"So, who's up for a game of volleyball?" Sam asks, standing up from the cooler.
Michael and Quinn yell in unison, "I'm game!"
Jake shrugs and says, "Sure. Count me in."
Molly says, "I've got dibs on Sam!" She bounds over to Sam and hooks her right arm around his.
"You only want me because I used to be on the volleyball team." Sam says and pretends to be hurt, clutching his heart.
As they walk ahead towards the volleyball net, Molly bats her eyelashes, feigning innocence. "Were you on the volleyball team? I don't recall." she says, turning her head and smiling.
Michael yells, "Sam's team!" At the same time Quinn yells, "Jake's team!"
Looking over at me, Jake says, "Looks like we're stuck together." I can think of far worse things.
"Looks like it." I say. "But, I think we have pretty good odds."
He tilts his head to the side, eyes twinkling as he says, "How do you figure?"
"Well, you are a great at sports." I say, pointing to him, then to me. "And, of course, there's my athletic prowess."
Jake chuckles and says, "By 'athletic prowess', do you mean the time you were hit in the side of the head with the volleyball in that game after homecoming?" Okay, well, there's that.
Pushing past him, heading towards the rest of the crew, I toss out, "Yes, well I had a strategy. But clearly, it did not go as planned." Jake instantly appears on my right, easily catching up to me.
"I can't believe you remember that." I say, turning to steal a quick glance at him.
Jake ducks his head closer to mine and says quietly, "I remember lots of things."
I stop dead in my tracks and stare up at him. At that face. Those warm brown eyes. A girl could get lost in those eyes. I bet a lot of girls have.
"Maddie! Earth to Maddie!" Molly yells. "Are we going to play today? Are you guys ready to go down?!"
Okay, well that was slightly embarrassing. How long was I standing there staring at Jake?
Punching me lightly in the arm, Jake says, "You ready to deal out a hurting?" My skin buzzes with electricity where he touched my shoulder.
I make a big show of stretching my arms over my head and rolling my neck. "Let's do this." I say.
Sam serves first. The ball flies over the net. Quinn jumps up and hits it effortlessly. It sails back to Molly who uses both hands to volley it back. Jake jumps up and spikes the ball.
"Point to us." Jake yells. He turns to wink at me.
Quinn says, "I'll serve." Jake grabs the ball and tosses it to Quinn.
"Hope you enjoyed your one and only point, Whitfield." Molly taunts.
Quinn throws the ball up, hits it and it goes sailing in a perfect arc towards Michael. He sets the ball perfectly with both arms. Sam leaps up for the spike.
Jake and I both see what's going to happen. We both run towards the net to block it. Jake makes it before me and it's all over by the time my short legs get me there.
Breathing hard, I say, "Good block."
Smiling, he says, "Thanks."
Picking the ball off the floor, I toss it to Quinn who serves it up again. Molly sees it coming and barely hits it with the inside of her arm. Sam drops to his knees and manages to give it a small hit. Michael dives for the ball, hitting up and over the net.
I see it going out of bounds. I've got this. I run backwards and lean back to hit the ball. Then I feel a whoosh then I'm flat on my back. All the wind rushes out of me. Okay, so maybe I don't have this.
Jake's face comes into focus, concern eteched in his face. "Maddie! Are you okay?" he questions. He has one arm under me and the other is on my right shoulder.
"Your eyes are the color of warm chocolate." I blurt out. Cheese and biscuits! I may have fallen on my rear but at least I could try to keep some shred of dignity.
Jake breathes a sigh of relief, then gives small chuckle. "Are you sure you didn't rattle something loose?"
He helps me to a sitting position. Sam and Molly are there instantly. They are both fussing over me.
"I'm fine guys. Really. Nothing's wounded but my ego." I say.
Michael says, "Well, I'd wager your butt hurts pretty bad. Want me to take a look at it?" He leans over, pretending to look at my backside.
Pushing him away, I say, "Hilarious, Michael. Glad I can amuse you."
Sam helps me up and I wince. "Looks like you are not as fine as you pretend to be." he says.