Author's Note: Run-ons ahead.

The sky was darkening; the cloudy overcast became alighted with deep violets and blues with the barely-visible sun disappearing behind the proud, silhouetted mountains. The dusk air became chilled and biting. It was December.

Nevertheless, a group of around forty girls were on the softball field, with the school empty, even as the sun's rays faded. They pitched and threw and hit and caught and dove after the balls with every single ounce of skill and power they contained. Each girl, tall orr short or thin or fat or brunette redhead blonde, each girl looked around at eachother, nervously wondering if the girl next to her or in front or behind her will ever see this field again or what if they themselves didn't make it?

Amidst all the cold air and cold tension, a young coach watched closely with her clipboard and blue eyes, marking numbers from one to six (one best, six worst) in little squares. It was hard, watching and judging each individual girl, especially when she was needed for pitching or hitting. There were the girls she hoped would make it and the girls she hoped wouldn't and the girls she hadn't seen before but they were acting snobby so she reserved judgement. There was one in particular that she hoped would: a sophomore, Ally, with pixie-cut red hair and bright, intelligent green eyes; she was in conditioning and was quiet but athletic.

Throwing a ball up into the chilled air, she hit it with a thud toward the line of girls. The girl with the pixie cut darted out, stooped her glove to the ground; the ball hit the glove, refused to go in, and bounced off. Picking it up with her right hand and silently flinching and cursing at herself, the girl threw the ball into the bucket.

Four point five, thought the coach, hitting another ball at the next girl.

Here comes Kirstie Stotes number fourteen to the plate, a newcomer to the varsity team. At the mound we have number five, Alana Arjada, an accomplished pitcher in all respects...

"Kirstie?" asked a young, feminine voice.

The woman turned, ice-colored eyes meeting bright bright confused green ones and her stomach clenched involuntarily.


"I didn't make the team?"

"Here, lemme talk to you," she replied, beckoning with a nod of her head.

The girl followed her to her clipboard, waiting patiently as the coach flipped a few pages.

"Okay..." started the young woman. She turned her shoulder on the girl, so the teen can see her name. "As you can see, your average was a four point eight-seven. That's below average, which is a three. Catching, throwing, running... hitting was your best category," she listed it off, then turned her head to look at the redhead.

"Running? I was ahead of most everyone during the fifteen minutes, I was only in the back because I lapped them," the girl said quickly.

Quickly taking out her calculator, she averaged it in.

"That only comes out to a four point three seven," the blonde said to the redhead, who nodded solemnly. "Listen - I want you in the program next year, you seem like a really dedicated individual and I'm sure with some work you'll be able to make it," she told her, a hint of earnestness in her voice. The teen nodded again; and, looking at Kirstie straight in the eye, she gave a small smile, swiveled on her heel and strode across the sandy field merging into grass. She was confident with her head high and her collar turned up against the bite of wind. Amidst all the girls who were either cryingcryingcrying or jumping for joy and in happiness, Ally strode without emotion.

Kirstie watched her until she disappeared around the corner.

First inning... and Arjada winds up - look at the speed on that girl! - and pitches a blazer toward Stotes. Stotes swings and... oh, it's a miss! Strrrike one!

The January morning was crisp but with the promise of warmth in the sun and the clear air. The short, blonde woman pushed and shoved her way through the crowd of much bigger highschool students, her arms full of a combination of papers and uniforms.

A head of scarlet stood out to her, and she faltered in her step; the same girl was bent, studiously, over a notebook and a text that looked suspiciously like chemistry.

Out of no where, two girls from the freshman/sophomore team came into the picture, and they laughed with eachother and poked eachother and teased eachother jut like teen girls do, and they saw the redhead and stopped.

Although she couldn't hear a thing, she watched the exchange and knew everything that was said. After the girl turned and smiled at the pair, she shook her head and smiled softly at the inquiry of whether she made the team.

This brought a confused glance between the two friends, and they didn't know they were being looked at as they went through the usual oh I'm sorrys and why didn't you make it you were so goods and, her personal favorite, Kirstie must be on crack oh well I'm sure you'll make it next year bye!

As they departed, the girl watched them with sad eyes, and bent back over what Kirstie was sure was math, now.

Here comes the second pitch... wind up and - look at that change up! Catches Stotes off guard, swings a second too early... foul ball! Arjada, apparently, isn't giving any mercy to this new player...

The woman drove wearily to the batting cages; her varsity team won that day, but just barely and to wind down from softball, of course, you play some more softball. Nothing was more satisfying than hitting the crap out of a rubber ball.

Wearing shorts in the cool night air of March, she marched into the office, paid for three tokens and a bat and a helmet and went to a sixty-five miles per hour baseball cage.

The cages were crowded that night; she took one of the two out of ten cages that were free. The night was filled with a combination of clings and thuds and loud curses as balls were missed. Fastening on the helmet, Stotes put in a token. After a few seconds, a ball came shooting out and she swung and hit and ball after ball after ball after token after token, the blonde had sent each pitch flying to the other side of the cages. It melted into the harmony of the girl in front of her hitting the crap out of her balls and both boys behind her putting all their power into each swing. When she was finished, she was aware of a crowd of young men watching her; ignoring them, she let herself out and returned the equipment.

On her way out, the person that had been in front of her caught her eye. It was a young, lithe, feminine form with the knees slightly bent, eyes attentively on the pitcher—the ball started being pitched—prestep there... wait wait wait until it reaches the front foot... then the girl exploded on the ball and set it in a line-drive to the back of the tent.

Back into postition—prestep, wait, front foot, slam; prestep, waitwait, front foot, slam.

Pitch three... will you hear that crowd? Arjada, looking unusually smugokay, okay, just kiddingArjada winds up, and sends a bullet toward Stotes... Stotes steps and... and...

The girl reached behind her, fumbling for another token. When she found there was none, Kirstie watched the girl's shoulders slump and her head droop slightly. Suddenly, the helmet was off and all that the coach could see was a head full of scarlet strands.

Ally turned, letting herself out, and their eyes locked for a moment, a blade of summer grass on a sky of summer blue.

The girl let out a small, sad smile, the green eyes much much too bright and the shoulders and head forcibly straightened and lifted respectively. She let herself out, passed the coach with her much-worn bat leaning against her shoulder, and nodded at the woman, who smiled back. Without a word, she let herself into a steel blue convertible car that was waiting for her, and drove off. Kirstie watched, sadly, thinking if only she wasn't so nervous.

...and... wow! HOMERUN!

The September summer air was dwindling; dry and warm with the sun's rays deepening to a golden hue, shining on the yellowing grass.

Kirstie peered around her new conditioning class, freshman girls looking nervous and returners leaning back, talking.

Sitting all by herself was a young junior with short, bright red hair. The junior and the coach smiled at eachother, then she looked down at her clipboard, and started to call roll.