Chapter 22:

Feigning Ignorance

Would You Paint My Dunk


She was there, sitting on the bench when basketball practice started. Involved in a lot of drills, my shots became more and more accurate.

Two hours passed quickly. The coach whistled, signaling the end of our club activities. When the session ended, I looked back toward the spectator seat, thinking she might still be there.

I was surprised to find her sitting on the bench, scribbling with a pencil in her sketchbook. Curious, I approached her to see what she was drawing, only to be shocked by what I saw: a sketch of university boys playing basketball on the court.

Beautiful!

No, that word couldn't do her work justice. She drew the scenery precisely, as if it were a snapshot taken by a professional camera. The players in the sketch looked alive, as if they had been captured by a high-speed camera.

Even though her work had only the gray traces of a pencil on paper, it deserved nothing but praise. Deciding to tell her so, I walked up to her and approached her from behind.

"Wow, Jessica. You draw the atmosphere well! Good job!"

She turned her head to look at me.

"Oh, really? Thank you!" She smiled at me.

A moment later, Carlos joined us, smiling broadly.

"Yo, Keith! Whatcha your girlfriend doin'?"

Before we could even answer or react, Carlos looked at the sketch she was making.

"Oh, wow!”

He quickly turned and called out to our seniors.

"Brandon! Tony! Sean! Get over here! Keith's girlfriend drew a sketch of us playing."

And the senior trio began to approach us: the Captain, the Playboy, and the Goliath. I could only shake my head, expecting the situation to escalate.

“Hi, Keith! And, uh… your girlfriend…”

Brandon trailed off, unable to say her name. I realized that I hadn't introduced them, and neither had she. Knowing the situation, I decided to introduce her to them.

"Guys, she's..."

However, she interrupted me and came up with her own introduction instead.

"Hi, my name is Jessica, nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you, too. So, Jessica, can we see your drawing?" Brandon asked in a polite tone.

"Sure! I don't mind." She nodded quietly.

They looked at her sketch and Brandon had an impressed look on his face. Meanwhile, Sean's finger and thumb were resting on his chin as he gently nodded a few times, and Tony was scratching his right ear with his little finger as they looked at her sketch.

"Oh, my goodness! Jessica, you're really good at this!"

As Brandon praised her, I heard an unpleasant sound.

"Tch! That bitch!"

Turning my head, I saw some girls standing in the distance, clicking their tongues as they looked at her with jealousy.

Oh shit! I have to end this quickly before this situation gets any worse.

Thinking that we should disperse before things got worse, I took the initiative to get us out of there, avoiding those jealous looks.

"Guys, we should go home before the old man catches us again."

"Hmm, sure! See you guys tomorrow!" Brandon waved.

The trio walked in tandem and left us. But before they could get far, the girls from earlier crowded around Brandon. How amusing, the expressions of these girls had turned 180 degrees. They were overjoyed to see the team captain up close.

Wait… Did they actually like Brandon? And is the reason she gets dragged into this mess because they see her and him close together? Damn! I didn't see that coming!

However, before long, Tony started delivering his pickup lines.

"Oh hey, ladies! Would any of you like to join me tonight?"

"Ewww! Nobody wants to go out with a playboy like you!"

Tony walked up to them with a devilish smile, scaring the girls away as they slowly backed away. On top of that, Tony started making lewd hand motions, which made the girls freak out.

The girls finally couldn't hold it any longer and ran away as fast as they could, leaving the scene in a heartbeat.

For once, I'm proud of Tony's actions. Those two-faced girls deserved it.

After the girls left, Tony put his arm over Brandon's shoulder.

"Brandon, let's play Mr. Kart 8 at my place tonight. I'll order the beers. Whoever loses a race will drink a can in one shot."

"Sure, bring it on! Let's hope you don't throw up again when I crash at your place." Brandon sneered.

“Right back at ya’!” Tony pointed at Brandon. "It's your turn to throw up today. I have to take my revenge on you, no matter what."

Brandon turned to face the giant.

"Sean, would you come? Oh, wait... you're busy."

"Yeah, I gotta help my parents tonight. Sorry."

"Okay, you should prioritize what's more important. It's okay, we understand." The captain nodded before looking at the playboy. "Tony, let’s go!”

With that, they left the scene and we quickly followed, making our own way back home. As we walked towards the gate, Carlos suddenly broke the silence between us.

"Man, Brandon is such a chick magnet. I wish I had half of his popularity with the ladies."

"Ha-ha, I don't think any of them were decent. They are like piranhas that will eat him alive. Didn't you see how they acted when Brandon talked to us?"

"Yeah, but it's better than nothing..."

Wait, why do I feel like I forgot something... What is it? Ahhh, I can't remember.

Before I could remember, Jessica came in.

"Nah, you better be single than go out with one of them. Those girls are the ones spreading a nasty rumor about me."

Noticing that the conversation continued, I decided to abandon my thought of remembering what I had forgotten. If I could forget it, it wouldn't be anything important. That's all that matters.

"I see. I'm glad I didn't set my eyes on one of them back then.” He grinned.

Hearing that, Jessica giggled. I didn't want to break her smile, but I knew I had to tell her something important. Determined to tell her, I picked up the conversation again.

"Jessica, until the rumors die down, please keep your distance from Brandon. The nasty rumors about you were mostly started by those jealous girls who wanted to get him. Maybe it would help if you ask your friends to convince other girls that I’m the one dating you. Those girls probably thought that you were laying your eyes on Brandon, so let’s make it clear to make them stop.”

"Oh, I see." She nodded "I'll ask them later to do that. Thanks, Keith."

"Sure, let's stick to our plan and they should forget about you soon," I concluded.

"Right! Thank you again, Keith." Jessica smiled.

"Wait, what plan? Guys, don't keep me out of the loop." Carlos begged me to tell him.

"Well, it's just our plan to mitigate the damage of the nasty rumors about her. All you need to know is that I will make those girls who gossip bad things about her bite their nails. If you want to know more, ask her. If she doesn't want to tell you any further, then I won’t either."

"Come on, just spill the beans. I will take this to my grave." He begged desperately.

I looked at Jessica and asked her.

"Jessica, what do you think, should we tell my best friend about this?"

"No. Let's just keep it between us." She shook her head. "I don't want to involve more people than necessary. Hell, I didn't want to involve you at all. But there's no way around it now, so we might as well do it together."

"You heard her." I grinned.

"Aw, you guys are no fun!" He grunted.

Without realizing it, we arrived at the gate. Knowing we had to go our separate ways, we said goodbye to each other.

"Bye, Carlos!" I waved to Carlos.

"Later, man!"

Carlos gave me a two-finger salute before he started jogging. Meanwhile, Jessica turned and waved at me with both hands.

"See you later, Keith!"

"See you!" I waved back at her.

When I got home, I had my bath and dinner before going to bed. As usual, I chatted with her until 10 PM before dozing off.

The next day, for some reason, Carlos forced me to let him join me and Jessica for lunch. I had the same feeling again, the feeling that I had forgotten something very important, but I couldn't remember anything.

Anyway, having another friend to talk to is more fun. The more the merrier, they said.

With that in mind, I decided to welcome him to our table every time we had lunch.

For days, I followed this routine over and over again:

-On weekdays, I spent my lunches with her and Carlos. I spent my evenings practicing at the basketball club while she was sketching us. I saw that she kept her distance from Brandon, as he got the attention of a few girls as the practice was going on.

-On weekends, I played with Carlos and the senior trio on Saturdays and practiced on my own on Sundays.

I stuck to my routine and the two weeks flew by. Today is Monday, September 4th, 2023. Following my usual schedule, I walked into my classroom this morning.

Looking around, I noticed that the girls had finally calmed down a bit. There were two or three girls gossiping, but that's about it. I started to think that things were finally going her way.

While I was thinking about her, the teacher came into the class and started his lecture.

I wish the lunch break would come soon. I want to know about her situation now...

Well, there's nothing I can do about it, I have to pay attention to the blackboard, I guess...

Two hours passed, and I went to another class and paid attention to the teacher for another two hours. My mind was completely filled with her.

As soon as the teacher left the class, I ran out of the room to get to the cafeteria as fast as I could. But I was worried for nothing. Before I could deliver the good news, I saw her face, beaming with happiness as she waited for me.

"Keith!" She yelled. "You were right! They stopped talking about me, well, almost. They just call me the basketball girl and nothing else. Thank you!"

"Glad to hear it, Jessica. Congratulations!" I applauded her.

"Good for you both, man. I'm glad they really kept their mouths shut like you said." Carlos smiled at us.

"Yeah!” She laughed out loud. “You know what? Those girls looked embarrassed when..."

We spent our time happily eating our lunch without worrying about anything else. The three of us joked around, laughing out loud as if our struggles were just a passing nightmare.

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