An hour ago we had glowed, our bodies warm and sticky as the whistle blew to call the end of the game. We had all been on the court, Tara’s spectacular block sending the white ball whizzing to the shiny wood floor on their side of the net. I could hardly believe it, had watched Tara collapse down to the floor in exhausted victory. I went to my knees, and Celeste tackled me with a hug. We were all screaming, three hours and five matches later we squeaked through a win that put us at the top of the division going into the playoffs. I knew she would deny it, but I’d watched Tara cry in the jubilee.
Now, an hour and a half later, the sparkly sheen of victory had faded; our adrenaline crashed. I was tired, Celeste was frustrated and Tara stood in the lashing rain staring up at a black window.
I had lied to Celeste; I knew why Tara did this. Or thought I did. Whitney’s absence was a throbbing beat in the back of my mind that only dulled in the moments I drove Tara to her house. To watch her stare at the empty window. We had been doing this for the last six months, the frequency fading from two, three times a week to a couple of times a month. I knew, though, as I heard the ball splat against the wood, that we would be stopping here tonight. I wondered if I would have come here alone without Tara in tow. I stared at the stippled black of my steering wheel. Yeah. I would have come.
“She’s going to make herself sick standing out there in this mess.” Celeste said.
I glanced in my rearview mirror, saw Celeste’s dark brown eyes big and round staring back at me. It was a punch to the gut. I blinked and swallowed; Celeste understood why Tara did this too.
The first few times we had stopped here Tara stood out there for almost an hour. The weather had been better then. I watched from my car, windows rolled down as the early summer sun slid across the cornflower blue sky and thought about Whitney. She had bleached her hair, dyed the ends a neon pink that glimmered in the sun. The blonde made her eyes so so blue, and whenever we went out together all the envious, adoring stares were for her. Whitney basked in the attention, and Tara teased her relentlessly over it. Threatened to bleach her hair, too, just to steal some of the spotlight. And in calm seriousness,Whitney would tell her it would all change come volleyball season. Once those games started, we all knew Tara would blossom in the limelight.
I smiled with the left side of my mouth remembering the way they playfully bickered and jockeyed for attention. They both acted like they wanted to be the center when really they were most happy when the other one was.