“Death is a part of life, Ainsley. Some of us just go sooner than expected.”
“Yeah, but you can fight this, and you’re choosing not to.”
“I am fighting. You just don’t want to see it. You expect me to go out and play golf or take the boat out with my friends. I’m weak, Ainsley. It hurts to walk. I wouldn’t be able to swing my club, let alone climb over the edge of a boat to get in, and I don’t want anyone to help me. Don’t let my situation mess up something that could be important to you.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Sitting on the small stool in front of her, I gaze out the window staring at the same nothingness she looks at all day.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because he’s a professional athlete. I met him a couple of days ago when the Boston Renegades came to the zoo to hang out with some underprivileged children.”
I don’t need to look at my mother to know what she’s thinking or to know that her hands are gripping the arms of her rocker.
“You know how I feel about athletes. They’re nothing but trouble, every last one of them.”
“I know, but you’ve never told me why, so I’m asking now. Seconds ago, you tell me not to let what’s going on here mess things up, but as soon as I mention baseball, you avoid the subject. Mom, I need to know, because I have a feeling that I’m chasing away a really great guy. All my life, you’ve told me to stay away from them, but never why.” I take her hand and place it in mine, resting it against my cheek.
“Remember that time you dated what’s-his-face—”
“Mom, I don’t want to remember my relationship with Mark. I thought he was different and he wasn’t, but what if this man is and I’m not being fair to him?”
She sighs and runs her free hand over my ponytail. “Ainsley, I want you to be happy.”
“Love can be such a fragile thing in our lives, and I’ve let something that happened to me so many years ago affect you, and I’m sorry. I only wanted to protect you from my own heartache.”
“I know,” I say again. “I think I like this guy.”
“Is he the one you’ve been speaking with at night?”
I nod and look at her questioningly. She cracks a smile, one that I haven’t seen in a long time. “I’m your mother. I know everything.”
Laughter quickly fills the room, changing how I feel at the moment. I gently rest my head on her lap, letting her stroke my hair until I’m almost asleep. It’ll be these moments that I miss.
“Ainsley, do me a favor.”
“Anything, Mom.” I raise my head and look into her eyes.
Her hand softly cups my cheek. “Don’t be like me and wait for love to find you. Go out and grab it by the horns, or baseball bat if that is what your heart desires.”
“Do you think I should?” I ask, trying to fight back the grin that’s forming. I don’t want her to see how eager I am.
“I’m going to go for a walk. Do you want to come? Maybe we could go watch his practice, and you can help me decide if I should tell him how sorry I am for being an epic B to him?”
She laughs again, but shakes her head. I knew she would say no, but it was worth a shot to get her out of the house. I lightly kiss her on the cheek and check the nurse’s schedule before I leave to make sure someone will be here to cook dinner later.
I opt to drive instead of walk over to the park. I’ve only ever driven by the Renegades training facility, so I follow the people in front of me, hoping they know where to go. Chairs are lined up in the grass, watching the Renegades practice. I find an open space and sit as close to the fence as I can get.
The viewpoint from here isn’t that great, but the atmosphere is nice. I listen in on conversations around me; the fans talk about the upcoming season, what they have to do to win, and who is going to shine for the BoRes. When Cooper’s name is dropped, I try to listen a bit harder due to the noise to hear what the people are saying. Phrases like “Rookie of the Year” and “too much hype” causes small rifts between people, making me wonder what Cooper thinks of all of this.
I’m sure he, along with the other guys, has all been trained to ignore what is being said about him, although I don’t know how he could. I think it would bug me to know that people are always talking about my performance and analyzing everything that I did.
The ball is hit into center field and easily caught. The name Bainbridge is used, and my heart drops. It’s easy to admit that I came here in hopes of seeing Cooper, but if he’s not playing, there’s no reason to be here.