Claudette glanced up from the locker room bench where she was lacing her sneakers at two of her teammates. A.J. and Delisa had been huddled conspiratorially in the corner most of the morning, casting furtive glances around the room occasionally before returning to their whispered conversation. Before the team captain could think much about it, Coach Anders gave a yell into the echo-y room, telling them to hustle up and get on the court. She tugged her shoulder length blond hair into a high ponytail and made a resolution to keep an eye on her friends during practice.
As they went through their warm-up stretches, Claudette noticed A.J. watching their coach with more intensity than usual. Halfway through the season, this part of practice was routine, with the girls moving on the whistled cues without much of a pause. The tall girl seemed to be watching their coach almost predatorily. Again Claudette had to pause her observations as the team was sent to do laps around the gym. She fell into step beside Whitney, the team’s best server. Whitney had the most toned arms Claudette had ever seen; the girl was always putting in extra time on the weights. She had curly black hair which she kept up and dark brown skin and eyes. A stranger might think Whitney harmless because of her pretty smile and dimples, but her teammates knew that she had a quick temper and strong will- something that had worked to their advantage during games. She was easily riled, and once her dander was up she would use her muscles to slam the ball across the net, barely allowing time for the other team to react.
Claudette watched her pale arm swing next to Whitney’s darker one for a moment before speaking. “What’s with those two?” she asked between breaths, indicating the pair ahead of them. Whitney glanced over, then gave a shrug. “Some thing’s definitely up,” Claudette continued, before being cut off by a yell from Coach Anders. “If you can talk and run, you’re not running hard enough, ladies.” The girls picked up the pace and Claudette let the conversation drop until after practice.
* * *
Back in the locker room, the A.J. stripped down to her shorts and sports bra, stopping in front of the mirror to check her reflection. She jumped as Wendy, a dark-haired girl with dazzling blue eye and legs for days, popped her thigh with a towel. A.J. yelped and hopped into the shower as Wendy giggled and re-wound her towel, eyes keen for anyone else taking too long. In the back of the locker room, Claudette took a seat next to Delisa. “What’s the deal, Lucille? You and A.J didn’t take your eyes off Coach all practice.” Whitney was sitting on a nearby bench wiping the sweat from her neck and stomach, and her ears pricked with interest. Delisa felt her face flush as she thought about all she’d seen yesterday, and she hesitated, but Claudette refused to accept anything but the full story. So eventually, piece by piece, she gave it to her.
A few minutes later, A.J. poked her head out of the shower to find the girls huddled around Delisa. They erupted in giggles when they saw her wet head peak out, and A.J. felt her own cheeks begin to redden. “You told them?” she asked, eyes wide. Delisa, now over her embarrassment, grinned and nodded. A.J. relaxed as she saw the smiles on the faces of her teammates. They didn’t seem shocked or weirded out– in fact, several of them looked downright jealous. They tugged A.J. over by the hem of her towel and made her recount the story again. Rachel, a pretty girl with almond eyes and long straight hair that hung all the way down her back, bit her bottom lip to keep from grinning too much as A.J. described the dark crimson color of their coach’s backside after the spanking, while Mary Elizabeth, the usually quiet redhead setter, practically salivated when she heard about his jumping and twitching with each stroke of the paddle.
They all jumped when they heard a bang on the door and a muffled shout for them to hurry up, stifling their giggles as they hurried to dress and get back out for their final notes and dismissal. Coach Anders noticed the girls exchanging sly looks and made a few comments about their attention spans before releasing them, but he attributed it to nothing more than the Monday blues after too much weekend partying…
* * *
Thursday evening girls were once again in the locker room after an extended practice. They had a game the next night against the Wildcats, their school’s biggest rival and the personal sworn enemy of their coach. Usually Coach Anders kept his cool during the game, keeping his comments quiet and encouraging as he paced the sidelines and watched his team, but he sometimes snapped during their games against the old foe. For an intramural league, theirs was already more competitive than most, due partly to the rivalry and partly to several teams of exceptionally talented players. Last year he’d been warned twice, almost receiving a sanction for his inflammatory remarks to a line judge. This evening he’d run them hard at practice, with no patience for error, and the girls were tired and sweaty and ready to be home.
Their faces brightened when they heard a cheerful holler from outside the room, followed by the entrance of Julie Nix, Coach Anders’ girlfriend. They returned her smile, happy to note the box of homemade cookies she carried. Most of the girls also looked away quickly as they remembered the story they’d heard earlier that week. It was hard at first glance to imagine Julie as the severe lady who’d paddled their coach. She said hello to the girls and made a idle chitchat while they continued to undress, completely comfortable with her presence. Talk soon turned to the game, and Julie asked if they had any worries about the following day. Kate, their lanky back-up setter, heaved an over-dramatic sigh and jerked her dark braids toward the door. “So long as Coach can keep his big boy pants on this year, we should be fine. We’re better than they are.”
Julie’s eyes twinkled mischievously. “I actually won’t be able to make it to the game. I’ve got a family thing this weekend that I can’t miss.” The girls gave a sweeping “aww” of disappointment. “I’m counting on you to make sure Christopher behaves himself, though,” she added. The offhand comment wouldn’t have phased the team a week ago, but now… now it seemed just a little too pointed. An awkward silence descended, and Wendy let out a awkward giggle. “I wouldn’t want to come home and find that he’d embarrassed me or the school, now would I?” Julie said with a pointed wink at Delisa. “Of course not, Miss Julie,” and it was Claudette who answered. “I think we can handle one silly out-of-hand coach.”
Julie smiled and swept her eyes across the room, making brief eye contact with all eight of the players. “Good,” she said after a moment. “Very good. I’m counting on you.” With that she stood up, gathering her now-empty Tupperware container and taking a few steps toward the door. “Good luck, ladies, and I’ll expect to hear how things go when I return on Monday.”