Set, Spike, Dive! Deleted Scene from Chapter 6
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“So we’re in this little dive in Cartagena,” Carina was saying as Sarah looked over. She had the mischievous glint on her face that Sarah recognized well, and she knew Sarah hated the Cartagena story. “And it’s just the two of us because Alvares and Garcia ditched us—”
Because they’d had an early game in the tournament, but details like that never mattered to Carina, Sarah thought, but of course that wasn’t going to make it into the story.
She tuned Carina out and focused her attention back on the pool, which was empty because they’d arrived too early for the semi-finals. She hadn’t slept much the night before. Though she always slept like a baby the night before any of her matches, it had taken her ages to get her system calm enough for sleep. Even what sleep had come had been patchy and restless, so that she’d spent more time punching her pillow than actually resting. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling, knowing she was nervous on somebody else’s behalf.
Chuck Bartowski made her uncomfortable and at the same time, he was the most comfortable, natural person in the world. It made no sense. So, like with everything else that made no sense—how her mother could seem so maternal but fail as a parent, how her father couldn’t stick, how she and Carina didn’t kill each other on a daily basis—Sarah ignored that fact and pushed forward. If she thought about it, it would unsettle her, and things would get weird, and she’d get that look that Carina called Avoid-y Face like she always did whenever things got too serious.
It really, really didn’t hurt that Chuck was a fantastic kisser, or that he had the body of a God thanks to all of those work-outs. Carina, Sarah would readily admit, wasn’t the only shallow one. Damn it, Bryce, she thought, not for the first time. It had to be a farce to be interrupted by one’s ex-boyfriend while making out on the pool table with his ex-diving partner, but somehow, mysteriously, that had become her life.
She felt movement to her left; Ellie flicked through the program they’d been handed at the front door. Years of keeping up the Persona meant Sarah didn’t even have to be worried that Ellie might suspect Sarah was thinking about her brother naked, at least.
“Nervous?” she asked, trying to make conversation. Chuck’s sister was a neurology resident, while Sarah had barely eked her way through college (not that it mattered to Sarah; she’d been there to play volleyball and little else), so Sarah had no idea what they could possibly have to talk about, but Ellie had surprised her by being easy to talk to. It had been silly to even be surprised by that. Ellie was Chuck’s sister, and Chuck had some invisible quality that put everybody around him at their ease. It seemed like a family thing.
“Yes. But really, I just hope he does well,” Ellie said. “He’s better under pressure than he thinks, but he can trip himself up if he lets the nerves get to him.”
Sarah eyed the diving platform. She kind of hated that platform. It was so ridiculously high. “Yeah,” she said.
“How do you do it? Push the nerves aside, I mean?”
“Well, it helps that I’m not usually thinking about the crowd,” Sarah said. “Sometimes I don’t even hear them. It’s all volleyball. And frankly, Carina helps, but not in the way you think. I’m usually more focused on her than the crowd because we have to be really in tune with each other and she’s…unpredictable.”
Both Ellie and Sarah looked over to where Carina was still in the middle of the Cartagena tale for Devon and Morgan. As they watched, Carina mimed a punch, then popped both shoulders and her neck.
“I see,” Ellie said. “Chuck used to be like that, actually. He said having Bryce on the other platform to concentrate on helped him with the nerves.”
Sarah really didn’t want to talk about Bryce.
“You knew Bryce, right?”
“Yeah, we went out for a while. A few months back.” She really didn’t want Chuck’s sister to think that this was some stupid love triangle because it wasn’t, no matter what the media said. Bryce was her past. Chuck was…well, she wasn’t sure if he was her future, but he was fun, and he was present. “That’s actually how I recognized Chuck at first. There are some pictures in Bryce’s apartment of the Stanford diving team and all, and Chuck’s in them. I saw him at the airport on the way out here.”
“Ah, the airport meet cute. Same flight?”
“Actually, no. Just coincidence. A little girl wanted me to sign her cast, and Chuck happened to be standing right there. When the girl asked if he was going to the Olympics, too, he said he was. Carina didn’t believe him.” Sarah shook her head. “Just like he didn’t believe me when I introduced myself.”
“Oh, Chuck.” Ellie let out an indulgent sigh. “Never change.”
Sarah laughed. “It was cute, I promise.”
“So Chuck was telling me that you live in L.A., too?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a cottage near—what the hell? Carina! Put him down.”
Ellie jerked about in her seat to follow Sarah’s glare, her mouth dropping open at the sight of Carina holding her boyfriend in a headlock. “What?”
Carina affected an innocent look, but she didn’t let Devon go.
“It’s part of the story,” Morgan felt the need to say.
“Did the part where I put the head of the Mexican biker gang in a headlock really need a physical demonstration?” Sarah asked, rolling her eyes.
“Yes,” Carina, Devon, and Morgan said as Ellie cast a panicked look between Sarah and her partner.
Sarah just raised her eyebrow. “Down,” she said, pointing at Carina.
With a reluctant sigh, the redhead released Devon and stuck her tongue out at Sarah. “Buzzkill, Walker. Serious buzzkill.”
“So what happened next?” Morgan asked her eagerly.
“I’m never letting her tell the Cartagena story ever again,” Sarah told Ellie, settling back into her seat but keeping an eye on Carina. “I love her, I really do, but it’s like having a toddler sometimes. Sorry about that.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Ellie started laughing, throwing her head back and staring at the ceiling for a minute as she giggled. “Devon can handle himself. And I must admit, you’re probably the first girlfriend Chuck’s ever had that could put the head of a Mexican biker gang in a headlock.”
“He started it,” Sarah said.
Ellie only laughed harder. “This is great,” she said. “So great. Oh, look, they’re coming out—there he is! There’s Chuck! Guys, there he is.”
“God bless Speedos,” Carina said, and Sarah laughed.