Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 chapter 3
chapter 4 chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7
Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11
Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Take me home!

Chapter 8

We hit the road early Monday morning. All the roving instructors were gone, roving to wherever there are fielders who bobble balls, pitchers who bean batters and batters who blow bunts. Everyone got a big pat on the back from the Toronto people, giving our egos a major league boost. After the final game of the season, we were to visit the Skydome for a grand tour of the facilities. We would also get to participate in a few practices and meet the men who play up in the show. According to Larry, a couple of us might spend the month of September playing with the team, as something known as "September Call-Ups." Most of the guys were certain they were the one who would be called up. However, I was skeptical. I was perfectly content with the idea of spending only the week-end in the Dome. I didn't want to spend the last month of the summer worrying about something that might not happen.

We stopped first in Kingston, then a two week tour of New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, through the hottest part of the year. We started near the end of July, and we didn't get paid until the first of August, excepting our generous nine-dollar meal allowance, doled out every morning by Garry.

We became baseball vagabonds; a team without a home. Good old Herman Hartman Park would spend three weeks hosting an international Amateur baseball tournament with twenty teams from around the world. While our locker room was off limits the remainder of the facility would be crawling with twelve to fifteen year old boys.

We watched the people from the windows of the cool and comfortable bus. It started when Dean saw a girl in the back of a convertible lift her dress to catch a breeze and cool off. We got a clear view of her lacy, pink panties. We looked down upon a pair of teenagers sitting in the backseat of a station wagon. They both suffered from wandering hands. We saw a lady nursing a baby, two kids fighting, a woman sleeping, a man reading, four people jammed into the back seat of a Camaro, and many other things. It was a parade of people and faces, endlessly different, endlessly fascinating.

We had an hour to loosen up before the game. It was the day before my start so I had a short session with George before he warmed up the starter. The heat was horrible and the humidity was hideous. By the sixth inning most of the guys on the field had bright red faces and soaked uniforms. Colin, the new kid, panted and clutched his stomach as he ran into the tunnel. Steve and Bernie followed him. Steve came out wearing a clean shirt and a disgusted expression.

Garry replaced everyone on the field for the next inning. "I hate to see my guys die of heat stroke," He cracked. "Doesn't look good on my record."

Once again I roomed with Dean. After supper there was the inevitable sock on the door, so I joined a group that went to the mall. We walked around and looked at all the weird fashions and tried to figure out who would ever wear some of the things. The guys thought it quite amusing when we passed a store and I held a dress up in front of myself. They all thought I looked better in baseball clothes than in girl's clothes. Nobody bought anything; nobody had any money to spare.

Two hours later the sock was still on the door. I had a headache so I waltzed in. Dean and his girl snuggled together and wrapped in the sheets.

"Hi, Annie!" he said brightly as I came in.

"Hi Dean." I looked at the girl. "Oh! You're Cindy, right?"

She appeared shocked, and covered herself with the sheets. "You remember me?!"

"Yeah, doll. I've got a headache. I'm taking a couple of these pills Bernie gave me and then I'm going to bed. Just ignore me. I'll be unconscious ten seconds after I lie down." I swallowed my pills and changed into pajamas in the bathroom. I got into bed without glancing at Dean or Cindy and fell asleep instantly.

I started the next game. I pitched six strong innings and got pulled in the seventh. The sun made the field like a barbecue so George took me out when I was, as he worded it, medium-well-done.

There was no sock on the door when I returned to the motel. When I entered Dean and Cindy were digging into a large pizza with everything on it.

"Help yourself, Annie." Dean passed a large bottle of ginger-ale. I took a swig and burped loudly.

"Are you sure you're a girl?" Cindy with a puzzled expression.

"Yeah, I'm a girl," I said around a mouthful of mushrooms, losing a few in the process. "Why do you ask?"

"Oh . . . no reason." She delicately bit off a piece of her pizza, balancing it carefully so none of the ingredients would fall off.

I crunched into the crust as loudly as I could, and washed it down with another slurp from the bottle. I spilled some ginger-ale on my shirt and Cindy's eyes widened in horror.

"God, you're a slob, Annie," Dean remarked with a big grin.

I burped again in his direction.

Cindy picked up a napkin and dabbed at the corners of her mouth. She silently sipped from her paper cup and set it down beside the alarm clock on the table. She selected another piece and nibbled delicately, again careful not to spill anything.

I was not as skilled as Cindy. I yanked a piece and left a trail of onions and peppers across the bed.

"Do you require a napkin," she asked, using her best Sunday manners.

"Naaaahh," I replied as I scooped them up and popped them in my mouth.

"How come George pulled you in the seventh? You were pitching fine." Dean decided to change the subject to keep me from laying it on any thicker. He could see I was having fun.

"I was having trouble with the heat. God, I was sweating so much my armpits felt like swamps." I held up my arms and sniffed. "God, they still smell like swamps."

Cindy started to choke. "Maybe they wouldn't perspire as much if you would shave them."

Meow, I thought. This girl wasn't the bubble head I originally thought she was.

Dean fell backwards, laughing. "She's yanking your chain, Cindy. She's having fun."

"Yeah! I'm acting like you, hairball." I threw a pillow at Dean.

"So you're not really vulgar like a guy?" She started to giggle.

"No, I'm not. And I shave my armpits, my legs, too."

"Do you leave the toilet seat up?"

"No but Dean does." I stuck my tongue out at Dean.

Cindy threw her hands in the air. "I'm surrounded by little boys, and one of them is a girl!" We had a good laugh. She stayed until ten and Dean walked her home. When Garry came for our bed check we were both sleeping soundly. Garry asked us the next morning if we were sick. I spent most of my rest day in the clubhouse reading the rule book. I became deeply involved in the explanation of the “balk.” I balked twice yesterday, according to the second base umpire, so I decided to figure out what a balk is so I wouldn't do it again. After six pages of balk rules Bernie came to my rescue.

"Time for your oil change, lube and tune-up." Bernie often referred to us as machines. He started with my pitching arm and shoulder; squeezing and flexing, examining all the important joints. "No aches or pains?" I shook my head and he started on my elbow. "None of the joints clicking or making noises? Does your arm still feel weak the day after your start?" I answered no to all his questions and he checked out my legs, rotating my ankles and carefully poking my knees. "Any pinching or grabbing sensations in the knees?" Again I answered no. He finished by giving a quick check to my catching arm. We reviewed my daily exercise routine, and he added several new weight routines for the arms. I sat on the table and he sat at his desk, writing in my book. "I hear you've been having some stiffness in the neck. Want to tell me about it?"

"It gets sore when I sleep on the bus."

"Do you sleep on your side?" He continued writing.

"Yes, I do."

"Well, stop it," he said, smiling. "You have to sleep on your back. Recline the seat, put a suitcase or something under your feet and roll up a jacket or sweater and use it to keep your head from falling to the side."

"Can you show me tonight? I don't want to wake up stiff and sore anymore."

"No problem. Now, about those headaches, I've noticed that they come around the same time every month."

I blushed in spite of myself. "Yeah, well, so does something else, usually three days after my headache."

He scratched the back of his head. "I'm not writing this in my report. I'm not sure that it's necessary. I've never had to—um—deal with a player's, um –“

"Monthly cycle?" I offered.

"Yeah, that." He closed up my binder. It was much thicker than the first time I saw it. "Now be a dear and get Adams for me. I hope he's not having his time of the month."

I called Blake and returned to my reading. I gave up on the rule book when George plopped down beside me.

"How you doin’, Annie?" He popped breath mints while speaking.

"Okay." I responded. "I was reading the rule book."

"Remember anything you read?" He offered some mints to me.

"I don't even remember what I had for lunch. I took a couple mints and sucked on them. They were refreshingly cool in the sticky locker room. "I don't even remember if I had lunch."

He opened a magazine to a page near the middle. "Take a lookie at this." The headline read. "Minor leaguer of the week." Under the headline was a big picture of me in my Blue Jays uniform. I was stretched out in the grass, my hair billowing out behind me while I looked into the sky. I had a slight smile on my face. I looked like I was day dreaming. Thinking back, I was in the middle of a day dream; an obscene day dream. The fist line of the article read: "With Annie Weston pitching for The Burlington Blue Birds, the Single-A Mid East League has never looked so good!" The article was about the week in which I had three wins and no losses and gave up only two runs in twenty-six innings. That was the week after Paul returned to Detroit.

"There's more," he added, and flipped ahead. On this page was my advertisement for the sportswear company. This was a standard player-on-the-bench picture, and I held the ball toward the camera in a split finger grip. To bad I didn't use the split finger pitch.

"Suzy picked out the pictures for me. I told her to make sure I didn't look too dopey or dorky in them." I handed the magazine back to George.

"Nah, you keep it," he said. "Besides, I have a dozen more for Garry and everybody."

"Thanks, George. I'm going to send it home to Dad. I bet he has both pictures framed." I turned back to the article and read it to the end.

"With Annie Weston pitching for the Burlington Blue Birds, the single A Mid East League has never looked so good! With a record of 3 0 and a downright stingy ERA of 2.66 during the week of June XX to XX, she is our minor leaguer of the month.

"The first woman to play professionally, she has come under heavy criticism. Sensitive to many of the things said about her, she answers them the way she has always answered her critics. `I just play my best and win. I think that says more than all the fancy debates in the papers.'

"The first to accept her in her trail blazing role were the others on the team. `She works as hard as anybody here,' says former Expo Larry Owens.

"`Let me put it this way,' added top draft pick Kyle MacGregor. "I would rather play on her side than the other side!'

"She has been romantically linked to Tiger Paul Morrison, who spent an extended re hab assignment with the affiliate team in Hamilton. `We became good friends,' is Annie's response to the rumours. `It really boosted my ego when I discovered I struck out a major leaguer in one of my first appearances.'

"The Jays General Manager keeps a close eye on her, and feels that she is for real, not just cheap publicity. ‘~Oh certainly she's for real; and you can quote me. We're looking at the face of the future.'"

The guys came in from practice. I changed into my game clothes and sat on the bench to watch the game. That's part of the deal when you're a starting pitcher. On the days you don't play you sit on the bench and high-five everybody when they do well and commiserate when they screw up. You go through the highs and lows with them, then when you go through the highs and lows, they are there for you. It's part of the game. It's part of being one of the guys.

I don't know if other teams are like ours, but we became quite close. It was a hard life, away from home, not a lot of money, long days, hard work and loneliness. The toughness of each day made us pull together. We shared triumphs and defeats, loan a couple buck if someone was hungry and broke, try to ease the loneliness, and even look the other way if the loneliness was overwhelming and he had to seek companionship from the groupies and other women who were always floating on the periphery of our lives.

The last days of July were oppressively hot, and the night storms offered no relief. We were half through the road trip, in Spruce Valley, Ohio. We stayed in the Flamingo Palace Motel. The building was white-washed stucco, with the windows and trim painted pink and pale turquoise. A huge neon flamingo stood in front by the highway, his one wing flickered and buzzed and popped; the other wing was dark. A patio and swimming pool was between the building and the parking lot. I was sitting at one of the tables, enjoying a hamburger for supper, while the men cooled off in the pool. They were enjoying both the water and the company of some girls who followed us from the park. The guys dropped hints about to the location of our accommodation, and the ladies didn't disappoint them.

Dean was showing off his diving skills to the admiration of three teen-aged girls. Ty got into the act by performing his best belly flop. He climbed out and pretended he was shivering. A girl wrapped a towel around him and rubbed him vigorously, presumably to dry him off. Her hand slipped under the towel and a huge grin spread across his face. He whispered in her ear. He returned to his room, and a minute later she followed him. Kyle joined Dean in a diving competition, much to the delight of the girls. A girl accompanied Pete in the water as he swam laps around the pool. They got out and went to the motel coffee shop. Larry came out of the shop, and walked to the room he was sharing with Ty. He rattled the door, grimaced, and came to sit with me. He didn't attempt to hide his disgust.

"Attack of the killer groupies," I said.

"Happens every year at this time." He sat a large glass of iced tea on the table. "The guys get lonely and even those girls start looking good. In a while the other displaced room mates will join us."

As Larry predicted several others joined us. Joe brought out a radio and we had our own little party on the patio of the Flamingo Palace. Dean and Kyle left the pool last, and two teen girls followed close behind. Dean hung his head out of the door to our room, and tied a sock on the knob.

"I guess I'm stuck out here for a while," I sighed.

Pete burst out of the coffee shop. He looked around frantically, and ran over when he saw us. He yanked me out of my chair, sat down, and yanked me down on his lap. "Go along with me, Annie, and I'll owe you a big one." He grabbed me and kissed me when the girl came out of the coffee shop. She appeared no more than fourteen at most.

"Oh, you do have a girlfriend." She pouted the same way my ten-year old sister pouted. "I bet I'm better in bed than she is."

Larry spat out his iced tea and started choking. Pete hugged me tighter and I snuggled against him. She was a frightening sight, in her orange bikini and purple eye-liner.

"Now look here, um, um, um, " he floundered.

"Melissa." The pout never left her face.

"Melissa, Annie and I are, are, are," he looked at me desperately, "Engaged to be married!" I gave his hand an affectionate squeeze, hard enough to make him wince. Robbie snorted orange juice out of his nose when he laughed.

"Oh yeah?" she huffed pertly. "Where's her ring?"

This is single A! I don't have that kind of money!" His voice became high pitched and defensive. He cleared his throat, and took a deep breath to calm down. "When I get to the show I'm going to buy you the biggest diamond next to the one in the Skydome and we'll have the best wedding a girl ever dreamed of!"

I batted my eyelashes. "Oh Pete, do you mean it?"

"Nothing’s too good for you, Annie!"

"Oh, Pete!" I squealed as I melted in his arms. He gave me a big opened mouth kiss with lots of tongue. I gave it a little bite and it went back where it belonged.

"I hate you I hate you I hate you!" She spat her words like a cornered alley cat and burst into tears.

Larry placed his hand on her shoulder and led her to the motel office. "Let's call your parents and they can take you home. We'll have a chat while we wait." They left with Melissa sniffing and sobbing.

"That's so sad," I said when they were gone.

Pete stuck out his tongue and stared cross eyed at it. "OW! Why did you do that?"

"It didn't belong there to begin with."

Now Pete was pouting. "I had to make it look convincing."

I stuck my nose in the air and sniffed. "What were you doing with a girl like that?"

"Yeah, what were you doing with a girl?" added Chad.

"I was in the pool and she had my bathing suit down to my knees before I knew what was happening." He grabbed a chunk of ice from Larry's iced tea and put it on his tongue.

"I have a fourteen-year-old sister," said Colin, "And she treats all males with total contempt. She says all men are the enemy."

"She should get together with my ex fiancée and compare notes," muttered Joe.

We sat and listened to the radio as the last blaze of twilight faded into darkness. A BMW pulled into the parking lot and out came a man in an Italian suit with a cellular phone glued to his ear. He went into the office and emerged a few moments later with Larry and Melissa. They talked briefly and then Melissa and Daddy drove away. Larry returned and sat with us.

"What a spoiled bitch," spat Larry. "We're sitting and chatting and she hops in my lap and before I know it her tongue is half way down my throat and her top is up to her neck."

"It's so sad," I repeated. "Why do some girls throw themselves at men that way?"

Pete continued icing his tongue. "I bet she's got a sociable disease." He slurred the last two words.

"I bet she's got teeth in her pussy!" Larry grabbed his now ice-less iced tea and drained it. "Pardon my French, Madam."

I was getting very sleepy. The topic had turned to high school girlfriends, something I had no interest in, and I felt myself drifting. The hazy sky reflected the lights of the city, so it was neither dark nor day. The sound of traffic roared all around us, and in the distance a train rocketed through the night. The neon sign continued to buzz and pop. My eyelids were so heavy I could barely keep them open. Pete elbowed me and pointed. Dean leaned out the door and untied the sock. I exchanged good nights with everyone. I went in as Kyle and the girls were leaving. I didn't say a word to Dean as I changed into pajamas and lay on top of the bed. There was no way I was going to sleep under contaminated covers.

In the morning there seemed to be a lot of "I miss my wife/girlfriend/whoever," talk. Ironically, or maybe not, most of it came from the guys who were busy having fun the previous night. Ty relived his wedding in detail, right down to the shoes worn by the bridesmaids. I felt a little lonely myself. I hadn't had a chance to call Dad or any of my brothers, and I was missing Paul in spite of what he said.

"Are you okay?" asked Robbie.

"Yes it's just I don't know. This has been a long trip." I sighed.

Robbie sighed, too. "I know what you mean. Good thing there's only a week and a day left."

"Did you see my ad?" I asked changing the subject.

"Yes I did! You looked really good!"

"Yeah," cut in Kyle. "Why don't you go out and pitch wearing make up and having your hair all fancy. Then the guys would be so busy hitting on you they couldn't hit off you."

I stared at him the same way my mother did whenever we said anything stupid. He resumed consuming his breakfast.

I started the game and pitched all nine innings. We lost by a score of seven to five. I couldn't focus on the game, I had to field the ball six times and I made six errors. After the game Garry pointed to me and said, "Weston. Fielding practice. Tomorrow. Two hours. Everybody be there. You're all sloppy."

"Oh great," I muttered. I pulled my wallet out of my purse and peered at the dust that had taken up residence with the two one dollar bills that remained. We would be paid first thing in the morning, August first. Unfortunately, I was hungry now. "Anybody know where I can eat for two dollars?"

"How about a dollar fifty?" asked Pete.

"I've got seventy five cents," chipped in Chad.

"You know, when I played Amateur ball they paid for all my meals on the road. I could have asked for lobster and caviar and I'm sure I would have got it." After a minute's hunting, I found three pennies on the bottom of my purse.

Pete was holding his eyes tightly shut, which meant he was deep in thought or watching a scary movie. Because there was no movie playing in the locker room, I assumed he was thinking. He stood suddenly. "I got an Idea!"

"First time for everything," mumbled Kyle.

"Why don't we pool our pennies, and go to the supermarket across from the motel. We can get filling stuff like bread and peanut butter and apples and share it."

Ten of us agreed to go along with Pete's idea. We scraped together ten dollars and bought some food. We got peanut butter, honey, brown bread, oranges, a tub of yogurt and two quarts of milk. We sat in the grass beside the motel and dug into our food.

"The Peasant's Feast by Bruegel the Elder," said Pete, cryptically.

"Pardon me?" Chad looked puzzled.

"It's a painting. At the time most artists painted popes and saints and kings looking all stuffy and bored. This Bruegel dude painted ordinary people doing ordinary things and having one hell of a good time doing it. They were poor, but happy; they knew how to appreciate life."

"Like us," said Colin, the new kid.

"Yeah, like us," said Pete with more than a touch of irony.

"It's sad that we have to do this so we don't go to bed hungry," said Blake as he licked peanut butter off his fingers. "There are guys in the show who get paid thousands of dollars to sit on the bench and we have to scrape pennies to eat."

"When I was a child in Mexico," spoke up Jamie, "This would have been or food for a week."

"Yes, many days all my family had was bread and dirty water," added Carlos, who was from Brazil. "Many nights I did go to bed hungry, This is a true feast for the people in my village." "They're right," said Pete. "Right now there are people living on the streets starving for real."

Blake nodded. "Imagine having, like, six kids and the rent is due and you get laid off and the baby is sick." Blake was married and had four kids.

Even Kyle looked serious. "We are lucky. We get to play a kid's game all day and get paid for it."

"I can't think of anything better than brown bread and honey," said Chad.

So we sat in the hazy evening sun of the last day of July, enjoying our peasant's feast; all feeling a little more grateful of what we did have.

Next morning I spent an hour on the mound catching balls and throwing them to wherever Garry told me to throw them. He stood at first base barking orders like a marine drill sergeant. The guys were taking great delight in hitting the ball so it would bounce at odd angles and make it more difficult to catch. When Garry was satisfied he made me practice running to first base while catching the ball. I practiced for almost fifty minutes. When Garry saw that I was crawling to first base he said I could stop.

"Good show, kid," He swatted my backside. "Go cool off before the game."

I dragged myself to the bench, grabbed a towel and a cup of water. Before I could sit and take a sip a hand stuffed a microphone in my face.

"We're here with Annie Weston, the first woman to play professional baseball. She's a real historical person."

Did he say historical or hysterical, I pondered to myself.

"Annie, if I may call you Annie, what's it like being a woman in a man's world?"

What's it like being dickless in a man's world? I almost said, but thought better of it. Heavy powder congealed in his wrinkles and a blond wig covered his head. His suit appeared to be made from the same polyester as his hair. He reeked of cheap cologne. He was striving to appear thirty-five, his shriveled face said fifty-five. I took a mouthful of water, sloshed around and spit it on the floor. Some splashed on his wing-tip loafers with tassels. I considered burping, but didn't. "It's not bad. They shave their faces, I shave my legs, but when were on the field we're all the same." I've always believed inane questions required inane answers.

His eyes gave me a why-are-you-doing-this-to-me-? look. "What's been the hardest part of your time in the minors?"

Their dicks when I get undressed, I thought. "Being away from home so much."

He looked relieved at a straight answer. "Think you'll be in the Skydome next year?"

I took a gulp of water and spit again. Who is this stupid person? I thought. He tried again.

"What do you see in your future?"

"More baseball. Someday I hope to play in the dome."

"What does your family think of your ambitions?"

A warning bell went off in the back of my head. The ugly man smiled a bit too much when he asked the question. "My Dad has always been very supportive. He drove me to all my games when I was a kid. He was with me when I tried out for the team in May."

"How did your mother react to a daughter who wanted to play baseball all the time?" His eyes glittered behind his tinted contact lenses.

You bastard, I thought. You slimy, nosy bastard.”Go ask her!"

"I did." His eyes flashed with evil glee.

"Then I guess you have your answer, don't you?" I grabbed my jacket and dashed into the locker room.

"What a fucking asshole!" I shouted as I punched my locker and kicked a bucket of balls.

"Who Annie?" George led me to a chair and pushed on my shoulders to make me sit. "Who got you so upset?" He stood in front of me with his arms crossed, while Bernie stood behind with his hands firmly on my shoulders.

"Some reporter. He asks me a few stupid questions and then asks me `how does your mom like you playing' and I tell him to ask her and he says he did and starts laughing so he's just a scuz-ball muck-raking sleazoid asshole."

"I'll go chase him away," said Steve as he went out.

"He isn't interested in me; he's interested in my fight with Mom. He wants to air my dirty laundry in front of the world."

"Welcome to the big leagues, kid," interjected Garry. He entered the locker room with Steve, who had told him about my problem. "Welcome to the fishbowl."

My anger was melting. "I guess you're right. I'm in the public eye and the public is insatiable for dirt, aren't they?" Bernie's grip on my shoulders loosened.

Garry smirked. "You bet, kid. When we get to Toronto I'll introduce you to a man who had to go through an ugly divorce, messy custody case, and a ten game losing streak all on the nightly news." He gave my shoulder a squeeze. "Now suit up and on the field, we might need you in the bullpen."

That was how Garry made us face all our crises. He made us play our way through. He said it made us tougher. I figured this would be worth at least three innings. He was right, of course. Whipping a ball at ninety-five miles an hour is an excellent way to release anger.

I came out in the seventh to a rousing chorus of boos. The good people of Spruce Valley had yet to forgive me for a two hit shut-out earlier in the year. I didn't quite throw the game away, but I came close. I loaded the bases, walked in one, gave up a sacrifice fly, and managed to have my fielders save my butt with a well played double play. Boy, I was sweating. There was one thing I hated more than sleazy reporters and that was losing.

Back at the motel I joined Robbie in his room. My doorknob was socked, and I didn't feel like standing in the rain, so I knocked on doors until someone answered. I offered Robbie a couple candy bars as a bribe.

"Gee, I'll do anything for a Mars Bar." He smiled. "Come in. You look like you could use a friend." I went in and sat on the end of the one bed. He sat beside me. "Bad day at the office?"

"Sort of," I said while munching my candy bar. "There was snoopy reporter prying into my personal life."

Robbie nodded while chewing. "Yeah, he cornered me and asked about all the special privileges that you get."

"What special privileges?"

"That's what I said before I smartened up and refused to talk. I wonder where he's from? His microphone didn't have one of those cardboard things with the name of his network on it."

"I noticed that, too. I also noticed grey hair poking out from under his wig."

"Maybe it's one of those tabloid T.V. things; like the newspapers at the supermarket check-out?"

"Probably. They'll have me sandwiched between Elvis is Alive and Bigfoot is an Alien."

He laughed and placed one hand on my back. "Lady Pitcher has Alien's Baby."

I laughed, too. "They don't want the truth; all they care about is ratings." I didn't feel like laughing any longer. Sadness filled me like the nacreous purple lightning filled the room. "Why? All I do is play a kid's game. It's not that important."

Robbie put his arm around me. "You know as well as I do that it not just a game. Not when you're out there playing every day. And it's not a metaphor for life. That's just plain dumb."

I leaned my head on his shoulder. "If I've learned one thing in my life, it's that." I sighed. "You're a real friend; one of the best friends I've ever had."

He gave me a hug, bigger than usual. His hand brushed against one of my breasts. I felt his breath, warm and soft on my cheek, close to my ear. We sat clutched together like that for several minutes, almost like we were afraid to move. We separated a bit and our faces were very close together. His eyes were bright, his pupils large and dark. His mouth was open slightly and his cheeks were warm and flushed. Our lips touched and we kissed long, hard and passionately. Our hands groped and grabbed for each other, with no gentleness. We fell backwards and we laid side-by-side, our bodies pressed against each other, our legs tangled together.

I know what you're thinking. Dumb move, Annie. He's married, his wife is your agent, isn't there a better way to destroy both your lives? But we were very lonely, very vulnerable, and very there. We laid on the bed groping and clutching, trying to ease our loneliness and sadness in the most primitive way that a man and a woman can reach out to each other. There was tenderness, no intimacy, no love, only loneliness and desperation.

When we finished we dressed quickly, almost embarrassed by what had happened. "I know this sounds stupid," he said, "But thanks, I needed that."

I giggled a bit. "You know what? I needed that, too. It doesn't mean I want to go out and pick out a silverware pattern with you or anything like that."

"I know," he looked over and smiled at me. "It's just that, I hope you're not insulted, you were um um "

"In the right place at the right time?" I giggled a lot. I think it might have been a nervous reaction. "Can we still be friends?"

"Sure, very close and intimate friends," he said in a fair imitation of Groucho Marx. "Promise you won't tell anyone?" I zipped my lips, locked them and threw away the key. He smiled. "I know I can trust you, Annie."

I smiled back. "I know I can trust you, Robbie. And I'm glad it happened with you." We shook hands and slugged shoulders, like guys do. We turned the television on and watched a cop show.

When I opened the door to leave Garry was standing outside, poised to knock. He looked at me, then at Robbie, then at me, then back to Robbie. His chin almost fell to his knees. "Oh no!" He cried. "You two! Tell me it's not true! It can't be true! Oh shit! It's all my fault!"

"Geeze, Garry. What's eating your shorts?" Robbie pasted on a poker face. I did likewise.

He sighed. "Okay, I get it, nothing happened. Sure. Next time fix the bed when you're finished."

We looked back at the tangled sheets and said "OOOPPS!" in unison.

Garry sighed again. "Was this a one-time thing?"

"Yes," I answered. "Loneliness makes a person do things they wouldn't normally do."

Garry humphed. "I'll walk you back to your room, Annie." He held the door open.

"Am I in a lot of shit?" I asked as we walked.

"No, you're young, vulnerable, and on your own for the first time. Up to now you've lived a sheltered life. I understand your feelings. Robbie, however, should have known better."

"Is he in shit?"

Garry stood at my door and untied the sock. "You kids are driving me to an early grave."

"You sound like my Dad on a bad day."

He hammered on the door. "Dean! Get decent! Annie's coming in! Next time you're lonely, come and play poker with George, Steve, and I. You'll be able to keep your pants on."

Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 chapter 3
chapter 4 chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7
Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11
Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Take me home!

all contents copyright 2004
Linda Leis Soeder