When I first wrote Curve Ball I intended it to be a six book series about the women in Cami's businesswomen support group. Kennie is fully formed in my head but I haven't written her story yet.
Thud! Cami jumped as a knock sounded at her car window. Only a minute had passed since Tara and Anthony left, but her life had spiraled out of control like a wild pitch at a Coyote game.
Kennie stood outside the car. “What are you doing here? Are you okay?”
Cami opened the door and tried to smile. “I don’t think so.”
“Come inside and tell me all about it.”
Ten minutes later Kennie kicked off her heels and tucked her feet next to her on the plush couch in the office. “Sit. And spill.”
Cami perched on the cushion edge but immediately stood up. “I can’t sit.” Her hands shook as she hugged herself.
“What happened out there?” Kennie asked. “You’re scaring me.”
Cami paced in front of her friend as she told the story, all of it. Grant and Mongoose knowing Kyle was stalking her. Her denial. And the scene just now in the parking garage.
“Are you going to leave town?” Kennie asked.
“Would it solve anything?”
“I remember enough Psych 101 to know stalkers don’t give up. Not until their love is dead or they fall for someone else.”
“But surely Kyle’s not that bad.” Even as she said the words, the sight of the dead sparrow and Petey’s convulsive heaving flashed through her mind and she fought an urge to throw something, anything.
Cami glanced away. The words of the song she’d listened to earlier echoed in her mind. No power of hell, no scheme of man, will ever pluck me from His hand. She’d been saying for a long time she trusted God. Now it was time to prove it. She’d be careful, but she wasn’t leaving town.
“I love the demo. Sign that group.” She dug around in her purse, pulled out her cell phone and punched in Grant’s number. It rang several times until his voice mail picked up.
“Hi, it’s me,” Cami said. Her voice cracked and she had to pause a moment. “You’re right, it is Kyle. I’m sorry for not… believing… no, for not trusting… Anyway, call me. I’ve got to stop by home then I’ll be at Paige’s later.” She disconnected and sat still, pondering her next move.
“That must have been hard.” Kennie interrupted Cami’s thoughts. “You hate admitting you’re wrong.”
“I’ve always thought everyone is granted a certain amount of confidence in our lifetime. And some people, like you and Paige, never run out. I have to hoard mine.”
“Honey, Paige and I are as self-doubting as you are. We’ve just learned to hide it better.”
“Then I’ll work on hiding it, too,” Cami said. “I’m an artist after all, creating illusions.” She stood. “I have to go. Thanks for the talk.”
“Will you be okay?”
“Yes.” She would be better than okay.
“Call me later.” Kennie walked her to the door.
Cami waved goodbye and punched another number into her cell phone as she hurried back to the parking garage.
“Hi. This is Camille Henderson. I need to talk to you. Is now a good time?”
Cami climbed out of the Tahoe and hurried up the front steps of the church. Pastor Mike stood inside the office, giving a list of instructions to his secretary, who nodded while taking notes, her pencil flying across the page in rhythm with Pastor Mike’s words.
“Come on in, Cami,” Pastor Mike said. “I’m finishing up with Nora here.”
Nora flashed a relieved smile. “Thanks for rescuing me.”
“Rescuing you?” Cami asked.
“Pastor Mike gets these moods where he bursts in like a cyclone, issues contradictory instructions, and whirls out again, leaving me to deal with the chaos in his wake. He only had time to get up to about a force three today, so I thank you.”
“You better be careful, Nora. Insubordination will get you fired.” His grin belied the words.
Her eyes looked at the ceiling. “Without me, you and the whole elder board would still be looking for the hymnals that were in plain sight on the pews.”
Pastor Mike herded Cami down the hall to his office. “The sad thing is, she’s right. I get stressed with all the details that have to be done, dump them on her and I feel better, but then she’s frazzled. Anyway, please sit down.”
He waved a hand toward the two easy chairs in the corner across from his desk. He left the door open, but must have noticed Cami’s anxious glance toward it.
“I make it a policy to never counsel women behind closed doors. Nora won’t come down the hall while we’re talking and she’ll keep others away too, so you can speak freely.”
Now that she was here, indecision gripped her. How much should she share? She paused for a breath. “I’m having some problems with -- ” She paused, not sure how to proceed. “No, I better back up.” She recounted a few of the incidents from the last few months, finishing with the attack on Petey and the dead sparrow in the mail.
“I’ve met with a psychological specialist. He and a few other people are convinced the stalker is Kyle Shaw. I didn’t want to see it but this morning I was followed by two of Kyle’s friends who said they were keeping an eye on me at his suggestion.”
“This is very serious, what you’re saying. Are you completely sure?”
“Yes. I came to you first since Janis and Kyle are members here. I don’t want to go through legal channels, with a restraining order and all. I want my life back. I also know how crazy this sounds and I’m concerned…about people’s reactions.” There, she’d said it.
“I believe you.” He touched her hand.
Cami hadn’t realized how worried she was about being casually dismissed as a paranoid attention-seeker until Pastor Mike’s compassionate brown eyes fixed on hers.
“Thank you.” She gulped down a sudden lump in her throat.
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. That’s why I came to you.”
“What are your options?”
“Umm… I guess… talk to Kyle. And Janis. Go to the police. Move away.”
“I hear Fresno has affordable housing. And it’s a dry heat.”
She laughed in spite of herself. “I’ll have to think about it.”
“Which of those options are you most comfortable with?”
“I just want him to stop stalking me. I would hate to paint Kyle with anything that will follow him forever so I really don’t want to involve the police. If I could be sure he’d get the help he needs, I’d talk to his mother and let it drop.”
“What about a combination of those?”
“What do you mean?”
“Approach Janis. I’ll pass on your concerns to the leadership here. And contact the police. For a record, in case you need proof of something in the future.”
Cami wasn’t sure she’d heard right. “You mean it would be okay to go to the police?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
“I sort of expected you to tell me to leave it all in God’s hands. He’d take care of me.”
“Well, I’ve never been much for the ‘go, be warm and filled’ kind of pastoring. I’m from the ‘I believe, help my unbelief,’ camp.”
Cami’s pent up breath escaped. “It doesn’t mean I’m not trusting God enough if I talk to the police? Is that what you’re saying?”
“Well.” She couldn’t think of anything to say. Emotions roiled inside. Relief mixed with joy bubbled to the top. Her bathtub thoughts had convinced her but to have her conclusions affirmed by Pastor Mike buoyed her heart even more. “Thank you.” In spite of the serious conversation, she couldn’t help the grin spreading across her face. “Thank you so much.”
He nodded an acknowledgement. “What would you like me to do?”
“Build a barricade between me and Janis?”
He smiled. “I’ll be glad to be at any meeting you set up.”
She gathered her thoughts and tried to put them in order. “I guess tell the elders and staff here. I’ll contact the Victim’s Advocate number the police gave me when my Tahoe was vandalized. And I’ll make an appointment with Janis as soon as possible.”
“Good plan. I’m proud of you.”
They said goodbye and Cami walked back to the front office. Nora was on the phone as Cami passed her desk.
“Yes, Pastor Mike,” she said, shaking her head in mock frustration as Cami passed. “I ordered three cases of the new paper you want to start using for bulletins and-” The heavy glass door swung shut, silencing Nora’s voice.
Ten minutes after leaving the church, Cami pulled into her driveway. She wanted to walk through her own doors, drink from her own glasses, and relax on her own couch. She was tired of being a guest in someone else’s home. Neither Paige nor Grant thought of her as an intrusion, but she couldn’t help feeling that way about herself. Self-sufficient for so long, she had become a bit set in her ways.
Like an old maid. Paige’s singsong echoed in her head. Or an eccentric hermit painter. Well, she was a painter. She did like to be alone. And if that came with an eccentric label, well, there were worse things. So she’d do some chores, call Janis, and spend a few minutes enjoying her peaceful home. Then head back up the freeway to Paige’s and a return to reality.
Opening the front door, Cami felt the inhale as the house took a deep breath of fresh air. Gathering up the bills and flyers that had fallen from the mail slot, she felt rather than heard something and her nerves stood at attention.
Grant walked into the training room at the stadium. A few other players on the Disabled List were already there. Grant grinned at the assortment of grimaces, scowls, and other facial contortions. Staying in shape was hard, getting in shape was downright miserable.
After changing, he joined the others and began lifting weights. The strength creeping back into his shoulder encouraged him. He was lucky he’d kept fit, it made coming back after an injury easier.
His mind drifted back to his early morning conversation with Cami, then her cryptic message on his mobile phone. He’d tried to call her back, but had gotten her voice mail. All these communication devices were supposed to make it easy to stay in touch. If they got a signal and were fully charged.
Anyway, he moved to his surrender last night, the crossroads where he chose his path. The certainty still anchored his heart. He just hadn’t known how to tell Cami about it.
“Andrews, phone call.” The clubbie stuck his head through the door.
Grant untangled himself from the apparatus, picked up the receiver, and punched a flashing light.
“This is Grant Andrews.” He stilled, then listened. Banging the phone into its cradle, he turned and ran through the door into the locker room. He changed into street clothes and hurried out to his car, adjusting the sling as he went. Juggling car keys and a jacket, he slid into the driver’s seat and pulled out of the parking lot barely five minutes after answering the phone.