As you might gather from the name of this blog, I share Cami’s views on chocolate, nuts, and fruit.
The game was over and the Coyotes had won, 6-4. Cami entered the Diamond Club, and then stopped abruptly. The few people inside laughed uproariously at something. A vision of being an anxious island in a sea of celebration flashed before her.
Paige had gone with the Andrews family. They were headed to a Mexican restaurant and would wait for Grant and Cami to join them. If she hurried, she might be able to find them before they left. She turned to leave, but a security man with a clipboard called out to her.
“Oh. Camille Henderson. But I don’t think I’m on the list. Grant Andrews just…”
“Here you are.” The man made a notation on his paper and handed her a lanyard with a visitors badge on the end. “Return this when you leave. Drinks are in the other room. Mr. Andrews and the rest of the team should be arriving soon.”
“Thank you.” The decision to stay forced on her, Cami slipped the lanyard over her head and moved into the room. It was a private box with a spectacular view of the stadium and field. Aromas from an adjoining room floated in. Garlic and … maybe basil overpowered the popcorn and beer smell of the stadium. She wandered over to the windows and watched the grounds keepers as they performed their duties so far below.
“Hello. You must be one of the newbies.”
Cami started and turned to the voice. It was Delia’s companion at the snack bar.
“Are you a newbie? A girlfriend or wife of a new player? I’m Cinda. My husband is Bill Ross, pitcher.”
“Ah. No. I’m ….” Cami paused. What was she? “I’m a guest, waiting for my friend.”
“And that would be…?”
Cami opened her mouth to answer, but a sudden perversity stopped her. “Just a friend. Excuse me. I need something to drink. Nice meeting you.”
Cami moved to the next room and helped herself to some bottled water. How’s that for a backbone, Paige? She grinned at the thought.
“I love to see you smile.” Grant joined her. “What’s that one for?”
She laughed out loud. “I’ll tell you later.”
“Absolutely.” It felt natural as Grant put his hand on the small of her back and guided her across the room. He murmured into her ear.
“I want you to meet a few people, then we’ll get out of here.”
“Grant, nice game!” Cinda stood in their path, appraising Cami with an up and down glance.
“Thanks.” He didn’t stop.
Looking at Cami, Cinda said, “I didn’t catch your name.” She did a side step to block their progress through the crowd.
“I’m sorry,” Cami spoke up. “You told me yours, but I was thirsty and didn’t return the favor. I’m Camille, an old friend of Grant’s.” She slipped her hand into his.
“Cinda, we’ve got to go. I’m here long enough to make nice with the powers that be, then we’ve got plans.”
“Don’t let me keep you.” She finally moved out of the way and Grant led Cami through the crowd. She could feel Cinda’s gaze follow them. She chuckled. This was fun, having a backbone.
“What was that about?” Grant glanced at her.
“Tell you later. Yes, I promise.”
Grant gripped her hand tighter and pulled her into his side. He put his arm around her waist and whispered into her ear again.
“You have two promises to make good on later.”
Grant stopped in front of a man with gray hair and a comb-over that started just above his left ear.
“Grant, nice job today.” He nodded his head to acknowledge Cami.
“Thanks. Eli West, this is Camille Henderson. Cami, Eli is the Coyote’s General Manager.”
“Good to meet you.” Eli shook her hand. “Ah, here’s my wife.” He motioned a woman standing nearby to come closer. He introduced Cami to his wife Yvette, a petite woman, about the age of Grant’s parents. With her blonde hair pulled back and in a white pants suit, she looked like an ice berg. Even her hand shake was chilly.
“So nice to meet you. Is this your first game?”
“Yes.” Cami nodded. “I’m a little overwhelmed.”
“You’ll get used to it. Where are you from?”
“Agua Vida, down the coast a little ways.” Cami wondered whether she could get used to anything about the Coyotes. “I went to high school there with Grant. We ran into each other recently and he invited me to the game.” But she could get very used to being around Grant.
“I see. And what do you do in Agua Vida?”
“I paint. Decorative art and faux finishes. And I teach art enrichment classes at the rec center.”
“How wonderful. You must be interested in literacy programs, too. Do you do any tutoring? Or perhaps fund raising?” Yvette sipped her drink and looked into Cami’s eyes.
“Not really.” Cami shrugged. “I’m busy with work. I barely have time to teach my classes. More volunteer work or anything else would be too much.”
“I guess so.” What was this woman getting at?
Grant turned back from his conversation with Eli.
“Yvette, we need to get going. My family is waiting for us.”
“Of course. Camille, it was a pleasure. I hope Grant will bring you to another game soon. I’d love to tell you about a literacy program I’m involved with.”
“Okay.” She felt the pressure of Grant’s hand on her waist as he tried to move her away from Yvette.
They hadn’t gone more than a few steps though, when another player clapped Grant’s back “Great job.”
“Thanks. Joe, I want you to meet Camille Henderson.”
Joe put his arm around the woman standing next to him. “Nice to meet you. This is my wife, Ellen.”
Cami shook both their hands. Ellen smiled at her. “It’s not always like this.”
“Am I that transparent?”
“I remember my first event up here. I had a panic attack in the restroom.”
They laughed as she felt a gentle pressure on the small of her back. Grant, guiding her to the door.
“We’ve really got to go. Sorry.”
“Call us,” Joe said. “We’ll have you both over.”
“I promise,” Grant said.
As they left the skybox, Cami returned the visitor’s badge and asked Grant about the conversation with the Wests.
“What did Yvette mean about talking to me regarding a literacy program?”
“She was trying to get you involved with her charitable foundation.”
“I don’t know if we should be having this conversation yet.” He glanced at her as they continued down the stairs. “You’ve made it clear you want our relationship to move slow.”
“What does that have to do with a charity?”
“The wives and girlfriends of players and management are not expected to work. Wait, I didn’t phrase that right. They are expected to not work, at least not in the conventional sense.”
They had descended from the skybox and were approaching Grant’s car in the private parking lot.
“Is that Buster Reilly’s car?” Cami pointed to a red Pantera with a license plate that read 300 Wins.
“Cool. The kids will be impressed.” She waited as Grant opened the car door for her. “Anyway, what do you mean? About wives and girlfriends not working?”
“The management and owners expect that instead of earning a paycheck, the wives and girlfriends should be involved in charitable work. Volunteering and running foundations and raising money for good causes.”
“Did we time morph back to the 1950’s?”
He laughed. “No pressure. We’ve only started dating.”
“Are you saying that if we continue to see each other, and maybe have a relationship, I would be expected to quit painting and work for that woman’s literacy foundation?”
“She might expect you to. But I won’t. I promise. And speaking of promises, I think you owe me a couple of explanations.”
“They’re both the same. You asked what I was smiling about when you got to the party. And then what made me laugh when we talked to Cinda.”
“I’ve never found Cinda that humorous. I’m curious to know what you thought was funny.”
“It started earlier, during the game. Paige and I eavesdropped on a conversation between Cinda and her sister Delia, then Jonathan told us about Delia trying to get you to date her.”
“Yep. Between Paige and your brother, I don’t think either one of us can keep anything hidden.” She ignored her own secret jumping up and down and clamoring for attention as she continued with her explanation. “Cinda was trying to find out who I was and who I was with from the team. And I played dumb and road blocked her. I laughed because Paige had told me to get a backbone. And it was so fun, being nice to her, but in a perverse kind of way. I’m a terrible person.”
Grant pulled the car into a parking space of Mejia’s Mexican Restaurant. Cami saw Paige’s car parked in the next aisle.
He reached for her hand.
“I’m sorry you had to meet Cinda and hear about Delia that way. They’ve been after me to date Delia for a while now. And I’m absolutely not attracted to her. I like a woman with green eyes, a dimple in her chin, hair that’s a real color, not named for a food.” His eyes caressed her face then he smiled. “Sounds like someone I know.”
“Sounds familiar to me, too.” Could he hear her heart pounding?
“And I want to know everything about you, Camille Henderson.”
“Everything?” She gulped.
“I’ll start with do you like lime or salsa with your tortilla chips?”
Her breath returned. “Oh. Well, salsa. Of course.”
“Of course,” he agreed.
“My turn,” she said. “Do you like to rent new movies or old classics?”
“On a Friday night, it has to be a new action adventure picture. On a rainy winter afternoon, it’s always a classic. Back to me now,” he said. “Chocolate chip cookies: with nuts or without?”
“Without. I don’t believe in mixing my chocolate with either fruit or nuts. Whoever first put chocolate on raspberries has a lot to answer for.”
“Bummer. I love nuts in my cookies.”
“How do you feel about nuts in your life? Specifically, a nut who keeps getting prank calls and has her car vandalized?”
“That’s my favorite kind.” Grant got out of the car and came to her side. He held his hand out to help her, but didn’t let go once she stood. He pulled her close.
“I especially like nuts who can laugh at Cinda and Delia and who have big, wimpy dogs. And if the wimp is named Petey, well, that clinches it.”
He kissed her. She found herself responding with feelings she hadn’t yet acknowledged, even to herself. He pulled away after a moment.
“Enchiladas: shredded or ground beef?” he asked.
“No, I’m not. I plan to finish that later, but right now everyone’s waiting for us inside.”
She laughed. “No, I like my enchiladas with chicken, not beef.”