They walked out onto the court. No one was there. There were three nets lined up. Lizzie walked over to the nearest one and put her bag down on the bench alongside the wall. She unzipped her bag and pulled out her racket. She began to hunt for a can of tennis balls, but Tommy’s voice stopped her.
“I’ve got balls,” Tommy shouted.
Lizzie turned and saw Tommy standing on the other side of the net, racket in hand. He held up a ball to show her and then began to bounce it.
“Really?” she responded, with a tone that suggested she doubted it. “Are you sure you have enough?”
Tommy looked up at her, grinning. “Are you ready?”
She walked to her side of the net, positioned herself along the baseline and nodded. He bounced the ball a few more times and then hit it underhand and lightly across the net. Lizzie pulled back her racket and slammed a forehand right at him. It caught him by surprise and he stepped to the side to avoid being hit.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t want to hit it too far away from you. I wouldn’t want you to strain that leg of yours.”
“Well, that’s thoughtful of you.” He got another ball and bounced it a few times. Suddenly without throwing the ball in the air, he brought his racket up and slammed the ball for a serve. After it hit within the service box, it flew at her. She jumped back to avoid the ball hitting her in the face.
“You ought to be working on anticipating placement when it comes to serves,” he said. “That wasn’t a big serve. You should have been able to return it.”
“I might have if I’d known you were going to serve.”
“Okay, I’m going to serve. Now you know.” Tommy bounced the ball and Lizzie bent down, hunching slightly over her racket, swaying back and forth. Tommy threw the ball up and sent the ball to hit the outside line of the service line. Lizzie dove to the right and caught the ball with the edge of her racket and sent it flying down the line so that it hit the corner pocket. Caught up in the forward momentum, she went down on one knee.
“Are you okay?” he asked, as she stood up.
“I’m fine,” she said, touching her knee gingerly where she had scraped it.
“That was better. Of course I could have returned that.”
“Why didn’t you, then?”
“What would be the point? I’m just trying to help you out.”
“Is that what you’re doing?”
“Sure. Why don’t you serve?”
Lizzie turned and walked over to get a ball from her bag. He watched the profile of her body as she walked. He thought about how neatly his hands had fit about her small waist. And how the round softness of her breasts had felt against the hard angle of his chest.
“I told you I have balls,” Tommy said. He held up one, ready to throw it to her.
She turned her back as though she didn’t hear him and pulled out a can of balls from her bag. Her shorts held on to her heart-shaped ass like two loving hands cupping the cheeks in their palms. He turned his back to her, trying to will his penis back down. When he turned back around, she was bent over, straight-legged with that ass pointed right at him. She’s doing that on purpose, he thought. She was putting the can down on the floor rather than back in her bag on the bench.
Lizzie straightened herself, grabbed her racket from the bench, and casually walked over to the service line. She looked at Tommy across the net. “Are you ok?” she asked.
“I’m fine,” he snapped irritably.
“You’re sweating,” she said. Then, holding up the finger of one hand as though to test the temperature, she asked, “Is it that hot?”
Tommy wiped his brow and tugged at his shirt. “Are you going to serve or what?”
Lizzie bounced the ball three times. As she put the ball to the strings of the racket, she looked across the net at Tommy. For the first time, he realized there was something about her eyes that was always changing. It was the color. They might be a dusky gray or a dusky blue, depending on the light. And the amber flecks might lie dormant or flash like pieces of flint igniting sparks when she was angry. She threw the ball in the air and slammed it when it came back down. Tommy hit the ball back to her. Lizzie hit a clean groundstroke toward the center of the court. Tommy took a quick step over and caught it with a backhand that went deep. Lizzie returned with another powerful groundstroke, and Tommy pulled his racket back as though he were going to hit it down the line for a forehand winner. But at the last minute he pulled back and softly lobbed it to drop just barely over the net. Lizzie raced toward it catching it with her forehand, and hit it right back at Tommy. He pulled back his racket as though he were going to hit a forehand and then, just as the ball reached him, he quickly tilted the racket, sending the ball high in the air. Lizzie reached overhead with her racket and watched as the ball traveled up and over it. When the ball had passed over her, she turned around to see it bounce just behind her. Tommy grinned. Lizzie looked at him across the net. Tommy saw those amble flints spark before she turned away. She went to grab another ball and returned to the service line.
Tommy stood well behind the baseline. Lizzie served the ball out wide and short. He ran to it and tapped the ball back over to the middle of the court to Lizzie’s backhand. Tommy was well past the outside line of the court on the right. He made a move toward the other side of the court and before he knew it the ball came at him, as though he were one of those moving ducks at a shooting gallery. It hit him square in the nuts. He felt a sudden, hard, crippling pain, curved into a ball, and went down.
[To find out what happens next, scroll down to the next post.]