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.
.... There is more of this story ...