The childhood memory that Grant’s mom shares with Cami is based on one my friend Abbie told about her cousin when he was about that age. I had to use it. See? Whatever you tell a writer is fair game and you can’t say you weren’t warned.
Cami and Grant entered the restaurant and headed for the back corner where the Andrews’ had commandeered a large table. Cami felt Grant’s hand on the small of her back and didn’t pull away. How long had it been since she’d let a man do that? And tonight Grant had done it several times and she hadn’t retreated at all. Odd.
Paige was chatting with Grant’s mom while Jonathan and his dad had an empty chip basket in front of them. They greeted the new arrivals and scooted closer to make room.
“We ordered a family style meal of enchiladas, nachos, and beans and rice,” Jonathan said. “Hope that’s okay with you. How was the team party?”
“Boring. We’re glad to be here,” Grant answered.
Paige looked at Cami and raised her eyebrows. Cami smiled back.
The next hour passed in conversation and eating. Cami dabbed her napkin on her lips after every bite. The wrong way to impress Grant’s parents would be to talk and laugh with a string of melted cheese draped across her chin.
Mrs. Andrews made an effort to ask questions about her work and the friends they had in common at Agua Vida Community Church before turning to help Jonathan with his kids. Cami sank into her chair and sipped her iced tea, conversations flowing around her like water through the tide pools at Corona del Mar.
Jonathan left first after his children fell asleep in their plates. Sierra struggled to keep her eyes open, then lost the fight as her head wobbled and finally sank into the rice and beans in front of her.
As the rest of the group filed out the front door, Cami and Paige lingered at the giant bull in the entryway. Cami sniffed the fresh roses around the ceramic neck and fingered the petals. “I wish I could duplicate this color. It’s pink but there’s some yellow in there.”
“Where’s your car?” Paige asked.
“I’m an idiot!” Cami dropped the flower necklace. “I forgot all about it. I left Grant’s Volvo at the stadium and rode here with him.”
Grant joined them. “The Tahoe’s at my house. You can ride with me to Newport and drive your car back to Agua Vida. The Volvo will be okay at the stadium and I’ll get it tomorrow.”
“Will you be all right?” Paige asked Cami.
“Yes.” She hugged Paige good-bye. “Thanks for going with me to the game. And for the pep talk. I got a little bit of a backbone at the team party. I’ll tell you about it later. I don’t think Delia and Cinda like me very much.”
“I can’t wait!” Paige waved farewell.
Twenty minutes later, Cami and Grant parked in front of his house. Her Tahoe held court in the center of his driveway. They got out of his car and examined her vehicle.
“Beautiful. I can’t tell she ever had anything written on her,” Cami said. “Thank you for taking care of this for me.”
“Would you like to come in?” He leaned against her car and took her hand as she stood in front of him.
“I don’t think I better. I have work in the morning and it’s late.”
“You’re right!” Cami laughed. “I am.”
“Am I so scary?”
“No….” Her voice trailed off. She wasn’t ready for this. “I’m scared of how you make me feel.” She gripped his hand.
“Well, if it’s any comfort, I’m scared, too,” he said.
“You? Mr. Grant Andrews, famous short stop for the Orange County Coyotes? Breaker of hearts all across the Southland?”
Grant grinned. “Yeah, that’s me. I’m scared of what I’m feeling for you. But I’m flat terrified of getting involved with someone like Delia.”
“I don’t blame you. I was scared standing in front of her waiting for popcorn.”
“I don’t want to talk about Delia, I want to talk about you. And me. And where do you see this going?”
“Honestly, Grant, I don’t know. I’ve never known anyone like you. And I’ve never….” Her voice trailed off.
She closed her eyes for a brief moment and sent a quick prayer heavenward.
“There’s something I should tell you. It’s not a big deal really, but only a few other people know. I don’t talk about it much, and…. I can’t believe I’m telling you this. I just met you again – what- two weeks ago.”
“But you’ve known me for years. Who saved your Grade Point Average by helping you through Geography?”
She smiled. “That would be you.”
“And who introduced you to the great sport of laser tag?”
“And who …. I can’t think of any more.”
Cami leaned against him and wrapped her arms around his waist to hug him.
“Who has been unfailingly kind and considerate, even when I’ve been moody and weird?”
“And who took care of my car and invited me to a great baseball game?”
“I forgot how wonderful I am. Thanks for reminding me.”
She pulled away to look into his eyes. “You are very welcome.”
“Anyway, what did you want to tell me?”
She sighed. “Like I said, it wasn’t a big deal, but my last boyfriend got a little rough one night.”
He stepped back and gripped her elbows. “What does that mean? Did he hit you?”
“No. Not really. He - ” She took a deep breath to steady her voice. “I guess you’d call it a sexual assault.”
“He raped you?”
The bare words hit her in the gut. “No!” She lied without a second’s thought, purely a reflex.
“He forced me to-” She looked past him to the light fixture next to the garage door. A June bug buzzed around, intent on throwing itself on the bulb.
Grant pulled her close. “I had no idea. But I wondered if there was something.”
“You did?” Did she have a scarlet letter?
“You’re always on heightened alert about security.”
“Yeah. Well, it’s been a couple of years now. And I’m fine.”
“I’m so sorry.” They stood in the quiet driveway for several minutes. “Can I arrange a hit on the guy?”
She stifled a laugh. “Even up to a couple of months ago, I might have taken you up on that.”
“What happened? Did you file charges?”
“I’ll tell you some other time. I really do need to get home now.”
“Will you come to tomorrow’s game?”
“Please. You don’t want to leave me vulnerable to Delia’s attacks, do you? Cinda will have told her by now that I had a date. She’ll take the silencer off and bull’s-eye me right on the infield.”
Cami smiled. “You leave on Friday?”
“I’d like to come to all the games until then. If it’s okay with you.”
“It’s great with me.” He brushed his lips across her forehead and released her. “Call me as soon as you get home.”
“I will.” She climbed into the Tahoe and drove away, watching Grant in her rearview mirror as he stood in his driveway.
The next day, Cami got her ticket and found the section. She stood at the top of the aisle, surveying the field. The grass shimmered green, a celadon with Kelly highlights. Azure sky and gunmetal gray and blue uniforms completed the picture. She inhaled the smells of popping corn and roasting hotdogs before starting down the steps.
Her seat was in the same row as yesterday. But only Grant’s parents sat there this time. Mr. Andrews stood to let her pass as he fiddled with the tuning knob on a transistor radio. He listened intently through earphones.
“Hi, Mrs. Andrews,” Cami said. “Where is everyone?”
“Either work or school,” she answered. “We can’t always come either. This is Grant’s job, but for the rest of us, it’s recreation. And we have other responsibilities. He understands, but he likes us to come when we can. And please, we’re Peg and Cap.”
Cami settled into her place and looked around the section. She found Cinda and Delia above and to her left. They talked animatedly with occasional peeks in her direction. Peg followed her glance and smiled.
“I’m happy you and Grant got reacquainted. I never cared for Delia and the way she was going after him.”
“It seems like we’ve known each other a very long time.”
“I’m thankful you’re a Christian, also. I know Grant has gotten lazy in his spiritual life. I hope you can encourage him to return to his faith.”
“Me too,” Cami said, then paused. Did Peg expect Cami to lead Grant back to the Lord? “But I have to tell you, I don’t believe anyone can pursue a relationship with God and find it fulfilling when they’re doing it only to please someone else.”
“But it could lead to Grant returning to God on his own. That’s all I’m saying.”
“I’d love for that to happen,” Cami said, relieved.
The team ran out on the field then and they both turned their attention to the warm-up exercises.
Grant stood near second base and caught balls fired by the first baseman and the right fielder.
“When did you realize he might be a really good athlete?” Cami asked Peg.
“He was two years old and could throw a ball across the yard. He also had great eye-hand coordination. Cap was busting his buttons.” Peg glanced fondly at her husband, still listening to his radio. “One time, he was about four, I guess. We lived in Alameda and took the boys to an Oakland A’s game. We got there a little late, maybe in the third inning. The next day, Grant mentioned that he didn’t get to see Jose Canseco play.”
“Who?” Cami asked.
“Their star player back then. Anyway, we checked and Canseco had sprained his wrist in the first inning. Four years old and Grant knew who the players were and if they played.”
“That’s amazing. Although at that age, my brother was always playing with his Hot Wheels. And he’s really into cars still.”
“Boys are a different species, that’s for sure.” Peg settled back into her seat.
They continued chatting as the game started. The Coyotes were playing the Mariners. Mr. Andrews kept score and tracked statistics. Grant caught an infield fly to end the top of the first inning. He fouled out in the Coyotes first at bat. The second inning began with the score tied.
The first two Mariners at bat struck out. The next drew a base on balls. The cleanup batter drove the ball into a hole in right field and suddenly there were runners on first and third. The visiting team’s power hitter watched a couple strikes go over the plate before swinging. He connected and the ball bounced to the pitcher who caught it reflexively. He looked at both the first baseman and Grant who covered second. The runner on first charged ahead. The pitcher whipped the ball towards Grant. The runner dropped to slide. His feet connected with Grant’s shins. Grant toppled over, his left arm out to catch the ball, his right extended to break his fall. He fell onto his outstretched arm. He didn’t get up.