Inning 9 ★High School Classic

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We lost the game, 13 to 3. The three runs that Santiago brought with a homer. That alone had such shocking power to the Trinity kids that they only managed to score two more runs after that before the game was called.

It was pretty pathetic, yet we celebrated as if we'd won the national championship. I felt like we were celebrating because the guys just hadn't known they had this much fight in them.

My dad was just as euphoric except for when I crossed his field of vision. He was all sour then. Chris and Anthony swung me like a hammock until I screamed myself hoarse and they dropped me on the mud like a sack of potatoes. My raincoat ceased being blood red then and took on a particular poop hue. I picked myself up with the grace of an overturned turtle. Santiago had been watching all along, not doing squat to help me out of the predicament because he'd been busy trying not to laugh. One of the guys jumped him with something like half a hug and half a headlock. This was followed by another guy's similar show of affection. Then another.

My job here was only beginning.

I climbed up the bleachers where I found Ellen furiously scribbling on her notepad. She ignored my attempts at sharing the love with her with a raised palm and a string of words that she tried to write down as fast as she could jot in longhand. I sat with her, both legs bouncing as I texted mom. I warned her, with a lot of cross bones, about the expected cold war tonight but how it had been totally worth it.

Your dad will come around. He can't stay mad at you for long, she texted me.

I begged to differ. He still gave me crap for having puked on his favorite t-shirt as a newborn.

"That," Ellen finally said, looking up with sparkling eyes. "Was incredible. I mean, we still overall sucked but maybe now there's hope?"

I nodded so fast that my head and neck seemed to have a conflict of interests for a moment. "I'll say!"

She gave me a hard slap in the back that I'm sure left her hand printed on my skin. "We should party!"

I laughed and hell yeah'ed her, until I realized she was serious.

"No, seriously. There's a party going on and some of the newspaper kids are there. I'm sure they'll want to know what happened here tonight."

The Alligators came out of the bench hooting and jumping. The few people remaining in the bleachers clapped them with all their hearts. Ellen and I stood up and whistled. A couple of them waved in our direction. Ellen made sure that we found them in the parking lot afterwards to propose her party idea. I realized then how much of a big deal our great loss had been when the entire team signed up to crash someone's party.

"You don't wanna come?" she asked me when we were already in her car, driving towards Goldenrod. "I mean, I still have time to turn around and take you home."

"No," I told her, sinking into the passenger's seat. "Come to think about it, dad won't be at this party so the chances of him killing me tonight decrease. Party time!"

She laughed. We stopped at a red light, five other cars full of Metropolitan kids behind us.

The roads glittered with the wetness from the rain, but they would dry soon enough. The night of the accident had been very similar. We'd all left a game, a huge win, off to party in a big house in Oviedo where Chris' cousin lived. There were going to be college girls, and I could not remember to have been suffocated by that much testosterone after such an announcement. Some twenty cars crammed full of horny teens had departed from the stadium downtown.

All but one reached the Oviedo house.

After the game had finished, I'd had to elbow my way through a crowd in order to reach the Mirandas. Sebastian had been laughing as two girls kissed his cheeks, one on each side, posing for a picture. In the background one of the back then seniors thumped Santi's back so hard he nearly lurched forward. I saw the picture on Instagram the next day, after the news had broken. I took a screenshot of it and saved it on my files.

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