Chapter 40:

Play to Win

Would You Paint My Dunk

The next day, I took the remaining chocolates to the basketball aula. She was there with her two friends, Grace and Maria, smiling and waving at me from the bleachers.

As planned, I handed her the chocolates without other players noticing. She hides the chocolate below her sketching book and swiftly leaned herself forward, right before she kissed me on my cheek.

That action of hers picked her friends’ attention. Grace put her hand on her mouth, while Maria giggled as they looked at us. Meanwhile, Jessica returned into her sitting posture while looking at me.

“Keith, I’ll serve you a spectacular show on a silver platter. Look forward to it.”

She winked. In response, I nodded back at her before I went to practice.

Occasionally, I took a glance at the bleacher. On a few occasions, she talked and laughed with the other two. On other occasions, she looked serious as she scribbled in her sketchbook.

At seven o’clock, we stopped practicing as the club came to an end. As everyone was sitting due to their fatigue, Jessica screamed at them.

“Guys! Whoever didn’t get a chocolate yesterday, come here. We have chocolates.”

With the exception of Sean, Brandon, Tony and myself, everyone crowded near her. The girls handed chocolate balls to them, one by one. Soon, it was time for them to complain.

“Is this a dark chocolate? It’s so bitter.”

Jessica smirked for a while, before shouting out loud.

“That’s right! This symbolizes your feelings right now. You practiced hard every single day, working toward your goals. But here you are, feeling jealous as you look at other people. They are casually living their life, and they have girlfriends to give them chocolate, is that right?!?”

Some of the men shed tears. It hits them home. Shortly, she continued.

“And that’s why we are here to make a game. Whoever that gobbled the most chocolate today will be given a chance to date my friends here.”

The entire aula was filled with the boys’ roar. Maria had gone into shock while Grace shook Jessica forth and back to question her words.

“Jess, you never told us anything about this! I know that we owe you one, but this is nonsense!”

“Oh, come on Grace. I know that you two have your reputation down the drain because you stood up for me against those girls before. I felt bad for you two, so…”

“Still, you could have informed us beforehand. Why are you deciding this without our concern?”

“Well, I said that they will be given a chance to date you two, it doesn’t mean that you have to go out with that guy. Besides, why don’t you two try it out? Who knows if you guys will hit it off?”

“Ah fine, we just have to give them one date, right? Fine, I’ll do that. But Jess, don’t repeat this again. You need to ask the related person first before pulling this kind of stunt.”

“Well, if I asked first, none of you would be here. But okay, I’ll ask first next time.”

Now, I have realized that this is not merely a simple prank. She also thought of other people as well. And now, my feelings for her just strengthened.

She clasped her hands and started explaining.

“Okay, now I’ll explain the rules. First, I will only give you another piece of chocolate if you finish one in your mouth. Two, I want this to be tidy, so you have to line up. Whoever cheats, fights or cuts the line will get disqualified and banned from my events in the future.”

“Two people who gobbled the most will be granted one date with my friends here, and the one with the highest count will pick first…”

“Wait, why are there only two? Wouldn’t it become three with you?”

“Well, I didn’t count. After all, I've already become Keith’s girlfriend.”

“Whaaaaaaat?!?” The boys shouted as they gazed at me.

“Our greenhorn got a girlfriend first? Ah, it’s so unfair!” One of them grumbled.

She cleared her throat and picked everybody’s attention.

“Ahem. If you don’t like it, then you may as well leave. I don’t want to reward people who hold a grudge against my boyfriend.”

The atmosphere became silent. After a short pause, she continued.

“Okay, since everyone already got it, then it starts now.”

Everyone was driven into a frenzy as they rushed to eat the chocolate. Despite how torturous it is, they kept asking for more.

I was amazed by their willpower and their desperation. Who could have thought that she would come with such an ingenious plan? This is precisely like a ritual for tribesmen to court someone. They were like fighters fighting for two girls.

But amidst those monsters, Carlos gobbled the chocolate like crazy.

“Onfff Morfff!!” He asked Jessica to hand him another one.

And right, at that time, he ate the last piece of chocolate, and made him the winner.

“Congrats Carlos, you won! Make your pick.” Jessica cheered him.

Carlos stepped in front of Maria and offered his hand, like someone asking for a dance at a ball.

“Welk yo gib meh a chence?”

Listening to the muffled proposal made by Carlos’s sticky mouth, everyone laughed.

Meanwhile, Jessica came to her and used her eyes to point to him.

“Maria, come on. Take his hand.”

With a shy gesture, Maria took Carlos’s hand and stood up. The other guy who had eaten the most chocolate aside from Carlos approached Grace, and it wrapped the game.

“Okay everyone, that’s for today. It’s getting late, and we all should go home. See you later, guys!”

The two pairs stayed to add each other's contacts while everyone else was leaving. Eventually, they also left, leaving me and Jessica alone in the Aula.

“Keith, shall we walk to the entrance together?” She offered her hand.

I took her hand and started walking side-by-side. As we were walking toward the university entrance, she was the one who broke the silence between us.

“Keith, what do you think? It was fun, right?”

“Ha-ha. I'm at a loss for words. I can’t believe that you planned all of this.”

“Well, this idea popped in my mind as I was talking to you yesterday. I’m glad it turned out well.”

Suddenly, I thought about Carlos’s request. I can’t help but to think that she considered this in her plan. Since the person who planned all of this is right beside me, I decided to ask for confirmation.

“Jess, did you make this event to introduce Carlos to them? Because…”

“Yep! I guess you aren’t that oblivious to notice. I know that he is quite desperate because he was asking you and me to matchmake him, so I thought that he would win this, no matter what. A desperate person will do more than usual, and Carlos wasn’t an exception. Tell him that I have done my part.” She winked.

She is so reliable, I’m glad to have her on my side.

“Sure, I’ll definitely tell him. Let’s hope they hit it off for real.”

“Yeah, I hope so.” She giggled. “Anyway Keith, did you see how hard they are gobbling those chocolates? And do you remember the sounds that they are making? It was so funny.”

We cheerfully walked our way together. Reaching the gate, she stopped and looked at me.

“Keith, do you want to study together for the final exams? With how you struggled before, I think I have to help you study.”

Whaaaattt?!? How could I forget? I’m fucked.

“Oh shit… You are right! Well, I just hope I won’t need to retake any exam.”

“Keith, don’t tell me you had forgotten? Did you only have basketball practice on your head that you lost track of time? Lol, you are so helpless without me.”

I couldn’t refute her. She was right on point.

After a pause, she shrugged and continued.

“Well, we can go like we used to. Morning, lunch break and night. That’s if you need my help…”

“Thank you, Jess. You are a lifesaver. I’ll be in your care again.”

“Keith, chill out. I'm happy to help…”

She smiled at me, which warmed my heart—

“…Cuz’ I don’t want to wait for another year for our promise to happen. If you really repeat a year, then you have to start addressing me as your senior. Keith, you don’t want me to call you my junior, right?”

Following her playful teasing, we laughed out loud.

In the end, I accepted her generosity. I went to school early to get tutored by her, and she continued to teach me for days. Thanks to her well-written notes, I managed to learn a lot from her.

Monday, February 19th, 2024. It marked the beginning of the exam period. The constant turmoil of exams, practice, and studying tolled on my body. But no matter how tiring it was, I didn’t give up.

With her support, I managed to breeze through my exams. Well, I’m not saying that I would have flying colors on my marks, but at least I’m certain that at least I will have a passing grade.

Two weeks had passed, and I had finished my last exam. I felt light as I’ve been freed from the academic shackles that bind me down. We celebrated the end of our suffering under the hours of night as the semester break would start soon.

But my moment of happiness didn’t stay for long. The next day, I went to the basketball club as usual, before the coach gathered us up and announced a piece of news.

“Listen up! The regional college basketball competition’s bracket has been out. All the entries are Division One teams like we are. Our next match will be against California’s Bruns next Monday at Golden 1 Credit Union in Sacramento. Let’s do our best and win this championship!”

With a burning passion, we followed the drills the coach put up.

Days went by. I spent my days practicing basketball instead of attending lectures. Not only that, the Saturday training with Brandon, Carlos, Sean, and Tony got fiercer. They were fired up in our practice sessions.

Even with all that training, I never forget to call her at night. The night before the match, I decided to not call her for long, so that I can sleep early to prepare for tomorrow.

“Hey Jess, tomorrow is a big day for us. I have to end this call here and sleep early.”

“Yeah, you should rest, lol. Even the coach said you won’t play in any of the games, you should prepare yourself. Who knows? You may get called in.”

“Right. Okay, it was nice to talk to you, Jess.”

“That’s my line, Keith. Anyway, I’ll attend your match tomorrow. Speaking of which, can I ride your bus and get a back pass? I don’t want to pay for the tickets, ha-ha…”

I chuckled. She knew how to joke around.

“Well, if everyone else didn’t mind, why not? You can ask the coach…”

“Nah! I’m just joking. I’ll get the ticket and watch. Hopefully they are not sold out yet. Oh wait, they are not. I’ll book it then. See you there!”

“See you.”


Ending the call, I threw myself to the bed, resting early for the match tomorrow. 

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