This is the second assignment that I turned in for my fiction writing class. I met with my writing professor Friday afternoon to discuss this piece. She liked it–at least the characters. She gave me some very helpful suggestions on how to make it better and expand it. She also wants me to finish it…I started it in high school as a novel, and Leslie (my professor) thinks I should keep going. In fact, she wants me to work on an outline of where the story is going so we can discuss it next week. (I earned extra work from my professor–that’s a good sign, right?)
* * *
Petey Marshall crouched behind home plate, twisting her feet to grind her cleats further into the red clay. By this last inning of the baseball game, dirt streaked the denim shorts and yellow t-shirt that she wore. A fine layer of the same dust coated her arms and legs, and her face was already warm and pink from the morning sun. She reached her right hand up to pull her blond ponytail through the straps of the catcher’s mask, the only piece of equipment she donned besides her glove and cleats. She’d only conceded on wearing the mask because the boys wouldn’t let her play otherwise.
Petey fixed her gaze on the pitcher. Throwing her fingers into the dirt, she signaled for a curveball. Their team only needed one out, and Jake, the batter, who was playing with them for the first time, wasn’t yet familiar with Cody’s pitches. Yes, the curveball might work.
Cody nodded almost imperceptibly and scraped his foot along the rubber on the pitcher’s mound. Petey grinned, anticipating the third strike that would result in a win for her side. She positioned her glove behind the plate, Cody wound up and released the pitch, and Jake swung . . . and connected, sending the baseball flying toward right field.
Jake chucked the bat to the side and sprinted toward first base, while Petey leaped up and ripped off her mask.
“Evan, get the ball! What are you waiting for?” she bellowed toward her cousin, who had been playing a shallow right field. How many times had she warned him about that? He was now running toward the back wall after the baseball, and Jake was halfway to second base.
Petey watched as Justin, who had been poised to run on second base, darted past her and crossed home plate. If Jake scored, the game would be tied. Petey felt the competitive tension rise within her. “Come on, Evan!”
Evan finally caught up to the ball. He threw it to his brother Ethan, the second baseman, who twisted around to find Petey, positioned on the baseline halfway between third and home. Jake had just rounded third base, and then Petey had the ball in her glove. She wrapped her right hand securely around the ball and lunged toward Jake. Surprise flickered across his face as he pulled back, trying to return to third base. Petey launched herself at him, pushing the baseball into his back as they both fell into the dirt, landing just a few feet shy of third base.
“Out!” cried Ian, the third baseman.
Petey heard Ethan yell a triumphant “Yes!” as he ran toward them. Petey smiled serenely before finally dropping the baseball still clutched tightly in her hand. Ethan appeared in her view, stretching a hand down to Petey. She grasped his hand and scrambled up.
Petey turned and looked down at Jake, who was kneeling on the ground examining his left elbow, which was covered in dirt and blood. “Oh, dude, are you okay?” Petey asked.
Jake grinned wryly and stood up. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he replied, brushing dirt off the knees of his battered blue jeans. “But when we skidded to a stop, my elbow hit the ground first.”
“Justin, go grab my first aid kit, will you?” Petey demanded as she leaned closer to examine Jake’s scraped elbow. She tossed her glove to the ground, then stepped closer to Jake, placing her hands lightly on his left arm, examining the scrape.
“She has a first aid kit?” Jake asked.
Ethan shrugged. “You get used to it. She breaks us, then patches us up again. She’s sadistic that way.”
“Shut up, Ethan,” Petey muttered.
Justin jogged back to the group, the first aid kit already open. Accustomed to this procedure, Justin had several alcohol swabs in hand.
Petey wiped her hands on a towl from the first aid kit, and then tugged on a pair of rubber gloves. She then took the swabs from Justin and looked up at Jake. “Is this okay? It’s probably gonna hurt worse than when I collided with you.”
Jake held Petey’s gaze. “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Petey began cleaning dirt out of the scrape. Jake winced, but didn’t pull away, and soon, his elbow was wrapped in gauze and tape.
“There you go.” Petey stepped back and replaced the unused supplies in the first aid kit. “Make sure you clean it out again when you get home, but it should be fine. Trust me. Happens all the time.”
“So what are you? Florence Nightingale during the week and Johnny Bench on the weekends?” Jake asked as the few remaining players turned back toward the dugout.
Petey swung the first aid kit from her fingertips as she walked into the dugout. “Not quite. I am in nursing school though.” After Petey plopped down onto the warped bench, she uncapped a bottle of water, poured it over a clean white towel, and gingerly wiped the dust off her sunburned face. The bench groaned and shifted as someone sat down beside her. Petey opened her eyes, expecting to find Ethan. Instead, Jake had joined her.
“I had a lot of fun today,” he remarked. “I’m glad Ethan invited me. Even if you did attack me.”
“Hey, I really wanted to win.”
“You’re such a good sport,” Jake teased.
“Of course I am.” Petey grinned. “Unless I lose. Then you’re just going down, Jake.”
“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind for next time.”
Petey focused on the red dirt that she was rubbing off her forearm before speaking. “Does that mean you’ll be back to play next week?”
“Yeah, I think so.” He paused. “I mean, if that’s okay. It seems you’re sort of the team captain here, so maybe I should have asked you first,” he teased.
“Yeah, I am sort of the team captain, and I don’t mind if you come back.”
“Good. That settles it.” He clapped his hands against his knees before standing. “I guess I’ll be going then. And I’ll see you next week.”
“Okay. Bye, Jake. Oh . . . and it was nice to meet you.”
He turned back to gaze at her and smiled. “It was nice to meet you, as well. Even if you did injure me on our first day as friends.”
Petey blushed. “I am sorry about that. But I had to make a first impression somehow, right?”
“Right. Bye, Petey.”
“Bye,” she called as he walked out of the dugout.
Petey turned to pack her equipment back into her duffel bag and didn’t notice as Jake stopped to whisper to Evan, “So is there any chance that Petey is single?”
“Dude, seriously? Yes, she is.” He clapped a hand around Jake’s shoulder.
Jake chuckled and walked to the chain link fence around the dugout. “Hey, Petey?”
Petey turned around. “Yeah, Jake?”
“The Greenville Drive have a home game tonight. Any chance you can stand some more baseball today? Do you want to go with me?”
Petey walked to the fence and stared at Jake. The last time she’d been to a Drive game had been with her ex-boyfriend Mike. She pushed away the thought and glanced at Ethan, who was nodding his head, encouraging her. “Yeah, I think I could do that.”
“Perfect. The game starts at seven. Why don’t I pick you up around six?”
“Sure.” She quickly gave him direction to her house, and then bit her lip before hesitantly asking. “Jake, is this a date?”
He smiled, wrapped his fingers in the chain link fence and leaned closer to her. “Yes, it is. Is that okay?”
“Yeah. I just wanted to be sure.”
Jake stepped back from the fence. “I’ll see you tonight, Petey.”
“Okay,” she replied and watched him walk to his car. He just asked me out, she thought. I was not expecting that. He’s really cute, though. She smiled to herself and turned back to the dugout. Ethan and Evan were the only two guys left in the dugout.
Ethan wrapped his arm around Petey’s shoulder and pulled her close. “So, Petey, is that the first time you’ve injured someone and gotten a date out of it?”
Petey place her hands against his chest and shoved, and Ethan stumbled backward into the dugout bench, laughing. When she sat down beside him and leaned back against the fence, closing her eyes, Ethan continued. “Have a good time tonight, Petey. I’ve known Jake for awhile now. You’ll have fun.”
“Thanks, Ethan.” As he stood up, she opened her eyes and grabbed the edge of his t-shirt. “Hey, did you invite him here because you’re matchmaking?” She narrowed her eyes at him, knowing what he and his twin brother were capable of.
Ethan pulled away from her grasp. “Perhaps.” He picked up his bag from the floor and followed Evan out of the dugout and to their truck.
Petey watched her cousins drive away, then turned back to gaze across the baseball field. The tall grass in the outfield waved gently in the wind, and the sun shone brightly on the red infield. Her gaze moved over to third base, and she replayed the last few moments of the game in her mind.
I tagged him out, made his team lose, and injured him, and he stil asked me out, she thought. “He likes me,” she murmured quietly and gazed out over the field once more.