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Long, Hot Summer

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The crowd jumped to their feet and cheered as the basketball sailed through the air, rolled around the edge and then dropped through the hoop. They had done it. They had won the championship and Jack knew who should take the credit for this amazing feat. Randy Rawlings had taken a group of average players and turned them into a formidable team working cohesively with one goal -- to win. Still, without Ned believing he was Sidney Wicks it had all come unglued for a while, and he knew his own game had not started too well due to the twinge of jealousy that had overcome him when he saw Randy kissing Tom last night.

Learning the truth, that she had merely been overcome with pleasure after Tom had arranged for a prominent Basketball scout to come down and watch Jack play, had set his heart soaring and his mind had returned to focus solely on the game. Still, as good as he was, without Ned they were in trouble... and then the chanting had begun.

Jaberwocky... Jaberwocky.. Jaberwocky.

Even the opposition had taken up the chant, unaware that they were reinforcing the conditioning he had placed onto Ned through hypnosis, allowing Ned to circumvent his inner fears of inadequacies and believe he was the great basketball player, Sidney Wicks. It had turned the game around until everything had hinged upon Jack's free-throw in the last second of the game. He recalled the moment. An eerie silence had fallen over the court with all eyes turned to him, filled with hope, though supporters of the Granger Stallions were praying that he would score, while the rest desperately wanted him to miss. He had almost buckled under the pressure of the crowds conflicting desire... only releasing the breath that he'd been unconsciously holding as the ball dropped through accompanied by the sudden roar of the crowd.

The memory faded as, for one last time, Jack brushed his hand over the small trophy that he had won that day and placed it onto the shelf with the other trophies he had already unpacked. His last year at Granger had been one of the best of his life, and though the memory of that amazing win dwelled strong, it was a softer memory that brought the ghost of a smile to his lips.

Those last few weeks of the term, and the long, hot summer that followed, had been filled with laughter and love. He recalled long runs on the beach after sunset, of racing into the waves fully clothed playing tag with Randy as a prelude to making love. At the time he thought those days would last forever, that they would last a lifetime, and that every girl who had come before her had been just a practise run for this most special relationship. He truly thought that he had fallen in love with Randy that summer, unable to get enough of her, wanting to spend every minute of every day with her.

After winning the championship game he had been offered a highly coveted scholarship, and at the end of that summer he had packed his belongings with promises of calls every night and spending every weekend together. Instead they had drifted apart.

In hindsight, he knew she had been his first crush, and it had come as a hard blow when Randy finally admitted that the sex alone -- glorious as it was -- was no longer enough for her. He had seen so little of life at that time, and she had begun to yearn for someone a little older, a little more mature, more knowledgeable of the world... like Tom. Randy married Tom, and Jack spent their wedding day alone in his dormitory crying over his lost love.

His thoughts returned to the present and he smiled again, feeling a sense of nostalgia as he gazed along the line of trophies, medals, ribbons and pennants. After Randy married he had abandoned all hope of ever having her back and he had focused instead on basketball, swiftly making a name for himself that could rival that of Sidney Wicks. He played hard and fast, and he lived life in the fastlane while youth was on his side.

Eventually, he had to give way to the younger, up and coming basketball stars. Unlike many players, Jack had put aside enough to set himself up for life both financially and through his education, falling back on the qualifications he had earned at university and on the generosity of his aging uncle who had taken him on as a junior partner.

"Jack? How are you settling in?" Jack looked over his shoulder towards the door of his new office, and he smiled at his uncle. "Ah... I see the basketball trophies are also going up in here. Good idea. Makes a great opening for clients when they first come to see you. Should put them at ease more quickly."

Jack grinned broadly. "That too, I suppose." His thoughts sobered as he thought of his uncle's generous offer in bringing him in as a partner. "Are you sure about this?"

His uncle laughed and sat on the edge of the desk. "You'll be a great asset, Jack. I have every faith in you."

"It's been more than a few years since I studied Psychiatry--"

"It's been no time at all. You used your skills every single day out there on the basketball court, determining the opposition's weaknesses, strengthening your own team. Basketball, like most sports, is as much to do with mental conditioning as physical. With one or the other you have an poor to average player. The best have learned to hone their skills in both, and you were the best, my boy, as those trophies prove."

Jack looked back at the trophies. Thirteen years of his life melted away, taking him back to that last year at Granger and to the older woman who had gently led him into manhood, and then set him on the path for sporting glory.

He no longer felt any twinges of jealousy for the love she had found with Tom, and he no longer felt the bitter twist of the knife in his own heart when he thought of her in another man's arms. Instead there was a mellowness as if his memories were shrouded in a golden haze. He had loved her with all the passion of his youth, and even though it had proved not to be the deep and abiding love of romantic novels, it had been real to him at the time.

Since then he had found other loves that had lasted but a short time, all too aware that when he gave himself to another that he gave too deeply but he had no regrets. Instead he cherished the good times, remaining steadfast in his belief that, one day, he would find another love like Randy, and find that love returned in full measure.

As for Randy -- his first love -- he would never forget her, or the love they had shared during that long, hot summer, for as long as he lived.

THE END