My body was fucking killing me when I got out of practice. I could hardly walk it was so bad. And this continued for a good while. Every practice, every day after school my body would be hating me. It was painful to walk, to stretch, even to use the arm strength to masturbate.

I collapsed in front of the school one day onto my ass. I sat. I didn't want to walk home. I was too tired. Too out of it. Coach Carter meant business, but the more we worked the longer I got to stare at their even more ripped bodies.

He had this thing where he'd compare a basketball move to girls he used to know. It was cute, to be honest. He said for one he was a little boy and he knew this girl that tricked him into stealing cookies. Reminded me of the story of how my mother met my dad. They knew each other in first grade. And he adored the living Hell out of her.

"Would you like a chariot, madam?"

I looked up. It was Darrel, "What the hell you doing here? I thought you hated this place."

"I do. Dad wanted me to give you a ride home. Said I needed something to do," he looked around, "So you coming with me or what?"

I was going to walk home. Really. I just sat down on the stairs for a second. But he had a point. Why walk when I had a ride?

"We going straight home?" We began to walk to the car.

"Nah, I gotta stop somewhere to get some food first," he opened the door, "I'm fucking tired of dad"

He started up the car and we were on our way. I lowered the window and stuck my hand out. When I was seven dad used to always yell at me that shit like that was dangerous, but mom always calmed him down and told me to have my fun. Whenever I stuck my hand out the window I swear I heard her voice behind me.

It started going up and I snatched my hand back inside. I turned to Darrel, "I don't need you dyin' on me."

He pulled into a lot in front of a popular diner. It took me a sec to recognize but once I saw Jason and his pals I sunk deeper into my seat and recalled all the times they discussed hanging out there.

"What the fuck, Will?" he unbuckled, "Fine. Stay in the car if you wanna," he got out, "Might be some hot girls inside though."

Yeah. Named Jason Lowe.

I looked through the window carefully. Once I saw them leave I got out. I never liked seeing them outside of school. I always felt like I'd embarrass myself or get excited or something. It was hard enough to get through a practice without glaring at them and picturing them naked. I didn't wanna see them outside. I mean I did, but not unless they're getting me on my knees.

I walked into the diner and looked around. No other players so I welcomed myself inside. I sat down at an empty table. Darrel was getting something to eat. I closed my eyes and felt the pain in my legs return. Practice was brutal but as long as I got to see them in the locker room everything was worth while.

Something slammed on the table. I opened my eyes to see Darrel.

"You gonna get anything to eat?" he took a bite of his sandwich, "Not that I'm payin' for your ass."

I looked toward my left. I felt like someone was staring at me. "No. Thanks I'm good."

He shrugged, "Whatever."

I never went there. When I was little and Darrel was still in school he would do what he did now and drive by here, but we never stayed. He would run inside and grab something to go or be picking up his girlfriend.

She was something special, Carmen. She could do impressions and speak Russian, but most of all she was the only person that could always make Darrel laugh. My parents adored her too. I remember dad once saying how he wouldn't mind having her as a daughter-in-law. And then one day we never saw her again, and Darrel never talked about her again. That night I heard dad and Darrel fighting, but mom broke it up before anything could come of it. No one ever told me what happened, and I never asked. She was the only photograph he kept in his wallet. For a long while she was his only everything.

I looked down at my lap, smiling at myself about one of the stories Coach told us. I then heard a faint "hey" and looked up. Darrel gestured behind me. I turned. There was a girl sitting there. She was reading or doing homework or something.

I turned back, "What?" That was a stupid question. I knew what. He wanted me to check her out. And now he was gonna call me a dumbass and tell me to ask her out. And that's exactly what he did.

"I don't wanna, Darry," I said, "I really don't."

"Why the fuck not?" he groaned, "It about time you get a girl."

Can't do as good as Carmen, "She probably got a boyfriend."

"You don't till you fuckin' ask, dumbass," he snarled, "Ask 'er. Or Imma make you walk home."

I really didn't want to, but he was insisting so fucking much and at this point I didn't feel like walking home. I stood and turned to her. She was still reading. I walked over to her table. I'd never hit on a girl before. I never really talked to girls. But Darrel was watching and I'd agreed, so I proceeded on.

I started with the obvious, "Hi."

It took her a sec to look up. She wore a lot of eyeliner and lip gloss, "Hey." She looked back down at her work.

I didn't know where else to go with this, "I'm Will."

She looked up, "Tracy." Back down.

I started to rub my hands together. I had to think of something. I wasn't getting out of this and I knew Darry. I didn't feel like hearing about how much of a goddamn failure I am at dinner tonight.

"Can I sit?"

She glanced at me, "I don't know, can you?"

I made a half smile and sat with a chair between us. She continued with her work.

"Watcha working on?"

She lifted the paper, "Algebra," put it down, "Fucking sucks."

"You a senior?"

"Junior," she took another glance at me, "You?"

"Same."

She snapped up, "What?" I nodded, "No. Oh, hell, no, you can't be!"

"Why?"

She made a face, "'Cause I know every junior at school. Come on, this is ridiculous."

"Well, I-"

"What's your name? Will…"

"William Buckman."

She groaned, "Damn. I have to have a class with you or something. Come on, how the fuck don't I know you?"

"What're your class periods?"

She began listing them "Period 1 I got study hall," I had English, "2 history," art, "3 chemistry," gym, "4 French," I took Spanish, "5 Algebra II," algebra II… wait.

"I have it too," I said quickly, "I have algebra II period 5 too."

She gasped, "No," I nodded, "No! Oh my god, I have to know you. Where do you sit?"

"In the back near, uh, Bruce? Brian? He looks kinda gormless."

"Gor-what?"

"He's stupid."

"Oh. Oh, I know who you're talking bout. Yeah, Ben. Ben Peters. Yeah, he's such a fucking dumbass!" she shakes her head, "You sure you sit next to Ben? I see him sittin' there every day but I never see you."

"Guess I blend in with the scenery."

It took her a minute but she started to chuckle. I smiled, "Damn. it's crazy that I didn't recognize you. I thought I knew everybody in our grade."

"Guess this was how we were supposed to meet."

She cocked an eyebrow, "Whatcha mean?"

"Well, I mean…" I shrugged, "My mom always said that fate lead the way. People meet because it's their time o meet, people die because it's their time to die and we gotta let fate lead the way… or it was God. I can't remember if it was fate or God."

She smiled, "Probably both."

She looked back at her homework. She brushed her curly brown hair out her face and took a second. She looked up at me, back at the work. Glanced up, back at the work, "So, Mr. Blends-in-with-the-scenery," she said, "Wanna help me with my algebra?"

I grinned, "Course."

She patted the seat in between us. I sat in it and she slid her work in front of me, and before I could get into how wrong it all was I could see Darrel open up and look in his wallet.