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Clara Romance


Chapter 1: I Need Practice

I was never the sappy, romantic kind of girl like my best friend, Carly Gonzaga. I never liked chick flicks and I hate cheesy love songs. So imagine how I felt during Valentine’s Day where the sight of flowers, chocolates and gigantic stuffed toys flooded every corner of Luna East. I almost threw up in my mouth.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t bitter. I had a few flings since I was sixteen, but I never had a real boyfriend in all my eighteen-year-old teenage life. I never had my heart broken from an unrequited love, and although I’ve had a huge crush on Ben Hidalgo since the start of senior year, I wasn’t the type who will cry a river when I learned that he had hooked up with this girl from the drama club a few days before the prom. Let him be with her, I told myself. He doesn’t like me; why waste time crying? I was only being realistic.

So when I’ve had enough of flowers, gifts and chocolates roaming around the classrooms and hallways, I escaped at the basketball gym during our lunch break.

Nobody uses the basketball gym during lunchtime. Whenever students feel like playing basketball on breaks, they use the outdoor courts–Luna East has four. The gym was reserved for the varsity team’s afternoon practices and inter-school games, so it was basically empty during the middle of the day.

At least I thought it was.

I eyed a row of basketballs tucked near the bench and felt the urge to shoot hoops. The truth was, I wasn’t only using the gym to escape from students celebrating Valentine’s Day. I needed some time alone. The memory of what happened during prom night a few days ago still spooked me. I haven’t told anyone about it, not even Carly. I didn’t feel like sharing it to anyone including my best friend because I was too ashamed at myself.

I sighed, calming my racing heartbeat as I dribbled towards the free throw area. I positioned myself behind the white stripe and took a shot. It bounced off the rim.

“Looks like you can use a bit of practice.” A voice suddenly echoed from the quiet corner of the gym. I nearly jumped, and saw Jake Madrigal emerging from the locker room.

“Tell you what,” Jake was saying, scooping the ball from the ground. “Why don’t we play a round of ‘bente-uno’ so we could work on those free throws?”

My heart started hammering in my chest again, but it wasn’t because of the memory of the prom anymore.

I did not reply and just turned my back at him. Dribble, dribble, shoot! The ball clattered at the edge of the rim again.

“Tell you what,” Jake was saying, scooping the ball from the ground. “Why don’t we play a round of ‘bente-uno’ so we could work on those free throws?”

I couldn’t remember the last time I played one-on-one basketball, especially bente-uno, which was all about shooting free throws and following it up with a jumper. Two points for free throws, one point for jumpers. The first to make twenty-one points wins.

“No offense, but I’m not really in the mood to play against someone right now,” I said. “I came here so I could be alone.”

“Unfortunately, I came here for the same reason,” he replied. “Might as well make the best of it. Wanna bet?”

I sighed. “Look, the last thing I want to do is–”

“Ask questions about me,” he cut me off, ignoring my protest. “Every missed shot that I’ll make, you can ask anything about me.”

I raised my eyebrows at him.

“And then I can ask questions about you for every missed shot that you’ll make,” he continued, twirling the ball with both of his hands and staring at me. “To make it fair.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “What exactly do you want to accomplish today?”

He shrugged, dribbling the ball again. “We can get to know each other.”

My cheeks flushed. Guys rarely made me blush. Whenever my face turns red, it is because I had said or done something stupid in front of a guy. Not this way. Ever.

“What do you say, Marge?” Jake challenged.

It surprised me that he knew my name. I remembered prom night, and how I thought I could just be some stranger to him. Guess I was wrong.

“Fine. I’ll go first,” I said, motioning him to pass the ball.

For the first time since junior year, I saw Jake Madrigal smile.

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Head First, Fearless

Kristel S. Villar covers sporting events for a national broadsheet by day and tries to write fiction by night. In between, she takes care of her husband and son. She has also penned Blast from Two Pasts, a contemporary romance novella, and “The Rumor About Me”, her first short story for the Luna East anthology. “One on One” is her second Luna East story.

2 Responses to “One on One”

  1. Nina

    I know it’s a short story, but I’m kind of wishing that there’s a novel instead so I’d know what’s gonna happen next. Hmmm… Kind of feel what Hazel Grace from TFIOS felt with AIA. I want to know what will happen to the characters next. Haha.

  2. Florence Joyce

    This isn’t really the typical badass guy meets prim-and-proper girl (at least that’s how I’d like to call her). But somehow, I kind of wished this was longer. I mean, I’d like to see more of their journey together as they finally became closer, even just a friends.


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