Inning 5 ★ First Curveball

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Of course I didn't leave him alone for shit.

I walked with him to the field. He thought I was trying to make sure that he made it into it and actually tried out. It was at that point, when he joined the drills despite not having the proper clothes or shoes, that he realized I was staying.

I stood next to my dad, beaming. So pleased with myself that the satisfaction was probably going to turn me supernova soon and I would explode in a confetti of I told you so's. He couldn't stand my shit-eating grin, so he left me to go look at the guys up close and give them tips on how to suck less. Anthony flashed me a thumbs up when he caught his breath after a grueling set of laps. I gave him the devil horns.

He was pretty good. If it were up to me I would move him from outfield to shortstop. He had the speed and tenacity for the job. I went into the dugout and pulled out my brand new notepad and pen and started making annotations.

Anthony varsity shortstop. Chris as backup catcher in varsity. Santiago unquestionable cleanup. Maurice made a great first base. I looked up as Jared McCann ran into my field of vision. I couldn't help but gag. He'd been vying for the ace position since he was a freshman and Sebastian was already beating records. He'd stood no chance against raw talent, but on top of that Seb had been a hard worker. As if he'd always been conscious that raw talent alone would not get him far enough. Despite everything, McCann was a good pitcher.

I looked up to the sky, darkening in portions and shining with swashes of bright pinks and oranges in others. I hoped he'd be proud of me for getting his lazy-ass of a brother into the field again.

Then I looked at the lazy-ass. He was doing well in the drills. Nothing exceptional except for the fact that his body was in such a good shape that it was able to remember the motions, even as his brain remained switched off. And I could tell that it was switched off. His eyes looked all but dead except when he caught a glance of me in the sidelines. Then they turned vaguely murderous.

I just smiled at him.

My dad finally deigned to grace me with his presence and address the elephant in the diamond. "Good job on bringing him back."

"You owe me," I made sure to tell him without giving him a break. He grunted.

"Here's the deal, Peyton." My dad turned to me. "You did well on making him try out, that's true. But he's not putting it his all. If he doesn't, I can't consider him for varsity."

My arms slackened and my notepad and pen fell to the ground. "You can't be serious."

"What I can't do is play favorites." He bent down to pick up my stuff and give them to me, then stuck his hands in his pockets. "I know what he's capable of, but I can't coax that out of him if he won't let me. He'll be in JV."

"He's in his senior year," I hissed at him. "His last year. He has to impress college recruiters. You can't take this away from him."

My dad squeezed my shoulder. "I'm not the one taking the opportunity from him, honey bunny."

The tryouts ended shortly after and everybody started going home. I planted myself firmly in front of Santi, blocking his path no matter where he tried to step to.

He finally gave up. "What do you want now?"

"You," I said, pointing at his chest. "You're doing more drills."

Anthony whistled. "Dude, enjoy that redhead attention."

We both told him to stick it where it hurt.

"I'm going home," Santiago informed me. "It's getting dark and I want to make it to dinner."

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