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I have seen few sweeter things than the first time I ever saw Tora and Odessa holding hands. There they sat on the couch, watching the television. It was the mid-year professional Seven-Pitch draft.
Round after round, the commentators named off who the various teams decided to pick and send to their minor leagues for seasoning. Many of the names were very familiar to Tora. The North was well known as a hot-bed for Seven-Pitch talent, and many of his teammates and many of the players on his school’s rival teams were selected all through the night.
Finally, it was the last pick of the draft. Tora was already in tears and Odessa was embracing him. He sort of didn’t want to be selected with that final pick, as whoever was often became known as the Princess of Irrelevance.
He really didn’t want to be the first Prince of Irrelevance.
Fortunately, he was spared that indignity, as the final pick of the tenth and final round was waived by the last picking team, which so happened to be the previous year’s champions, the Lynx. They seemed to think no one good enough was left to pick.
“Good,” Tora thought aloud, “At least I won’t have to turn the Lynx down.”
“I thought you hate the Lynx,” said Odessa.
“He does,” I added. “But remember, Tora, there’s still a chance that you get signed as an undrafted free agent.”
I was surprised that Tora would forget this. But he seemed completely shocked that I even could have mentioned that possibility.
Odessa kissed Tora on the cheek. “See, Tora, there’s still a chance for my Tiger to make it!”
“My stats weren’t good enough,” Tora said with frustration. “I had a couple of games I really shouldn’t have pushed myself so hard.”
“I doubt that,” I said. “You should know better than me that you managed to beat out a lot of your league in topping the stat charts.”
“This isn’t about stats,” said Cain, who had just entered the room. “This is about recognizing Tora as a talent.”
“I thought Clair was going to see that they drafted you,” I said, crossing my arms.
“Actually, it’s better this way,” Cain said. “This way you can go to community school, play another season, and impress them more.”
Odessa put up a paw. “Um, Mr. Sheridan. That probably won’t happen.”
“Why’s that, Odie?” Cain asked. She wasn’t particularly fond of that nickname, but she seemed to tolerate it coming from him.
“Tora hasn’t really been himself,” Odessa said, cuddling her best friend, who sat there like a lifeless lump of fur. “He’s not doing too good in school, either.”
Cain crossed his arms. “Well, this isn’t good. And your mother probably doesn’t want you to play in any case.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Evaine will do anything to make sure Tora doesn’t play,” Cain said.
Finally, Tora spoke up. “Why would mama stop me?”
Cain put his paws on Tora’s shoulders. “I haven’t wanted to bring this up, but your mother has been - embarrassed - ever since you started playing.”
Tora just couldn’t handle that news and shot out of the room, with Odessa in close pursuit.
“Now probably wasn’t good timing to tell him that,” I said bluntly.
“Perhaps not,” Cain said. “If not for Clair, he wouldn’t have gotten this far.”
“What about Daubee? I haven’t seen her all night. They’re not playing tonight, and I know they’re home. Where is she?”
There is a time in life in which you feel your dreams slipping away. While I myself have had such a time, I don’t think that I could ever truly understand what Tora was feeling that night. It’s especially hard for me to understand what drove him to do what he was about to do.
I wandered the streets of the North Side for quite a while, trying to figure out just where Tora and Odessa could have gone off to. I eventually found Odessa, who was sobbing quite uncontrollably. I hugged her for quite a while. She struggled to get any words out. The only ones I could make out between her sobs was Tora’s name and something about “mother.”
Once she’d finally calmed down, she spoke so quickly and unintelligibly that it took me quite a while and a few times having to have her repeat herself to piece anything together.
Obviously, Cain telling Tora about his mother’s great dislike of his seven-pitch ambitions was perhaps the greatest mistake he could have made, at least timing-wise.
So, of course, Evaine Sheridan was going to be taking quite a bit of wrath for this.
The first thing that Tora did that Odessa told me was that Daubee had shown up, looking quite angry and basically dragged Tora off. Oddy had protested, but it hadn’t mattered. Tora put up absolutely no resistance from his older half-sister.
Of course, Evaine was not Paola’s mother, so what happened next actually made a lot of sense.
There was no one who rooted more for Tora’s seven-pitch career than Daubee. Yes, Clair and I were super-supportive, but Daubee seemed to believe that she was somehow responsible to see Tora get his chance to pursue his dream.
Well, her heart has always been in the right place. And it wasn’t hard to understand, with what she’d been through in recent years, the bitterness and anger she was still feeling. Evaine Sheridan was the perfect target.
Daubee and Tora showed up at Evaine’s door. It was Evaine’s boyfriend that answered the door. At least, that’s who they thought he was. Daubee shoved him aside. Tora sheepishly apologized and the tomcat just sort of stared at him as Tora followed his older sister.
Evaine shot up off of her couch. The TV was on talking about the Draft’s aftermath. The two she now saw in her living room were the last two things she ever wanted to see in what she was considering a moment of triumph.
“How dare you burst in here, Daubee!”
“My name’s Paola,” Daubee growled. “And here is your son, who you are treating like a second-class citizen for the preservation of your bigoted pride.”
Tora stood puzzled for a moment. This was not like his sister at all. She never talked like that, and she hated her name.
“I’m glad you’re here, Tora,” Evaine said, stooping down a bit to look her teenage son in the eye. “You’re too small anyway, my boy. I did you a favor by talking the Lynx out of drafting you.”
The Lynx. That was the last thing that Tora needed to hear. Not only were they the Ocelot’s most bitter rival, but they apparently had been the only team willing to take a chance on him.
Then to add insult to injury, Evaine added, “They weren’t going to take you until the last round anyway, dear. I saved you that. You probably would’ve just languished in the minors for a a few years and wasted your prime that you should be using in school. How are your grades, Tora?”
The way that Evaine asked that question was about as condescending as she could have possibly been in such a tense moment.
And the carnage began.
Tora put his foot through Evaine’s TV. With the racket, Evaine’s boyfriend shot in to defend what was actually his broken property. He went to grab Tora, but Daubee intercepted him and threw him aside. Evaine went to attack Daubee and a major fight broke out.
But when the authorities showed up to end the fight, Daubee was still standing, with Evaine’s boyfriend out cold and bloodied and Evaine quite incapacitated. Daubee was, obviously, promptly arrested. They went out looking for Tora, not to arrest him, but simply to find if he was safe.
However, when they found him, Tora attacked them. with hurling fastballs of stone.
Finally, after quite a chase, he was arrested too, for attacking seven officers of the law.
Odessa, after retelling the story a few times at my behest, finally broke down into a tearful sleep in my arms. I carried her back to Cain’s house. The police had just arrived at that point to deliver Tora. He was to be under house arrest. The next day, he was to face an expulsion hearing at school, and any chance of him attending community school looked to be at an end.
That is, until Evaine showed up.
“Have your stupid Seven-Pitch,” Evaine said. “Good job, Cain, for ruining your son’s life.”
No one ever saw Evaine Sheridan again.