out at the airport should be reserved for couples who are parting ways, or are reuniting, or I don’t know, anyone but them.”

I give her my attention, which prompts her to add, “That sounded mean, didn’t it?”

“A little, maybe.”

“Sorry. Ignore me.” She waves a hand and slumps in the chair. Without looking at me, she says, “Thank you for the seat.”

I do ignore her, for a moment. My hand goes to pull my headphone back over my ear, but then I stop. She’s more interesting than anything I have on my phone to kill the time. “But it’s also pretty insensitive to make out with someone in front of an ex that you know still likes you.”

“Oh, I don’t like him.” She undoes the braid in her hair. It’s a light red that could almost be confused as blonde, if the light from the window at our backs wasn’t hitting it just right. She finger combs it, and then begins to braid it again. “You don’t believe me?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“I could see it on your face,” she says. She pulls her feet up into the chair, crossing her legs like the airport chair is roomy—it is not. “I broke up with him.”

“Then why does it annoy you so much?”

She thinks for a second, which gives me a chance to check her out more closely. Her skin is fair, which makes her brown eyes and long, black lashes stand out. Her lips are shiny and pink, and as she thinks, she purses them slightly. The center of her top lip is wider than the bottom, making a perfect heart. She’s wearing a Valley U Swim & Dive Team sweatshirt with black athletic pants and sneakers.

“I think relationships require a mourning period when they’re over. A time to think about what went well, what went wrong, how that person was or wasn’t the right fit.”

“Yeah, I don’t know any guy that does that. Sorry. We pretty much live by the get-drunk-and-move-on-to-forget philosophy.”

She laughs, a soft sound that makes her lips pull apart to show off straight, white teeth. She has a great smile.

“Why’d you break up with him?” I find myself wanting to know more, to prolong this conversation. She’s a perfect distraction.

“You’re gonna think it’s dumb.”

“Well, now I definitely have to know.”

She angles her body toward me. “He whistles.”

My brows rise. “Whistles?”

“Yeah. Like all the freaking time. At first, I thought it was sort of endearing, but it’s all the time. While he’s watching TV, walking to class, in class, during sex.”

“He whistles during sex?” I bark a laugh, then cover it with a fist.

She nods adamantly. “If he wasn’t under the water or my mouth wasn’t plastered to his, then he’s whistling. And don’t get me wrong, I love kissing, but my lips were chapped, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Under the water?”

“He’s a swimmer.”

“Ah. Did you ask him about it?”

“He was like, ʻOh, yeah. I don’t even realize I’m doing it.ʼ” She grimaces. “And I realize it’s a stupid reason to break up with someone, but I couldn’t imagine myself getting used to it. Not with him. And I guess that’s really the thing. If it’s the right person, you shouldn’t want to choke them for their annoying, quirky habits, right?”

“Probably not.” I whistle, just to poke a little fun at her, but then laugh.

“See? It’s not annoying when you do it. Not yet at least.” She settles back into her chair.

“Not until we’re dating for a month or two and you’re looking for an excuse to break up with me?”

“You should be so lucky.” There’s a sassy glint in her eyes that makes my pulse kick up a notch.

“You’re a swimmer, too?” I ask, pointing at her sweatshirt. “Or still wearing his clothes even though you claim to be over him?”

“I am over him, and I’m a diver.”

“A diver. No shit? Like flipping in the air from a really high diving board?” I make a circular motion with my pointer finger.

Her mouth pulls into another big smile. “Yep. It’s called a platform or a springboard.”

“That’s awesome. How’d you get into that?”

“I did swim team every summer when I was a kid, and then in middle school, I started diving.” She shrugs.

“That’s really cool.” I move my headphones down around my neck. “You’re coming from a game? Meet? Competition? I just realized I don’t know what they call swimming events.”

“Meets. And yes. We were at UT and now we’re heading home.”

“Did you win?”

“We did,” she says proudly.

“Nice. Congrats.”

“Thanks. Do you go to CU?” She points to my sweatshirt with the college name written across the front.

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