Actions Speak Volumes
Sometimes words aren't needed, and all you need to feel complete is a smile. But piano lessons and free-throw shots are good, too. (Jason Cross and Kelsi Nielson)
If somebody had walked up to her on New Year's Eve and told her that within the first month of the New Year, she'd be having basketball lessons with Jason Cross, she would have laughed her butt off to her own personal music room and resumed practice on the piano. But she was really here, standing with Jason, about to start a basketball lesson.
Kelsi knew the very, very basics of basketball. She at least knew more about basketball than Ms. Darbus did, but that probably wasn't a very comforting thought to either her or Jason. She knew that the object of the game was to shoot the basketball into the basket more times than the other team, but that was all she really knew. Whenever they had to play it during P.E, Kelsi always found a way to get out of it. And if she couldn't, she'd just move up and down the court with them, just shaking her head vehemently whenever her teammates even thought to look her way to indicate she wanted nothing to do with the orange basketball.
She was wary of having to actually pay attention during a sports lesson, but was eagerly willing to try. Maybe Jason could get through to her sports-impaired mind and actually teach her something. Eyeing Jason now, she realized she was more prone to listen to a good-looking peer rather than an ancient woman with yellow teeth holding a clipboard in her hand, threatening to fail her.
She had to admit to herself that she was confused when Jason showed up on her doorstep because she thought she'd be going to his house and not the other way around. But apparently, that wasn't the case.
The doorbell stopped Kelsi from advancing any further into her bedroom. Frowning, she walked to the door and looked through the peephole before opening her door.
"Jason?" she asked once she had opened the door. And sure enough, Jason Cross was on her front step, clad in sweats with "Wildcats" printed on the front of his shirt and the side of his sweats. Ever the basketball player, he had a basketball tucked under his arm.
"Hi Kelsi. I was just making sure you didn't forget our basketball lesson," Jason reasoned.
Kelsi smiled slightly. "Oh, trust me I didn't forget. I was on my way to your house after I changed."
Jason eyed what she was wearing. "What you're wearing is fine. I can't believe those middle school P.E clothes still fit you."
Kelsi shrugged, almost self-conscious of what she was wearing.
Kelsi shrugged, almost self-conscious of what she was wearing.
"My P.E clothes from high school are still in my locker. I haven't exactly grown much from 2 years ago."
Jason nodded. "We should get going. I've got lots to teach you," he said.
"Yeah, okay. Let me just grab a couple things and we'll go," Kelsi replied, opening the door wider, allowing him entrance to her humble abode. "In the meantime come in and just make yourself at home."
And he had, for the most part. She caught him looking at some younger pictures of herself and her family, but she didn't offer up any explanation and he didn't ask for any. They had walked, side by side, to the Mesa Verde Park, which was located nearby one of the many Albuquerque elementary schools.
The now-familiar bouncing of a ball snapped Kelsi back to the present. She looked at Jason, who was smiling at her.
"Where'd you go just now?" he asked, passing the ball to her. Almost caught off guard by the intensity of his chest pass, she caught the ball, but took a step back to regain balance.
"Nowhere. I was just spacing out, sorry," she apologized, passing the ball right back to him.
"It's not a problem," Jason said. "Shall we start?"
"So what do you know about basketball?" Jason asked.
"That the object of the game is to get more balls in the basket than the other team?" Kelsi said, though the way she stated it suggested that she was unsure of her answer.
"Okay. That's a start. What else do you know? Or what do you know how to do?"
"I know what traveling is. And I know how to dribble," Kelsi stopped there. Jason looked at her encouragingly.
"And I know how to shoot," Kelsi said, rounding out her short list. "Kind of," she added, remembering she had scored a few points – okay, it was one basket – in the only game she played in P.E two years ago.
"Okay, well that's more than a good portion of the school knows about basketball, so don't worry about it," Jason said reassuringly.
"I'm warning you right now – I'm not very good," Kelsi warned.
Jason grinned. "Do you think I was any good at piano? Relax. I'm not expecting you to be the next Michael Jordan. This is why I'm here. To teach you," he said.
"Okay, so the whole point of the game is to get this ball into the net over there," he said, pointing at the white net. "To get there, you have to get past the defender, which in this particular case would be me. Now, since you know what traveling is, you know that you need to dribble the ball as you get there." Kelsi nodded, understanding.
"And I'm not going to get into the whole double dribbling thing, because it's not entirely important. So go ahead and go around me and stand inside the 3-point line." At Kelsi's blank stare, he added, "The big arc." Nodding, she dribbled slowly, and easily maneuvered around Jason, who wasn't making a huge effort to guard her, and stood where he wanted her.
"Okay, now shoot the ball." Kelsi bit her lip, and looked from the net to Jason and back to the net, a questioning glance on her face. Jason gave an encouraging nod and smile, and Kelsi took a deep breath. Bending her knees and releasing the ball from her hands, the ball went five feet in the air before dropping a few good feet from the hoop.
Jason retrieved the ball as it was rolling past the basketball pole. He noticed her blush and smiled.
"Relax, Kelsi." He walked over to the free-throw line. "We should probably try this at a smaller distance. Come here." She walked over to where he was standing, a note of hesitance in her steps.
"Try again," he said, handing her the ball and walking a little under the net to catch the ball, wherever it may fall. She tried again and released the ball once more, only to have the ball hit the rim, and bounce right back to her. Startled, she took a few steps backwards, but managed to catch the ball before it smashed her glasses.
"Okay, I may see the issue here," Jason said, walking over to her. "Envision not just the net, but the entire thing. The net, the backboard, the rim. And picture the ball going into the net. That's what helps me."
"Okay?" he asked. At her nod, he stepped aside, and watched as she made her very first free-throw shot – unassisted. He smiled as he watched her grin grew.
"It actually went in! Did you see that? That hasn't happened in years! Well, not to me, anyway," she said, her words jumbling up together.
"Yes, I did, and you did a very good job. Only took you a couple tries, too. You should have seen me when I first tried to get the ball into the basket. It took me until sunset and about fifty tries," Jason replied.
Over the next few hours, they spent their time shooting baskets, and had even attempted to play a game of Horse, but had given up when Kelsi found that Jason was making impossible shots. She'd mock glare at him when the ball made satisfying swishes, but had to smile when she saw him stifle a few laughs when none of hers went remotely close to the net.
They had played a quick game of one-on-one, with the first one to reach 10 the declared winner, and Kelsi had surprisingly won, which Kelsi had suspected he let her have, but she'd take any victory against the starting forward any day.
After all the exhausting, yet fun, basketball games and lessons, Kelsi sat back against the chain link fence in the shadows of the basketball backboard. After she had readjusted her ponytail, she closed her eyes and tried to fan away the heat with her hand. Jason sank down next to her, his head leaning against the fence, seeming to revel in the Albuquerque sun.
Opening one eye to peer at her, he saw the sweat dripping down her face, and she wiped it away with a swipe of her hand.
"You want to get some water at my house? It's only a couple of blocks from here," Jason said. She opened her eyes to find a pair of brown eyes gazing right back at her.
"Sure. The heat is going to kill me soon," was her reply.
Together they walked the two blocks back to his house, and using his keys, walked into the welcome, refreshing cool of his house.
"Air conditioning?" she asked, peering around at his house, noting the family pictures and various awards adorning the walls and fireplace mantle.
He dropped the basketball down by the stairs, and led her into the kitchen.
"Yeah, I think it's the only way our family can survive the New Mexico heat with no complaints from this family," Jason replied, reaching into the refrigerator and grabbing two water bottles. He handed her one, and she nodded her thanks, before they both twisted open the caps and welcome the cool liquid inside of their respective mouths.
"Jason!" a girl screamed, seeming to have appeared out of nowhere, with a slightly older boy who looked exactly like Jason when Jason was ten. Jason bent down in time to catch the little girl into his arms. He sat her on the countertop, and she eyed the girl with him.
"Who's that?" she asked, brown eyes boring into Kelsi's own dark ones.
"Michelle, this is Kelsi. Kelsi this is my little sister, Michelle. And that over there is Brian," Jason introduced, nodding towards the little boy. Kelsi smiled at both of them.
"Hi," Michelle said, directing her statement towards Kelsi, who had begun taking another sip out of her water bottle. "Are you Jason's girlfriend?"
It took all of Kelsi's restraint to keep from spitting out the water in her mouth and onto the little girl before her. She swallowed quickly, while Brian just looked amused.
"Um, no. Uh no, just – no. We're just friends. And he was teaching me how to play basketball. And that's it," Kelsi stammered, noticing how she had used the word friend only a few minutes after it had come out of her mouth. Funny how that wasn't the word she associated with him twenty-four hours ago.
Jason gave her a funny look that Kelsi couldn't read, before replying to his little sister. "We're just friends, Michelle. I brought her over for some water."
"Okay," Michelle said, accepting their answers, not noticing the look he had given his friend just a few moments before. She hopped off the counter with the help of Jason and ran off into one of the hallways, presumably to her own room. Brian stayed in the room with them reaching into the refrigerator, grabbing a Gatorade, and taking a sip before thrusting it back into the fridge and leaving the room at Jason and Kelsi's stare.
"Your siblings are charming," Kelsi commented, taking a sip of her water, and then nursing it in her warm hands.
Jason chuckled before responding. "Yeah, they can be a little annoying, but I love them to death."
"Do you have any siblings?" Jason asked, keeping his eyes on her while he fidgeted with his water bottle.
Kelsi paused a few moments, but long enough to nearly prompt the question again from Jason.
"There was an accident a few years ago," she said carefully, but didn't offer any other response. Jason slightly nodded in understanding.
"So, did you do anything special over Christmas break?" Kelsi asked, desperate to change topics before it got awkward.
"Nah, we stayed in Albuquerque. My grandparents don't live far from here, so they made the trek down to visit us for Christmas and New Year's."
"That's nice," Kelsi said, smiling softly.
"Yeah, but it would have been nicer if Darbus hadn't assigned us an essay and an extensive reading log complete with a 3 paragraph summary on the book. It's killer to have her for an English teacher."
"Ouch," she said sympathetically. Jason nodded. Kelsi looked at the clock behind him and stood to leave. "I should get going. My mom's probably going to be home soon and she's going to wonder about me."
"Okay," he said, rising along with her. "I'll walk you to your house."
Kelsi opened her mouth to protest, but decided against it. But she decided to give him an out just in case.
"It's not necessary, Jason," she said, her voice trailing off. Jason shook his head.
"I wouldn't want you to pass out in the heat."
The walk back to her house was filled with mindless chitchat about anything that had come to mind. When they reached her house, they stood on her doorstep, reminding Kelsi of those awkward first date scenes she always saw in the movies. Jamming her keys into the door, she turned the doorknob and took one step inside before looking back at him.
"Thanks for today, Jason. I had fun."
"I'm glad," he said, smiling. She turned to go inside her house, but his voice called her back.
With a shy smile on his face, much like the one he wore last night, he asked her, "What are you doing Friday night?"
She smiled as she knew where this was going. "Nothing, why?"
"Do you want to go with me to the movies?" he asked.
Her smile was all the response he needed.
Author's Note: So, one week earlier than my two week deadline isn't all that bad, right? Haha. I'm a late night writer, meaning I get the majority of my inspriation between 12 midnight and whenever I go to sleep. I was outlining a different story at 3:30 AM, and I went back to sleep, but my muse didn't sleep, and I managed to crank out 1,000+ words to finish out the story. Sheesh. This chapter clocks in at another wopping 2,356 words. Trust me, I didn't expect it to be that long. Anyways, there's a 60-80 percent chance that I'm going to have another story out in August - this time not much fluff happening but actual drama and plots. That line that Kelsi says about an accident sets up for my story, so take what you want out of that. Anyways, reviews and/or constructive criticism will always be welcome. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I had enjoyed writing it!