Inning 20 ★ Time to Impress

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We won like it was taking candy from a defenseless baby. I could tell in the faces of some of the guys that they also struggled to believe how incredible that game had been. As if each guy was the cog in a machine that worked with precision. I didn't delude myself into thinking my little speech could take the credit, but I did think it fueled the boys. And my shit eating grin proved how satisfied I was with them.

Riding such high, I thought it was perfect timing to get home and write my first college application. Once I started it I couldn't stop until it was done and submitted. And when I realized the time I thought there was no point in napping for an hour just to have to get up and get ready for school.

Dad found me in the kitchen having my second cup of coffee.

"I'm making eggs, bacon and toast," I said. His eyebrows went up and he blinked.

"You won't hear me complain but color me shocked."

"Let's just say I'm in a party mood." I stood up from the chair and put on an apron. Maybe I'd make the eggs like Barbara did, with chopped tomatoes and onions. "If we keep winning like this I'm going to be so pumped up I might make thanksgiving dinner by myself."

He laughed. "Now that's some real motivation right there."

I set out the pots and pans and fished in the fridge for the right ingredients. Dad poured himself a cup of coffee and sat on the counter, watching me. After a while I put my hands on my hips. "What?"

Dad gave a little smile. "You're growing up, Peyton. You have your own hopes and dreams and I wasn't ready to accept that when you needed it. I'm sorry."

"Dad," I said, sighing. "You didn't call me honey bunny."

"Get to working, honey bunny. I'm starving."

I rolled my eyes and turned back to focus on the prepping. This day couldn't get any better already.

"I have a new mission for you," he said all of a sudden, proving me wrong. "I talked with the Principal, and he agrees that since the team's doing so well we deserve some extra support."

As I chopped the tomatoes I asked, "What kind?"

"He'll let us borrow a school bus and driver for a boot camp training weekend."

"No way!"

He nodded. "Way. We'll have to gather funds for the gas, food and lodging. I think I can fix the lodging part with my buddy Joe in Lake Apopka. You know he has these cabins for rent and I could pull in a favor."

I was floored. "That would be so amazing." Then I paused, my demeanor shifting towards a bit more hesitation. "Wait, I can come, right? You're not going to get all caveman about a girl surrounded by boys, yada yada."

He rolled his eyes. "Of course you can come, but only bunking with me."

"Deal." We shook hands, just so that he remembered later when he wanted to back pedal. "Okay, so what do you want me to do? Come up with a training plan?"

"Right now, what I need help with is the fundraising."

"Okay." I thought about this. It had to be done in a way that the entire team got involved. "When do we want to do this?"

He rubbed his neck. "Well, that's the thing. The school bus is only available not this weekend but the next. So whatever we do to gather funds has to be done this weekend."

I cursed aloud. "I'll think of something."

Mom eventually came downstairs, lured by the scent of bacon. We had breakfast and my head was already churning. I asked Ellen to come and pick me up for school, because I felt like I could drive fine then but maybe not so much by the end of the day. On the way to school I told her about this, and although she was super excited that this was happening while she was gathering material for her article, she proved no help when she couldn't come up with profitable ideas. I just didn't think a bake sale was going to get us where we needed to be.

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