No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 7

 

Kathleen was still leaning against the front door, still wearing the smile of the blessed when Bryon emerged from his basement laboratory carrying a plastic hip.

"Back so soon? Another dud, eh?" Byron didn't wait for Kathleen to contradict his assessment of her date, but waved the hip in her face, commanding her attention and bringing her back to Earth.

"Will you look at this baby? Perfect action, if I do say so myself. This is going to give the old girls hips that are worthy of Olympians. I almost wish Gramma Bridges would take another spill like she did last winter, and then we could try it out close to home. I don't much want to go back up to Mayo--too muggy up there for my constitution--but we need a field test."   He paused to play with the ball-and-joint and admire his handiwork.

"Hot milk," he asked.

Kathleen nodded and then insisted that she make the nightly honey-laced beverage for herself and her father. She didn't expect Byron to be actually interested in the details of her date with Phil.  Apart from ensuring that she hadn't ruined her digestion with the Flagstaff House's hellishly rich food and noting that her date was enough of a gentleman to get her home at a decent hour, Byron was far and away more interested in his hip than in his daughter's evening. He did, however, remember to mention that the phone had been ringing off the hook all evening. He hadn't bothered to answer it, but she might check for messages.

There were four. First, Colleen wanted Kathleen to go to church with her in the morning. She was teaching Sunday School and wanted Kathleen to run interference and keep tabs on the children while she was busy.  Free babysitting--in other words. Jack was working again, Colleen added testily, and she really needed Kathleen and promised to make it up to her.

Working again? Kathleen hadn't noticed that Jack was logging extra hours. She glanced at the clock--quarter past midnight. Too late to call, but then Colleen had said that she would pick up Kathleen at nine-thirty sharp, leaving Kathleen no wiggle room.

The next message was from Dirk, the hairdresser. He hemmed and hawed, apologizing for calling Kathleen at home and starting at least two off-color stories before realizing that he couldn't deliver the punch line because...well, Kathleen could put two and two together and figure them out anyway and he wasn't about to get raunchy over the phone. Finally, he came to the point and asked Kathleen to please, "for gawd's sake," not repeat what he had implied about "the divine Miss Joanna being in the family way." Della had "like to have skinned him alive" when she discovered that he had passed along that information to Kathleen. Kathleen's stomach flip-flopped and her face turned red though there was no one in the room to appreciate it. Not only had she gossiped about Joanna to Phil based on what Dirk had told her, but it looked like she had gotten Dirk into real trouble because Phil had let Joanna know the secret was out. Joanna would harangue Della, and Della would deep fry Dirk, all because Kathleen hadn't been discrete. Gossip corrupts. Gossip about a swimsuit model corrupts absolutely. At least, Kathleen reminded herself, she was going to church in the morning.    She could ask for forgiveness then.

The third message was from Connie Martinez. Connie was following up to make sure that Kathleen realized that she had committed to coming to the Riverdale B&G Club every Friday through the end of summer.  Kathleen knew that Connie was tactfully giving her a way out of the commitment she had made.  Kathleen got the message: backing out now was okay; backing out next Friday afternoon was not. Kathleen jotted down Connie's number with a note to call her tomorrow. She had no intention of being a backslider.

The fourth message was from Maggie Obermann. Maggie had an opening at the gym on Sunday afternoon if Kathleen wanted to drop by for some time in the batting cage. Kathleen's heart sank. She had honestly not thought about softball and her manifold inadequacies at the game since Phil's flowers had arrived Friday afternoon. First the flowers, then the Riverdale B&G Club and the origami cranes and the way she had actually one-upped the great and mighty Harry himself, then the day at the spa, followed by a date with a Greek god. Sunday wasn't shaping up well at all...penance at church followed by purgatory in a batting cage. But Maggie sounded eager and earnest that Kathleen knew she didn't have the heart to say no. She wrote down Maggie's number under Connie's.

An enormous yawn nearly split her face. Kathleen went back to the kitchen, rezapped her hot milk, turned off the air conditioning, and locked up the house. She yelled a goodnight downstairs to where Byron was continuing to put the new hip through its paces, and snuggled under the covers with People.

#

Monday morning practice was abysmal. Kathleen had worked for two hours with Maggie the day before and was feeling pretty comfortable with the progress she was making. The problem was that Harry didn't seem to notice or care. The rest of the team was ecstatic. Maggie was like a proud mama whenever Kathleen made contact with the ball. Rob Haskins was almost delirious with joy when Kathleen was able to shift her stance and send the ball through the hole between short stop and third instead of straight to first. And Elliot actually hugged her when she crossed home plate for the first time during their practice scrimmage. Even surly Bob Martin complimented her when she hit a pop fly--"you got under it, but good power." Jack didn't show up for practice, and Harry was twenty minutes late. He had bags under his eyes and his cheerfulness seemed forced. Still, he had stopped by the bakery for crullers and bear claws for the team.

Colleen had told Kathleen that both Jack and Harry had worked all weekend. Apparently, they had worked every night last week but Friday as well. The Heidelberg project was taking longer than they had budgeted, and with the new Forsythe contract, they couldn't afford to do as much rework as they were looking at.

"Lettie's dropped the ball," Colleen had said confidentially. "Jack won't tell her that he's found mistakes in most of her calculations, but she's missing everything, he says. They've decided to have Harry go back and check everything that she designed on this project while Jack wraps up loose ends. It's taking everything they've got, poor sweethearts," Colleen concluded with a sigh. Then she looked sharply at her sister, "Now don't breathe a word of this to anyone, Kath. Jack would be furious if he knew I told you, but you're family and you're just going to have to help me with the kids while Jack takes care of business."

Still smarting from knowing that she shouldn't have gossiped about Joanna, Kathleen silently vowed to herself that her promise to her sister to keep her mouth shut was sacred. Hence, it came as some surprise to Kathleen when she found herself knocking on Harry's door Monday afternoon, closing it behind her when he granted her admittance, and then asking him how she could help him and Jack finish the Heidelberg project.

"Did Colleen tell you what's going on, or rather, what's going wrong," Harry asked curtly.

Kathleen nodded. Harry looked at her evenly, as if trying to size her up, as if waiting for a sign in her pretty, passive face that would tell him how to proceed. After what seemed like an interminable time, he answered, "If you can work late tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday, I can show you how to pick up red lines and make the changes on the electronic version. Then, I'll just need to check and stamp the drawings and we're done."

As he spoke, Kathleen watched Harry's face relax before her eyes, the worry wrinkles simply dissolving as he made her part of his team, accepting her help. She smiled inside and was surprised to find that she wanted to hug that exasperating, demanding, vibrant man.

And then, a split-second after she agreed to help Harry, she remembered her Tuesday night date with Phil.  She had arranged for them to go swing dancing with the Eastmans.

"How late do you think we'll need to work each night," she asked, with as much innocence as she could muster.

Harry laughed. "Until we're done, of course." And then the smile faded as he looked beyond the innocence. "But you've got plans, don't you?"

"Nothing that can't be changed." I won't let down the side. I can't.

Harry looked at Kathleen steadily. She bit her lip unconsciously under his gaze. He looked at the ceiling, and then at the floor, and then slowly at her. "Remind me to tell you that I love you," he said.

"It's okay. Really. We're family, remember?"

And then she couldn't read his face. He had the most curious expression. It reminded her of a movie she had watched about Harry Houdini. Harry was wearing the same expression Houdini had worn when he had taken a fatal blow. He hadn't been expecting the man he had selected from the audience to give him a blow to the ribs, but it killed him. Here was a man who could escape from chains over Niagara Fall, killed by a sucker punch.

Kathleen had expected Harry to smile at her comment, but he didn't. His eyes wavered between eagerness and sadness.

"Right. I'd almost forgotten," he said, and then he swiveled back to his computer screen. Over his shoulder he added, "You're a sport, Kath. Thanks for being a trooper. I owe you one."

Kathleen closed the door softly behind her. She felt her eyes fill with tears.  Had someone asked her, she would have been unable to answer why Harry Kinsley thanking her for doing him a favor could make her feel so badly.

#

Phil was sweet about her breaking their date for Tuesday night when she called him from the K-B-K parking lot Monday evening. It wouldn't hurt for him to put in some extra hours himself, he admitted. Hurrah! That could only mean that he was not harboring designs on any other female in the vicinity. Kathleen considered herself a very lucky girl indeed.

"How about Thursday," he suggested.   Thursday was game night, Kathleen reminded him.

"How about Friday then?"

Kathleen hesitated. For some reason, she didn't want to tell Phil about her role at the Riverdale B&G Club. Not yet anyway. Glorified babysitting wasn't exactly part of the skill set she wanted Phil to associate with her.

"How about Saturday," she countered. No good. Phil had to fly to New York to meet with a client.

"You meet with clients on Sunday?" 

"Well, we do a dinner meeting on Sunday to decide what's going to happen in the actual meeting on Monday."

"You have meetings to decide what's going to happen in meetings?" Kathleen was glad she had majored in art history and not business.

"Friday really won't work for you?" Phil pleaded gently.

"I'm tied up until eleven."

"Should I be jealous?"

Kathleen blushed and then, pleased that it would even occur to Phil to be jealous of how she spent her time, found herself saying, "I think I can work things around so that I can be free by eight. If Friday's the only night we can go dancing, then Friday it is."

"Kathleen, you are the sweetest girl on the planet."

No, just the biggest pushover. "I gotta run now. I'm actually supposed to be working. See you Friday, Phil."

Kathleen snapped her cell phone closed and mentally kicked herself. She should not have done that. Connie would be furious with her, and rightly so. Hadn't she called Connie just yesterday to swear up one side and down the other that she could be counted on every Friday night for the summer?

A knock on the car window startled Kathleen. It was Harry, smiling broadly and holding a plate with a gargantuan piece of pizza spilling over its edges. Kathleen sheepishly rolled down the window.

"Look Kathleen, I know you have a very busy social life and need to keep your string of boyfriends happy, but your pizza's getting cold," he said, handing her the plate.

She waved him off and rolled up the window. She hopped out of the car and took the proffered plate.

"It wasn't anything like that at all," she said airily. "I just wanted to tell Daddy when I thought I'd be home tonight."

Harry gave Kathleen a sideways glance as they walked up the steps of the office. She knew that he knew she didn't need to barricade herself in her car during their dinner break to call her father on her cell phone.

Kathleen tossed her hair and tried to feel like a worldly sophisticate. Instead, all she really felt was the slippery slope getting increasingly slick. How on Earth was she going to explain to Harry why she could only stay at the Riverdale B&G Club for an hour on Friday night? She didn't know what she dreaded most, the lecture he was sure to give or the look in his eyes when he gave it.

 

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