Inning 14 ★ Sun and Sweat

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I spent too much time this morning observing the nasty bruise I had on my hip reflected in the mirror. It didn't seem to have faded at all in the couple of days since I got it. But at least it didn't hurt as much. I turned this way and that, tried to tug my emerald green one piece swimsuit down to hide it, but no dice. It was just too low on my hip for that to work. I resigned myself and finished dressing up.

Mom took me to the pee wees that day, which was great because I didn't want to deal with dad. Even though mom and I didn't have as much in common, I felt a lot more comfortable with her sometimes. I guess being married to a baseball buff didn't shock her about having a daughter like me.

"How's practice going?" she asked, giving me a side glance. "Do you feel like it's a step closer to your goals?"

Here was the other thing about mom, she didn't become a middle manager at age 34 and joined the ranks of higher management shortly thereafter for no reason. Here was a woman who worked hard for what she wanted, made the right choices for her business and her people and scoffed at the idea that she should give up just because she was playing in a male dominated sales field.

I'd like to think I have that in common with her.

"Everything's a step closer," I said, picking at the hem of my jean shorts. "I'd like to think dad's being a pain in my side to prepare me for all the men I'll find in my way who'll be so much worse."

She sighed. "I think he's just worried precisely about those men. He wishes you'd have chosen an easier path in life."

I shrugged. "Then he shouldn't have taught me to love baseball so much."

At a red light stop she grabbed my hand and squeezed it in hers. "Learn to work with him. The last thing I want is to see you both get in each other's way, okay?"

I pursed my lips. "Yes, mom."

We got to the pee wees and she kissed my cheek before I got off the car, just like when I was a little kiddy being dropped off to practice baseball with my neighborhood friends. It was almost like deja vu. I walked over to where some of the kids and parents were waiting and I almost saw myself in little Jimmy's smile. Back then of course I knew I was a girl, but somehow I still thought I could do this forever, play with Seb and Santi and a bunch of other kids who have now moved on to college or even other interests.

My friends arrived during practice. They caught me in the middle of my role as base coach, goading my runners to move their little feet with all their might. I was drenched in sweat already and I'd have to renew my sunblock before we got in the car and drove to the beach, but at that second I almost didn't want to go. This was so much better than getting sand stuck in your hoohah, fighting a losing battle between trying to get tanned but not burning yourself or getting more freckles, and never mind the accidental swallow of salty and questionable beach water. I didn't even know why I signed up to go on this trip where Jessica Ashford was also joining.

But then I looked at the bench and saw Chris and Ellen chatting like they had no audience, and Santiago sitting next to them, wearing sunglasses as he looked at the kids. Or at me. And that thought alone excited me into going to the beach.

An hour and a half later the parents started arriving again to pick up their kids, just as we were finishing our customary round of cool down. The kids talked about their performance during that practice. No fart jokes were told this time. I had to wait until each and everyone of them had left before I could go but I thanked the heavens that at least this time no one started a fight or shed blood.

I turned to my friends with my arms spread open. "Who's ready to go to the beach?"

Chris and Ellen hollered their approval. Santiago grabbed my bag by the bench and headed the procession toward Chris' red Jeep. Ellen grabbed my arm and pulled me down a bit.

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