I hadn’t noticed Airee had been here until Kyle and Scott made it a point to pull me aside and point her out to me. She was sitting along the back row; her bangs braided and pinned off to the side while the rest of her hair fell wavy down her back. She wore an ash gray jacket with a crème colored tank top, and it didn’t take long before my eyes found the frayed out jean shorts I liked so much. All around her sat the guys from my new softball league. All of them fashioned in our schools color’s of red and gray.
“Dude is she stalking you?” I heard Scott asked.
I quickly rolled my eyes, and said, “Grow up.” Then walked back to the bench. I couldn’t see either of them behind me exactly but, I knew they would follow if I had walked away. When the umpired arrived, you could tell he was one of those cool ones. Even through his padding I could faintly see the old baseball player he used to be. Suddenly I had a quick flash forward, and I couldn’t help but, wonder if that was how I was going to look in thirty years or more. If I did would that mean that I hadn’t made it to the big leagues? Would Airee be there?
Pushing away my growing stress, I focused on the grass behind the fence, like always, and pictured myself hitting the ball over it. Curious, I looked behind me up into the stands as I took my place in the small circle just outside the dug-out. Pretending to practice as the pitcher warmed up, it wasn’t those emerald green eyes that met my gaze but, the over exaggerated golden brown ones from my more recent past.
“Hey sexy,” Laurie smiled; she was standing on the other side of the fence sporting her extremely short cheerleader outfit. Just then the wind picked up, and the back of her skirt lifted. A few guys sitting behind her let out a hearty cheer. Laurie turned and gave a quick curtsey before whipping back around to face me. “Hit a homerun for me, kay?”
I didn’t have a chance to answer her as the umpired called for the game to begin. Before I stepped into the box, I thought of nothing but, Laurie, and how incredibly wrong we were for each other. It wasn’t even because of her inability to care about anyone other than herself, or the fact that she liked attention as much as ash liked to gossip. It was the fact that, when I do think about my future, I might not know who (if anyone) I’ll be with but, I know it won’t be her.
“Go Hayden!” the crowd behind me roared as I stepped into the batter’s box.
The first pitch, was wild. It caught in the wind and went too far outside. “Ball.” The ump had said. The next, I missed by a fraction of a second sending it down the line. Still, it easily popped off the barrel, and went out. “Foul ball” the umpire said. The next pitch I would be ready for, I thought to myself. And as the pitcher wound up for the throw, I caught the sweet smell of coconuts, before the ball was released. The sound as it made contact with my bat, exploding through the air like lightning in a thunderstorm. I knew the instant I finished my swing, the ball would be long gone by then.
Rounding the bases, I could hear Gavin and the guys yelling “Zeus!” as I touched the plate. I laughed, and jogged into the dug-out. I had almost forgotten they started calling me that after practice Wednesday night. It had been after Airee left. Gavin made a remark about how I wield bats like Zeus wields his lightning bolts. Only he said I didn’t need a storm to scare my enemies; all I needed was a ball and someone to toss it. The game ended a few innings after that. We ended up killing them at the plate; the umpired having to call ball game after we were up by so many runs.
I grabbed my things and left before Kyle or Scott could say anything about. I knew they would want to grab a bite to eat with the team but, I wasn’t thinking about food as I rounded the dug-out. I was thinking about-“Airee!” I called out amidst the sea of people celebrating.
The short blonde girl had been busy talking to her friends when I walked up and joined her. “Hey, Zeus?” She smiled teasingly, and bumped my arm with her shoulder. For a second she hesitated, and then pulled away. I could see out of the corner of my eyes she had only been pretending to listen to Ray’s story before things took a turn for the worst. Within seconds, literally, someone had pushed between us, and come to stand in front of me.
Golden brown eyes, masked by a rage I hadn’t seen in a long time. When the smoke settled, as some might say, I saw past Laurie, and found Airee on the ground. She must have been knocked over in the midst of it all. Ignoring whatever Laurie had been saying, I pushed past her and knelt down next to Airee. My eyes only finding the blood, as I reached for her arm to help lift her up. Instead, I flipped over her hand and found a medium sized slice along the meaty part of her palm, the blood had trailed down to her elbow, and was now pooling below us. I didn’t even have to say his name before Gavin rushed over and helped me. Together we lifted Airee though I could have just as easily done it myself.
Before saying anything, I looked at her scar but, found nothing wrong with it. That’s when I figured out where the cut was from. Airee was trying to brace her fall by sticking out her hand. I hesitated for a second, and then released her. Behind us, I heard more than saw Kali, Airee’s other best friend from the Clinic, before I turned around and found her going off with a fiery choice of words. All of them directed at my ex.
“What the hell is this thing, and how do I get it to go away?” Laurie asked, her eyes giving Kali a complete look of disgust. Her brown hair was pulled half up half down, and she had done the Snookie poof again, like out of Jersey Shore.
“Seriously, Laurie?” I yelled, and then walked over and stepped in between her and Kali. I had expected Airee’s friend to get mad or something but, she just turned and walked back to her group. “What the hell was that all about?” She rolled her eyes, and tugged at my wrist. I knew what she was trying to do; she was trying to get me alone. I didn’t move. I knew if I did she would have spun some kind of lie making it look like she was doing me a “favor”, or that really she just tripped. Honestly it didn’t matter what her excuse was, I was sick of her being so damn dramatic all the time. I was tired of her being so damn rude.
“Hayden please, talk to me.” She frowned up at me. Her golden eyes hidden as, thick eyelashes, bat like a child in trouble.
“Hayden, talk to her.” A familiar voice from behind me caught my attention. It was Airee. I turned. She was standing next to Gavin, who at the moment, was wrapping her hand trying to stop the bleeding. “Really this isn’t as bad as it seems, it’s just the blood thinners I’m on still from the surgery so it looks worse than it is.”Airee’s face tensed under Gavin’s touch, and I could feel my stomach starting to knot. She was smiling but, I could tell it was an act. Why did she always have to be so strong all the time? Why did she have to be so nice?
“See, even the freak wants you to come talk to me.” Laurie whispered over my shoulder. It surprised me because I could feel her breathe. I had forgotten how tall Laurie was, Airee only came up to my collarbone. “Come on.” She whined.
“Really its okay.” Airee smiled again. Then the question of why she was defending Laurie, came to mind as she said. “It was my clumsy butt who tripped anyways.” At that moment Gavin flashed me a look when Airee wasn’t looking. It was the same one he had used Wednesday night when Airee decided she wanted to hit a few. Then, I remembered him telling me basically how stubborn Airee could be, and I agreed to let her hit. Truthfully, I wanted to say no, and call her nuts for thinking she was ready for that but, I didn’t. She didn’t end up hitting anything fair but, I had admired her effort. Plus, she looked damn cute doing it. I sighed.
“Fine.” I eventually said. “But if anything happens-”
“I’ll have Gavin text you.” She interrupted me. I then let me eyes shift over to Gavin who nodded.
“Finally,” Laurie said, and then I let her pull me away. “What were you doing over there anyways?” I didn’t answer her question. Instead I let her pull me off to the side and begin her speech. After a few minutes Kyle and Scott showed up. As usual, we hung out on the bleachers until the lights shut off. The whole time we were there, my eyes kept going back to the spot I left Airee at. I could still see her smiling in my head, her stark green eyes looking up at me. When I got back to my truck, I threw my bag in the bed, and ran a hand through my hair.
I needed to relax and take a second. Laurie hopped in, the passenger side and started the engine. Behind its roar, I could hear my dad’s voice telling me to forget what I was feeling. I needed to dump the little blonde, and get back to focusing on the scout who would be here in a matter of weeks. I could even hear his, your luck will run out if you’re not careful, line he always gives me when I ask to take a break. My father has always been one of those kinds of dads. The kind who didn’t make it pro when they were our age; either the cause being from an injury or some girl they let get too close.
So instead, they ruin their kid’s lives trying to live through them. In some ways I’ve always blamed him for wanting more out of my life than I felt I deserved. Being friends with people like Laurie can make you feel like that. People like her don’t think they just act. They hurt anyone around them who stands to change what they deem “normal,” and they enjoy it. Shit, sometimes I used to think that was what she got off on. Something I used to my advantage when I needed a quick fix . . . Suddenly my mind went clear, and I could hear my inner conscious taking over. I wasn’t a good person. I used things to my advantage trying to get what I wanted, I always have.
Whether that be my looks, or my father’s money, I was no better than Laurie because when I did it, I didn’t care who I was hurting as long as I got what I wanted. I used being an ass to people like Airee just so that Laurie would want to have sex with me. At that, I stopped. Wasn’t I using Airee for a grade? Kicking the bottom of my tire, I realized at last where all of my guilt was coming from. The reason, I could sum up into a name, Airee. I felt guilty because I was using her. I felt guilty for having feelings towards her, and because deep down they were coming from that part of me she made me feel ashamed of. Pushing off my truck, I walked over to my door. Opened it, and got in.
Before I knew what I was doing, I reached over, and pulled Laurie against my mouth. Her bubble gum flavored Chap Stick, invading my taste buds, as I deepened the kiss. She knew I hated it when she wore it, I had asked her to throw it away. Obviously she didn’t care what I thought. Almost instantly Laurie had straddled my lap, and was moving with the beat of a song coming from my radio. I didn’t know which song it was, it didn’t matter. I worked at her bra, while she played with the zipper on my pants.
I suppressed the urge to push her off, as she moaned and nibbled my ear. When I felt her bra give, I reached up and took ahold of her. An image of emerald green eyes played at the back of my mind, I forced it away. Pulling Laurie closer I told myself to get a grip. Then the cold truth rang in my ears as if Laurie had whispered them herself. I wasn’t good, I don’t deserve someone like Airee.