In Your Dreams - By Amy Martin

Chapter 1

For as long as I can remember, people have called me “Zip.”

And I don’t take it as an insult, either. Sure beats my real name, Zara, which my mom thought sounded all kooky and exotic and not like someone destined to spend her life in Titusville, Illinois, after high school. And while I’m grateful for her confidence that I’ll one day get out of this lame town, “Zip McKee” fits me better.

“Zip’ was one of several goofy nicknames my dad dreamed up, thanks to the fact that when I started crawling, I’d scoot around the house so fast my mom couldn’t keep up with me. According to my baby book, “Little Puddin’,” “Sweet Pea,” and “Motor Butt” were some of Dad’s other creations, but fortunately, “Zip” was the only one that stuck, lasting even after my parents split up when I was five. By then, everyone in town knew me as “Zip,” and outside of school, where my teachers insist on calling me “Zara,” I’m willing to bet most people in town don’t even know my real name.

In addition to my nickname, Dad also gave me a love of basketball, the sport he’d played his entire life before he blew out his knee in college. I’m a natural point guard thanks to my speed, but speed alone won’t help me lead my team to a championship—I need skills. One of the skills I’ve been working on lately, beyond the usual stuff like three-point shooting and running the offense, is better court vision. Dad always says solid court vision combined with strong offensive leadership gives point guards a kind of clairvoyance. If I can take in the entire floor and know the set plays as well as my own name—or nickname—then I’ll see which of my teammates is open for the best shot almost before she shakes her defender. This ability to read what people are going to do before they do it will hopefully help me perfect the no-look pass—I’ll be staring at the girl guarding me, but I’ll feel somebody’s open and whip the ball over without the defender reading anything in my eyes.

I haven’t mastered the no-look pass yet, and when I walk into school on the first day after winter break to find most of my teammates standing in a tight circle having a meeting nobody bothered to tell me about, I’m a little worried about my vision and leadership off the court needing some work, too. All the girls on the team get along, but I’m the only junior on our starting five. So while I’m the leader on the court, seeing everyone huddled around Marcy Gillette, our senior shooting guard, makes me wonder if she isn’t trying to pull rank on me or something.

“Lanier,” I hear Marcy saying as I approach. Lowering the hood on my puffy coat, I stand at Cassie Newbaum’s elbow and listen. “They’re both juniors.”

“What’s up?” I ask, everyone turning to me at the sound of my voice. Maybe my status as team leader isn’t under attack after all.

“New students,” Marcy says, face flushed with excitement. She may be built like a typical bruiser of a women’s basketball player—six feet tall and arms bigger than most people’s legs—but give Marcy some gossip, and she turns into one of those cute little girls straight out of a teen movie, all giggly and whispery and wide-eyed. Her mother works in the main office, so Marcy’s always the first to know who’s been suspended or been chosen for this award or that honor. But after eleven years in school with the same kids, I already know who’s probably getting suspended on any given day, and the same group of ten people seems to win all the awards and honors, so most of the time, I don’t pay too much attention to anything Marcy has to say off the court. But considering she’s filling us in on the first new students to start school here in four years, for once, I’m interested.

Ashley Keep, one of the other juniors on the varsity squad, blurts out the obvious question before anyone else. “They’re twins?”

Marcy shakes her head. “No. That’s the weird part. Mom said the guy’s older, so he should really be a senior.”

“Awesome. He’s slow,” Cassie moans, as if she thinks enough idiot guys already live in Titusville and we don’t need one more.

“Or maybe he hates school,” I offer, because I think it’s unfair to label this guy “slow” when we don’t know him yet.