The Game Changer The Final Score
Author:L.M. Trio

chapter 10

(Deanna)



The phone call to JJ last night really has me bothered; it feels dishonest. I need to let her know that Luke is in town, but when I text her, she is already out with Frank for the day. I tell her Mikey left her tickets at the window and ask if we can spend the night alone so that we can talk. She asks if everything is alright and I tell her it’s fine, that I just would like some time to ourselves. She thinks it’s a great idea and we make plans to hang out after the game, alone.

Luke and Mikey head over to stadium together. Luke agrees to stay out of sight for another day and I promise him that I will talk to her tonight after the game.

The cab drops me off in front of the stadium, where I meet David at the window and we pick up our tickets. We head up to the stands to take our seats, which are great, right on the first level, in the middle of home plate and first.

I get tears in my eyes and a fluttery feeling in my stomach when Mikey walks onto the field in his uniform. It’s the first time I’ve seen him play in a Rays’ uniform. I’m so happy for him; I can barely breathe as I watch him. JJ eventually texts me that she’s running late.

“So what do you think of Frank?” I ask David.

“He’s a nice guy from what I’ve seen so far,” he says, glancing in my direction. By reading his expression, it’s clear that he has more on his mind.

“What?” I ask.

“I know it’s not a big deal, but I think he seems a little too old for her.” He shrugs his shoulders.

“Why, cause he’s almost your age?” I give him a smile.

“Yeah, maybe that has something to do with it.” He laughs.

“Well, all that matters is if she’s happy,” I say, leading into my next subject, the tone in my voice makes David looks at me. “Luke’s home.” The words spill from my mouth.

“Yeah, I know. How’s he doin’?” he asks with concern.

I know he doesn’t get what I’m saying. “David, I mean, here, home.” His whole body swirls in my direction.

“Does she know?” he asks, completely caught off guard.

“No. He just got here a couple of days ago. He wants to see her.” I fill David in on what transpired over the last couple of days, and how Mikey and I thought it best if he waited until after her show. David agrees and he also thinks it’s best if I prepare her ahead of time.

JJ and Frank arrive after the first inning and take their seats next to David and me, who is now sharing in my anxiety. Between watching Mikey play and thinking about my talk with JJ later, my head feels as if it’s about to explode. Mikey hits a homerun in the fifth and JJ and I high-five each other.

“De, he has been doing so good!” she says excitedly.

“I know. I’m in so much trouble!” I laugh.

“What do you mean?”

I relay the terms of the bet we made last evening. JJ laughs and asks how I feel about it. “I don’t know. I had this strange feeling last night when I was with him. I don’t know,” I say, confused.

“What kind of feeling? What do you mean?” she presses, as we whisper to each other while watching the game.

“I don’t know. I miss him terribly when I’m away. I can’t wait to see him when he comes home or when I visit here. I mean, it’s no big deal.” I shrug, trying to give off a nonchalant vibe. “It’s just that we grew up together, he knows me better than anyone. I miss hanging out with him, that’s all.” I can tell by JJ’s expression that she believes there is more to it. “I mean… really… after the first ten minutes, he drives me completely insane.”

“Whatever you say.” JJ laughs.

I figure it’s a good time to keep my mouth shut and watch the game. Sure enough, in the 9 inning, he hits another. The game ends and the Rays have a two game lead in the series.

“Start cooking and whatever else he wants,” JJ teases, referring to the terms of our agreement.

I roll my eyes as we head through the crowded stadium, walking towards the area where the players come out from the locker room. Mikey told us to wait for him after the game. David and Frank lag behind us and JJ makes a comment that she’s happy that they seem to be getting along.

This particular section of the stadium seems to be bustling with people lingering after the game. When Mikey finally appears, we congratulate him. After shaking hands with the guys, he immediately walks towards me, leaning his head down until his lips brush against my ear. “Ready to pay up?” he whispers softly, sending chills down my spine. I shudder and glance up at him. He knows he got to me. His eyes are focused on my mouth.

“A bet’s a bet,” I say, trying to regain my composure. “When?”

“Now,” he says seductively, still focused on my mouth. I self-consciously wet my lips and he smiles. I take a breath and look at the others, but they are too engrossed in their own conversation to notice what is going on between us. Is there anything going on between us, or is it all in my mind? Is it my own mixed up, wishful thinking, mind? He’s got me so flustered that I rattle off all of the reasons as to why I can’t do it tonight. He laughs at me. He’s messing with me as usual. He tells me I better make it worth his while since I’m making him wait. I laugh and give him a shove.

“I’ll be right back. Don’t move from here, I’m running to the bathroom,” JJ says as she heads in the direction of the restroom, giving me the opportunity to turn my attention towards the others and put an end to our private conversation.

***

(Luke)

“Yeah, sure… I’ll catch up with you at home,” I say to Mikey as he heads out of the locker to meet up with everyone after the game.

As I stand here by myself, the idea that maybe I can just steal a quick look pops into my head. The hallway is crowded so there’s no way I can be seen with everyone moving about. I watch from afar as the five of them stand together and talk. “Traitors,” I say to myself as they all huddle together with this Frank guy who seems to have taken my place. I laugh at myself for stalking them. Alright, stalking her. Deep down, I know I have to be patient. The timing has to be right.

However, when I see her going off on her own towards the restroom, it throws a wrench into my plan and I lose all sense of good judgment. I don’t think of the consequences, all thoughts are about seeing her alone while everyone else seems to be enjoying each other’s company.

I’m waiting off to the side as she exits the restroom. Her head is down and she’s searching around in her purse. A woman with a small child cuts in front of her, causing her to spill her purse all over the floor. The woman rudely keeps walking without apologizing and JJ kneels down to collect her things.

Without thinking, I rush towards her and kneel by her side. She looks so pretty when she’s frazzled that I’m unable to remove my eyes from her face. I pick up her lipstick and a pen. My heart is pounding so loudly that I hear nothing else around me. I’ve dreamt of this day, when I can be so close that I can actually touch her. Her focus is on gathering the contents of her purse and she has yet to notice that I’m kneeling beside her.

“Hey, JJ,” I whisper.

***

(Jesse)

It takes only a moment for my brain to calculate what I hear and in that same moment, my heart violently slams against my chest. It’s the same silken tone that whispered my name a million times before. There’s a pain so deep that I can’t breathe. To convince myself that this is real, I slowly raise my head until my eyes meet his.

His deep brown eyes tear into me with the same intensity I remember. I have every inch of his face memorized and the time apart hasn’t changed much. I want so badly to reach out and touch him, to be sure that he is real, but, I don’t dare. In fact, I don’t even reciprocate his sorrowful smile.

Right now, the only memories I have are of trusting him more than anyone in the world, him making me believe that everything would be alright, and him betraying me. I didn’t believe it was possible to feel a hurt more severe than when I lost my mom. However, my mom didn’t choose to leave me. He did. I grab the objects from his outstretched hand and shove them into my purse, abruptly standing on my weakened knees and taking off in the direction of the restroom; leaving him kneeling on the floor, alone.

Once safely hidden behind the door of the restroom, I fall back against the wall; feeling nauseous and dizzy. I breathe in slowly, trying to fill my lungs with air once again. The tears uncontrollably start to fall.

***

(Luke)

My stomach churns and I feel as if I may get sick as I slowly stand up and dust off the knees of my jeans. I realize what a bad idea this is, which is further confirmed when I look into Mikey, David, and Deanna’s horrified faces staring at me. Deanna makes a beeline past me in the direction of the restroom. I swallow hard as I realize the consequences of my actions and take a step in their direction.

“Hey,” I say meekly, my eyes focused solely on David as if we are the only two in the room. David’s disappointed look says everything I already feel.

“David, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have blindsided her like that… I just saw her and… I don’t know…. I swear I had no intentions of seeing her until De had a chance to tell her I was back.” I don’t care that Mikey and this guy Frank are standing here while I apologize. Only David’s opinion matters to me right now.

“Luke, enough. We’ll talk later,” David says, putting up his hand to stop me.

Mikey cuts in, attempting to break the intensity, “Uh… Luke, this is Frank,” he says as if the four of us are meeting up at a friendly golf outing together. I think he may be a bigger idiot than me.

“Hello.” I awkwardly hold out my hand for Frank to shake, which thankfully, he does.

I was feeling like a huge asshole and I’m guessing this guy feels the same way. Mikey begins to ramble about some nonsense that I’m not listening to, but I’m thankful for the distraction. I nod my head as if I’m listening while biting my lower lip so hard I can almost taste blood. What is going on in the bathroom?

***

(Jesse)

“I’m so sorry, JJ. I didn’t think he would—I’m sorry. I was planning on talking to you tonight to tell you he was back,” Deanna pleads.

I can’t face her, I feel as if I’ve been deceived by all of them. “You knew he was here? How could you not tell me? How could you do this to me? You had to know how this would make me feel,” I manage to choke out as my voice quivers and the tears stream down my face. When I finally raise my head to look at her, her eyes match mine.

“JJ, he told me he would wait until I had a chance to talk to you. He told me he wouldn’t do this here. I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”

“You all knew? Even my dad?”

“I just told David before you arrived today. He had no idea Luke was back in town. Luke arrived on Thursday. He wanted to see you right away, but Mikey and I convinced him to wait until after the art show. We didn’t want to upset you before your big night. Last night, he went to the gallery after it had closed. He wanted to talk to you, see your work. He didn’t know about Frank. He saw the two of you together and left before you saw him.”

I could not believe what I was hearing, I can hardly think straight. “You called last night; was he there when you called?”

She lowers her eyes, unable to look at me. “Yes, I’m sorry. He made me call, seeing you with Frank made him—”

“He has no right! He’s two years too late,” I say angrily, cutting her off. “I want Frank to get me out of here. Tell him to meet me right outside of here. I do not want to see anyone else right now, only Frank.” I brush the tears from my eyes and straighten myself up.

“Okay, I’ll get Frank. I’m sorry, JJ, I really am,” she says quietly as she turns to go.

***

(Luke)

My mind is still foggy when Deanna returns, I hear her say, “She wants you.” Relief overcomes me as I let out a deep breath and take a step in the direction of the bathroom.

“Not you… Frank,” she says abruptly, placing her hand on my chest to stop me from moving forward. Awkwardly excusing himself, Frank hurries off in the direction of the bathroom.

“Is she okay?” I ask meekly as my jaw tightens.

“What were you thinking? You promised me you would let me talk with her. She is so upset with me, Luke. I am so angry at you right now. She thinks I deceived her… and she’s right,” she says angrily as a tear falls from her eye.

I apologize profusely to all of them, especially David. “I need to tell her how sorry I am, she’s got to know I still love her. Whatever she decides, I promise to leave her alone if that’s what she wants.”

“I know, Luke,” David says. “I know you don’t want to hurt her. I just want to see her happy. If it is you that makes her happy, well then, I want that for her, but if it’s not you that she wants, you need to back off. You have to let her live the life that she chooses.”

“I promise, David. I swear. I can’t live like this anymore. I need to move on, too, with or without her; if that’s what she wants.” I know that is a lie; I can’t move on without her, but I’ll never tell them that. After all, I’m trying desperately to convince everyone that I’m stable now, not some psycho that’s going to stalk her for the rest of her life. “I need to see her tonight. I don’t care that she’s with this Frank guy. I have to talk to her.”

At first David is reluctant. He thinks I should give her time, but I persistently state my case. Finally, David tells me he understands. I have a feeling it’s because he knows that we belong together. He understands more than anyone that life is too short to waste a minute of it being without the person that means the most to you. Before I hurry off, I promise Deanna that I will fix this and not to worry.

“Luke, try the gallery. Frank probably went there to close up!” Deanna hollers out. “Good luck!”





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