#41: Whatever You Need

Whitley had never been ejected from a game before.

She'd gotten into scuffles off the court, and she'd certainly heard her share of colorful trash talk. In game, however, Whitley never engaged—her dominant play spoke for itself. As a coach, however, Whitley could only listen from the sideline as an opposing hitter hurled perverse insults through the net at her team. The officials did nothing, Coach Richter stayed silent, and Koga bit her tongue. After getting a particularly flagrant earful, Isla offered a few choice words back, for which the official immediately penalized her for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Whitley took issue with the call and intervened.

Minutes later, in the quiet of the empty locker room, Whitley tried to piece together the details of the incident. She'd charged up to the referee stand, her shouting muffled by the roaring crowd. Turning to see her, the official screamed like a schoolgirl and stumbled backward. Whitley attempted to snag him, but she could not hold on and he tumbled to the ground. From there, she recalled the words 'you're ejected, crazy bitch' shouted at her by the official. This led to her having to be restrained by Koga, and the words 'say that again with this ball shoved up your ass' coming out of her mouth along with an inspired streak of colorful profanity.

Motivated by their coach's passion, the team rallied, holding on to defeat Kellsburg University, bringing them to 3-3 for the season. In the midst of their celebration after, no one mentioned Whitley's ejection. NU had not defeated Kellsburg since Koga's sophomore year. On their triumphant night, the team had a celebratory dinner, and Whitley won a bet by eating more slices of pizza than the starting front row players combined and then proved her point by including the back row as well.

Returning to the hotel, Koga went to bed early while Whitley stayed up a couple hours, watching Netflix before nodding off while browsing pictures of Mike Colter. Around 11 PM, her phone chimed with a text from Alicia.

Percy showed me the footage. So awesome! I told him to send you some of my favorite screenshots.

Her phone chimed again with a message from Percy. The message linked to an album with several high-resolution photos of her going after the terrified referee. While hardly her finest moment, the shots were not unflattering. She chose her favorite action shot to share as an Instagram post. Though she had an inkling she wasn’t giving the post the thought it deserved, Whitley wasn't in the mood to get into it with Krysta and was fairly sure Alicia had already narrowed the photos down expressly for that purpose. Whitley typed a caption, posted the photo, and went to bed.

"Whitley, you better take a look at this."

Whitley woke up to Koga pacing about the room as the local news blared in the background at high volume. She was about to ask Koga to turn it down when the news broadcast caught her attention

"A disturbing scene yesterday at the Kellsburg Invitational Volleyball Tournament as an assistant coach from Northshore University assaults an official, shoving him off the referee stand, threatening him, and having to be restrained by several others."

The shaky cellphone camera footage captured Whitley's initial charge off the bench. Rather than the front angle recorded from Percy's video, which captured her grabbing the surprised referee by the shirt to prevent him from tumbling down from his stand, the cell phone footage made it appear as if she'd attempted to drag him down. The ensuing chaos did little to make it look any better, with the referee's insults at Whitley drowned out while Whitley's threat was loud and clear.

Still groggy, Whitley squinted at the screen. "Huh. That doesn't look good."

"It looks like you punched him. That might be a problem for the NCAA."

The camera then cut to a live interview with the Kellsburg Volleyball Coach.

"She has no respect for NCAA rules or conduct. It boggles my mind we have even begun to tolerate this kind of behavior."

The interview wrapped up, cutting to a story about a dog that howled along to the national anthem. Koga shut off the TV.

"I know I shouldn't be saying this," Koga said, "but I kinda' wish you'd throttled him."

"I wish I throttled someone," Whitley growled. "Am I going to be suspended without even having the satisfaction of actually fighting someone?"

Whitley's phone buzzed. A message from Coach Richter:

Whitley we're going to need to talk. Please come in early for a 7:30 meeting after conditioning Monday morning.

Whitley growled and switched her phone to airplane mode. She fell back onto the bed. "Koga, I know I shouldn't be saying this, but I want to be high right now."

Koga sighed. "Me too."

After hitting the continental breakfast at the hotel, the team loaded onto the bus for the three-hour drive to Northshore. Coach Richter did not travel with the team, opting to stay behind for a meeting with colleagues. Whitley sat alone, plugged in with her earbuds the whole ride. Arriving on campus around 12:30 PM, Whitley attempted to head straight for her car but was chased down by Isla, bicycle in tow and her clothes stuffed into an overnight bag slung over her shoulder. Whitley held back a sigh as she removed her earbuds.

"Thank you, Coach Valentine," Isla said, slightly out of breath.

"Don't thank me. You were out there in the trenches. All I did was get myself ejected, fined, and probably suspended."

"Thank you for sticking up for us, and giving us something to fight for."

Isla looked up at Whitley with her bright eyes and bouncy red hair. Whitley was again struck by how young the undergraduates could look. The girl was twenty-one years old, six-foot-three-inches tall, and had attacked like a demon in the final sets of the last game. Even only one year out of college, Whitley felt like an adult standing before Isla, even though they would have been in high school at the same time.

"Well, in case I get fired, at least I've left you with something." Whitley opened her car door and tossed her bag in. Turning back, she found Isla puffy-eyed and sniffling.

"I...I hope you don't get fired," Isla said, her voice wavering.

"Isla, a month ago I wasn't even sure I could coach at all. Now I might get fired for being too invested in you guys. No matter what happens, I'm still here for you all."

Whitley braced herself for an awkward hug that thankfully never came. Instead, Isla sniffled and nodded. "Thank you, Coach Valentine."

"Now, go celebrate a tournament well played by spending the rest of the day doing whatever you need to do take a load off. You've earned it."

Isla smiled, hopped on her bike, and waved as she rode away.

"It's sure as hell is what I'm gonna do," Whitley muttered, getting into her car.

With Krysta in California until Tuesday and Alicia and Percy occupying the campus 3D print lab for the afternoon, Whitley returned to an empty house. Dropping her bags by the door, she snagged her pipe and the weed she kept stashed in a vase on the top bookshelf. She smoked two full bowls, before switching her phone out of airplane mode to find she'd received two texts and a voicemail message. The first came from Alicia:

You made the news!

"From the there's-no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity department," Whitley said aloud. The second message was from Reggie, the waiter at John Hardy's.

Drop on by for lunch. I'll take care of ya'

Whitley smiled and nodded approvingly. Pleasantly baked, she tossed her phone onto the couch and headed to the bathroom. Though hungry, she needed a shower first which she'd put off to avoid yet another battle of her stature versus the tiny Holiday Inn bathroom. Krysta had purchased and installed a rainfall shower head with an extension. It was an early favor to accommodate Whitley's lofty height. Krysta had also installed a curved shower rod curtain which gave Whitley's limbs more clearance. Showers soon became the best part of Whitley's day.

Nearly a half-hour later, as Whitley dried off, she took a moment to assess her appearance. For all her voracious calorie consumption, Whitley’s raging metabolism spurred by morning conditioning with the team had already brought back some of her muscle tone and definition. She framed a shot of herself standing naked in the bathroom, her arm covering her breasts. It really did make a nice shot...that she would never ever take.

Heading to her room, Whitley played a message she'd received while in the shower.

Hi, Whitley. Eli Frasier from the Northshore Sentinel. The sports section is writing a piece on the volleyball tournament, and I wanted to reach out to you since I'd interviewed you before. I’d really like to speak with you about the team's performance at the Kellsburg game, as well as that altercation. The Sentinel would pay for lunch again. Think about it!

Whitley deleted the message. "Not worth it, and that's saying a lot."

Despite the chilly afternoon weather, Whitley wore her gray workout shorts and faded, undersized Durrenburg t-shirt for the short jog to John Hardy's. Wearing sunglasses, she kept her gaze straight ahead as she ran, avoiding eyes. People were staring longer, whispering more than usual. Her height alone was enough of a head-turner, making the local news made it much worse.

Arriving at the John Hardy's, Reggie sat Whitley in a booth in the far rear corner of the diner.

"So, girl. Long time no see."

"I got a good cook at home, but I still like to make it out once and awhile, particularly at discount."

Reggie winked. "I told you I'd hook you up. Y'know, within reason, of course."

"Don't worry. We can go modest. I'll have the club sandwich, a chicken Caesar salad, three fish tacos, a side of onion rings, and an iced tea."

Reggie scribbled her order and chuckled. "You must have had a big breakfast. I'll get that right in for ya'."

Alone at the table, Whitley finally tapped open her Instagram. She'd gained thirty-seven followers since the previous day, and her photo of the incident had accumulated dozens of faves and comments. They were a mixed bag, with some calling her out for being unprofessional and 'crossing the line" and others commending her for sticking up for her players. The remaining comments were the handful of thirsty foot and/or Amazon fetishists projecting themselves into some kind of roleplay fantasy.

Following her meal, Reggie came out and dropped her check. "So, I gotta' say. When I saw you on the news this morning, I was like 'that's my girl!' Represent!"

"Was that before, or after I threatened to shove the volleyball up his ass?"

"Everything after 'blow that whistle again and I'll' was bleeped out."


Reggie leaned in. "Hey, you need any green? Colin's holding and I imagine you're looking to chill out some."

Whitley tossed down two twenties for her tab. "I'm good. I've got plenty at home. Just here for food today."

"Alright, girl. You take care, okay?" Whitley gave him a wave as she ducked out of the diner, overhearing a nearby child ask his mother if Whitley could fit through the door.

By the time Whitley returned home, she'd received two more voicemails, one from Koga asking if she wanted to have dinner that evening, and another from Eli Frazier that she immediately deleted. While still not in the mood for an interview, she was curious what the Sentinel had already written about the incident. On her laptop, she pulled up the Sentinel’s site and found her answer in the Breaking News sidebar:

Strong NU Volleyball Performances Overshadowed by Fight

Curious whether or not they would identify her by name, Whitley clicked the article which also included the cellphone footage she'd seen on the news earlier.

A tenacious performance by NU Volleyball at the Kellsburg Invitational Tournament was marred by a scuffle between an official and Assistant Coach Whitley Valentine. Valentine can be seen here getting into a physical altercation with the official, who witnesses claim had overlooked several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties by Kellsburg before penalizing NU for one during the close final period.

At least it's accurate. Whitley continued reading:

Whitley Valentine, who stands seven feet tall, was a former NCAA volleyball All-American who led Durrenburg University to two championships, but was dismissed from the U.S. National team for failing a drug test.

"Ugh, they could have at least gotten my height right. Do they not read their own articles?" Whitley tossed her laptop onto the couch and stood, determined to do something, anything besides dwell on her current situation. Stoned, full, and in need of a distraction, she occupied the next few hours with laundry, some light cleaning, and four episodes of Luke Cage.

By 6:00 PM Whitley was ready for dinner. Having not yet checked the fridge, she was thrilled to find Alicia had left her a tray of salad rolls, a tray of pad thai, and a six pack of Yuengling next to a note with scribbled Japanese characters and a manga-style sketch of a frowning Whitley as a cartoon bear. Grabbing the food trays, beer, and a pint of Ben & Jerry's, Whitley headed to her favorite chair in the living room and prepared for inevitable messages from Krysta and Kiana, which would coordinate with the afternoon daily digest Google Alerts they both had on her.

She first checked the messages from Krysta, whose earlier call she'd declined:

Saw the video. It will be fine.

Btw, your sister is as messed up as you.

Will need to throw up before this night is over

I can only imagine what kind of adventure those two are having, Whitley thought, disappointed she wouldn't have video footage of their meetup. She moved on to the messages from her presumably drunk sister:

Fucks whtiley



"Glad I'm not there," Whitley said, taking a large scoop of ice cream into her mouth. She always found it weird she didn't get ice cream headaches and chalked it up to either callouses on the roof of her mouth from eating things before they'd cooled down or some kind of mutant adaptation. The downside was she always finished her ice cream faster than she wanted.

By 9:00 Whitley had powered through twelve salad rolls, a quart of pad thai, six beers, an eighth of marijuana, and three-quarters of a season of Luke Cage. Not in the mood for Alicia's imminent return, Whitley left the dishes and cans and dragged herself out of her chair, up the stairs, and into her room, where she collapsed face-down on the bed. Her phone vibrated in her hand, and she opened one eye to read a text from her old Durrenburg volleyball coach, Maddie Grace.

Didn't know you had it in you, Valentine...going all mama hen for those girls, I mean.

I’m still rooting for you. Keep up the good work, and try to keep that temper in check ;)

Whitley read and re-read the messages several times, unsure how to reply or whether she even should. The sound of Alicia and Percy returning made the decision for her. She tossed her phone aside, and settled into bed, as voices from the living room filtered in through the vent.

"She ate all of it!?" Percy shouted. "I at least wanted a salad roll!"

"Whatever," Alicia said. "She earned it."

Whitley snickered, shut her eyes, and drifted off.