“Mine!” Bubba yelled as the ball came flying over the net in Kelly’s direction. Spotting Bubba’s movement from the corner of her eye, Kelly jumped out of the way as Bubba came crashing towards her. Missing the ball, of course. Gorilla ball at its finest.
“Watch it!” Kelly warned Bubba as he got up off the floor where he’d fallen in his lunge. “You nearly took me out!”
“Sorry. I was going for the ball,” Bubba mumbled, not looking the least bit contrite.
This time it was Kelly’s turn to serve, and she took a deep breath. She tossed the ball up into the air with her left hand as she swung her right arm back and wham! The ball shot across the net. The other team bobbled it, and the ball hit the floor.
“We gotta step it up, guys,” Vic warned beside Steve.
The volleyball flew back and forth again, both teams digging, setting, and spiking. Wounded birds were shot down. Wham! High drooping arcs had a greedy Megan under them like a crocodile waiting with open jaws for the bird to drop inside. Pass, set, over the net. Volleys going back and forth, again and again.
Bubba’s efforts brought a great deal of hilarity from Vic and Steve’s side of the net. The score was getting even now. Kelly faced off with Steve once again. He grinned at her.
The other team’s serve sailed over and was passed back and forth, then Megan sent a hard shot sailing low across the net. Steve’s arms shot up and blocked the shot, sending the ball right into Kelly’s face. Hard. Kelly staggered back. The ball dropped to the floor. Score for the other side.
“Oh, no, you didn’t!” Kelly accused, hands on hips.
“Yeah, I did,” Steve teased.
Kelly couldn’t believe it. He was taunting her.
“Careful, Steve,” Megan teased from the back of the court. “You don’t want to make her mad. You know what happens.”
Kelly pointed at Steve. “Coming back at ya,” she warned.
Steve’s grin got as wide as Megan’s. “Bring it,” he said, giving a “come on” gesture with both hands.
Kelly couldn’t believe it. Steve was laughing and teasing her like nothing had happened. Like he hadn’t walked out on her six months ago. Like he hadn’t been a total jackass! Her eyes narrowed on Steve, framing him in her sights. That did it. She was taking him out.
Unfortunately, someone else got in her way first. Vic hit the ball, and it flew through the air, low and fast, about two feet above the net. Perfect. Kelly was just about to jump up and spike the ball right in Steve’s grinning face, when a moving mass appeared in the corner of her eye.
Bubba. Lunging toward the ball---and her. Kelly jumped backwards just in time to avoid being knocked down, but Bubba’s arm whacked into her shin as he crashed into the floor.
“Yeow!” Kelly yelled. She rubbed the welt that was forming on her shin already. Bruised bone.
“Take it easy, Bubba,” a teammate warned. “You’re gonna hurt someone.”
“Okay, okay,” Bubba said automatically as he pulled himself from the floor and walked back to his position. Clearly, not about to change his behavior, no matter the consequences.
Not so fast, Kelly thought as she watched Bubba return to her flank. Time to take action. Bubba had made his last lunge.
She walked up to him and grabbed Bubba’s sweat-drenched tee shirt, then yanked him towards her. “Hey, Godzilla!” Kelly yelled right in his face. “You get near me one more time, and I swear I’m gonna go to my car, get my Louisville slugger, and break both your knees! Got that! Now, get outta my face and off my flank!” She shoved Bubba back so hard he staggered. Meanwhile, both sides of the court erupted in shouts and laughter.
“I’ll take care of him, Kelly,” Megan said, pointing to a stunned looking Bubba. “Yo, Bubba! Get your butt over here with me.” She jerked her thumb toward the back line.
“Okay,” Bubba said and meekly trudged to the back court beside Megan.
Megan pointed at him and--in her loudest on-the-field manager voice--commanded, “I don’t wanta see you move off that back line, you hear? You’re looking at the back of our shirts, got it? If I see you move up, Kelly won’t have to get her bat. I’ll break your knees with my bare hands. Are we clear?”
Bubba just stared back at the shorter version of Kelly, barking orders up at him.
“All right! All right! We’re clear! Damn, Dave! Where’d you find these women? They’re meaner than junkyard dogs!”
Kelly laughed out loud. Steve wiped both his eyes and looked across the net at her. “I have a feeling I’m next on your list.”
“You got that right,” Kelly said, trying not to smile.
“Junkyard dogs. I like it,” Megan called. “Let’s play ball.”
“You got it,” Vic called out, signaling the server at the back of their court.
The volleyball flew back and forth across the net as both teams settled down into the rhythm of play once again. Pass, set, hit, back and forth. Over the net, again and again. Serves smashing into the floor. Kelly blocked and spiked everything she could reach. Jumping higher and higher. Her shin would throb later. She’d learned to play with pain years ago.
Another shot sailed towards her side of the net, coming fast. It looked a little too high for her to spike. But just as it approached the break line it started its downward arc, just a little. It was just enough. Enough to encourage Kelly to push off from the floor straight up, higher than before, her arm swinging back and up, then coming down--hammerlike--hard and fast.
Blam! Steve’s arms went up to block her shot, but it was too late. She spiked the ball right into his face. Hard. Steve rocked backwards and stumbled.
Kelly’s teammates hooted in laughter, while the other players tried not to, unsuccessfully. Vic came over as Steve regained his balance.
“You okay, buddy?” Vic asked, smiling. “She really rang your bell with that one.”
“Ohhhh, yeah.” Steve said, shaking his head.
Kelly watched Steve shake his head again, then turn to her and smile. His old familiar, good-natured smile. She couldn’t believe it.
“You enjoyed that, didn’t you?” he called across the net.
Kelly smiled back at him. “Ohhhhhhh, yeah.” That felt good. Real good.