Rhiannon Or Not
Brett came home from basketball practice exhausted but he perked up when he saw his sister Elana sitting in the living room with her friend Rhiannon whom Brett hadn't seen in a while.
The three youngsters used to hang out in the neighborhood together in younger years but Brett attended St. Anne's Catholic High School to play basketball for the legendary Coach Bob Bushee while the girls attended Hillsboro High.
Rhiannon and Elana didn't spend as much time together anymore either as they developed new and different friendships living the high school experience so it was nice to see the two reunited now, their books and notebooks spread out in front of them on the coffee table.
"We're in the same focus group for a class," Elana explained when Brett expressed his surprise upon seeing Rhiannon in the house.
Brett collapsed in one of the arm chairs and let out a sigh.
"How's the new coach doing?" Rhiannon asked.
Rhiannon was a husky kid – always had been. They used to call her The Linebacker during their backyard games - Rhiannon - also known as Rhi - could be tough when she wanted to be and she didn't take much gruff from anybody.
Brett learned early on not to cross her. Elana and Rhiannon were always the odd couple because Elana was petite and rather meek while Rhi was much more expansive in her presence.
"Oh, you heard, huh? Brett sighed.
"Hasn't everybody?" Elana asked.
"Please, no Sister Coach jokes," Brett requested
"I heard some of the players quit," Rhiannon remarked.
"Sister Marie is pretty tough," Brett admitted.
"How come you didn't quit?" Rhiannon asked.
"I owed it to Coach Bushee to stick it out."
Coach Bushee was felled by a heart attack a week before the season started, DOA at the hospital from a massive coronary. Assistant Coach Barry Cameron couldn't commit to the full time responsibility as head coach because of a work conflict and the school scrambled to find a last minute replacement.
Enter Sister Marie, a recent hire by St. Anne's and one of the few remaining nuns at the school, mostly staffed by lay teachers. Sister Marie still wore her habit consisting of a black tunic covered by a scapular, cowl, and veil. Turns out she had an athletic background and she volunteered to take over the job in the pinch.
"Does Sister know anything about sports or the game?" Rhiannon wanted to know.
"She was a pretty good athlete in high school," Brett reported. "Soccer and basketball mostly so she has the credibility and the knowledge to lead if you don't mind the fact that she's a nun."
"Do you mind?" Rhiannon wondered.
"I mind that Coach B died," Brett sighed. "I didn't care about a Nun replacing the legend but obviously it was met with resistance and controversy which is why a couple of the guys quit in protest. I was hoping and praying for a basketball coach so we could play the season," Brett told Rhiannon. "I didn't care who it was. I just want to play."
"What's she like?" Rhiannon asked.
"She's tough," Brett laughed with admiration. "She knows what she's doing. She can shoot a basketball, set a pick, block a pass, and go up for a rebound!"
"In her Nun costume?" Rhiannon asked with surprise.
"Yep," Brett laughed. "She said it was God's Intervention that she's there. A classic Jesus move to inspire people."
"I'm glad you didn't quit," Rhiannon said proudly. "You showed guts."
"I'm the team captain," Brett reasoned. "How could I walk away?"
"And you showed leadership," an impressed Rhiannon determined.
"Anyway, it started out a little rough but it's getting better now," Brett said. "She's really helping us play to our potential. She doesn't make it about her. It's all about us succeeding as a team."
"Coach Bushee reminded me of a bald Jimmy Stewart," Elana remarked.
"I miss him," Brett admitted. "Sister says she isn't there to replace Coach, just to fill in for him."
"I saw the Miller City game," Rhiannon let him know.
"We lost, 48-30," Brett sighed. "What were you doing there?"
"Oh, Aubrey's cousin plays for the Mudhens."
"You're dating Aubrey Not-So-Bright?" Brett asked with surprise.
"Well, you're dating Alexis Always Right," Rhiannon replied.
"We beat Mt. Griffin 38-30 and Sun Rise Lake 44-36," Brett said. "Sister says we have courage and perseverance and that's inspiring. She wants us to avoid fouls, work on defense, practice our shots and execute our plays on offense. She runs us ragged in practice too."
"Does she get all religious on you?" Rhiannon asked.
"She applies the Faith," Brett revealed. "She says that basketball and sports is a mirror to the spiritual life because you can't become holy without holy habits and routine and devotion and that's what good basketball is all about too – consistency and performing the basics all the time."
"Well, I admire you," Rhiannon said with sincerity and a warm smile. "I think it's great that you're willing to give it your all even though your hero died and they brought in a Nun. You've always had character and been a good guy."
"Thanks," Brett said with appreciation, flattered by her compliment.
He gave her a second look, noticing how pretty she had become with age. But she was with Aubrey now and he was with Alexis and they had always been pals anyway so why was he thinking about her as a girl instead of a friend all of a sudden?
"How are things at Hillsboro?" He asked.
"We'll all be graduating soon," Rhiannon remarked. "Do you ever regret abandoning us for the Saints?"
"Sometimes," Brett admitted in a rare moment of honesty. "But it's not so bad at the Catholic School."
"Even with a dead coach?" Elana asked. "He was the whole reason you went there in the first place."
"I know," Brett said. "But he made me a better player and I got to play a lot more than I would have at Hillsboro with all the guys they have."
"You only have eight players on your team this year," Rhiannon said.
"We have a couple of girls practice with us so we have five on five," Brett said. "It's a little weird, especially with Sister running up and down the side of the court with her whistle in her mouth and her veil flying."
Rhiannon laughed at the image. "You're always so positive about everything," she said with regard. "You never let things get you down."
Brett smiled, remembering how nice it was to have Rhiannon around in younger days. They got along great and had fun together. He realized that he had missed her in recent times but he also understood that perhaps time had passed them by and it was too late for any of that now, especially with her being with Aubrey and him being with Alexis.
All of them had gone to elementary and middle school together before Brett became the odd one out by heading for St. Anne's for Freshman Year. Coach Bushee played college ball, international ball, and Continental League ball way back when and then coached at several colleges so when he ended up at St. Anne's in his golden years Brett wanted to play for him, even though St. Anne's was a small school and the basketball program was limited at best.
The Saints contended under Coach Bushee and Brett idolized the guy even though it took him away from his friends at Hillsboro High. Alexis was a Brainiac and she decided to attend the more challenging Catholic School too.
Neither Brett nor Alexis were particularly religious and they didn't start dating until Junior year. Alexis had little in common with Rhiannon, of course. She was "always right" as Rhi had put it – smart, self-centered, semi-egotistical, demanding and often annoying, but she was also strikingly beautiful and Brett was flattered when Alexis began pursuing him as somebody other than a friend.
"You still with us?"
It was Rhiannon looking at him with an amused smirk as Brett came out of his daydream. "Yeah," he said slightly embarrassed, standing from his chair. "It was really great seeing you again, Rhi."
"You too," she said earnestly.
Brett headed for the stairs but he stopped half way up out of the girls' view and watched Rhiannon for a few minutes, admiring her and wishing they had stayed closer these past few years.