The radio boomed through the open family room windows, filling the backyard with sound. Jimmy yelled even louder, holding an imaginary microphone to his mouth as he echoed the sportscaster.
“This is it, folks! This is the game we’ve all been waiting for. The Yankees face the Red Sox in just one minute!”
“Positions!” Dad waved his hands at his spread-out family. “Adam, you’re up to pitch first.”
“Donnelly up to bat. Farnsworth pitches. Donnelly swings. Solid double! It’s off to a great start, folks! Off to a great start!”
Sarah slouched in the back of the church, wondering what had possessed her to come. Whoever heard of watching a baseball game in a church anyway? The sudden cheer of the crowd startled her as the tiny ball on the screen soared high, a tiny white dot against the sky. Just a speck, easily unseen, easily unnoticed.
“He’s rounding first base and headed for second. The outfielder is scrambling for the ball…he’s got it!”
“Hello, I’m June, are you new here?”
Sarah jerked away from the screen. “Oh, yeah, I guess.” Someone had noticed her?
“I’m glad you came.”
“Donnelly slides…he’s safe! Just in the nick of time!”
Jenna only knew a couple of the teens filling the room. She perched on the folding chair, avoiding eyes, pretending to watch the game. She fought the bile that rose in her throat, choking on the sickly-sweet smoke that clogged the air. Maybe Kyle’s parents would come home early. Her eyes found the front door, wanting it to open. Willing it to open.
“The based are loaded! Mussina pitches.”
A form stepped in front of the TV. Jenna looked up. Right into Kyle’s blue eyes. Her heart flip-flopped. She reached mechanically for the packet of white powder he handed her, ignoring the tremble of her hand. She didn’t bother licking her finger first, it was wet with sweat.
The powder clung to her, thick as the guilt that weighed her soul.
“Pineiro swings. Foul ball!”
Manhattan, New York
A single tear dripped down Melanie’s cheek, as if her heart had finally cracked and allowed a hint of emotion to seep through. For months now she had told herself everything was fine. She could handle it.
Melanie snuck a glance at Jake, hunched toward the TV screen. She wondered idly if he would actually notice her if she shouted as loudly as the sports announcer.
“The crowd has gone wild! The Yankees are ahead by two runs! Watch carefully, America, this next pitch could decide the game.”
Her sob was audible this time. She fell forward, letting her shoulders shake with inner pain. Where was the joy of the American dream? Why was it so empty? What had she done wrong?
“Drew is having trouble today. We’ll see if he can connect with the ball this time. Here it comes...it's a curve.”
Jake didn’t notice when she left the room. Didn’t notice as she emptied her drawers, or even when she dragged the suitcase down the stairs. She paused at the front door, wishing he would come. Straining to hear her name.
Only one sound reached her ear.
“Three strikes. He’s out!”
San Diego, California
Daddy’s voice was getting louder. It seeped through Ben’s bedroom door, angry and snarling. Ben turned up the radio.
“The Red Sox still have a chance. Timlin’s up to bat. Can he pull through for his team?”
The fist hit the wall first, setting Ben’s models rattling. Setting Ben’s heart pounding. He stood. Took a step toward the door.
“It’s the ninth inning. Time is running out for Boston.”
The fist was quieter this time. Sickening. His mother’s muffled cry twisted his stomach. Tomorrow she would hide the bruise, say it was her fault, that she shouldn’t have provoked him.
It came again. Ben froze. He could only stand and listen. Listen and wish it would stop. Wish it wasn’t so.
Finally it did stop. But that was worse. Silence. What if Daddy’d really hurt her bad this time? What if she was dead?
Ben should have done something. He could’ve stopped it. Could’ve at least tried.
“Rivera pitches wild. Timlin holds. Ball three!”
He heard movement in the kitchen. Relief weakened his legs. She was okay. This time she’d made it through. This time she’d lived.
“The Yankees take the victory! It was a close game, America, a close game.”
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