Rosewood Short – Part 4
“Don’t think so hard about it,” Chris advised. “Just look at my glove – right here, where the ball needs to go – and your hand’ll send it there. Yeah, just – there.” The baseball hit the leather covering his palm with a satisfying smack and he closed the gloved around it. He hadn’t even had to reach that time, zero weight resting on his bum leg. His doctor wouldn’t have recommended this sort of extracurricular PT, but to hell with the guy. It was a cool, bright afternoon and Tyler was fast giving up soccer in favorof his new favorite sport – Chris’s personal favorite – baseball. The kid was eleven now, and shedding that little boy awkwardness in favor of real athleticism. He was growing faster than they could comprehend, lanky and awkward and hurtling toward his teen years.
Tyler grinned. “Better?” he asked.
“Much.” Chris tossed the ball back, surprised and pleased when Tyler caught it without effort.
The soft brush of stocking feet over the porch floor behind him alerted them to Jess’s presence. He half expected a reprimand – Ty did too, because his arms fell to his sides and his smile slipped – but Jess said, “You ready for the bigs yet?” with a smile in her voice.
Tyler rolled his eyes. “Mom…”
“Few more years,” Chris said, “but he’s getting there.”
A happy, embarrassed flush brightened Tyler’s cheeks. He tossed the ball in the air and caught it. “Hey, Dad – ” he said, and the afternoon came to a screeching halt around them.
Chris’s pulse gave a weird leap. He heard Jess snatch in a breath through her teeth. Tyler’s face froze. The wind shuffled tree limbs and sent leaves tumbling. Birds twittered in the golden wash of autumn sunlight.
For a moment, light-headed in a way he hadn’t expected, Chris started to correct the kid – and then realized he didn’t want to. Not at all. He swallowed and said, “Yeah?” And the afternoon breathed again. He swore he could feel Jess relax.
Ty recovered and said, “Do you know how to throw a curve ball?”
Later, when Tyler was waist-deep in math homework, Chris went into the kitchen where Jess was making dinner. Maddie was on the floor, with her blocks, and spared him a distracted, “Hi, Daddy,” to which he fluffed the golden mop of curls on top of her tiny head. Then he pulled up at the range beside his wife.
“He called me Dad again.” It had happened once before, but it had been awhile.
Jess was stirring onions and garlic in a skillet and spared him a fast warm, green look, a smile teasing one corner of her mouth. “I know.”
“Do you…want me to tell him not to?”
She gave a final stir and rapped the spoon on the edge of the skillet. “No,” she said as she reached for a pile of chopped bell pepper. “Dylan’s his father.” Another glance, this one shiny with emotion as she dusted pepper bits from her palms. “But you’re his dad.”