11. The Library
I was bent over, with my head in the refrigerator, wiping the back wal
when the air expeled from my lungs and I gasped in pain. I groaned,
the force knocking me to the floor. I colapsed onto my side, cradling
my stomach. My eyes filed with tears as I tried to gulp in air.
I puled myself into a bal, not sure if another blow would folow. Carol
stood over me with Jack’s aluminum basebal bat in her hand. She
glared at me with a tight smirk as I tried to shrink against the
“You are not important. Nothing you do is important. Don’t think that
you wil ever amount to anything more than the whore that you are.”
She walked away.
My quick gasps slowed as the air came back in easy breaths. Shaking, I
pushed myself off the floor and wiped the tears from my face. I winced
when I stood, holding my stomach. Without thought, I replaced the
contents of the refrigerator before walking to the bathroom.
Wet, red eyes stared back from the mirror. I blankly studied the pale
image. Exhaling slowly, I tried to control my shaking limbs. The cold
water soothed my distraught face as I gathered water from the faucet.
I crushed the anger that was beginning to boil and filed my lungs with
another soothing breath. I closed my eyes and reminded myself that I
wasn’t going to live here forever before returning to the kitchen to
complete my chores.
I breathed in sharply when I sat up in bed the next morning, my hand
reaching for my sore stomach, feeling like I’d executed a thousand
crunches. Despite the misery of my condition, I was stil going to the
library. There was no way I was staying in this house al day.
George and Carol didn’t think twice about alowing me to go. I was sure
they wanted me out of the house as much as I wanted to leave it. I
promised I’d be back in time for dinner at six. When I started out, the
need to contract my tender muscles was excruciating. I pushed
through the discomfort, eventualy able to block it out completely – a
coping skil I’d mastered over the years. My heart fluttered faster than
the effort needed to pedal the bike when I neared the library. My
mouth crept into a smile at the thought of seeing Evan. I knew I
should have been paranoid about being caught, but after last night, I
knew there was going to be pain whether I did anything wrong or not
– so maybe I should do something to actualy deserve it. I locked my
bike at the rack in the front of the building and leapt up the stairs. Before
I entered, I discovered him propped against the stone exterior.
“Hi,” he said with a grin on his face.
“Hi,” I replied, my heart shifting into a higher gear. Seeing him standing
there waiting for me only confirmed that this was worth the risk.
“Ready to hit some bals?”
“I’m ready for anything,” I declared, folowing him down the stairs to
“Anything, huh?” he confirmed with a smirk, opening the car door for
I hesitated and looked up at him before I crouched to enter the car,
“Yeah, anything.” The smile spread wider across my face. His blue eyes
sparkled as he returned the smile, having no idea what I realy meant.
“Ok,” he said emphaticaly and closed the door behind me.
“How was your Saturday?” he asked as we drove away from the
“Uneventful. How was yours?”
“I went to New York for one of my mother’s charity dinners. So it was
“Sounds it,” I said sarcasticaly. He grinned.
When we arrived at the recreation center, the distinct crack of aluminum
bats making contact carried across the parking lot. There were also
the low thuds of clubs connecting with golf bals coming from a different
“Are you cold?” Evan asked.
“No, it’s realy nice out today,” I responded, not knowing why he’d
“I thought you shivered.”
“I’m fine,” I replied dismissively, not realizing my body had reacted to
the sound of the bats smashing their targets. We walked toward the office
to gather our helmets and bats.
“Have you ever swung a bat?” Evan asked, stopping near the slow
pitch softbal cages.
“Maybe in elementary school,” I confessed.
“Let me show you first, and then you can give it a try.” Evan continued
to the medium pitch basebal section. “I’l start here so I can talk while I
demonstrate what to do, then we’l move to slow pitch softbal for you.”
“I’d like to stick with basebal actualy.”
“That’s fine,” he agreed. “Can you hold this for me?” Evan took off his
jacket and handed it to me. I couldn’t help but take in the subtle clean
scent as I folded it over my arm. My heart hummed into action as I inhaled
Before he inserted the coins to begin, Evan stood in the hitting stance.
He explained his position and grip while demonstrating a swing. I
listened as best as I could but kept getting lost in the fit of his shirt
along his chest and back. The lines revealed the lean muscles concealed
beneath. I shook off my daze and forced myself to concentrate
on his words. He paid the machine, and it started sending basebals flying
Evan made contact with most of the mechanical pitches. I watched as
they arced across the net to the back of the enclosed space. He would
occasionaly miss when he was providing instructions on how to folow
through with a steady swing, noting the importance of keeping an eye
on the bal. The bals were hurled toward him at a blurring speed. I
didn’t know how he could see the bal - forget about keep his eye on it.
When his turn was over, we walked over to the slow pitch basebal
cage. Evan entered the cage with me to get me set up. I stood in what
was my impression of the hitting stance. Evan stood behind me and
placed his hands on my hips to adjust my angle. He wrapped his arms
around my shoulders and grabbed hold of the bat, covering my hands.
I tried to listen to what he said, but al I could hear was my heart
thumping in my chest as his breath tickled my neck. He instructed me
to keep my elbow up as he eased me into a slow swing with the
warmth of his chest pressed against my back. I was entranced by his
clean, almost sweet, scent.
“Ready?” he asked, backing away.
“Sure,” I replied in a daze, not realizing he had finished his
“I’l stand in the corner so I can correct your swing.”
“Are you sure that’l be safe? I would hate to knock you out.”
He laughed and assured me he’d be fine. Then he pressed the button
to begin the pitches. The first few whizzed by me before I had time to
“I thought this was supposed to be slow pitch,” I accused.
“Just concentrate on the bal,” Evan instructed patiently. I watched the
next bal fling at me and swung. I connected with a piece of it, flipping
it in the air right in front of me. The twisting motion ignited a fire in
my tender stomach muscles. I kept my face blank, determined not to
let the soreness get to me.
“That’s it,” he encouraged. After a few more swings and misses, and a
few weak connections, Evan adjusted my swing with some advice. He
put in more money for another round of pitches. This time, he stepped
out of the cage and sat on the bench. I improved with each pitch, finding
my rhythm. Soon I was sending the bals through the air, not covering
the distance Evan had, but at least I was hitting them.
“Much better,” he praised. I enjoyed the release, feeling my tension
and pain slip away each time the bal made contact with the bat.
“That was great,” Evan commended while we walked to the fast pitch
basebal cages. “You picked it up fast, but I knew you would.” I didn’t
After a few more rounds each, Evan asked if I wanted to get a burger
from the smal restaurant that extended from the office.
“What do you want to learn to do next weekend?” Evan questioned as
he set a tray of food on the table. “Golf?”
“I realy have no interest in golf,” I admitted. “And I’m not sure we
should make plans for next weekend yet.”
“If we are able to do something, what do you want to do?” he pressed,
but then his eyes lit up. “I know the perfect thing we can do.” A devious
smile spread across his face as he thought about it.
“What?” I asked cautiously.
“I’m not going to tel you, but you’l love it.” I narrowed my eyes, taking
in his smug expression.
“Oh, I have your iPod in the car. You have an interesting selection of
music. If I’d looked through the playlists without knowing who it belonged
to, I would have assumed it was a guy’s. Wel, accept for that
“That one’s good for when I can’t fal asleep,” I defended quickly, my
cheeks flashing with heat.
“It’s very –,” Evan hesitated, searching for the right word.
“Soothing,” I interrupted.
“Sure,” he laughed. “It definitely sets a mood, let’s put it that way.”
The color continued to spread across my face.
When we were in the car driving back to the library, Evan asked one of
the questions I had been bracing for. “Why do you live with your aunt
and uncle?” My heart skipped a beat, but I knew that avoiding the
question would only make him more curious.
“George is my father’s brother,” I began. “My father died in a car accident
when I was seven, so George and his wife, Carol, took me in.”
“What about your mother?” I knew that the questions weren’t meant
to be invasive, but they brought me crashing back from our escape at
the basebal cages to a reality that was inescapable. So, I inhaled deeply
and answered each question with a truthful brevity that flowed out of
my lips like I was reciting it from a newspaper. No connection, no
emotion – truth at its simplest.
“She became il after my father died and wasn’t fit to care for me
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Evan replied genuinely. I forced my lips into a
pressed smile, letting his sympathy rol off me. It didn’t feel warranted
and made me uneasy.
I had accepted long ago that the death of my father and fal of my
mother were part of my life - I was unable to give in to the grieving. I
refused to feel sorry for myself or receive pity for my circumstances.
Besides, I had to focus on the present – which included surviving the
wrath of Carol - so I couldn’t afford to live in the past. My future was
the only thing that mattered now.
“So you have a game tomorrow?” I asked, trying to sound unaffected
but needing desperately to change the subject. We continued to talk
about the last two weeks of the soccer season until we puled up alongside
“See you tomorrow,” I said casualy, getting out of the car.
“Bye,” he replied before I shut the door.
I rode home, arriving in plenty of time for the griled cheese and soup
that was served for dinner. I was able to hold on to the day with Evan
for a little while longer, letting it replay in my head when I sat down to
dinner, keeping me oblivious to the stares I received when I took a
second helping of soup. I think I was even grinning.