“Oh, I am, I really am!” Heather’s hazel eyes shone. “I’m so glad I came. It’s my first game! I can’t believe how great he played!”
“He really came into his own, and it’s wonderful that you were there to share it with him.”
“That’s just how I feel!” Heather bubbled over with happiness. “I’m so happy I quit my job!”
“What?” Chris didn’t know if he’d heard her correctly.
“I quit my job and I feel so great!” Heather burst into laughter. “I hated it, only I didn’t realize I hated it! The new bosses are terrible! I’ll find another job and I feel so happy to be free! And I got to be here!”
“There you go! Some things are meant to be, aren’t they?” Chris grinned, though inside, he was shaking his head. She was a sweet person, but somebody should tell all the sweet people in the world, Don’t volunteer so much to complete strangers. Don’t tell them the most personal things. Don’t post every detail about your private life. You have no idea who is out there, preying on you, using that information to their advantage. Like me.
“It really is meant to be! Thank you so much for coaching him!”
“I’ve only coached him for a day, but I’ll take the credit.” Chris laughed, and Heather joined him.
“Why not? That’s the spirit!”
“Right!” Chris said, but just then, a stray sniffle came from one of the moms nearby, evidently about Raz’s father.
Heather’s pretty face fell. “What a shame. Neil was a great guy. He used to drive Raz and Jordan everywhere until they got their licenses.” She leaned over, lowering her voice. “I think Jordan feels bad about starting instead of Raz.”
“I can tell.” Chris matched her subdued tone, liking the way this was going. The more compliments he paid Jordan, the happier she got, like any good mother. “He doesn’t relish beating his friend. He’s got a good heart.”
“He wouldn’t let it show though. He’s not like that.”
“I know he’s not, he reminds me of someone—basically me.” Chris was ad-libbing, but Heather smiled again, so he kept going. “I’ll tell you what I told Jordan about the situation with Raz. I told him, ‘You have every right to this position because you earned it. You are a combination of God-given talent and hard work, and that’s what this is all about. Baseball, life, everything. You can’t let anything hold you back. You’re stepping into your destiny.’”
“You told him that?” Heather’s eyes went wide, and Chris worried he was laying it on too thick, but she was lapping it up. She was eager to hear him, and he could tell she was lonely. She was cute in a natural way, with a great body, but he shooed his horniness away. His goal wasn’t to take her to bed, but to manipulate her, so he kept talking.
“I love coaching baseball, but the thing you have to know, is that baseball is about these kids and their maturity, and helping them grow into who they were really meant to be. That’s how I think of it. That’s why I got into teaching in the first place.”
“Really.” Heather beamed.
“In fact, just FYI, I’m having a get-together tonight at my apartment for the team to introduce myself. Now it will be a victory celebration, thanks to Jordan.”
“Oh.” Heather blinked. “He didn’t mention that to me, but he doesn’t always tell me what he’s doing.”
“Of course, he wouldn’t.” Chris could see her falter, so he rushed to reassure her. “I didn’t keep my mother posted on everything I did, either. No boy does.”
“Right.” Heather’s smile returned.
“I just wanted you to know that I’m going to take very good care of him. And if you ever need to reach me, my number and email’s on the website.”
“Thank you so much.” Heather nodded.
“I better go. Congratulations.”
“You should say that to Jordan!” Heather shot back, with a final smile. “I’m just the mom.”
“I meant congratulations for quitting your job.”
“Oh, right!” Heather rolled her eyes, adorably. “God knows what happens next.”
“We’ll see!” Chris knew exactly what happened next, but that was for only him to know.
Chris scanned the party under way at his apartment. Coach Hardwick had declined to come, but the players filled the living room, wolfing down pizza and talking among themselves. Everyone had arrived except Jordan, Evan, and Raz, and Chris was concerned. He hoped it didn’t suggest a reconciliation between Jordan and Raz. He was looking for an opportunity to solidify his relationship to Jordan and finish Raz.
“I wonder where Jordan is.” Chris stepped onto the balcony, which overlooked the pocket parking lot. A few of the players were freestyling, which gave Chris a headache, but Trevor and Dylan stood talking against the rail, so he went over to them. “Hey guys, great game! Way to go!”
“Hey Coach!” Trevor shook his fist in the air. “Awesome! Larkin’s the man!”
“Trevor, I give credit to you guys, too. It’s a team victory.”
“Thanks, Coach.” Trevor beamed.
“It’s the truth. You hit two doubles today. And you, Dylan.” Chris turned to the boy. “Dylan, that home run! I think that ball went four hundred feet.”
“Not that far,” Dylan corrected him, pushing up his glasses with a tight smile.
Suddenly their attention was drawn by noisy rap music coming from below, and they all turned to see Evan’s BMW pulling into the parking lot with its convertible top down, blasting hip-hop. Evan was driving, Jordan was in the passenger seat, and Raz was wedged in the nonexistent backseat, his knees tucked under his chin. Evan parked and cut the engine, abruptly ending the music.
“Musketeers!” Trevor called to them, but Dylan looked over at Chris, worriedly.
“Are your neighbors going to be pissed at the noise?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Chris waved him off.
“Musketeers, pizza’s hot!” Trevor hollered.
“Zaaaaaa!” Evan hollered back, looking up with a grin as he opened the car door and got out of the BMW.