I haven’t been to a baseball stadium in Orange County so the field Grant plays on is an amalgamation of Dodger Stadium, the Oakland Coliseum and what I could glean online about the Angel’s stadium.
Cami keyed in the alarm code and entered her home. Petey waited in the kitchen to greet her. She patted his head and forced herself to check the answering machine for messages before sitting in the cushy chair in a sun-lit corner of the living room. The effort of going through her day as if nothing was wrong left her drained. She snuggled in, closed her eyes and drifted off.
When the phone jerked her awake, the room was in twilight shadows. She groped and found the receiver.
She took a deep breath and forced herself to sound chipper.
“Hi there. How was your day?”
“Good. I talked to the body shop and your car is ready. They put a rush on it for me. I can run it to you right now and bring the Volvo back. Or you can keep the wagon another day and drive it up here for the game tomorrow.” He sounded hopeful and she had to smile. Grant Andrews, the baseball player, admired by women all over the country, was asking her out. Again.
“It’s a special day for you and your family. I’d be crashing their party.”
“How about if you invite a friend? Then you can sit with my family, but you’d have someone to talk to. I’ll stop by the team party and we can meet up right after.”
She considered the suggestion and liked it. “I’ll see if Paige or Meredith can come. What time?”
Twenty minutes later Cami hung up with a sigh. It felt as if she’d known him all her life. Which she kind of had. She was comfortable with him in a way she’d never been with other men.
She began boiling water for pasta and dumped some salad from a bag into a bowl. After a quick dinner, she’d call Paige or Meredith. Then start painting the sample boards for a possible client who wanted to see her work.
The phone rang just as the linguine was al dente. She answered, tucking the receiver between her shoulder and chin as she poured the boiling water through a colander.
“Hello?” Only silence answered. She wiggled her arm, making sure the phone was close to her ear. “Hello!” Hot water splashed onto her hand.
“Ow!” She dropped the receiver and the pot. She scrambled for the phone and listened again.
“Who are you? What do you want? Why are you doing this?” With each question, her voice tightened and her panic heightened. Her scalded hand throbbed, but she ignored it. She banged the receiver down and Petey jumped at the noise. With shaking fingers she dialed Meredith’s shop number.
“Classic Automotive. Meredith speaking.”
“Can you come over?”
“Cami? What’s going on?”
“I got another prank call and I’m not handling it very well.” She took a deep breath. “After last night and all.”
“I’ll be right there. Have you had dinner?”
“I fixed some pasta, but I don’t think I can eat.”
“Keep it warm. I’ll bring comfort food for dessert.”
Fifteen minutes later Meredith knocked at Cami’s front door bearing two bags and a pink box. Meredith placed the box in the refrigerator. One bag held a loaf of crusty bread that she popped in the oven to warm. She opened the second bag.
“What is it?” Cami watched, puzzled.
“Caller ID. I’m going to hook it up to your phone. From now on, if you don’t recognize the number or it’s blocked, don’t answer. Be sure and call the phone company first thing in the morning and add it to your account.”
“Why didn’t I think of that?” Cami sighed and dropped into a chair.
“Because someone is terrorizing you. I can’t believe you didn’t mention this before last night.”
“I kept telling myself I was being paranoid and over-sensitive. I have a tendency to be dramatic, you know.”
“Even a paranoid can have enemies.”
Cami laughed, her neck muscles relaxing a bit. “Are you ready to eat?”
They ate and chatted. After the pasta, salad, and bread were gone, Meredith brought the bakery box out of the refrigerator. Layers of dense chocolate cake alternated with mousse and were topped with bittersweet shavings.
They each had a slice. It was decadent and delicious.
Cami closed her eyes to savor the last bite. “Mmmmm. That was wonderful.”
“Much. By the way, what are you doing tomorrow afternoon and evening?”
“I’m taking an all day class on computer diagnostics up in La Mirada. I’ll have to leave here at five in the morning to make it. And it’s supposed to go till six. Why?”
“Grant invited me and a friend to his opener tomorrow.”
“How about Paige?”
“I’ll ask her.”
They moved into the living room and watched an I Love Lucy rerun. After thirty minutes of laughing at Lucy and Ethel stuffing chocolates into their clothing, Cami felt calmer and almost relaxed. She waved good-bye to Meredith with a smile and returned inside, making sure the deadbolt was fastened before picking up the phone.
She called Paige who would be delighted to join her at the game. They agreed to meet in front of Will Call to pick up the tickets Grant said he would leave. In spite of her nap, the stress of the day left Cami exhausted. She double-checked all the locks before heading to bed. The sample boards would have to wait.
“This way.” Paige charged up the stadium steps, Cami following. They had gotten their tickets and were now finding their seats. Cami’s heart raced and she couldn’t catch her breath, but not because of the stairs. She didn’t know if they would be sitting with Grant’s family or alone. New situations made her uncomfortable, especially if she didn’t know what to expect. Dating a baseball player definitely fell into the category of “Bizarre and Strange.”
Paige had no such problems. She forged the path to their section and now waited for Cami to join her at the top of the aisle labeled Section 112.
“Hi, Miss Henderson. How’s Petey?”
Cami looked down. “Hello, Trent. Petey’s fine.” Grant’s nephew stood in front of her. “You must be Jonathan,” she said to the man holding the boy’s hand. “I’m Camille Henderson, I met Trent the other day at the beach. This is my friend, Paige. Grant invited us to the game. We’re looking for our seats.” Babbling again. She closed her mouth to stop the words.
Jonathan smiled and extended his hand.
“That’s why we’re here. Trent said he would recognize you and Grant wanted us to make sure you got to your seats safely and to introduce you to the others.”
“How nice.” Her heart rate slowed from panic to mild dread.
Jonathan and Trent forded the crowd with Cami and Paige following. After they sat, Trent traded his seat so he could be next to Cami. Her head reeled from the quick introductions Jonathan had performed as they squeezed by knees and tried not to step on toes. Grant’s parents were on the aisle.
Mr. Andrews wore civilian clothes but they were obviously not his usual attire. Immaculate khaki’s with razor creases. Binoculars around his neck and a pencil behind his ear. A finger saved his place in the program so he could keep score and track statistics. Grant’s mother held a toddler on her lap. Trent said that was his baby sister, Sierra. Jonathan sat next to his mother and retrieved his daughter. Then came Grant’s youngest brother. Cami thought his name was Lucas. Apparently Jonathan’s wife and the two other brothers couldn’t be there. Trent, Cami and Paige finished the Andrews’ rooting section.
They stood for the National Anthem and first pitch. Conversations went on all around them. They were in the middle of the team’s family section. Hopefully she and Paige weren’t taking seats that should belong to Grant’s brothers or sister-in-law. Jonathan leaned over Lucas and Trent to talk to her.
“Grant said you went to high school with us in Agua Vida. Did I know you there?”
“I don’t think so. I had one class with Grant, but I don’t remember you. Your family did go to the same church. I think your mom ran the Harvest Festival every year.”
“Yep. She still loves organizing that type of thing.” Jonathan sat back in his seat and turned his attention to the game as Grant and the Coyotes took the field.
Paige leaned over to stage whisper. “Sure beats the nose bleed section, doesn’t it?”
Cami had to agree. They were on the third base line, with a clear view of Grant at shortstop.
The first few innings passed rapidly, each team scoring two runs. Grant struck out once and was thrown out at first.
At the bottom of the fifth, Paige wanted snacks so Cami joined her for the opportunity to walk and get some kinks out.
“This is so much fun. I haven’t been to a game in years. Why don’t we do this more often?” Paige bubbled with enthusiasm as they climbed stairs towards the refreshment stands.
“I don’t know. Why don’t we?” The excitement was contagious and Cami had found herself cheering vigorously.
“This will be ‘The Year of Baseball,’” Paige proclaimed. “The next time Kennie is home, we’ll all come. Autumn can bring Claire, and I’ll buy her a plush Coyote and one of those giant foam fingers that say ‘We’re Number One.’ We’ll be real fans.”
Cami laughed as they moved ahead in line. They were both reading the menu board when two women in front of them began to talk.
“I heard Grant needed two extra courtesy tickets. Do you know why?” The speaker was a tall slim woman with blonde hair pulled back into a sleek ponytail. She wore crisp white shorts, a bright pink tank top, and strappy high-heeled sandals. Her friend was dressed similarly, but had dark hair in a modified shag style.
“No. Billy didn’t mention it to me. Do you think he’s seeing someone?”
Paige elbowed Cami in the ribs and they pretended to stare with fascination at the list of refreshments.
“I don’t know. But I’ll find out. I haven’t been baiting him for the past year just for some little groupie to hook him. I’ve been patient with Grant Andrews for a long time now and I don’t intend to let him get away.”
Cami’s eyes widened but she forced her face to remain expressionless.
The other women moved to the counter to place their orders. Paige and Cami waited in silence. After getting popcorn and sodas and returning to their seats, they finally spoke.
“Who was that?” Cami wondered.
“What a little witch!” Paige exclaimed. “She doesn’t intend to let him ‘get away.’ Doesn’t she need a fishing license? Or at least Grant’s permission to keep him on the line?”
Jonathan leaned over.
Cami shook her head as Paige nodded.
“Yes! We had the most surreal experience at the snack bar. These two women in front of us were talking about Grant and one of them said she had spent the last year baiting him or trapping him, something like that. And she didn’t intend to let some groupie get him. She heard he had requested two more tickets, I guess the ones he offered Cami and me.”
“That must have been Delia. Tall blonde, on the rocks?”
“That’s her!” Paige laughed. Cami kept her eyes on the field, but her ears wide open.
“Delia’s been trying to get Grant to ask her out for a long time. Her sister is married to one of the pitchers and they’ve decided that Delia and Grant would make a nice couple.”
“What does Grant think of that?” Paige asked the question but Cami listened intently for the answer.
“Not much. He’s polite, but he hasn’t invited Delia out or taken them up on it when they try to get him on a double date.”
“What was that comment about groupies?” Paige again. She was so good at asking Cami’s own questions.
“It’s like any other business that has celebrities. Pro sports attract groupies, hangers-on, and wannabes. There are some women who want to date an athlete, any athlete. And they throw themselves at the players.”
“I thought that kind of thing ended when Paul McCartney hit fifty.”
Cami laughed. “Even I know about it and I’m just a poor old spinster artist. I’ve heard the teenage girls talking. You wouldn’t believe the way they go on about musicians and actors. And some of them really believe they could have a relationship, if only they could meet Orlando Bloom or John Mayer. It’s sad.”
“She’s right,” Jonathan said to Paige. “Grant has women sending him their phone numbers, e-mail addresses, even risqué pictures.”
“What does he do?”
“He hired a firm to handle his correspondence. They can sort out the personal stuff from the other, and they’ve been trained to flush out the truly whacked from the immature and lovelorn.”
“Well. I’m amazed.” Paige leaned back in her seat and returned her attention to the game. “I never knew the Great American Pastime had a seamy side.”
His children claimed Jonathan’s interest leaving Cami alone with her thoughts. She watched the game but couldn’t say who made any plays.
At the end of the seventh inning, an usher approached Grant’s dad and handed him an envelope. Mr. Andrews glanced at it and passed it down the row. When it reached Cami, she was surprised to see it was addressed to her. She opened it and read the enclosed note.
“After the game, can you come to the Diamond Club? I’ll meet you there and after I shake hands with the owners and manager we’ll leave and go to dinner with everyone else. Paige can come too, or she can follow my folks to the restaurant.”
Indecision flooded her. She nudged Paige who read the note over her shoulder.
“Of course you’re going.”
“I don’t know.” Cami sighed. “After what Jonathan told us and hearing that Delia woman….”
“You’re going.” Paige was firm. “Honestly Cami, get a backbone. Or at least a little self esteem. Grant invited you here, not Delia. He’s had plenty of chances to date her and he doesn’t want to. I’ll go on ahead with the others. Here.” She dug in her purse and handed a pen to Cami. “Tell him you’ll be there, and send the note back.”