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Sometimes, even the greatest among us lose our way. Clair had definitely done that. While there isn't a single particular reason that Clair regained her former strength, the one that most people point to is when Clair got better acquainted with stopper Emelie Tekki.
Tekki and Clair hadn't really been on the same team that long and Mira Belli was Clair's primary stopper anyway. But Mira and Clair were more often not on the same page. Still, Clair didn't feel comfortable throwing her pitches to any one else.
That would change. After that disappointing end to the playoffs, Clair knew a change had to be made. But she wasn't quite sure what.
Later in life, Clair would recite the story to various biographers and reporters. Each time, the story came out somewhat differently.
This is my take on how Clair and Tekki became the duo that they eventually would.
That night Clair had no desire to join her teammates at their year-end celebration. There was no point for a celebration for her. She felt quite responsible for how badly things had gone. Her shoulder hurt pretty badly, no matter how much ice she put on it. She felt that perhaps her star was falling fast. This was no time to party.
Her teammates highly disagreed and said that Clair had no choice but to be there. Knowing that her teammates would make her life miserable were she not to attend, Clair reluctantly went along.
Quite unlike herself, Clair sat on the periphery of the party as her teammates drank and drank some more. There was loud music, which Clair was never too much of a fan of in the first place. Many of her teammates stumbled about in their drunken state attempting to dance with one another. A couple of her teammates started hitting on her, and she wasn’t sure if it was in jest.
Clair just sat sipping some fine wine she’d been saving for quite some time in order to calm her nerves. She spaced out and didn’t realize that Tekki was standing over her for some long period until the catcher tapped her a few times.
“Yeah, Tekka?” Clair asked, more than a bit tipsy by this point.
“Um, are you OK, Clair?” Emelie asked.
“Yeah, Tekka. Fine,” Clair lied, pouring herself another glass of wine, this time downing it quickly.
“It’s, um, Tekki, Clair,” Emelie corrected shyly.
“Whatever, Tek, Tekko, Tekku, same thing,” Clair chortled.
“Well, um,” Emelie looked down for a moment before she looked up, still averting her eyes from Clair’s. “I don’t drink and, um, I’m feeling a tad, um, left out, you know?”
“These foolish kittens don’t seem to get that we just got our tails handed to us on a golden platter,” Clair mused to no one in particular.
“Um, I think I might be, um, able to help you.”
“How so, Tek?” Clair asked, her eyes glazing over from her growing drunkenness.
“Your, um, arm angle. It’s too high.”
“Well, um, I know you have, um, your style. But it’s hurting your arm bad.”
"Badly,” Clair corrected, her eyes greatly out of focus, but her mind surprisingly sharp.
"Yes, exactly,” Emelie said with a nervous smile.
“No, badly is the adverb. You used an adjective.”
“Um, Clair, this is not about grammar.”
“You’re telling me I can’t pitch anymore?” Clair grumbled.
“No, not at all,” Emelie shook her head. “I just noticed you, um, started over-throwing and you put strain on your, um, beautiful shoulder.”
Clair’s eyes crossed for a minute as she tried to comprehend those final two words, “Beautiful shoulder, huh? I don’t think I’ve ever heard those two words before together.”
Emelie rubbed Clair’s valuable left arm, “I went to school to be a doctor, you know.”
“So I heard,” Clair said, followed by a hiccup.
“Well, I had a chance to play for, um, you know, the Ocelots. I couldn’t pass that up.”
“You have quite the bat,” Clair said after a pause, “And the glove. You call a great game.”
“I like to think so,” Emelie nodded. “But I also know that you’re trying too hard. And that’s why you’re hurting.”
Emelie started massaging Clair’s shoulder. At first, it pinched badly and Clair almost knocked over her wine bottle from the sudden jolt of pain, not that there was much left in it at that point. Emelie made a great save.
Emelie’s brown eyes smiled and her whiskers fluffed. “I know what I’m doing, Clair. Remember, I have training.”
“But you’re no doctor, hon,” Clair glared at the burly black and brown coon. She wasn’t exactly pretty, but she was fluffy and cute. In her drunken state, Clair felt she could fall asleep on the big kitten. She started to nod off.
In fact, Clair passed out for a few minutes and when she awoke she heard Emelie say, “You feel better, Clair?” in her soft, squeaky voice.
“Um, Emelie,” Clair said.
“Um, yes, Clair?” Emelie asked wide-eyed
“I can’t feel my shoulder. Or my arm for that matter.”
“That’s normal,” Emelie said. “I stimulated the nerves in a way so you won’t feel pain for a bit. They’ll recover. You’ve really damaged your nerves in there from all your reckless over-throwing.”
“You fixed my nerves with a massage?”
“No, I just got them to quiet themselves while your muscles recover. The pain was only causing tension that would damage them if they stayed so tight.”
“Are you suggesting, Tek, that you may have just saved my career?”
Emelie’s eyes widened so much that her eyeballs could’ve popped out of her head if someone patted her on the back. “Well, um, I’m just trying to help.”
“Tek,” Clair said point blank, “Thank you.”
“Um, what I really wanted to ask, Clair…”
“I want to dance with you.”
Clair burst into tears with laughter, “Are you drunk?”
“I don’t drink, Clair,” Emelie said blankly. “I just really like you.”
“You know,” Clair said. “I do like toms...”
Emelie’s eyes almost literally popped out of her head, “Oh, no, no. Just, I want to, um, dance with you because, you’re awesome and, um, as a friend.”
Clair grabbed her wine bottle and downed the rest of it, “Nice save.”
And despite not really wanting to, and having two left feet, Clair danced with the girl who would become her new best friend, and her personal catcher – and trainer - for the rest of her career.