Catch the other parts here.
Learn more about Seven Pitch here.
Before Jinx received her pass to enter the Service, effectively allowing her to graduate without actually finishing her senior year of high school, she’d befriended a sophomore year transfer student, a Sphynx girl who wasn’t being well accepted.
Unfortunately, once Jinx left, the poor girl found herself often wandering the halls sad and bewildered.
In the East, the Sphynxes were considered a beautiful race. They were one of the original Thirteen Prides, and prided themselves on being some of the strongest Felona in the world. They were world-renowned as brave and powerful warriors. But this girl, Odessa, was neither of those things. To her peers here in the North, she was a bald, furless freak.
In his junior year, Tora was able to get a position as a hall monitor. It wasn’t so much that he was doing well in his classes, but he had a free study period that he rarely wanted to use for anything but reading up on seven-pitch.
The study monitors kept bugging him about only using the time for academic work. So he looked into becoming a hall monitor instead. It was fortunate because anyone else would’ve made Odessa feel worse.
But she had been Jinx’s friend, so she would be his, too.
Odessa wasn’t really lost, in fact. She wandered the halls because she hated the way everyone stared at her. Even the teachers would give her strange looks, just because she wasn’t as fluffy as the other students.
There had been Sphynx students in North before, but they were usually intimidating and no one dared stare at them for fears of later being torn limb from limb or getting their parents to show up and since most of them were high-ranking officers in the Service, that wasn’t pretty.
Tora thought differently. He thought she was cute. Her pinkish skin was smooth and flawless – not always true of a Sphynx, and her silver eyes were big and thoughtful. She wore a powder blue blouse with a very short skirt – too short for dress code, but they rarely enforced it unless panties or buttocks were showing. While he’d heard that Sphynx girls were usually quite big and scary, he was actually quite pleased to meet one that was a slender delicate kitten.
“Hi, Tiger,” she said as Tora approached her in the hall.
“Are you lost?”
“Yes, I’m afraid I am,” she said softly, barely audible.
Tora shook his head, “I don’t believe you.”
“You’re, uh, not going to turn me in?” she asked, her smile small but friendly. Her silver eyes gazed into Tora’s. “It is Tiger, right?”
“Tora,” he corrected. “But you’re kinda right. I’m half Toyger.”
“My parents, well,” she looked away for a moment to compose herself. It wasn’t often Tora had seen a girl blush, not under all of the fur that he was accustomed to girls having. There was something exotic about her that excited him. “They are what you would call ‘old-school’. I wasn’t good enough for the Service, so, uh, I asked to be transferred here.”
“To the North?”
“No one else would take me. My grades were too low.”
“Yeah, I’m not too great at school either,” Tora admitted. “I’m shocked they let me be hall monitor.”
“It’s because you’re tough and strong,” she said with a giggle. Tora wasn’t exactly big, about five-six, but he was fairly well-built. Of course, Tora was unaware that Odessa was actually flirting with him.
“You really should get to class,” Tora said. “Let me take you there.”
“That would be wonderful,” she said, but her smile faded. “I know you just need to do your job.”
“My job would be to take you to the office,” Tora said, “But you’re new here. You deserve a break.”
“Not that new. I’ve been here a whole semester.”
“Whatever, no worries,” Tora grinned, as they walked right past Odessa’s classroom.
Tora stopped. “Isn’t 213 right over there?” he asked his peer.
“Oh, um, yeah, you’re right. Silly me,” she said with a bit of a nervous laugh. “I’ll see you later, then?”
“I guess so,” Tora said, wide-eyed, as Odessa disappeared into the classroom. He swore he heard the teacher in there get quite cross. But he didn’t dare investigate. He did have his job to do, and no way would he lose this position. Directed study periods were the worst.
Tora continued to patrol the halls. He caught a few trying to cut class, but just firmly told them to get back to class. Interestingly enough, they all obeyed him. Of course, he took their names, so they weren’t stupid enough to try and skip past him. Tora had already put two kids in detention, and apparently word had gotten around.
He felt a bit guilty helping Odessa, but she was a nice girl. For some reason, he felt like she liked him. Tora was always a bit thick, but on that count, he was most definitely right.
Later that afternoon, Tora found Odessa waiting for him at the back exit. Typically, students weren’t supposed to exit the back way except in an emergency. But, the alarm was never active at dismissal on this particular exit, so Tora always used it. It surprised him a bit that Odessa knew about this, but he should have known better.
“Sneaking out?” Odessa asked him. Her pink skin glowed in the afternoon sun and the silver in her eyes gleamed. She looked a lot prettier in the sunshine, he realized.
“I always come this way. Too much of a crowd up front.”
“Yeah, Ginnifer taught me that. I miss her.”
“Jinx is something else,” Tora nodded, a tear forming in his eye.
“Tell me something, Tora. What is seven-pitch?”
Tora stopped dead in his tracks. Odessa considered him for a moment before asking him, “Did I say something wrong?”
“You seriously don’t know?” Tora asked.
“I know that you and, uh, Jinx, love it more than anything. Why does she like being called Jinx?”
“It’s a name she picked up on the seven-pitch field,” Tora said, as they continued walking, “She calls it her true name, like she’s a royal-born warrior princess or something.”
“Oh, I know all about that,” Odessa chuckled. “My parents wanted me to grow up to be a warrior princess.”
“Why didn’t you?” Tora asked.
Now it was Odessa’s turn to stop in her tracks. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re a Sphynx right? Don’t all Sphynxes have to go into the Service?”
“The Queen’s Army doesn’t take little girls,” Odessa said with a huff. “At least that’s what my parents used to tell me.”
“You’re not a little girl,” Tora observed. He then stopped himself. He suddenly felt really funny. Something about this girl was affecting him.
After a while, Tora and Odessa had come to a little spring back behind the developments around the high school. Tora liked coming here and his house was not far beyond there – just a few blocks away.
Odessa nudged close to him. Tora was a bit shocked by this development – her skin was so soft, smooth, and warm. It was such a strange feeling to have a girl snuggling up against him, never mind a Sphynx girl.
“You and Jinx are really close, huh?”
“On the field, yeah,” Tora admitted. “When we were kids, we were best buddies. But then she just, kinda, grew up, I guess.”
“You’re a great player I hear. I’m sorry I don’t know much about the game. What is the point of it all anyway?”
“To win,” Tora said flatly.
“I thought the purpose to every game is to have fun,” Odessa countered, her eyes narrowing for a moment. She then closed her eyes and snuggled closer. They sat down by the brook and Odessa threw her arms around him.
“Odessa,” Tora said. “Can I ask you something?”
“Of course, Tora,” she said, her eyes still closed and her smile widening.
“Is it true that Sphynxes think us furry-kin are gross?”
“I’d say that’s not true,” Odessa said, her smile fading a bit. “I think furries are gorgeous. They can get a bit stinky, though.”
“You have a really nice scent,” Tora observed. He gulped after those words came out of his mouth.
“Yeah, we have to care for our skin. A lot of Felona don’t get it.”
“Don’t you get cold?”
“You get used to it. I’d think you get too warm.”
“No, not really. I remember Jinx saying Servals are the greatest at staying cool cause of their ears.”
“Serval ears are so pretty,” Odessa said with a little nudge against Tora’s cheek.
“I think your ears are just fine.”
“I think they’re too big.”
“No, just fine,” Tora said, starting to shiver a bit out of nervousness.
“You seem awfully worried.”
“Nah, no one comes down here.”
“You embarrassed?” Odessa’s smile widened.
“No, not at all. You’re, cool.”
Odessa’s eyes shot open and she ripped herself away from him and stood up.
“You’re supposed to say you love me!” she demanded.
“Well, uh, I,” Tora was stuck. He really liked her, though. “I – think – you’re – nice.”
Odessa began to stomp off. Tora stood dumbfounded for a moment. But after she was starting to fade into the distance, he ran after her, right into the middle of the private avenue beyond the spring.
She didn’t turn around, but did stop. “Yeah?”
“Odessa,” he said, “I might not be the brightest kid around, but I do know one thing.”
She turned around, her eyes wide. “What’s that?”
He approached her and held her paws in his. “Odessa means ‘journey’ doesn’t it?”
Odessa trembled, “Yes. How did you know that?”
“I don’t know. Something my dad said once. He had a character in one of his stories.”
“I’m not much for reading,” Odessa said shyly, looking away.
“He never published it. But her name was Odessa. She was a girl on a journey. That’s why he named her that.”
She looked back at him, “That’s really sweet that you told me that.”
“You’re a special girl, Odessa,” he said. “Jinx told me that just by being your friend. She only gets close to those she believes in.”
“You love Jinx, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Tora nodded. “I really miss her. She was my best friend. I wanted to…” He stopped himself, trying to figure out why he was going to tell Odessa something so personal.
“I understand,” Odessa nodded. “Who would want to have kittens with me?”
“What? No,” Tora shook his head frantically as she started to slip her paws away. “You misunderstand. I wanted to make it to the Bigs with her.”
Odessa’s eyes began to well with tears, “Just say it, Tora!”
“I’ve only known you a day,” Tora said. “But I think we’re going to be really great friends.”
Odessa jumped into his arms, “You love me?”
Tora sighed, “Sure, I do. You’re beautiful.”
“You mean that?”
“Of course. But let’s not bring up romantic dinners and kittens, okay?”
“I’m sorry for being so, mellow, uh, dramatic? Melodramatic?”
“I think I know what that means.”
“It’s just, boys back home teased me a lot.”
“I don’t know why. You have such a beautiful coat, um, skin?”
“I’m pale and delicate and scrawny. I was told no one would ever love me. But you do.”
“Well, I’m not sure about that kind of love. But I love you as a friend.”
Odessa slapped her knees, then took Tora’s right paw. “I guess that will have to do for now,” she giggled as they began to walk up to a nearby house. “This is where I’m staying. The girls here are really nice. I hope you come by and visit soon.”
“Yeah, sounds cool,” Tora said. Odessa waved good-bye as did he. As she disappeared into the house, he spun around and saw me standing there. I’d come down the street seeing if Tora was still down at the spring as he sometimes would be. He was pretty freaked out to see me in any case.
“Sam? You – why?” he stammered.
“I was wondering where in the Seven Hells you were?” I asked him.
“You heard all that?”
“She’s a good kid,” I said. “You two could be great together.”
“Her? Me?” Tora seemed flabbergasted. “She’s just a silly girl.”
“A girl who’s nuts about you. You better not let her go.”
I suppose that was sound advice. After all, she’d be sticking around a lot longer than a typical transfer student…
Truth was, Odessa wasn’t making her grades and would have been sent home. But that never happened. I learned later that her parents had essentially disowned her. For what reason exactly I have never been quite sure, but they wanted nothing to do with her.
Fortunately, the girls she’d been staying with were actually friends of Clair’s. They were old seven-pitchers that had washed out of the league, but stuck around near Veri City. They were happy to take in an outcast like Odessa. She was a nice girl, not particularly bright, but with a big heart and a lot of curiosity. She didn’t really understand much, except that she really liked Tora and saw a lot in him.
It took Tora a long time to warm to her, though. She madly loved him. He was definitely only wanting to be friends. I wasn’t sure how it would end up… especially after he refused to go to the prom with her…