The Hitting Zone - Chapter 802
“She seems just as friendly as Kaylee.” Kyle scoffed from behind me.
I glanced back at him.
His eyes were still on the girl. “She looks a bit familiar.” He realized in an instant who she was. “Wasn’t she sitting with your cousin? So she might be one of your other cousins?”
I gave a small nod. I glanced across the table and saw the girl picking up a few more desserts and left the line with her plate.
“Well isn’t she just a ball of suns.h.i.+ne.” He muttered. He gave me a small pat on the shoulder. “If any of them start to give you a hard time or make you uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to just turn around and leave. You don’t owe them anything.”
I nodded, happy that Kyle cared enough to watch out for me. We may have had a small rough patch at one point, but it’s really blown by now. Whether that’s sticking up for me in the summer camp or having my back right now.
I moved along the table and grabbed a few more desserts before following Noah and the twins to a small corner of the room.
“Why didn’t we just go back to our seats?” I asked them.
Dave looked at me like I was dumb. “And let Mom see how many sweets we grabbed? I think not.”
Noah nodded along. “Right?! Plus, Zeke is there too. I don’t want to die during thanksgiving break.”
What they said makes sense. I started to try all the snacks I grabbed. Bitting one, then a different one. I guess I was going too slow, because Noah started to help himself to my half-eaten desserts, giving a serious review of each one.
Getting a dry throat, I told them I was going to go to the beverage table. The three of them all asked me to come back with an extra water for them. I agreed and moved through the crowd towards the table. I grabbed four waters, tucking them in my left arm and pressing it against my body so I wouldn’t drop them.
Turning back to go the way I came, I knocked into someone and dropped the water bottles. “Sorry!” I hurried to pick up the waters that were trying to roll away from me. One. Two. Three. Where’s the fourth?
“Here.” A girl’s voice said clearly, with a small edge to it.
I looked up and saw my cousin from earlier. She was a bit taller than me, holding out one of the bottles. She gave it a small shake. “Are you going to take it or not?”
I swallowed and took it from her, adding it to my arms.
Her lips twisted as she looked down at me. She turned away.
“Um, thanks.” I hurried to say before she walked away. Though she didn’t come off as ‘nice’, I thought about how Kyle compared her to Kaylee. Kaylee was a different kind of ‘nice’ too.
She stopped and glanced back at me. “You don’t hate me?”
I blinked, a little confused. “Why…would I hate you?”
She took a step towards me and squinted. “You recognize me, right?”
I blushed, a little embarra.s.sed. “Yea…” But I don’t remember your name so please don’t ask me.
The gloominess around her lightened up a little. “I think what my dad did was wrong. My mom too.” Her shoulders sagged and an air of depression quickly took over.
I didn’t know what to say. It’s not like I could tell her ‘it’s fine’ or ‘it’s okay’, because it really wasn’t. I s.h.i.+fted from foot to foot.
“Jake!” Jeremy made a timely appearance, with Rose by his side. He was immediately caught by surprise seeing that I was with our cousin. “Oh, hey Gabby.” He looked a little stiff.
Gabby. A name for the face.
Jeremy looked between each of us before asking me, “Is everything okay?”
Gabby had a look of hurt flash across her face, before snorting. “We aren’t all bad.” She turned around and briskly walked away.
Jeremy frowned, watching her go before turning to me. “She didn’t say anything mean to you, did she?”
I squeezed the water closer to my body. “No. She helped me picked up the water I dropped.”
Jeremy ran his fingers through his hair, looking a little relieved.
Rose tugged on his arm. “You probably upset her by asking that outright.”
Jeremy shrugged, a little embarra.s.sed. “I was worried.” He looked to me. “I didn’t know she would be here.”
“That was my idea.” Rose told me. “No Jack. Just your Aunt Ilene, and your cousins: Carson, Gabby, and Makenna. I was going to warn you, but didn’t think you would run into one another when sitting at different tables.”
I glanced to where Gabby was headed. “Is she going to be okay?”
“I’ll check on her later.” Jeremy sighed. He left Rose and picked two of the waters out of my arms. “For now, I’ll walk you back to Noah and say hi to him and the others.”
“Okay.” I smiled up at him. “Congratulations, again.”
He chuckled. “Thanks.” We made small talk as I showed him where Noah and the twins were eating desserts. We pa.s.sed out the waters and he stuck around with Rose, talking about baseball.
I don’t like it here anymore. This stadium, this town, this family. Nothing feels right. Nothing feels real. The cousin I looked up to as I grew up is no longer who he used to be. The same goes for my family. No one was the same. I want to go back to the way things used to be, but know that it wasn’t right either.
I walked away from Jeremy as soon as he practically accused me of bullying his little brother. I couldn’t stand his look of concern. Concern that I was doing something wrong. He should know me better than that.
I left the banquet and went for a short walk all the way down the hall until security turned me around. Just outside the banquet was Jeremy, talking with a teammate. I struggled between going over or just putting my head down and ignoring him. I didn’t get the chance to choose.
Jeremy noticed me right away and said a few words to his teammate before approaching me. He ran his fingers through his hair like he normally does when he’s stressed. Is it me? Am I making him stressed?
“Sorry, Gabby. I didn’t mean to scare you away from Jake like that.” He told me.
I crossed my arms across my chest. “You don’t scare me. I chose to leave. I can tell when I’m unwanted.”
Jeremy sighed. “You’re not unwanted.”
“Really?” I sneered. “When’s the last time you called me back or replied to my text? You obviously don’t want me around now that you have a real younger brother.”
Jeremy was stunned by my outburst. “What? No. No. I’ve just…been busy.”
“Don’t lie to yourself and don’t lie to me.” I rolled my eyes. “Even when you were struggling in the minors, you would always get back to me within a day. Now…it’s been weeks. I get it. My parents are s.h.i.+tty people so that makes me a s.h.i.+tty person.”
“No!” Jeremy raised his voice at me, making me flinch. He cleared his throat and spoke normally. “No, Gabby, it isn’t like that. I really am busy. Plus, I don’t know how to make this relations.h.i.+p work right now.” He sighed. “Your parents have made things complicated. We used to be as close as siblings, but now I don’t know what to do, okay?”
“Then why are you punis.h.i.+ng me for what they did?” I asked. “You’re ignoring them and therefore ignoring us. Consciously or subconsciously.” I bit my lip and lowered my voice. “I miss having you to talk to. Dad’s always mad and Mom’s constantly nagging me. Carson is distant and Makenna is unbelievably naive.”
Jermey pulled me into a hug. “Hey, hey, it’s going to be okay. Everything will start working itself out soon. I just needed some time to cool off. I didn’t mean to take it out on you guys.”
My eyes started to sting. “I’m scared that you’re going to leave us for Jake. I know it’s selfish, but-”
He chuckled. “I’m not leaving one for the other. I’m adding Jake to the family I have. You can add him too.”