Two weeks after her mom’s bachelorette party was a Sunday, or as Flan liked to believe, the day arrest. At least when she felt forced by her mom to go back to church a fortnight ago. When she was younger, Flan recalled the priest’s reverent expression of a completely feigned moment every time he mentioned peace. If the absence of words and long deep breaths were symbolic of peace, then why does he speak so much?
Flan checked out her namesake’s complete collection of short stories a week before, but it remained untouched, now beneath a lamp to increase it’s height so she could more easily read Pride and Prejudice for the thousandth time. She had yet to fully forgive her mother for years of excluding the truth of any ounce of pain they both felt. One can only sweep so much under the rug before the rug is forgotten altogether, and all that’s left is a mound of hurts that are impossible to mention without the whole mound stirring. For now, they were able to shut it out, but since they were in contact again, it was only a matter of time.
Flan decided not to waste a perfectly sunny day reading inside, so she grabbed a book, a sweater and made way to her favorite park. Sunday meant it was filled with families and sporting events. Flan got to the fence along the third base line and watched young kids fumble around with the coach’s warm up swings. Flan saw one child that look just like one she knew long ago.
Flan wasn’t always in a wheelchair, and was a daddy’s girl at a young age. She played t-ball and coach’s pitch for years with the boys. He would hoist her up on his shoulders and always go for snow cones after, whether they won or lost.
She was twelve when her father left, and it took a while to go back to a baseball field. At fifteen, Flan’s mom finally allowed her to go out on her own after being constrained to her wheelchair. She was taking a shortcut back home from church one Sunday, when she saw kids of all ages playing baseball on the four fields. One boy she recognized from her 7th grade chemistry class. They were lab partners and he only spoke to agree with Flan’s hypothesizes, but as he pitched, he stood in such a confidence that Flan began blushing as she daydreamed of them together.
She sat at that fence for hours watching the game, when it finally ended in a strikeout from her lab partner. She waited until the benches were cleared and the players were on their way out so she could steer clear of any people on her way home, to prove to her mom that she was capable. Her shortcut had been 4 hours longer than her normal route, but in a second it would be worthwhile.
Teddy, a classmate a year younger, saw Flan and ran over to say hello, as he began pushing her. She was thankful at first, but he began running with her toward a hill and laughing. As they got to the top, he pushed her back down. Trusting he would help, she didn’t reach for the break until she was going too fast. She could hear Teddy laughing at the top of the hill. She began yelling for help, as she was nearing the back fence of one of the fields. Flan braced for impact and closed her eyes as she heard a voice yell, ‘Hold on!’ She opened her eyes, now only a few feet away from the fence, clutched the arms and felt a tug from behind. Tom dug his cleats into the ground, as he held the back of the chair and slid to the ground. The chain link rattled only slightly as they slowly ran into it.
‘Are you OK?’ Tom said breathless.
‘Yes, thank you,’ Flan tried to say bravely. ‘Are you?’
‘Just a few stains,’ he lied, as he wiped the grass from the blood forming on his knee. ‘Can I walk you home?’
Flan began to blush, but wanted him to know she was strong. ‘Thank you for your help, but I will be fine.’
‘We live near each other, can I at least walk near?’ He said turning red.
‘Oh, I didn’t know,’ she said in an awkward giggle. ‘Of course.’
He went and grabbed his bag from where he left it to run to her rescue, as she looked to the hill to see that Teddy was gone.
They made there way up the hill, Tom pushing her and asking how she knew Teddy.
‘I’ve just seen him around school, I didn’t really know he was such an ass,’ she said.
‘Oh, really?’ he said. ‘He’s always in detention. When I saw you two together, I took it you were friends, until I saw you yelling for help.’
Flan laughed, blushing. ‘Thanks for coming to my rescue.’
‘Oh… it ‘s ok,’ Tom said, not knowing how to take a compliment.
They walked in silence for a while through the small shrubbery on the trail leading to their street, Flan taking over control of the chair as the hill leveled out.
‘You’re a really good pitcher,’ Flan said breaking the silence and looking at Tom. ‘How long have you played for?’
‘I’ve played forever,’ he said. ‘We used to play together too, but I was very shy back then and kept to myself. Not that I’m less shy now, I’m just more at ease on that mound than anywhere else.’
‘We did!? I had no idea. I thought you were new to the school, to be honest.’
Tom walked to a tree with a low limb and sat on it, as Flan followed. He picked at the bark and fiddled with it, as he shared about how his mom died when he was four, and how he just doesn’t know how to talk to others, guessing that came from his dad. Baseball was the only thing he felt good at, and only when he pitched did he feel like his teammates would talk to him. Flan talked about her dad for the first time since he had left, how she couldn’t believe he would leave them. She wanted to cry, but couldn’t bare it in front of Tom. It was going to get dark soon, and she knew her mother was already worrying.
‘I’ve got to get back,’ Flan said sadly.
‘Oh, of course,’ Tom said apologetically, as he jumped off the tree and did something he had been planning since he was six.
‘Oh!’ Flan said shocked, as Tom had just given the shortest, driest kiss. ‘Did you just kiss me?’
Tom turned to a ripe tomato and looked away.
‘Hey Tom,’ Flan said blushing nervously, ‘Come back.’
Tom’s eyes lit up, and he went for another, this time slightly longer and with an added participant.
They slowly made their way home, in Flan’s first divine moment, only to be ruined by a scowling mother who refused to let her out of her sight again, at least for the month she was grounded.
Flan watched the rest of the game from her chair, recalling Tom; how he had to move away the following year, how traumatic it was to lose her best and only friend at sixteen, and how she wished she knew that he existed for much longer. He was the first one to see through the chair, and see her as she wanted to be seen. She’d never forget that.