Chapter 25

Marshal dropped the sign for a fastball, low and away. The third in our drill. The ball sailed off my fingertips and into his glove, connecting with a satisfying *thwack* sound. Marshal tossed the ball back while calling for another one where he frames it perfectly. The last falls short but its trajectory gave the illusion of a sinking fastball  baffling both of us.

“Has it ever done that before?” I asked him as he tossed the ball back.
“Not to my knowledge. Wanna see if it does it again?”

The wind up. The pitch. The ball sailed off my fingers as usual only this time instead of following the usual path to home plate it began to lose altitude, falling into Marshal’s glove just above the dirt of the right batter’s box. If someone had been there they would have had to scurry away.

“Interesting. You positioning your fingers differently?”
I shook my head. “Throwing it the same as always. I’m releasing it slightly later, though. Thought that was supposed to help shave miles off it. Guess a finger is slipping some. Want another one?”

Marshal nodded, I proceeded to throw one more. This time the ball moved the way it’s supposed to. Marshal rose and trotted to the mound. “Maybe it was a fluke. Weird how it moved like that. You sure you’re not trying to unveil a secret weapon for your next start?”
I laughed. “Nah, dude. We’re deep into the playoffs. No time to screw around with an untested pitch.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t decide to make a surprise appearance then. Stranger things have happened, though. Wanna throw a few more?”
“I’m up to fifty right?”
Marshal nodded.
“Let’s call it a day. I start in three days, remember.”
“The shower’s that way if you want to wash off the stink.”

Marshal pointed behind me towards the left where an open doorway led to a short corridor that opened into a locker room and showers, the part of his private field of dreams I missed last time visiting his house.

Twenty minutes later I popped back into his living room where our textbooks and binders remained open. “I put a pizza in the oven while you were showering. Should be done in a few.” Ten minutes later Marshal emerged from the kitchen with a fresh pie. Not a frozen pizza, his mother doesn’t cook nor do they have a chef. Marshal made it himself.

Marshal could be an Iron Chef if he wanted but is insecure about his talent so he only cooks for certain people. This is the third time he’s done so for me. For the most part it’s never the two of us and if it is we’re on school grounds. Shame, really, that he feels the need to hide this. But we’ve all got secrets.

With most of the pizza gone and two mock tests complete we called the study session to a close. To get our minds off school the two of us engaged in some Call of Duty online, not once had anything Denise or Charity related came up. Marshal’s good like that which actually makes me want to talk to him. But I needed the distractions.

I could tell he wanted to ask a question or two, especially when the text message ringtone played. When it came time to leave Marshal offered to let me sleep in one of the spare bedrooms. I refused, slapped palms, and left. The driver opened the back passenger side door, I climbed in, and we were off in less than a minute.

I fished my phone out of my pocket. Four text messages from Charity. I decided to call her.

“Bubbie! I mean…Chase. Hi.”
“You don’t have to refrain from calling me your favorite pet name. We’re not broken up.”
“We aren’t?”
“Told you we weren’t.”
“Oh.”
Silence, then “so how’ve you been?” Her tone grew mousy, as if she were retreating from me.
“Been okay. We advanced to the finals. I pitch game two in a few days.”
“I’m so upset I’ve missed it all.”
“Some of the guys ask about you. Us. They miss hearing you cheer. Even if it’s for me they pretend you’re there for the whole team.”
“That’s…. unexpected. But cute. Tell them I’m rooting for them all. Except that Novak guy.”
“I doubt he’d be heartbroken, if he has a heart. How’s the baby?”
“He’s fine. Been kicking all day.”
“He?”

My heart quickened. We had yet to discuss the sex of the baby. So long as it came into this world healthy it didn’t much matter to me.

“Or she. I don’t even know what it is. I’d rather be surprised.”

That sounded like Charity.

Heavy breathing filled the receiver followed by sniffles. “Sorry. My hormones have been all over the place. Can’t take this scavenger hunt my body is playing to stay normal.”
“Must be rough.” I breathed a heavy sigh. “I miss you Charity. I should be there through all this, but-”
“It’s alright bubbie. I understand. It’s my fault. Take all the time you need. I know you’ll still be here.”
“You shouldn’t have to- hold on.”

Removing the phone from my ear I leaned towards the front and gave the driver Charity’s address. “I’m coming over. Your father home?”
Through more sniffles Charity said, “he’s been working late a lot. This case has really taken a lot from him.”
“We’ll be there in about a half hour. You hungry?”
“I shouldn’t eat, but-”
“Spill woman.”
A laugh escaped her throat followed by a sniffle. “Can you bring me two fillet o fish from McDonald’s, and a baked potato and a frosty from Wendy’s?”

Boy this pregnancy is doing a number on her appetite. She never eats from either of those establishments.

“Sure. We’ll be there soon.”
Through sniffles she said, “I miss you so much bubbie. I’ve been- ungh! Ow! Shit!”
“Charity? What’s wrong?”
“Owwww! Oh no. Chase, the baby, it’s-” the call dropped as the car drove under an overpass.

“Shit!” I leaned forward. “Something’s wrong with my baby. Step on it!”

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