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Chapter 1

Posted by PURPLEYHAN STORIES on Wednesday, December 28, 2016

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“Y-yes, Sir! I want to play setter!”
“Next.”

Ilang varsity teams ang nandito ngayon sa loob ng gym para sa recruitment at tryouts. They didn’t need to roam around the campus to look for promising players. The team’s strength is enough to attract those aspiring players. No wonder the volleyball and tennis club got the most number of people, though only a few will surely survive.
I passed my recommendation letter and registration form to the coordinator and he paused momentarily when he saw those papers. But after a few seconds, he gave me a nod and set up a place for enlistment. He put a basketball team tag on my table and those who saw it started whispering to one another.

“B-basketball?”
“Hey, is this for real?”
“Who is that girl? A manager?”
“Didn’t the basketball team dissolve last year?”
“Is this some kind of a joke?”

Hindi ko sila pinansin at tinignan ko ang phone ko. Seriously, what is that guy doing? He’s supposed to be here. I’m gonna punch him when I see him.
Muli kong dinial ang number niya at ilang rings lang ay sumagot agad siya.

“Hello—”
“If you’re not here in one minute, I’m going to kill you.”

I ended the call.
Kinalma ko ang sarili ko at tinignan ang buong gym. Ang dami pa ring tao at nagsisimula na ang tryout ng volleyball at tennis team. Well, those teams are the best here so they really want to filter these applicants. On the right side, the baseball and soccer team are also starting to move. All of them went outside for the field tryout.

“Hey, isn’t that West Zamora?”
“Saan? Nasaan siya?”
“Whoa! So dito nga siya pumunta sa Orven.”
“Wow! Even Arcel is here!”
“Those are big shots right?!”

Oh. The big fishes are out, huh? Hearing their names brings excitement and fear to this crowd. The monster rookies from different fields are here.
God of Spike, West Zamora; Prodigy of Tennis, Arcel Santillan; Batter’s Demise, Bliss Aurora; King’s Keeper, Aloysius Quezon; Queen of the Court, Tanya Peralta, and there are still more of them. Orven University is really the den of the beasts.

“Whoo! Made it in time—”
“You’re ten seconds late.”
“What? No way!” Napatingin naman siya sa table ko at halos nanlaki ang mga mata niya nang tumingin siya sa tag. Biglang naging seryoso ang mukha niya at hindi na nakapagsalita.

Cord Palermo. My first choice for the basketball team.

“Sena,” sabi niya habang nakangiti at nakakunot ang noo. “You can’t do this.”
“Why? Is there any reason why I shouldn’t do this, Cord?”

Natahimik ulit siya pero alam ko kung bakit siya nagkakaganito.
We’re childhood friends and he’s the only one who knows my family. We grew up in the same neighborhood but due to his mother’s work, they had to move to another place. I heard that during his high school, he became a basketball player in Reven High, one of the semifinalists in high school division. However, he didn’t have the chance to become a regular. Since our fathers are close friends, I learned that he went to Orven University where there is no basketball club. But I’m not going to waste his ability.

“Sorry, Sena. Mukhang mali ang taong nilapitan mo,” sabi niya at tumalikod siya sa akin.
“Whether you like it or not, you’re going to join my team, Cord.” Napahinto siya pagkatapos kong sabihin ‘yon. “I know why you picked this university but this isn’t like you.”

Humarap ulit siya sa akin at napansin kong nakatingin ang ilan sa kanya. Maybe because of his height. For a 6’4’’ first year college student, he’s quite a sight.

“Hindi na ulit ako maglalaro. ‘Yon ang desisyon ko pagkatapos ng araw na ‘yon. Sorry but I need to go.”
“Just because you didn’t get to play?” sabi ko. I’m sure he’s talking about the semi-finals. “You’re quitting because you didn’t get your chance? That’s out of your character, Cord.”
“That’s exactly the reason,” sagot niya naman. “I didn’t get to play because I don’t have the ability. I was not a regular that’s why I didn’t have the chance.”
“You have the abilities, Cord.” What he doesn’t have is confidence. “And I’ll make sure to use your full potential.”

Patuloy lang siyang naglakad palayo sa akin. He’s hopeless but I really want him on my team. If he’s with me, I know that aiming for the top won’t be just a dream.

“Hanggang dito ka na lang ba? Do you think you’ve reached your limit? I’m not the type to praise someone but listen. I am creating a team who can fight anybody, a team of champions, and the first person I think of is you. I don’t care if you weren’t a regular before or you didn’t show your abilities during the games. I would still choose you because I know what you’re capable of.”

Tumayo ako at lumakad papunta sa kanya. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang expression niya pero no’ng nasa gilid na niya ako ay nakita ko ang mukha niya.
Frustration. That’s what’s written on his face.
Kinuha ko ang bola mula sa gilid at naglakad malapit sa ring. Heads turned around when I started dribbling the ball. I know I’m still not good enough to beat that annoying brother of mine (why am I even thinking of him right now?) but I’m good enough to play on college level. Without stepping out of my place, I jumped and threw the ball. That sensation when I released the ball felt good and when I got on the ground, the ball went inside the ring.

“Whoa! That was a three-point shot!”
“Ang galing! Ang ganda ng tira niya.”
“Grabe pwede siyang kunin ng Women’s Basketball team!”

‘Di ko pinansin ang mga naririnig kong usapan at nakatingin lang ako kay Cord. Gumulong sa paanan niya ang bola at napatingin siya rito.

“Pass it,” sabi ko at tumingin siya sa akin. “I want to shoot.”

I can see that he’s having second thoughts based from his expression. In the end, he picked the ball up and looked at me with those frustrated eyes.

“What?” inosente kong tanong.

You see, for any basketball player, once the ball is on their hands, their body will automatically respond to it. And Cord is not an exception.
Just by looking at him holding that ball, I can sense his great presence on the court and how he can lead the team I am starting to build. I really want him on my team and I’ll do everything to get him.

“If you’re not going to shoo—”

That’s it. I was silenced by his sudden movement. The next thing I knew, I was looking at him, flying toward the rim and slammed the ball down. Hanggang sa malaglag ang bola sa sahig ay wala akong narinig na kahit anong ingay pero wala pang isang segundo matapos ay bigla na lang may mga nagpalakpakan at rinig ko rin ang pagkamangha ng ilan. Mukha namang napansin ‘yon ni Cord kaya siya napayuko at naglakad pabalik sa gilid. Hinarangan ko siya agad.

“Hey,” sabay lahad ko ng kamay ko sa kanya. “Did that feel good? So, are you going to be on my team now?”

Kumunot naman ang noo niya sabay buntong-hininga. Nginitian ko na lang siya dahil alam ko na ang susunod niyang sasabihin. 
You set me up.

“You set me up.”
“Well . . . I’m good at it.” After I said that, he tapped my palm and I smiled in return.
“I’m just doing this because—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. As long as you stay on my team, I’m good.”

He sighed again because he knew he can’t do anything about it anymore. Sumama siya sa akin pabalik sa table at nakita ko namang nailang siya sa mga taong nakatingin pa rin sa kanya matapos ang slam dunk niya. He’s a reserved guy and seeing him getting all shy makes me want to tease him.

“Bakit ka namumula? Ikaw naman ‘tong nagpasikat. Look,” sabay tingin ko sa direksyon ng mga babae. “Those girls seem impressed.” Pagkasabi ko no’n ay tinignan niya ako nang masama kaya natawa na lang ako.

Pagkabalik namin sa table ay umupo siya sa tabi ko at pinasulat ko agad siya sa application form. Napangiti ulit ako dahil nakuha ko ang unang player na gusto kong mapunta sa team. Napansin ko namang naging seryoso ang expression ni Cord matapos niyang magsulat sa form. Nakatingin lang siya sa kamay siya pero bigla siyang tumingin sa ring.

“One more time,” he whispered and I understood his feelings.
“So, saan nagpunta ang teammates mo?” tanong ko sa kanya.
“Karamihan ay sa Nueva College pero meron ding iba na pumasok sa Kingdom University.”
“Oh. Those are the seeded teams from the previous season, right?” Tumango naman siya sa akin. “And you decided to go in Orven University just because it doesn’t have a basketball team.”
“And here you are, trying to form a new one.”
“Kumagat ka naman.” Kinuha ko kaagad ang application form niya. “You can’t escape anymore.”

Napatigil naman kami no’ng biglang may nagsigawan. Pagtingin namin, sa side pala ng volleyball team ang dahilan ng hiyawan. Tanya Peralta, the high school MVP, is about to serve.

“When I heard you’re going to Orven, I thought you’ll be there,” sabay tingin niya sa volleyball team.
“I got tired of it,” sabi ko naman at naalala ko ang huling laro ko.
“Because you still can’t beat her?” This time, siya naman ang ngumiti at ako ang sumimangot.
“I’m still nowhere near her level. She’s The Queen.”

Naalala ko bigla ang huli naming laban. One-on-one ang labanan pero hindi pa rin ako nanalo. The final score was 25-10 and I got pissed when I discovered that she even gave me a handicap.

“They also got a queen here,” sabi niya sabay tingin kay Tanya. Tinaasan ko naman siya ng kilay.
“A queen-wannabe, you mean?” Umiling na lang ako habang patuloy pa rin ang pagsigaw ng ilang estudyante no’ng nagserve siya.

Napalingon naman ako bigla dahil may nakita ako sa peripheral vision ko. One guy is walking toward us. I elbowed Cord and he also saw the guy.
Yes, I set up Cord earlier to bring back his confidence, but another reason is to get the attention of the crowd . . . and the players.

“Is this the basketball team?” tanong ng lalaki. With his buzz cut hairstyle, earring in his right ear, furrowed brows and unbottoned uniform, he looks like a delinquent.
“Yes,” sagot ko naman.

Bigla naman niyang kinuha ang bola na nasa gilid ng table at tumingin siya kay Cord. All of a sudden, he rushed to court and did a stepback jumpshot from the three-point line. He walked back as if nothing happened and stood in front of us.

“Hyder Jacob,” sabi niya habang nakapamulsa. “Where’s the coach?”
“I’m here,” sabi ko naman at inabutan ko siya ng application form. Lalong kumunot ang noo niya habang nakatingin pa rin sa akin. “Welcome to my team.”

Well, I just got my second player.


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