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[Chapter 1]

January 1999


"Hey, Ro. You're coming to my game right?"

"Of course, Bri! I am arriving in St. Petersburg at 2pm, so I should be there by like 2:30 today," Rodessa said with excitement for she hadn't seen him in months. "Are mom and dad there already?"

"Yeah they arrived yesterday morning. Ok, well I'll just see you in a couple hours. Love ya, sis."

"Love you too."

Bridell got off the phone with his older sister, Rodessa. He missed her the most for she meant everything to him. She always took care of him growing up and both hung out together a lot since they were two years apart. Bridell was able to see his parents a lot for they went to most of his games, but Rodessa rarely was around because she traveled around the world.

Rodessa was an avid tennis player ever since she was 5 when she first saw the sport at the Olympics. She battled the constant travel of competing in tournaments and attending school back home in San Jose. After her sophomore year of high school, she passed the proficiency test that enabled her to go straight to college with a scholarship to play at Stanford for two years. It was extremely difficult for Mr. and Mrs. Saligan because their children were all away from home-- Rodessa off to Stanford, Marc, the eldest son, off to college in New York, and Bridell off to Florida.

Bridell moved to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL when he was 14 to join the Under-17 soccer team. Training and attending school at the IMG Academy, he rarely went home to see his family in San Jose, California. Standing at 5'11", Bridell was clearly a standout on the Under-17 team, the youngest member on the team. After a year on the team, he was no longer looked upon as the baby of the group for his skills and goal-scoring on the field gained him the respect from his teammates and coaches.

"Bri, let's go. We're gonna be late for practice. Coach will have you running extra laps around the field if you don't get movin'!" a fellow teammate called out.

Bridell grabbed his soccer bag and ran out the door with a big smile on his face.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~

"Hey Bri, why are you in such a hurry? Our game isn't until later tonight." Landon asked.

"My sister should be here shortly. We're suppose to go out for a quick lunch and I need to get ready. You can tag along if you'd like. DaMarcus is coming along."

"Sure why not. It's about time I meet this sister of yours that you keep talkin' about. Plus, I'm hungry."

Both guys ran into their dorm rooms to get ready. After taking a shower, Bridell returned to his room where he found a 5'5" girl with dark brown hair and deep brown eyes standing before him. He dropped everything that was in his possession and swung her around in his arms.

"Glad to see you too, bro," Rodessa giggled as Bridell put her down. "Look at you. You get taller and taller every time I see you. I swear in a couple more years you'll be 7 foot tall!"

"Look at you. You're-you're still a midget compared to me!" Rodessa slapped him on the shoulder at his remark. "I'm just kidding, Ro."

"Hey, Bridell. When is this sister of yours com--ing? Hi, I'm DaMarcus. This is Landon," DaMarcus said pointing to the guy next to him.

"Yeah, I think I can introduce myself," Landon nudged DaMarcus.

"Hi, I'm Rodessa as you guys probably already know. Well, c'mon now. I took a 4-hour flight with nothing to eat, and it's about time to fill this stomach of mine."

"Didn't they serve you a meal on the plane?" Bridell asked with a puzzled look on his face.

"Well, yeah, but I slept the whole way. I had to wake up at 4 am to get myself over here, so don't get all smart with me Mr. Saligan," Rodessa protested.

"Okay, okay. Let's go."

~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~

"So how is my brother doing? Not acting up is he?"

"Only every time he doesn't get the ball!" DaMarcus jokes. "Naw he's good. Always getting straight A's, hustling on the field, getting all the girls."

"Oh really? It doesn't surprise me. I remember when he was 3 he would always smile and wink at the little girls he would play with at the park."

The three of them enjoyed some more laughs as Rodessa reminisced about Bridell and even shared a few details about herself while Landon was on his cell phone.

"Alright alright. Enough about me, Ro. It's about time you got to know my 'long lost brothers.' Landon would you like to dish the info since you haven't said a word yet?"

"Alright. I'm Landon, and I'm 16. I'm from California and I--" his cell phone rings interrupting his conversation with Ro. "Hey baby. Sorry, but I got to get this." Landon walks outside to take the call.

"And he has a clingy girlfriend who always squeezes every ounce of time out of Landon as she can," DaMarcus said to an angered Rodessa as she lets out a small smirk. "So, do you have a boyfriend yourself that you spend all your time with?"

"Actually, I am going out with this 19 year old guy that I met in college my freshman year. We've been going out for 8 months now."

"You're in college and you're almost 17? Geez, this whole family is smart! Anyways that's good that your relationship is lasting. I haven't had a relationship that has gone past 2 months!" DaMarcus replies throwing his arms up .

"Aw quit whining. You're still only 16. He knows how to sweet talk those girls down here," Bri remarks rolling his eyes. Glancing down at his watch, Bri said, "Woah! We should probably get back. Coach wants us in the lockerroom before 5 o'clock."

All three of them get up from the booth and nudge Landon on the shoulder signaling to him that they had to go. Continuing to speak on his cell phone as they entered the car, Rodessa grew more aggravated with Landon's manners.

'Can you believe this guy? He's so rude! I don't see why Bri is friends with this loser. He doesn't even know how to treat a guest. He needs to get off that damn phone 'cuz I'm about to throw that thing out the window,' Rodessa thought to herself banging her head lightly against the window with her eyes closed.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~

"Go Bri! Go!" Ro cheers on from the stands.

"Bridell is looking very sharp tonight," a girl standing next to her comments. "Hi, I'm Tristan."

"Hi, I'm Rodessa, but you can call me Ro or Dessa. Do you come to these games often?"

"No, not really. I catch some of the games when I have no school. I don't exactly live here in Florida."

"Where are you from?," Dessa said enjoying the new friend she had met.

"Redlands, California."

"I'm from San Jose!"

The two girls continued talking about little things amidst the loud cheering of the crowd until Bridell stole the ball and scored the game winning goal in overtime with the assist from Landon.

"Well, it was nice meeting you Dessa. Whenever you're in L.A. give me a holler. You have my email address and phone number and I have yours, so we should definitely keep in touch."

"Yeah, no doubt Tristan. Same goes for me."

Before her brother emerged from the lockerroom, Rodessa and Tristan parted ways with a subtle hug between quickly formed friends.

"Aw, look at you. Game winning goal, baby! Congrats!" Rodessa jumps into her brother's arms as he swung her around.

"Thanks, sis! All of us guys are going out to celebrate. Join us, please?" Bridell pleaded pouting his lip playfully.

"Sorry, bro, but I got a plane to catch tomorrow morning. I only came to see you play, and I gotta head back to school."

As Landon walked passed Rodessa, she tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Hey Landon. Great job on the field today. That was an incredible pass from the flank."

"Uh huh. Thanks," Landon replied nonchalantly still dialing a number on his cell phone without looking up.

"Grr... I don't know why you're good friends with him Bri. He's so rude! It's guys like that who act like they're the shit that I can't stand!"

"He's really a different person. You just picked a bad day to meet him. C'mon I'll walk you to your hotel." Bridell placed his arm around his sister's shoulder to assure her not to mind Landon's behavior. It didn't cross her mind at that moment that this wasn't going to be their only encounter together.

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