Chapter 1

Up and down, like pistons; up and down, a machine, an engine; blood pumping through the muscles; skin warm despite the early morning chill.

Patrice Reyes, college junior and women's football varsity midfielder, had a brain fart: she pictured red blood, cool and silvery as it ran up her veins and fueled her muscles, much like gasoline, cool and silvery thing in high-tech car commercials.

She reached the top of the hill where the Infirmary was. Slightly out of breath from running on an incline, she paused and stretched. The morning was cool and still. Dew spangled the foliage that threatened to eat up the asphalt from the sidelines. It took a moment for her to remember that she was actually at the foot of the mighty Mt. Makiling, one of the Philippine's legendary summits, and the dense roadside greenery was its forests, always creeping towards the campus below and threatening to take back the civilized world into its jungle-y embrace. It was a lucky, lucky thing that she passed the exams to get into the University, she always thought; all summer long she missed the space and the silence and the wildness of the mountain, always just a ten-minute walk away, and a far cry from the crowded, cheek-by-jowl apartment complex she called home during vacation breaks in the city.

It was now ten minutes to six a.m., so she walked down the hill at an easy pace. It was going to be a good semester, she could feel it in her bones. She would ace all her academics and she would kill it in football. The whole team would, she vowed.

The memory of last year's semi-finals defeat still stung her: fighting tooth and nail against St. Clement's for eighty minutes had drained them all of their strength, but they still pressed on to break the 1-1 deadlock. Then came the St. Clement's captain, Marissa Cruz, a mountain of a woman charging down the field and parting the University's defenders like a hot knife through butter. A high ball sailed past them—too high, Patrice thought, to be a viable pass; but then Marissa leaped and, unbelievably, her head collided with the ball at just the right moment for it to change its trajectory and sink into the deep left corner of the net, seemingly miles away from the opposite space where their keeper had expected it.

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