The Perfect Game: Chapter 23

After Joey dropped me off, I ran upstairs and slammed my apartment door, tossing my body like a rag doll onto the gently-used couch I’d purchased as soon as I arrived in New York. I cried into the velvet-like cushion, my tears soaking in as I reached for my cell phone.

“Yo,” Melissa answered, rowdy cheers screaming in the background.

“Melis?” I choked out.

“Cass? What’s wrong? Shit, I can’t hear anything. Hold on a sec, ’K?” She didn’t really ask. “Excuse me. I said excuse me, move please. Ugh. Cass? Cassie, can you hear me?”

The noise faded into the background with each word she said. “Oh my God, Melissa. I saw Jack tonight. He saw me. It was horrible.” The words tumbled from my lips.

“What do you mean? Slow down and tell me everything.”

“I finally agreed to go out with Joey from work. He’s super nice, by the way, but anyway. I guess he overheard me talking to someone about how I was good friends with a baseball player in college and how that player was on the Diamondbacks. Well, Joey thought it would be sweet to surprise me—”

“Oh no, he didn’t. This guy needs a Cassie 101 lesson,” she interrupted.

“Anyway, so he won’t tell me where we’re going and then we pull up at the baseball stadium because they’re playing Jack’s team and Jack was warming up and I lost it, Melissa. I fucking lost it.” I covered my eyes with one hand.

“Go on.”

“So I practically ran from my seat and Joey screamed my name. I mean, he shouted it so loud I think the people in space heard!”

“Oh my God.” Melissa sounded horrified.

“I turned around and Jack was just staring at me with this look on his face.”

“Oh. My. God.”

“I’ve never seen that look on his face before. I think he hates me.” I sobbed into the phone, wishing she was next to me.

“He doesn’t hate you. Stop saying that,” she chastised, her voice irritated.

“You didn’t see his face or his eyes. What do I do? Should I text him? Should I do nothing?”

“What do you want to do?”

“I’m so tired of doing nothing when it comes to him. For the last six months, I’ve just accepted that he hasn’t tried to talk to me. But the whole time I’m sitting here going insane trying to figure out why. I know I could end all my suffering by picking up the phone and talking to him. But do I do that? No, because that’s what a normal, sane person would do. And clearly, I’m neither.”

“I think you should text him. Or call. But you’re right. You should say something. This has got to stop between you two. Either work it out, or give each other closure and move the hell on.”

The word closure caused my insides to twist again. “I don’t want closure. I don’t want to move on.”

“I know you don’t,” she agreed calmly, “but this thing between the two of you…whatever it is…I know it’s not good for you. I don’t give a fuck if it’s good for him.”

“Okay, well, I think I’ll call him while he’s still playing and leave him a voice mail.”


“I know, but that way the ball’s in his court.”

“Let me know what happens. Love you.” She made a kissy sound into the phone before hanging up, and I dialed Jack’s number.

Straight to voice mail. “Hey, Jack, it’s me…Cassie. I just wanted to apologize for the craziness at the game tonight. It’s sort of a long story, but I…” I paused, my chest deflating. “I just miss you.”

He didn’t call back.


Two weeks passed since the game which Melissa and I now referred to as “the incident” whenever it was discussed.

My doorman’s kind and raspy voice blared through the speaker box in my apartment. “Miss Andrews, there’s a package down here for you. Do you want me to bring it up, or would you like to come get it?”

“Can you bring it up, Fred? I’d really appreciate it.” I released the button before quickly pressing it again. “Unless you’re busy, then I can come down. Whatever is more convenient for you, Fred. Thanks.”

“Okay, Miss Andrews. I’ll be up soon.”

I plopped back onto my couch and continued to watch TV until the doorbell rang. I opened it to see Fred, dressed in his dark gray work suit and black bow tie. He was all smiles as he warned, “Careful, Miss Andrews, it’s really heavy.” He heaved the package into my arms.

“Holy crap, Fred, what the heck is this? Someone sending me weights? I’m sorry you had to carry this all the way up. Thank you.”

“Not a problem, Miss Andrews. It’s my job,” he said with a warm smile that made me want to wrap my arms around him and squeeze.

I closed the door as he left, lugging the incredibly heavy package back onto the couch with me. I tore through the brown paper wrapping to reveal an old shoebox with a note on top.

I can’t live without your Touch. You’ll see that I’ve provided enough money to pay for at least twenty years or so.

I lifted the lid to reveal the entire contents of the box filled with quarters. My heart raced as my mind tried to figure out if this meant what I thought it did. I glanced toward the corner of my living room where the original mason jar filled with Cassie’s Quarters sat on a shelf. Confused, I reached for my cell to call Melissa when my doorbell rang again.

I tossed my cell on top of the quarters and shoved off the couch to answer the door. I cocked my head when I noticed Fred standing there, holding another box in his arms. “Fred?”

“Sorry I didn’t call. I just figured I’d bring this one up too.” He held the package out and I grabbed it, relieved that it didn’t weigh three hundred pounds like the first one.

Confusion sprinted marathons through my head. “Was this with the original package?”

“No, miss, it arrived separately.” Fred gave me a big smile.

“Okay. Thanks again,” I said before closing the door and returning to my seat on the couch.

I tore through the same brown paper wrapping to reveal another box with a note on top.

Your Passion is inspiring. I can’t live without the way you use it to see the world.

I opened the lid to reveal four individually framed photos that I had taken for the magazine’s website over the last few months. One of them was from when I’d first gotten here. He’d chosen some of my favorites of the scenes I’d shot of the city, the people I’d captured, and the way a building caught the light of the sunset. He’d been following my work the whole time.

The bell ringing caused me to jump from my current revelation. I peered from around the door to see Fred standing there yet again, another package in tow. “Fred, what’s going on?”

“I’m not really sure, Miss Andrews. They just keep arriving.” He shrugged.

“Okay. I’m sorry about that.”

“Oh, don’t be. It’s kind of fun!” He laughed.

“Who keeps bringing them?” I asked, wondering if Jack was here before I realized that his team played in Houston this week.

“Some young kid,” he offered.


“Weird indeed.” He nodded before turning away.

I took two steps toward the table closest to the door and sat, peeling the wrapping back.

Your Mind is filled with tests and goals and reasons why you should always say no. But I can’t live without you and here are reasons why you should say yes.

I removed a framed eight-by-ten photo of my rules typed in a girlish font that I wondered who helped him pick out.

Cassie’s Rules for a Happy Life:

#1 – Don’t Lie

#2 – Don’t Cheat

#3 – Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep

#4 – Don’t Say Things You Don’t Mean

Attached underneath rule number four was a handwritten note taped to the glass.

I know I’ve broken your rules and I don’t deserve a second chance, but I promise you that I’ll never break them again. I think it was Ghandi who said, “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” I hope you have the strength to forgive me.

#1 – I lied because I was terrified of losing you. I know that’s not an excuse, but it’s the only reason I have for being untruthful. I’ll never lie to you again.

#2 – This one kills me more than I can put into words. I have no excuse for my behavior that night but I can only tell you that I’ll never even look at another girl again if that’s what it takes. I’ll never drink another drop. Just tell me what I have to do to get you to forgive me. I’m not asking you to forget, just forgive.

#3 – I promise to spend the rest of my life making you happy if you’ll let me.

#4 – I told you once that you were my game changer. I meant it then and it still holds true now. There’s no getting over you.

Tears dropped from my eyes as my heart caught in my throat. All my emotions jumbled together as I tried to sort them out but failed.

Another quick ring of the bell and I didn’t even attempt to wipe my eyes before I answered it. “Hi, Fred,” I said, the tears still rolling down.

“Good tears or bad tears?” His tired eyes widened at the sight of me.

“Good tears.” I snickered.

“Whew!” he exclaimed as he playfully wiped the non-existent sweat from his brow. “Here’s the latest.” He handed me a large manila envelope.

“Thanks again.” I reached for it before closing the door, already undoing the small fastener on the back.

Eye-rolling is bad for you, Kitten, and here are the reasons why.

I laughed out loud as I turned through the pages filled with ridiculous pictures of people and pets rolling their eyes. He attached a few completely made-up articles about “The Unknown Dangers of Eye-Rolling!”

I rolled my eyes as the doorbell rang for the last time. “Fred. I feel like I should just leave my door open for the rest of the night,” I teased.

“This is the last one, Miss Andrews,” he said, handing me the last brown paper-wrapped box.

I breathed in deeply before giving Fred a quick hug. “Thank you for not getting irritated by all of this, Fred.”

“It’s been fun. Have a good night.” He closed the door for me as I settled into the couch next to the box of quarters.

I unwrapped the box more slowly, knowing that it would be the last. There was an envelope taped to the top of the box that said Read Me First. With my emotions in overdrive, I ripped open the envelope, reaching for the paper inside.


Letting go of someone who owns your heart is hard. Sometimes holding on to that person is even harder. I know I’m not the easiest person to love, but you are.

It’s not that I can’t live without you; it’s that I don’t want to. There’s a difference. We all make choices in life and I choose you.

My heart belongs to you. And I’m not asking for it back, even if you don’t want it anymore. I’m just asking for the chance to have yours again. I promise I’ll be more careful with it this time.

Love Always,


I opened the box, the tears blurring my vision almost completely as I looked inside. The box was empty, except for a lone envelope that sat taped to the bottom with the words Read Me Last written in black Sharpie marker.

My finger tore through the thick sealed paper before pulling out the small note folded over once.


Open your front door.

My head spun around and my mouth opened as I eyed my front door, unsure of what would be behind it. I hopped off the couch, turned the knob, and pulled it open.

“Oh my God.”

Jack stood outside my door carrying a dozen red roses. It was only once he lowered his arms that I could see the uniform he was wearing. The word Mets was written across an all-white jersey with dark blue and orange lettering. It reminded me of his old uniform from college and my mind instantly flashed back to seeing him on the mound. “Why are you wearing a Mets jersey?”

“I got traded.” The sound of his voice melted through my every pore like butter, instantly sending me back in time.

“They traded you?” I managed to ask through my surprise.

“Well, technically,” he said, his trademark dimples flashing, “I asked.”

“You asked what?”

“I asked to be traded to the Mets.” He looked down at his feet.


I rapped my knuckles against the manager’s glass door. He looked up from his computer. “Come in.” He motioned with his hand before glaring at me. “What’s up, Carter?”

“Well, um, I know this is really unorthodox but I was wondering if I could get traded, sir,” I asked him nervously. My agents were going to kill me when they heard what I was attempting to do.

“Why the hell do you want to go and do that?” he snapped as the irritation spread across his face.

“It’s just that I love this sport and I want to play. But there’s a girl I love too. And the only way I can have both is if I move.”

I sound like a total pussy.

He is going to ream me for this.

He dug out a pencil from the mess on his desk and twirled it around in his fingers while he thought a moment, before he used it to point at me. “So you’re telling me that you want me to put you up for the eligible trade options because you need to be closer to some girl?”

“She’s not just some girl, sir. And I know it sounds bad, but I need this. If it’s possible, I need this. And if it’s not, just tell me. I won’t ask you again. But I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least ask.”

“Son, you realize that you can live with this girl during the off-season, right? That’s three, sometimes four months.”

“That’s not enough time,” I responded respectfully.

“Where’s this special girl live?” He tapped the pencil against his desk in an irritated rat-a-tat.

“New York.”

“Hell! We’re in New York a couple times a season. And Florida and Boston aren’t far!” He stopped and glared at me. “And you’re telling me you’d like me to trade you to New York? You know after your contract expires, they won’t have the budget to pay you like we have?” He threw the pencil down on his desk before he stood up to face me with his hands on his hips.

“With all due respect, sir, it’s not about the money.”


“So you live here now?” My eyes widened.

“Just got in. Can I come in?”

“Of course. Yes.” I stumbled as I moved aside, and gestured for him to come in.

“These are for you.” He pushed the roses toward me.

“Thank you. They’re beautiful,” I replied, sniffing at them before moving to put them on the counter in the kitchen.

He looked around my apartment, taking in the details, then focused on the pile of things he had sent.

“I see you got my gifts.” He motioned toward the couch.

“Mm-hmmm,” I mumbled, still in shock that he was actually here.

“Cassie.” He moved his body close to mine and ran his fingers through my hair, tucking pieces behind my ear. I scanned the scruff on his face, the black of his hair, the chocolate color of his eyes, before reaching out to touch him.

“Do you still love me?” he asked, his eyes unsure.

“I never stopped,” I admitted breathlessly.

“Me either.” He grabbed the back of my neck and pulled his mouth to mine. His tongue caressed mine with slow, deliberate movements, and if I could have turned to liquid and dissolved into his arms, I would have.

He pulled away, his hand still caressing my neck. “I’m sorry for lying to you that morning. I’m sorry for cheating on you that night. I’m sorry for not being the person you knew I could be.” He leaned in, his mouth sucking lightly on my bottom lip before kissing me again. “And I don’t know if you can ever forgive me, but I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t at least ask you to try.

“And I’m sorry it took me so long to get here. She was fighting the annulment and it took months to get it processed and finalized. I refused to come fight for you while I was still carrying that baggage. But it took a lot longer than I had expected. I should have called you. And I’m sorry I didn’t.”

“I thought you hated me,” I whispered. Unable to look at him, I dropped my gaze to his chest.

He reached for my chin before tilting my head up, forcing me to meet his eyes. “I could never hate you. I thought I was going to have to come before the annulment was complete when I’d heard about you and the guy from your work.”

“How’d you know who he was?”

“Dean. I kept tabs on you, Kitten. Not in a creepy way, I swear. Just in a making-sure-I-wasn’t-going-to-lose-you-all-over-again way. See, you’ve always been able to see past the front I put up. I never thought I’d be able to find someone who would know the real me and still want to stick around. And then I saw you at that frat party and my life was never the same.”

A tear ran slowly down my cheek as he continued. “I know I don’t deserve you, but I need you.” He finished talking and wiped the tear from my cheek with his thumb, his touch reminding me how much I’ve missed it.

“I need you too. I hate feeling vulnerable and I want to pretend like I don’t, but it would be a lie,” I said with a half smile.

“Then don’t pretend. Tell me you’ll try to forgive me so we can move on from our past.”

“I already have,” I admitted, and felt the weight of trying to be strong for so long drop away from me. I felt lighter and freer than I had in a very long time.

Jack leaned his forehead against mine. “I’ll earn your trust again. I promise.”

I leaned into him, burying my head into his shoulders as I wrapped my arms around him. I smiled into his neck, and snuggled closer as I closed my eyes with happiness. Then I lifted my mouth to his ear and breathed two little words.

“Prove it.”


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