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Brin hadn’t intentionally avoided having sex. She’d always had a vague curiosity about it, in fact, and she would probably have been happy enough to experiment, if it had come up in a natural way. It had simply never come up in a natural way. She had known by the time she was twelve or thirteen that she was gay, though she hadn’t consciously known that her disconnection from the flirty games of her peers and her terrifying attraction to other girls was the same thing that the kids tossed around in casual insult: Homo. Lezzie. She knew it was weird and dangerous, and that was enough.

She liked boys. They were much easier to be around than girls were. They aroused nothing in her other than friendly camaraderie; there was no mystery or power in the way they made her feel. They didn’t draw her eyes or lodge in her brain, as some of the girls did. She didn’t feel compelled to watch their hands, or stare at the downy line of hair on the backs of their necks, or, oh God, notice the fall of shirt over breasts, the cling of jeans to ass.

She would never have dared to touch any of those obliviously tormenting girls, and she attracted—thankfully—no physical interest from her male friends beyond punches on the shoulder. So sex, as an activity she might engage in, simply never entered her universe.

Besides, she was working. She knew that her path to college, and from college into the life she could only hazily imagine but wanted desperately, was a path with white lines around it and a net at the end. She had practice, of course, and games, but also drills and reps and long leg-burning runs. She had weight work, aerobic work, skills work. She never finished, but she exhausted herself, and then she had schoolwork.

During the distasteful grind of college recruitment she discovered, to her chagrin, that free rides were vanishingly rare and never actually free. Most scholarships were partial, and even the ones that claimed to be full would not cover huge chunks of her costs: travel, clothes, books, sometimes nothing beyond tuition. Almost by accident she realized that her best deal would be an elite private university, the kind that didn’t give athletic scholarships but boasted an enormous endowment. Athletics could get her in, and financial aid would make it possible for her to stay.

She would have assumed that sex would come for her in college (if she’d thought about it explicitly, which she hadn’t allowed herself to do). Then college came: a leafy, dignified campus full of buildings that looked like castles. Here she was aware that there was a lesbian community—communities, really, because there were artsy queer girls and studious feminist lesbians and dykey jocks and even, God help them, sorority-sister gay women—and for the first time she felt the conscious desire of other women directed at her.

She wanted to enjoy that, but she didn’t. After so many years of keeping her own longings still and silent and utterly private, the casual, open coupling of the women around her felt shrill and obnoxious. Was this really what she’d waited for? What she’d kept herself driving toward? She had kept desire to herself so long that part of what made it precious was its secrecy. Acting on it seemed to make it cheap.

She had some opportunities. A tall theater major with short dark hair kissed her at a party near the end of her freshman year, and she thrilled to it. It was much more awkward than she’d expected—there were a lot more teeth involved than she’d imagined, and there was a taste to another person’s mouth, which had never occurred to her—but it was also dazzlingly real. The woman, whose name she was not quite sure of, had smiled while they swayed in the noisy darkness of someone’s living room exploring each other’s lips and tongues; Brin had been able to feel the curve of her lips and she had smiled herself, and then they were both laughing and the moment broke. She’d lost track of that woman at the party. Later, she’d realized that she probably should have pursued her. It was her turn. But she’d gotten embarrassed and left.

It turned out that she still didn’t speak the language. Years later she’d hear, at reunions, Didn’t you know that so-and-so had a crush on you? That whatshername totally thought you were hot? No, she hadn’t. She had trained herself too assiduously to keep her eyes and her thoughts to herself.

She worked. When she wasn’t reading, writing, doing a lab, finishing a problem set, she ran, lifted, shuttled, sprinted, drilled. With no parents or teachers telling her what her priorities had to be, she could set her own schedule. She liked being good at what she did and she labored at it, and during those months of intense, immersive effort some new door opened in her body. Her sense of the field expanded. She was able to move without thinking through her movements. She looked forward to every practice and she burst into games. The second half of her first season, she played on the varsity squad; not unheard of, but unusual enough.

She casino şirketleri had expected sports to get her to college. Through college. Then she would take a professional job and maybe play on a company team, or in a rec league on the weekends. Feeling this new power, she regretted this for the first time, and the four years she had began to seem short. But unexpectedly, after the Ivy League tournament that ended the season (in which she set a league record for assists in a game and tied the tournament scoring record), her coach received a call. Would Brin be interested in participating in an invitational camp with members of the under-20 national team? It wasn’t an offer of a place on the team, of course, but a tryout. A step. A date.

Yes, she would be interested. As soon as classes ended, she was on a plane.

She’d fallen in love with dismaying frequency in junior high and high school—if love was what you called it when you thought obsessively about another person, watched her furtively, memorized the curve of her earlobes, and imagined a thousand scenarios in which you heroically saved her life. It hadn’t happened to her so far in college. There had been mild crushes: a girl with thick blonde hair who made her look forward to an 8 a.m. French class; a buzz-headed, broad-shouldered swimmer she saw in the weight room. She almost missed the frenzied obsessions that had haunted her in her early teens—almost—but thought with complacency that she must have outgrown them. Then came the first invitational camp, and Kelly.

As the invited athletes gathered in a room that looked like a study hall crammed with desks and chairs, Brin felt a still-nameless stranger take the all-too-familiar place at the center of her attention. The girl—woman, that is, or almost-woman, as they all were—was medium height, medium coloring, with purposeful energy and a relaxed self-command. She was animated with a few of the others, exchanging hugs and greetings; she had been here before.

Many of the players knew each other. Some had been playing together, or against each other, on traveling teams and at selective camps since they were twelve or thirteen years old. Brin was probably not the only person in the room who was new to this level of the system, but she felt as awkward as if she were, listening to the hum of conversation that excluded her. And already, there was that one person who burned at her awareness. Brin was both elated to feel the fierce hunger return with its life and heat, and dismayed to lose control, once again, over her own brain.

She could never explain or understand what drew her to the people she was drawn to, and sometimes after the chemical reaction had died out she was puzzled or even embarrassed that she had felt so fierce an attraction. Now, again, she was pulled to a person whose fascinations were rich and deep but not obvious. No one would have tagged her as the most beautiful woman in this room, or the most charismatic, or the most outgoing.

This woman who had immediately monopolized her attention was a superb athlete, of course—she was here, after all—gorgeously muscled, physically confident, graceful. She was not, however, a classic beauty; her face was pleasant but ordinary, her mouth a little big, dark eyes large and brows heavy, which gave her intensity rather than prettiness. Her brown hair, shot with gold from the sun, grew to her shoulder blades, almost but not quite curly; she let it tumble loose, which meant she was constantly pushing it away from her face.

Brin tried to pretend that she was not focusing furiously on everything that she could glean about this woman, but she listened intently for her “Here” at the roll call and matched her with the scanty information on the roster that had been included in their orientation packet. Her name was Kelly Dwyer. She was from New Jersey. She was a rising sophomore at Rutgers. She was a defender now, though she’d been a forward all through high school. None of that mattered. Her voice, a little rough and low, mattered. Her hands. Her smile, the quick flash of her teeth.

When the coaches gave out room assignments, Brin wondered if her own intensity of focus had somehow realigned the universe, or if it was actually random that she was rooming with Kelly. It didn’t seem possible. But there it was, in the voice of one of the assistants: “Cortland and Dwyer, room two-fifteen.” Alphabetical, Brin realized later, but at the time, it seemed like a sign.

It was also terrifying. When she walked into the tiny, cinderblock-walled room, with its iron institutional beds and worn marmoleum floor, and saw Kelly sitting in one of the wooden desk chairs, the lurch in her heart and stomach made it clear that the next two weeks were going to be spent in a state of self-consciousness, the fear of betraying herself, and arousal.

Kelly looked up and smiled at her. “Is it okay that I took the bed near the door? If you have a preference, I can move.”

Brin stammered, “Yeah. I mean, casino firmaları no. It’s fine. I don’t care.” It was going to be torture, and it was going to be wonderful.

To Brin’s mixed horror and gratitude, Kelly was nice. She knew, of course, that it was Brin’s first camp, and she introduced her to some of the girls who had been at other camps; she took her down to the dining hall and sat with her at one of the long tables, and other players coalesced around them, because Kelly was that girl, the girl everyone was immediately comfortable with. The unspoken, unelected center of the group.

She gave Brin the lowdown on the rest of the players, and Brin noted through her daze how clearheaded Kelly was in the way she described them. She seemed able to separate how she felt about them as people and how she understood them as athletes, and she didn’t let her likings or dislikings affect her objectivity. She was generous about people’s faults and warm about their virtues. It didn’t help Brin’s rapidly degenerating grip on her feelings.

“Over there by the salad bar, that’s Gina Giamatti, with the dark hair. She isn’t eating salad, she’s loading up on the little squares of ham. Don’t let her scare you, she’s got a good heart, she’s just … excitable. And she will say anything that comes into her head. She kind of plays the same way, now that I think about it. You have to assume she’s just going to take off and run, because defense literally doesn’t occur to her. End of the table, that’s Maribel James. Goalkeeper. She’s very quiet but scary smart. I think she’s majoring in physics or something. She will only yell at you on the field if it’s something you really, really need to hear, so pay attention when she does. Next to her, Taylor Winchester, also a goalkeeper. Don’t let the pale ethereal thing fool you, she’s an ass-kicker. She doesn’t have Bel’s instincts during play, but she’s eerie with penalty shots, which is probably what’s keeping her on the roster. Down the table toward us, in the Michigan sweatshirt, that’s …”

Brin almost paid attention. Letting Kelly talk meant she could watch her mouth move.

The first days unfolded with a particular intensity Brin hadn’t experienced before. Nothing they did was new, of course—the drills were the drills, running was running, weights were weights, and playing was awesome. Playing on a field where everyone was as good as she was, some even (she hated to admit it) better, was superb. She never had to slow down or telegraph her intentions; she’d never been able to move so instinctively as when all her teammates knew in their bones where to be. But the flip side was the intense, unrelenting, unspoken competition.

On the third day, the coaches called them together after the morning warmup. “As you know,” the head coach said, “the senior national team just got back from Paris a couple of weeks ago.” Murmurs and nods from the athletes. They were all hoping to get to meet the team, women they’d grown up watching and emulating. “What you might not know,” the coach went on, “is that they’re here. Their own camp starts in a couple of days at this same facility, and most of them have already reported. They’ve agreed to play a scrimmage against you.” Now there were cheers. Then the coach delivered the kicker: “This afternoon.”

Brin felt her heart leap and constrict. This afternoon? No warning? No prep time? From the widened eyes and dropped jaws all around her, she knew everyone else was having the same thoughts.

Kelly said, not loud enough to raise the coach’s ire but loud enough for most of the team to hear her, “That’s good. No time to worry about it.” As soon as she said that, Brin nodded and relaxed, and she could feel the others relax around her. Kelly was right. Not having the time to work themselves into a frenzy was a blessing, not a curse.

Brin and Kelly both got the start.

Brin was exactly where she wanted to be: on the left, Kelly her center back, sun warm on her skin, sweat trickling and muscles coiling, breathing the sweet smell of mown grass. And, taking the field at the other side of the center line, the greatest players in the world.

She looked over to her right, and Kelly grinned at her. “We got this,” she said.

“We got this,” Brin echoed. All of this, she thought.

Back in their room, three hours later, Kelly threw herself onto her bed. “That was amazing and I’m exhausted,” she said.

“Amazing?” Brin said, incredulous. “We got killed.”

“We did not,” Kelly protested. “Four-one isn’t getting killed. And they were supposed to beat us. They’re the senior team. Actually,” she said, rolling over and looking directly at Brin, “they’re probably pretty pissed they didn’t beat us twelve-nothing. Doesn’t that feel good?”

“We still lost,” Brin grumbled. “I feel like punching a baby.”

“I feel like … ahh, I don’t know,” Kelly said, rolling to her back again and kicking her feet in the air. “Excited. Jumpy. I mean, they just got back from winning güvenilir casino the fucking world championship! Just being on the field with them was awesome.”

Brin smiled and flopped down on her own bed. Kelly’s mood was lightening her own. Kelly always lifted her—her heart, her breath. There it was, that clutch just beneath her breastbone, that almost-painful twist as Kelly pulled her focus and Brin fought not to stare at her.

“Aaagh!” Kelly made an inarticulate joyful noise and jumped up, ran from one side of the room to the other and back, and finally flung herself on top of Brin.

“Ouf,” Brin grunted. She couldn’t breathe and her ribs hurt, but Kelly was, incredibly, on top of her, her body pressed to hers, and Brin couldn’t feel anything but that clutch, that need, that irresistible force.

Kelly raised up on her forearms, looked into Brin’s face, and bounced. “We … are … awesome! … We … are … awesome!”

Brin stopped caring about breathing; Kelly’s thigh had landed between her own. She heard with a frisson of horror the soft pleasure sound that escaped her lips. And she saw that Kelly had heard it too, from the look—looks—on her face. Surprise; curiosity; then something deep and unidentifiable.

Brin felt as if the world had opened a giant chasm beneath her and she had tumbled into it. She could feel the physical sensation of falling but horribly, excruciatingly, she was still right there, scalded by embarrassment and a wave of self-loathing.

Then, incredibly, Kelly kissed her. A real kiss, on the mouth, insistent, ending with Brin’s bottom lip caught between Kelly’s own. Then she leaned back over her and kissed her again. And again. And Brin’s shock was overwhelmed by her want, and she kissed her back, slipping her hands to the sides of Kelly’s face, her fingers into Kelly’s hair.

Now she was tasting Kelly’s tongue.

Now one of them was—both of them were—groaning into their kiss, exploring deeper and wetter and moving toward frantic.

Nothing in Brin’s life, not other kisses, not fantasies, not movies or novels or love songs, had prepared her for how this felt: soft and liquid, but hard, too, yielding and unyielding at the same time. A tiny part of her brain was recording the sensations, the urgency and the soaring, ecstatic bursting of her heart, but only a tiny part, and tinier every moment.

Kelly broke away but, before Brin even had time to protest, buried her face in Brin’s neck, her lips and teeth seeking a path down toward Brin’s collarbone. Her hands—Brin suddenly realized that Kelly’s hand was on her breast, somehow under her shirt, Brin’s nipple between her fingers. Brin felt a wordless inarticulate sound coming from her own mouth, surrender and pleading and wonder in one.

Then Kelly was moving her hips, just a bit, and Brin opened and lifted her own legs instinctively and involuntarily, bringing Kelly’s thigh directly against her crotch. The seam of her jeans pressed into her, and Kelly’s weight and movement rocked it over her clit. She moved her hands down and grasped Kelly’s hips, slid around to her ass, up her back; and Kelly’s mouth was back on hers, not kissing as much as devouring.”Oh jesus,” Kelly said, or growled, when their mouths finally separated. “I’ve wanted to do that for so long.” She took Brin’s lip in her teeth, grabbed a fistful of her shirt from within. “Get this off,” she commanded.

Brin was pulling Kelly’s shirt up out of her waistband, but she couldn’t let Kelly’s leg out from between her own. She grabbed Kelly’s ass, pulling and pushing her harder, closer, feeling with astonishment her own hips thrusting up to rub herself against Kelly’s thigh. Kelly, maddeningly, pulled back and up onto her knees, breaking the contact, and Brin let out a cry.

“Off,” Kelly said again, pulling up Brin’s t-shirt. Brin wriggled it over her head and threw it to the floor, and then Kelly’s hands were on her bra: “Off,” she said again. That was more of a challenge but Brin took it on, and by the time she had the bra onto the floor Kelly’s hands were fumbling at the button and the zipper of her jeans.

“Off,” Kelly said, urgently. “Everything goddamn off.” And somehow, with both of them pulling and kicking and tearing, everything was, and Brin was naked with Kelly kneeling, fully clothed, between her legs.

“Ah.” Kelly gave a long throaty sigh, and she put her hands on Brin’s knees and pushed her legs open. Then she looked. “Ah,” again, longer, lower, with a slight, secret smile. Then a whisper: “You are so beautiful.”

Brin had never felt so utterly, amazingly exposed, or less self-conscious. She wanted, she needed to open herself to Kelly, to give herself to Kelly, to let Kelly take her, whatever that meant. She could hear a sort of whimper in her throat as Kelly slowly traced her fingers up Brin’s legs, closer and closer to her cunt. She grabbed her own knees, opening up still further, asking with her body for Kelly’s touch. It was coming. Slowly, agonizingly slowly, Kelly was drawing the tips of her fingers along the insides of Brin’s thighs; her eyes were fastened on the parted flesh between them, her lips slightly open. Brin closed her eyes and concentrated on not crying out or begging.

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