by Riley Scott
Jordan Weston never felt alone with a basketball in one hand. Then she got hurt. The roar of the crowd faded away and so did the friends. Her lonely, small town world is blown wide open by the arrival of a breath of fresh air called Taylor Reeves. Gorgeous, wild…confusing.
Bouncing from one town to another in the wake of her father’s ministry, Taylor has learned to keep her wildest outlets a secret—especially her history with other women. She knows why the naïve Jordan is wary but can’t seem to stay away.
Is there any point to starting something that can never last?
Blazing past a sea of green jerseys, one stood out in stark white and blue. Zoe Michelson, the new starting guard for the Bulldogs, drove through the lane and easily finished a textbook layup.
“Michelson is on fire tonight!” one announcer’s voice boomed excitedly. “With only five games left in the season, it’s go time. And these girls came out to play!”
“I sure am glad to see that,” the other announcer agreed. “I was a little worried when they lost Weston that they just wouldn’t bounce back. But tonight they’re playing with renewed fire and you almost wouldn’t even notice Weston isn’t out on the court.”
The words stung, but they echoed exactly what Jordan Weston already knew—she had been replaced.
She picked up the remote and clicked off the television set. There was only so much she could take on a night like tonight.
Sure, she was happy for Zoe—who had been her best friend for two years—and for the rest of the team. It did not change the fact that she was jealous and bitter.
She glanced down at her left knee and wanted to scream.
“If only you could have held on for two more years,” she whispered sadly. “Just two years and I wouldn’t have asked you for more.”
But, injuries came whether or not you were ready for them, and this one had come with the promise of never playing basketball again.
Leaning back against the couch, she tried to block the negativity out of her mind. She replayed all of the pep talks she had received.
“There’s more to life than basketball.”
“It’ll give you time to focus on your studies—or maybe find a nice boy and settle down.”
“Keep your head up. You still have big things ahead of you.”
“I don’t know why you’re so upset. It’s just a game. There are a million other things you can do.”
“You’re still a part of the team.”
The words had come pouring in from family members and friends, but they had fallen flat against the harshness of reality. Then, the words of encouragement came less frequently, and despite all their promises of support, in the past several months people had disappeared one by one.
Some commented on how she had changed. Others said they missed her smile and upbeat attitude. The truth was that she was trying to adjust, but it was difficult. And it was even more difficult when she had to face it all alone.
Of course she had changed. The life she had spent years building had suddenly disappeared. From the time she first picked up a basketball at the age of five, she had known what it was to dream, to set goals, and to fight for what she wanted. Summer after summer, she had gone to basketball camps and played on traveling teams.
Each year there were new faces, new teammates, and always new skills to learn. But one thing remained, and that was her passion. She had spent countless hours in the gym to make sure she got a scholarship to play on the collegiate level, and when it finally happened, all of her hard work had come to fruition.
Her teammates in college had been her best friends, but even they had drifted away when she was no longer one of them. Eventually, she had given up traveling with the team. It hurt a little too much to sit on the end of the bench with no hope of ever getting into the game. The minute she stepped away, they stopped caring.
Her phone buzzed, bringing her momentarily out of her pity party.
She unlocked the screen and read the text from her mom. Watching the game and thought of you. Have you checked out that singles group?
The words brought a slight smile to her face. Her mother kept trying to push her into what she called a singles group. The message was twofold and exceedingly clear—go to church and meet someone new.
“Your clock should be ticking,” her mother had urged last weekend, once again suggesting that it was time to put away the foolishness of her childhood and start thinking about marriage and babies. After all, as far as her parents were concerned, no one in this town made it to their mid-twenties without marrying unless something was wrong with them.
While she had no interest in either joining a church or in dating someone at the moment, she relented. She had already checked it out, giving in to the fact that her mother would not stop pressing.
I looked up the time and place, she texted her mother. I got all of the information. I’ll check it out.
If it was the only way to get her mother off her back, she would give it a shot. She could go, tell her mother that it was awful, and never have to hear about it again.
* * *
Jordan sat in the parking lot of the coffee shop where the SLIC group was supposed to meet. She was early—as always, and she was more nervous than she felt was appropriate.
Again she turned over the pamphlet in her hands. “Singles Living in Christ,” it read. Fake-looking smiles shone up at her from the faces of young males and females on the pages. It all seemed too forced, and she felt out of place. She had no idea what she was doing here, and she contemplated simply driving off and going home.
Stubbornly, she gripped the wheel. She would do this, because she had said she would. Never in her life had she been one to give her word and not follow through with the commitment. Even if it was the worst thing ever, she would give it an hour of her life. Besides, it wasn’t as if she had anything better to do with her time. It was this or Netflix, and somehow this seemed a little less sad than a young twenty-something sitting all alone in a dark apartment, eating popcorn and watching TV on the Internet.
As new cars started to pull into the parking lot, she watched. She was parked far enough away that they wouldn’t easily see her, and she had the opportunity to scope out the group before entering.
A nerdy-looking guy in his thirties got out of one of the cars, looking far too excited to be joining a bunch of other single losers for coffee. Jordan shook her head, attempting to clear the thoughts. Tonight she was one of the losers, and she was going to have to think with more optimism.
Each person who stepped out of their car looked less and less promising to Jordan. Not that she wanted to date anyone here, but she did want to at least have the possibility of meeting some people she might want to hang out with later. There seemed to be no chance of that.
She stole a glance at the clock. The group was starting in three minutes. Taking a deep breath, she got out of the car.
It was a simple little building, but they did have decent drinks. If nothing else, she figured she would do a little people watching and sip a nice cup of chai.
Still, calming her nerves proved to be more difficult a feat than she had anticipated. She looked down at her shaking hands and chided herself for being nervous. There was no reason for it. These people were geeks anyway.
“Don’t tell me you’re deciding whether or not to run away?” a woman’s voice asked, startling her.
Jordan turned around quickly and found herself eye-to-eye with a beautiful girl with long sandy brown hair that flowed freely and whose blue eyes sparkled with a hint of mischief. From her genuine, welcoming smile to her ripped jeans and ball cap, she seemed as out of place here as Jordan felt. She took a small step back. At her height, she wasn’t quite used to someone standing as tall as she did.
Suddenly remembering that the girl had asked her a question, she tried to answer. “I guess I was,” she said with a shrug. “It’s my first time here.”
“I know it is,” the girl replied. “I would have recognized you otherwise. Anyway, I’m Taylor.” She held out her hand.
“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Jordan.”
Jordan couldn’t put her finger on any specific reason, but she liked Taylor already. There was a welcoming warmth about her, and yet she still seemed like the type of person Jordan could hang out with and have fun.
The two fell in step together as they approached the building.
“It’s not so bad, I promise,” Taylor said, leaning in to whisper the words.
A slight shiver went through Jordan’s body as Taylor’s words seemed to slide over her skin. It was as if there was a magnetism that drew her to Taylor, and she immediately felt at ease in her presence.
She took a deep breath as they walked through the doors. To her surprise, she realized that her nerves had calmed, and she was actually excited to be here.
As the room filled with people, Taylor gave Jordan a smile. “Well, I’ve got to kick this thing off tonight. Callie, who usually leads it, is out of town. I’ll catch up with you after to see how you liked it, though.”
Jordan nodded, hoping her words were a promise—not merely spoken to appease her nerves.
Taylor walked confidently to the front of the room. “Good evening, everyone,” she said with a smile that Jordan was sure could have landed her a job as a model.
“For those of you who don’t know, I’m Taylor Reeves, and I’ll be leading the discussion tonight. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. This is not a lecture; it’s a discussion.”
Her voice was clear and cool, Jordan noted, and it lacked the accent of so many from Kansas. She wanted to know where Taylor was originally from—and what she was doing in a place like this.
Before she could get too deep into the list of things she wanted to know about this mysterious Bible study leader, a teenage boy in the back of the room raised his hand.
Jordan followed Taylor’s gaze. He looked far too young to be in the group, but no one seemed to think he was out of place. Maybe this place was accepting and open after all, Jordan thought.
“Reeves?” he asked. “Like, are you related to Pastor Reeves?”
Taylor gave a slight laugh as she nodded. “I am. He’s my father.”
Jordan’s eyebrows shot up at the revelation. Her father was the man running the show at the largest church in town, and it was quite the feat in the Bible Belt for any church to beat out the rest. Stifling a giggle, she thought of all the gossip she’d heard about preacher’s kids—and all the case studies that had proven the stereotype of how wild they could be to be true. It was enough to spark in her an even greater interest in Taylor. There was something entirely fascinating about the girl. From the way she moved with such confidence, quietly and beautifully commanding the attention of everyone in the room.
Throughout the course of the study group, Jordan couldn’t take her eyes off Taylor. She took notes, hanging on every word.
As Taylor spoke about what it meant to truly be a friend to someone, to build them up with words of encouragement, Jordan clung to every point she made. Though they were lessons she had heard taught in every youth group she had ever attended, it felt as though she was uncovering some new truth she had never heard.
Although she could not pinpoint the reason, she felt that this girl was out of place here. Sure, she gracefully and confidently maneuvered her way through the lesson, and it was obvious that everyone here adored her. Yet, there was something about her that was so unlike most of the people that Jordan had grown to dislike in Kansas.
It seemed as if everyone in the area was so arrogant and self-righteous. Taylor was a preacher’s daughter, but she showed no signs of such egotistical and judgmental behavior.
There had to be more to her story, and Jordan wanted to find out all about it. Unfortunately, the Bible study drew to a close, and even though Jordan wanted to stick around, she felt like it might be awkward.
Even so she waited in the back of the room for a few minutes. Taylor was surrounded by a group of people who all seemed to have questions. She heard invitations for coffee and lunch dates, and once again she felt all too alone. Not wanting to appear to be a stalker or a strange loner, she turned to leave.
She almost bumped into a scrawny and pale, bearded man who she was pretty sure never emerged from his house except to buy a video game or to come to these meetings. From his crumpled polo shirt to his baggy jeans, she judged every aspect of his appearance in an instant. Immediately, she scolded herself for her quick judgment and tried to bypass him.
“Hi,” he said, with a smile that made Jordan suddenly wish he’d stopped with the awkward stare. “I’d been hoping to come over and meet you.”
She managed a sweet smile. “Hi, I’m Jordan,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“I’m Jacob,” he said, his smile growing. “We both have J names. Isn’t that cool?”
She nodded, not knowing what else to do, reminding herself not to be quite so rude or quick to jump to conclusions. But at this point he was not the one she wanted to be talking to. If she were honest, there was only one person in the room she even thought she could befriend.
Still, she stood and listened as he rattled off the fact that he worked in IT and loved to spend his weekends doing Civil War reenactments.
No surprises there.
Nonetheless, she made polite responses, but as soon as she saw an opportunity, she wrapped up the chat. This was exactly what she had hoped to avoid at this group meeting. Apparently, there were people who treated the Bible study as a speed dating group.
“I’ve got to go,” she said, before adding, “I really enjoyed meeting you.”
As she exited the building, she hoped she didn’t look like exactly what she was—a girl running for cover.
Even though she had only heard the voice for the first time tonight, she recognized it immediately. Turning around with a smile, she saw Taylor following her out the door.
“We didn’t scare you away already, did we?” Taylor asked.
Jordan laughed. “No, not at all. I just came out here to get some air and head home.”
“I see,” Taylor said. “Well, are you headed home immediately?”
Jordan recognized the hint of an invitation in the question, and weighed her options. She could sit on the couch in sweatpants, covered in Cheez-It crumbs and watching Netflix. Or she could go out and try to make a new friend.
Taylor filled the silence as Jordan thought about her response. “I’m not trying to be pushy,” she said. “I just wanted a chance to get to know you a little better.”
“Standard preacher’s daughter responsibilities?” Jordan asked playfully, hoping that legitimately was not the case.
Taylor laughed in response. “Not quite,” she said. “I don’t really do the whole preacher’s daughter responsibility thing on a regular basis. Tonight was a one-time deal. There’s just something about you that makes me think we could be friends.”
“Well, then I guess I’m in,” Jordan said. “What did you have in mind?”
Taylor gestured to a red Ford truck sitting on the edge of the lot. “Hop in, and I’ll show you,” she said.
“Is this where you take me out to a field and chop me into tiny pieces?” Jordan asked.
“We’re not really that kind of church,” Taylor said, laughing. “That’s the church across the street. You’re safe with us.”
Jordan laughed along with Taylor, not sure how to take her humor.
“Stop being so suspicious and come on.”
Jordan shrugged. “All right, you talked me into it,” she said.
The truth was, Taylor could have talked her into pretty much anything at that point, she was almost certain.
They got into the truck, and Taylor put it into first gear.
Jordan watched her carefully, taking note of every little detail. She was a walking mystery, and Jordan wanted to know so much more. Her Chiefs ball cap and her mannerisms as she shifted gears seemed somewhat masculine, but her perfectly applied—albeit subtle—makeup left no question about the fact that she was definitely quite feminine.