Daddy’s Girl

She’s a blaze of lightening on the basketball court. She dribbles down the center of the court, passing off to a guard posted on the three-point line and then running to make a pick at the baseline. She rolls in toward the basket, arms out and ready for the pass. The ball comes to her on a bounce. She takes a step and drives straight up to the basket, banking the ball off the backboard and into the hoop. The buzzer sounds.

Melissa bounds toward the locker room with the rest of her team, meeting their hands with high fives. It’s half time and the Hawks are now up by two. On the way out of the gym, her coach slaps her on the back, square on her number 22.

She listens intently to the coach’s talk, habitually biting on her nails as he discusses his plan for tightening the defense. As soon as he closes his speech, the team gathers around for quick cheer. “Fly Hawks fly!”

Melissa runs back on to the court. There’s still a few minutes to shoot before the game starts. She plays her own game of “Around the World,” shooting from different spots on her half of the court. One of her shots hits the rim and bounces off toward the concession stand. She runs after it, nearly knocking over a tall gentleman with his hands full with a large popcorn and a bottle of water.

“Sorry,” she says, scrambling to corner the ball and leave a path for him to pass.

“Hi Missy,” he says softly, looking at her almost bashfully.

She stops, hugging the ball close to her. No one had called her Missy since she transferred to this school. “Do I know you?” she asks. She studies his face. There is something oddly familiar about that smile, those eyes.

He took a deep breath. “I’m Trey.”

Trey. That was her father’s name. Her heart lurched. She hadn’t seen her dad for eleven years. Her mother had left with another man while her dad was in the service, and she never had a way to contact him.

“Daddy?” she ventures, tentatively. He nods, a gentle smile forming behind his eyes. She wants to hug him and never let go. She has a million questions.

The buzzer sounds. She swallows, trying to find her game face again. “I’ll be here,” he says, answering the burning question that will not come to her lips.

She smiles, relieved, her head still spinning. She dribbles back to her bench as her newly found father climbs the bleachers. He settles back with his popcorn, a silly grin on his face. “Yep,” he thinks. “22. That’s my number. That’s my girl.”

Based on a true story.

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