Chapter One

Isn't it ironic to feel lonely within a crowd? There are dozens of people around you, but instead of getting rid of your loneliness, they overwhelm you. That's exactly how I felt as I sat in the middle of a busy sports bar with my best friend, Vi. Her eyes were glued to the television screen. She only looked away to order another drink or to tell me how "hot" her favorite player was. I couldn't bring myself to remember the guy's name. That's why I found it amazingly ridiculous that Vi knew every player's name—jersey number included.

I tried watching the game for a while, but football just couldn't pique my interest. Instead, I aimlessly scanned the room. I tried to convince myself that accompanying my best friend to this place jam-packed with boys was noble of me. Vi attracts too much male attention and judging from the number of empty shot glasses in front of her, that wasn't a good thing. The boys were chattering noisily and chugging down bottles of beer from time to time. It wasn't the prettiest sight in the world. I was about to let out an exasperated sigh when I noticed that a guy was talking to Vi.

"A girl who's genuinely interested in football—that's pretty rare." he said.

"You think so?" Vi replied. She was more interested in the game than this boy's face.

Apparently, he noticed. He tried to obscure Vi's view of the television by bringing his face closer to hers. "I'm Chris, by the way, and you are?"

Vi tried her best to get a better view of the game, but to no avail. "Vitoria." she said, "Vi for short." She gave him a small smile.

"Will you mind if we join you?"

"Not at all."

"Great." Chris grinned. "Hey Nate, why don't you sit with Vi's friend over there."

Vitoria elbowed me playfully while I was horrified. I did not accompany Vi here to pick up boys. Besides, I wasn't even good at conversations. I looked at the guy named Nate and I was immediately startled—he was already looking at me! His expression was serious, but there was a hint of gentleness in his blue eyes. He gave me a nod before he sat next to me. I was expecting him to talk just like Chris, but he stayed quiet the whole time. Instead, he seemed more interested in watching the game.

I felt both relieved and bothered by his behavior. I was glad that I didn't have to make a fool out of myself by trying to keep up with a conversation with a guy, but I was also wondering why he didn't even bother to ask for my name. My insecurity started gnawing on me at this point. My best friend was effortlessly wrapping her finger around a boy she just met while I was stuck with a guy who didn't want to talk to me.

"Better pay up, Nate. My team's clearly winning." Chris said.

"The game's far from over. Keep watching." Nate replied. His voice was deep and he spoke so softly, so I doubt Chris was able to hear him.

After a while, the people in the bar started cheering loudly amidst the sound of clinking beer bottles. Apparently, the game was finally over. Thank God. Judging from Vi's reaction, she was mortified—her team had probably lost. Chris' mouth hung open, so I figured they were rooting for the same team. I heard chuckling beside me and I was sure it was Nate. He stood up triumphantly. I was shocked for a moment because I noticed Nate's towering height. I felt like a midget beside him. I doubt standing up would make a significant difference. He made his way to Nate. The latter shoved a handful of cash to his friend. "This is unfair, Nate. Why do you have to always win in bets?" Nate answered with a chuckle.

Nate ordered drinks for all of us. Vi and Chris finished theirs in one swig. They didn't seem to be in the mood for talking. Nate came back to hand me a drink, but I declined. "Thanks, but I don't drink." I said. He seemed a little shocked. I must've said it a little too bluntly. When I was about to apologize, Vi took the glass from Nate's hand and drank it up.

"Vi, you're drunk, aren't you?" I asked.

She nodded groggily. Her cheeks were flushed.

"It's time to go home, then." I took her arm and dragged her out of her seat. She struggled a lot. "You're no fun! Let go!" I sighed.

"Right. Why don't you stay a while? Nate and I can take you girls home." Chris said.

Vi smiled approvingly at Chris.

"No way. We barely even know you." I said. This stunned Chris.

"Alright already. Sheesh." Chris shrugged. He took Vi's hand. "At least let me get your number."

I shook my head. "I'll meet you at the door." While I went to retrieve my purse from my seat, I felt Nate's eyes on me. It was unnerving. I dared to lock my gaze with his. "Oh, and in case you forgot to ask, my name's Lyla."

I looked away defiantly and stormed out of the bar.

The next day, I was greeted by Vi's grumbling. She clearly wasn't going to get up any time soon. I searched my medicine cabinet for some aspirin, but I ran out. Great, now I have to go to the other side of town to buy some. Vi wouldn't stop her grumbling if I didn't go soon, so I had to. Vi's hangover wasn't my only problem. Another thing that bothered me when I opened my eyes this morning was Nate's face. I realized how stupid I was for telling him my name. I bet he was thinking, "Why should I care?" I felt ashamed of myself, but I shrugged it off as I took a shower.

The bus ride to the other side of town was boring, but it was probably better than staying in that cramped apartment of ours. I started to wonder why I chose to live in the most underdeveloped side of town. Was it because it was quieter? My train of thought was broken when I spotted a familiar basketball court in the distance. My heart sunk and I remembered why I moved away from here: to get away from my past. I took a deep breath and made my way to the basketball court. I was expecting it to be empty, so I was surprised when I saw a guy there. He made a twist before he made a jump shot. I found it odd—it was my first time to see someone do that. He continued to shoot from other places in the court, but he never stopped making a spin before he did.

I walked closer to get a better view of the face behind those messy blonde locks. He was oblivious of my presence the whole time. I admired his intense focus and somewhat graceful moves. I watched in awe as he shot basket after basket. He finally turned my way. What I saw made me want to bolt back to our apartment, but instead, I stood there—probably looking like a fool.

It was Nate.

A/N: I might change the title, but I'm still thinking about that. It's actually a reference to my current favorite song. Anyway, I'm blabbering. If you read this,THANK YOU! You can now move on with your life.