The sharp sound of the whistle pierced the air as several pairs of sneakers squeaked to a stop. "Alright girls, enough of our dribbling drills. For the last fifteen minutes of practice, I want a scrimmage. Lily, Danielle, you two will be captains. Pick your teams." Coach Weller barked.
"I call Scarlett!" Lily cried immediately. Danielle looked annoyed but didn't argue. Scarlett jogged over to stand beside Lily while the rest of the girls were called up. At last, when the teams were split as evenly as possible, the scrimmage began.
This was always Scarlett's favorite part of practice. While she loved everything about basketball, actually playing the game was the best by far. She hurried after her teammates to the middle of the court and they took their positions around the circle. Julissa, one of Scarlett's best friends on the team, was also one of the tallest. She got ready to jump for the ball against Danielle. Julissa knocked the ball into Scarlett's hands, and the game commenced.
Back and forth they ran, launching basket after basket, until the whistle blew again.
"Nice job ladies, good practice today. See you all Wednesday for the game!" Coach Weller dismissed them, and the girls hurried back to the locker room to change out of their clothes. Scarlett emerged fresh as a daisy, wearing the clothing she had worn to school. It was a sheer lime green blouse with a black tank top underneath, black capris, and lime green flip flops.
She hurried over to a middle aged man with thinning brown hair. "Hey Uncle Harry! Did you see my awesome bank shot?" She asked as she approached him.
He smiled and gave her a hug. "Hey Scar! Nice job tonight, you really brought that defense. Yes I did see your shot, well done! Work a little on those lay ups, and your next game is in the bag." Scarlett nodded, her brow suddenly furrowing in concentration. She always strived to make her Uncle Harry proud, and a lot of it came from the fact that he wasn't her uncle. Harry had lived next door to Scarlett since she was a toddler, and he and his wife, Stephanie had become good friends with Scarlett's parents over the years. They had one son named Zackary, who had just turned ten.
Scarlett would often babysit for them when they went out, and she and Zack had become buds as well. The two families had become so close that Zack didn't know Scarlett wasn't really his cousin until he was eight.
When Scarlett was seven and had taken an interest in basketball, her parents' busy work schedules made it impossible for her to play on any teams because they couldn't pick her up or drive her to any practices or games. Harry, despite having a young child to take care of as well, offered to drive Scarlett, and because of this launched her love for the sport. Even now, when she could drive herself, he insisted on taking her out of tradition.
On the way home, the two talked about Zack, who had come down with the flu over the weekend. "He's getting better. Steph thinks he'll be able to go back to school in a couple of days. He's a little trooper, that fellow. He hardly ever complains about it."
Scarlett smiled fondly as she thought of the bright spirited boy, with his thick head of blond hair and brilliant blue eyes. He looked just like Stephanie, but there was a few bits and pieces of Harry in there. "You should be there, at home, taking care of him." Scarlett said quietly.
"I told Stephanie that, but do you really think that girl's going to listen?" He chuckled. Stephanie was easy going most of the time, but when she made her mind up there was no changing it. Scarlett loved her just as much as the boys in her family. Some of her fireball spirit had rubbed off on Scarlett, what with her being at there house so much when she was a kid.
As it were, her parents usually wouldn't come home from work until eight to nine, depending on the day. So Scarlett would hang out at Harry and Stephanie's until they came home. It wasn't until she had entered middle school that she started to spend more time on her own. But she still never turned down an invite to dinner, and she didn't do so now.
"So you up for lasagna tonight?" Harry asked her as he pulled into their neighborhood.
"Ooh, Italian! Need you ask?" Scarlett responded enthusiastically. "Besides, I want to say hi to a sick little boy." She added.
Harry pulled the car into the garage and Scarlett jumped out and went into the house. She could already smell the wonderful dinner cooking and ran into the kitchen to give Stephanie a hug.
"Scar!" Stephanie smiled and hugged her back. "How was practice?"
"Great! I've got more to work on, but that's what practice is for!" She laughed.
"Don't listen to her," Harry said, coming in to the kitchen. "She did wonderful, she's just being modest."
"As always," Stephanie teased.
"So how's Zack?" Scarlett asked,eager to get the topic off of her.
"Poor little guy, he's been shut up in his room coughing his brains out. He hasn't thrown up today so he wants to try and eat a little lasagna. I'm sure seeing you will cheer him up." Stephanie smiled fondly and then called for her son.
Zack came into the room, still in pajamas and had bed head. His nose was red and his eyes puffy, and he looked downright miserable. He sniffed and looked up at the three in the kitchen, and his eyes automatically lit up.
"Scarlett!" He cried and ran to her, wrapping his little arms around her waist.
"Hey buddy, how're you feeling?" She asked, pushing some blond locks out of his face.
"Loads better," He sniffed again before going on, "I'm sure I'll be back in school by tomorrow."
"Not if you don't eat. Now come on let go of the girl before you get her sick too." Harry scolded with an affectionate smile.
"He's right about one thing; you'll need to eat if you want to get any strength. Now, Harry, would you please go set the table? And Scarlett, would you mind helping me carry the food?"
Harry rounded up four plates and set them out with the appropriate tableware to accompany the meal. Scarlett picked up a hot pad and a bowl of green beans and took it out into the dining room. She placed the green beans on the table with the hot pad underneath it while Stephanie carried in the pan of lasagna. Everyone took their seats around the square white table and began to dig in.
Scarlett marveled at the spectacular taste and sighed. No matter how many times she made the meal, it never came out as good as Stephanie's. Zack was as cheerful as ever, and managed half a slice of lasagna and a little bit of green beans before retiring to his bed.
Later, after the dishes were done, Scarlett, Harry, and Stephanie sat on the couch enjoying bowls of ice cream while Zack stumbled back to bed. Harry put ina comedy that all three enjoyed thoroughly.
Around eight Scarlett headed back home, despite the protests by Harry and his wife. She hurried across the lawns, to her still dark house. She dug her key out of her gym bag and unlocked the front inside, she turned on the lights in the living room and began to work on the homework she was supposed to have finished before leaving for practice. She had just done the last of it when she heard the garage door move and knew her mother was home. Dad wouldn't be home for another hour.
She quickly shut her textbook and shoved it into her backpack before tossing the whole thing into her room. She flipped on the TV just as her mom entered. If her mom thought even for the slightest moment that her daughter was falling behind in school, she'd pull her out of basketball immediately.
"Hi sweetheart! You wouldn't believe the day I had!" Her mom set her briefcase down and gave her Scarlett a hug.
"Yeah? What happened?" Her mom was a lawyer, so Scarlett couldn't imagine something terribly exciting happening.
"The case I'm working on was finally closed, but my bumbling assistant lost all the paperwork for it! We spent half the day looking for it until we finally found in in the back of her car! Goodness the boss was mad about that, demanded that she be fired immediately. It took almost the entire day to get him to calm down and let that woman keep her job." Her mother sighed. "Ah well, that's that. I'm exhausted, so I think I'll just eat a little before heading up to bed, okay hon?"
"Okay mom, see you tomorrow." Scarlett answered a bit absentmindedly, her thoughts on her lay ups and wondering if she'd be able to practice in the gym tomorrow even though the boys were scheduled to have their practice on Tuesday. She was aware of her mom heating up some Chinese leftovers and carrying them up to her room but didn't pay too much attention. Her dad came home and they exchanged a few words before he too retired for the night. Sighing, she climbed the staircase and entered her room. After changing into her pajamas and brushing her teeth, she flopped onto her bed and soon fell asleep.