I was utterly in shock when Hayden had agreed to come. Truthfully I almost didn’t believe he meant it until just a few seconds ago when we parked and joined the rest of the guys. Who, for the record, looked like a pretty pitiful bunch next to the team they would be playing. Gavin’s team rarely wins, so I guess it didn’t surprise them when one of their only good players ditched the team last minute. “We are so screwed!” Gavin said, throwing his hands out across his chest.
Glancing over at the stands where Hayden was sitting. He had been pretty nervous since we arrived, probably scared someone from school might see him hanging out with us lesser beings. At the moment he was texting someone so he hadn’t noticed I was smiling like a crazy person when an idea popped in my head. “Ask Hayden to play.” I said, making sure I said it loud enough to where both Gavin and Hayden would hear. Gavin’s eyes went wide, and then he walked over to where Hayden was sitting.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something. They couldn’t be more different. Gavin, for starters, was skin and bone compared to Hayden and his tight toned muscles. I swear, places like Abercrombie would sell a lot more clothes if the guys on the bags looked like Hayden more often. Gavin was cute, don’t get me wrong but, some of the things I’ve learned along the way just don’t make it even a possibility.
Hayden stood up, and then turned around and walked off. Was he leaving? Gavin, as if hearing my thoughts blurted out, “He’s is grabbing a change of clothes from his bike.”
“He keeps an extra pair of softball attire in his bike?” I asked, though when I thought about it, I felt silly. Softball didn’t require a certain attire. He probably had some extra work out shorts and a shirt, which for tonight would do just fine. I rolled my eyes at myself.
“You alright?” Gavin asked shooting me a questionable look, and then turned to chunk the ball. The other player caught it and then threw it back. Gavin paused.
“What? Oh, yeah. I’m fine.” I said which, wasn’t a lie. I really was. “I was just thinking about something.”
“Alright, where do you want me?” Hayden asked. When I turned to look, he had just jogged up next to me. Sporting our school’s gray work out shorts, and a long sleeved purple shirt, I took a step back instinctively. Holy Guacamole, he was hot! I did a double take, and then felt a fiery kiss against my cheeks. I closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. Then, prayed he hadn’t noticed.
“Ree, are you sure you’re okay?” I could hear Gavin behind me. I nodded, Of course, Gavin would notice.
After a minute, or two, the umpire had arrived and called for the game to start. I walked back to the stands, and the guys took the field first. It took me a second to find Gavin but, when I did he was too far out in left field for me to really see. Hayden, on the other hand, I found almost instantly. He was playing short. When the first batter came up to hit, it was a swing and a miss. Swing and a miss. But after a few warm up shots, the batter swung and hit the ball. The clink of the cold metal against the ball sounded like lightening in a tornado. It had power behind it, and when it shot dead center, I was afraid it might hit someone. Instead, Hayden held out his glove like it was nothing, and caught it. The batter was out.
For a second no one said a word, apparently I wasn’t the only one who was shocked to see him still standing after having caught that. The force behind it should have taken off his hand but, instead he acted as if the batter had simply tossed the ball to him. The pitcher held out his glove, and Hayden tossed him the ball. “Shit.” Someone from the other stands laughed. It was a middle-aged man with a beard. He was wearing khaki pants, and penny loafers with a college insignia embroidered across the front of his shirt but, I couldn’t make it out. Pulling out his phone he dialed a number, wrote something down, and then flipped the phone closed and pushed it away.
Towards the end of the game, we were easily winning. The man with the beard had left, though he consistently mouthed off words of awe of Hayden the entire time he had been here. In fact, I would have said something to Hayden about it but, as he hit the winning homerun I was cheering so loud, that I completely forgot. “Seriously dude, you have to play with us!” Jason, one of the volunteers had called out again.
He was sitting down the table from Hayden, as we waited for our usual order to arrive. We were at Joe’s Pizza Palace, the only original pizza place in town whose standards or fresh don't mean microwavable. It’s also one of the only other place open this late, other than IHOP or the bars, and since IHOP was our weekend place we come here. “I’m sure ya’ll aren’t that bad without me?” Hayden smiled though we could all hear the question it had really meant to be.
Suddenly Gavin burst out laughing. Everyone joined. When Joe walked in with the pizza, like usual, I was sitting in the middle of the long table. Unfortunately no other girls in our group tend to come, so rather than sitting alone off to the side while they go on and on about the game, I act as a referee making sure no one gets too riled up. The boys like to argue when they go over errors, and I’m here to make sure they remember it’s just a game.
“What is this?” Hayden asked. I looked over to where he was sitting, a few seats to my left. He was holding up a Styrofoam cup, and holding an expression as if he had just taken a huge swig of lemon juice expecting a coke. Raymond, our little whirlwind of Latino charm, quickly took the cup from him, and set it down. Checking behind him before he continued, Ray answered him.
I watched Hayden’s eyes grow big, and his mouth drop. I laughed, and then his ice blue eyes shot up and matched my smile. He looked up at me, mouthed the word beer, and then took another sip. I nodded, and laughed again. Had he never had a beer before outside of parties? When Ray started whispering again, I could almost hear his adorable little accent as he told Hayden about Joe. How he had been a regular visitor to the clinic, and that he was a miniature poodle kind of a man, though you couldn’t tell by just looking at him. Joe had dark black hair and brown-ish green eyes. He was stocky like a tree stump, and a dang good cook. But a poodle man nonetheless. Up until last year his poodle, Doodle, (I know I laughed when I first heard it too) had only been alive because I saved her.
She had been hit by a car after the lawn people accidentally let her out trying to mow the back. When I found her she was limping along the road. She had severe internal bleeding and a broken leg but, we were able to save her. Ever since then, Joe has always taken care of us when we come in. Though thinking about it now, I’m not sure how the beer comes into play. Oh well, I’m not going to argue. I guess I should have warned Hayden before but, again, I forgot.
“Hey, I know you.” Joe narrowed his eyes at Hayden. I don’t think anyone had noticed he was even there, until he set down a delivery box of pizza. “You were with those two other guys last week.” Joe continued. “They stiffed me sixty bucks.” The room quickly got quiet. I could see Hayden was getting uncomfortable, and I was about to ask Joe if he could let it slide since he hadn’t exactly been the one to “stiff him” per say(at least I think he wasn't), just his crappy choice of friends. When Hayden pushed out his chair and stood up. What was he doing? I asked myself.
“Here,” Hayden said. He had pulled out his wallet, and handed Joe a hundred. “Sixty to cover their bill, and forty in advance in case they do it again.” Joe held his narrow gaze a little while longer, and then relaxed. He was smiling, and patted Hayden on the back.
“I don’t want your money,” he said. “Just tell your friends if they try to do it again, I’ll call the cops. My pizzas aren’t made with love, you know. Their made with the best of the best produce and such, and that’s expensive.” Pretty soon the whole table was laughing with Joe. He really was a nice man. Hayden hadn’t laughed though, and when we all got up to leave, I watched as he wedged the hundred dollar bill under his drink. I didn’t say anything about it until we were outside, and back at his bike.
“I saw what you did.” I came up behind him, and playfully pushed him. He laughed, and then turned around.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He teased me back. Then his smile faded, and he was back to being serious again. “Don’t tell any of the guys but, Joe was being nice saying Kyle and Scott had just “stiffed” him. I probably should have left more than that to be honest” In that moment, the air seemed to catch and swirl around us. It was unexpected, and I shivered when it touched my skin. Hayden stood there watching me. Without a word, he pulled out a jacket from his seat compartment, and handed it to me. It was then that I realized how wrong I had been about him.
Hayden wasn’t like the others, sure he was filthy rich, and a god when it came to baseball but, he was kind. And super-hot, I added in my head. Gavin and the others headed back to the field to practice some more. They called it One o’ One time, because it always happened around one o’ one in the morning, and because that was what they liked to call their practice times. I, on the other hand, was ready to leave. So rather than staying and watching their practice, which Hayden obviously didn’t need, he offered to take me home. Before we left Gavin got Hayden’s number and had asked if he wanted to join the team. Hayden said he would think about it but, that he couldn't make any promises.
We pulled up to my house about twenty minutes later. Outside my car was parked in the drive way, it illuminated under the moon from being newly washed. Hayden shifted in his seat, and I got off. He was acting weird again, almost guilty.“Thanks for the ride.” I smiled trying to lighten the mood. He didn’t say anything, just continued to look at my car. “Alright, well-”
“Hey Airee,” he interrupted, his hand reaching out and grabbing ahold of my wrist as if I had turned to leave but, I hadn’t been trying to walk away.
“Yes?” I asked. My breath catching as his grip loosened, and he just held it. “I am sorry, you know, about-” He had begun to say but, paused almost as if something was holding him back. I didn’t have to see where he was looking to know he had been talking about my car. “I shouldn’t have told them about your surgery. It was wrong, and I’m sorry.”
“I know.” I smiled, and then reached out and touched his hand. Almost realizing he was still holding my wrist, he released it. His eyes shifted to mine and he held my gaze a bit longer, before turning back to his bike. Did he think I blamed him? “Tell you what.” I said taking a step back in case he needed some space to think. “I’ll forgive you this once, IF you do me a favor.”His head jerked up at that, so I took it as a yes, and continued. “If you promise to help me with Count Saturday, and promise to play with Gavin on the nights you can,” I paused for effect. “Then we can call it even, deal?”
“That’s it?” Hayden looked dubious. I rolled my eyes. “No shopping trips or money trades?”
“Money trades? Shopping trips?” I repeated almost immediately. “What the heck? Are you trying to tell me something?”
“No, not at all. It’s just when Laurie used to get mad at me, she would always ask for something like that. Or a really big slice of cake.” I shook my head, utterly confused.
“Wait, you used to spend money on her just to end a fight?”
“Basically.” He said plainly.Thinking about it before my morals kicked in, that was pretty smart. Selfish, greedy, cruel, and vindictive but, smart.
“No Hayden, I don’t want your money.”
He narrowed his eyes for a second, almost like he was looking for some clue I had been lying, when he smiled. “Fine, then deal.”
“Cool.” I said, and then smiled. “So about that cake,”
“I knew it,” Hayden laughed, and pushed a hand threw his chocolate brown hair. I paused after having referred to his hair color as chocolate. (I must really want some cake) Laughed, and then went back to watching Hayden relax. It was nice for a change, seeing him not so uptight and stressing over who might see him do this or that. Plus, I liked his laugh.
“See you tomorrow,” I said after a few minutes of just talking with him.
“Night Airee.” He said, his words laced with a smile as he shot me a glance over her shoulder, and then sped off.
Once inside, Mick had been standing by the window watching us. He didn’t say anything, only gave me a half smile. When I got to my room, my mind was already drifting off when I hit the bed. I was asleep within a minute.