When she was really young, most of the kids she knew were like her. Children of players, children of staff. They all grew up on the court. Grew up sitting on the side of their parents’ practices, in the box for their parents’ games. When they were on road trips for away games, someone would take Olivia in, because it’s not like she had another parent at home, and they would run around someone else’s fancy house with their mini-racquets.
It wasn’t exactly the same after her dad retired from professional Exy—first from playing, then from coaching—but even if she was the only person on her teams whose father had played professional Exy, most of her teammates had parents who were involved, who signed them up for Little League and paid for their gear and went to their games. And then at Penn State she found Zia, who knew exactly the background Olivia was coming from, even if her parents seemed to come out of Exy without the scars that Olivia’s father had. They were both bred for Exy.
Her father hadn’t been, she knew that much. It was another reason why he thought he could make Olivia better than he had ever been, because she’d get serious about it younger than he did, because she’d have him on the court and at home coaching her. Olivia doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t serious about Exy, even in Little League, when half of the kids were just there to have fun, even as her father coached them like a drill sergeant. (Or like a Raven.)
There were a lot of things she missed out on. A lot of things she didn’t do. She doesn’t know how to surf, like Kent. She’s not one of the Foxes who know how to cook, or how to do makeup, or how to fix cars. She’d never been drunk before Penn State. At Penn State, she thought that maybe it’d be her time to branch out, to do things she’d missed out on in high school. After Penn State, though, she’s mostly retreated to her old familiar bubble. It feels safer there.
“That’s nice, though,” she says. “That you have him. That he cares.” Sterling, at least, hasn’t mentioned a father, so maybe his Uncle’s what he has. “A lot of people never get this far. They play in high school and they never get to play Class I, even if they want to. But, after a season like this—” not to mention, for Olivia, the two years before “—it’s pretty hard to feel like one of the lucky ones, isn’t it?”
Olivia kind of nails how Sterling has been feeling lately. He used to consider himself so lucky to be a Fox. Considering how things could’ve ben, he still should. If the commune was never raided then most likely Sterling would still be there, probably brainwashed beyond repair like his mom with some “important” position, and destined to spend his life preparing for an apocalypse he’s never going to see.
When he puts it into perspective like that, then he should be grateful to be on this team whether they’re having a shitty season or not, but he definitely doesn’t feel that way these days. He’s been out long enough to have standards now, and it almost feels useless to dedicate all his time to a sport he can’t progress in. Even if he works himself to the bone, it doesn’t mean anything when Exy is a team sport, and he’s on a joke of a team.
He knows that no matter what happens, his aunt and uncle will welcome him home with open arms, but Sterling doesn’t want to mooch off of them forever. They’re already stretching themselves thin by letting him and his mom live in their basement, and they can’t do it forever. Sterling doesn’t want to be there forever either. He wants to get him and his mom a real house and also get her the quality care she needs, but he can’t do those things if he doesn’t have a job.
He’s good at a lot of things, but nothing that’ll actually pay that well. When he gets caught up in worrying about the future, he almost misses the commune where he had one goal and one goal only. It made things simple, and lately everything feels anything but simple. Between his home life and everything going on with Kent and Colin, he wouldn’t mind running away to the desert.
“Yeah,” Sterling agrees with a deep sigh, “Wymack is all about giving everyone one million chances, but it really makes for one mess of a team.” Maybe it’s harsh to say, but it’s not like Sterling has ever been afraid to say exactly who he thinks deserve to be there or not. “Take us when we have nowhere else to go, but then turn us into the laughing stock of Class I Exy,” He mutters bitterly.