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“That was something else!”
Mira Belli, Paola Daubee and several other players had convened at the local bar that afternoon for a few drinks. A few too many drinks, that is.
“I can’t help it, Daubee,” Mira said, jiggling herself. “I’m just too good for even myself.”
The other players laughed. They were all on the older side, veterans past their prime that the Ocelots had paid far too much money to hire for services that they could truly no longer provide. All they did was provide headaches for the young players and plenty of stories for the media.
“That picture is going to ruin her,” Daubee laughed. ON the inside, though, she felt awfully guilty, seeing someone she’d looked up to for so long being caught in such a compromising position.
“I knew she and Tekki had a thing,” one of the veterans chuckled, downing another drink. “It was always obvious to me.”
“I’ll be honest,” Mira sighed, about to do something she rarely ever did: actually tell the truth, “I don’t think there’s anything beyond good friendship there.”
“What do you mean?” another veteran asked Mira.
“They have great chemistry, for whatever reason,” Mira said. “I thought Clair and I had that. But those two are in another world together. But from what I’ve heard, Tekki’s been flirting with the boy upstairs. And he’s not too thrilled about it.”
“Mira, you and your rumors,” Daubee smiled. “How do you do it?”
“It’s not a rumor,” Mira said. “Rocky’s not happy that Tekki is throwing herself at him. She’s trying to hook Clair up with him.”
Daubee spit out her drink, “You’re joking.”
“That’s the only reason. Everyone knows that Rocky’s last girl was a lousy kisser. No one’s ever seen Clair kiss a boy, never mind be able to be in the same room as one before he melted into a puddle of molten fur under the heat of her bright supernova of stardom.”
“You and your words, Mira,” one of the vets said. “You should’ve been a writer.”
“I’m a speaker, not a seer,” Mira said with a great air of confidence. “I just tell it as I see it. I don’t need editors chopping away at my perspective.”
“You’re also an arrogant...” another vet began to say before Daubee slammed her hand against her mouth to keep her from cursing.
“I don’t care how drunk you are,” Daubee groaned. “Let’s be civil here.”
“We’re seven-pitchers,” the other vet said. “We’re this joint’s best customers. They’re not gonna kick us out for un-lady-like conduct.”
Mira stared daggers at the vet. “Daubee has a point. We can’t go around insulting each other in public. It makes us look bad.”
“Not as bad as Clair does right now,” Daubee admitted.
“Yeah, but I sort of feel bad,” Mira said. “I only wanted dirt to get back at her. But Clair is my old buddy, and I let her down.”
“You’re not really sorry, are you?”
“No, not really,” Mira lied with a wide grin. She really felt terrible, though. After all, the bond between a catcher and a hurler was a special one in seven-pitch. For Clair to break that bond was like divorce – it was unforgivable to a Felona. Tekki had stolen her “wife” away from her. It was only justice to shame her, even if Clair was an unwilling participant.
“Clair will spin it,” Daubee said. “Just being loose trying to get ready for the season.”
Mira looked at Daubee with great confusion, “Why do you say that?”
“Because Clair has screwed up before. That’s what she says. And the pressies accept it and move along.”
“Yeah, we get away with anything,” one of the vets said.
“Do you want to test that?’ Mira asked.
“Who’s being scandalous now?” Daubee asked.
“Daubee, do you even know what that means?”
“Does it matter? It sounds dirty.”
The first vet laughed loudly, “She’s got it down.”
That night, to make a long story short, the vets, Mira and Daubee all went out on the town and make a scene. Daubee, sadly, was the biggest culprit. When the police caught them and arrested them for disorderly conduct, they were taken to the stadium where team officials suspend and fine them all for the first quarter of the season.
However, Daubee was actually released by the team, due to a provision in her contract because she was a minor. This meant that she was then drafted into the Service, where she would spend the next two years of her life in absolute misery.
This broke Tora’s heart. But for me, it was a selfishly happy time. I got my little buddy back and his growing affection for this girl named Jinx kept him rolling. Clair would have her best ever season, and even without those vets or Daubee, the team finished only a few games out of first place and barely missed a wild card berth.
The next nine years would watch Tora grow incredibly as both a person and a seven-pitch player. Even though he was always considered an outcast, Jinx would back up him up at every level. However, off the field, they began to grow apart as Jinx became increasingly rebellious against her extremely strict parents.
It all came to a head in high school, when she didn’t even graduate and volunteered directly for the service. That left me as the only thing that he really had left. Evaine had left his father, and Cain would hole himself up in his office all day, only leaving when Daubee finally came home to visit. She came back quite a different person, one that I could actually tolerate. When she returned to seven-pitch, she was still a great player, even better than she had been before, a lot more patient but with the same wild swing.
Spurred on by Clair’s continued success and the Ocelots continued runs towards the playoffs, only to fall somewhat short, Tora realized the Ocelots were one piece away. He dreamed he could be that final piece.
And no one would stop him.
Even if his best friend Jinx told him to just give up on it…