#45: Grounded

Whitley whistled as she walked the two blocks home from Local Latte.  She checked her phone, anxious to hear from someone on how morning conditioning had gone with Alicia at the helm. Yesterday morning she'd treated her fellow assistant coach to breakfast, as a slight penance for Koga's added workload in Whitley's absence. Koga was past the point where she would object to any candidate handling morning conditioning, as long as she did not have to do it herself. Whitley erred on the side of understating Alicia's quirks, figuring it best to allow Koga a bias-free, first impression.

Whitley intended to stop by John Hardy's for brunch but Krysta texted lunch would be provided at home. She knew Krysta would likely not make as much food as she wanted, but decided it best not to gorge herself since she would be taking photos for the NU Student newspaper that evening. Cracks about her height were bothersome enough without inquiries about whether or not she was pregnant.

Whitley knew Krysta would still be filming when she arrived and had permission to sneak in, even watch, if she wanted. Krysta had also provided Whitley guest login credentials to watch her live shows, saying she could use feedback from a new perspective. Whitley had yet to tune in, due to scheduling as well as not being keen on watching her roommate's topless webcam show. It seemed no different from watching a friend perform at a strip club, and she had no intention of ever doing that again.

Slipping in through the back door, Whitley was greeted by Krysta in profile, clad in only a green cooking apron and black leggings. Krysta heard but did not react to Whitley's entrance, keeping her focus on the camera mounted above the doorway as she seasoned a ball of raw ground meat. A GoPro clipped on the opposite edge of the small kitchen island provided a close-up view of the food preparation.

"And now, with the molasses and oyster sauce added, it is time to mix the ingredients. You can use a spoon if you would like. But I prefer to work it with my hands. I actually find it...therapeutic."

Krysta kneaded the meat thoroughly, folding it over and squeezing it between her hands to distribute the seasoning. Her breasts—hanging large and unbound—wobbled and shimmied beneath the flimsy apron while her nipples improbably remained obscured.

"I should take a moment here and apologize to my vegetarian fans. I recommend you check out my salad rolls with peanut sauce video from this series."

Krysta spoke in a playful tone with a slight Vietnamese accent—a calculated choice, like every aspect of the setting around her. She'd removed all extraneous items and ensured every color coordinated: her counter tile, her mixing bowls, her makeup.

"We will let the meat marinade for thirty minutes to several hours. Now, I need to take a moment and wash my hands."

Krysta spun towards the sink, her breasts swinging a step behind her torso. Even with her back turned, an abundance of sideboob framed her torso on each side, along with her respectable hips shaped beautifully in her dark leggings. She took her time meticulously washing and drying her hands, then turned back around and clapped them together.

"Next, we prep our noodles!"

She held the pose for a moment, then retrieved the remote velcroed under the counter. She stopped both recordings.

"All done, Whitley. I need a break and it is tea time."

Whitley slipped in, standing just inside the doorway. "Did you get everything you wanted?"

"I am done shooting for now. The meat needs time to marinade and the noodle preparation will be all POV montage. Rest assured, I will add at least one layer before I start frying pork.” Krysta pointed at two discolored spots above her right breast. "Learned that lesson the hard way, early on."

"Hey, whatever you gotta do. By the way, is that accent real or are you intentionally hiding your accent around me?"

Krysta considered the question for a moment. "Yes."

"Cute. So, am I to assume K-Cup Krysta is one of your multiple personalities?"

Krysta retrieved a tray from the fridge stacked with a dozen salad rolls, placing it and a bowl of peanut sauce on the counter near Whitley. "'K-Cup Krysta' is less a character I play, and more a version of me that emerges in front of the camera. You might compare her to in-game Whitley Valentine versus baked Whitley Valentine."

"Speaking of which," Whitley said, retrieving and lighting a joint she'd stashed above the fridge on her way out that morning. She took a long hit, exhaling out the window near the door. "So, are you saying I need to discover 'Instagram Whitley Valentine' to be successful?"

"That depends on your definition of success. I do my best to stay aware of the line between my life and my work. I would prefer the two work together rather than sacrificing my life and humanity to feed the insatiable beast that is social media. Unfortunately, it must be something I micro-manage because it does not come as naturally to me as it does for others."

"Be careful. You're starting to sound like Kiana," Whitley said, shoving a second roll into her mouth. "She has so many professional faces, she needs an instruction manual to remember how to interact like a normal human."

"I noticed. Unlike your sister, however, I have safeguards in place to keep me grounded."


"Not living alone, for one."

Whitley exhaled again out the window. "So, Alicia and I are here to keep you grounded?"

"That, and to allow me the budget to afford to prepare food that is actually worth filming."

Whitley managed to hold a straight face for a few seconds before snorting. "You're kidding."

"What is so funny?"

"Nothing, just…" Whitley held up a finger, "wait for it."

Krysta pinched her nose and winced. "Let me guess."

Whitley stepped to the side as the back door burst open. Alicia bounded in wearing blue workout shorts, a police officer's cap, and a checkered workout top whose pattern emphasized the already substantial contours of Alicia's fantastic physique. She strode into the kitchen, stopping in the doorway to the dining room where she twirled once on her toe before tipping her cap and winked to her audience.

"Good morning, ladies!"

Krysta did not look up from scooping her Lapsang souchong.  "Alicia, I will not even—"

"Remember that Chippendale's outfit you said I'd never use?"

"Please tell me you only used the hat."

"It's a peaked cap, thank you very much, and yes, only the cap."

Krysta sighed. "Oh, thank God. I was worried you—"

"—stayed on after I burst out of the uniform. Pa-POW!" Alicia punctuated her point with a full body flex, her mighty physique erupting with vitality. Whitley gave an impressed nod as she took another hit of her joint, while Krysta shook her head in disbelief.

"Alicia, how is that remotely appropriate for sports conditioning?"

"I had my gym shorts and this sweet top on underneath," Alicia said, gesturing down at her (remaining) ensemble. "The reveal was just for effect. Also, is the chick who fabric-taped her areolae to an apron to keep her cooking show PG-13 telling me what's appropriate?"

Whitley took another hit. "I was wondering how she was pulling that off," she muttered.

Alicia pointed two thumbs at herself. "Yeah, my idea. Anyways, at least in my case, my costume isn't designed to stay on while you're working out. It's held together with frickin' velcro. You shoulda' seen me bust out of it!" Alicia emphasized her point by flexing both arms and growling.

Krysta shook her head. "Whitley, I am surprised you are okay with this, being on probation and all."

"Nothing about this breaks any rules. Coach Richter gave me a slap on the wrists, but she doesn't want me fired. Which reminds me, Alicia, any chance a stocky blonde woman with an ugly bowl cut stopped by?"

"Oh yeah. I kept asking her if she wanted to join, but she just stood in the corner shaking her head and frowning until she left. Why do you ask?"

Whitley nodded, unable to suppress a grin. "No reason."

"Yeah, she didn't stick around. I did make a few new friends though. That redhead, Isla, is adorable!"

"Why am I not surprised?" Whitley said with a sigh. "So you two connected?"

"Who do you think took that shot for my Instagram? After practice, I wanted to do some cardio and she convinced me to head up to the main gym where there are better machines."

"And you were okay with that?"

"Not initially, but it was right after the basketball practice, and it wasn't very crowded. Isla's a heck of a runner and we chatted the whole time. Did you know she used to run track too?"

"I remember she told me that. Alicia, please don't bring her home. I need to keep some separation between my personal and professional life."

"I make no promises. Whitley, those girls are awesome. Thanks a bunch for letting me do that."

"So, you had fun?"

"It was good for the most part. It took them a bit to get into the groove. And they stared. Some of them a lot."

"I would attribute at least part of that to the costume," Krysta said.

"Don't mind that," Whitley said, grabbing two more salad rolls. "They handled me, and I'm technically a celebrity in their world, not to mention seven fucking feet tall."

"It was okay. Once we got started, they had other things to focus on." Alicia smiled an evil smile. "They'll be feeling this workout tomorrow."

"Don't kill them. They have a game Saturday."

"They'll be okay. They're a tough squad." Alicia retrieved a pre-made protein shake from the fridge and snagged a salad roll for herself. "Krysta, this will not be enough rolls, by the way."

"I asked you how many you thought Whitley could eat and you said 'probably ten.'"

Whitley chortled, stuffing another whole roll into her mouth.

"With shrimp, not tofu!" Alicia said, scanning Krysta's in-progress meal. "And whatever you have going here is, like, six servings, tops. You've been away too long if you think this is enough food for Whitley."

Krysta rolled her eyes. "It is never enough for Whitley."

Whitley waved her hand, her mouth full. "Hoo ith, by da wa, standih ri hea."

Alicia continued to inspect the ingredients. "At least tell me this is all a side for a big ol' bowl of cao lầu."

"Bún chả. By the way, can you—"

"Noodles? Will do!" Alicia tossed her bag to the floor by the basement entrance. "I make better noodles than Krysta," she conspicuously whispered to Whitley.

Krysta grabbed the mounted camera and tossed it to Alicia. "Use the GoPro to film, please."

"Duh. What, did you think, I'd use my phone?" Alicia replied, reaching up to attach the camera to the mount on the refrigerator next to the stove.

"Thank you, Alicia. Now, Whitley, how many servings do you think you'll need?."

"Actually," Whitley said, grabbing another salad roll and gesturing towards the rest. "I'll take what's left of these, and if you could leave me a few servings of whatever you're making for dinner later, that'd be awesome. I have to take photo and video in an hour."

Krysta wrapped the remaining salad rolls and loaded them into a to-go container. "Did Julie ask you to model again?"

"No, the school newspaper is doing one of those Vogue 73 questions things, only it's 72, to avoid copyright, presumably."

"I did one of those for a tits blog a little while ago. It can be fun, provided the questions are good."

"I'm excited, though all that talk with you about on-camera-versus-real-life personas has me overthinking it now."

"I could have warned you about that," Alicia said, frowning. "Are you allowed to be there, being suspended and all?"

"Only from team activities. The student newspaper apparently still feels it's appropriate to film an interview."

Krysta chuckled. "So you're just skipping the gossip and jumping straight to the media?"

"They cleared it with their editor and told me they won't bring up the fight. They're also ordering me dinner."

"Ah, so all this," Krysta gestured at her meal-in-progress, "will be second-dinner."

"I don't want to break their budget. I wrote for a college newspaper back in the day, and I have a soft spot for them."

"When I met you, I would not have figured you could have a 'soft spot' for anything you couldn't eat or smoke." Krysta dropped down the apron, exposing her bare chest. Whitley and Alicia both paused momentarily to take in the sight.

"Woo! Girl, you still got it!" Alicia said.

"Thank you," Krysta said, slipping on a t-shirt. She clapped her hands together, pausing to look at Whitley, then Alicia. "Wow, I just realized it has been a while since we have all been in the house together."

"I get it, Krysta," Whitley said. "I'll stay out of your guys' way."

"No, it's not that. I was gone for a week, and you have been mostly out of the house since volleyball season started. It is nice to be back in a familiar element."

Whitley swallowed the second half of her fifth salad roll. "You talk about me being a softie. Look at you, getting all nostalgic. Anyways, I’m off to campus. Looking forward to eating whatever this is."

"Save room for dinner!" Alicia said.

"I always do." Whitley waved and headed out the door. Alicia watched out the window as Whitley climbed into her SUV and pulled onto the road.

"Krysta, those girls love her."


"You can feel it. They lost yesterday and looked super down. From the moment I mentioned Whitley asked me to sit in, they hung on my every word. I hope she doesn't take that for granted."

"It can be difficult for people to realize how much others rely on them," Krysta said, steeping her tea. "But Whitley has proven more empathetic than I gave her credit for. People can surprise you."

"Right? So, speaking of which, Whitley says she's in for Coastside Con. You know what that means!"

"A promise is a promise. I'll buy my ticket and Whitley's."


"...though I did not say I would go in cosplay."

"No!" Alicia shouted. "No no no no no—"

"My friend Sydney's in town, and she will be staying with Julie. I am already stretching my schedule to attend an event with them.

"No! No! No!" Alicia cried, beating her palms on the counter and jumping in place. "Nononononononono—"

"I also know you have not finished your cosplays, so not worrying about me will give you more time to work on Whitley's."

Alicia scrunched her face and pouted. "So what are you going to to do?"

Krysta casually sipped her tea. "I will be incognito."

"OH COME ON!" Alicia shouted, throwing her head back dramatically. "How the holy heck does the cute Asian with M-cup boobs expect to go incognito at a Comic Con?"

"By being cosplay handler for the two of you."

Alicia's face lit up with elation. "And you have a deal! I'm more excited about dressing Whitley up anyways!" Alicia whooped as she darted over to snag her laptop from her bag. "I've been brainstorming some killer cosplay ideas for her which totally need narrowing down. Wanna see my sketches?"

Krysta sighed. She had a slew of video editing to do if she intended to post the cooking video to her site by Friday. She also had a few questions to shoot Marla and needed to call Julie and Sydney about their upcoming get together, and that would need to be done before her evening cam show. She also needed to program tweets for the next few days, and plan her Instagram posts for the following week. With all that and more on her plate, Krysta had a hard time justifying what would likely be at least fifteen minutes looking at costume sketches.

...to keep me grounded.

Setting her tea on the dining table, Krysta pulled up a chair next to Alicia. "Sure. Let me see what you have."