The Other One by Hasanthika Sirisena

Elaine stepped back from the crease and started her run, elbows bent. She arced her arm for the delivery, her wrist twisted slightly, and she released the ball. The ball hit the pitch and angled toward the batsman. Elaine had bowled a surprisingly aggressive line and length for – well, I’ll be honest here – for a woman. The batsman misjudged the height and speed of the ball, stepped back and rested her weight on her back foot. She missed. The ball hit off stump and the wicket collapsed, reduced to a pile of sticks.


I turned to my daughter, amazed. ‘Did you see that?’


‘Yeah, that’s why I brought you,’ my daughter replied. Mythri played on a junior women’s cricket team and Elaine had been hired to help teach her team spin bowling. They’d worked together for a few weeks now.


Elaine turned and smiled at the captain of her team, a smile that conveyed both bravado – I knew I was going to do this, and relief – thank god I did it. I knew that feeling well, the adrenaline rush of accomplishment and skill. The fielder at mid-off threw her arms around Elaine. Her other teammates high-fived her. The batsman mouthed a ‘congratulations’. Cheers and applause roiled through the stands.


‘But, she just bowled a…’ I stammered, ‘… on that pitch…’


My daughter turned her petal-shaped face to mine and wrinkled her nose. ‘Exactly, Appa. Like I said, that’s why I wanted you to see her play.’


Out on the field, the next batter took position. The new batsman appeared nervous. She struck her bat hard against the dirt and positioned her feet. Even through all the padding, I could tell she was solidly built. She gripped the bat high up. This was a batsman capable of playing real shots, not just sweeping the ball. But, beneath, the helmet I could see she was blinking too much. Elaine King’s competitors were afraid of her.


‘Introduce me to her, after the game.’


My daughter, Mythri, nodded slowly. ‘Yeah, but the only thing is, you can’t….’ She hesitated. ‘You can’t hit on Elaine, Appa. She’s, like, my age.’


My daughter was fifteen. Elaine looked as if she were in her late twenties. They were nowhere near close in age. I didn’t really hit on women – never in front of my daughter, anyway. I’d been on a few dates since the divorce, and it was Mythri’s mother who had ended the marriage. Elaine was an athlete capable of doing something fairly astounding. I only wanted to tell her that I respected her ability, and it bothered me that my daughter would assume anything other than that. I also knew Mythri was a girl who had lost a lot: a mother and father to divorce and the sense of a unit that being part of an intact family gives you. I guessed she was worried about losing me again.


The batsman stepped forward from the crease and with a quick, forward defensive stroke sent the ball rolling through a gap in long off. It hit the boundary. The umpire swept his hand from side to side signalling a four. Elaine turned and smiled broadly as if she enjoyed the game no matter whether she bowled the opponent out, or if they scored. As if it was the beauty of cricket that mattered.


‘Daughters do not talk about these things with their fathers. It’s absolutely inappropriate,’ I whispered.


After the game, at my request, my daughter texted Elaine. We finally spotted her in the parking lot, looking for us. Mythri ran up to her, me jogging behind. She spoke to Elaine before I got there. As I reached them, Elaine offered me her hand declaring that she’d heard a lot about me. She spoke with a pronounced Southern drawl, which surprised me. I hadn’t asked Mythri where Elaine was from and had assumed, since she played cricket so well, that she was English or Australian.


Elaine’s grasp was firm and warm, and she held my hand just a second too long. I leaned in and said to her, ‘I want you to meet the boys.’ She shook her head at me, confused. ‘My team.’ I was the captain of the Edenboro Warriors, the regional cricket club. ‘Maybe you’d even consider bowling at some of our practices.’


She brightened and I sensed something in her unfold, that miraculous thing that women do that always, no matter the age or the physical attractiveness, swallows me whole. My daughter tensed up. She tugged at my sleeve, but I ignored her. I loved my daughter. She ruled my day-to-day life. But Cricket was God. I didn’t take my eyes from Elaine. She was the best spin bowler I’d met in a long, long time, and that was all that really mattered.




My team was an eclectic group representing nearly eleven nations. We even fielded two American players, men who had spent time in England and Australia and learned to love the game. We were a good team, and we probably had the best seamer in the region, Sahid Chamkanni. But we were lacking spin. Our best spinner had recently relocated with his family to the Research Triangle and had begun playing for one of the opposing teams. We had solid players but Edenboro, North Carolina isn’t exactly overflowing with cricket talent. That was why Elaine was so important.


I arranged for her to meet a group of us – Sahid, who was also my vice captain, and four other players – at a local restaurant. Sahid was already there at the bar with one of our batsmen, Andrew Cummings, a Southerner who had picked up cricket while a Rhodes scholar. When I approached the bar I saw that they were huddled together looking at Sahid’s iPhone. On his phone was a photograph of a woman. She was standing in front of a mirror, nude. ‘My lab partner,’ Sahid informed me. ‘She sent this to me. I’ve talked to her a handful of times.’ I pushed the phone away without looking. ‘I didn’t ask her to send this,’ he insisted. ‘I didn’t even hint I wanted to see her naked.’


Sahid was probably the best-looking man I’d ever met. Tall, olive-skinned with black curly hair. I was amazed at the number of women who threw themselves at him, really hurtled themselves in his path. But unlike a lot of physically beautiful people I’ve known, Sahid wasn’t particularly invested in his good looks. He’d grown up in a conservative Muslim community in Charlotte before moving to Durham to study at Duke. He was intelligent and serious and focussed, and flummoxed by the attention he received from women. He told me once that he didn’t believe those women saw him. They only saw what they wanted – the status of being with the best looking guy in the room, dating a soon-to-be-doctor. I remembered liking him a lot in that moment, even admiring him.


Sahid started clicking through what appeared to be a series of photographs taken by this woman. Andrew gawked. Another man at the bar, a stranger to us, had sidled over and craned his neck. Sahid shook his head and frowned.


I put a hand on Sahid’s arm. ‘Machan, delete the photographs.’ Andrew started to protest. I wagged a finger at him. ‘Bugger it, men. This meeting is important, the best chance our team has, and we’re all going to behave.’ The last thing I wanted was for Elaine to see us acting like a bunch of first class assholes.


I spotted Elaine coming through the front door of the restaurant. She was wearing a black sundress and sandals. Her long hair was loose around her shoulders. The self-possession I had noticed on the field had transformed into gracefulness. I glanced at Sahid and Andrew to see if they had noticed her too, but they were still staring at Sahid’s iPhone. I snatched the phone and held the off button until the screen went dark. Elaine stopped and said something to the hostess who pointed in my direction. I waved. ‘Your conversation ends now,’ I hissed at both of them as I returned Sahid’s iPhone to him.


The other two teammates arrived shortly after, and we gathered at a table near the bar. Elaine told us she had started tennis at a young age and played tennis and basketball in high school. She had gone on to play tennis for her university but had given up a serious career to focus on her studies. Her father was Australian and had loved cricket. He’d shown her how to play and shown her how to spin bowl. But she hadn’t started playing seriously until a few years ago.


‘Sebastian here says you’re good,’ Sahid observed. ‘Spinning isn’t something you suddenly pick up in your twenties.’


‘Like I said, I played since I was a kid. And I’m a good athlete, I guess.’


Elaine wasn’t a pretty girl. Her face was a bit too long and horsey. She was big-boned and muscular. But there was a real energy, a drive, to her. I knew Sahid and Andrew well enough by now to know that each of them had already estimated her cup size. Raj was so painfully and deeply married I wasn’t sure he saw women any more. But whatever my teammates were really thinking about her they weren’t letting on to Elaine. This meeting was cricket.


Elaine paused and took a deep breath. She looked down at her beer as if embarrassed. ‘I can show you something,’ she offered. She shifted her weight in her seat, extended her arms, held her hands out, tips of her fingers nearly touching. She placed her left hand against her right palm and pressed down so that her right hand bent backwards at the wrist till it passed a ninety-five degree angle. She kept going, and eventually the back of her right hand rested against her right forearm. It looked terribly painful, and I couldn’t help but flinch. Elaine didn’t even blink.


Sahid’s eyes widened. Andrew’s expression flickered somewhere between awe and aversion. Beside me, Raj gasped, ‘The ghost of Murali lives in you.’ Murali, the greatest spin bowler who has ever lived, wasn’t dead. He was retired, though, from cricket, which to some of us was the same thing.


‘That’s a pretty neat trick,’ Sahid whispered.


‘It isn’t a trick,’ Elaine replied. ‘It isn’t even an ability. It’s a genetic malformation.’


‘Like an X-man,’ Sahid offered.


‘But it’s also the reason I can spin the ball so well,’ Elaine said.


‘Look, we need another spin bowler for our team,’ I explained. ‘And you are good. I have to check the bylaws, but if a woman can play I think we could use you.’ It was my turn to be gaped at. But no one protested. They were all of them too gentlemanly to do so in front of Elaine, and probably had been rendered speechless by Elaine’s demonstration.


Sahid pointed at her. ‘Can you do that with your left hand?’ he demanded. She looked at Sahid then, and registered him. I could see it in her face – the recognition of how good-looking he was. I felt a bit disappointed.


She explained that she could bend her wrist in the other direction but couldn’t quite touch her fingers to her forearm. She demonstrated. ‘Cool,’ Sahid said, nodding his head with real admiration. ‘Completely fucking ‘A’ cool.’ I smiled at Elaine. She smiled back and I felt a tug at the base of my stomach. Andrew offered to buy her another drink.




It was easier than I thought to get Elaine on to the team. The president of the club protested at first but then when I mentioned the publicity it might generate – a Southern woman playing for an all male, mostly immigrant club – he backed off. The vice president made some half-hearted objection, some nonsense about there being no locker rooms. Except, at the venues we played – community parks and university grounds – there were always women’s locker rooms.


I was surprised by how quickly the boys accepted Elaine. We wanted to be good. Elaine would get us there. Each of us came to admire her. Unlike Raj, whose ability to tell time had not made it past the Greenwich Mean, Elaine showed up to practice at the designated hour. She listened when people offered her advice. Unlike Andrew, who appeared to be texting his girlfriend instead of fielding, and Sareth, who was too fat to run anywhere, she actually went after the ball. Her one fault was that she seemed a little too serious – tough physically and too determined emotionally. One day a bouncer clocked her in the head during batting practice. The sound of the ball hitting her helmet was loud enough to be heard past the boundary. I wanted to take her to a doctor or at least let Sahid examine her, but she refused. She remained at the wicket and didn’t even take a water break.


This determination intimidated the men, and it shamed some of the less dedicated players. I tried to broach the subject with her. When I encouraged her to have a little more fun, she narrowed her eyes. ‘My father told me if I wanted to play on the same level as men, I had to do everything better. Bowl better. Bat better. Take the pain.’ As a child I’d been taught to treat everyone with respect and compassion, but I admit now that it’s only in the past few years that I’ve paid attention to the ways this world humiliates women. From the Bratz dolls that Mythri used to play with to the war photographs of Tamil women from villages not very far from where I grew up stripped naked, legs splayed, genitals exposed raw and bleeding, bullets holes in their foreheads. Only a year before, Sahid had turned to me and said, ‘The only monogamous woman is one who fears God.’ We were all of us trying to work our way out of some darkness. I didn’t think what Elaine’s father had told her was right, but I admired the strength it gave her.


The day of Elaine’s first match, we won the toss, and I elected to bat. It was hot and dry, and I thought if we could put enough of a total on the board they’d have to chase us. Things were going well from the start. Our two best batsmen, Patel and Jerry, were taking good shots, not hitting any loose balls, really judging each ball on its merit. Then Patel was hit in the shin pads. The opposing team wanted an LBW called and tried to appeal. In the middle of the chaos, Jerry took it on himself to try to steal a single, but Patel wasn’t ready to run. The opposing team’s fielders were paying attention and there was Patel, caught halfway, between two wickets, flailing. He was easily stumped.


Next up to bat was Sareth. He was fat but a good batsman, capable of elegant shots that scored our team big numbers. He was an immigration lawyer and his firm was also the team’s biggest source of financial support. They’d even provided three cheerleaders decked out in the team’s colours, ‘Khan, Kuralt, and Klein 4Immigration 252-865-0021’ stencilled across their backs. The opposing team’s wicket keeper was from the Australian school of sledging and was capable of being a royal, Grade A asshole. He was always getting on Sareth for his weight. I counselled Sareth to keep his head, and so far he had managed. But as he walked up to the wicket, swinging his bat back and forth, the opposing team’s wicket keeper called to him, ‘That’s a very small bat for such a big man.’


Sareth kept his eyes trained on the dirt. He clenched his jaw and kept on moving. ‘I mean what does the size of a man’s bat say about him? Or you know, come to think of it, maybe the bat’s normal and it’s you that’s too fat,’ Sareth didn’t respond. The wicketkeeper wasn’t letting it go. ‘I mean seriously how does a bloke who fucking plays a sport like this one get so fucking fat. Too much jerk chicken?’


Sareth stopped at the wicket. He pulled his shoulders back and levelled his gaze at the wicketkeeper. I sprang forward but was only halfway to him when he rolled back his shoulders, tilted his chin, and intoned, ‘I am fat, my dear sir,’ he paused for effect, ‘because every time I fuck your wife she throws me a biscuit.’ It wasn’t an original insult, but it had its intended effect. The wicketkeeper took a step toward Sareth, fists balled. Sareth dipped his head, rounded his shoulders, and body slammed the wicketkeeper. The opposing team’s fielders were running toward the two men. Jerry hurtled his own rather lean frame into the brouhaha.


Ten minutes later, after we had iced Jerry’s freshly blackened eye, forced Sareth off the wicketkeeper, agreed to eject the wicketkeeper from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct, we commenced play. Everyone promised to behave. I looked over at Elaine who was seated on the bench staring at us. She hadn’t got up to help break up the two men, and she was watching us now with a grim expression, her arms folded.


Despite the diversion, Elaine ended up doing very well for us. She was the second highest wicket taker after Sahid, and she held her own. As we celebrated hugging each other and slapping each other on the back I noticed she stood a step away from the rest of us. The men were shaking her hand and congratulating her but she was a woman, and most of the men were married or had girlfriends and felt reserved around her.


I was about to go up to her and invite her to go out for drinks with the rest of the team when I saw Mythri and some of her friends run past me to Sahid. They gathered around him, each of them bouncing and straining to get his attention. Mythri fluttered her eyelids at him and gave him a coy smile. I gawked at them. When had that happened? This interest in Sahid? As I stared, one of the girls handed him a pen and chirped about how they were big fans of his. They held out their arms to him. Would he autograph their hands for them? I was about to put a stop to this when Elaine nudged me. ‘Great game,’ she said. She studied my expression. ‘You look upset?’


I nodded at the girls. Elaine laughed. ‘I think it’s harmless and Sahid knows how to handle himself.’


I noticed Mythri touch Sahid on the forearm. Sahid looked at her for a moment, then, glanced at me. He took a step back, away from my daughter.


‘The boys are going to celebrate,’ I said to Elaine. ‘I’ll be late because I have to take Mythri to band practice.’ Her sweat had dried, forming ashy bands of salt along her hairline and little bands across her neck. Her hair was mussed and tangled and stains had formed at the armpits of her uniform t-shirt. My neck grew warm, and I hunched a little in embarrassment.


She said, ‘Sure, I’ll hang out. Sahid will be going, right?’ My stomach gave a sharp twist. I told myself it was entirely natural – they both had a lot in common.


Elaine brought fingers to mouth and gave a loud, sharp whistle. Sahid looked up with something like desperation in his face. ‘Sahid, Sebastian and I want to talk to you. In private,’ she called. Sahid seemed so relieved I thought for a second he might start crying. When he reached us, Mythri broke away from her friends and ran over to us. Elaine tried to say hello to Mythri. She glared at Elaine and then turned her back on her. ‘We have to go, Appa or I’ll be late,’ she said, grabbing my hand. I nodded and said my goodbyes to Elaine and Sahid.


As we crossed the field, I admonished her, ‘Why were you so rude to Elaine?’


‘Doesn’t she get enough attention from you? Does the whole family have to get into the act?’


I stopped her. ‘What are you talking about?’


Mythri took a sharp whistling breath and burst out, ‘I’m in love with Sahid.’ My daughter’s ability to shift from one subject to another always caught me off guard. ‘I swear I’ll never love anyone as much as I love him. I love him more than Anjuli ever will and Anjuli isn’t even nearly as pretty as me.’


‘Don’t be silly,’ I tried to keep me voice light. ‘You’ll love many men.’ As soon as the last words came out of my mouth, I knew I had said something terrible. I didn’t want her to love any men.


Mythri’s upper lip curled into a snarl. ‘No, that’s you, Appa. You and Mom.’


I placed my hands on Mythri’s shoulders and shook her lightly. ‘All I meant is that you will meet more than one man in your life, but yes, it’s true you very possibly might love only one person. I paused. ‘You need to know Mythri, I did love your mother. I loved her and only her for a long, long time. But things change. You are old enough to understand. No?’


Mythri bit her lip and looked down at the ground. She whispered an apology. I caressed her hair and we started to walk to the exit. As we did, I noticed Elaine and Sahid in the distance walking together toward the locker rooms.




Why do I go on so much about cricket? Because I can’t talk about my past life in Sri Lanka, not to my ex-wife, not my friends or teammates, not to Mythri. Where would I start for one thing? Should I say that I had once a loving mother and father, a wonderful childhood with dear friends, thoughtful, caring schoolmasters. Or should I explain that I grew up Tamil and Christian in a country that had, still has, very little tolerance for either? Maybe I should recount the war stories? I can describe the night my life in Sri Lanka ended, the night of the riot.


Or maybe we could skip all that misery and start with one of the happiest times in my life, the year I spent in a refugee camp in India, because it’s there that I met two of the finest cricket players I’ve ever played with and where I really perfected my cricket game.


There’s a long list of events I can relate to you, and you’ll pat my hand kindly and tell me that I’m strong, assure me I’m brave and extraordinary for surviving – as my wife did. Surviving isn’t enough.


This is why I need cricket. Cricket allows me to sit in a room of Sri Lankans and talk about something, other than pain and anger. It gives me a way to relate, to no longer be enraged. Cricket provides extraordinary feats that I can recount with good humour and good nature, no bitterness, no rancour. My cricket stories will make you laugh, groan, cheer; they won’t ever make you weep. Cricket is the link between my childhood, my time in the camp, my university, even fatherhood. You see, for me, every tragic story is a story told in past tense: a recounting of sorrow done never to be undone. Every sports story, on the other hand, is, like all good love stories, a story told in present tense: when the ball twists and arcs and sails and dances, bobs and weaves, there is, in that second, a hundred different happy endings.




Sahid, Elaine, and I met at a café to strategize our next match. Our team had been doing well. We’d lost two matches but then won the next two. If we won our next match, we would qualify for the regionals. The dream was to ultimately play in New York City. But that was some games away.


The team we’d be playing the next day was well known to Sahid and me. They were good. I had attended as many of their games as I could and I’d made a list of their strongest players. I told Sahid I wanted to invite Elaine to the meeting because she was a good strategist, and as our newest player she could bring a fresh eye to things. I was also looking for any reason to spend time with her. I knew by then I was attracted to her, but, because I was the captain, I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.


Elaine and Sahid were already seated by the time I arrived at the café, whispering. I felt a twinge when I saw them like that. They were beautiful together. Two remarkable, intelligent people. They made a gloriously handsome couple.


That impression kept coming to me, unbidden, throughout our meeting, coupled with a helpless sensation, like loss. I had hoped to spend time with Elaine. Now I wondered if I wasn’t making a fool of myself. Forty-five minutes into the meeting, I had barely nibbled at my tofu wrap. My coffee had gone cold.


Just then, the front door to the restaurant opened, and my daughter came sashaying through. She sidled up to Sahid, tossed her hair, and batted her eyelashes at him. He stared at her without saying anything. She pointed to the front window. Five young South Asian teenage girls had lined up along the glass. They were dressed in miniskirts and tight tops, and they were all staring at Sahid. Mythri was explaining that they were all members of the Sahid Chamkanni Fan Club and that they wanted his autograph.


I was about to tell her to leave Sahid alone when he took her hand and walked out with her to the front of the store. The girls jostled and elbowed each other to get to Sahid first.


‘I should put a stop to that,’ I said.


‘Why? Sahid will figure out a way to put a stop to it.’


‘Not against a band of amorous fifteen-year old girls. No one should have to handle that trauma alone.’ Elaine laughed. I did wonder why Sahid kept allowing himself to be dragged away like that. ‘Do you think he enjoys it?’ I asked Elaine. ‘The attention?’


‘He talks to them because Mythri is your daughter.’ She smiled ruefully. ‘He loves you, you know.’ I wondered how much they had talked about me, and when they’d talked about me.


‘You know. I think this is the first time we’ve been alone,’ she said. ‘You seem to be avoiding me.’


‘Avoiding? No, I just…’


‘So let’s talk.’


This was the opening I’d been waiting for so I started to ask her what she thought about the Indian national team’s latest losing streak. She raised her hand, palm forward, and shook her head amiably. ‘No cricket. I want you to tell me something about yourself.’ I hesitated. ‘My choice,’ she insisted. She seemed to be searching for some safe subject. I knew she wouldn’t ask about my ex, nor my work – accounting wasn’t really a conversation igniter. ‘Tell me one thing you’re really proud of. Something about you, from your past.’


I froze, my lips parted, looking for all the world like a daft bugger. ‘I don’t know,’ was all I managed. ‘There isn’t much to me other than cricket.’ I had meant it only as a joke, but as soon as I said it I knew that it sounded like a rebuff. I tried to think of something that might salvage the situation but she was staring out of the window. The girls surrounded Sahid now and they didn’t look like they intended to let him go anywhere. ‘I better go save him,’ she said.


‘I’ll go,’ I offered, though the furiously bopping teenage girls terrified me.


‘No, no. Mythri is already miffed at me. Why should we both become unpopular?’ So she thought Mythri hated her, which was very possible. No past. Angry daughter. There was no way I was going to win her over now.


‘Mythri can be silly at times,’ I offered. ‘But she admires you.’


Elaine gave a disbelieving smile. ‘I’ll take one for the team,’ she chirped as she headed for the doorway. I wanted to say something else. I tried to say thank you, but she was already out the door. I paid for our coffees and wraps, gathered the diagrams, and headed for the door to try and save my daughter from herself.




The opposing team had put up their best batsmen, but it hadn’t mattered. Elaine bowled her finest game of the season. For the first time in the history of the team, we were headed for the regionals. When we knew we had won, Sahid ran up to her, and embraced her. Just before the other teammates hoisted her onto their shoulders, regaling her with a round of She’s a Jolly Good Fellow, I saw Sahid whisper something in her ear.


After the game, to my surprise, Mythri ran up and hugged Elaine. She shook Sahid’s hand. No fawning. No autographs. A quick, very polite congratulations. She ran up to me and gave me a big hug and kiss on the cheek. I saw her wave at her group of friends, all standing at the boundary watching her. ‘That was nice. The hug you gave Elaine.’ Mythri shrugged. I pointed to Mythri’s friends. ‘Sahid’s fan club doesn’t want to congratulate him?’


‘Oh there’s no fan club anymore. He’s taken,’ my daughter replied. ‘He’s engaged.’ My stomach sank. That had been quick, but it made sense. Sahid came from a traditional family. If Elaine and he were committed to a relationship, he would have to show them he was serious about her. Mythri’s eyelids fluttered. She brought her hand to her mouth and tittered. ‘Oops, I wasn’t supposed to say anything.’ I tried hard to feign indifference. ‘He was going to tell you tonight,’ she offered. ‘At the celebration. Act surprised, okay.’


I promised that I would be at the team celebration that evening, and I would be, even though I had a feeling it was going to be a simultaneously joyful and thoroughly painful and awkward evening. I was slow to get dressed and the last to leave the locker room that night. I was packing my things when Elaine knocked on the locker room door.


‘Congratulations,’ I said. I meant it.


‘Yeah, I wasn’t sure. When I saw the pitch, I knew you were putting a lot of trust in me…’


‘No. Congratulations on your engagement.’ I feigned gaiety. ‘I know I’m not supposed to know but Mythri told me about it.’


Elaine’s eyes widened. ‘Engagement? What are you talking about?’


‘Mythri told me Sahid is engaged.’


‘Sahid is.’ She spoke slowly as if explaining something to a child. ‘His parents have arranged a marriage for him.’


‘Arranged?’ I asked. I felt a bit giddy, and my voice was now pitched an octave higher. ‘An arranged marriage?’ I coughed. ‘But not with you.’


She drew back. ‘Did you think he was marrying me?’ she demanded. ‘Seriously? I mean we talk. He told me what was happening with his family. He wanted to tell you but I think he was afraid you’d judge him and tell him not to. I think that’s why he told Mythri. I think he was hoping she’d tell you first.’


I felt my muscles uncoil, the adrenaline rush through me. I released the breath I’d been holding. It was precisely, exactly the sensation I experienced every time I saw the opposing team’s wicket disintegrate. I suppressed the desire to pump my fist in the air, to let out a giggle. She scowled. ‘You’re a strange person you know that?’


‘And you?’ I asked. ‘You don’t judge him?’


She considered this. ‘I think there are a lot of different paths to love,’ she replied off-handedly. And even though she wasn’t thinking of me at all – I felt something right in what she said.


I nodded. ‘I’m sorry I didn’t answer your question the other day,’ I said to her. ‘But maybe we can go out and get a drink sometime? Talk.’


She grew quiet, her expression angry, and for a moment I thought she was going to turn and walk out. Then, something in her relaxed. ‘Are you asking me out?’ She smiled slyly.


I took a deep breath. ‘Yes, but the only thing,’ I stammered. ‘It’s hard for me to always talk about all the things…’


Elaine shook her head. ‘All you jocks…’


‘No,’ I insisted. ‘There’s more to it than that.’


I must have said the last words with more force than I intended because her eyes widened momentarily. Then, she smiled. She reached out and squeezed my arm. ‘Yes, I’ll go for a drink with you, and don’t worry so much, Sebastian. As my father used to say, it’s only cricket.’


We started to walk out of the locker room together. At the door, still not ready to let hope get the best of me, I asked, ‘What did Sahid whisper to you? Out on the field.’

‘I don’t really know,’ she replied. ‘He was speaking in Urdu.’ She held the locker room door open for me. ‘But I’m pretty sure he said, ‘Thank you, sister. Thank you.’’




This is the title story from The Other One, the winning collection of the 2015 Juniper Prize for Fiction published by the University of Massachusetts Press.



Hasanthika Sirisena’s essays and stories have appeared in The Globe and Mail, WSQ, Narrative, The Kenyon ReviewGlimmer TrainEpoch, StoryQuarterly and other magazines. Her work has been anthologised in Best New American Voices, and named a distinguished story by Best American Short Stories in 2011 and 2012. She is a recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. In 2008 she received a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award. She is currently an associate fiction editor at West Branch magazine.

She is the winner of the 2015 Juniper Prize for Fiction for her short story collection, The Other One.