No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright © 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 8

 

Kathleen should have been having fun. It was Thursday night, and she and Harry were sitting cross-legged on his deck, overlooking a fast mountain stream, sharing a pizza, and battling mosquitoes. When he wasn't reliving the glory moments of the K-B-K Trojans’ opening game, which they had won earlier that evening, Kathleen was trying to teach Harry how to fold cranes. For a man with a workshop full of power tools, Harry was curiously inept at origami and kept on folding the bird so that it ended up being but a sad mutation of the majestic crane that lives so vividly in myth and legend.

If he hadn't seemed so frustrated by his fruitless attempts, Kathleen would have suspected him of toying with her. In fact, she had checked his eyes several times for telltale signs of twinkling, but saw nothing there but dogged determination. He sat across from her surrounded by a growing pile of crumpled cranes, while she took square after square of paper and, between bites of pizza, repeatedly showed him the sequence of folds.

It should have been a good week. Harry, Jack, and Kathleen had worked until midnight on both Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday night, after the rest of the K-B-K crew had gone home, Kathleen had plotted out the final drawings for the Heidelberg Project and Harry had stamped them. Jack delivered them Thursday morning, and the project was finished. Harry sent Kathleen a virtual bouquet Thursday afternoon. She printed it out and pinned it to her cubicle wall. She had never been on a winning team before, and she looked upon her cyber violets as if they were a trophy.

It should have been a good week, but it wasn't. Despite all the good vibes from the Kinsley brothers, Kathleen knew that she was living on borrowed time.

And now, Kathleen should have been having fun, but she wasn't. All she really wanted to do was bask in the afterglow of a finished project and an injury-free softball game, but her conscience keep pricking at her, needling her, ruining any enjoyment she might have felt. All she really wanted to do was to simply sit back and enjoy the perfect serenity of Harry's deck on a summer evening. Harry's house, a massive log cabin, was anchored to a granite outcropping over the St. Dupre River. Up river from the house were the ruins of Kenwood Abbey, a stone church built by Jesuit missionaries who had invaded the Rockies almost two hundred years earlier in search of souls to save.

Kathleen loved to wander through the abbey, overgrown with grass and flowers and frequented by deer and elk. Once, two years ago, during the annual K-B-K picnic she had wandered away from the crowd playing horseshoes and fishing and had surprised a herd of bighorn sheep grazing amongst the stones of the fallen nave. Kathleen and the sheep had watched each other solemnly until the sheep grew bored and wandered back up the mountain, leaving Kathleen to daydream about the men who had built the church. She respected the fortitude and conviction it required to gather river rock and build a temple so far from civilization.

Harry had bought the abbey and a good ten acres of mountain surrounding it and there had built his house. He joked that he would never be done building it--there would always be something to add or redo or alter. To Kathleen it seemed perfect as it was. Solid and sturdy under winter snow, and cool and serene in summer heat. Invitations to Kenwood were few and far between, with Harry preferring to meet most people on their turf rather than inviting them onto his own. The company picnic was the sole exception--then, it seemed, most of Juniper Hills found a way to be included in the invitation and Kenwood was overrun with townies.

Kathleen had been pleased when Harry had invited her up to Kenwood after the game. "I need to get a jump start on this crane business," he had joked. She had topped a pizza with herbs and tomatoes from his kitchen garden and baked it while Harry fed his dog and refilled the bird feeders that fringed the deck overlooking the river. Now they were sharing a soft summer evening, listening to the river below and watching the last rays of sun fade behind the black hunk of Ruby Mountain , the hill that graced Harry's western view. But Kathleen wasn't happy. Harry was pleasant and Kenwood was enchanting, but Kathleen's guilty conscience made her squirm uncomfortably until head down, focusing on the paper she was folding, Kathleen suddenly found herself squealing as she felt something cold and moist graze the nape of her neck. She scrambled to her feet, knocking over her iced-tea.

"It's a bat. It's a bat," she shrieked, whacking the back of her neck with both hands and dancing up and down.

The one aspect of Kenwood that Kathleen hadn't learned to love were the bats that came out at twilight. They never failed to make her uneasy, despite the fact that they ate pounds of mosquitoes.  Nothing Harry said could make her get over her irrational fear of them.

"Down, girl. Down, Belle," Harry growled lovingly at his juvenile spaniel, the culprit who had decided to kiss Kathleen while trying to steal a bite of her pizza.

"You're a naughty girl, now go lie down," he scolded, and then he laughed outright when he saw Kathleen's horrified face. "Not you, Kathleen, you're a very good girl, although a mess at the moment." He grabbed a napkin, dipped it in a glass of water, and was about to dab Kathleen's shirt where her iced-tea and pizza had overturned on her, leaving splotchy stains.

Kathleen's fingers quickly closed around his in a death grip.   

"I can clean myself up, thank you," she said testily, refusing to meet his eye as he rougishly relinquished the napkin to her and shrugged good naturedly.

 "If I'm a mess, it's because your dog doesn't mind..." Kathleen started to say in a shaky voice as she rubbed the front of her jersey, futilely trying to get the stains out.  Confusion reigned.  She was vastly relieved that she hadn't been nuzzled by a bat, but horribly embarrassed that she had made herself a complete mess in trying to escape from a simple dog kiss.  Worst of all, she was acutely aware of the fact that the thought of Harry cleaning her up with a damp napkin sent shock waves up and down her nerve endings.  His reaction had been innocent enough—she knew that Harry was the type of person who fixed things and since she had spilled on herself, he was simply trying to put her to rights.  It was her reaction to the situation that kept her cheeks hot. 

"She just loves pizza almost as much as she loves you," Harry said, his eyes laughing, as if he read and perfectly understood her disordered state.

"Distracting me with kisses in order to steal my pizza is not a sign of affection."

"Oh, you'd be surprised at all the dastardly actions that are really signs of affection."

Kathleen stopped dabbing and glared at Harry, whose broad smile only irritated her more. Drat the man.  He did seem to enjoy seeing her uncomfortable. She threw the damp napkin on the table in disgust, and sank onto a deck chair.

Harry placidly picked up another square of origami paper and started folding it.  Kathleen leaned her head against the smooth wood of the Adirondack chair and eyed Belle, who sat panting in the corner to which she had been banished. Belle took Kathleen's eye contact as an overture to make up and cocked her head and emitted a little half-whine, half-yelp.

"She's a positive flirt, Harry. Look, I think she's batting her eyelashes at me. As if that will work."

"Maybe she thinks she's found a kindred spirit."

"Bite your tongue. Are you suggesting that Belle and I are somehow on the same plane? I suppose you think that I bat my eyelashes and flirt my way out of trouble just like your miserable beast..."

Harry wisely ignored Kathleen's questions and instead held out his latest creation for her inspection.

"Look, I think I did it."

Harry had indeed completed his first successful crane, and Kathleen was so pleased that she forgot to resist being labeled as flirtatious as a spaniel. Instead, they both started folding another round.

Yes, Kathleen should have been having fun. And she would have been if she hadn't known that eventually Harry would discover that she wasn't going to be at the Riverdale B&G Club the following night. She hadn't yet told him that she had made a date with Phil Van Demeer. She hadn't yet confessed that she would be letting down Connie and the girls because Friday was the only night that week that Phil was free. She hadn't even called Connie to tell her that she wouldn't be there. She hadn't called because she wanted to find a substitute and thereby lessen the problem she was creating, but none of her friends had been available to teach salsa dancing and crane folding to hard-up kids. Kathleen was running out of time, and she knew that the longer she waited, the worse the blowup would be.

On top of it all, Harry had been such a sweetheart all week. He hadn't tried to hide the fact that he was grateful for her help on the Heidelberg Project. And he had been an extremely good sport about the blasted cranes and her idea to motivate the kids to raise money for a grassy playground by folding a thousand paper birds. And now she was going to let him down. She was going to validate every mean thing that he'd ever said about her or thought about her, and she didn't know what to do about it.

Harry folded another crane and dropped it in her lap.

"What's wrong, Kath? Didn't I do it right," he asked when she didn't say anything but held it up and looked at in the fading light. She felt her eyes fill with tears. Drat the man, already.

"It's perfect, Harry." She handed it back, hoping he wouldn't notice her quivering lip. "But then, everything you do ends up perfect," she added with a sigh. Her stomach was churning, making her light-headed. Go on. If you're going to be a rat, at least be an honest one.

"Harry, I need to tell you something..." She looked down to where her hands were clenched, pressing her fingernails into her palm.

Harry sat quietly waiting, watching her face.  He cleared his voice and was about to speak when Kathleen heard her cell phone ringing from inside her purse on his kitchen counter.

"It's either Dad or Colleen," Kathleen said thankfully, breaking away from Harry and hurrying to answer the phone. It was Phil. Kathleen walked into Harry's living room, putting as much distance between herself and Harry while she talked on the phone. Phil had to leave early for New York tomorrow morning instead of Saturday and so had to break their date for the next evening. Kathleen tried to sound disappointed, but she was so relieved that she was afraid he might notice.  He said he would call her when he got back from New York .

"Safe trip," she whispered. And then she hung up. Thank you. I will never ever get myself into a jam like that again. I promise.

Kathleen stowed her phone in her purse and practically skipped back out onto the deck. Harry was playing with Belle, but tossed Kathleen Belle's Frisbee when he saw her. Kathleen missed the Frisbee, of course, but gave Harry the biggest, happiest smile she had and bent down and air-kissed Belle's upturned nose.

"Your dad or Colleen?" Harry asked.

Kathleen caught herself before she took the easy way out and lied, and simply said, "An angel of mercy."

"Are you sure?"

To Kathleen's puzzled look, he replied, "There are other kinds of angels too, you know."

"Don't get spooky on me, Harry. It's bad enough that you've got bats..."

"Bats are good to have around..."

And so Kathleen and Harry began yet another round regarding the merits of the much-maligned bat species. They managed to fold several more cranes each.   Belle finished Kathleen's pizza and kissed her thoroughly by way of saying thanks.

 

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