No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 11

 

The short drive to Kathleen's house was silent. Usually Phil liked to talk, relating stories from the office and making funny observations on all and sundry in Juniper Hills. He had a wicked sense of humor and never failed to elicit in Kathleen a guilty sense of pleasure as he poked fun at her hometown and its inhabitants. But tonight he was quiet. He asked Kathleen if she would turn on some music. She selected a CD and then leaned her head back and let her mind whirl.

Life before graduation had been so simple. Funny how a little piece of paper could change her perspective so dramatically.  Then, she had had a game plan. Daughter, sister, friend, student--she had followed the recipe and had been blissfully happy in her tidy world. Graduation had come upon her like a sudden summer squall. She turned around and it was March, and she discovered that she had no plans for life after college. Her playbook ended with graduation.

All her friends knew what they wanted out of life. Some were going to law school, others to medical school or business school, and some were doing interviews and hanging out at job fairs.  The adventurous were booking flights to places like Vietnam , Peru , and Alaska for treks, tours, and explorations. In a panic, Kathleen applied for graduate school and then talked herself into being excited about it.

But now, as Phil drove slowly through the streets of Juniper Hills, Kathleen felt an overwhelming nostalgia for the way her life used to be. Clean, neat, routine. Life had stopped being routine the day she went to work for K-B-K Engineering. Truth be known, it had stopped being altogether clean and neat then as well. There was something sweaty and messy and almost scary about all those engineering jocks at K-B-K. Even Harry, especially Harry, with his spreadsheets and crisp, white tee-shirts was messy under his starched collars, sweaty under his aftershave, and scary when he was intense.   And he had been very, very intense when he had kissed her. Kathleen closed her eyes, remembering. But he was the one who had stopped. She had been willing to go wherever the kiss led them, but he had pulled out, pressed the panic button, thrown the safety hatch.

Confusion may reign supreme in Kathleen's brain, but she knew one thing for certain--she was absolutely furious with Harry Kinsley. Either he was teasing her and toying with her in a most ungentlemanly manner, or he was really and truly attracted to her but didn't think she was worth winning from Phil. A kiss is just a kiss, but Harry's kiss brought Kathleen's relationship with Phil into harsh relief, revealing it for the sham it was. Of all the hours she had spent with Phil during the past six weeks, she suddenly realized that she hardly knew him. It was Gabe all over again, and the boyfriend before that, and the one before that. She enjoyed their company but none of them touched her heart.

I have everything a woman could want, except...

Abruptly, Phil stopped the car. Kathleen woke up from her reverie to find that they were in the parking lot of a little park not two blocks from her house.

Roosevelt Park was Kathleen's favorite place in all of Juniper Hills. Often, she would walk down to read or simply daydream in the rose-garden arbor laden with heavily-scented blossoms of yellow, coral, cream, ruby, and a thousand shades of pink. Originally conceived to honor World War II vets, the Daughters of Juniper Hills planted roses every Memorial Day until the garden consumed the entire park, a whole city block square of roses--bush, vine, climbing, tea, miniature, wild, and hybrid.

"Up for a walk?" Phil asked.

"Okay." What else was there to say?

They made their way to a bench, situated near the archway that was a favorite for Juniper Hills weddings and high-school graduation pictures. The night air was still and close; the heat of the day hung heavy, not yet dissipated by wind and stars. Phil sat down, and then reached for Kathleen's hand, pulling her down, as Harry had pulled her to his side on the couch that afternoon.

"I have a huge favor to ask of you."

She searched his face. Normally he was so smooth. Debonair and suave, Phil sometimes seemed to Kathleen to be playing a bit part in a 40's romantic comedy. Not the angst-filled lead, oddly enough, Phil seemed more the sidekick chum of the leading man. Ready with a drink and a joke and a pretty girl on his arm, but not a big part of the story itself. Tonight, though, Phil seemed outside himself--less the part and more the man.

"Okay..." Kathleen said again.

"I can't begin to tell you what you've meant to me this summer," Phil began. "It's been so hard...for both of us. I've wanted to tell you how I felt, but I always knew that you knew. Words didn't seem necessary. Kathleen--thank you, thank you, thank you."

Kathleen looked at him, surprised at his fervor, but willing to be thanked for being generous of spirit and open-minded.   He moved slightly towards her, and  taking his movement as a romantic gesture, she impulsively threw her arms around his neck, with the vague idea that she might as well underscore the generosity he so valued in her. But the affect was different from when she had similarly embraced Harry after the Rockies glorious win that afternoon. The physics were different. Maybe her arms slipped from Phil's neck like leaden weights because she wasn't whirling. Maybe their embrace didn't end in a kiss because when their eyes met, she didn't read love and longing in them, but only gratitude.

Before she could feel foolish, Phil stood up and asked, "Can we go to my place?"

Maybe she hadn't read his eyes right after all.

"Okay." A college graduate and all I can say is 'Okay?'

#

In the six or so weeks since Kathleen and Phil had begun seeing each other, she had been to his house only once. They had been on their way to play tennis with the Eastmans and he had realized that he had forgotten his racquet. They had swung by his place to pick it up. Her first impression was that Phil didn't actually live there. It reminded her of a hotel suite... a very nice hotel, but a hotel. Tasteful, art prints on the walls. Black and chrome appliances that were never used. Inhabited, but not lived in.

They pulled up and parked and went inside. Joanna Bridges was sitting on Phil's sofa, drinking lemon water and painting her toenails. At the sight of her, Kathleen began to fervently pray for a trap door to open beneath her feet so that she could be swallowed up and not have to deal with whatever she had just 'okayed' to Phil.

Joanna looked up, first at Phil, then at Kathleen, and then she gave Phil the dirtiest look Kathleen had ever witnessed.

"What's she doing here?"

"Kathleen knows what's going on," Phil replied. "I figured we should work together and not be at cross purposes anymore..."

Kathleen was clueless, but if Phil thought she was on top of the situation, well, best to play along. She managed to send a weak smile in Joanna's general direction.

I think that woman hates my guts, Kathleen thought. She was right.

She slid into a chair across from the couch where Joanna was lounging. Phil fussed, trying to ensure that Joanna was comfortable. She wasn't making it easy.

Phil disappeared into the kitchen for drinks, and Joanna withdrew into sullen quietness, intent on finishing her toes.   Kathleen stretched her legs, then templed her fingers, waiting expectantly, embarrassed to be there, awkwardly wondering what she should do, sensibly saying nothing.

Finally, Phil returned from kitchen, handed Kathleen an iced tea and Joanna another lemon water, and settled into a corner of the couch and commenced massaging Joanna's feet. Kathleen sipped her tea. She offered Phil a half-smile and wondered who would speak first. Phil looked into Joanna's face. Joanna closed her eyes.

Just as Kathleen felt the beginnings of a headache forming along the base of her neck where her muscles were strung taut with tension, Joanna said, "I guess since she's told everyone in town that I'm pregnant, we have no choice but to let her help."

Kathleen had the grace to blush, while Joanna continued, "It's a matter of days, maybe hours, before it all blows up in our faces anyway." She turned to Phil with controlled ferocity, "Why you ever told Dirk Gibson in the first place is beyond me. I never thought this plan would work, but to make it dicier..." Her voice trailed off, causing Phil to massage more vigorously than ever.

Confused though Kathleen was, she had worked it out that Phil and Joanna were closet lovers. All well and good, but if the look on Joanna's face was one of love, then Kathleen felt truly sorry for Phil.

#

By the time Phil finished telling Kathleen what she needed to know in order to help him and Joanna, Kathleen didn't feel sorry for him anymore. Her stomach hurt and her head hurt, and she felt drained of emotion and energy. She could scarcely believe that she had ever even tried to be in love with him. She just wanted to get out of his sterile townhouse and away from his hostile girlfriend and his disgusting proposal. She just wanted to lie down in her peach bedroom, cool and quiet under peach sheets, and forget about Phil and Joanna. Her nostrils flared, as if she were smelling garbage.

"Well...what do you think Kathleen?" Phil asked, finally dropping Joanna's feet and leaning forward, anticipating her answer. "Will you help us out?"

Kathleen looked from Phil to Joanna. No, No, No! Her mind screamed. Get away from these messed up people! Be no part of this.

She opened her mouth, not quite knowing the words her refusal would take, when her cell-phone rang. Relieved that she could delay answering until she had composed herself, she clutched at her purse, digging for the ringing phone.

"Hello," she yelped into the phone.

"Kathleen? Kathleen, where are you? Are you okay? Your dad's crazy with worry."

At the sound of Harry's voice, Kathleen's heart leaped toward her throat.

"What's the matter with Dad? Is he all right?"

"He's fine. Just worried because you didn't call after you left Jack and Colleen's. Where are you?"

Kathleen paused. Harry was the very last person on earth she wanted aware of her current predicament. The pause lengthened.

"Are you with Phil," he asked in a low voice that made the dark warmth of his lips come upon her in a memory so vivid that her eyes drooped. She caught herself before she spiraled into a swoon.  She forced herself to remember that he was the one who had stopped kissing her. 

"Yes," she answered.

"Are you at his place?"

"Yes."

Harry paused. He was standing in the Kavenaugh's kitchen.  Kathleen's father was watching him and listening. A bouquet of gladiolii and foxglove that he had brought for Kathleen was resting on the kitchen counter, with bits and pieces of soggy paper towel still clinging to the stems, giving the bouquet a pitiful, bedraggled look. Harry suddenly felt angry with Kathleen. Angry that she insisted on wasting her time and wasting her life on people as shallow and callous as Phil Van Demeer. He was angry that she was at Phil's house after what had happened between them in his brother's basement.  Angry that she hadn't been waiting on her front porch, ready to throw her arms around him again. Ready to give him all her love, with no questions and no discussions. Ready to be his woman.  He felt as if she had betrayed him, and he felt stupid for feeling that way and angry with himself for feeling stupid. And then he felt himself being pulled into a vortex of swirling emotions, and he knew that he had to pull out and be rational and calm. But he didn't pull out. He plunged into the vast dark sea below him, letting self-pity and pride delude him into saying the three simple words he knew were wrong and childish and hateful...

"In his bed?"

Kathleen waited a split second before pressing the little red button on her phone, closing the call. It was no way near as satisfying as slamming down a phone on a receiver, but the affect on the other end was the same...an empty dial tone that buzzed accusingly in the offender's ear.

Kathleen stowed the phone in her purse, her hands shaking with anger at Harry's presumption in checking up on her as if she were his property.  She could scarcely believe her ears as she heard herself telling Phil and Joanna,  "Okay. I'll do this for you two. I think it's wrong and it's stupid and it won't work. But I'll do it."

Phil leapt to his feet and hugged Kathleen hard. She pushed him away.  "Save it for later."  Then she turned to Joanna, "And you clear out of here and don't come back until it's over. If I'm helping you guys, then you're to stay absolutely as far from Phil as possible. 'No pain, no gain'--remember?"

Joanna rose from the couch languidly. She casually packed her manicure set, and then gave Phil a long, sensual kiss that seemed to incorporate every last one of his body parts. She finished the kiss and then moved her hands slowly down the length of his body, either making a memory for later or marking her territory, Kathleen didn't know which. Then she slipped around inside his arms, facing Kathleen.

After a long, slow smile and a murmured "Thanks, Kathleen, you're a peach. See you at practice in the morning," Joanna walked out the door, leaving Phil to deal with Kathleen.

 

Back to JaneGS.com or Jump to Chapter:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  Epilogue