Caught Out By Leesa Bow
Melbourne is one of my favourite cities with its trendy cafes and fine restaurants, and just happens to be the fashion capital of Australia. The pang of jealousy I felt in my chest because my boyfriend lived here temporarily, to train with the Australian cricket team, stemmed from my own desirousness. The city streets, heavy with traffic and the ever-sounding car horns, somehow made me feel even more alive. Ever since turning sixteen, and developing some sense of style, exempt of influence of my mother’s strict Catholic upbringing, I’d daydreamed about shopping here. Taking in every storefront, admiring quirky boutiques and designer shops, I wish I had more money to play with, just like other eighteen-year-olds at the end of their Year 12 schooling. At least it helped take my mind off the future.
Last night I avoided all conversation with my parents, excusing myself to bed after dinner because of my early flight. It granted me time to ponder life choices and the sacrifices that I needed to make.
From the moment I woke butterflies took residence in my
stomach with every thought of Jardine. The fluttering remained even now as I walked toward the Melbourne cricket oval. The crowd thickened as I approached the gate. I pulled out my old iPhone and read Jardine’s text again.
Go to the southern gate member’s ticket booth. Your ticket will be there in an envelope with your name on it. Not sure of the procedure after the game. I’ll text you when I can. Hopefully we can meet up for dinner. I love you xx.
I regretted not having my friends here with me. Cleo had
already committed to a social event, and Oliver was working in his family’s restaurant. He may be my best friend but Oliver and Jardine do not share the same friendship as me, and I know Jardine would be opposed to Oliver being my plus one at his game.
After collecting my ticket, I walked in a robotic state, immersed in the crowd, toward the stadium seating. The grandstands filled quickly with the estimated 90,000 fans expected to attend today. Unlike my previous experience at the gentleman’s game, I dressed up for the occasion in a black knee- length skirt, a pale pink blouse, and black heels. It was the only clothing in my budget that made me look like a lady. I found my seat among strangers. I smiled at the lady beside me and a young boy on her other side. I twisted in my seat, taking in the anonymous faces around me, searching for Jardine’s parents. Locating the corporate area with seats behind a glassed window, I let out a sigh of relief knowing Mr Kumble would be seated in the VIP section. The way my fingers trembled at being here, I knew I couldn’t face his parents today.
The crowd roared and I turned to see a line of men dressed in all white strolling onto the field. I craned my neck, searching for Jardine. I found him at the back of the line of players, taking in the atmosphere, and the sheer number of spectators. The sight of him rendered me speechless. His dark hair and skin a contrast against his white shirt and trousers. He was theyoungest on the team but he oozed confidence with every long stride, and his expression held no fear. Green and yellow flags waved madly in front of me, intermittently blocking my view.
Gazing around the grounds Aussie flags dominated the blue of India but India was still well represented going by the cheers when two batsmen took to the field.
“You missed the toss, dear,” the lady next to me said.
I gave her a nod, not really wanting to get into a conversation. I was here to watch Jardine, and only him.
The crowd settled when Australia took their places around the field. I didn’t know much about the team except my boyfriend was the rookie. Admittedly, I should have taken more interest instead of kidding myself into believing that the less I know, the less involved I would be. The first bowler up was a pace bowler and he finished the over without a wicket. The second bowler didn’t have a long run-up, so I knew he was a spin bowler. Jardine mentioned that spin bowlers were skilful and smart in the way they delivered the ball to the batsman. The spin on the ball caused the batter to swing and misjudge the delivery, leading to being bowled out. Or if they hit the ball it
would often be awkward and help to being caught out. Despite a few gasps from the crowd he also finished the over without a wicket. Jardine was next to bowl. I heard a few people around me making comments about ‘the rookie.’
I held my breath and crossed my fingers, praying silently for
Jardine. He was inexperienced and I hoped the batsman took
pity and not hit a six. I didn’t want him to look bad. I also knew what it meant for us if he played well. I swept the thought away. Playing against India in his first ever international game meant a lot to Jardine, considering it was his grandfather’s home. I loved him and wanted him to embrace his dream as much as he did. I wanted the world to see the brilliant man I loved with all my heart.
My stomach leapt to my throat as he walked away from the
pitch marking out his approach. He rubbed the ball along his
groin, spun it in the air and caught it. The same routine I’d
witnessed before. Then he took off, building speed as he
sprinted toward the pitch. He leapt into the air, landed, and
hurled the ball toward the batsman at lightning speed. The
Indian batsman swung and missed. The ball struck the wickets.
I sprung out of my plastic seat.
Jardine clean bowled the batter on his first ball! The crowd
roared and cheered. Flags waved high. Players from around the oval sprinted toward Jardine and jumped on him, ruffling his hair and patting his back.
I felt a foot taller knowing what was behind his big smile.
Swiping the tear from my cheek, I remained standing like
everyone else and clapped enthusiastically. It was a magical
moment and something I knew I’d remember for as long as my heart allowed.
I settled back in my seat when the next batsman took the field. Jardine walked to the same spot, rubbing the ball on his white pants, and tossing it in the air twice before taking off, building speed like a cheetah running down its prey—only the prey was the Indian batsman. Jardine leaped into the air with a little skip before propelling another ball at the wicket. The batsman blocked the ball, but it hurled off the bat at a funny angle. Jardine dove, arms reaching out in front to catch the ball.
He landed and raised his arm with the ball in his hand. I shook my head in disbelief. Jardine had taken his second wicket on his second ball. Surely this was some kind of record, especially since he was only eighteen. The crowd applauded, chants taking over the screams. “Jar-dine, Jar-dine, Jar-dine.”
Joy, and relief rocked through me as the players once again ran to him. I turned to the big screen in time to see the camerazooming in on his beautiful face. I stared at him, larger than life. A smile so wide it made small creases near his eyes. Eyes the most beautiful colour of caramel that twinkled under the sunlight, and when close enough you could see darker flecks of coffee in irises that revealed emotion.
And right now he was sitting on the peak of Kangchenjunga.
In a moment of understanding his thrill, part of my heart
cracked, knowing Jardine had found his destiny. The words his father had said to me a few months back hit hard.
“I know you two have become close friends…Jardine will be
moving on with his life. I hope he has explained that to you?”
I pushed his meaning out of my head, sat tall in the hard,
orange chair, and watched the love of my life play the game of his life.
For the remainder of the day, I savoured every moment,
wanting to keep the memory with me forever. When the game drew to a close, I knew this would be one of the last times I’d see Jardine. No way would the Australian team drop him from the squad now. Jardine was unique, and I knew that better than anyone.
I could feel my heart sinking with every wicket he took, as if burst of wind in his sails was sending him further away from me.
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At eighteen, Ava is sure she has found her soulmate in Jardine. Convincing their friends and family that what they have is more than just a crush, however, is an entirely different story. Jardine’s parents have his life mapped out with plans that don’t include Ava.
Their plans to get into med school and start their future together crumble when cricket sensation Jardine is selected to play for the Australian team and expected to spend most of the year touring internationally. Ava knows since they agreed to follow their dreams, no matter the cost, she has to let Jardine go.
Ava also discovers a new inspiration to move on with her life. But can she keep it a secret from Jardine? If he discovers the truth, everything between them could be destroyed.
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Leesa Bow is a best selling author who began her writing journey years ago when her daughter fell ill. Falling into writing for therapy Leesa now can’t imagine doing anything else. Thankful to be following her passion for romance, she is living out her own happy ever after with her husband in Brisbane, Australia.
In her spare time Leesa enjoys watching sport, having beach days with the family, catching up for coffee with girlfriends, and taking long walks.
Leesa is a member of Romance Writer’s of Australia (RWA)