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Stealing Home: Chapter 30


LEAN BACK IN MY CHAIR AND PRESS MY FEET AGAINST THE BRICK half wall that separates me from the field. It’s so nice to sit during a baseball game. To let the sun shine on my hair, which is down today and wavy thanks to Mia’s magical curling skills. I take a deep breath and smell the hot dogs, the damp concrete from the late-afternoon rainstorm, and the sweet fragrance of the bagged cotton candy that hawkers are tossing to the people in the row behind me. It doesn’t matter which park I’m in—this will always be the scent of home.

Mia elbows me and I open my eyes as the home team filters out of the dugout, cleats crunching on the concrete as they jog up the stairs.

“Oh, yum.” She sighs and then takes a big bite of her licorice. I know she’s not talking about candy—at least not the kind you eat.

The sight is drool-worthy, though. Sawyer takes a grounder, tosses it back to the first baseman, and cracks his neck. It’s fun to watch him in his element. Everything about him is relaxed, completely engrossed in the game, but my pulse pounds like I’ve sprinted around the bases. It still happens every time he calls, every time I hear that syrup-thick accent, which gets even heavier when he’s sleepy.

“Keep your eyes to yourself.” I elbow her back. “You have a boyfriend.”

“No, I don’t.” She takes another bite, even though I’m positive she hasn’t finished the mouthful she already has. “I have a friend who is male, who sometimes hangs out at my house and eats all my mom’s food.”

“And that you make out with in the pool house whenever you think you can get away with it.”

Mia smirks at me, but her teeth are pink and it’s hilarious. “I’m fairly certain someone else broke it in first.”

“Probably Marc,” we say at the same time, and burst into laughter.

Three weeks ago, on the night Campbell got the call that he’d be moving up to Triple-A, we got caught kissing in the pool house. Mia had the soundtrack from Star Wars on her phone and started playing it as she peeked around the corner. “The Imperial March” was hilarious.

I feel light today, like when we left for Round Rock this morning I shook off all my problems, leaving them in a gutter somewhere in Buckley. I’m not positive the Beavers will still be at John M. Perry Park in ten years, but they’ll be there for the next five. Mr. Chestnut signed the naming-rights agreement, and there’s a good chance with the addition and renovations, the team will stay in Buckley permanently.

Mr. Jamison is renting a condo in town and has turned the conference room into a temporary office. For as much change as he’s bringing to the team, he’s actually a really cool guy. He played baseball in southern California, and he’s more laid back than I imagined anyone from Black Keys could be. He and Dad get along really well, which is both shocking and great. He’s helping Dad see how we can mix the new and the old, how we can keep the Beavers’ traditions and shake a few things up to improve revenue and ticket sales.

He’s also arranged for me to attend the Baseball Winter Meetings this December in Nashville. It’s a huge conference with classes that teach all the ins and outs of the business of baseball. I’ll learn how other organizations run, get to do some networking, and spend a weekend away from home.

It happens to fall over my winter break and is only six hours from Cordele, Georgia. Mom has promised to drive down with me, and we’re going to spend the week before Christmas with the Campbells.

And Sawyer.

That’s the third big effort she’s made at fixing our mother–daughter relationship. The first was giving me the shares. Black Keys wouldn’t agree to the deal if they couldn’t be a majority partner or at least have an equal portion, so she coerced my dad to give up one of his shares. Dad owns forty-nine percent, Black Keys owns forty-nine percent, and I own the last two. She wasn’t even sure until the morning we met with Mr. Jamison if the lawyers and other stockholders at Black Keys would ratify the contract, but she was willing to sacrifice the sale if it meant I wouldn’t get a portion of the team.

I’m still sort of in shock that she’d back out of something that big for my sake.

Letting me come to the game today—to see Campbell for the first time since he got promoted to Triple-A—was Mom’s attempt at keeping a promise. I know she’s really against me dating a baseball player and letting someone else’s dream supersede my own. I’ve tried to convince her that will never happen, but she’s got too much baggage on the subject. It helps that the Campbells are the best sort of people and Sawyer’s impossible to dislike, but she still had to chaperone.

“Okay, okay, okay,” Mom says as she edges past other fans. She’s got a cardboard box heavy with drinks for the three of us, a loaded baked potato for Mia, a footlong for me, and a salad for herself. A salad. At a baseball game. A lot has changed over the last few months, but I guess I shouldn’t expect too much too fast.

Mom claims she’s here to spend time with Brenda, but I know this is another peace offering. She didn’t have to bring me. She rescheduled a ton of training appointments with her clients so I can have more than one evening with Sawyer.

Brenda’s sliding in behind Mom, carrying a box of her own. She tosses me frozen Junior Mints. My favorite.

I love this woman.

I don’t tell her that they taste like her son.

The music for the first batter starts playing, and my mom says something to Brenda, and the two of them dissolve into laughter that’s so loud it’s almost embarrassing.

The first batter strikes out. The second hits a single. The third hits the ball into the gap between first and second. The second baseman fields it, tosses it to the first baseman, who pitches it to Sawyer. He leaps out of the way of the sliding runner and gets the tag all at the same time. Beautiful double play.

All four of us stand to cheer for him, and I see his smile grow as he jogs toward the dugout. He flips the ball to me underhand, and I catch it short of the fence. It’s silly, but I clutch the ball to my chest like it’s some great treasure.

Scarlett O’Hara was right about one thing: tomorrow is another day, but today is perfect.


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