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Avery Appreciates True Friendship

Lady Tigers Series


Paige Ashley Brotherton

Avery Appreciates True Friendship

Lady Tigers Series

by Paige Ashley Brotherton

Smashwords Edition

All rights reserved

Published by Blue Dragon Publishing, LLC

Copyright 2018 Paige Ashley Brotherton

ISBN 978-1-939696-35-9 (paperback)

ISBN 978-1-939696-37-3 (hardback)

ISBN 978-1-939696-36-6 (eBook)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2018933094

Illustrations and cover by Vineet Siddhartha

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Discover other titles about the Lady Tigers

Trish’s Team

Margie Makes a Difference

Nicole’s New Friend

Tammy Tries Baseball (coming soon)


To every friend who accepts her friends as they are and loves them always.

Chapter 1

“Run, run, don’t stop!” Coach Sam yelled from the coach’s box next to first base. He moved his arm in a circular motion and pointing toward second base.

Avery Todd hit the corner of first base and headed to second. As she rounded second base and headed for third, she fixed her eyes on the little white bag partly covered in brown dirt. She bent lower and dug the toes of her cleats into the soft ground.

“Get down!” Coach Kory called, pointing at the dirt with one finger. Coach Kory was the head coach for the Lady Tigers and was usually found in the coach’s box next to third base.

Avery gritted her teeth, picked up her left foot, and turned to the side. In an instant, she was on the ground with her arms behind her head and her left foot planted firmly on the side of the bag.

“Nicely done, Avery,” Coach Kory said, offering a hand to pull her to her feet.

“Thanks,” Avery grinned. She brushed off her side to remove the large brown mark on her side and pants. The dry dirt came off easily. Avery moved out of the way of the bag and watched as one of her best friends, Charlotte Hayden, rounded second and charged third base.

“Get down!” Coach Kory called again. One moment Charlotte was running at top speed, the next there was a cloud of dust, and Charlotte was in the same position Avery had been in a minute ago. Charlotte jumped up from the ground and jogged toward Avery.

“Nice one,” Avery said, offering Charlotte a high-five.

“Same to you,” Charlotte replied with a nod. “I think I swallowed a lot of dust though.”

Avery smiled as Bianca Lopez, her other best friend, sprinted toward third. The coaches were running a sliding drill in preparation for the tournament this weekend.

The girls had all lined up at home plate and took turns running, stepping on first and second, then sliding into third. Avery was glad for the extra practice. She loved running but sliding always made her nervous—unlike her best friend Bianca who lived for the joy of sliding into any base and getting as dirty as she could.

Bianca was last in line, and everyone on the field watched as she slid into third. At the last second, she turned her foot and used her momentum to pop up to a standing position in one fluid motion. Avery and Charlotte clapped as Bianca ran to join them.

“Whoo!” Bianca cheered. “That was fun! I totally thought I was going to miss the bag though. I couldn’t see ‘cuz someone kicked up more dust than a tornado.” Bianca nudged Charlotte playfully.

“What can I say?” Charlotte replied with mock seriousness. “I’m just too powerful for my own good.”

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Avery said, brushing her clothes off again. “That was a spectacular pop-up slide, by the way. I’m lucky if I can just reach the bag!”

“And now for round two!” Coach Kory said, walking onto the field with a large bucket. Charlotte and Bianca laughed as Avery groaned.

Chapter 2

Coach Kory stopped by the line of dirt in the baseline between second and third. The dirt was no longer smooth after eleven girls had slid through it. Coach Kory lifted the bucket he was carrying and turned it upside down, pouring water on the ground. Moving quickly around the area in front of third base, Coach Kory soaked the dirt with water. When the bucket was empty, he tossed it aside and clapped his hands.

“All right!” he called. “This weekend is supposed to be a wet one. It’ll be yucky, sticky, rainy, and perfect for putting our softball skills to the test. An important thing to remember about rain—it turns dirt into mud. When the field is muddy or damp, we need to slide later because the mud is sticky and won’t carry you as far. We want everyone making it to the bag, so we’re going to practice now. Everyone, line up at first base this time.”

Bianca started at the front this time. Avery watched as she took an extra stride with her long legs before falling onto the wet field. She reached third base, and Coach Kory clapped before helping her up. “Exactly!” he said. “It’s all about timing. Sal, you’re next.”

They went down the line, spending a good hour half sliding through the mud. Bianca had made it look simple, but it was even more difficult than regular sliding. On her first attempt on the wet ground, Avery fell short of the bag by four or five inches. She tried to brush the brown spot off her pants, but this time the now-wet dirt was sticky and clung to her clothes.

When the end of practice came, Avery still felt nervous about sliding on Saturday. So far, she had only pulled it off successfully twice.

Coach Kory called them all together in a circle for his end-of-practice notes.

“Good work, ladies,” Coach Kory said. “I’m proud of how much effort you all put in today. Sliding through the mud is hard. I’ve seen sixteen-and-under teams that struggle with it. You worked hard today.”

“And we’ve got the mud stains to prove it,” Charlotte said. All the girls laughed as they compared the long brown streaks down their sides.

“I’m hoping the fields won’t be quite this bad come Saturday, but it always pays to be prepared,” Coach Kory said with a smile.

“Are you kidding?” Nikki cried. “This is where it’s at!” She bent over and drug her two pointer fingers through the mud and drew lines under her eyes. The Lady Tigers burst into laughter as Nikki pursed her lips and flexed her muscles.

“All right, all right,” Coach Kory said, grinning. “Bring it in. I’m going to have my catcher in her mud make-up call it off.”

“Works every time,” Nikki said, putting her hand in the middle. The other girls followed suit, piling up their hands in a circle. “To the greatest sport on the planet!” Nikki yelled.

“Softball!” the team cheered.

“Clean everything out of the dugout and be at the field on Saturday at seven thirty,” Coach Dave called. “Bring your game face!”

“And a can-do attitude!” added Coach Kory.

“And tell your parents to pack an umbrella!” Coach Sam finished.

The three coaches for the Lady Tigers huddled together by the backstop to discuss strategies for the upcoming tournament while the girls gathered their equipment.

Avery followed Bianca and Charlotte into the dugout to pack up their bags.

“Are you hype for this weekend?” Bianca asked, bouncing with excitement as she walked.

“Sure,” Avery said. “I wish it didn’t have to storm though.”

“Yeah, doesn’t the sky know it’s supposed to be summer?” Charlotte said with a grin, tossing her batting gloves into her helmet.

Avery stuffed her helmet, glove, and face mask into her bat bag and zipped it up. She swung her bag onto one shoulder and stood.

“My weather app says it’s going to rain all next week, starting Friday night,” Bianca said glumly, frowning at her phone.

“Let’s enjoy some sunshine quickly then,” Charlotte said, finishing her bag as well and standing up next to Avery. “Do you guys want to meet at the neighborhood pool tomorrow at ten?”

“Oh, honey,” Bianca said dramatically. “You know I don’t wake up ‘til noon.” But she winked at Charlotte and closed her bat bag with a loud zip. “Sounds great. I’ll ask my dad to drop me off.”

“Avery?” Charlotte asked, turning to face her friend.

“I’d love to,” Avery said. “At least then I have a reason not to do summer homework.”

“Great!” Charlotte said. She pulled the rubber band out of her hair and began to unravel the long, blonde braid. “But first I need to prepare my poor hair for a chlorine ambush.”

“Oh, there’s no preparing for such an attack,” Bianca said with a grin. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow. Bye!” Bianca ran out to meet her father waiting in the parking lot.

Avery and Charlotte waved before Charlotte slung her bat bag onto her back and turned to Avery. “You ready to go? My dad’s here.”

Avery recognized the blue-gray mini-van that Mr. Hayden drove. “Yep,” she said quickly. “Let’s go. It’s hot out here.”

Since Charlotte and Avery lived only two houses apart, they often carpooled. “Hey, girls! How did practice go?”

“Fine, Dad,” Charlotte said, putting their bags in the back of the van.

“Taking some of the field home with us, I see,” Mr. Hayden said, catching sight of his daughter’s pants. “Grab an old towel from the back before you climb in please.”

“Sliding practice today,” Charlotte explained, spreading the towel on the seat before she and Avery climbed in. “Dirt and then into mud.”

“Did you learn anything?” Mr. Hayden asked, raising one eyebrow.

“Real softball players throw themselves onto the ground before they get out,” Avery said.

“An interesting lesson,” Charlotte’s dad said with a smile. “Try not to make a mess back there.”

“We won’t,” Charlotte promised, brushing at her dirt-covered T-shirt. A small cloud lifted into the air making Avery sneeze.

“Starting now,” Avery said with a laugh.

Chapter 3

“Cannonball!” Bianca yelled, taking a running start and plunging into the neighborhood pool with a splash that flung bright turquoise waves to every corner of the rectangular area.

Avery laughed and followed her best friend with a slightly less-impressive dive into the water, a happy shade of blue against the colored pool liner. Bianca’s head popped up laughing and blowing bubbles. Avery surfaced several feet away with an identical smile.

“You’re pretty brave considering the pool is only five feet deep,” Avery said, pushing a mini wave at her friend.

“What can I say? I like to live on the edge. Hey look, here comes Charlotte!” Bianca said, pointing to the pool gate. She paddled over to the side closest to the entrance. Avery followed, clinging to the side of the pool without getting out.

“Hey, we got your text,” Bianca said once Charlotte had come over to greet them. “Why didn’t you want us to wait for you? What was the ‘unexpected delay’?”

Charlotte smiled and gestured over her shoulder at a girl checking into the pool at the main gate. “I wanted to introduce you guys to Shelby. She just moved in across the street from me—only three houses away from you!” she said, nodding at Avery.

“Cool,” Bianca said, relaxing. She pushed off to float on her back and closed her eyes. “I thought you had met a bunch of royals and decided you were too good for us. I figured you were coming over to announce our breakup. I had my fake tears all ready.”

“Fake tears?” Charlotte said, pretending to take offense. “I would hope that after all these years, the end of our friendship would warrant real sadness.” She dropped her bag onto an empty pool chair and took off her sundress. Her bathing suit was orange and pink, with little leaf accents. It was very pretty and obviously new.

“Well, I was always sure one of us would end up getting mixed up with royalty eventually and start acting like a brat,” Bianca said, drifting around the pool with the hint of a smile playing on her mouth. “Maybe it’ll be Avery.”

“Tiaras itch,” Avery said, splashing Bianca with water. The water in her face made Bianca fall out of her comfortable floating position. She came back to the surface sputtering with water-clogged laughter.

“Oh good, that means it’ll be me,” Bianca said. “I always knew I was meant for greatness.”

Shelby Arnette had been quietly watching the friends joke by the side of the pool. Charlotte gestured for her to join them in the water. Shelby took off her white cover up to reveal an orange and pink bathing suit identical to Charlotte’s. She gave a quiet greeting but appeared rather shy.

“Hey, you guys are matching,” Avery said, nodding to Charlotte.

“Yeah,” Charlotte laughed. “That’s actually how we met. I saw her about to buy it at the mall and I was like, ‘hey, I have that bathing suit!’ But the price was way higher than what I got it for, so I told her I knew a better place to buy it, and that’s how we started talking!” Charlotte grabbed three squishy balls painted like softballs from her bag and slid into the pool.

“It was really cool,” Shelby said quickly, seemingly excited to talk about a subject she liked. “I love Little Rose’s clothing lines, but they’re expensive. You’re so lucky your sister works at the main boutique in New York City.”

“She’s only an intern,” Charlotte said modestly. “She’s studying there as part of her university degree.”

Avery knew all about Charlotte’s sister in New York City. Monica was 21 and studying fashion design and retail business at a university. She sent Charlotte lots of the latest fashions from New York, many of which Charlotte described to Avery with passion, along with their famous designers, but none of the names meant anything to Avery. She liked clothes well enough, but neither she nor Bianca loved fashion like Charlotte.

“Who wants to play pool softball?” Charlotte said, tossing the squishy softballs to Avery.

“Definitely me,” Bianca said, paddling to one end of the pool. “Got a bat?”

“No,” Charlotte said, making a glum face. “My mother didn’t think it was a good idea in the pool. Just put your hands together like this.” Charlotte touched her right and left elbows together and clasped her hands. She took a batter’s stance in front of Avery who was holding the balls. “Shelby, want to play?”

“No, I’m all right,” Shelby said quietly. “I’ll just watch.”

She sat down at the edge of the pool, putting her feet and ankles into the water. Avery was confused. Didn’t she come to the pool to go swimming?

“Come on, pitcher, let’s bring this newbie down!” Bianca called from Avery’s left, where the first baseman would stand in softball.

Avery stood as tall as she could above the water and tossed one of the balls a foot in front of Charlotte. Charlotte swung her connected arms and hit the ball, making a smack sound that had all the girls laughing. The ball hit the water not far from where Charlotte started. Avery dove through the pool toward it as Charlotte swam to an imaginary first base.

“I got it!” Avery cried, closing her fingers around the ball.

“Throw it here!” Bianca cried, rushing to get to where second base would be ahead of Charlotte.

Avery lobbed the ball toward her friend. Now the ball was wet and heavier, so it travelled farther faster. Bianca caught the ball, but Charlotte dove under the water, avoiding the tag and knocking Bianca over. Avery laughed, watching her favorite sport played so differently.

Charlotte touched the side of the pool and started heading back toward Avery.

“Here, here!” Avery called.

Bianca resurfaced and pelted the ball back to Avery. Her throw was too high, and Avery dove backwards to reach it. With a big splash, Avery felt the water-logged ball fall into her hand. She laughed and spun her arm to touch Charlotte as she passed.

“Out!” Bianca cried.

“Ugh!” Shelby exclaimed, jumping up from the poolside. “You got me all wet!”

As the water settled, Bianca and Charlotte paddled over to where Avery was trying to catch her balance in the sloshing water.

“Sorry,” Avery said. “I didn’t mean to splash you, but you are in a bathing suit. Isn’t that what they’re for?”

Shelby just glared. “I’m going to go find a towel,” she huffed as she stalked off.

“I’m going to go talk to her,” Charlotte said, getting out of the pool. “Maybe she didn’t plan on swimming today.”

“Then why was she in a bathing suit?” Avery asked. Charlotte didn’t answer, and Bianca just shrugged. The happy mood had deflated like the squishy softball still in Avery’s right hand.

“Great catch though,” Bianca said, moving into floating position once more. “Trish-worthy really.”

“Thanks,” Avery said glumly, gathering all three balls and tossing them on top of Charlotte’s bag. “What do you think of Shelby?”

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