The Beautiful Game 01byJayDavid©
A three part series that takes place in the same universe as The Lake House Rules, but which stands apart. More soccer than sex in the first chapter, so I hope you stay with me. All characters that engage in any sort of sexual behavior in this story are 18.
M.J. Tucker, her red jersey with its ram's head bearing the number 9, passed the ball back to the center midfielder, Samantha Tobin, and started to jog forward, drawing the defensive midfielder to her. She then shifted into another gear and blew by the bewildered girl in the blue No. 12 jersey, her long legs accelerating down the right wing. As the Falcons' center mid approached M.J. in support of her teammate, M.J. cut sharply toward the middle of the field. She knew, having played with Sam since their AYSO days, that there was a strong likelihood that a through ball was on its way, so she kept looking forward as she made her run. The pass was on target, and M.J. controlled it without breaking stride, passing the defensive midfielder and heading toward goal.
The only player on the field who was taller than M.J. was the Falcons' center back, No. 17, Alisa Johnson. M.J. knew, from years of playing against Alisa in club games and high school that she was fast, strong, smart, but vulnerable to being turned by good footwork. Which M.J. had. She dribbled at top speed directly at Alisa, then stepped over the ball and changed direction. Alisa's feet caught under her and she fell to the grass as M.J. flew by, leaving her 1v1 against the keeper, who had no chance against M.J.'s left footed blast into the upper right corner of the net. M.J. came to a stop and turned back toward the center circle, breathing hard.
The referee looked at his watch and blew the whistle. The North High Rams had beaten the Falcons 3-1. M.J. had two of the goals and an assist on the third, a fairly typical game for the top soccer player in the conference of small, suburban schools. But rather than call attention to herself, M.J. turned and pointed at Sam and gave her a thumbs up for the great pass. She jogged off the field, took a drink, poured some water over her light brown hair and used a towel to dry off as the team gathered on the sideline.
Coach Benson gathered the team together in a circle. Most of the players towered over her, but she had played varsity at North Carolina, and knew her stuff. She was a tough coach, but fair, and the players, for the most part, adored her. When everyone was together, she said, "Ladies, another great victory for the team. I don't have to remind you that we continue to be undefeated, and the playoffs start next Monday. We will have a target on our backs and will have to play as a team if we want to go to State. Can you do that?"
"Yes, Coach!" they yelled, in unison.
"Put your hands in," Coach Benson demanded, and the team complied.
As she had after each victory, Sam, the team captain, yelled, "One, Two, Three," and the team yelled "TEAMWORK!!"
After the yelling died down, Coach Benson said, "See you ladies tomorrow, 3:30. Be ready to work."
The victorious Rams walked to the locker room, talking and gossiping in groups, except for M.J. The acknowledged star of the team, she was always given space by her teammates after games, because they knew that she needed the time to unwind. No one resented this; rather, they respected her intensity and hard work. M.J. was also always the first player on the field at practice and the last to leave, was always willing to work with a teammate on a skill or play and never criticized her teammates. She had declined the captainship during junior year, because she believed that a senior should be captain, and deferred this season to Sam, because her personality was more suited to the role. M.J. simply led by example.
In the locker room, M.J. also kept slightly apart from the rest of the team. She removed her jersey and shorts and stood in her sports bra and compression shorts. As she removed her undergarments and got ready to shower, she looked at herself. She knew that she wasn't beautiful, like some of her teammates, but she was attractive, in the way that healthy, athletic young women are. Her face was pleasant and friendly, with a few freckles dotting her pale skin. She was slim, with strong shoulders and legs, flat muscular abs and small, well-shaped breasts, also sprinkled with a few freckles. She wrapped herself in a towel and walked to the shower, which felt great on her lithe body.
Afterwards, she dried off, dressed in sweats and left the locker room waiting for Sam to come out and drive her home. The Tuckers could not afford to buy M.J. a car, and Sam, M.J.'s best friend and neighbor, had been driving her to and from school since they were 16 when Sam's parents gave her the Honda. Part of M.J.'s intensity was based on the fact that she needed an athletic scholarship to attend college, and she was not only the leading scorer on the soccer team, she was the leading scorer and rebounder on the basketball team and the centerfielder and a pitcher on the softball team—but only the second leading hitter. No one, not even M.J., was perfect.
M.J. only had to wait a few minutes before Sam came out of the locker room. Despite the fact that they had been best friends since they were little girls, they were very different. Sam was short, pretty, had dark hair and café au lait colored skin befitting her Caribbean ancestry, and breasts large enough to occasionally get in her way on the field. Where M.J. was reserved and intense, Sam was bubbly and appeared carefree, although she worked hard to try to keep up with her best friend, and was a natural leader. In 10th grade, there were rumors that M.J. and Sam were lesbian lovers, but that was not true, and thereafter, Sam had made a point to emphasize her heterosexuality. M.J., consistent with her personality, played her cards close to her vest, and no one other than Sam really knew that she very much liked boys.
As was their custom, while they drove, Sam filled M.J. in on the gossip of the school as of that afternoon, who was sleeping with whom, and who wasn't any more, and who liked who, and who didn't. M.J. listened, and engaged in the conversation, but rarely had any information that Sam didn't already know.
M.J. understood the hierarchy at North. For the girls, the cheerleaders were the top of the pyramid. The Danas, the Lisas, the Chloes of the class ran the show, and they generally dated the guys from the football, basketball and baseball teams. Some of the female athletes, if they were particularly hot, could crack the top level, but most were in a lower caste, usually matched up with athletes from the lesser sports, or even occasionally with non-athletes. Sam, for example, was pretty and vivacious enough that she dated mostly basketball players, which was funny considering her lack of height, and it didn't hurt her popularity that she was willing to have sex. The drama and music kids hung out together, and then there were the nerds, who did most of the work for the clubs and organizations, but were universally ignored, or even despised, by the elites.
Despite the fact that she was the best female athlete in the school, in fact, probably the best athlete in the school, period, because of her just above average looks and shy personality, M.J. was clearly slotted in the second level, at best. However, she hadn't dated anyone at North, in part because she simply didn't have time, with all of her training and practices and school work, and in part because she hadn't found any guy at the school who interested her. And because many of them still thought that she was gay, she wasn't really the object of any serious male attention.
M.J. was not, however, a virgin. The prior summer, she had attended a basketball camp a couple of states away. She was there on scholarship, and in addition to working on her game with the other high school girls, she helped out as a counselor with the younger kids. It was an exhausting summer, but she improved her play significantly, and thought that she had been seen by some college recruiters. Although soccer was probably her best sport, she would take the best scholarship offer she could get.
Another benefit of the camp was that she met Josh, and they dated, as best as one could under the circumstances. He was a year older than M.J. and was heading off to play basketball at a small college in central Pennsylvania. Two weeks after M.J.'s 18th birthday, they were able to sneak away and have sex, which she found she enjoyed greatly. They were able to do it a few more times during the summer, and kept in touch through Facebook during Josh's first semester in college, but then the relationship faded away as he became more involved with his life at college.
Sam was the only one at North who knew about this relationship, and she constantly pushed M.J. to find a local guy to hook up with, but no one ever seemed right, and there never seemed to be time. But occasionally, if you watched M.J., she would smile a certain smile, and if you guessed that she was thinking of her nights together with Josh in the woods, or in the pitch black gym on the wrestling mats, you would be right.
Sam dropped M.J. off at her house, then drove a few houses down the street to her house. M.J. entered her house and saw her little sister Gwen sitting on the couch eating and watching TV. Her mother was washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen.
"How'd you do, M.J.?" Gwen asked.
"Pretty good," she said, "we won again, 3-1."
"Yeah, peanut, 2 goals, one assist."
"Yay!" Gwen yelled, raising her little arms above her head. Her mother smiled.
M.J. went to the kitchen and took the plate of cold chicken and frozen peas that her mother left for her, sat down at the table and ate it without much enthusiasm. M.J. generally considered food nothing more that fuel necessary to maintain her physical activity, probably because her mother was not a good cook. Dropping her plate into the sink, M.J. hugged her mother, who worked hard at the grocery store and taking care of her and Gwen. Her mother, Annette, said, "I'm proud of you, M.J. Do you have homework?
M.J. said, "Yes," and went up to her room and began to work. She was only a middling student, but worked hard in the time she had to keep her grades to the point that she would still be attractive to colleges. She noticed that her mother had dropped a bunch of envelopes on her bed, from various colleges, most of which she had never heard of. After finishing her homework, she went through the envelopes, keeping only those that appeared interested in considering her for scholarships, and focusing on ones that were located far away from home, preferably in warm, beautiful locations. She would discuss them with her guidance counselor and with Sam the following day. Sam's parents, unlike M.J.'s, had been to college and offered to help her with her application process.
After finishing her homework, she went onto the family's old computer and checked Facebook, posted a few things, then went back downstairs. Her mother was about to put Gwen to sleep, and her father was still working the late shift at the plant, so she would have a few quiet minutes to herself before she needed to get to sleep. She turned on the TV and flipped around, not able to find anything worth settling on, so she turned off the set, went upstairs, changed and went to sleep.
The next day M.J. negotiated her way through another dull physics class with Mr. Stone, a pretty interesting social studies class with Ms. O'Hara, an English class with Ms. Stevens, during which she spent most of her time being annoyed by the way that the bitchy cheerleader girls preened for the boys, and gym class, where she got to learn some cool self-defense moves and accidentally on purpose slammed some of the nastier girls to the mats harder than was probably considered appropriate.
Finally, it was time for soccer practice, and she almost ran to the locker room to change. Her teammates filtered in, and they laughed and chattered as they dressed. As always, M.J. led the way, and was already halfway around the track for her warmup jog before the rest of the team emerged from the locker room. As she finished, she noticed that the boys' team, as usual, was already on their half of the field, stretching and warming up. North didn't have enough fields for both soccer teams to have a full field for practice, so they made the best of it. The coaches did what they could to prevent the players from fraternizing, or even watching each other, but this effort was doomed to failure when faced with the teenagers' raging hormones.
As M.J. waited for her teammates to finish their warmup jog, she noticed a boy standing on the side of the field, watching the boys' team practice, and juggling a soccer ball. He had kept the ball in the air for a very long time, then started to do tricks, flipping it over his head, catching it on the back of his neck, doing step overs and rainbows, without letting the ball hit the ground. It was remarkable, and was far beyond what M.J., or anyone on either side of the field, could do. She noticed that he was average height, very skinny, with brown skin and short dark hair. She had never seen him before.
"Sam," M.J. called out, and her friend came to her. "Look at that," she continued, pointing at the boy, who continued to juggle the ball without ever losing control. Within a few minutes, the whole girls' team was watching the display of soccer skills that flabbergasted them.
Coach Benson started to call them out on the field, but stopped, and began to watch the boy juggle appreciatively. Although Coach Benson was a tough coach, she appreciated soccer skills.
"Anyone know who he is?" M.J. asked.
Cindy Browne, a reserve defender, said, "That's Eduardo Something. He's from Ecuador, but he just moved here from New York."
"Those are some amazing skills," Sam observed. "I wonder why he isn't practicing—the boys could really use him."
"Maybe his paperwork isn't all in order," opined Lily Howard, a sophomore midfielder, who was very smart and had once mentioned that she wanted to be a lawyer like her mother.
Finally, the ball hit off of Eduardo's shoulder and bounced away, and the spell was broken. Coach Benson blew her whistle and the girls took the field to practice. M.J. found herself watching the boy, Eduardo, as he played by himself on the side of the field, impressed by his skills. Coach Benson actually, for the first time all season, had to admonish M.J. for a lack of focus, and M.J. felt guilty, because she knew that the team looked to her for leadership, and because the playoffs were approaching. Nevertheless, she kept stealing looks to see what the boy was doing.
Eduardo was bored. He wanted to play fútbol, not watch, but couldn't because his transcript hadn't fully transferred. Instead, he had to observe, and quickly realized that the North boys' soccer team was just not very good. The girls team, though, seemed to be better, especially the tall girl who kept looking at him. She had some skills, and toughness, that the boys, lacked, even though they played a rough, unsophisticated style. Still, he hoped to get in a few games before the season ended, then maybe find a good club team to play with over the winter and spring.
He started to watch the tall girl play, and realized both that she was probably the best female player he had seen, but also that she was kind of cute. Maybe things wouldn't be so bad here, he thought, still missing his friends from his old school, especially Elena, but realizing that his father needed to take the job here.
Eduardo continued to play with the ball, and M.J. continued to try to focus on practice, with some success, when the ball rolled off the field and toward the boy. M.J., who always ran after stray balls despite her status as the team star, loped after it, but it reached Eduardo before she could get there. He deftly trapped the ball and with an economical motion, kicked it back toward M.J., who popped the ball in the air, then nodded it back to her foot and turned gracefully toward the practice field. Eduardo clapped his approval, and M.J. turned her head back and smiled before returning to practice. She noticed that he was quite handsome.
Afterwards, as the girls walked toward the locker room, Sam came over to M.J. and said, "Look, you know I want you to pay attention to guys, but on the field we need you to focus."
"Was it that obvious?" M.J. asked, blushing slightly.
Sam laughed and said, "Yeah, pretty fucking obvious. I think Coach was going to kill you, but I guess you've earned the right to one bad practice in four years. But we need you to get your head back in the game."
"Yes, my captain," M.J. said, laughing.
The next morning at school, Sam texted M.J. to tell her that North would be seeded first in the playoffs, and therefore had what should be an easy game the next Monday. That was expected, but it was still nice to hear. Sitting in second period math, which was not one of M.J.'s best subjects, she looked up from her book to see Eduardo weaving his way through the desks to the back, where there was an empty desk. She again noticed that he was cute, skinny and appeared to have a bit of a mischievous look in his eye. He caught her gaze and smiled and nodded as if he recognized her; she smiled and nodded back. M.J. was impressed that he looked at her and ignored Dana Angelo, who was, as usual, showing off her large breasts.
Class was, as usual, confusing, and it was made worse by the fact that she kept thinking about Eduardo juggling, and not the equations that she was supposed to be learning. Luckily, Ms. Taylor didn't call on her and she escaped the class relatively unscathed.
In the hallway, Sam grabbed her arm and said, "Oh my god, M.J., you looked like you were in space in there."
"Yeah, I know. I was lucky that Taylor didn't call on me."
"Look, you either need to do something about this Eduardo thing, or you need to get your shit together."
"What should I do?" she asked.
"Maybe start by actually talking to him," Sam suggested.
"I guess so," M.J. said, unenthusiastically. She turned into her third period art class, and Sam went off to econ. Luckily, Eduardo wasn't in art, so she was able to concentrate, and even answered a question correctly before immersing herself in her collage project.
Later that afternoon, as she jogged alone around the track before practice, she pledged to focus only on her team and practice and ignore Eduardo, if he was there. As she rounded the last turn before her jog was over, she saw him, standing on the sidelines, a ball at his feet, chatting with a few of the other boys on the team. He was smiling, and she noticed the way that his face lit up when he was joking with his teammates. Not surprisingly, M.J. knew the boys he was talking to from years of attending school together and playing soccer, so she thought she might try to get some information from them about the new guy.
M.J. was able to ignore Eduardo as her team worked hard to prepare for their next game, the first game of the playoffs. Coach Benson drilled into them that if they took their opponent for granted because they were the lowest seed, they would lose. In addition to working on set pieces and, as always, making sure that their defense was strong and coordinated, she discussed with the team strategic points based on how Kennedy had played them earlier that season, and from the information she had gotten from speaking to some of the other coaches in their conference.
As M.J. drank water before heading out on the field for their traditional 7v7 end of practice workout, she noticed that Eduardo was still on the sidelines, working alone on a move that seemed virtually impossible. He dribbled forward, then appeared to be moving right by using the outside of his right foot, but instead flicked the ball with the inside of his foot to his left foot. It happened so quickly that M.J. knew that defenders would be unable to stay ahead of him. She grabbed a ball and tried to figure out how to do it, but only succeeded in getting her feet tied up.