In the published version of A Game Worth Watching, Emma and Riley met for the first time when they were nine and the Ledgers moved into the neighborhood. Only after she rode her bike in front of his house a few times did Riley finally invite Emma to play basketball with him. It was a sweet moment that started their friendship. However, in the earlier drafts of the story, Riley wasn’t so nice to her at first. Enjoy a snippet from the earliest version of A Game Worth Watching:
Every time Emma passed the Ledgers’ house to watch Riley play basketball in the driveway, Riley would glare at her as if to warn her to stay away from his property. One day, when Mr. Ledger was out teaching Riley a few basketball moves, he called Emma over so Riley could play against a live defender. Unlike his son, Mr. Ledger must have had a soft spot for her, because no one had ever given her the time of day.
“She can’t play basketball,” Riley sneered at her. “She’s a girl.”
Emma’s hands made fists as she shouted, “Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I can’t whip you.”
“Oh yeah?” Riley shot at her.
Mr. Ledger placed a hand on each of their shoulders saying there was only one way to find out. He told Emma to try and get the ball away from Riley, so she did what her brothers always did to her, she pushed him down and took the ball from him. Mr. Ledger laughed; Riley cried. To this day Riley still denied his tears, but Emma still remembered how they glistened on his cheeks before he smeared them away with the back of his hand. Without Mr. Ledger, Emma doubted she would’ve ever figured out how to relate to anybody in a civilized way. Her parents weren’t the best role models even when they were both around to teach her.
In order for Riley to be the best, he had to play against the best, so Mr. Ledger made Emma into the best for no other reason than to help his only son. It didn’t matter that she was only a tool so Riley could learn without having to imagine an invisible defender, Emma soaked in every detail she could on how to play the game. Riley and her grew up competing against each other, but somewhere along the way, they formed an unbreakable friendship. One thing she taught him was that girls really could play basketball; at least she could.
Who knows how they would’ve ended up if Riley hadn’t changed his opinion of her. 🙂