#50: Why Are You Doing This?

Whitley arrived at the gym an hour early to set up equipment and run through her warm-ups and drills. It was the same warm-up routine she'd used since high school, and her way of re-adjusting to the space before the team arrived. Having confined herself to either her house or Julie's condo over the last week of her suspension, the open, empty gym seemed cavernous. She wondered if she would have difficulty finding her legs as a coach again given her initial month-long adjustment period.

Finishing her drills and stepping out to use the bathroom, Whitley returned to find Isla, Logan, Monique, and Tanica had arrived early to warm up with a two-on-two scrimmage. She watched discreetly from the gym entrance, though having to hunch down to see through the windows was a pain. Tanica blocked one of Isla's spikes into the bleachers. Before Whitley realized it, she was back in the gym, approaching the players, who brightened at seeing her.

"Coach Valentine!" Monique blurted.


"You're back!" Isla shouted.

"I am, Isla! Now, Monique, where did you want that block to go?"

"Uh, back across the net?"

"Not good enough. That was a marshmallow of a hit—no offense Isla."

"None taken!" Isla said, overjoyed to be in Whitley's physical presence again.

"—and you should have had a plan for it. What did we talk about before?"

"Don't let your body move faster than your brain!" Logan said.

"Yes. Every move should have intention. From the moment the ball is in play you should anticipate your next move, if not your next three. If it's coming to you, know where you're going to put it. If it's not headed towards you, then you provide support. Always anticipate. Never react."

All four girls nodded, hanging on Whitley's every word. Logan tossed the ball to Whitley.

"You wanna show us?"

Whitley knew what they all wanted. Fortunately, she was in the mood to take requests.

"Fine, but save that smile. I'm not going to make this easy for you. Logan, you're with me."

Whitley tossed the ball to Logan, who set it back to her. Whitley took an exaggerated wind-up, over-projecting her intent to hit the ball into center court. Logan, who was always ready, moved into position for support, Without taking her eyes off Whitley, Monique leaped to intercept. Whitley switched her spike to a floater and Monique adjusted in midair to block. Instinctively, Logan dove forward to save but was unable to get to it in time.

Whitley clapped her hands. "Nice block, Mo',"  What was my tell?"

"Your eyes."

"Very nice." Whitley noticed her fellow assistant coach watching from the sideline. She tossed the ball back to Isla. "Finish warm-ups, guys. We're starting in ten."

Whitley headed over to Koga, and they watched the four girls return to their scrimmage as the remainder of the team trickled in.

"Follow the hitter's eyes to direct a block?" Koga said. "I'm hardly a net player, but is that actually a thing?"

"It will give her confidence and get her head more in the game. Monique is my project. I gotta' stay on her or she'll slack off."

"You're getting through to her. She'd never listen to me like that. Can you tell they're glad to see you?"

"Three conditioning sessions with Alicia would have that effect."

Koga laughed. "Alicia's a character, and she ran them through the ringer, but they liked her. She's welcome to host strength training whenever she likes."

"Oh? Helen is okay with that?"

Koga cracked a slight smile. "Coach Richter made conditioning my purview, so it's my call. I say Alicia's welcome. But, of course, you're who they've counted down the days waiting for."

"I'm glad to be back. This whole week has been like the ghost of Whitley future, starring my crazy-ass roommates." Whitley rubbed her cheek. "Honestly, I went a little far with the self-inflicted punishment."

Koga noticed the uncharacteristically heavy foundation on Whitley's cheeks, along with a few bruises on her arms. Though curious, she decided not to ask. "Admissions have already contacted me about a few potential volleyball recruits visiting this fall."

"A bit early, yeah?"

"For a school like us? Absolutely. We normally don't see inquiries until after the season wraps. A few recruits actually asked if you'll be around."

"Ah. Well, I guess that's what Helen wanted. She sure as hell didn't hire me for my charisma."

"It was actually our Athletics Director who pushed for your hire. He talked to Judy Phillips from the writing center and heard you were taking a part-time coaching job.

Whitley recalled the Northshore University Athletic Director from her research about NU when they'd offered her the part-time Assistant Coach position. She'd also overheard some unsavory stories about him from several players on the team. "Mr. Jeffrey Sleazy."


"Whatever. How nice to know I was hired as a marketing decision. I mean unless our AD has a foot fetish."

"I wouldn't know about that," Koga said, anxious to change the subject. "In any case, it seems to have worked out for everyone."

Coach Richter arrived, as always, on time for practice down to the second. "Good to have you back, Coach Valentine," Coach Richter said, not making eye contact. Her shrieking whistle reverberated through the gym. "All right, ladies. Let's fall in!"

Whitley rubbed her finger in her ear. "God, I forgot how much I hate that."

"Welcome back!" Koga said, patting Whitley on the side as they joined the rest of the team at center court.

Tuesday evening, Krysta and Percy sat in the living room, each typing away on their respective laptops. Krysta divided her attention between scheduling social media posts for the upcoming weekend and preparing, logistically and emotionally, to serve as Alicia's cosplay handler for three-and-a-half days of Coastside Comic-Con. Percy, meanwhile, sat on the couch next to her editing basketball footage. Having served as Alicia's cosplay handler before, he was relieved his only role at the moment was to be a supportive boyfriend to Alicia and a supportive [ex-boy]friend for Krysta. They sat on the couch, the only remaining available space. With costumes and props everywhere, the room resembled a violently shaken life-size diorama.

Meanwhile, Alicia's thoughts and energy shot off at will in all directions. She zipped around the house like a hydrogen atom, free-associating her checklist for the weekend. She had three cosplays to pack as well as a few dedicated outfits for travel, day zero events, and the cosplay competition where she would serve as a special guest judge. She left the remaining details up to Krysta.

Alicia had gone upstairs in gym shorts and a tank top and returned wearing a polished armor chest piece over a metallic leotard. On her head, an LED-illuminated crown practically doubled the lumens in the room. With her broad shoulders, trim waist, narrow hips, and colossal thighs, her body had a long hourglass shape. The costume accentuated every peak, valley, and crease of Alicia's musculature.

Percy ogled her unabashedly, but Krysta frowned. "That costume is not on the list," she said.

"Julie got it from the NU theater liquidation and lent it to me for our photo shoot. I figure I may as well double-dip and wear it Saturday."

"No. You are wearing Heaven's Wheel Erza Scarlet on Saturday. Popular demand after last year. What is that costume even supposed to be?"

"I'm gonna go with Amazon from Themyscira. It's shiny, sturdy, and shows off everything I'm proud of. It'll also save you the logistics of trying to fit the wings in your car."

"Fine," Krysta said, not in the mood to argue and admittedly relieved to remove 'figure out wings' from her checklist. "I updated the packing list. On to the next question: why are you wearing it now?"

"I need to make sure it'll be comfortable and secure for eight hours. Duh."

"Wait, is there no skirt?"

"I haven't decided yet," Alicia said, flexing her quads. "I'm leaning towards n—"

"Yes, you are wearing a skirt with it. Need I remind you this is a family event?"

"Fine," Alicia grumbled. "Add my leather skirt and sandals to the spreadsheet. No promises I'll wear them in the photo shoot though."

"I already added them, along with the gold belt for your Supergirl costume, your purple wig for day zero, your green curly wig for Saturday's cosplay competition, and the emergency bond tape."

"Really? I trust my handiwork."

"Do you trust it enough to risk burning fifteen to thirty minutes running back to your room or standing in line at the cosplay repair station?"

Alicia frowned. "Good call. Now that I think of it make sure my red and blue panties are on the list for Supergirl. I haven't decided which I'll go with yet."

"That costume is a blue leotard and a red skirt," Krysta shouted to Alicia who bounded up the stairs. "What does it even—"

"Don't ask," Percy said. "Add the red, blue, and black ones."

"Krystaaaaaa!" Alicia yelled from upstairs. "Where's the hairspray?"

"I pulled it out already it's sitting next to the wigs."

"Should we buy more, just in case?"

"No! You buy a new can every time you go to a con, and now we have three full bottles. If anything, we should take it and try to give some away." Krysta sighed and rubbed her temples. "Percy, I told myself I would never do this again."

"If I recall, you even wrote yourself a note."

Krysta turned her laptop around, displaying the two-page typed document. "Oh, I most definitely did. Past-Krysta is, however, a realist like present-Krysta. The message ended with me admitting I would likely give in and do it again, then includes links to a different document with a 'lessons learned' list, as well as outfit recommendations for dressing down and blending in."

Percy lowered his glasses, eying the way Krysta's chest packed her faded orange tank top to capacity. "Blending in? That may have worked back when 'K-Cup' was a goal. Coastside Con has grown by twenty thousand since two years ago. Having also done some growth yourself, you may have a harder time hiding than you expect."

Krysta fluttered her eyelashes with mock surprise. "Are you underestimating me?"


Percy—at the time Krysta's boyfriend—had actually recommended a frustrated and frazzled Krysta write the letter to her future self. Though they'd since broken up and Percy had started dating Alicia, they remained friends as well as professional associates. While he still enjoyed his verbal sparring matches with Krysta, the shameless, impulsive Alicia had been a stark, albeit refreshing, change. Deciphering Krysta's motives could be tiring, but he'd learned over the years to be direct with her.

"Krysta, why are you doing this?"

"I told Alicia I would go if Whitley did."

Percy shook his head. "Uh uh. Why are you really going?"

Krysta twisted her lips, frustrated by Percy's persistence. "I need a change," Krysta said, resignedly. "I am too caught up in work, and I need a break." Krysta took a thoughtful look at her one suitcase, compared to Alicia's four. "It pains me to not go in costume since I could use the publicity. I still have not decided what to post over the break."

"You could frame it as a road trip, and take some generic shots."

"I could, but my followers are observant. I would not want to turn it into 'Where's Krysta' contest."

"Say you're on vacation and post some Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday stuff. Maybe even plug some other models. You have to be sitting on a few of those."

Krysta pondered, nodding with increasing vigor. "Yes...yes. I could do that. Lexie Cheer would appreciate a plug, and Dreamgirls plans to release one of my solo sets late next week. Perhaps a teaser is in order. I knew there was a reason I kept you around."

"Besides so you can keep borrowing AV equipment from the school?" Percy teased. Krysta smirked and returned to her laptop, grateful to Percy for lifting her mood. "Speaking of which," Percy continued. "I ran into Julie yesterday checking out some equipment. She's going too?"

"Julie is driving up by herself tonight. She is one of the official photographers for Coastside Con and has a bunch of setup to do. Whitley has a volleyball game on Friday and another, conveniently forty minutes west of Coastside, on Saturday, so she'll be there Saturday and Sunday, so she’s also driving separately and will stay in Julie's suite."

"Julie also mentioned something about a nude photo shoot."

Krysta sighed, rolling her eyes. "There’s a series of themes, but yes, one of them will be nude. Julie doesn't start until ten Saturday, so we'll head up to her room for hair and makeup at six, then shoot seven to nine."

"Let me know if you need video," Percy said, with a smirk. "I'd even drive myself out there."

"Yes, and let's also imagine how Whitley would react to you walking in on her naked with a video camera." Percy's face lit up with exaggerated fear at the idea. Krysta laughed. "Percy, thank you for being here. The presence of a neutral third party keeps the household from devolving into an utter state of nature.

A notification beeped on both Krysta and Percy's phone. "Five-minute warning!" Alicia shouted from upstairs. "We're on a schedule!"

Percy blushed. "Um, speaking of state of nature."

Krysta shut her laptop, stood up from the couch, and stretched. "I will finish up at Local Latte. You two should be done in an hour, yes?"

"If that's what the calendar says."

"The calendar says 'de-stress session' with a smiley face next to it." Krysta slid her laptop into her bag which she slung over her shoulder. Waving to Percy, she headed to the door. "I will be back at seven. Please be done by then."

"Wait, one thing!"

Krysta turned back to Percy. "Hm?"

"Alicia wanted me to ask you if...um."

"Ask me what?"

"If you would...uh."

Krysta narrowed her eyes. "No. Absolutely not. You cannot use my room. It is preposterous you would even ask, but thank you for asking."

"I figured."

Krysta waved again and headed out the door. Percy watched Krysta's silhouette pass by as she walked around the house towards Local Latte on Empire Street. He shut his laptop and went upstairs to Alicia, who met him at the top and tugged him in for a kiss. He embraced her thick, solid torso as best he could and pulled himself closer to her. Alicia giggled and lifted him into her arms, then kissed him again.

"Starting upstairs today, eh?" Alicia said, turning and carrying him towards her bedroom.

"For once, it's cleaner than the living room."

"Did you tell Krysta she's invited if she wants to join us?"

"I...no. I'm not telling her that."

"Suit yourself. Speaking of which, Whitley said she'd totally do me, but you're too short."

Percy scoffed. "Too short? We're both 5'7"."

"I guess 5'7" looks more impressive on me than you."

"...and hold on, you didn't actually ask her that, did you?"

Alicia grinned as she kicked her leg up and turned down the bedroom door handle with her toes. Stepping into her room, she tossed Percy onto the bed.

"No, really," Percy said, pulling off his shirt. "You seriously didn't ask Whitley that, did you?"

"What does it matter?" Alicia said, casually posing and flexing for her one-man audience. She unfastened the armor plate, letting it fall to the ground. "You have more immediate concerns."