I'm quite sure the UPS guy thinks I'm looney. I saw the big brown truck make its way down my driveway and immediately broke into a smile. Mr. UPS Man parked the truck and with every step he took toward my door, my smile widened until I was practically giddy as I opened the door and accepted my box. I rushed into the office and ripped open the box. I'm not sure, but I think a choir of angels broke into song while a heavenly light shone down on the box, illuminating . . . my books. Yes, I received my copies of Heaven Scent yesterday. What a rush.
Now, let me say that nothing is better than snuggling with a newborn baby, but this came close. To hold my book in my hands was not only surreal, but also satisfying to finally see the fruits of my labors. I'd like to share an excerpt of the first chapter with you.
Without further ado:
Liza tucked the basketball under her left arm and then formed a T with her hands.
“Time out, Aldrich Heights,” the tall, thin referee shouted as he pointed to Liza’s team.
Liza and her teammates ran off the court to meet their coach by the bench. Liza caught a glimpse of her mom and brother in the bleachers. Where was her dad? She’d begged him to come to her game and he’d said he would. Why wasn’t he there?
Coach Anderson tapped her on the shoulder. “Liza, pay attention. This is it. We have possession. We need to run the clock down. Leave only enough time to take one last shot. We can win this game.”
The girls nodded.
Liza glanced at the doorway and then back to the bleachers, but she couldn’t see her dad. Her stomach tightened.
Coach Anderson turned to Tamika. “I want you to throw the ball in to Liza.”
“Okay,” Tamika said.
Liza clenched her jaw. How could her dad miss this game?
“Liza, you take the last shot.”
“Focus, Liza. We’re all depending on you. Can you handle it?”
Liza blinked her eyes. “Yeah.”
“Are you sure?” Coach Anderson asked.
Liza turned to her coach. “Yes.” She wiped the sweat from her face.
The buzzer sounded the end of time out. Liza’s team returned to the court.
“With ten seconds left on the clock, Aldrich Heights High has the chance to score and win this championship game,” the announcer boomed.
The referee handed the ball to Tamika and the sound of his whistle bounced off the walls of the immense gymnasium. Tamika threw a sharp pass to Liza. Liza glanced at the court clock. Ten. Nine. Eight. It was now or never. Driving toward the basket was her only choice. Her team trailed Roosevelt High by only one point and she couldn’t afford to waver, not even for a second. It was up to her. She had to win this game.
She dribbled past center court.
“Time is ticking,” came the announcer’s voice.
Seven. Six. Liza narrowed her eyes. Several girls stood between her and the basket, but no one would stand in the way of her goal. Five. Four. She inhaled deeply, darted toward the key, and took her best jump shot.
Whack. She felt a stinging sensation as rough hands slapped her hand and arm. The shrill sound of the referee’s whistle ripped through the air as she watched the ball bounce out of bounds.
“Foul on number two-one. Number fourteen, you’re at the free throw line,” the ref shouted above the jeering crowd. He handed the ball to Liza.
The announcer’s voice cracked as he said, “Liza Compton’s been fouled. Time has run out. This free throw will determine whether or not Aldrich High is still in the race for the California State Girls’ Basketball Championship.”
His words echoed in her ears. The beads of sweat pooled and trickled down her forehead. She licked her lips. This was the moment. Missing was not an option. She blew through her mouth, ran her fingers through her wet bangs, and cleared her mind.
The crowd for the opposing team whistled and hollered. Someone screamed, “You’ll never make this shot.”
Somebody else yelled, “You’ll miss!”
Her heart pounded. Carefully, methodically, she took aim. She locked her sight on the goal. She bent her knees, jumped up, and followed through with a flawless arc of her right hand.
A hushed silence fell over the crowd as the ball neared the basket, hit the rim, and bounced straight up. Liza bit her lower lip, her gaze fixed. In slow motion, the ball descended and finally swooshed through the net. She exhaled and let her head fall forward.
The home crowd exploded in applause and cheers. The score was tied.
The announcer cleared his throat and said, “If she makes this next basket, Aldrich Heights High School will have its first ever championship in girls’ basketball.”
The fans cheered. The referee again handed the ball to Liza. She bounced the ball three times and listened to its echo as it mimicked her own heartbeat. Basketball was the one thing in her life that she controlled, the one thing she understood, her constant. While everything and everyone else changed, basketball remained the same.
Liza’s head felt as if it were going to explode. This one free throw meant the difference between euphoric victory and endless regret.
In a low voice the announcer said, “This is the most important shot of Liza Compton’s basketball career.”
Liza held the smooth, round ball in her hands. For a brief moment, her concentration slipped while she searched the stands, hoping her dad would finally be there. Row after row she scoured the spectators. She glanced over at the double doors. Her gaze met her mother’s. Her mom gave a faint smile and shook her head. Liza knew exactly what that meant. How could he? Again.
She gritted her teeth and forced herself to focus only on the task ahead of her. She stared at the goal. This was the basket everyone would remember. She’d scored twenty-nine points for her team, a personal best, but none of that mattered. It didn’t even matter that she’d just made the free throw to tie the score. She had to make this basket. Her future depended on it.
She took her stance and let the ball go.
You can read the rest of the first chapter HERE.
My book is now available at CEDAR FORT and Amazon and should be in bookstores in March. Woo hoo!