(Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Enjoy!)
If I could have a wish right now, it would be that this field turned into a giant quicksand and swallowed us all. That would be much better than standing on the home plate, waiting for the freaking softball—that was anything but soft—to be thrown right at me.
I knew nothing about sports. The only sport I knew was speed reading and that wasn’t even a real sport. Yet, here I was, forced to join a game I had no idea how to play.
Why did we have to do softball for PE again?
Right. Because this school sucked, that’s why.
Okay, fine. Actually, PE was the only thing that sucked here and partly because I hated PE. Go figure.
To be honest, I had only been here less than a year but I’d never felt more at home than here in this town and in this school. I had always been an outsider somewhere else. Here, I still wasn’t friends with everyone, but I was with the people who really cared for me. They accepted me not because they had to, but because they wanted to. For me, that was enough. In fact, I loved it here.
But still. Softball? For PE? Seriously?
Worse, Sarah Curtis, who was very competitive and had no mercy whatsoever when it came to her favorite sport, was the pitcher. What did I have against the captain of the school’s official softball team?
This was torture and everyone on the field was here to witness it. Everyone – including Andrew who was leaning casually on the tall wire fences, his arms folded on his defined chest. His best friend, Derek, was watching along with him.
I could see Andrew directly from my position and knowing that he was here made my knees shake even more. He looked so stunning under the late morning sun, I couldn’t help but look. His teasing smile was distracting me.
Derek was hot and a lot of girls had fallen for him too, but Andrew was on a different level. He looked as every bit as the modern day prince that every girl in this school thought him to be. It wasn’t because he literally looked like a prince. He was gorgeous, alright, but Derek got the looks department, hands down.
What made Andrew prince-like was his personality. You could see it in the way he stood, the way he presented himself. His gentlemanly ways, humble confidence, dimpled smile, and approachable aura—all of it made him the “people’s prince.” He could get away with anything. It was so easy to like him. I would know.
But anyway, he had a class and he should be in that class right now. What was he doing here? He shouldn’t be watching the game.
Worst case scenario, I would get hit by the ball. In the face. If that happened, it would be too humiliating with him and all of these people watching around us. I just hoped that wouldn’t happen. I didn’t care if we lose. My goal was to not get hit by the ball.
“You can do it, Katie!”
My two closest friends, Trisha and Michael (or Mikey, as we liked to call him), cheered for me from the bleachers.
I smiled reluctantly their way.
It was unfair.
Trisha had a weak heart condition and had been excused from every PE class ever since. Coach Miles gave her a special project instead. “Where else could I get a grade for you,” she had told Trish. So she asked her to write a research paper about the mechanics of softball (duh) which she was half-way through already, by the way. I’d caught her in the library yesterday, busy typing and googling related articles. “I need to get this done immediately,” she’d said. “Or I won’t have time for the projects in other class.”
Mikey, on the other hand, was injured from last week’s PE. Actually, girls and boys were separated in PE class. This year, girls were under Coach Miles (softball) while the boys were under Coach Rico (basketball). Mikey might had the height of a basketball player, but he was far from being athletic. So during the game, when Mikey had to guard Kyle Harris, who was the very popular quarterback of the school, he’d gotten hit instead, lost his balance, and dislocated his elbow on his fall.
So both Trisha and Mikey were permitted to sit the games out. Not that I wanted to be sick or injured but I was the only non-sporty person left on the field. I should be sitting with them too. “I’m bad at sports,” wasn’t that enough reason? They seemed so comfortable on the sideline. Meanwhile, I was sweating all over, my braid was all messed up, this batting helmet itched, and a ball was going to be thrown at me. So. Unfair.
I gulped as Sarah stretched for the first throw, smirking at me. It’s like she was telling me, “You’re going down, bitch!”
I adjusted the bat in my hands and readied my stance as how Coach had told us to do so, but I was sure I looked more constipated than anything. Before I knew it, the ball zoomed past me like some invisible whirlwind and I gasped, too late to react.
“Strike!” Coach’s voice boomed.
That ball could kill a person!
I gaped at Sarah who was smiling cockily to herself. No wonder why this girl was the captain of the softball team. But couldn’t she tone it down a notch? This was my first time playing softball, wasn’t it obvious?
With the ball back in her hands, Sarah prepared for the second throw while I remained frozen in position.
I glanced at Andrew (I told you, I couldn’t help it) and he mouthed something I couldn’t make out. What was it?
The ball went flying past me again in an incredible speed.
“Strike two!” Coach called out the second time and I flinched. “Katie, focus! Don’t just stand there. You have to actually swing the bat if you want to hit the ball. Last chance.”
I nodded submissively.
Dang it, Andrew. He was seriously distracting me! I narrowed my eyes at him and he just scratched his head, guilty.
I knew my teammates were getting annoyed of me as well but I couldn’t help it. Fast pitch was too fast for me and I had no idea when to swing the bat. It made me wonder how these people could actually hit the ball and very hard at that. Plus, there was the risk of getting hurt which I was also trying to avoid. How was I supposed to do that? I was too scared to move, more so to swing the bat.
I wanted to cry, scream, and walk out all at the same time. This was too much pressure for me. But I stayed on the home plate and hoped this ended already. Hoped Sarah wasn’t such a great pitcher. Hoped Andrew wasn’t here watching. Hoped wishes were real.
Sarah made her last pitch for me.
Please, don’t let the ball hit me. Please, don’t let the ball hit me. Please, don’t let the ball–
“Swing now, Katie!” Andrew—no doubt it was Andrew—yelled all of a sudden and, on instinct, I did as he said. I swung the bat with all my might. Oh, so that was what he was trying to say earlier.
Thwack! The bat rang in my hands as it hit the ball hard.
No way. I did it. I really did it! My first hit ever.
The ball went flying over Sarah and landed beyond second base. Impossible.
“Run!” Andrew ordered again and my teammates started to cheer along.
“Hey, that was cheating. Andrew coached Katie!” Sarah exclaimed but everyone ignored her.
So I dropped the bat and ran as fast as I could.
I suddenly felt high. People were cheering for me. It was my first hit and Andrew helped me out with it, so I pushed myself to reach at least the first base. For him. For whatever reason, I didn’t want to fail him. If only I could reach the first base…
And then the unexpected happened. It was so crazy, I couldn’t believe it myself. Maybe it was sheer determination or I was just simply out of my mind. One hit made me feel invincible but, of course, that wasn’t really the case.
I was only a few feet away from first base. The second baseman aimed the ball at first base. Believe it or not, as the ball arched in the air, I jumped with both of my arms out-stretched and dived for first base. But something had gone wrong.
The first baseman, Jessica Callaghan, turned to me, completely ignoring the ball, and saw me charging at her. She shrieked in horror as she fell back on her butt. I landed face-first on the ground, my fingers touching the edge of the plate. We both coughed in the swirl of dirt and dust as the ball rolled quietly past us.
I could feel the tension on the field. Everyone was holding their breath. I couldn’t breathe myself but for a completely different reason. It hurt. It hurt so much.
“Safe!” Coach announced.
Then everyone cheered in chorus. Or more like laughed—in relief or the craziness of it all, I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t share their enthusiasm either way. The pain, the shame…
“Are you crazy?” Jessica hissed at me. “Why the hell did you jump? You were going to kill us both!”
I didn’t answer.
“Katie!” She grabbed my shoulder and shook me. When I still didn’t respond, her tone changed to a more worried one, “Uh, Katie? Are you okay?”
I shook my head no. “Ankle. Twisted,” I breathed through clenched teeth.
“My ankle,” I managed to say more clearly. “It twisted.”
“Oh, my gosh! Coach! Help!”
All at once, I heard everyone’s feet stomping towards us but I was too hurt and mortified to lift my head and see. They gathered around me and Jessica, forming a little shade on us. They were whispering and murmuring about me. I wanted to hide and curl up in a ball, preferably forever. I didn’t get hit by the ball but my impulsive jump did a number on me and everyone saw how I fell. Great.
“Excuse me! Let me through! Katie! Katie!” It was Andrew’s voice. Oh God. No. I closed my eyes and groaned. Couldn’t the ground turn into a quicksand already? Swallow me now, please.
“Katie?” I felt him kneel beside me. His face was only inches from mine, I could tell. I felt his breath so close. His voice sounded low and smooth but worried. More worried than anything. “What happened?”
No. No. No. Go away!
“My ankle,” my words were muffled but he still heard me.
I nodded and he muttered a curse.
He touched the injured area and I whimpered even though he was being gentle.
“I’m taking you to the clinic.”
Before I could say anything, I was in his arms in one swoop like a dirty little rug doll. Pressing my face to his shirt, I tried to hide as much as I could from the curious set of eyes. His scent assailed my senses and it gave me a little comfort. He smelled like soap and sweat and something else that was woodsy and earthy. His very own smell. Mmm.
Wait. Did I just smell him?
Coach Miles told him to wait for the wheel chair from the school’s clinic. She had asked some of the girls to go to the nurse’s office and report the incident. But Andrew couldn’t wait. He pleaded Coach to take me to the clinic himself. When Coach couldn’t disagree any longer, Andrew weaved through the crowd like a dashing prince on a mission with a distressed damsel in his arms. He was fast but careful not to move my ankle.
I would have enjoyed it. What kind of girl wouldn’t want to be in the arms of a prince, right? But everyone was gawking at us like crazy. I was too embarrassed to romanticize the turn of events. Besides, I couldn’t think of him that way.
To make matters even worse, Andrew made a comment. “So you’re diving in softball games now, huh? Skipping biology was the best decision ever.”
I blushed and hit his chest, “Shut up.”
I knew he would tease me right after. Ugh. What was I thinking, attempting such a stupid stunt like that? The ground should have just swallowed me instead. This wouldn’t happen if it had. Too bad wishes didn’t work that way. It had a way of turning things around.
Next week, I would be sitting on the bleachers with Trisha and Mikey during PE, that’s for sure. At least, I got that part granted.
“Here you go, Katie.” Mikey dropped a pile of notes on my bed as Trisha sat beside me, grabbing one of my baby blue pillows to hug. “We’ve got homework on English and Chemistry, and a quiz on Algebra this Monday.”
“Thanks,” I sighed.
I’d been excused from school for the rest of the day. After taking me to the nurse’s office, Andrew had contacted Mom about the mortifying incident and she came to school still in her own nurse’s uniform, panicking like any loving mother would. But she was kind of over-reacting. As a nurse herself, she should’ve known that a sprain wasn’t something to be worried about that much. Just put some ice on it and rest, then you’d be fine. But her motherly instincts took over.
“I’m fine, Mom,” I’d said.
But she insisted, “No. You’re not. It’s swelling! I am your mother and I’m going to make sure that you’re 100% okay. I haven’t done so much for you in the past. Let me take care of you…”
She was very close to tears and I felt bad for making her worry.
I grew up living with my grandparents, Granna and Grampa, and my one sassy aunt who never really liked me because she had to kind of babysit me. Well, she had no choice even if she put all the blame on me for turning her into a rotting cat lady (even though she never owned a cat her whole life.) Mom had told her to get a job but she wouldn’t and would rather go clubbing, jumping from one man to another instead. So my aunt got stuck with me.
Mom had been very busy at work, trying to earn a living for me and my grandparents. Because of that, she hadn’t had enough time to personally take care of me. But I understood why. She loved me and she was doing her best to raise me and provide my needs as well as take care of her parents. She’d been sacrificing her own happiness all this time. I even had to convince her to start dating because I knew she wanted too but she didn’t want me to think that she’s neglecting me. She thought it was a distraction. But I just wanted her to be happy too.
Even if she’d never complained, I blamed myself for a lot of things. She’d been alone in taking care of me. She deserved someone who would take care of her but because of me, she’d set aside searching for love. It had been ages since my father left us. It was time that she found someone who’d truly love her. So I couldn’t be any happier when she did find someone. Chris.
Chris Brooke was a widowed lawyer whom she’d met in the hospital where she worked and he was a patient. It was love at first sight, she had told me, but she didn’t want to admit it at first. Not that I believed in such things.
After dating for almost two years, Chris proposed to Mom. They got married and we moved in to his modern suburban home where he accepted me like his own child. But we often visit Granna and Grampa, of course. We couldn’t just leave them. Even though Mom was wary of everything—the change most especially—and was reluctant to leave them, I’d never seen her so happy after watching her walk down the aisle. She glowed. It was what my grandparents wanted for her after all, to finally find her happiness.
It had been hard for me and my mom that we’d been missing each other a lot. We hadn’t had so much mother-and-daughter time. Now that we had settled together, Mom was trying to make up for the lost time. Of course, I wanted it too so I gave in.
After signing a fetcher’s clearance, Mom brought me to the hospital with her (just to be sure, she’d said), making me miss all three of my afternoon classes. When the doctor made sure that I hadn’t broken anything, we went home and I took the time to rest.
The next day, Mom still insisted that I skip classes despite my efforts to convince her that I was feeling much better—which, okay, I was really not. It was still painful whenever I tried to walk so, even though I didn’t want to miss any more of my classes, I skipped another day of school. Mom also took a day-off to take care of me. She wanted to spend the day with me and who was I to refuse? I’d just asked Mikey and Trish for the notes and homework.
Friday night, they both came to Chris’ house—the place I now considered my home—to visit me. I led them upstairs to my room.
“What else did I miss?” I asked.
“Nothing much. The usual. Kyle tried to hit on Sarah during chemistry lab. Again,” Mikey said, rolling his eyes. “You know Sarah. She hates Kyle’s guts. He doesn’t learn every time.”
“But it was hilarious,” Trisha added, giggling. “She got so annoyed that she pinched his nipples hard! He screamed like a girl. Oh, that was the best. Mr. Collins gave them both detention for ‘disturbing the class’ though.”
“Wait. They’ve known each other since they were kids, right,” I pointed out. “I don’t get those two.”
“That’s the thing. She knows him so she knows not to fall for his charms.”
“Speaking of falling,” Mikey grinned and pointedly looked at me. “I still can’t believe that you dived for the base.”
“Ugh. Don’t remind me,” I took the pillow from Trish and pressed it to my face, almost screaming in frustration. What I did was risky and a lot of people had seen it. Knowing that I kind of did it for Andrew and that he was there to witness me fail made it even more embarrassing. It was an impulsive decision that I shouldn’t have done. Stupid, stupid me. What the hell was I thinking?
“That was pretty epic! We enjoyed the game because of you.”
“I’m glad that you did…at my expense!” I lightly hit his face with the pillow. “I will never do anything like that ever again. That was really crazy. Do you know how much it hurt?”
He just laughed. Traitor.
“But Katie, you were so lucky!” Trisha said dreamily. Lucky? What was so lucky about twisting your ankle and falling face-first to the ground? “Andrew helped you in the game and then he rescued you immediately.” Ah. That. I should’ve known where this conversation was going. She had this familiar sparkle in her eyes.
In the few months that I’d met her, she had always been a hopeless romantic. She saw everything as a potential love story and when she started gushing about it, there was no stopping her.
“He was like your knight in shining armor,” she continued. “How did it feel when he carried you? Oh, I bet you felt like a princess. He looked so manly! It was so romantic, don’t you think so?”
Yes, it was. It seemed like I was in a scene of a romance movie and Andrew was the hero. It felt good to be in his arms. I was safe and secure, and it almost felt like that was where I belonged. With Andrew. But I couldn’t admit that out loud.
Even if I felt extremely embarrassed and that he was teasing me, he held me protectively and made sure that I was okay. He stayed with me in the school’s clinic. Only when Mom came to pick me up did he leave me.
At home, he made sure to check on me and keep me company after his class. For a second, I thought that there could be something more between us. That there was something more. Even in the little things he did, he had always made feel something more and there were times that I dreamed of it. Andrew and I.
But I knew better. He couldn’t think of me that way. He was just being himself, always the kind prince. That’s simply who he was. And maybe that’s also the reason why I was feeling this way for him. I was falling fast and I had to find a way to stop very soon because Andrew and I, we couldn’t be.
He was my brother.
“Don’t be silly, Trish,” I finally said.
“Come on. Don’t tell me you didn’t feel anything even just a little bit. There were sparks everywhere! I saw how you two looked at each other—“
“He’s my brother.”
“Not by blood.”
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t feel anything for him,” I lied. “And I’m sure he doesn’t feel anything for me too. He just thinks of me like a little sister.”
Saying that out loud felt like a slap to my face. It was the kind of slap that would wake you up to reality but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt less. I couldn’t stop the growing tightness in my chest. It was consuming and it confused me.
It was winter when I met Andrew. He was just a stranger to me.
Spring was when we became closer. He became special to me, he became a friend.
Summer was what changed everything. Mom got married to Chris and Andrew became my stepbrother. He was the only child of Chris and that made him off-limits to me.
Now, it was fall and I was falling. I shouldn’t feel this way but now that I was living with him, my feelings were getting harder to control. It scared me.
“If he wasn’t your brother—“
“Stop it now, Trish,” Mikey chided but I answered anyway.
“Maybe,” that was all I said. Maybe.
Maybe if I hadn’t met Andrew, I wouldn’t feel this way. Maybe if Mom hadn’t married his father, it wouldn’t be this hard. Maybe if he hadn’t become my brother, I wouldn’t have to hide this. Even if Andrew didn’t like me back, at least I could still let myself feel. Maybe. But that was not how things worked out and it would be too selfish of me to think of a “maybe.”
“It’s getting late. I’m tired,” I confessed. That was their cue to leave.
“Okay,” Mikey stood up. “We’ll get going now. Get well, Katie.”
“Thanks for the notes.”
Mikey opened the door and let himself out of my room but Trish stayed for a second. “I just want you to have a happily-ever-after.”
That made me smile a bit. She’s always the romantic.
“Someday, Trish. I want that too.”
I followed her out, hopping on my good foot. Downstairs, Mom was busy on the phone talking. Chris and Andrew were watching their favorite TV show on the couch, shouting and laughing at the screen. They looked lively but peaceful. Contented.
Seeing them like this made me happy but it also pinched my heart. This was my family now, I shouldn’t forget that. They welcomed me into their life and I was thankful for having them in mine. But I was having these feelings I shouldn’t have and it scared me that it would ruin everything. If that happened, it would hurt the most important person in my life—my mom—and I couldn’t be the cause of that.
Mom loved Chris. I could see how her eyes twinkled whenever she looked into his eyes. Chris loved her back. I knew he wouldn’t hurt her and he would do anything to make her happy. When Mom introduced him to me, he had promised me that he would take care of her—of us. I believed him. What they had was the real thing. I couldn’t let my growing silly crush get in between Mom and her happiness. It took Mom so long to find it. I had to stop this nonsense somehow before it got in the way.
Andrew caught my eyes down the stairs, halting my broken steps. His bright blue eyes looked as if they were asking me if something was wrong.
“Trisha and Mikey are going,” I announced.
“Oh, wait a second,” Mom cupped the phone and put it away from her ear. “Take care, you guys.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Brooke,” Trish and Mikey said at the same time.
“Just ‘Jenna,’” Mom blushed, stealing a glance at Chris, and chastised them playfully. “How many times do I have to tell you?”
“Come back anytime you want,” Chris called from the couch.
“Sure, sir. Thank you.”
I led them to the door. Andrew stood up to help me. He grabbed my elbow, placing his other hand on my waist, and assisted me in opening the door for Trisha and Mikey. I tried not react or feel anything.
“Bye, Katie. Andrew,” Mikey nodded at us.
“See ya, Katie,” Trisha waved.
I waved back to her.
Once they were out of sight, Andrew asked, “Are you alright? You looked sick for a moment there.”
I removed his hands from me.
Then and there, I made a decision. Even though it seemed impossible, I had to do something. If I couldn’t stop myself then I had to stay away from Andrew, as far away as my heart and feelings could possibly be. Out of sight, out of mind, right? But would my heart be able to follow? It was the only way I could think of. I just hoped I could do it. I couldn’t let myself fall for the little sweet things he did for me. They didn’t mean anything. That’s just the way he was. I needed to remind myself all the time.
We couldn’t be.
“Yeah, I’m alright,” I forced a smile. “I will be.”
(When I wrote this, I was planning a novel in mind–actually, I have posted the first half of this before so this is kind of the extended version–but I didn’t know how continue with the story so I just stopped at that. I was too busy to work on this so I’ll just leave it as a short story. For now. You can give me some advice, share your thoughts on this story. What I need to improve on, work on, things like that. Constructive feedback will always be welcome! By the way, I’m not sure about the rules of softball. I played a bit in high school for a P.E. class, but that was a long time ago. I already forgot. My research is also a bit hazy. Sports really aren’t my thing. Forgive the lack of sports knowledge accuracy. Anyway, I hope you still enjoyed this one!)