The sky was clear. The weather was sunny. The field was smooth. The crowd was alive and ready to cheer. A few Mexican waves went around the stands and I couldn't help but smiling, knowing my older sister was there, cheering in her jubulant way and probably coordinating some of the waves.
I ran my hand over my smooth bat, which she had helped me oil the day before, and sighed. I would miss her when we didn't live under the same roof anymore.
Coach came to me where I was sitting on the bench, waiting for the match to begin. "Perfect day for a cricket match, isn't it, Tristan?" He took a deep breath of air and blew it out through his nose.
I smiled. "It sure is."
"Are you ready to bat us a few good ones?"
"I'm planning to stay in as long as I can," I assured him.
"Good. Watch out for Mikey McLeod. He's a fantastic bowler. He's got great spinners and curves and he's very precise, so if you miss the ball, it'll hit your wickets. Keep your bat ready at all times and don't go taking chances like you always do." He gave mea pretend glare.
I snickered. "Yes, Coach. Thank you, Coach."
"Good luck, Tris." He patted me on the shoulder and returned to his place beside the Umpire.
I took a deep breath and glanced through the crowd to see if I could spot Amber.
She had obviously noticed that I was looking for her, because she was jumping and waving wildly to catch my attention.
I smiled at my sister's foolishness and gave her a thumbs-up before blowing her a kiss.
We were called onto the field and I jogged to Coach with my friend, Michael.
"You ready, kid?" He always teased me because I was younger than he was.
"I'm good and you?"
"Stressed, but ready. You're sister looks good today." He motioned to where Amber was scolding someone in the stands.
"Someone probably talked bad about her boyfriend," I said with a smile.
"What boyfriend? What kind of a guy would try to tame Amber?"
We laughed, but fell quiet when we reached the group of cricket players.
"Captain Tristan," Coach called to me.
I faced the captain of the other team.
He wasn't a big man, but he had strong arms, which showed proof of his practice, making him an expert at bowling. That, and his precision.
After flipping the bat, we won and chose to bat first. I took my place in front of the wickets, padded and ready. I pulled the helmet over my head and bent my knees. I tapped my bat on the ground like I did everytime and tested a few swings.
To my surprise, they didn't send Mikey to face me first. Instead, they sent a scrawny man they called Rooster. No one could remember his real name anymore. He had the slightest limp in his step, which was probably why they didn't let him field. He always batted or bowled, though he was amuch better batsman.
I wasn't sure about their game-plan, but I knew I couldn't let Rooster's slow balls effect my batting and make me too relaxed when Mikey faced me with his fastballs.
Amber's saying repeated itself over and over in my head. "If you put a bat in the hands of Tristan, he'll throw you in the rubbish bin. Every ball is a new chance, Tristan Denver."
Rooster's over seemed to go on forever as I played the possible scenes of me facing Mikey through my head.
When it finally ended, Mikey stepped onto the field. Was I truly ready for him?
"Take him down, Tris!" Michael shouted from the sideline.
"Thanks, Mike," I called back, and tapped the ground with my bat like I had before facing Rooster. I narrowed my eyes.
Jake was the other batsman and was stepping around nervously. I couldn't concentrate on him now. It was only Mikey and I.
I knew I wasn't ready for Mikey either, but I couldn't let my team members down.
The first two balls were hard, but I didn't allow them to hit my wickets. I gave the third ball a good, hard smack and Jake and I got a run in before the ball was back inside. Mikey bowled down Jake's wickets and Michael took his place. he hit the fifth ball well and we got another run in.
Mikey faced me again. "Here's my best, Tristan," he shouted and got ready to bowl.
I tapped my bat once again. Sweat creased my brow and I took a deep breath.
I was ready.
The ball flew my way and I lifted my bat. Everything seemed to happen in slow-motion as I felt the impact of the ball on the wood and my bat sweeped forward. The ball flew back into the air and I heard Coach shout, "It's going... It's GOING... IT'S GONE!"
I punched the air in victory and waved at Mikey as he slumped back to the bench.
A few hours later, Amber and I walked to the car, each with a slush puppy in hand. We had just escaped the throng of parents wanting to talk to her famous brother. It sure was fun to be sixteen.
"You're not too bad bro," she said, messing up my hair. "You just need to get a girlfriend."
I laughed and draped my arm around her shoulders. "I don't need a girlfriend. I've got something even better... A sister!"
"Yeah; like I'm going to wash your laundry for you for the rest of your life."
"Aw, Tris. No matter how much you irritate me, I'll always love you!"
"I love you too sis. Now can I drive?"
"No way! I know you wanna take my new 4x4 to Stuck in the Mud."
"Fine. Then I'll steal it."
"Do that and you'll never play a cricket match ever again."