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Please enjoy the story.
The visiting team was ahead 2 to 1. It was the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and runners on second and third. The count of 0-2 put the batter in the hole. He was one strike away from ending the home teams run in the playoffs. Their catcher called time and went out to talk to his pitcher.
"C'mon Sammy focus," I yelled encouragement to the batter from my coach's position on the third base line.
The youngster stepped out of the batter's box, turned and smiled at me. He nodded his head and took a few practice swings waiting for the catcher to return to his position behind the plate.
That smile is just like his mother's, I thought. She could say more with a smile than a lot of people could with words. Sammy's smile showed he appreciated my encouragement and understood my instructions; it also showed his confidence. He turned and gave the pitcher a smile and this one challenged the pitcher. It said do your best but it still won't be good enough.
I could read Sammy's smiles and recognized his mother in him because Sammy Gerard is my son. My daughter Maggie is in the stands cheering for her younger brother; she never lets him forget that she is the oldest.
My son feels he's too old to be called Sammy; he prefers Sam or Jr. He may be right. Sam Jr. at 15 is just two inches short of my 6' 4. He has my dark hair and blue eyes but his smile is his mother's. Sammy hasn't filled out yet but he'll match my 225 pounds when he gets his full growth.
Maggie, who at 16 prefers to be called Margaret, is tall for a young woman at 5' 10. But she takes after her mother with light brown, almost blond hair and big brown eyes. Margaret also has her mother's slender but athletic build. Like her brother she also plays ball, both softball and volley ball and we'll be at one of her games tomorrow afternoon.
Their mother, my wife Carol, is not in the stands. In fact I don't know where she is. She left us. I came home from work one day and found the kids with my mother, watching cartoons in the family room. Mom quietly pointed to a note from Carol propped up on the breakfast bar that separates the kitchen from the family room.
The note read:
I'm sorry but I can't take it anymore. You and the kids are turning me into an old married woman. That's not what I signed up for. I'm only 35 for Christ's sake. I can't and won't be made into a soccer mom.
There is a signed and notarized divorce decree on the night stand beside the bed. There is also a signed power of attorney giving you my half of the house. I've taken the savings and checking accounts, my clothes and my car. The equity in the house should be worth a lot more than that. Those things and out of this prison of a marriage are all I want.
One last thing, you're a good man. We had fun going to parties and taking trips before the kids came. Then you wanted me to become a stay at home wife and a mother. That isn't me. I have to have excitement and adventures.
Don't come looking for me. Even if you found me there's nothing you can say or do to change my mind.
Mom told me, "She called and told me she was leaving and someone had better come over and watch the children. When I got here Maggie and Sam were eating cookies and watching TV; Carol had already left."
Mom's face was red with her anger. She tried and almost succeeded in keeping her voice calm. "What in the world was she thinking leaving two little ones alone?"
My Mom and Dad had tried to be friendly to Carol and welcome her into the family when we got married. But I could tell they weren't real happy with my choice of a wife. I knew their feelings because Dad warned me just two weeks before our wedding.
You see Carol had a reputation when we met as a, well as the English call it, the village bike. Anyone could ride if they bought her dinner and a few drinks. Sometimes dinner wasn't necessary. But after our first date she changed. They village bike had retired and I was the only one riding.
About six months after we started dating Carol told me she was 2 ½ months pregnant. My Dad suggested I have a paternity test done to make sure I was the father. "After all, celibacy hasn't been one of Carol's strong suits," he said.
In the twelfth week the test proved that I was the father of Carol's baby. I was in love with her so marriage was the next step. Our daughter Maggie was born and was perfect. A year later Sam Jr. came along and I thought Carol was happy with our family for six years. Then she changed almost overnight.
I'd noticed that Carol didn't seem happy for the last month or so but she refused to talk about it when I asked her what was wrong. About three months earlier she had started going out one night a week with women from where she worked. That's when she became unhappy. I found after the fact that it wasn't just the girls from work she was meeting.
We never heard from Carol again. The first year was the toughest. How do you explain to children that are 5 and 6 that their mother doesn't want anything to do with them. There were many nights that I had two little bodies snuggled up to me in bed. They knew their mother was gone and were afraid that I would disappear too.
It took a couple of months but I finally convinced them that no matter what I would always come home to them. No matter what, I would always be there with them. Soon they were able to sleep in their own beds without nightmares; or at least not too many of them.
I've taken care of Maggie and Sammy for the last 10 years with help from my mother. My social life, what little there was of it, was put on permanent hold. Taking care of my children was more important than my love life.
Now at 16 and the woman of the house Maggie made it a point and Sammy backed her up, to tell me I should date. Or "get a life" as she says. Maybe they're right, now with them almost grown I can begin to think of myself a little.
The crack of the bat pulled me out of reminiscing about the past. Looking up I saw Sammy's hit rocket into the outfield. The line drive seemed to have eyes as it hit the gap in right center field and rolled all the way to the fence.
The two base runners scurried home scoring the tying and winning runs. Sammy stopped at second base with a walk off double to win the game. The boys ran toward Sammy and mobbed him as he trotted toward home plate. After celebrating for several minutes the team lined up single file to shake or slap hands with the losers.
As the two teams filed by each other a chorus of "good game or nice game and even a few good lucks" passed between them. I smiled as I walked over to the opposing coach and shook hands. Right now Sammy was a home town hero. Every boy, hell every man, should feel that happiness, that glory, and that sense of achievement at least once in his life.
I gathered up the team's equipment and started to cart it to my Ford Expedition; it would take at least two trips to stow the gear. Much quicker than I expected Sammy came to help me carry the loads. I smiled at him and couldn't help myself; I pulled him into a hug. "Good job son. I'm proud of you," I told him.
He hugged me back for a few seconds and then stepped away embarrassed as only a 15 year old boy can be.
"Dad, I'm too old for that," he protested with a smile on his face.
"You're not too old for me to hug you," Maggie said as she grabbed him. She kissed his cheek and giggled when he wiped the kiss off.
"Hey Dad, do you think we can give Justin and his sister, Beth, a ride home?" Sammy asked and then continued very fast without waiting for my answer the way boys will do. "Their mother was supposed to be at the game but she didn't make it. They've got money for a bus or taxi but they'll miss the ice cream if they have to go right home. They only live about a mile or two from us."
Sammy waited for my decision with an expectant look. Justin Reynolds was one of the boys on the team I coached. He played center field and was a nice young man about Sammy's age. I hadn't met his sister but had seen her at the games cheering for her brother.
"Sure, not a problem," I replied. "Go get them. We'll meet the team at the Dairy Queen and then give them a lift home."
I had started a tradition when I became the coach of the team. After every game, win or lose, I would treat the boys and their parents if they wanted to come to an ice cream feast at the Dairy Queen. It was a way to reward the boys for their hard work and dedication. Sammy ran off to gather up Justin and Beth.
I could afford the cost of ice cream a lot easier than some of the parents. The kids on the team were all from working class families who sometimes found it hard just too met life's needs. Most of the parents, men and women, worked to make a good life for their family.
Being the owner of several, 5 to be exact, auto parts stores in our city, I was a little better off than most of the parents. I wasn't rich but I was more than comfortable. Ergo my sponsoring the team and footing the bill for the after game ice cream. I also made sure there was bottled water and Gatorade at all of the practices and games.
Maggie stepped closer to me. "Their mother probably didn't show up because she's having trouble with their father," she informed me. At my questioning look she said," Their parents are divorced but their father sometimes comes around causing trouble. I bet that's what happened this time."
I stowed Justin's equipment in the back of the Ford with the rest of the gear. "Everybody climb in. Next stop is the Dairy Queen," I said.
"Thanks for the ride Coach Gerard," Justin told me. "We would've missed the ice cream party without your help."
"You're welcome Justin. Can't celebrate our victory without our center fielder," I replied and continued driving. Why didn't Mrs. Reynolds even show up to pick up her kids after the game? Wonder if Maggie is right?
After the kids and some of the parents ate more ice cream than they should have, I gave Justin and Beth a ride home. It was about 9:30 when we got to their house. But the place was dark with no lights on anywhere. I wasn't about to leave the kids until I knew someone was home. I followed Justin and Beth to their front door and went inside with them.
"Mom. Mom," Justin called out as he turned the light on in the living room. "Mom, where are you?"
I heard a moan coming from the kitchen area and went to investigate. Feeling for the light switch I turned the overhead light on. Lying on the kitchen floor was a woman I assumed was Mrs. Reynolds. She had a cut over one eye, one of her lips was cut and swollen and she was semi conscious. Around her neck were finger marks that showed she had also been choked by someone.
"Mom," yelled Justin as he knelt beside her. Beth didn't say anything but knelt with her brother.
"Call 911 Maggie," I ordered as I wet a towel at the sink. Kneeling beside Mrs. Reynolds I bathed her face with the damp towel.
Maggie used her cell phone and called for the paramedics. The response time was pretty good; only about five minutes. The EMTs treated Mrs. Reynolds then laid her on a gurney and took her to a hospital Emergency Room. I gathered up the kids and followed the ambulance.
The ER took Mrs. Reynolds in for treatment right away so the children and I sat in the waiting room for over an hour with no word on her condition. Finally about the fifth time Justin said, "I wonder if Mom's alright" I couldn't take it anymore.
I walked to the desk and asked about Mrs. Reynolds. The woman behind the desk asked if I was family. Admitting that I wasn't she told me she couldn't give me any information.
"Look, I'm not trying to find out what you guys have done or are doing, I'm just trying to find out if she's okay," I told the Nurse Ratched wanna be. She still wouldn't tell me anything repeating that hospital rules forbid her to discuss a patient with anyone but family.
"Okay, Mrs. Reynolds' son and daughter are right over there," I told her pointing to the kids. "Can you tell them about their mother?"
Looking over at the children she asked, "Are either of them of legal age?"
"Justin is 15. I think Beth is a year younger."
"If they're not at least 18 I can't discuss the patient with them either," she said.
"Look you officious bitch, those children need to know if their mother is okay," I almost yelled. "Now I suggest you get your supervisor or someone with an ounce of sense over here. If you don't I'll..."
"What the problem here?" An older nurse said interrupting my outburst. "I'm Nurse Riley, the night supervisor." She must have heard my loud voice.
Before the nitwit at the desk could reply, I explained the situation and my frustration at the "hospital rules". "All the children want to know is if their mother is going to be okay and when they can see her."
Nurse Riley led me back to the waiting room. She sat down across from Justin and Beth. "Your mother is going to be fine. She has a cut over her eye and a split lip but she'll be fine in a few days. Okay?"
Beth cried and grabbed onto me. Justin just nodded.
"We're going to keep her overnight to make sure she's okay but she should be able to go home tomorrow," Nurse Riley told them. "Do you have someone to stay with you tonight?"
"They can stay with us," I replied pointing to Sammy and Maggie. "I'm the coach of his baseball team," I explained while pointing at Justin's uniform. "We only live about a mile away from their house."
As we were talking to the nurse I saw two police officers come into the ER and approach the nitwit at the desk. One was a grizzled looking older man who from the look on his face had seen and heard everything. His partner was a nice looking, younger woman. They asked some questions and the nitwit pointed toward Nurse Riley.
As the police walked toward us Nurse Riley went to meet them. They were talking in low voices but I heard "spousal abuse, domestic violence, what an asshole", that last one was from the woman officer. They followed Nurse Riley into the treatment area.
I guess Mr. Reynolds got over zealous in the talk with his ex wife, I thought. My Maggie was right. What an asshole I said to myself, parroting the young police woman's statement. It was about a half an hour later when the police left and Nurse Riley rejoined us.
"C'mon kids, I'll take you back to see your mother," she told them. She looked at me as if she was trying to decide if she should take me back too.
"We'll wait here for them and take them home after they've seen their mother," I told her.
The kids returned after 20 minutes or so. Beth was softly crying and Justin was trying not to. On the way home Sammy and Maggie, God bless them, talked to the Reynolds kids and got them calmed down a little. At home I suggested Beth, who I found out was 13, sleep in Maggie's room and Justin in Sammy's.
The next morning I called my office and told my secretary the boss wouldn't be in today. I had asked Justin and Beth to stay home from school because I didn't want them to be alone. Sammy and Maggie tried to persuade me they should stay home too. "You know just to help out," they said. They both got on the school bus mumbling that it wasn't fair but promised to take my letter of explanation about Justine and Beth's absence to the principal.
Justine, Beth, and I were just finishing our lunch of tuna fish sandwiches when the hospital called and said that Mrs. Reynolds was being discharged. I had left my phone number as the person to contact when she was able to go home. The kids were excited and I had to smile at them.
We arrived at the hospital and Mrs. Reynolds and a nurse were waiting just inside the front door. The nurse pushed Mrs. Reynolds in a wheel chair to my Ford. Justin and Beth were all over their mother, smiling and laughing and she laughed with them. Then Justin actually looked at his mom's face and got very quiet.
I put my hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry son, those bruises and the swelling will go away very soon. Your mom's going to be okay." I waited until the kids had a chance to say hello and walked over to the wheel chair.
"Hi Mrs. Reynolds, I'm Sam Gerard," I introduced myself with a smile. "I coach Justin's baseball team and I guess you could say we're neighbors. My chariot awaits to take you home."
"It's nice to finally meet you Mr. Gerard," she replied. "Justin is always going on about what a "cool" guy you are. And thank you for the ride. I wasn't looking forward to a taxi ride home. And please call me Carol."
That stopped me for just a second. Carol was my ex-wife's name; you just had to be a Carol, I thought. I'd never actually met Mrs. Reynolds before. I'd just seen her from a distance when she picked up Justin. Up close she was an attractive woman, in spite of the yellow, blue, and sickly green of her bruises.
I watched as Carol got out of the wheel chair slowly; she moved like an old woman of 90. It was obvious that she was sore, stiff, and had trouble moving without pain. I helped her into the rather high front seat of my Expedition, motioning to Justin and Beth to get in the back.
On the way home I had a thought. "Mrs. Reynolds, I mean Carol." I was still having problems with her first name. "I know how hard it is to take care of two teenagers and you're still suffering. Why don't you guys stay with us, at least until the weekend?"
"Oh I couldn't put you out Mr. Gerard. It would be too much trouble."
"It's no trouble, and if you're Carol I'm Sam," I replied. "The kids can bunk with Sammy and Maggie like they did last night and you can sleep in the fourth bedroom. Right now it's sort of a home office that I don't use very much."
I could see she was wavering and added, "Today's Wednesday. Justine and Beth can ride the school bus with my monsters for the next two days. If you're up to it you can go back home on Saturday or Sunday. In the mean time you'll have help if you need it."
With prodding from her children, Carol decided they would stay with us for a few days. We drove by her house and Maggie and Beth packed clothes and personal items for themselves and as directed for their mom. Back at our place we got the kids and Carol settled. That evening I ordered pizza for dinner.
The next morning Carol was still sleeping as I helped all four children get ready for school. After a breakfast of oatmeal, I watched the troop in front of the house until they got on the school bus. Going back inside I found Carol at the kitchen table drinking coffee. She was wearing a thick terry cloth robe that had belonged to my wife. I'd forgotten it was in the closet in the office/bedroom.
"I hope you don't mind," Carol said pointing at the robe. "I found it in the closet.
"Naw that's good. It belonged to my ex and is something I forgot to get rid of. I'm glad someone is getting some use from it." I busied myself getting her some oatmeal. "I'll go into the office for a couple of hours and come back and have lunch with you."
"You don't have to bother, I can get my own lunch."
"Actually it's a good excuse to take a little time off," I replied smiling. I stood, got my briefcase and jacket. "If you'd like to clean up use the master bath," I suggested. "It has a Jacuzzi tub and would help get rid of the soreness. Anyway see you at noon."
Carol had hero type sandwiches and chips on the kitchen table when I got home at noon. She smiled and motioned for me to sit. I watched as she poured ice tea and could see she was moving much more freely now.
"I didn't mean for you to make lunch," I told her.
"I didn't mind. I feel so much better after an hour in your tub," she replied. "That thing is magical."
The previous day and last night Carol Reynolds had just been someone that needed a little help. For the first time I really looked at her. She's about 5' 9, I thought. Looks like a wholesome but sexy girl next door with that dark almost black hair and those big brown eyes. Being a man I couldn't help but notice that she was full figured. Not fat, more like voluptuous. Sort of like a young Selma Hayek.
"Carol, it's not really any of my business but what's going on with you and your ex? From what Justin and Beth tell my kids this isn't the first time he's hit you."
She took a deep breath and I could see tears in her eyes. At first Carol shook her head like she didn't want to talk about it. Then she told me her story.
"Eric and I had a good marriage until about a year ago," Carol told me. "He started to complain and get on me about my weight." She sort of smiled, "I put on weight while I was carrying Beth and just couldn't seem to lose all of it. I tried dieting but that cut into my energy level and I had a family to take care of."
I handed her a box of tissues and she continued. "Like I said things were good and then Eric went from being a little out of sorts to being down right insulting. I was hurt and we argued some but finally I just ignored him when he got in one of his moods. That's when the hitting started." Carol paused for a several seconds. I sat quietly waiting for her to go on.
"At first he would slap me on the butt and say something like I was as big as a house. I didn't respond except to tell him he hurt me." Carol blushed and said, "Our sex life hadn't been good for several months. I bought a sexy night gown thinking I'd spice up our relationship if I showed him I still wanted him then things would get better." Now she stopped talking and cried. I got up and refilled our glasses waiting for her.