Inning 18 ★ A Promise

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Sunday morning was rainy and I felt pretty good. We'd won the two games of the week, the second one by a hair, but a win was a win none the less. We had to use a combination of Anthony and a sophomore with a good arm, and my feeling was that we won purely by keeping the other team second guessing. McCann was doing well in practice and it looked like he'd be able to start for the next game.

The real MVP had been Santiago. He had a streak of a homer per game. Each time he scored us a few runs off of a single turn at bat, it increased our morale to epic proportions while simultaneously decimating our opponent's spirits. It was beautiful.

I knew dad had asked me to not be biased, but how could I help myself? He was magic and I was helpless. My head had started to fantasize of a future in the MLB again for the first time in almost a year. That dream had seemed to die with Seb.

I came in to the Mirandas house from the backdoor. Barbara was in the kitchen reading something on her iPad and she looked up as I closed my umbrella and set it on the floor.

"Good morning, Peyton," she said. "My, I feel like it's been a while since I last saw you."

I grabbed an old newspaper from the pile and put it on the floor to gather all the water trickling down the umbrella. She set the iPad down and came over to give me a hug.

"You got wet!"

She patted my hair in a more motherly, sweet way than even my own mom did. "That's just from the shower a few minutes ago."

"Do you want me to fix you some food?"

I started to shake my head to say no, I'd had breakfast already, but this was Barbara. In a flash she'd heated up an arepa con queso and given it to me along with a malta. It was this frizzy kind of drink that was dark and tasted sweet and strong. I remembered when Sebastian made me laugh once, as I was having a sip, and the entire thing came out of my nose. It had been the most painful experience of my life.

Plate and drink in hand I tried to ask, "Where's-"

"He's upstairs." She winked at me and I found it very unnecessary. It must have been reflected on my face because she burst out laughing. "Oh shush, let a mama dream."

I couldn't help but feel some trepidation after that, like Barbara had lured me with food and drink to snatch her son. Which wouldn't be a chore to me or any of the Metro High girls. I wondered if she knew the extent of his popularity these days. People would part in the hall when he walked, and not to stare at him in pity like before, but to marvel at having another god of baseball walk the same halls as them. Ellen had caught me a couple of days ago looking at him just like that.

I climbed up the stairs and passed Seb's closed door. Santi's was open, and I could see him sitting on the edge of his bed in t-shirt and shorts. I secretly felt some disappointment at not catching him asleep. I could have jumped on him, which he hated every single time, but gave me endless joy.

"Knock, knock," I said without knocking, because my hands were busy. He turned back to me with sleepy eyes. "I hope you haven't had breakfast yet because I brought food."

"You mean mom gave you food." He sounded like he still wasn't sure if he was awake or dreaming. "Give it to me."

I placed the plate on his outreaching hand and took a sip of the malta before giving it to him. He turned back to the TV. I sat next to him and was about to open my big mouth to ask what he was watching, when I saw.

Pee wee videos. Of us. And Seb.

Santi took a bite of arepa, looking at his brother's smiling face from ten years ago. I snapped my mouth shut with so much strength that the sound resonated around the room. I could feel my chin tremble and the corners of my eyes stung as if I were chopping onions. I wished I were chopping onions, that would hurt a lot less.

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