No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright © 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 13

 

Monday morning dawned gray and blustery. The residents of Juniper Hills dragged themselves out of bed, most having slept poorly, to face their town disheveled by a summer storm. Shortly after two in the morning, the wind had picked up, bringing with it driving rain then hail.

At the first sound of the hail, Kathleen leaped out of bed and ran downstairs and out onto the deck. The potted flowers that she had planted and placed so carefully were already in tatters.  She dashed to the gardening shed and grabbed cardboard boxes and ran back to the deck.  She frantically covered as many of the pots as she could, returning to the shed for more boxes. The hail beat down on her face and arms, drenching and bruising her skin through her thin night shirt. She ran out of boxes before she ran out of plants and finally had to give up as lost one whole side of the deck. She flung open the back door and collapsed at the kitchen table, weeping out of the sheer frustration of losing all that beauty. It was ten minutes to three, and she was cold, wet, exhausted, and utterly depressed. By five minutes to three she realized that her body was starting to shake and so she went back upstairs. She went into the bathroom and stripped off her wet clothes and dried herself, wrapping a towel around her head and cinching a robe around her waist. She had done her best to save the garden, her mother's legacy.  It was mostly destroyed, but at least she had tried.

When she opened the door to her room, she almost cried again when she saw the devastation she beheld there. She had left her window open when she had gone to bed and foolishly hadn't stopped to close it before running downstairs to save the garden. The wind and rain had soaked the curtains, and everything in the room--the carpet, her bed, even her dresser across the room from the window--was damp and splotched. Worse yet, the storm had scattered the box of stationary that lay open on her desk and had plastered sheets of lavender-scented writing paper on to every surface. Kathleen sadly gathered up all the sheets and viciously smashed the wet, soggy heap into a plastic garbage bag. Then she stripped the dresser of her treasures and carefully dried it and them, placing the flowers in their vase on a towel on her desk. She changed her sheets and blotted the water from her pictures, wiping away her tears as she wiped the raindrops from the photo of her mother, and set it back in its place of honor in the middle of her dresser.  She put the vase of flowers next to her mother's picture, then covered the floor with towels. By three-thirty the storm was spent, and by three-forty Kathleen was asleep once more, giving herself over to troubled dreams and restless tossing.

Kathleen considered the fact that she got to practice at all Monday morning to be nothing short of heroic. Sunday and its roller-coaster revelations had more than taken their toll, and the infernal storm that had struck in the night seemed to mirror the turmoil that had taken hold of Kathleen's head and heart. She awoke feeling as gray as the blustery morning, and great was the temptation to simply mute the clock radio and sleep until noon. Instead, she rolled over, gazed at her flowers, and wearily sat up.

Driving to practice, she shivered as she surveyed the havoc that the storm had wrought. It wasn't just the unseasonably cool weather that lingered in the aftermath of the cold front, but the storm had literally robbed Juniper Hills of summer. The Kavenaugh's wasn't the only garden that was devastated. In fact, theirs had faired better than most because of Kathleen's quick action to save it. The trees that lined Juniper Hills' majestic avenues were stripped and the roads were green with shorn leaves. The hail had long since melted, but except for the ghostly green streets, it could have been November rather than July. Kathleen hoped she had a sweatshirt in her trunk, or it was going to be a chilly practice.  Which reminded her that although she still hadn't a clue as to what to say to Harry when she saw him, she knew the temperature of the shoulder she would present.

Harry had behaved abominably, and she wasn't going to laugh it off or let him bully her into believing that any of this mess was her fault. Maybe she should just resign from K-B-K so that she wouldn't have to deal with him anymore. It was less than a month before she left for graduate school anyway, and they would need to hire another temp for the fall. Lindy still hadn't had the baby--two weeks overdue--and there was no way Kathleen could stick around until Lindy was ready to come back. But even if she quit K-B-K, there was still the kid's club and the benefit...at his house, no less.

Kathleen had come to love working with the Riverdale kids and had found enormous satisfaction in the big-sister role she had carved out for herself with them. Besides, Connie Martinez had told her just last Friday that she was the best volunteer she had ever seen, "including Harry!"   And the benefit? Kathleen was determined to raise money for a grassy playground, and she wanted to do it her way.  They were her kids too now and she wasn't going to let them down.

So Kathleen girded herself. She didn't want to laugh off the situation with Harry, but she had no choice. Chalk up the kiss to one too many beers, and chalk up the rude phone call to primitive alpha-male instincts. Even if a man didn't really want a particular woman, Kathleen reasoned, men were just so almighty competitive that their blood boiled if  any man paid attention to a woman he thought of as part of his herd, or pride, or team. And, Kathleen thought glumly, there was no question that Harry was territorial when it came to her. Well, he'd just have to get over himself. As far as Harry was concerned, Kathleen was still going out with Phil. Eventually the truth about Phil and Joanna would come out, but by then Kathleen would be back in the sane ivory tower of academia. At least Kathleen wouldn't have to let Harry witness yet another one of her relationships go up in smoke.

So Kathleen went to practice and wasn't even the last to show up. When she got to the back lot, Harry was hitting pop flys for the other players to field. Kathleen had expected the usual hearty hello--Harry had a maddening penchant for ignoring situations and carrying on as if they never disagreed--but this time he didn't. When he saw Kathleen getting her gear out of her trunk, he called to Jack to take over for him and jogged over to where Kathleen was starting to warm up. As she saw him approach she turned toward the fence, ostensibly to stretch her legs. But the icy shoulder she presented conveyed all he needed to know about his state of forgiveness.

He tentatively touched her arm. She flinched, but continued stretching.  When she finally turned and looked up into his face she caught a shadow of retreating tenderness. He opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it, and stood for several moments apparently waiting to absolved.

"Boy, am I tired this morning. Phil didn't let me get any sleep last night," Kathleen said archly. Two can play the blow-it-off, no-big-deal game.

They gazed at each other--one flinty and unflinching, the other hurt and disappointed. Harry finally conceded defeat.

"Whatever..." he said quietly, and walked away.

A sour taste in Kathleen's mouth reminded her of something she remembered Harry saying more than once about winning at games, about victory being sweet. It wasn't, she thought. It was acrid. It was bitter. It was false. There was nothing either sweet or savory in beating Harry at his own game. She wanted to call after him, run after him, apologize for fighting with him, but she held her ground. She was not to blame for his bad behavior, and she needed to stop shouldering the blame all the time.

Practice was no fun, no fun at all. Every time Kathleen bobbled the ball, she felt Harry's eyes on her, accusing her of not trying hard enough. Every time a throw fell short, she smarted under the knowledge that she hadn't done the upper-body exercises that he and Maggie had prescribed for her. Every time she whiffed the ball during an at-bat, she winced, remembering that she didn't even try to keep her eye on the ball. And she missed his encouraging words and teasing smiles when she messed up. It wasn't the same when Jack or Rob or even Bob and Elliot shouted faint praise for her efforts. It was even worse when Maggie and Lettie and Gail tried to bolster her spirits. Better that they should be like Joanna and simply ignore her.

Practice over, she practically ran to her car. She always went home to shower after the Monday morning workout, not wanting to queue up for the K-B-K shower, and she would have made a clean getaway if Joanna hadn't stopped her as they crossed the muddy field.

"Kathleen," Joanna said quickly, almost under her breath. Kathleen paused to let Joanna catch up with her, amazed that the queen would deign to address a peasant.

"I'm sorry I was so hateful last night." Joanna was clearly not used to apologizing, and the words came out brusquely.

Kathleen shrugged an acknowledgement and was about to stride on when Joanna clutched at her arm.

"I was just jealous. Everything always works out right for you and wrong for me," she whispered harshly. "I've hated seeing you around town with Phil all summer."

"Things always work out right for me? That's what you think?" Kathleen stared at Joanna, thinking she had finally found someone who was even more blind to reality than she was.

"Oh yes," Joanna said, warming to her subject. "You have the perfect family, you live in the perfect house, you've never really had to work a day in your life. Your life's a tidy little package--it's not smelly and messy and degrading like mine is. You're Juniper Hills' princess, and I've been jealous of you for as long as I can remember. And when Phil decided you were the perfect foil for us, I just about lost it. I had to watch you with him...going to parties, playing tennis, dancing, swimming. I had to listen to everyone tell me what a cute couple you were, how you were just made for each other, while I'm the femme fatale that everyone loves to hate. It was just eating me up with jealousy, and I'm sorry I took it out on you last night."

By now, the rest of the team had dispersed, with both Harry and Jack giving Kathleen and Joanna curious glances before heading up the back stairs to the K-B-K offices.

"I just don't understand why you and Phil have to be so secretive. It's hard to believe that Matthew Dixon would be so vindictive that he would ruin you if you left him."

Joanna laughed shortly. "You are such a child. This body is worth millions. Believe me, I wish it wasn't, but it is." Joanna displayed herself with a frankness that made Kathleen blush. Joanna laughed at her again. "Matt doesn't care about me. He cares about the percentage of the take he won't get if I walk out of Campbell . You think I like selling myself to get ahead? 'Use your talents,' Lettie used to tell me. Unfortunately, my biggest talent was making love to the camera."

They had reached Kathleen's car, and she opened the trunk to put her glove away. She slammed the trunk lid down and leaned against the car, waiting for Joanna to finish. Joanna swallowed, fighting to keep her eyes from tearing up, finally she softly said, "But every time they take a picture, they rob a little more of my soul."

Kathleen's soft heart melted. No matter that she had detested Joanna for years, here was a fellow creature who demanded her sympathy...and help.

"Will you still model once you start showing?"

Joanna didn't answer, she simply looked at Kathleen, examining her face, trying to see behind the softness of her eyes, wary of the friendship that was being offered.

"There is no baby."

Kathleen's stomach turned over and her lips curled. "You guys are sick! Sick! Sick! Sick!" She started to open her car door, but Joanna put her hand on Kathleen's.

"Phil doesn't know. He thinks there is a baby. That's the only way I could get him to get me out of Campbell . He was just going to let me rot there, and I couldn't stand it anymore."

Kathleen wanted to preach at Joanna. She wanted to tell her that lying to the man you love wasn't any way to start a life together. She wanted to tell her that love had to come first; it had to come before money and power and fame or it couldn't exist. But she didn't.  What right did she, Kathleen, have to tell Joanna how to live when she hadn't walked in her shoes. She had never been made to feel that she was a burden to her family. She had never been advised to "use her assets" and barter her virtue for a paycheck. She had never felt the cold fear of being caught in a game that was bigger than she was, that was played on a field where the winners took all and the stakes were enormous. No wonder Joanna was bitter and sad and desperate. Life with Lettie and Gramma couldn't have been easy. New York and modeling must have seemed like an escape, but they hidden a bigger trap. And then along came Phil-- a knight in shining armor but curiously unwilling to joust for his lady until his manhood was on the line. Joanna had gambled with a lie and who was Kathleen to tell her she was wrong?

"The secret will be out in a couple of weeks. But by then, I'll be out of the noose and Phil and I can start over, and really make a baby...the right way. Just help us keep Matt off the scent."

"I hate to lie. Nothing good ever comes from lying..."

"Please, Kathleen..."

And then Kathleen felt a glow of warmth as she remembered the one person she knew who could make everything right. She had one friend whom she could always rely on when the worst wasn't getting any better. And although he might make her feel awfully uncomfortable before he allowed comfort to prevail, comfort always did ultimately prevail when Harry was around.

"Can I tell Harry? Harry can keep a secret. He likes you, and he's smart. He might even have a better idea than the duress angle..."

"No. Tell no one. Phil knows what he's doing."

Suddenly Kathleen remembered that she had told Dorie Eastman. She bit her lip and confessed her breach of confidence.

For a moment it seemed as if Joanna hadn't understood what Kathleen was saying, but then she slowly slid down the side of Kathleen's car and buried her head in her hands and wept.

Kathleen stood for several moments, wringing her hands, uncertain what to do. Finally, she crouched beside Joanna and slipped her arm around her shoulders and patted her hair. Then she pulled her to her feet and put her arms around her and let Joanna weep on her shoulder.

"Please let me talk to Harry," Kathleen whispered into the soft folds of Joanna's hair. "Mike's out of town this week, and Dorie won't feel guilty about keeping a secret from him until he's home. And I know Harry will figure this out for us. He never lets me down."

Joanna wiped her eyes with the back of her hands and nodded. "Okay. I could kill you for telling Dorie. But okay. You can tell Harry. He'd get it out of you anyway, he's been at the window watching us since he went inside."

Kathleen didn't even bother to turn around and look. She felt better just knowing Harry was there, always there, whenever she needed him. Unconsciously she sighed and was surprised to find Joanna laughing at her, not the bitter laugh of before but one still tinged with sadness.

"Put the man out of his misery and fall in love with him already."

"Harry? He's too...too..."

"Harry was the only person more miserable than me watching you and Phil this summer."

"Harry? Miserable? Over me? But Dorie said..."

"Dorie Eastman will never admit that she settled for Mike. She wanted Harry and she wanted him bad. Not as bad as Maggie..."

"Maggie's after Harry?"

"You innocent child, she's the one you better watch. She thinks he's a demigod since he wrote her a letter of recommendation for umpire school, and while he's pretty cagey when it comes to fending off women, unconditional devotion will wear down any man's resolve. Plus, she keeps herself in top shape. That's quite a body she's created for herself—one that Harry can appreciate. He's got eyes, doesn't he? And Maggie told me that just she and he are going on a climbing trip next month."

Kathleen's stomach felt roily and her throat tightened, "Jack's not going because of Colleen, but Rob and Bob and Gail and Elliot are all going, aren't they?"

"Nope on all counts. Just Maggie and Harry, alone in the mountains, depending on each other for survival for four days...and four nights. Unconditional devotion equals unconditional surrender. So wise up and grow up and stop acting like a china doll if you don't want Maggie to walk away with your man."

 

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