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Play Ball!

green grass field with trees under white clouds and blue sky during daytime

Jess flipped her red braid over her shoulder and took a ready position. She sent the young man across from her a smirk. “Better get ready, Cormack. I’m coming for you.”

“Like you could take me.” The man matched her smirk.

“Bugger off.” Jess laughed.

They were on the ball field, playing fodbold, a game where players passed a ball using their hands or feet until trying to get it into their opponent’s net. There were other rules and regulations, but the premise was that simple.

Jess’s teammate brought the ball back into play and aimed for Cormack’s team’s net.

She missed, and Jess slapped her thigh.

Another one Danica missed. There’s something going on with her. Jess thought, jogging to take up a defensive position. The ball made it to Cormack, and Jess shot him a wicked grin. Come on, big brother, show me what you got.

Cormack preferred to use his feet, performing fancy footwork as he approached his sister’s area of the field.

Jess hung back, watching her brother do his thing and keeping her knees ready to strike. She mirrored his movements even as she gave him room. Cormack could be a cocky bastard, especially when they were on opposite sides. He wouldn’t pass if he was going up against her one on one.

Sure enough, Cormack pressed onward to the tall net in the corner of the field. Once he was close enough, he’d attempt to pick up the ball in order to shoot.

Jess couldn’t let that happen.

She mirrored her brother’s movements, her focus honing in on the large redhead.

Cormack faked left before skirting to Jess’s right, but the Forger was ready for him.

She struck out her right foot and kicked the ball loose.

Both siblings fought for control, throwing elbows and clutching at the other’s tunic.

Jess could only hear her own heavy breathing, drowning out the cheers and screams from her teammates and opponents.

Her mind emptied of every thought other than claiming the loose ball. It popped loose from between them again, and Jess didn’t hesitate. She threw her body into Cormack’s before using her momentum to push off of him and fly towards the ball.

The move worked. Cormack stumbled, and she had a chance at an open pass. She reached the ball and sent it sailing in a perfect arc, straight to Danica.

Come on, Dani. Do your thing. Jess pursed her lips, her attention on the striker.

“I taught you that move.”

Jess looked up in surprise before smirking at her older brother, still trying to catch his breath.

“You should’ve seen it coming then.” Her eyes danced as they met his before returning to where Danica rushed the net keeper. “Steady now.” The words came unbidden under her breath.

“Jacks asked her to marry him.”

Jess whipped her head back to her brother. “You’re joking. No wonder she’s off her game.”

Cormack cocked his head. “They’ve been going steady for almost a year. You’d think it would be an easy decision.”

The air around them went still, buzzing with tension, and Jess turned to look at the young woman. Danica had taken a shot.

It sailed through the air.

The net keeper dove towards it.

And missed the save.

Jess gave a whoop and pumped her fist in triumph. Pride swelled in her chest at her part in the goal and she threw her brother another smirk.

“Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

“Big talk for such a little girl.” Cormack sent her a wry grin as he made his way back to his position for the faceoff.

Jess let out a laugh. She wasn’t the little girl Cormack used to boss around anymore. She was almost six feet tall with the muscle to fill in such a large frame.

Their mom insisted it was from all the training she did with her Material. Spending hours and hours in the metal forge meant Jess came home sweaty with muscles singing from use more often than not.

Cormack didn’t look back as the face off commenced.

Jess narrowed her eyes and bent her knees, keeping herself loose and ready for anything.

The game was only beginning.

“Shove off, Jessica. Your team gets a lucky break and you act like you’re the best defender West of the Mantaga. Wait until you face the Lions next week. If you win that game, then maybe I’ll admit your team has some talent.” Cormack drained the rest of his pint and thumped it on the table between them.

Jess snorted. “You’re jealous, aren’t you? Can’t believe you lost to the newest team in the league.” She nudged his arm with her elbow and finished her own pint. She set it down and rubbed her sleeve over her lips. “Are you buying another?”

Cormack rolled his eyes. “That’s the deal, isn’t it? Loser buys?” He stood up and headed to the bar without waiting for a reply.

They were in the town of Tiva, near the western coastline, at one of the local pubs and enjoying some refreshments after the game. The siblings were on opposite rec teams in their hometown and knew just about everyone in the humble tavern.

Jess waved at the girls sitting at the next table over and leaned back in her chair. Her team won three to two against Cormack’s team, keeping their undefeated record intact. She put her hands behind her head and gave a satisfied smile.

Next week, they’d face the only other undefeated team, and then it was an easy road to winning the title. Not bad for a first year team.

“Yeah, yeah. We get it. You won the game. No need to keep rubbing it in.” Cormack set another pint in front of Jess and she sat up straight. “Now tell me more about Danica and Jacks. I thought they were end game.”

Jess sighed and let her fingers trace the outside of the glass, leaving lines in the condensation pooling on its outside. “I’m not supposed to tell a soul, so this stays between you and me.” She leveled a hard look at her older brother, trying to instill in him how serious this was.

“Cross my heart, I won’t breathe a word.” Cormack made an X on his chest with a finger, but his eyes never left hers.

With a nod, Jess continued, “Dani told me she felt they were too young for such seriousness. She had an inkling it was coming but was terrified she’d break his heart.”

Cormack rubbed his chin. “That’s unfortunate. Jacks was over the moon when he told me his plan.”

Jess furrowed her brows. “I told her she needed to be honest with him if she wasn’t ready for that kind of thing. Must not have found the time to do it.”

“Or she didn’t know how to tell him. I almost botched it with Bella on our first date because I couldn’t find the right words. Almost ended us before we could begin. I feel for the girl.” He took a long pull from his beer.

Jess laughed. “I remember you telling me about that. Didn’t you insult her grandmother or something?”

“I didn’t mean to.” Cormack protested, the tips of ears going red.

Jess snorted. “How do you accidentally insult someone’s grandmother?”

“We are not rehashing this. Bella and I are solid now, and that’s what matters. Let’s get back to Danica. Is she worried Jacks will hold her back or something?” Cormack changed the subject, steering the conversation away from his brush with disaster.

Jess accepted his maneuvering. “Kind of. She’s more worried they’ll settle into a routine and get stuck in their ways. Like her Ma did. She’s terrified of becoming like her old lady.”

“Hmm. Well, I hope they figure it out. They’re a cute couple.” He slid her a sly look.

“And what about you? Jacks said he caught you and Harry slobbering all over each other. Anything I should know about?”

Jess rolled her eyes. “You put too much stock in what Jacks says.” She gulped her beer, avoiding elaborating more.

“You didn’t deny it, though.” Cormack beamed, his eyes glittering as he read the words she didn’t say. “So Harry, huh? Never pegged him as your type.”

Jess shot him a look. “We were drunk. And he’s not that bad.”

“To look at maybe, but he doesn’t have much going on upstairs.”

“Protective much?” Jess shoved him again with a smile in her eyes. “Don’t worry, Mama Bear, it was only a fling.”

“Better be.” Cormack growled his approval. “Have you started thinking about your team’s strategy for next week?”

The pair dove into comparing stats and analytics between her team and those of the Lions. They finished off two more rounds, concluding their sports talk and moving onto life and love and what they wanted from both.

Day turned to night, and the siblings laughed and drank until the barkeep kicked them out.