My heart filled with pride as I watched my daughter round second base. Then the outfielder made the mental error of lobbing the ball back to the infield. Brook never even slowed down as she watched the left fielder's throw! I held my breath as Brook just barely beat the relay to third base.
How many times had I told her to never make the first or last out of an inning at third base? The fans on our side of the field let out a collective gasp. It was the bottom of the ninth inning of the district championship game. Nine innings! The game had been tied at two after regulation, and now in the second overtime frame, Brook had tripled to lead off!
I had been a baseball fan my entire life but I had never been as excited or as nervous as I was at this moment. My daughter seemed determined to win the game, even if she had to do it single handedly! The next batter struck out on three pitches. Now we had one out and a runner on third. The next batter smashed a one-hopper to third base. Their girl playing third was good. She looked Brook back to the bag and then threw the ball to first, and she put a little extra on it. Brook took off for home!
I couldn't even make a sound. A lump formed in my throat the size of an apple. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. The first baseman caught the ball and fired a bb to the catcher. Brook slid to the back edge of the plate as the catcher brought the ball around for the tag. It was so incredibly close! Time stood still as everyone waited for the umpire to make the call. After what seemed like eons, he spread his hands down and out, palms even with the ground!
Pandemonium erupted! Tears streaked my cheeks. I watched as Brook's teammates pounded her back and embraced her in group hugs. I knew a moment of regret that the other team wasn't able to win, too. They had made an incredible effort, but only one team can come out on top and that's part of the game.
I was sitting in the car as Brook strode across the parking lot. She was laughing and joking with her teammates. Was there ever a prettier, smarter, more athletic girl on the planet? I was overwhelmed with my love for this young beauty.
"Hey, Dad!" greeted Brook as she slid into the passenger's seat. "How'd you like that game? Don't start in about making the first out at third, either, Dad."
"Brook, there are certain basic truths in baseball that have been proven over and over. That happens to be one," I replied. "I wasn't the guy that came up with it, but it's a fact."
"How about the fact that my arm was starting to ache and I didn't think I'd be able to pitch to another batter, never mind another inning?" she asked. "I knew we had to make it happen that inning or we'd be in deep you-know-what."
"We'd better ice that up tonight, Brook! I didn't know your arm was hurting. Did you tell your coach?" I prodded.
"No, Dad. That would have put her in a real quandary. She would have had to pull me and she didn't have anyone else to put in. Nancy has a sprained ankle and Stephanie has some kind of flu. Now we go to states next week," grinned Brook. "That sure beats ending the season, doesn't it?"
I marveled at the kid sitting next to me as I drove. I had changed her dirty diapers and taught her how to ride a bike. I showed her how to throw, catch, and bat. Now she was the reason her school had won districts and was going to states. I smugly allowed myself some of the credit for her many scholastic and athletic accomplishments.
"Where are we going, Dad?" wondered Brook. "You missed the turn for Route 6."
"We're going to celebrate winning districts, Sweetheart. I've heard that the new Hilton here in Wilkes-Barre is rumored to have one of the best restaurants around. I think we both deserve a big steak and a baked potato!" I announced.
"Dad, you're the one that likes steak and potatoes! I'm going to order lobster! May I suggest that you wash your steak down with a frosty mug of MGD," laughed Brook.
"Hey, I never thought of that, but now that you suggest it, I might just do that, Brook! You're a genius!"
"Yeah, I know. The fact that we've been recycling those beer cans all my life has imprinted on my brain, Dad. It's more like I'd have to be a moron to not know what you like. You don't vary much, you know?" chided Brook.
When we entered the restaurant, there was a ten-minute wait for a table. I was handed one of those things that lights up and vibrates when my number is called. I sat at a bench while Brook went to use the ladies room. She was back in about five minutes.
I wasn't paying much attention and it took a few minutes for me to notice there were tears trickling down Brook's cheeks!
"Brook! What's wrong, Baby? Is your arm hurting you? What is it, Sweetheart?" I asked.
"You know how Mom couldn't make my game because she had to go to Philadelphia for her job?" sobbed Brook.
"So that's it! Brook, you know your mom has a high-powered job in that insurance company and she has to travel a lot. She really wanted to go to your game but her schedule wouldn't allow it," I reasoned. "Don't get upset over it, Darling. She'll probably make it to the states!"
"Well, I don't give a shit if she ever goes to any of my games! She can go straight to hell!" cried Brook.
I was stunned. Brook never spoke ill of her mother and she never used vulgar language, although she had heard it from me on occasion. Her emotional outburst was a complete shock to me!
"Oh, Dad! You're as blind as I am! Mom didn't go to Philadelphia. She's sitting inside with some slick bastard, holding hands and laughing. She doesn't give a fuck about either of us!"
Brook couldn't have surprised me any more if she had told me that she had just signed with the Yankees! My wife, Brook's mother, involved with another man? I felt dizzy. Brook wrapped her arms around me and really began to bawl her eyes out. Tears began streaking down my cheeks, as well. How could one of the best days of our lives go down the tubes so fast?
I broke loose from Brook long enough to return the vibrator/light thing to the hostess and then wrapped my arm around Brook and led her back to the car. I helped her in and then crawled into the driver's seat. I didn't start the car because I could barely see. The two of us just sat in that lot for another ten minutes. Gradually, the nausea, shame, and horror lessened and I was able to dry my eyes and concentrate.
"Brook, are you sure it was your mother?" I asked gently. "It's possible you were mistaken. We may be upset over nothing. It could have been someone that looks like Natalie. That was probably what you saw."
"Right, Dad! I don't know what my own mother looks like. There must be a few thousand purple Lexus SUV's around with personalized plates that say "NAT" like that one over there. I must be seeing things," wailed Brook.
I looked in the direction she indicated and saw Natalie's car a few rows ahead of where we sat. There was no mistaking that!
"I'm sorry, Brook. I guess I was just trying to deny this could actually be happening to me, to us," I apologized. "It's pretty obvious that it's your mother in that hotel. She's lying to both of us, and cheating on me. We have to accept that fact and determine what to do now."
Then my cell phone rang! I knew who it was before I even looked at my phone. It was Natalie. I didn't want her to know that Brook and I knew where she was and what she was doing. At least not before I could decide on a course of action.
"Hello, Natalie," I answered as calmly as I could.
"Hey, Sweetheart!" bubbled Natalie. "How did the game go? I'm dying to find out who won."
"The game? We won it and we're off to states next week. Brook played well," I understated.
"Put her on the phone, Darling. I want to congratulate her and tell her how proud I am. I wish I could have been there!" lied Natalie.
"Well, she's off with some of her teammates right now, Natalie. I'll relay the message," I promised. "Are you in Philadelphia right now?"
"Driving down Broad Street as I speak," laughed Natalie. "This traffic is moving slow, so I thought I'd call to see how everything went."
"Be careful in that new car, Natalie. You're driving your Lexus, aren't you?" I probed.
"Of course I am, Tim. I love this car. It's very safe and not as thirsty as your Ford. I have to go now, Tim. I'm almost at the Hotel. I love you and I'll call again tomorrow," she promised.
I just hung up and looked at Brook. It appeared that she was going to break down again. Then she sniffed and smiled at me.
"Screw that bitch! Right, Dad?" asked Brook rhetorically. "We can live okay without her. Probably even better!"
"We can if you stop using profanities, young lady! Things may have turned to shit, but that's no reason for you to behave like you have no class. We, I raised you better than that," I chastised.
"I'm sorry. I was just so mad and it seemed like only swear words properly fit the situation," Brook explained. "I'm better already, but I worry about you, Dad. At first, I was only thinking about how little my game meant to her. She'd rather sneak off to get porked by some stud-muffin than watch me play in the district championships. I didn't even think about how awful you must feel."
"Well, it certainly hurts. I admit that. I don't know what to do next. This is such a shock. I can't even think straight."
"Really, Dad? I would think you'd toss her sorry butt out so fast her head would swim. She has totally disrespected you, and me. The lies, even without the boyfriend, would be enough to divorce her, don't you think?" asked Brook.
"It seems like it would, but I've found over the years that it's best to think things through rather than to act in haste. I can always file for a divorce. I just have to be sure that's the best course of action before I do," I answered.
"Dad, do you have a spare set of keys for mom's car? If you do, give them to me, please."
"I have them Brook, but why do you want them?" I questioned.
"It seems to me that it will be the final proof. If the keys work in the car sitting over there, we'll know beyond any doubt that Mom isn't checking into some hotel in Philly," reasoned Brook.
I gave Brook the keys and she trotted over to the car. As she approached it, she clicked the keyless entry and I saw the lights blink. To my surprise, Brook climbed in and started Natalie's car. She waved as she drove past me. I quickly started my car and swung around to follow her.
I didn't have to follow her very far. She went down the block and pulled into a Best Western parking lot and drove to the back corner and jumped out. As she neared my car, she pushed the button to lock Natalie's. Then she climbed in with me.
"That's just a little taste of how Mom's life is going to go," laughed Natalie. "Imagine when she can't find her car. She can't report it stolen in Philly very well. Her story would fall apart under police questioning. If she reports it stolen here, she'll have to explain why it was here when she said she was driving it in Philadelphia. Lies really complicate everything!"
I didn't know whether to be proud of Natalie, or make an appointment with a psychiatrist! I never would have thought of such a fiendish idea. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Let Natalie find out how the hard way how lies have a way of biting you in the ass.
We stopped at the Burger King down the road a few miles and ate some fries and a burger. Then we headed for home. Brook began to ask some thought provoking questions.
"How long do you think Mom's been running around on you, Dad? Do you think she's done it many times? Why do you think she does it? Is she like, a sex fiend or something? How has your love life been with her?"
"Brook, I've been wondering about that. She's been very good to me lately in the bedroom. I really can't complain about that. As far as how many and how long, I have no idea. I never thought she was especially wanton," I admitted. "Obviously, I had no idea anything was amiss."
"I bet she started when she began being especially sexy to you! Women do that to lessen their guilt. How long ago did she start that?" quizzed Brook.
"I don't know. It was probably around the Christmas Holidays. I thought life had been going great the last five months. I know Natalie's been away more than usual, but she always seemed eager to make it up to me," I allowed.
Somehow it seemed perfectly normal to be discussing intimate details of my sex life with my daughter. We had always been close and now we were thrown together even closer. For a seventeen year-old, Brook was amazingly mature in many ways. Sex had never been a forbidden subject in our house. Natalie and I both felt we had to always be honest and open when discussing it with Brook. We wanted her to understand the dangers and pitfalls of becoming sexually active at too early an age.
"You know you have to go to the doctor for a check-up, right? You don't know who studly has been with, do you, Dad? Anyone he slept with, you slept with, as far as disease is concerned," Brook cautioned. "You should get some condoms, too, if you're going to keep sleeping with Mom."
"Brook, I am not going to buy any condoms! Wouldn't that be a strong indication that I suspect something? Your mother isn't stupid, although she acts it," I added. "I can't have sex with her anymore, however. I've lost any and all desire to be intimate with her. I'll go for a check-up and just find ways to put your mother off until I can decide where to go from here."
"Just be sure you take care of yourself, Dad. I'll be depending on you more than ever. When you decide to divorce her, I'm going to live with you. That's for sure!" stated Brook emphatically.
"Why are you so certain that this will end in a divorce, Brook. Isn't it possible that Natalie and I can work it out?"
"Dad! You are always gentle and kind to Mom and me, but I know how you think and feel. You'll never be able to accept that Mom lies to you, even if you could get past the sex part. She's history and it's just a question of when you accept that fact," predicted Brook.