You’ve entered the world of The Realm Jumpers. The adventure with Riley and his trusty gang of genetic misfits continues…
“Hey soccer dude. You coming or what?” Hope shouted through the open door.
I snatched my bag from the chair beside the door and ran outside. Hope was halfway down the sidewalk. “I’m coming!”
She turned around, put her hand on her hip and tapped her foot. “We’re late!”
“You just got here.” I stopped in front of her and handed her the Pop Tart Janet asked me to bring to her. “It’s strawberry.”
“Sweet!” She snatched it and took off walking super fast. “Holy cow it’s hot out here.”
“July in Arizona has an average temperature of 106 degrees and twenty-seven days of sunshine.”
“Oh man. What am I gonna do with you?”
“Look. You’re all cute with the dreamy—oh and by the way, it’s pretty cool how one eye is blue and the other brown. And you have the tall thing going on, and the wavy brown hair. But you can’t go spouting off crap like that. You sound like a robot.”
Considering Janet’s team found me literally plugged into a computer, Hope might not be wrong about the robot part. At least, that’s what I’d overheard them saying the other morning. But when I asked them what they meant, they just said they were working on finding out.
Like they always said.
“What should I have said, then?”
“Something like ‘yeah, this sucks.’”
Boy. She was really smart. “I’ll remember that.”
“Good. Now, do you ever not carry that?”
I looked down at the soccer ball in my hand. “Nope.”
“Can’t in school. Teachers freak on athletes.”
I wasn’t sure I was going to school, but from what I’d read, it sounded fun. More people to be around, learning. “Do they play soccer at school?”
“Sure. There’s club soccer outside of the regular school season, which is what we’re doing now. The school season starts in fall, but you have to try out.”
“But, club soccer is pretty much trying out. Same coach and a lot of the same kids play on the team, along with some from other middle schools. You’ll see.” She licked her fingers and nodded at me. “Got another one of those tucked away?”
Wow. Janet really did know Hope. I dug the second pastry from the outside pocket of my bag and handed it over.
“Mrs. J rules!” Hope grinned, crumbs dusting her bottom lip.
“Did you run out of Pop Tarts at your house?”
Her grin vanished for a split second then she took off running. We hustled around the corner to the next block and I followed Hope to an open field of grass so big, it looked like an ocean of green.
It smelled fresh. And familiar.
“Field five,” Hope yelled. “Race you.”
I clutched my bag tighter and sprinted after her. A few strides later I came along side of her.
“No fair Mr. Long Legs.”
I was leaning against a light pole by the time she made it to field five.
“Jerk.” She punched my stomach so fast I hadn’t reacted in time to avoid it.
“What’s up, Hope?” a short kid said, running up to her.
“Yo. Who’s the bean pole?” another guy asked.
“Everyone. This is Riley. Take it easy on him. He’s new.”
They all looked up at me and stepped back. “Dude,” a fairly tall guy said. “Finally someone with some height. I’m Christian.”
He held out his fist, and I bumped it with mine. Boy, was I glad Janet had set me up to watch the television to know how to do that.
The rest of the gang backed away, still staring at me. Boy was I sick of that.
“Hi,” I said.
“I might have to turn over the bean pole title to you now, though.” He laughed. “Where’d you come from?”
“Up north. Foster kid.” At least that’s what J2 told me to say when they asked.
“So you’re with Janet and Jeff.”
“You know them?”
“Sure. They always have kids. They’re cool.” He turned around, and I followed. “One month left of soccer then we’re gonna take the title. You any good?”
“Good enough to play on the team, I hope.”
We laced up and hustled onto the field. A guy trotted in from the end of the field and blew his whistle. The group started running so I followed.
After five laps and some stretching he yelled, “Huddle up.” And once we were all together he said, “New guy, Riley, here for a try-out. Try not to maim him.”
“What position?” Someone behind me yelled out.
I’d read all of them last night and figured Forward would be good for me. “Forward.”
“That’s my position, Coach,” a short guy said.
Hope snickered then stopped when that Christian guy smacked her arm. She was the only girl out here, but she fit in like one of the guys. Her stringy blond hair was up in a ponytail, and she had eyes that matched this grass, too. I liked that color. Mostly, she was tough. And I knew, she’d punched me already.
“Settle down, Nick, he’s so tall I’m thinking back-up goalie.” He clapped his hands and called out seven people for green tanks and seven for red tanks. Didn’t look like we had enough on the team to do the traditional eleven vs eleven.
I took position in the middle of the field and when the whistle blew I went for it. A few twists and turns, I got the ball to the open guy. Then bolted around the block and spun. But the ball didn’t come to me, it went to that short guy who’d yelled out. I think I might have heard Coach call him Nick.
But I was wide open.
It went on that way for a while. How was Coach going to see what I could do if I never got the ball? I intercepted a pass to Nick, spun, stopped the ball and shifted to the right.
Two short kicks and I broke through the defense. Hope screamed for me to go, and I did.
Dribbling, swerving, ducking, and plowing right through anyone who got in my way, without hurting them of course, I made it to the goal ahead of pretty much everyone.
The goalie’s eyes widened.
I kicked it in.
“Did you see him? He moves like Clint Dempsey,” someone from the backfield yelled out.
“Coach. He stole the ball. He—”
Coach blew the whistle. “Again.”
We played for almost an hour straight and finally a few guys passed the ball to me. I scored almost every time I had a break away. No one could keep up.
That was cool.
“Suicides,” Coach yelled.
The team rallied together again and I followed. After watching a few sprints I remembered seeing this drill online, and I took off. We were all huffing by the end of it and Coach called us all in to the center of the field.
“Riley, you’re coming to us mid-season. One month left, but it’s a tough one.”
I dipped my head. “Yes, sir.”
“Suck up,” someone whispered behind me.
“This Friday, Ransom Gators. Undefeated.”
“Woot!” Christian yelled out and smacked someone else’s shoulder. I really needed to get a team roster memorized so I knew who these people were.
Hope kicked my shin and nodded toward the coach.
“Roster will go out to your parents’ emails tonight night like usual. And I don’t want any complaining. We have one more practice before the game, so let’s show Riley the ropes. Got it?”
The group groaned and hopped to their feet. They all started moving together and putting their hands out.
“Come on.” Hope shoved me ahead of her. “Put your hand in.”
I followed suit, leaned in and put my hand with everyone else’s. I’d not read about this and wasn’t really sure what it meant, but Hope seemed to know what was going on.
She knew lots of stuff.
“Let’s go Hawks!” someone shouted and everyone else followed suit.
Of course I missed my chance because I was once again clueless.
That’s when I decided Hope was going to teach me how to fit in.
Join us Monday for Chapter 6 of Watcher of the Realms. Be sure to subscribe to the site to not miss a single chapter of Riley’s adventures.
A big thank you to Sizzling PR for the Realm Jumper graphics.
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See you soon….