Story:To Their Own Beat

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To Their Own Beat
Written by IllaRouge, BladesDaRaccoon

Naima looked at the slip of paper sent with the card Lady had mailed her for Christmas. Lady's address, with a tiny round cartoon depiction of her smiling face. Seemed a bit out of the blue, but if it helped her bond with one of her teammates, why not? She'd be here for a little bit anyways. After double checking the address, she walked up and knocked on the door.

The door opened, and the house was seen filled with Christmas lights and decorations, like she'd raided the finest Walmart. Lady stood there coated in a sweater, also covered in Christmas lights. "Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas, Lady!" Naima took in the array of decorations. "You really did quite the job decorating. I like that. Even decorated yourself I see."

"Yeah! It's my second favorite holiday!" She stepped aside and let in her teammate. "Y'all want a drink?" she asked in her northeastern Pennsylvanian drawl.

"Sure. Love a glass a' juice." Naima's accent had a mix of Puerto Rican, Cuban and Floridan. "Orange if you got it."

"Hell yeah!" Lady didn't often curse in public, but it had a sweet ring to it. She waddled to the fridge. She pulled out a container of orange juice and a bottle of unlabeled beer. She set them both on the counter, hopping up to select a glass from the dish drainer. She poured a bit of orange juice for Naima. She handed it to her.

"Thank ya much." Taking a sip. "So may I ask, if Christmas is your second favorite holiday, what's your first?"

"Thanksgiving!" She smiled wide. "I love being around family and friends."

"That's a good one too. Even though it took the combine to learn I had a brother, and a twin one at that."

"That's wild, ain't it?"

"Yeah. Now we ended up in polar opposite places. He's with the Kahunas, and I'm here on the Arctics."

"You keep in touch?" She popped the cap on her beer and took a sip.

"We do. He came up for Christmas actually, him and my boyfriend's brother."

"Oh neat! That must have been nice." She brought Naima to the living room. Several platters had been laid out with snacks, even a few that Naima might recognize as her favorites.

"Oh wow! Black pepper triscuits! Love the hell outta those." She smiled quite a bit.

The corgi smiled. "I hoped so." She had a second nature for picking out things people loved. She set down her beer. "Make yourself comfortable." She kneeled near the fireplace. She picked up a poker and shuffled up some coals. She threw a couple logs on before returning to the couch. "I wasn't sure you would want to hang out, but I'm sure as shoot glad you came."

"Well, I got the season here at the least so, get to know your teammates, right? We are like brothers in arms after all...and sisters in arms.

Lady snickered. "Yeah. It's hard to find time, I know."

Naima sighed. "Yeah...especially with training and practice. Undrafted on a one-year deal. Feels like this season is put up or shut up."

"Yeah, I feel that pressure too." She took another drink, a little longer. "You feel good about your season?"

"I feel alright. Had a couple real good games, but the spotty minutes is kind of a bitch."

"Yeah. I feel that." Another longer drink. Her beer was nearly gone. "But hey, we're making it happen."

"You're damn right we are. Doing what I can to live up to that number 1 on my jersey."

"And I'm 0!" She snickered.

"Couldn't take my college number 16, already taken so I figured take that 1 and aspire to be that. Any story behind your jersey number?"

"People always told me I'm round, so I decided to lean into it."

"Alright, a bit of humor I can dig that."

The corgi smiled. "So, what do you like to do? Outside of basketball."

"I like designing clothes. Been a fun challenge making stylish stuff for weather like this."

The corgi lit up, her eyes wide and her butt wiggling. "You're a designer?!"

"Oh yeah. Didn't go to college for three years just to play basketball. Fashion design was my major."

The corgi squealed through her closed lips. "I wanna see your clothes!"

"Sure. Wearin' a piece or two I made right now actually."

Lady leaned in. She eyed up the clothes, her smile even wider than before. "Wow. You're amazing!"

"I like to think I'm a bit of a colorful character," chuckling and patting Lady's shoulder.

Lady chuckled. "I never would have guessed. Why haven't you told anyone?"

Naima chuckled again. "Well, kinda wanted to surprise people a little. Though you I think I can share with."

"What? Why me?"

"We're in the same spot, you and I. Two players that didn't get called up on draft night but were lucky enough to get a chance. We're in the same boat."

"Yeah." Lady spun the bottle between her hands for a few moments. She tried to keep her smile. "How did it make you feel?"

"I felt horrible. Went from crying on Nolan's shoulder to nearly throwing hands on someone, like all that work for nothing." Her hands were balled and shaking a bit before she sighed to calm down.

Lady put a hand on her knee. This time, she had a genuine smile. "I know what you mean." The cheerful corgi managed to show some of her own feelings on the subject. "I didn't think it would happen. I thought, I have to get in somewhere, right?"

"Yeah. I thought, y'know, I put in three years of college ball so surely that body of work woulda been enough. In the end it was, I mean we're both in the league. But at the time, it was a kick in the gut."

"Yeah, it was." She held up her beer. "But we made it. We're professionals."

"And I'm glad we are," toasting with her glass of juice and giving Lady a sidehug.

The corgi giggled at the affection. "Well, you showed me your secret. I might as well show you mine. It's only fair."

"I'd be honored to know. Lead the way."

Lady tilted her beer back and finished it off. She set the empty on the table. Hopping up, "Let's go!" She waddled toward a door. Opening it, the stairs led down to the basement. She held the railing as they descended. "You ready?"

"I'm ready."

Lady raised her eyebrows like a cartoon character. She opened the basement door, and inside, Naima was greeted to the sight of a mass of metal. Beyond the small media center Lady had set up for herself, a massive drum kit, with every type of drum and cymbal one could imagine. The 270-degree setup revolved around a chair made specially for the corgi, with a base drum custom pedal setup to account for her height.

Naima's beak went agape as she scanned the room, taking in the seemingly larger than life drum set. " that...that is unreal."

"You like it?!"

"I...I do. Never thought I'd see a set like this up close and personal."

"Isn't it neat?" She chuckled. "You like music?"

"I love music. I actually sang on a couple of reggae albums."

"Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!" She simultaneously fished her phone from her pocket. "Show me! I wanna know!"

"Oh yeah! Lemme look it up." Taking her phone, Naima pulled up a video of her singing at a Jamaican festival on stage as others played steel drums. "Right there. This was before I started putting my hair in dreadlocks."

Lady squealed again, this one much longer than the first. Her nose was nearly pressed to the phone. But she quieted, taking in the music. "You sound so good!"

"So nice to hear Lady. And that was when I just started singing, believe it or not."

"You mean you're better now?!"

"Yeah, with time you start to pick up the technique and all."

"Can you do it now?" Lady looked like a kid asking for her favorite gift for Christmas.

"For you, I think I can do just that."

Lady peeped. She rounded an L-shaped couch and pulled out a beanbag chair. She jumped up and plopped onto the bag, sinking slowly into it.

Naima laughed lightly, seeing little Lady sink into the beanbag. "Now, what song to sing..." taking a minute to think "Wait, I got one kinda fitting for you and me." Clearing her throat, "Don't worry about a thing...'Cause every little thing...gonna be alright."

Lady's eyes widened, and she wiggled almost uncontrollably at Naima's singing. She knew almost nothing about the genre, but this seemed familiar.

"Singing' don't worry about a thing..." Naima seeming to invite Lady to sing the verse.

The corgi stopped wiggling for a moment, but she blanked on the words. "Uuuuuh...'cause you'll be all right?" She smiled like a dork.

Naima chuckled "Not quite but, it gets the message of the song across."

She clapped. "You sound really good."

"Thank you, Lady. It always feels good to hear it."

She nodded. "Guess I should do the same on the drums."

"I'd love to hear some of what you can do."

Lady pushed herself up. She grabbed a pair of sticks from a table. "Would you mind turning on the stereo over there? Track 5." She pulled herself up to her chair amidst the circular drum kit.

"I gotcha." Walking over and turning her stereo to track 5. "Show me what'cha got."

The corgi stuck her tongue out as the track clicked to start the rhythm. She introduced the song with a furious roll, the song a polychromatic feast even just a few seconds in. The dual guitars on the track played to her beat, clearly set up so she could practice to music without just soloing on her own. The track, bereft of lyrics, was of a fairly popular instrumental band, one that delighted in complex rhythms and chord structures. Less than a minute in, and the song had shifted beats and keys more than once, and the little guard kept pace, even seeming to lead at times.

Naima still found her beak agape at points in the song, seeming amazed how a tiny little woman like Lady seemed to be soaring from one side of the kit to another. Quite the difference from the steel drumming she was accustomed to in reggae for sure

All the while she connected sticks to snares, the smile never left Lady's face. Her tongue perpetually blepped, her focus meshed well with her happiness. She chanced a glance to Naima, which made her smile more. As the track reached a quieter moment, her playing changed to a more subdued, almost jazzy form of playing.

She began to sway a bit to the jazzier beats Lady laid down. This was something closer to her speed of music for sure. "That I'm really liking."

The extended bridge gave Lady a chance to show what some of her more chill drumming could sound like, but it eventually ramped back up to the same hectic pace as earlier. Eventually, the track rounded back to the motifs from the beginning, with some changes to the composition, before allowing for a similarly jazzy slowdown and end.

Naima gave a bit of a coo as the piece concluded. "Pretty damn good. That's how you have a jam season!" Stepping up and offering her a high five. "That deserves some props right there."

Lady accepted the high five with her own amped up energy. "Thanks!" She set her sticks down on one of the drums and helped herself down. Behind her setup, she had some framed records, a few gold, most of them silver.

Naima's eye finally caught said records. "Hot damn! You been on albums? And a couple gold ones at that!"

Lady's ears perked. She looked back. "Heh, yeah. Just some singles, a few guest pieces. I'm not in any band, but I've got a few credits."

"Still though. Color me a few shades of impressed. Every track I been on are mostly indie stuff."

The corgi smiled. She came out from behind her set and reunited with her second beer. "Hey, that's still cool. We should listen to each other's music."

"I like that idea." Naima smiled and nodded. "Y'know, had we got drafted, we probably never woulda landed on the same team. Maybe this happened for some kinda reason."

"That's the spirit!" She snickered. She motioned for Naima to come back upstairs. She wanted to make use of the fire. Once they were around said fire again, Lady took out her phone. "Have any of your songs been released online?"

"Yeah, I am backing vocals on the EP 'How it Happened' and the album 'Just Live, Baby.' I did lead vocals on the cover of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' on the album though."

Lady excitedly typed in the song titles. Soon, the wireless speakers rang with the soothing tracks. The corgi settled in to listen to the songs. "Wow. I've never listened to music like this."

"Reggae goes have quite the chill factor to it. Not just the crazy amount of weed associated with the genre either." "Ooooooh, is that why there are always pot leaves on that stuff?"

"Oh yeah. Admittedly, I do smoke a little. Not right now because of, y'know, league rules. But yeah, big reason there's pot leaves on that stuff."

"Yeah. I haven't smoked in a while. But hey! I love how this music sounds."

"The sounds become quite the draw after a while."

"I like it." She closed her eyes to take more of it in. "Why basketball over singing? If you don't mind my asking."

"Don't get it wrong, I still wanna sing, but playing in the league? Why not? So few get a chance to do it. I couldn't squander that. Basketball brings me joy."

The corgi gave her another big grin. "Well, you're doing good on both fronts. I like your playing and your singing both!"

"Glad you think so at least. And I'm starting to think so to. After Alaska gave me the call, seems like everything just started falling into place. I got a roster spot, met my boyfriend, and now, I got a friend in you."

Lady let out a solitary, high-pitched peep, nearly dropping her beer. "I'm your friend?!"

Naima smiled and nodded. "Yeah, you're my friend, Lady."

Lady cheered, holding up her beer. "To friends!"

"Friends!" toasting once more with her.

Featured Characters

Naima King Lady Black

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