Anatomy of a Player (Taking Shots #2)(15)


by Cindi Madsen

I toweled off, threw on clothes, then picked up my textbook for my statistics class. A few intense hours of studying with people who actually understood the material was what I needed. So despite what I wanted to do instead, I shoved my book in my backpack and hoped that by the time I finished grabbing a bite to eat, I’d be in the right mindset for a boring-ass cram session at the library.

Chapter Eleven

Whitney

At the crack of noon on Saturday morning, I dragged myself out of bed, showered and dressed, and then headed into the kitchen, my sights set on the coffeemaker. I wasn’t much of a coffee person, but I knew I was going to need a lot of caffeine to get through my day. I wished I could say I was exhausted because I’d been living it up on Friday night, but no. I’d been at home researching and studying my butt off.

The coffeemaker gurgled, and I covered a yawn, silently chanting for it to brew faster. As happy as I was to have the spot at the paper and this huge chance at a cover story, research ate away hours of my day. I’d dive into the Google Time Vortex, thinking I’d only look up a few things, and emerge hours later, wondering how so much time had passed.

Then there were my classes to worry over. Technically my degree was in Communication with a minor in American Studies and a concentration in Journalism. While I was a lover of facts, my many history classes involved a lot of memorization, and because I’d lost my mind for a few optimistic minutes during registration, I’d decided to take an extra class this semester. The theory was that between it and my extra summer credits, I could pull off having a minor as well as a concentration and still graduate on time. The reality was that my GPA would take a serious hit if I couldn’t find a better way to multitask.

Good thing I’ve given up guys, because I don’t have time for them anyway.

Despite what I told myself, a hint of longing crept up. I missed even the possibility of a crush—the anticipation of when you might bump into the person next, and how it might be the catalyst that started something amazing.

The gurgling of the coffeemaker quieted, and I filled my mug, dumped a bunch of creamer and sugar into it so that I could actually stand the taste, and then took a cautious sip to keep from burning my tongue.

It was sad that my muscles protested something as little as lifting my cup—between having to cart around my laptop, and multiple trips to the newspaper office taking up what used to be my down time, my shoulders and back ached from my backpack straps, and my legs had tried to go on strike more than once.

When I heard the front door open, I rounded the counter to greet my roommate. Lyla had spent last night at Beck’s, and between that and both of our crazy schedules, we hadn’t had a real talk in days. Funny how we used to go that long and I didn’t think twice about it. Now it gave me withdrawals.

“I got you a present,” Lyla said, producing a stack of newspapers.

“Thanks?” When I realized it’d come out as a question, I quickly added, “Not that I’m not crazy about the news, because you know I am, but I’m not sure if I’ll have time to read those for a while.” I was already a couple of editions behind on the New York Times. They were just sitting on my Kindle, waiting to be read.

“Well, not every article, of course. You said that your editor wanted you to add more voice and length to your next article, and when I asked Beck what made a good sportswriter, he went on and on about this guy who covers the Bruins.” She kicked off her shoes by the couch and then steadied the wobbling pile of newspapers with a hand on top. “I’m not going to lie, I kind of tuned out for a bit, because I didn’t understand half of what he was saying. But then he showed me these”—she lifted the bundle a couple of inches—“and, after I made a Howard Hughes reference he didn’t get… You’d know what I meant if I said ‘This collection is drifting into Howard Hughes territory,’ wouldn’t you?”

“Eccentric recluse filmmaker who became obsessed with things and hoarded them,” I said, setting my mug on the coffee table. “I got it.”

“See. I told him you’d get it. Anyway, he gave me permission to borrow a stack so that you could read the sports articles and try to figure out what makes them so great. I thought it might help.”

I took the unwieldy pile and hugged them to my chest, sure I’d end up with gray smudges across my pale blue button down. Silver lining—it’d at least match my pants. “Awesome. Thank you—with an exclamation point this time. I’ll take these with me to campus and see if I can’t sneak in a few. I’m going to set up in a high traffic area and ask people how they feel about the hockey team; if they feel athletes get preferential treatment, and the like. I figure going on a Saturday will give me a pool of the more school-minded students, and then I’ll do one mid-week to get a cross section of the rest, and see how much they differ.”

I jammed the papers into my backpack, along with my yellow legal pad and a pack of multi-colored pens and highlighters—the laptop was going to have to stay home today, because I couldn’t fit it in. My back and shoulders needed a break anyway.

I retrieved my mug and downed the last of my coffee, sticking my tongue out at the end. I better grab a Coke, too. More caffeine, and it’ll wash away the coffee taste.

After grabbing a cold can, I turned to Lyla, who was pouring a bowl of cereal. “Hey, while I have you, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Shoot,” she said before popping a blue Crunchberry in her mouth.

“It’s…Hudson.” I’d told her about Monday’s encounter already, so she was up to date on our interactions. “I need a sure way to shut down his faux advances but not attack him and look like a crazy emotional reporter.”

Lyla put the milk back in the fridge and picked up her bowl. “Faux advances? I doubt they were fake.”

“I was wearing a pantsuit the first time, Lyla. The second time I had on a white polo and khaki pants—I looked like I was wearing a school uniform.”

Lyla circled her spoon over me. “Exudes sex appeal, remember?”

I cracked a smile at that. “More like I was female and there, but thanks. Now, about this sure way to deal with him… You’re good at experiments. How do I figure out how to walk the right line with him? And the rest of the guys, of course.”

“The problem is, people have too many variables. That’s why I prefer to work with elements. If you’ll remember, my social experiment wasn’t exactly a raging success, although I did learn to be more confident, and some of my new social skills have come in handy.”