Authors: Barbara L. Clanton
Tags: #! Yes
After hanging up with Sam, Lisa tried unsuccessfully to finish the geometry proof she’d been struggling with. She heard a car outside, so she slammed her book shut, tossed it aside, and leaped off her bed. She ran to the living room to look out the front window.
“Mom, Jeri’s here,” Lisa called. “I’m going.”
“Okay, hang on a minute,” her mother called from the master bedroom. Lisa smiled when her mother said, “Sweetpea, let’s go say goodbye to Lisa. She’s going to her friend Marlee’s house, remember?”
“Marlee got hurt in Lisa’s game last night. She hurt her head.”
Bridget exploded out of the master bedroom and threw a hug around Lisa’s waist. “Is your friend, okay? Mama said she gotted hurt. She needs a bike hemmet. I get mine.” Bridget turned to run toward the garage, brown curls flopping every which way, but Lisa scooped her up before she got very far.
“Hold on, Sweetpea. Marlee already has a helmet, but I’ll make sure she uses it every time she gets up to bat, okay?”
Too bad it didn’t work against Christy last night.
“Your helmet would be too small, anyway, eh?”
“Okay.” Bridget squirmed out of Lisa’s arms.
“Bye, Mom.” Lisa gave her mother a hug. She opened the front door. “I won’t stay too long. Mrs. McAllister doesn’t want us to tire her out.”
“Okay. Tell Marlee the whole Brown clan sends their good wishes. Oh, and tell Jeri thanks for being your taxi.”
“I will.” She squatted down and held her arms open for another hug from her baby sister. “You be a good girl, okay? Mama has some customers today, so don’t bother her. If you need something, ask Lynnie.”
“‘Kay, Weesa.” Bridget pulled out of the hug. “Bye.”
Lisa stepped onto the front landing and waved to Jeri who had started to walk toward the front door. Lisa closed the door behind her and took a deep breath of the heady aroma from her mother’s lilacs.
“Hey.” Jeri spun on her heels, and together they headed toward the Mustang.
“Thanks for picking me up.” Lisa opened the passenger door and plopped down on the seat. She was glad not to have to fold herself in the back.
“No problem.” Jeri started the car and drove off. “I can’t believe what happened last night. I mean, it looked like Christy threw that pitch at Marlee on purpose.”
“And what the hell did Marlee ever do to her?” Except maybe steal her best friend away, kind of like Susie’s doing to Jeri.
Jeri snorted. “I think Marlee was pitching better, and Christy didn’t like it. Maybe she wanted to take out her competition.”
“That’s pretty low if you ask me.” Lisa wondered how anybody could sink to that level. She looked out the car window and watched the cows as the mustang whizzed by. She looked back at Jeri. “I hope Marlee’s up for company.”
“Her mom said she’d wake her up when we got there.”
“Sam and Susie are coming over, too.”
Jeri was quiet for a minute. “They are?”
“Yeah, Sam called me this morning.”
“Sam has your phone number?” Jeri looked at her with raised eyebrows.
“Yeah, she asked me for it after the game. She wanted to call about Marlee.”
“That’s cool.” Jeri sighed. “Girl, I can’t believe I got in a fight with Marlee yesterday. So what if she wanted to go to Susie’s house without us after the game? I was so selfish. But, God, when she got hit by Christy’s pitch right in the head and fell…”
Lisa felt bad for Jeri because in the three weeks since Susie had come to the make-up game against Southbridge, Marlee had been distant to everyone. Lisa was pretty sure she knew why, but apparently Jeri didn’t. For her part, Lisa decided to accept Marlee and Susie hooking up and just move on. Sam’s phone call that morning helped her see that there might actually be life after Marlee and Tara.
Lisa tapped the arm rest and smiled as she thought about Sam.
“What?” Jeri said.
Lisa looked over. “What?”
“You smiled. What were you thinking about?” Jeri flicked on her signal to turn into Marlee’s driveway.
Lisa’s brain went into overdrive searching for something believable. “Oh, I was thinking about the next time we play East Valley. Marlee should throw a fastball at Christy’s head, knock her out, and send her to the hospital to make it even.”
“You are evil, Lisa.”
“I know, right?” Phew, Lisa sighed mentally, close call.
“But there’s one hole in your nefarious plan.”
“Christy’s the flex player. She doesn’t bat.” Jeri turned off the engine. “Marlee’ll just have to hit a line drive at her in the pitcher’s circle.”
“Ooh, even better.” They walked up to the kitchen door. “You’re more devious than I am.”
Jeri grinned as they got out of the car. After greeting Marlee’s mother, they headed up the stairs to Marlee’s bedroom. Lisa wasn’t sure what they’d see when they opened Marlee’s bedroom door, but as soon as they entered the room, Marlee asked, “Did we win?”
Lisa burst out laughing and almost toppled over Jeri trying to get into the bedroom. Marlee’s room was small, especially with the huge green recliner taking up all the space at the foot of Marlee’s bed, but the room was also bright and sunny.
“Oh, she’s okay.” Jeri glanced at Lisa. “And we were worried.”
Lisa looked at Marlee, and her heart clenched. Marlee looked so pale and vulnerable. That’s what having a concussion looked like, she supposed.
Lisa sat on the recliner, but Jeri remained standing. Jeri told Marlee how Christy got thrown out of the game right after mowing Marlee down. Obviously, the umpire knew Christy had done it on purpose.
“Then East Valley put in their back up pitcher,” Jeri said. “I forgot her name.”
“Mary something-or-other,” Lisa said. Mary, ironically, was the girl Lisa had played ping-pong against at Christy’s the one time she had gone out there. “But then I was up to bat with Kerry on first base.”
Jeri took up the tale describing Lisa’s awesome triple into the left-center field gap that scored Kerry. As it turned out, Kerry scored the games only run, and the Cougars won 1-0.
Marlee asked a few questions about the game, but Lisa could tell that she was in some pain.
“So,” Jeri asked, “are you okay? What did the doctor say?”
“I have a mild concussion, nothing serious, and my shoulder is only slightly sprained.” Despite looking exhausted, Marlee sounded upbeat. “And, and this really sucks, I can’t play ball for at least a week, maybe more.”
“Oh, my God!” Lisa slammed the foot rest of the recliner back in place. “A week?” Lisa bemoaned the fact that they had two games coming up, and their chances of keeping the same overall win-loss record as East Valley was becoming seriously compromised.
“But listen,” Lisa said, “before I forget. Sam called me this morning. She seemed so eager, and your mom said it was okay. She and Susie are coming by today.”
Lisa hid a smile behind her hand when Marlee’s face brightened. Through the open window she heard a car pull up the gravel driveway. She hurried to look out the window. “Ooh, I see Sam. I’ll go down and meet them.” She didn’t wait for a response, ran out of the bedroom, made it as far as the stairs, and scurried back to close Marlee’s bedroom door. She then flew down the stairs to the kitchen.
She slowed down long enough to greet Marlee’s mother again. “Sam and Susie are here. I’m going to let them in, okay?”
“That’s fine. How’s Marlee doing?” Marlee’s mother took a sip of coffee.
Lisa opened the inside storm door and glanced out through the screen door. “She seems tired, but she’s in good spirits considering.”
“I’m glad she has such good friends.” Marlee’s mother smiled, but Lisa could tell she was worried.
Lisa opened the screen door. Her breath caught when Sam stepped out of the car. Sam’s blond hair was loose, a few strands splayed in front of her shoulders. She wore tight white jeans and a salmon colored silk shirt that was tied at the waist with a matching scarf. Susie looked nice, too, with her own tight jeans and white tank top. The dark green button up shirt she wore over it did nothing to hide her strong body.
Lisa waved back. “Hey ho, Panthers,” she called as they walked up. Lisa’s heart started beating faster.
Marlee never ever made me feel like this when I looked at her. Never.
“Hey, Lisa,” Sam said.
“Hey,” Lisa said again and held the screen door open for them to pass through.
“Let me introduce you.” Lisa turned toward Marlee’s mother. “Mrs. McAllister, this is Susie, and this is Sam. They’re the friends from East Valley I called you about this morning.”
“Ah, yes,” Marlee’s mother said. “It’s nice to see you again Susie.”
“Nice to see you again, too, Mrs. M.”
“And it’s nice to meet you Sam. That is such a pretty blouse.”
“Oh, thanks.” A tinge of red colored Sam’s cheeks. “Thanks for letting us come by.”
“No problem. Go on up stairs. Marlee’s expecting you.”
“Thanks.” Lisa led the way up the stairs. She looked back over her shoulder and said softly, “Weird game last night, eh?”
“Yeah,” Susie said, but didn’t elaborate. She was looking intently at Marlee’s closed bedroom door.
“It sucks that Marlee got hurt,” Sam whispered back.
Lisa nodded in agreement and opened the door to let Sam and Susie go in first.
Marlee relayed her injuries to her new set of visitors, and then after a few minutes Lisa sensed that Marlee wanted to be alone with Susie.
“Listen, we’re gonna wait downstairs. Hope you’re feeling better, Marlee.” She nodded toward the door and said to Jeri and Sam, “Let’s go outside, eh?”
They said quick goodbyes, and Lisa let Sam and Jeri precede her. She closed the door firmly behind her giving Marlee and Susie privacy.
They made their way out of the kitchen and onto the gravel driveway. Lisa blurted to Sam, “So, do you like bowling?”
Sam laughed. “Sure, bring it on.” She leaned against the front of Susie’s compact Toyota.
Jeri leaned against her Mustang and lit a cigarette. Lisa wanted desperately to lean next to Sam, but didn’t want to dis Jeri, so she stood between the two cars facing them, hands in her pockets.
“Marlee looks tired, doesn’t she?” Jeri said.
Lisa nodded. “She should be tired. She was pitching an awesome game—”
“She freakin’ struck me out three times.” Sam grinned and held up three fingers.
Jeri and Lisa laughed. Lisa wagged a finger at Sam. “You should have listened to me when I called those pitches.”
Jeri raised an eyebrow in question.
“Oh, she teased me last night,” Sam said. “Every time I got up to bat, she’d tell me what pitch Marlee was going to throw.” She turned toward Lisa. “I couldn’t tell if you were trying to trick me or not. I mean, I thought maybe you’d tell me fastball and then she’d throw that stupid rise ball.”
“I said you could trust me.” Lisa smiled suggestively hoping Jeri wouldn’t notice.
“I’ll have to remember that.” Sam smiled back. “And, uh, now that our teams have beaten each other once, we’ll probably end up tied at the end of the season.”
“I don’t know about that.” Jeri said. “Christy knocked out our best pitcher.”
Sam took a deep breath. “I know,” she said softly. “I’m not sure what to think about that. I tell you what, though, if Christy did it on purpose, then she just lost me as a friend. I can’t stand dirty players.”
“Here, here,” Lisa said. “Just win or lose, but play fair and square, right?” Sensing the mood needed lightening, Lisa said, “So, when can I beat you at bowling?”
Before Sam could answer, Susie stormed out of the house. The screen door slammed behind her, and she barreled toward her car. Lisa backed up a step.
Susie barked to Sam, “Let’s go.”
Sam, wide eyed, hurried toward the passenger door. She shrugged and shot Lisa a look that said, “I’m clueless.”
Lisa had no idea what was going on, either. “Call me, okay?”
Sam nodded. “Bye, Jeri.” She scurried into the car.
“See ya, girl. See ya, Susie.” Jeri crushed out her cigarette and pushed off the car.
Susie nodded once, gunned the engine, and slammed the car in reverse. Sam scrambled to put her seatbelt on.
Jeri shook her head. “What the hell was that all about?”
Lisa felt as confused as Jeri looked. “I have no idea.”
“Should we go back up?” Jeri took a step toward the house.
Lisa shook her head. “Marlee’s exhausted.”
“You’re right. I’ll call her later.” Jeri opened the driver’s side door and got in.
Lisa got in the passenger side. “That’s probably the best thing.” Lisa wasn’t sure what had happened between Susie and Marlee, but judging by the look on Susie’s face, maybe Marlee had broken up with her. Maybe Marlee was so pissed at Christy that she took it out on Susie.
And I should be happy about that because now the door’s wide open for me, but…
Lisa strangely didn’t feel tempted by the notion that Marlee might be available again. Sam had started to take up some major space in Lisa’s brain.
Jeri seemed lost in thought, so the ride home from Marlee’s was rather quiet.
When Jeri pulled up in front of the house, Lisa opened the door and got out. “Thanks again. See you on Monday?”
“Yeah, see ya.” Jeri drove off.
Before Lisa had a chance to get all the way to the front door, the screen door burst open, and Bridget ran out. “Give me a ride, Weesa.”
“Okay, Sweetpea. What do you want? Tree trunk, fireman, or back-scratcher?”
Lisa laughed. “Okay, get ready.” She scooped up her little sister by the waist and threw her over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Bridget’s feet dangled in front. Lawrence Jr., her six-year old brother, stood inside behind the closed screened door.
“Excuse me, sir,” Lisa said. “Have you seen my little sister, Bridget? About this high?” She used her free hand to indicate a short person.
Lawrence Jr. giggled. “She’s right behind you.”
Lisa turned all the way around. “Where? I don’t see her.” Bridget giggled behind her.
“There,” he said with another giggle and pointed.
Lisa spun in the opposite direction. “Lawrence Jr., I don’t see her.