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Authors: Alex Morgan

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BOOK: Saving the Team
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There was a group of girls in the back, who I kind of got a good glimpse of. One look and I could just tell they were the cool girls. They had their hair pulled up high in messy topknots, and their lips were shiny with gloss.

Looking at those girls, and the other girls in the class, one thing was immediately obvious: California girls dressed way differently from Connecticut girls. First of all almost
every girl in class had flip-flops dangling from her feet. I looked down at my Converse sneakers.
I gotta ask Mom to get me some flip-flops.
Generally speaking California style seemed way more easygoing than back East. I didn't see one polo shirt in the crowd. No plaid, either. Preppy was definitely not in here the way it always was in Connecticut. My carefully creased khakis were one of a kind here, and that paired with my crisply ironed dress shirt, I felt a little stiff. Luckily, long, flowing hair seemed to be the thing in California. At least I met that criteria.

“Devin, want to solve for
?” Mrs. Johnson said to me, breaking my concentration. On the board she had written down a too-easy equation.

As I got up to solve the problem, I thought,
is how many friends I've made so far.
equals none.

At lunch I walked into the cafeteria, alone, and was completely overwhelmed. It seemed like everyone knew exactly where to sit, and they were already there, chatting away happily and eating their lunches. Not knowing what to do, and too scared to go sit with a total stranger, I brought my packed lunch to the steps by the library and pulled out my book to read so I didn't look like a complete loser.

After finishing my food, with plenty of time left in the lunch period, I didn't know what to do with myself. I snuck into a bathroom stall to call Kara. I knew we weren't allowed to use phones during school hours, but if I didn't
talk to somebody soon, I was going to explode. A trio of girls came in to hang out and gab in front of the mirror, and after a few minutes of primping, it didn't seem like they were going to leave.

Not wanting to risk anyone overhearing my phone call, I settled on just texting Kara.

1st day is horrible. Haven't met anyone. =(

Her response came back right away.
Awww, it'll get better. Gina and Vida say hi!
Gina and Vida were two of our soccer friends. I immediately felt jealous that Kara was hanging out with them and not me.

Watr u doing?!
I wrote.

School's out, going 2 mall. Go meet people! =P

It's SO not that easy!
I responded. I wanted to tell her exactly what my morning had been like, but that would have to wait till later on Skype.

Just be urself, ur so outgoing!
I didn't feel outgoing. I felt like a girl who was hiding out in a bathroom, crouched on a toilet seat. My phone buzzed again.

Thanks, call you later. Luv u!

The primping girls finally left the bathroom. I stuffed my phone into my bag and unlocked the bathroom stall. Having texted with Kara, I felt a bit better. A little more hopeful. Maybe Kara was right. Maybe if I was more my usual outgoing self, I'd be okay after all.

At least my next class was girls' PE. What a relief. I might have been having trouble meeting people, but sports I
could do. I was especially relieved when I learned we'd be playing kickball. I loved kickball. I was psyched when it was finally my turn at the plate.

As the pitcher rolled the ball toward me, I dug in my back foot and then swung forward with my right. The rubber ball took off with a satisfying
, launching way out into the outfield. It was nice to see all those years of soccer come in handy. I rounded the bases, stopping only when I got to third.

“Woo-hoo! Great kick,” the girl at third base said to me as I skidded to a stop. Her braided black hair was all bunched up into a messy ponytail. She had on a bright blue headband, and her wrists were filled with bracelets.

She snapped her gum as she talked. “Let's see you do it again next time,” she said, punctuating her friendly challenge with a smile and a bubble burst. “I'm Jessi, by the way.”

My next turn up I kicked the ball harder, aiming it at right field, toward a tall girl with thick black bangs that went straight across her forehead. She took a few long steps backward, holding her arms out to catch the ball, but then she tripped over her own feet and fell down, right on her backside. When I saw that, I knew I had some time, so I looked straight ahead and chugged for third base again.

“Emma, get up,” Jessi called out to the struggling girl. “The ball is behind you!”

When I breezed by third on my way home, Jessi gave me a high five, even though she wasn't on my team. The
girls on my team congratulated me when I got back to the dugout. It was the best part of my day so far, hands down.

Later, when we were headed back to the locker rooms to change, Jessi and Emma caught up to me.

“Hey, do you play soccer?” Jessi asked. “Because you have a mean right foot.”

I smiled. “I do! Well, I did. Back home in Milford. And by the way, my name is Devin.”

“Well, Devin, you have to come to soccer tryouts—they're right after school today,” Emma said.

I nodded. “I know, but I'm a little nervous.”

“Nervous?” Jessi asked in disbelief. “With that kick of yours?”

I sighed. “But California is famous for its soccer players. I'm guessing everyone on the team can kick like me or better.”

Jessi and Emma looked at each other and burst out laughing. Jessi was doubled over with her eyes squeezed shut, and Emma covered her face with her hands as she laughed. I was totally confused. What was so funny?

“Oh, Devin,” Jessi said as she recovered from her laughing fit. “I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but the Kentville Kangaroos stink!” Emma nodded in agreement, still grinning.

I couldn't believe what she was saying. “Really?” I asked, shocked. “Then why are you guys trying out?”

Jessi shrugged. “I love soccer. And it'll be fun, I guess. There's no pressure to win, that's for sure. And I heard we
get out of class early for games and stuff. That's always a plus in my book.”

Emma laughed and nudged Jessi with her elbow. “You'd do anything to get out of class. But seriously, Jessi is a great player.” Jessi smiled modestly when Emma said that. “And I love to play too—even if I'm not always that, um, coordinated,” Emma said, and they both giggled. “But I'm a huge soccer fan! And I heard that Coach Flores is really nice, but they say she's kind of flaky, too. This will be our first year on the Kentville team—it's only for seventh and eighth graders.”

“The Kangaroos will have a better season this time around,” Jessi said confidently. “Because we'll be on the team!

“They did win only one game last year,” she added.

Emma giggled again, and said, “And wasn't that because the other team forfeited?”

Jessi nodded.

“Wow,” I said, shaking my head. “I can't believe it. I thought everyone would be like Olympic soccer stars here.” How could this be true? Maybe the Kangaroos weren't good by California standards, which were way high. The team was probably still awesome compared to my East Coast team. Or maybe Jessi and Emma were exaggerating about how bad the team was to make me feel less nervous about tryouts.

“You still have to try out,” Jessi pleaded. “If we get more players like you, maybe it really will be a winning year for the Kicks.”

“The Kicks?” Now I was totally confused. “I thought you were the Kangaroos?”

“It's a nickname for the girls' team,” Jessi said.

Emma nodded. “It goes way, way back. We're not even sure where it came from. Maybe because, you know, kangaroos kick?” She shrugged.

“The Kicks,” I said, smiling. “That's cute. But the team couldn't always have been horrible, to get a cool nickname like that?”

“Who knows?” Jessi sighed. “But it's a new season,” she added hopefully, “and maybe you, me, and Emma will be the Kicks' new lucky charms! Here's hoping all three of us make the team. Honestly, Devin, I think you'll be a shoo-in.”

“Maybe we'll even beat Pinewood,” Emma added optimistically.

Jessi snorted. “Don't count on it. They're the best team in our league. I'd be happy to win

For a second I felt crushed hearing how bad the soccer team was, even though I still found it hard to believe. Then I flashed back to my desperate texts to Kara from the bathroom. She'd told me to be myself, and as soon as I had been, I'd met two nice girls who played soccer too! Terrible soccer team or not, things were starting to look up in the friend department. And if the other girls trying out for the team were this nice too, I definitely wouldn't be eating lunch on the library steps or hiding out in the bathroom anymore.

“Tryouts after school, got it,” I said with a smile. If
it meant spending more time with Jessi and Emma, I'd squash my nerves and give it a go. “I'll see you there!”

“Excellent!” said Emma.

Now if only I could figure out where Mom had unpacked my soccer stuff . . .


My mom picked me up from school so I could go home and change before the tryouts. It was just us in the car. I breathed a sigh of relief that my dad wasn't there doing his corny sound effects, and that Maisie couldn't interrupt us, because I couldn't wait to tell Mom about my day.

“I want to hear everything!” Mom said as she navigated through the sea of cars and buses.

“First of all, I'm going to need flip-flops,” I said, and then I filled her in on West Coast fashion, Jessi and Emma, and the news about how bad the soccer team was.

“It's a new year and a new team,” Mom said to encourage me. “You never know how the season will go.”

We pulled up in front of our new house. I raced out of the van. “I almost forgot,” my mom called after me, “but Kara called. I told her you'd call her before tryouts. Oh, and make sure to grab some water to take with you!”

I couldn't wait to tell Kara how my day had turned around since we'd texted earlier. I ran into the house, dialing Kara on my cell phone as I headed upstairs to get my soccer stuff.

“Guess what?” I asked her when she picked up. “I met a couple of girls—Jessi and Emma—in my gym class today. We played kickball and they were really cool. And it turns out that Jessi is in my English class too.” Jessi had shrieked and given me a high five when I'd walked into my last class of the day. It had felt great to see a familiar face in one of my classes for a change.

“Yes! See, I knew you'd make friends,” said Kara.

“I hope we'll be friends,” I said. “But I am so nervous about tryouts today. I hope I can make the cut in California. Even though Jessi and Emma told me I had nothing to worry about, I'm worried they were just trying to make me feel better.”

BOOK: Saving the Team
13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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