No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright © 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 10

 

Kathleen and the rest of K-B-K's employees spent most Sunday afternoons at Colleen and Jack's rambling house. Situated in the heart of old town Juniper Hills, the house was part of the original Kinsley homestead, remodeled and added onto until Kathleen was sure that all that remained of the original was the kitchen pantry off the second garage. Nevertheless, it had a huge lawn, front and back, and sported a tennis court, horseshoe pit, and basketball court.

Kathleen usually went over after lunch on Sundays to play with the children and to help Colleen get dinner organized for whomever happened to show up.  The afternoon after the gala found Kathleen idling on the deck, chatting with Jack while Colleen took a much-needed nap.  She felt a vague sense of displeasure that Harry was nowhere in sight.  When Jack looked at her sharply after she asked where he was, her displeasure deepened into discomfort.  Apparently, Harry was otherwise engaged.  A little more coaxing and Jack confessed that Harry had begged off the usual Sunday-with-the-gang routine because he needed to climb something.

"Climb something?" 

"Climbing for Harry is sort of like shopping is for you."

"Oh."  Kathleen processed this for a moment, then asked, "Something big?"

"Just Ruby."

"Well, at least he didn't have to drive."  Then she added, as if to reassure herself, "He's climbed Ruby a bunch of times."   

Jack eyed Kathleen again, then nodded in agreement.  Both he and Harry had climbed the mountain that rose out of Harry's front yard at least once a year since Harry had bought the land and built his house.

"So he won't be here this afternoon?" Kathleen asked after awhile.

"I doubt it.  Besides, Kath, you're here and…"

Jack stopped himself.

"I'm here and…what?"

"Harry called me last night after he dropped you off…"

"Oh, Jack, we had the best time.  Really, we did.  Thank you for letting me have your ticket."

"It was Harry's ticket, don't forget."

"Oh, I know.  But he had been planning on having you go and when you couldn't and Colleen told him that I had been wanting to go, he was nice enough to let me use the ticket."

Jack sighed and couldn't help shaking his head at his sister-in-law, happily babbling away.  "Think that if it makes you feel better, if you prefer to keep your head in the sand and not admit that my brother might actually do something with your happiness in mind."

Kathleen shrugged lazily.  She tried to ignore the irritating wish that Harry was present if only to defend himself, and managed to add that she believed Harry had only invited her so that she would shield him from the women who considered him Juniper Hills' most eligible bachelor.

"And did you?" Jack asked with a little smile.

"Marsha Dixon and that new lady doctor from the med center were all over him.  I had to tell Marsha to fan herself at one point."

Jack laughed out right at this, but then soberly said, "Kath, you're not really going to fall for that Phil guy are you?"

"I'm going to fall as hard as I can, Jack. I want to have the most romantic summer any girl could imagine.  I've earned it.  I really have.  And Phil is perfect, simply perfect.  You and Harry are just going to have to lighten up and get over the fact that you can't control every single aspect of my life."

#

On Wednesday evening, Phil returned to Juniper Hills.  By Saturday night, he was firmly entrenched as Kathleen's new boyfriend.  By the Fourth of July, Kathleen knew that she was having a summer to end all summers.  She and Phil were everywhere and did everything—parties, picnics, dancing, tennis, swimming.  Even on Friday nights, which Kathleen kept scrupulously sacred to the Riverdale B&G Club, Phil would pick her up after she had fulfilled her promise to Connie and they would go out on the town.

Occasionally, they ran into Harry, whose disapproving glances sent Kathleen into exasperated annoyance with the man.  He wouldn't try to get to know Phil, wouldn't even talk sports with him.  He would just quietly remind Kathleen to call him if she needed anything, anytime.  A few times they ran into Joanna.  And once they even encountered her when she was with Matthew Dixon.  It was then that Kathleen saw that Joanna had done nothing to redeem herself in Phil's eyes.  Kathleen herself couldn't understand why a beautiful women like Joanna would hitch her star to a flickering old flame like Matthew.  Phil, on the other hand, was a real catch, and Kathleen was the lucky girl who had caught him.

He was Prince Charming come to life.  Kathleen especially liked Phil's courtly manners.  He wasn't forever trying to talk her into bed the way other men did.  He said he wanted to take their relationship slowly and savor the romance.  He kissed her lightly and held her hand.  He sent her flowers and whispered in her ear as they happily gossiped about the goings-on in Juniper Hills. 

One Sunday in late July it seemed to Kathleen that not only all of K-B-K but all of Juniper Hills had converged on her sister and brother-in-law's house for an impromptu town party. The tennis court had a foursome battling it out, horseshoes were being flung with wild abandon, volleyball was in full swing, and Kathleen's head was hurting. She felt overwhelmed.  Craving quiet shade, she wandered inside, only to find Maggie and Lettie having a heart-to-heart in the living room.

Kathleen fled downstairs. She shuddered at the thought of that conversation--Maggie waxing poetic on how to train for mountain climbing in the Andes or some such place and Lettie going off on llama tangents. Preserve me from Lettie's tangents, Kathleen thought as she passed the video room, where the TV was softly glowing, left on by one of the kids, no doubt.

"What's your hurry?" came Harry's voice over the dull murmur of the TV.

His voice, soft and husky coming up from the depths of the overstuffed couch, startled her.

Flustered, she instinctively walked towards him, stammering, "Oh...hi...I didn't see you..."

He reached up and grabbed her hand, pulling her into the couch beside him. She sat down awkwardly, so close to him that she could feel the heat of his skin through his tee-shirt.  The black hairs on his legs tickled her smooth, bare knees.  She flushed and unconsciously lifted the hair off of her neck and fanned herself with her collar.

"I want to show you something," Harry said, leaning forward and turning up the TV which was broadcasting a Colorado Rockies versus Chicago Cubs baseball game from Coors Field in Denver .  "Look at that batter."

He watched intently, she tentatively. "See the way he holds his back elbow up high, and the bat is way off his shoulder.  See how he's circling it around, finding the groove, looking for the sweet spot."

Kathleen looked at the batter then Harry, her eyes wide in the blue glare of the big screen.

Harry continued, "Now watch...watch... he's coiling, tightening...and, WHAM!" Harry hugged Kathleen with his right arm and punched the air with his left. "What a beauty! Come on...come on...rats." He slumped back as the ball was caught, but seconds later he was leaning forward again as the next batter stepped up to the plate. "Now here comes Rodriguez.  Watch him, Kath. You could do that..."

"I could do that?" Kathleen smiled, raising her eyebrows as she watched the batter take a couple of practice swings. "I don't think so..."

"You could swing like that. You have a really pretty swing, but you don't wind up enough. Gad, he shouldn't have swung at that one. No, really, I mean it, Kath, you could hit the ball twice as far if you'd let physics help you. You fight nature too much.  That's why you hit those little dribblers. It's not that you can't, you just hold back."

Kathleen started to stand up, but Harry pulled her back down. "Come on, sit awhile. We haven't talked in weeks."

She was surprised by the tone in his voice. He'd have been all over her for whining if she had tried that on him.

"You've been working so much..." she said, trying to lob the blame for their estrangement back into his court.

Harry stared at the screen, "Prince Charming waiting for you upstairs?"

Kathleen bit back a retort, then answered calmly, "Phil is upstairs, yes..."

"Don't you even want to know the score?"

"I know the score...oh, you mean of the ballgame?"

"It's tied. We win this game, we're in first place. Then we've got momentum, and maybe we can see a little post-season action."

"What inning?"

"Bottom of the eighth."

"What's the count?"

"This is the pay-off pitch."

Kathleen leaned forward. She watched the Rockies batter foul away three more pitches before finally striking out. Top of the ninth.  The first Cubs batter got a single on the first pitch. Harry groaned. Kathleen felt her stomach tighten. If he got to second, another single would send him home and the Rockies would have to score two runs to win. The pitcher was edgy, whipping around to first like a cat pawing at a mouse hole, trying to keep the runner from getting too much of a lead. Finally, the runner on first took off, and the pitcher rifled the ball to second, but not in time. The Cubs had a man on second. No outs.   The TV showed the Rockies dugout where Russ Abernathy, the Rockies field manager, was staring at the field, his face impassive but his eyes brilliant and alert.  Kathleen thought he looked like Harry did when Harry was marshalling the K-B-K employees to work extra hours to finish a project…and feel good about it.

"Now watch this, Kathleen. Abernathy isn't going to pull a hot pitcher just because it's a tight game. He lets his men do their jobs and doesn't just play percentages."

Abernathy's faith in his players paid off as the next ball the pitcher threw was  high and outside, causing the batter to hit a line drive to right field where it was easily caught.  The throw from right field reached third base in time for Harry to recite along with the TV commentator that the Rockies had executed "a beautifully turned twin killing."

Two outs. The third came in the form of a pop-up to short.

During the commercial break, Harry recounted the game thus far. Seven to seven in Coors Field, aka homerun heaven. The Cubs had almost exhausted their bullpen, but Abernathy had played it close, knowing that the squirrelly mile-high air could eat up more pitchers than he had. Now, it was bottom of the ninth and top of the lineup and the bullpen was cocky.

The lead-off hitter was Antonio Perez.  Two for five, with a homerun in the second. A swing and a miss. Strike one. He took the next two pitches, and then wound up and released a thunderbolt worthy of the big guy. Homerun! Kathleen was on her feet. Harry was on his feet.  Kathleen jumped up and down, squealing, and threw her arms around Harry's neck and spun him around in the joyful jubilation of ecstatic tension release. It was just physics really, but Kathleen's arms remained around Harry's neck as the spinning died. And then she looked into his eyes and stepped back, scared at the love she saw there, the love she hadn't recognized until that moment but had known was there all along. Her eyes felt heavy as he touched her shoulder.

"What are you doing," she breathed, her chest tight with tension again.

He tried to answer, but no words came out. And then before his arms could circle her waist, her fingers were on the nape of his neck and her lips were melting and her body was sinking under the feather weight of his soft, warm kiss. And the roaring in her ears wasn't from the crowd at Coors Field, and the tension in his body wasn't from the windup for a pitch. And she wondered whether he would make love to her in the basement of her sister's house, and she wondered whether their children's eyes would be brown like his. And then abruptly, he stepped back away from her, and sat down and stared at the TV screen for an instant before he picked up the remote and clicked it off and buried his head in his hands.

Kathleen stood awkwardly, wondering why their kiss had imploded.  She fought  to keep her stinging eyes from overflowing. What did I do wrong this time? She wondered whether she should sit beside him and put an arm around him and tell him that she loved him, but she didn't.

Finally he stood up and...please don't apologize...apologized, "I'm sorry, Kathleen. You told me it's Phil you want. I'm sorry." His voice was hollow.

Why does this man always have to ruin my life? Phil won't even kiss me like he means it, and here I was wondering where Harry would make love to me. And now what?

Kathleen couldn't speak. She had no idea what she should do. Every possible action seemed wrong. So she went upstairs to where Phil was waiting, chatting with Colleen and Joanna and Jack about something or other.   She took his hand and sat down next to him and wondered whether she could ever forgive him for not making her feel like Harry did.

Later, when the party was breaking up, Colleen pulled Kathleen to one side, "What's up, honey? You seem so sad, all of a sudden."

"It's nothing, sis. It's just...nothing ever works out the way it's supposed to."

"You try too hard. Things work out they way they work out."

Kathleen was seated in Phil's convertible when he remembered that he had left his sunglasses inside. She watched him stroll up the walk and then she felt Harry's hand on her arm--he was kneeling by her door, still wearing the shell-shocked, dazed look of before. "I'm sorry, Kathleen.   We can't let this stop us from being friends."

She turned and faced him full, conscious that Phil was now bounding down the front steps, sunglasses in hand, and said, between clenched teeth,  "I'm sorry too, Harry. Sorry that you stopped. Sorry that you..." She pulled her arm angrily inside and turned to smile at Phil.

"So long, Harry," Phil called as he rev'd the engine and took off.

Jack came up and stood beside his brother as Phil's car sped off into the night. "Your timing's off," he said.

Harry gave him a weak smile and headed for his own car.

 

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