Court of Honor
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From Court of Honor
The basketball thumped on the sidewalk in front of Becky and bounced straight into the air. In one motion, she dropped her bag of groceries and reached out with both hands, snaring the ball. A bright November sun glanced off the orange rim ten feet up and Becky found her target. Her arms reached up, her wrist cocked.
And then she froze.
She knew she could make the shot. Twenty feet out from the corner never bothered her. It was a pair of eyes that stopped her, deep blue eyes that locked on to hers and held her captive.
"Well, go ahead and shoot!" It wasn't Blue Eyes talking, but his tall lanky friend, impatient to get on with their game.
His words broke the spell. Becky lowered her gaze reluctantly, aware of a strange fluttering inside her chest, like a tiny basketball being dribbled up and down a miniature court. The ball felt cold and heavy in her hands.
"Here, take it." She flicked a bounce pass waist-high to Blue eyes and stooped down to pick up the groceries. She felt her face flaming. They must have thought she was a complete idiot, dropping everything and standing there with the ball like some hotshot, while her apples and eggs– "Oh no! The eggs!"
Sticking her hand into the sack, she pulled out the white styrofoam carton. She had an awful feeling. Very gingerly she opened the lid.
"Yuck! What a mess!"
Becky whirled around. She hadn't noticed the little boy before, but there he stood, a scaled-down copy of Blue Eyes, from the square little chin and tipped-up nose to those incredible eyes and a headful of light brown curls.
"I bet you broke more than half of ‘em," said the boy, bending over to get a closer look at the sticky yellow mess. "Too bad we're not closer to home. Our chickens are laying pretty good now and — "
"That's okay, Jason." Blue Eyes' voice was deep and strong. "Here, you and Rich shoot some baskets." He flipped his brother the ball and reached for the egg carton. "It's a mess all right, but only two of them broke. Not bad, considering." He closed the box and grinned down at Becky who was on the ground again, hunting for stray apples. "Got everything now?"
"I–think so." In spite of the whole terrible situation, one pleasant thought crossed her mind as she scrambled to her feet. He must be well over six feet tall because she actually had to look up at him! Which didn't matter, of course, because the only thing he'd remember about her was how she had dropped her groceries to go after a loose ball. It was always like that with boys. Sure they noticed her. How could they possibly miss all five feet, twelve inches? The trouble was, that's all they ever saw.
Becky's eyes traveled down to her faded jeans and baggy sweatshirt. She couldn't have looked worse if she had planned it. Sometimes life was just plain cruel. "I'd better go," she mumbled, putting out her hand. "Can I have my eggs back?"
"Sure." He shoved the carton into her sack. "You live around here?"
"Come on, Matt," Rich called. "Let's finish the game."
"Okay, I'm coming." Still watching Becky, Blue Eyes took a step backward. "Well, see you around."
Becky nodded again and quickly walked away.
"WHAT was that all about?" Rich Robinson asked, as he grabbed one of Jason's rebounds. He lobbed the ball back, then shuffled across the parking lot toward his friend. Easing his lanky frame to the ground, he stretched out full length, his long fingers folded under his head.
Matt dropped down beside him. The air was cool in spite of the bright sun, and the hot concrete felt good to his tired muscles. They'd been shooting baskets at the Ridgemont Apartments for well over an hour, and he needed a rest. Besides, he wanted to think.
"Okay, who is she?" Rich seemed to read his thoughts.
Matt didn't have an answer. He'd never seen the girl before, but she lived close by so she must be new to Summit. Probably she'd be at school on Monday. He liked that idea.
Something sharp rammed his ribs. "Ouch!" Lunging to one side, he grabbed Rich's arm. "What are you trying to
do–kill me with that bony elbow?"
"Just seeing if you're awake." Rich grinned. "That girl put some kind of spell on you?"
Matt felt his face grow warm, and he turned away quickly. He didn't want to talk about her, not even to Rich, but he couldn't stop thinking about her. The way she'd snagged that ball and pivoted to shoot, she was no stranger to basketball. She wasn't awkward either, like a lot of tall girls. And her hair. . .he'd never seen hair that reddish gold before.
A small sturdy body plopped down beside him. "Hey, Matt, how come your face is so red?"
Matt acted instinctively. If Rich ever guessed what he'd been thinking, he'd never hear the end of it. His right hand pinned his little brother to the ground, while his left began a systematic and very thorough job of tickling. "We'll see who's red! Say when, you little critter!"
Squealing and kicking, Jason laughed till he was gasping for breath. "When! When!" he finally managed.
Matt released him and jumped to his feet. Rich watched in bored amusement as Matt grabbed the ball and started dribbling toward the goal. He'd seen the whole performance a million times, with Matt teasing and Jason enjoying every minute.
"I'll get you, Matt!" the boy shrieked, scrambling after his brother.
"Have to catch me first!" Matt raced across the court and pulled up about twenty feet short of the basket. He pumped and shot, and the ball slid through the net.
THE Walden's station wagon sat in the driveway at 108 Hillcrest when Becky arrived home. Her mother had been out job-hunting since early that morning. Becky hoped she had found something. Her parents depended on two incomes, with three children to support and the cost of living so high these days. That was one of their big arguments for making this move to Summit.
Becky scowled, remembering everything they had left behind in St. Louis. Sure it was cheaper, with nobody here and nothing to do.
"What are you so happy about?" Her fifteen-year-old brother, Ken, walked out the porch with one hand full of cookies and a basketball in the other.
Becky ignored the question and tried to ignore the basketball. It stirred up too many recent unpleasant memories. "Did Mom get a job?"
"Yep, checking at the supermarket. Want to play a quick game?"
Becky glared, a fierce absolutely final scowl that told him exactly what she thought of that idea. He didn't bother to argue.
She went into the kitchen and set her groceries on the table. Her mother stood at the sink peeling potatoes, while Debbie perched on a stool keeping her company. Seeing those two blonde heads, so very much alike, didn't improve Becky's mood. Some people had all the luck. She and Ken had inherited their father's height, which didn't bother her anymore since she started playing basketball four years ago, but today she would have given anything to be five feet two inches tall. She might even have traded places with her little sister. Anyone could tell that Debbie, even at six, would take after their mom, small and dainty, with the same bubbly personality.
"Did you have a nice walk, dear?" her mother asked.
"It was okay."
"I thought you'd go out this morning so you kids could have the bread for lunch. I was at the market myself this afternoon, and I could have picked up what we needed."
So the whole trip was for nothing. She could have saved herself the trouble, not to mention the embarrassment. Her face burned just thinking about it. How could she have acted so dumb? Why did they have to move here anyway? They were doing just fine in St. Louis.
"Did you hear that I found a job?" Mrs. Walden turned to look at Becky. Her round little face and pixie features glowed. "I start Monday morning."
"Ken told me."
"You don't sound very enthusiastic. I'm really excited."
"Is it what you wanted?"
"Mrs. Walden laughed. "It's a job, darling. In a town this size you can't be choosy. The market is clean and modern, and the people I met seemed friendly. I'm sure I'll like it just fine."
Becky was sure she would, too. She and Debbie were just alike, always looking on the bright side of things. But what about her? Mom couldn't possibly understand what it was like to be yanked out of school in her junior year and set down in the middle of nowhere. She had left all her friends, all the things that really mattered, back in St. Louis.
A few weeks ago, this was going to be her big year. Ha! That was a laugh. All those years of hard work and practice, and when she finally earned a starting position on the basketball team at Glenview High, one of the biggest schools in Missouri, she had to leave. A good season now could have meant a spot on the all-state team and a good chance at a college scholarship. Instead, here she was stuck out in the sticks, miles from civilization. What kind of team would she find in a school with three hundred students? Maybe they wouldn't even have an extra uniform!
She felt a dangerous prickling behind her eyelids.
"Becky's going to cry, Mama," Debbie announced, matter-of-fact, popping another slice of potato into her mouth.
Mrs. Walden dropped her knife into the sink and walked over to Becky, a worried frown creasing her forehead. "What's wrong, darling?"
Knowing her mother really cared and couldn't do a thing to help was more than Becky could stand. "Everything's wrong!" she wailed. "This town, the kids, everything! School is going to be awful, I just know it. I probably won't make a single friend. Why did we have to come here anyway?"
She didn't try to stop the tears, and her mother didn't try to stop her as she ran out of the kitchen.
Becky flung herself across her bed and cried till she simply ran out of tears. Finally, she raised her head and looked around the room, still stacked with boxes the movers had left yesterday. It would take days to straighten out this mess, and even then she'd never be able to fix it the way she wanted, not with Debbie throwing her stuff all around. In St. Louis, she'd had her own room.
The whole situation was awful, just like she'd said, but deep down she knew she hadn't told her mother what really bothered her. She couldn't–not without revealing her most secret dream, the one she kept locked away in the deepest corner of her heart, the one that told her even big Becky Walden would someday meet a very special boy. The situation was awful because on top of everything else that had gone wrong, she had finally met that special boy. His name was Matt. He was the best-looking boy she had ever seen, and he wouldn't even remember her. If he did, he'd just have a good laugh, thinking about the girl with the broken eggs.