The sun peeked over the horizon, lighting up an already coral pink sky with the bland yellows of morning. It’s rays spread over the flat calm water, faint ripples brushing only lightly against the hull of a motor yacht bobbling quietly at anchor.
A seagull circled overhead, its white wings outstretched to catch the slight breeze as it watched the water’s surface carefully, hoping for an easy breakfast while the air was still comfortable, before the sun started really heating things up.
Inside the boat’s cabin, it was equally quiet and peaceful. The main living space was dark and cool, sprinkles of light coming in past the curtained windows to illuminate a blue and tan interior and splashing over the body of a half asleep woman meandering around the counter into the kitchen.
Blond, sun bronzed, and dressed in a sleeveless shirt that came to her mid thigh, the woman stopped to yawn and stretch, rubbing her eyes as the boat rocked a little and she leaned against the counter, waiting for it to stop.
Eventually it did. “Hope that wasn’t some dude with a couple of waveriders and a six pack.” Kerry paused to peek out one of the windows, drawing aside the curtain to let the light in, before she ambled over to the small refrigerator and removed a bottle of juice from it.
“Did you just say you wanted a six pack for breakfast?”
Kerry turned and leaned against the kitchen counter as she watched her tall, dark haired partner climb the steps from the forward cabins into the living area. “ Have you ever seen me have beer for breakfast?”
“Always a first time.” Dar squeezed into the kitchen area with her and ducked her head down, taking a drink from the bottle Kerry offered her. “Besides, it has grain or wheat or whatever in it, doesn’t it?”
“Hm.” Kerry took a sip from the bottle herself. “You know, it’s probably healthier than those Frosted Flakes you’re about to pour in a bowl, matter of fact.” She bumped Dar with her hip. “Glad it’s Sunday?”
“Always.” Dar leaned back and gazed around the interior of the boat. “Sometimes I think my parents had the right idea.”
“Living on the boat?”
Kerry felt the motion as the sea rocked gently under her. “Well, now that you got that satellite dish installed and we can get TV and internet….”
“It’d be tough on Chino.” Dar mused. “Think we could teach her to use the head?”
Kerry took another swallow of juice. “She’s a Labrador. Anything’s possible. I keep expecting to walk into my office any day and see her sitting at my desk sending email.”
Dar chuckled. “Maybe we should try taking her out on one of these overnights first.” She eased past Kerry and went over to the door that led to the back deck. “I’m going to kick over the engines to charge the batteries.”
“Want me to bring your coffee up there?” Kerry called. “I may jump in before breakfast.”
“In my coffee? Fabulous. Bring it up then.” Dar winked at her on the way out the door, letting it close behind her as a shaft of bright sunlight appeared and then disappeared.
“Punk.” Kerry chuckled to herself, as she put her bottle down and turned to the coffee pot, hearing the rumble of the diesel engine and the vibration of it through her feet as Dar settled it into idle. She whistled softly under her breath as she scooped fragrant ground beans into the basket, and poured water into the machine.
She turned as the coffee started dripping, and headed down the steps into the front part of the boat. She ducked into the comfortable master cabin and pulled off her shirt, trading it for a one piece swimsuit. “Living on the boat. Hm.”
Kerry regarded her reflection in the wall mounted mirror and paused to imagine what that would be like. “It sounds good.” She informed herself. “But I think I’d miss the broad band.” She wrapped a towel around her neck and went back up into the main cabin, where the coffee was almost finished dripping. “Not to mention Starbucks.”
She took two cups, appropriately milked and sugared, and emerged onto the back deck to find Dar loitering there, bathed in the early sunlight of a late August day. “Rats. I wanted to climb the ladder with this tray in my teeth.”
Dar tipped her head back and watched as her partner set the tray down on the outside counter. “Nice morning.” She commented. “Want to go down near Pennecamp later for a few dives?”
“Sure.” Kerry handed Dar her coffee, then took the seat next to her with her own cup, putting her bare feet up agains the transom and enjoying the pretty day.
It was warm, and humid, expected weather for the time of year, and on the edge of the horizon she could see the faint gathering of clouds that towards the afternoon would likely result in a thunderstorm.
Expected. Very normal. Kerry exhaled and flexed her toes. “So, how did the meeting with Hans go? I never asked you about that on Friday.”
Dar had her sunglasses on, and she was sprawled in the chair in tank top and a pair of cotton shorts. “Pretty good.” She said. “I really wanted to be there when those ships got into port, but now I’m glad I postponed going over until week after next.”
Dar chuckled. “Hans said it was the most excitement in those parts since World War II, and not in a good way. I’d rather wait and meet with their executive board. A lot more fish to fry and the European sales team is drooling so badly we had to send three cases of old lobster bibs to them.”
Kerry sipped her coffee. “Well, you get one week to shake them all up, then I’m heading over there. That’s a lot of infrastructure we’re going to need.”
“No kidding.” Dar wiggled her toes. “Sure you don’t want to come with me?”
Kerry sighed. “Stop teasing me, Dar. I told Angie I’d go up there and help her pack up to move. I can’t back out on her now.”
“I know.” Her partner relented. “Sorry.”
“It’s not like I want to go to Michigan, y’know.”
“I know.” Dar repeated. “Hey, but it’ll give me a week to scope out the best beer spots for you.” She added, resting her elbows on the deck chair arms. “Hey, what do you think about softball?”
Whiplashed into a completely unexpected redirection of their conversation, Kerry nearly choked on a mouthful of coffee. “Bw..” She swallowed. “Huh?” She turned her head and looked at her partner. “What brought that on?”
The taller woman shrugged. “I bumped into Mariana in the hall Thursday and she said she had a bunch of people asking her if we could form a softball team to play in some half assed corporate softball league or something around here.”
“I didn’t think it sounded all that stupid, and the league raises money for charity.” Dar reasoned. “And we’re done with that other stuff for now.”
“So, she asked you because she expected you to play?” Kerry put her cup down and half turned, resting her chin on her fist.
“The other choice was bowling.” Dar said. “I don’t know about you but for me the biggest draw of the bowling alley is the cheese fries.”
“Hmm.” Kerry wrinkled her nose. “I think I’d like to try softball.” She decided. “I never played it in school, and I wanted to.”
“You said that once.” Dar remarked. “I think you look really cute in a baseball cap.” She added. “Sounds like it might be fun.”
“You want to do it?” A little surprised at her anti social partner’s sudden interest in team sports, Kerry watched her profile out of the corner of her eye. “I didn’t think you were into that sort of thing.”
Dar blew bubbles into her coffee, making a very odd gurgling noise. “Yeah, I know.” She admitted. “But I’ve never tried this, so what the hell. Why not?”
“Works for me..” Kerry got up and went over to the transom, sitting on it and swiveling so her legs were on the outside of the low wall, above the platform they stepped off of when diving. “Tattoo, motorcycle, wife, softball.” She glanced over her shoulder at Dar. “I think my rebellion is complete.” She turned around and dove into the dark blue water.
Dar smiled, and toasted Kerry with her coffee cup, content to remain in her deck chair as the sun slowly lifted higher over the horizon. She could hear Kerry splashing a little over the sound of the idling engines, and after a moment, she moved the deck chair closer to the back of the boat so she could keep an eye on her partner.
Kerry was doing the backstroke, swimming a few body lengths away from the boat and then coasting, putting her hands behind her head and floating like an ottter in the warm water.
“How is it?” Dar asked.
“Bathtub.” Kerry stretched her body out. “Big enough for two.” She gazed up at the pink tinged, fluffy clouds overhead as she floated on the surface, enjoying the peace and quiet for about ten seconds when a wall of water swept over her. “Hey!”
Dar bobbed up a moment later, shaking her dark hair out of her eyes. “You invited me into your bathtub.” She grinned at Kerry, stroking through the water towards her. She ducked under the surface as she came closer, grabbing at the blond woman as she backpeddled rapidly through the water.
“Hey hey hey!!” Kerry twisted and reached out to grab Dar’s shirt, finding only smooth skin under her fingertips. “Holy pooters, Dar! You’re naked!”
Blue eyes appeared above the waterline, blinking innocently.
“You are naked!” Kerry hissed, glancing around. “What if one of those fishing charters comes by? Or a dive boat?”
Completely submerged aside from the top of her head, Dar started moving towards her partner.
A puckish grin appeared.
“Shit.” Kerry ducked her head under the water and swam forward, kicking in a frog kick with her hands outstretched to grab whatever they had a mind to.
She found them clasped, and the next thing she knew she was being hauled up half out of the water, ending up landing on top of Dar as her partner flipped over and came up under her.
Abruptly, Kerry wished she’d forgotten her suit as well. She could feel skin everywhere she touched and she almost breathed in a mouthful of salt water as her body reacted.
Then she was flipped over again and dunked, and she could only manage a quick breath before she was under the water again and being pinched on the butt. She flailed around and tried to grab Dar’s arm, but as she surfaced, she found herself alone as she turned in a circle. “Hey!”
Dar surfaced on the other side of the boat, snickering.
“You’re such a punk.” Kerry let her catch up and they were nose to nose, just off the stern of the boat. “Just for that, I hope a cuttlefish nibbles you.”
“Ready for breakfast?” Dar batted a piece of seaweed away.
“Well, now..” Kerry laid one hand on her cheek, leaning forward to let their lips brush. “Depends on who’s cooking.”
Dar licked a drop of salt water off her nose. “G’wan.” She indicated the ladder.
“Oh no.” Kerry shook her head and smiled. “You first.” She rolled onto her back on the surface and put her hands back under her head, watching her partner with a wicked twinkle. “Little Miss Exhibitionist.”
Dar stuck her tongue out.
“You’re just sooo lucky I didn’t take my camera in the water.”
Kerry looked up from her computer screen, and waved a few fingers. “Hey Mari.” She greeted the Vice President of HR for ILS. “What’s up?”
Mariana entered and crossed over to Kerry’s desk, taking a seat in her visitor’s chair and settling herself. “Good morning, Kerry.”
“Uh oh. What did I do?” Kerry turned away from her monitor and rested her elbows on her desk.
“You? Not a thing.” The HR VP smiled.
“What did Dar do?” The blond woman replied, with a wry grin. “That I have to explain?”
“She volunteered you to be captain of our new softball team, and before I sent out a memo with that delightful information I thought I’d check with you first.”
Kerry leaned back in her chair and chuckled. “Nah, that’s fine. I actually did volunteer for that.” She told Mari. “I figured if I was going to do this, I’d do it right. So what’s the deal with all this? I didn’t know we had such a demand for intercorporate sports in the company.”
“Well.” Mari sighed. “I don’t know, really.” She crossed her ankles. “You know the suggestion box down in the café?”
“Well, we usually get the usual. Less chicken in the café, lower the air conditioning on the sixth floor, raise the air conditioning on the 9th floor, change the dress code.. you know.”
Kerry nodded. She did, in fact, know, as she was the representative from Operations to the Employee working group sessions that took place monthly. “Change the coffee. Don’t change the coffee, bring bottled water in, stop using bottled water because of the environment, yeah.”
“Exactly.” Mari said. “So anyway, the last couple of times I opened the box, we had requests for more group activities, more employee activities, and stuff getting involved in the community. So I put out feelers, and this league’s what I came up with.”
“People activity, sports activity, charity activity, all rolled into one. I figured it was at least worth mentioning.” Mari went on. “However.”
“When I mentioned it, everyone went batty bonkers on me.”
Kerry blinked. “Really?”
“You’d think I was suggesting we go to the Olympics.” The HR VP shook her head. “So anyway, I thought I’d ask the poobah if she wanted to participate, since we all know you both are big into sports.”
“We’re..ah..” Kerry paused. “Yeah, okay.” She said. “We’re not really into sports, per se, but we do like being active, and I think Dar’s intrigued since she’s never done team sports before.” She considered. “And I never got to play in school, so I have to admit I’m kinda looking forward to it too.”
Mari’s face split into a pleased smile. “Great.” She said. “I know Dar can speak for you, but I just wanted to make sure this wasn’t something you felt obligated to do” She explained. “We’ve got so much of that around here. Y’know?”
“I know.” Kerry played with one of her colorful pencils. A stack of them were in a cup on her desk, in every color of the rainbow and she’d selected her favorite, purple, to mess with. “So where do we start?”
Mari got up and straightened her skirt out. “Remember you volunteered.” She warned. “The first team meeting’s tomorrow night, after work, at the Biscayne ballpark down the street.”
Kerry held up her pencil. “No problem for tomorrow, but you know we’re out of town for a couple weeks after that, right?”
“I know.” Mari said. “Tomorrow’s just a kick off meeting. We’ve got to get everyone the shirts, and the hats, and the shoes.. and get bats… practices don’t start until third week in September. You should be back by then, right?”
“Right.” Kerry saluted. “I’ll be there.” She said. “We’re providing the shirts and hats?”
“Of course.” Mari waggled her fingers. “See you later.”
“Bye.” Kerry watched the older woman leave, then she chuckled and set her pencil down, getting up and grabbing her cup as she headed for the door. She pushed through, poking her head into her assistant’s office on the way out to the kitchen. “Hey Mayte.”
The slim young latin woman looked up. “Oh!” She smiled. “Good morning, Kerry.” She said. “How was your weekend?”
“Great.” Kerry said, pausing when she heard her cell phone ring. “Hold that thought.” She unclipped the phone from her waistband and opened it, gazing at the caller id before she half shrugged and pressed the answer button. “Hello?”
“Hello.” A woman’s voice responded. “May I speak with Kerrison Stuart?”
Uh oh. Kerry winced in pure reflex. “Speaking.” She reluctantly admitted, glancing at Mayte. She held her coffee cup out to her and mimed filling it.
“Of course.” Mayte gave the impression of leaping to her feet with gentile grace, and took the cup from her. “No problem!”
“Yes, my name is Allison Barker.” The woman said. “I doubt you remember me.”
Five seconds. Kerry closed her eyes and put her early training to use. “Actually I do.” She managed to produce after a count of four. “You were the class president the year I graduated high school.”
“Yes, yes I was.” The woman sounded pleased. “I’m so glad you remember. This makes things a lot easier.”
For you. Kerry sighed and took a seat on the edge of Mayte’s desk, not wanting to take this buddingly unwanted phone call back into her office. “What can I do for you?” She glanced up as footsteps passed her, smiling in response as two accounting clerks waved hello at her.
“I bumped into your sister at church today.”
Kerry tipped her head back and gazed at the ceiling, hard pressed to come up with a scarier statement than what she’d just heard. “Really?”
“Yes. She told me you were going to be in town next week, and you know, we’re having our school reunion.”
Kerry was silent.
“Sorry.” Kerry cleared her throat. “I was trying to remember what the penalty was for fratricide in Michigan.”
“Nevermind. Yes, that’s true. I will be in town next week, but I’ll be very busy helping Angie move. I don’t really have time to attend the reunion.” Kerry looked up as Mayte returned, holding out a steaming cup to her. “Thanks.”
“Well, yes, she told me that.” Allison responded, not at all put off. “And I’m sure you’ll be very busy, but you see, I’ve been asked to contact you and see if you could make just some time to stop by during the banquet and give the keynote speech.”
Kerry had just taken a sip of her café con leche and she stopped, holding it in her mouth as she stared at her cell phone as though it had grown fingers and was waving at her.
“Kerry?” Mayte saw the expression on her face. “Are you all right?”
The blond woman swallowed. “Excuse me?” She said into the phone. “You want me to what?”
“I know this seems odd.” Allison apologized. “And I do understand, really… but the senior class is participating in the reunion and they asked for you.”
Kerry put her coffee cup down and shifted her phone from her right to her left hand. “Okay.” She said. “Are you saying the senior class of my all Christian girls high school wants me to speak to them?”
“Well.. yes. I mean, after all, you’re a very successful businesswoman.” Allison said.
“Have you read the newspapers in the last few years/” Kerry covered her eyes. “Listen, Ms. Barker, I knew about the reunion. I decided not to attend it. Please respect that.”
Mayte’s eyes widened.
The voice on the other end of the phone sighed. “Ms. Stuart, believe me, I do understand what you’re saying, and yes, I know very well what’s been going on around your family the last few years. But you know..”
Kerry mouthed a curse, making Mayte’s eyes widen even further.
“I think you have a modern, relevant message, and the girls here, they want to hear what you have to say.” Allison went on. “We didn’t solicit this, and believe me when I tell you I had my reservations before I decided to call you, but I thought it was important.”
Kerry took a breath to answer, then she paused.
As though sensing an opening. “You don’t have to be at the whole reunion. I know that would probably be uncomfortable for you.”
“For me, or for the rest of you?” Kerry’s mouth twitched into a faint, wry smile.
It was Allison’s turn to be silent for a moment. “Well.” She said. “We’re not all that uptight.”
Kerry looked over at Mayte, who had her mouth covered by one hand and was watching her in fascination. “So, the senior class wants to hear what I have to say, huh?”
“That’s what they said.”
What would it take, twenty minutes? She could probably stop by there between packing and getting some dinner with Angie and after all, she had talked Dar into going to hers, now hadn’t she? Hypocrisy stunted your growth sometimes. “All right.” She said.
“I’ll stop by and give a piece of my mind.” Kerry said. “But let me just warn you, Ms. Barker – I take a lot less bullshit now than I used to.”
A sigh of what might have been either relief or resignation sounded on the phone. “Fair deal, Ms. Stuart. I’ll tell the committee.” Allison said. “So we’ll see you the night of the 10th. The get together starts at 8, we’ll have dinner, then the speakers.”
“Okay.” Kerry gave in, with a bemused shrug. “See you then. Bye.” She waited for the click on the other end, then she closed her phone and leaned over Mayte’s desk to punch her phone pad.
A ring, then Dar’s voice growled through the speaker. “Yes, Mayte?”
“Sorry, honey, it’s just me.”
Dar chuckled softly.
“Do me a favor?” Kerry tapped her cell phone against her jaw.
“Turn around and look out the window and tell me if it’s snowing.”
There was a moment of dead silence on the phone, then the squeak of Dar’s chair sounded clearly. Kerry waited patiently, listening to soft scuffles and sounds of the air condtioning cycling on and off. “The window behind you, hon.”
“Is it SNOWING?”
The answer came right in her ear, accompanied by the sudden warmth of Dar’s body against her shoulder, making her jump nearly off the desk. “Yeek.” Kerry cut off the intercom. “Well, after what I just got asked, it damn well should be.” She picked up her coffee. “C’mon. You won’t believe it.”
Dar followed her into her office, pushing her sleeves up after exchanging puzzled looks with Mayte. “I can’t wait to hear this.”
Mayte watched the door close, and went back to her work, muffling a smile.
“Ugh.” Kerry threw the mail down on the dining room table as she passed it, scrubbing her fingers thorugh her hair as she headed for the back door to let Chino out. “Yes, honey. I’m coming.” She told her excited pet, who was whirling around in circles near the door. “Cheebles, you’re going to smack your head against the wall one of these days.”
She unlocked the door and watched the dog ramble down the steps into the small outdoor garden, then she headed back across the living room and trotted up the stairs to her bedroom.
As she entered, she glanced at the big doors leading out to the balcony, where the early evening light was still drenching the stucco surface. “I like summers.” She announced, as she stripped out of her business suit, hanging the skirt and blazer neatly on hangers inside her closet. “You still get home as late, but you feel like you’ve got some day left.”
Kerry changed into a pair of shorts and a tank top, and retreated back down the stairs just as Chino came bouncing in from outside. “Hey Cheebles.” She knelt and gave the Labrador a hug. “Are you glad to see me?”
Naturally, the dog was. Chino’s tail wagged furiously as she licked Kerry’s face, only stopping when the blond woman stood up and made her way over to the cabinet that held the all important dog food supply.
“Gruff!” Chino sat down next to her bowl, tail sweeping the floor.
Kerry turned and put a hand on her hip. “Excuse me, madame?”
Chino’s tongue lolled out happily at her.
“Dar taught you that look, didn’t she?” Kerry had to smile, as the dog looked back at her with those utterly unquestioning brown eyes, as steadfast and honest in fact as her beloved partner’s were. “Little punklet.” She opened up the dog food and filled Chino’s bowl with both wet and dry, setting it down and watching her wolf it down. “Glad I don’t eat that fast.”
“Gruff?” Chino looked up at her, then went back to eating.
“I’d bite my fingers off.” Kerry chuckled. She watched Chino for a minute, then she leaned back against the counter and considered the question of her own dinner. Or more precisely, hers and Dar’s, since Dar was stuck on a late conference call and wouldn’t be home for at least an hour.
Dar would be completely happy if she offered her a bowl of cereal and some ice cream, and Kerry knew it. She also knew she probably would be happy with the same thing, and on occasion that’s what they ended up with when they came home very late together.
If she wanted to order something from the club for them, that would be okay too. Kerry peeked inside the refrigerator, pondered her choices, then she removed a pre made pizza crust from the fridge and pulled the flat pan it went on from the oven.
She removed the crust from it’s wrapper, then she went back to the fridge and removed a small jar of marinara sauce, a small jar of olives, some jalapeno peppers, a package of pepperoni, several slices of ham, a bag of mozzerella cheese, and a can of peaches, taking them back over and setting them on the counter.
Whistling softly, she assembled the pizza, putting down a layer of the sauce, then a handful of cheese, then scattering the rest of the items indiscriminately over the surface before she covered it all over with more cheese.
Only then, did she carefully place peach halves on one half of the pie, her face twitching a little.
Once she was done, she popped it in the oven and dusted her hands off, returning her fixings to the fridge and removing a bottle of ice tea from it. She wandered out onto the porch with the tea, settling on the two person swing as Chino joined her. “You finished already, Cheebles?”
Chino licked her lips, and sat down.
“I guess so.” Kerry popped open her tea and sipped it, as she gazed out across the Atlantic ocean. Pushed aside all day, the memory of her conversation and unexpected request now surfaced, and she nibbled her lip, thinking about what on earth she was going to say to a bunch of…
Kids? Like she’d been?
Kerry frowned. The kid she’d been, and the girls she’d gone to school with probably would not have stepped outside the carefully constructed conservative box they’d grown up with to request who she’d become speak at their event.
Just would not have happened. Maybe they’d have talked about it, though she doubted even that much, but to demand it?
So what in the hell was she supposed to say to them? And if they were that confident already, why even ask her to give a speech? Kerry sighed. “Maybe they are interested because I’m a successful businesswoman.” She reasoned. “I mean, I am.”
That idea seemed a lot more appealing than thinking the girls wanted her just for the scandal it would cause the school. Kerry appreciated a good scandal, and she had to admit she was a little bit amused at the request, but she decided she’d come up with a respectable presentation and take the opportunity to visit her hometown without causing any headlines.
She was still going to kick Angie’s ass though. Kerry relaxed against the back of the swing chair, a little ambivalent about the prospect of her sister’s moving. On the one hand, she was glad Angie was getting out of the big house she’d lived in with her ex husband, but disappointed she was moving in with Kerry and Angie’s mother.
She’d half dreaded Angie’s idea of moving down to Miami, for very selfish reasons. But she understood that by moving back with mom, the chances of Angie’s son’s father joining her were pretty much done. Brian’s reluctance had disappointed her profoundly and she truthfully wasn’t looking forward to meeting up with him during the move.
She knew she wasn’t going to be kind. Kerry managed a wry smile. Brian probably knew that too. But you never knew about people, and maybe he’d end up surprising her.
Maybe she’d end up surprising him with a punch to the jaw. You just never knew. Kerry glanced down as her cell phone buzzed. She put the cap on her tea and answered it, smiling when she saw the name on the caller ID. “Hello, oh love of my life.”
“Boy I’d love to have patched you into that god damned conference call.” Dar’s voice emerged from the speaker. “That sure would have livened it up.”
“Anytime.” Kerry could hear the sound of the ferry in the background. “You get out early?”
“Yeah.” Dar replied. “I told them I had to go get fitted for cleats. That pretty much stopped the conversation and everyone said they had to leave.”
Kerry started laughing in reflex. “Oh noo….”
“Hehehe.” Her partner chortled along with her. “I can’t wait to send Maria around the building tomorrow to see what rumors that stirred up.”
“How about if I use my red pencil to put little dots across my forehead.” Kerry suggested. “Like mini train tracks. I can pretend not to be wondering why everyone’s looking at me.”
“Everyone looks at you anyway.” Dar said. “All right, let me get off the phone so I can drive. Be home in a minute.”
“Cool. I made pizza.”
“Remember the peaches?” Dar asked, in a hopeful tone.
Kerry grimaced. “Yes.” She cleared her throat. “Honey, couldn’t you be hooked on something more normal, like anchovies?”
“Okay.” Kerry sighed. “Let me go see how it’s doing. See you in a few.”
Dar clicked off. Kerry spent a moment more watching the water, before she got up and went back inside, trading the muggy warmth of the patio for the brisk chill of the air conditoning as she slid the door shut behind Chino and walked into the kitchen.
She could smell the pizza. She put a glove on her hand and opened the stove, peeking at her creation and judging the bubble factor of the cheese. Satisified, she removed the pan and set it down on the stone cutting board, dusting the top with a bit of parmesan. “There.”
“Gruff.” Chino was sitting near her bowl, watching Kerry expectantly.
“Oh no. You don’t even think about thinking you’re getting pizza for dinner, madame.” Kerry pointed the can of cheese at her. “Go get mommy Dar.”
Chino’s head swiveled towards the front door immediately, and they both heard the sound of Dar’s car door closing. “G’wan, go get her.”
The Labrador raced for the front of the living room just as Dar entered, plowing excitedly into her knees and knocking her backwards. “Hey!” The dark haired woman grabbed for the door frame. “Watch it, you furball!”
“Aww.. she loves you.” Kerry watched from the doorway, leaning against one side of it as her partner got the door closed and tossed her briefcase on the loveseat, and her linen jacket on top of it. She had a white shirt on, with its sleeves rolled up partway to expose her tanned forearms, and the ends of it were already untucked from her skirt in an appealingly rakish picture. “So do I.”
Dar looked up from petting Chino, and smiled. “I have a surprise for you.”
Kerry’s brows lifted a little, seeing the warmth and the mischief in Dar’s eyes. “Oh oh.” She pushed off from the doorway and went over to where Dar was, bumping against her and then wrapping her arms around her and giving her a hug. “That’s all the surprise I ever need.”
“Aww.” Dar echoed Kerry’s earlier speech. “But don’t you want to see the Swiss Alps?”
Kerry peered up at her, a look of surprised delight on her face. “Huh? Are you serious?”
“As a heart attack.” Dar grinned. “I figured after we lock up this deal with the old man, we take a week and go see how the other half lives.”
“What other half?” Kerry’s mind tumbled into overdrive, the possibilities crowding onto themselves like pushy tourists.
“The half that takes vacations.” Dar leaned over and kissed her. “You in?”
“Hell yes.” Kerry bounced up and down. “Can you fast forward us a couple weeks, please? It’s going to seem like a year getting through Angie’s moving and my damn high school reunion now.”
Dar bounced a few times with her, making Chino bark in surprise. “Now where’s my peach pizza?”
“C’mon.” Kerry slipped an arm around her. “Let’s get you undressed, before I have to suffer watching you eat that. “
“That’s what you used to say about grits.”
“Not the same thing.”
“Thar she blows.” Dar pulled her Lexus into the weed studded parking lot that ringed the small ballpark. “Nothing like a scroungy dirt pit on a muggy evening here in the thunderstorm and lightning capital of the world.”
As if to punctuate her speech, a low rumble of thunder sounded in the distance.
“How did you do that?” Kerry asked, leaning back in the passenger seat and enjoying the last few minutes of air conditioning before she had to get out and face the humidity.
Kerry eased herself upright, studying the half filled parking lot where she spotted quite a number of familiar faces. “Hm. A lot of people are here.”
Dar pulled into an empty spot. She was dressed in a pair of shorts and a tank top, and she paused a moment to pull her dark hair back into a pony tail and fasten it before she turned the car off. “Nice crowd.” She agreed. “Wish we’d stopped for dinner first.”
Kerry got up and half turned, reaching into the back seat. “I’ve got a granola bar here.”
Dar eyed her. “I’ll wait, thanks” She demurred. “You said this wasn’t going to be a long session.”
“That’s what Mari said.” Kerry straightened back up, holding her bar in one hand. “Share?” She ripped the plastic off the snack and broke it in half, handing one part over to her reluctant companion. “It’s the peanut butter one you like, Dar. C’mon.”
Dar’s brows lifted, and she accepted the offering, sniffing it. “Mm. Okay.” She bit into the bar. “Ready?” She indicated the gathering crowd, some of whom were looking curiously at the Lexus. “Before we become the entertainment?”
“Aren’t we always?” Kerry stuck her granola bar in her mouth and opened the door, hopping out and taking a breath of the hot air. “Whoo boy.” She tugged her sleeveless muscle shirt away from her body and spared a grateful thank you to Dar’s suggestion they change into shorts before coming out to the park.
Dar joined her, sticking the door opener in her front pocket and letting the key hang down outside it. She munched her half of their snack as they walked towards the group of people. “You up for a swim after this?”
Kerry made a small groan of agreement. “Hi Mari.” She greeted the HR VP, who had just arrived in a neatly pressed pair of walking shorts and a crisp, white short sleeved shirt. “Looks like you had a great turnout.”
“Sure does.” Mari agreed. “However, it was forcefully brought home to me that if you call a meeting at dinner time you’re obligated to provide dinner.” She gazed pointedly at Kerry’s granola bar. “I don’t suppose you brought enough to share, did you?”
Caught in mid chew, Kerry shook her head slightly. She swallowed hastily. “Sorry.”
“Hmph.” Mari sighed.
“Hey, she shared with me.” Dar licked the last crumb off her fingertips. “Tell everyone to go out and find a pizzaria after this. No one’s gonna starve.”
Kerry gave her a wry look, receiving an innocent bat of Dar’s dark lashes in return. She chuckled and shook her head, as she followed Dar over to the big group, feeling the sweat start to gather already on her skin.
“Hey Kerry!” Mark waved at her as they approached. “Hey big D.”
“Hey.” Kerry glanced around, seeing quite a number of people from their own department mixed with others from the office. “Hey guys.” She waggled her fingers at two of the junior accountants. “So here we are.”
“Hello, Kerry.” Mayte appeared. “I am glad you were able to come here. This should be fun. No?” She had her hair pulled back into a neat tail like Dar’s and she was smiling. “I have never played baseball.”
“Me either… but I think it’ll be a blast.” Her boss went over to the rows of wooden, weathered, bench seating and carefully eased down on one of the less splintered planks.
“Really? You never did?” Mayte sounded surprised. “Mama thought surely you were a superstar at the least!” She took a seat next to Kerry.
“Really.” Kerry rubbed her temple, trying to stifle the blush she could feel coming on, not being helped at all by her snickering partner. “Your mama is way too nice. Sometimes.” She added. “Actually, Dar was and is the superstar athlete in the family.”
Mayte peeked past her to smile at Dar, who shrugged modestly. “I’ve never played softball either.” The dark haired woman clarified. “But I’ve done other things.”
“Did you know Dar still holds her high school’s record in the broad jump?” Kerry asked, split seconds before her mind realized what she’d just said and she nearly fell off the bench when Mayte’s eyes widened almost into the size of golf balls. “Not.. ah.. it’s a track and field event.”
Dar put her head down on her folded arms resting on the plank and started laughing.
“Jesu.” Mayte covered her eyes. “I was thinking schools have changed so much it is amazing.”
Kerry sighed. “Sorry about that. If it’s any consolation, I went to an all girl Christian high school, and we didn’t have.. that.. event either.” She paused. “That I know of.”
The rest of the crowd joined her and settled on the ominously creaking structure. Dar eyed it, then decided to remain standing next to Kerry, just leaning an elbow on one of the planks.
“Thank you all for showing up on time.” Mari took up her familiar role standing on the dusty ground in front of the stadium seats. “I really appreciate it. This won’t take too much time, I just wanted to go over what the schedule is going to be, and what’s expected of us.”
“And give out hats.” Dar supplied, after she stopped speaking.
“Do you have a fixation on those hats?” Mari asked, giving her an exasperated look. “I’ll have cows horns put on them in a minute.”
The crowd chuckled, a lot of heads turning to look at Dar’s distinctive profile.
“Moo.” Dar promptly responded. “I like cows. They produce my two favorite foods, cheeseburgers and milk.”
Mari cleared her throat conspicuously. “Ahem.” She went back to her clipboard. “As I was saying. Thank you for being here on time, I really appreciate it. One of the first things I want to tell you is that we’re all here to have fun, okay? This isn’t major league baseball.”
The crowd chuckled a little.
“Kerry Stuart has volunteered to be our captain.” Mari smiled, looking over at Kerry as applause broke out. “So I’m sure we’ll end up having a great time, and doing good things for a good cause.”
“Mariana, how many other teams are in this league?” One of the accountants spoke up.
“About twenty.” The HR VP was glad to turn her attention from her hecklers. “The games are played in a round robin tournament style, and where the charity comes in is that the company will contribute a certain amount to the charity fund for every employee who participates.”
“So it doesn’t matter if we win or not?” The man said, with a frown.
A little buzz went up at that.
“Well.” Mariana lifted her hands a little. “Its about the charity, really….”
“It matters to us if we do.” Dar spoke up again from her corner. “But the charity gets the bucks no matter what, is that how it is, Mari?”’
“Exactly.” Mari nodded. “There are many things to strive for in the contest, there are trophys and awards and so on, and also several things donated by the various corporations that will be given to those who complete the tournament.”
“What did we give?” Kerry whispered. “Please don’t’ tell me a lifetime supply of Cat 5e cabling”
“Cool!” Mark spoke up. “So we can get some swag, huh?”
“Nerd gift certificate I think.” Dar whispered back. “For one of the big online places.” She added. “Enough for a nice system.”
“Hm.” Kerry grunted approvingly. “Nice.”
“So.” Mari got everyone’s attention back. “Here’s the rules. Games will be on Friday nights, here at the park. All the other companies are more or less in the area around Miami, so there is no home, and no away or anything like that. Each team has to have enough players to play the game, or they forfeit.”
“That means everyone shows up or she posts it on the company bulletin board on Monday.” Dar announced. “If you’re gonna do this, do it, or stay the hell home.”
Everyone swiveled to look at their CIO, who raised one eyebrow and gave them all a stern glare. Silence fell briefly, until Mark cleared his throat.
“Yes, boss.” He said, in a mild tone.
“Ahem!” Mari put her hands on her hips. “Do you want to run this?”
“Do you want me to run this?” Dar returned the volley neatly. “Bet the other teams end up regretting it like everyone else here who just realized they’re going to be sharing space with me and a baseball bat.”
After a second’s pause, everyone laughed, even Dar. Kerry reached over and tweaked her nose, giving her a look of loving exasperation.
“Hats? Anyone want hats?” Mari chuckled herself. “How about pizza?”
That got everyone’s attention, and all heads turned as thought the crowd were a collection of spaniels at dinnertime.
“I thought that might work.” The HR VP lifted her hands. “Okay, everyone to Santorini’s after this, on me. But as for the team – for every game you show up for your name gets entered into the drawings for the donated prizes.” She said. “So, the more games you attend, the better your chance to win some pretty nice stuff. “
“Like what?” Someone asked.
“Ah, altruism.” Dar chuckled softly under her breath.
“At least it’s not some thousand buck a plate dinner just so you can put your mug in front of some politician.” Kerry reminded her. “It’s a good incentive.”
“Well, we have a three night stay in Cozumel…” Mari was drowned out by oohs and aaahs. “A cruise to Bermuda, shopping spree at Macy’s… some crazy tech company threw in a certificate for a new computer…”
“Did we ever decide if we really wanted to do a cruise?” Kerry asked. “Or did we finally decide we wanted to sail on one of those things about as much as we wanted a root canal?”
Dar glanced at the cloudy sky, and breathed in a lungful of air deeply tinged with ions. “We dropped the question.” She said. “Hey Mari.”
“And that.. what?” Mari put her hands on her hips and gave Dar a look.
Dar pointed up at the sky, then held her hand out as she felt the first droplets of rain, bringing a cool down that was worth the dampness. “Take it up at the pizza shack?” She suggested, as the rest of the crowd started to scramble down from the benches.
“Sure.” Mari raced by her, shielding her head with her clipboard, as the rain started to come down in earnest. “You can grab the damn hats!” She pointed behind her. ‘Ahhhhh!!!!”
Kerry hopped off her bench and started for the bag with Dar right at her heels. “How do we get ourselves into stuff like this?” She yelled over the thunder. “Jesus! Dar we’re going to be soaked!”
“We volunteer.” Dar grabbed the bag and got it and it’s contents over their head as they ran back towards the parking lot looking like a moving lily pad with the droops. “Bet Mari didn’t figure on this being a wet tshirt contest.”
“Oh. Don’t you even go there.”
Kerry rested her head on her fist, tapping her pen on the pad of paper on her desk. She wrote a few words, then she paused, and studied them, a frown on her face. “What in the hell am I supposed to talk about?”
She heard a soft ding, and turned to see a new mail alert on her pc. She clicked it, and brought up her personal mail folder to find a note from Angie. “Ah.” She clicked on it.
Please don’t hate me too much. I realized after I talked to that woman that I probably should have asked you first. It just sounded pretty innocuous, you know? She kind of tricked me, she started to talk about knowing you and the reunion and all that and before I knew it I spilled the beans. Sorry about that – but hey, how bad could a little speech be? Remember your senior event?
Kerry grimaced. “Oh yes. I sure do.”
Anyway, I’ll take you to that brewpub you liked afterward to make it up to you, okay?
Mom said she wants to have dinner with us. That I didn’t commit to. I told her we’d be really busy moving stuff, and she got pissed off because she thinks I should have just hired the movers to pack up everything. Can you believe that?
Looking forward to seeing you –
Kerry scratched the side of her nose with her pen. Her last meeting with her mother hadn’t been the most cordial, and though she’d spoken to her since, she didn’t really want to spend that much time in the house. She hit reply, and started typing.
Hey Ang.. eh, I got over being pissed. It is what it is, and Dar thinks it might be funny for me to do a speech there so whatever.
I can do dinner with mom, but let’s go out. I don’t’ want to sit at that table if I don’t have to. I’m not looking for lectures and if she really pisses me off it’s not going to be fun for any of us. If we’re out in a restaurant, she’ll probably behave.
See you on Saturday.
Kerry turned back to her pad, but after a few more minutes of staring at it, she gave up and dropped the pen on it, getting up and stretching before she left her office and trotted off down the steps to the lower level.
She crossed the tile floor and entered the bedroom she and her partner shared, it’s soothing blue walls already making he feel more relaxed. “Dar?”
“Uh?” Dar was stretched out on their waterbed.
“Do we actually know how to play baseball?” Kerry trudged over, and dropped onto the waterbed, making Dar’s body rock back and forth. “Boy that hottub felt good.” She added. “But it gave me time to think about what we’ve gotten ourselves into here.”
“Well.” Dar folded her hands over her stomach. “It cant be that hard, Kerry. Someone throws a ball at you, and you hit it with a bat and then you run like hell.”
“True.” Kerry squirmed over and put her head on Dar’s stomach, extending her body at right angles to her. “But tennis looks pretty easy too, and I really suck at it.” She paused. “And don’t you tell me I don’t just to be nice.”
Dar chuckled softly. “I wasn’t going to. You really do suck at tennis.” She told her partner. “But then again, so do I. So what does that say about tennis?” She laid her arm over Kerry’s midriff. “I’m sure we can handle it.”
“We should practice.”
Kerry rolled onto her side, looking up at Dar. “You’re so silly sometimes.” She said. “I meant, before we go and make fools of ourselves out there. I want to know at least what I’m supposed to be doing.” She explained. “We can practice here, can’t we?”
“We can practice over near the golf course, sure.” Dar agreed. “Tomorrow we can go get some gloves and balls and whatever, and work it out.” She said. “Did you decide what position you want to play on defense?”
Kerry’s green eyes narrowed. “If you even start to suggest shortstop I’m going to bite you.”
Dar’s lips twitched. “Actually, I think I’m better for that.” She admitted. “Long arms, fast reflexes.” She studied Kerry for a moment. “I bet you’d be a good pitcher.”
Her partner snickered. “You never saw me throw anything other than a Frisbee.” She said. “How about I try outfield first?” She suggested. “I think I can manage to catch the ball out there.”
“We’ll see.” Dar ran her fingers through Kerry’s hair. “Looks like a decent bunch showed up for it – if they keep showing up, this should turn out all right.”
“Yep.” Kerry exhaled, closing her eyes. “I’m tired.”
“Long day, and having to chase you all over the hot tub at the end of it.” Kerry opened one eye and winked at her. ‘One of these days a night vision camera tape of us is going to end up in the hands of Panic 7 and boy, are we going to have our fifteen minutes of fame.”
“Hmm…. That’ll make for an interesting intro to the next board meeting.” Dar mused. “I think at this point, they look forward to stuff like that.”
Kerry chuckled, and closed her eye again, exhaling in contentment. “We have to pack.” She said. “I’m trying to figure out what I should wear for the speech.”
Kerry bounced her head against Dar’s stomach twice. “Punk.” She moaned. “C’mon, Dar. I thought about just wearing a suit.”
“Business suit, not bathing suit.” Kerry clarified. “I figure if they really want to hear from some business chick I can do that.”
“You really think they want to hear from some business chick?” Dar asked, lacing her fingers and putting her hands behind her head. “I think they’re looking for some crazy rebel who used to be who they are.” She studied the ceiling, as she felt Kerry’s hand come up to rest on her shoulder, thumb rubbing against the bone at the front of it. “Rebellion sort of thing.”
Kerry had to admit she suspected the same thing. She remembered, vaguely, being that senior in high school and the last thing she’d have wanted to hear was some boring old lady in a suit talking about career paths. “I still don’t know what the hell I’m going to say to them.”
“Why not ask them.” Dar suggested. “Get up there and say. ‘okay, you asked for me. I’m here. What the hell do you want?”
Kerry laughed, her breath warming the skin under Dar’s shirt. “Sweetie, that works for you. Not for me.” She sighed. “Oh well. I’ll think of something.”
“Wear something sophisticated and sexy.” Dar spoke up after a moment’s quiet. “And if you can’t think of anything to tell them, just open it up for questions. They know more about you than you do about them.”
Sometimes, Kerry reflected, Dar had a knack for bringing home to her in sudden, vivid ways the reason she’d been so successful in life. Aside from her being smart, she had a lot of what Kerry’s aunt would have called ‘good horse sense’. “I love you.” She replied simply, turning her head to kiss Dar’s chest through her shirt. “Everyone else has Google. I have Dar.”
“I love you too.” Dar smiled. Then she unfolded her hands from behind her and half sat up, resting on her elbows. She waited for Kerry to lift her head up, then she rolled over and stretched out lengthwise on the bed as her partner squirmed around to join her. “I’m sorry I’m going to miss that speech, by the way.”
Kerry pulled the covers up over them and sighed as Dar shut the bedside light and twilight shadows settled over them. It wasn’t quite dark in the room – the blinds let in moonlight and the outside lighting – but it was comfortable and familiar and she’d come to be so used to falling asleep here she’d forgotten really anything before.
She eased over and snuggled up next to Dar. “Are you going to miss it? I’m probably going to end up sounding either boring or crazy.”
“You think I’d want to miss that?” Her partner inquired. “I love watching you give speeches. I duck into the back of the presentation room when you do at the office.”
Kerry blinked, invisible in the darkness. “You do?”
“How come you never told me that?”
Dar put her arms around Kerry and half turned onto her side. “Didn’t want to make you nervous.” She said. “The setup staff started leaving me chocolate cupcakes back there.”
Kerry started laughing silently.
“Maybe I can have a little refrigerator installed with milk chugs. You think?”
“I’ll order one tomorrow.” Kerry assured her. “Now go to bed, cupcake. We’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
Kerry sat down on the carved wooden bench and studied her new toys, as she waited for Dar to come out of the condo and join her. On the bench next to her was a bucket with six balls in it, and her lap was a leather glove, it’s new hide smell making her nose twitch as she examined it.
A baseball glove. She fitted her left hand into it, pausing when the edge of the glove caught on her ring. “Ah.” She put the glove down and removed the ring, unlatching the chain she had around her neck and stringing the ring on it. “There. “
She put the glove on again and flexed her hand, feeling the strange constriction as she tensed her fingers and made the leather move. It felt stiff and awkward, and she reasoned that she’d have to work it a little to get it more flexible.
At least, that’s what Dar had said.
Experimentally, she picked up one of the balls in the bucket and dropped it into the glove, examining how the leather fit around the object as she closed her hand around it. She held her hand up and turned it upside down, agreeably surprised when the ball stayed in the glove and didn’t fall out.
She opened her fingers and the ball emerged, dropping to land in her other hand. She reversed the position of her arms and dropped the ball into the glove again. “Hm.”
The far off sound of a door closing made Kerry look up, and across the short grass sward to where the condos were nestled. She spotted Dar trotting down the stairs immediately, and leaned back against the bench to watch her partner cross the road and head towards her.
She was carrying her own glove, and a bat resting on her shoulder, and an expression that could best be described as ‘here we go again.’. Kerry stood up as she approached and held her hand up in it’s glove, flexing the fingers like a leather crab. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Dar greeted her. “Got it on, huh?” She tucked her own glove under her arm and examined Kerry’s, tugging the back of it to make sure her fingers were all the way in. “Fits all right.” She decided. “How’s it feel?”
“It feels like I have a honking chunk of leather on my hand.” Kerry responded, with a cheeky grin. “How’s yours?”
“Mm.” Dar put the glove on. It was a bit larger than Kerry’s, and a deep russet color. “Hm.”
Kerry glanced at her partner’s throat in reflex, seeing the slight bulge under the fabric of her shirt that meant Dar had, as usual, thought ahead to remove her ring. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Dar turned her hand around. “It just feels weird.” She left the bat near the bench and picked up a ball. “Want to start with some catch?”
“Sure.” Kerry walked with her onto the grass and they faced each other. Dar tossed the ball at her without much preamble, and instinctively Kerry put up her free hand, the one with out the glove on it, and caught it. “Yow!” She dropped the ball and shook her hand out. “That stung!”
Dar put her hands on her hips, best as she could with the glove on. “Ker.” She said. “You’re supposed to use this.” She held up her gloved hand.
“I know that.” Kerry picked the ball up and examined it. Then she faced Dar, and tossed it back to her, unsurprised when her partner caught it in her glove. “You just surprised me.”
“Okay.” Dar put the ball in her free hand. “Ready?”
“Ready.” Kerry watched her partner toss the ball back, and she concentrated on grabbing it with her glove, finding the thing awkward and clumsy but managing to clamp it around the round target anyway. “Ugh.”
“This is hard.” Kerry frowned at the glove. “Dar, a billion children do this every year, why does it seem so weird to me?”
Dar walked over to her. “Hon, you’ve only done it once.” She said, in a mild tone. “Give it a few minutes.” She pulled her own glove off and adjusted Kerry’s again. “It’s stiff.”
“Stiffer than mine.” Dar removed the glove and handed over hers. “Trade.”
“I think that one’s too small for you.” Kerry protested, but she fitted the new glove on her hand and found it to be a lot more comfortable. “Oh.” She murmured in surprise. “That feels nice.”
“Okay, let’s try that now.” Dar retreated, putting on Kerry’s glove before she turned around and held the ball up. “Ready?”
“Ready.” Kerry held her hand up, and when the ball came at her, she reached out and grabbed it, feeling the round surface hit the palm of the glove in a very satisfying way. “Lots better!” She yelled back, removing the ball and tossing it to Dar.
The new glove just seemed to fit her hand better, and it was easier to close her fingers. It felt like a more natural extention of her arm and not quite so much of a club hanging off the end of it.
Weird. Kerry caught the next throw, already getting use to the feel of the ball hitting the glove. She tossed the ball back, pitching it overhand instead of the underhand they’d been using. “Catch that, Dixiecup!”
Dar stretched out one arm and snagged it, just barely. “Hey!”
“Told you you’d make a pitcher.” Dar tossed it back to her, with a grin of her own. “Ker, this is going to be a lot of fun.” She tossed the ball back at her partner, watching it get caught with a touch of nascent confidence. “Atta girl.”
Kerry felt better about the whole thing, too. The last thing she’d really wanted to do was make a fool of herself in front of half the office, so it was a little reassuring that she could at least handle the basics of baseball.
So far, anyway. She dropped the ball into her hand and tensed her fingers around it, then she faced Dar and whipped it back at her, aiming as close as she could to her partner’s midsection.
Dar caught it, and returned it, and they spent the next half hour playing catch with each other as the sun slowly dipped behind the trees and brought a bit of relief to the warm, muggy air.
Then they took a break, and met back at the bench. Kerry sat down and picked up the water bottle she’d brought with her, taking swig from it as Dar traded her glove for the bat. “That’s the hard part, isn’t it?”
Dar put her hands around the bat and took a step back, away from the bench before she extended her arms and took a few tentative swings.
Kerry leaned back and watched. “I thought you said you never played softball.”
“I didn’t.” Dar swung a few more times. “Not on team, but we played catch and lot sandball on the base when I was growing up and I played a little with Dad.”
Duh. Kerry smiled wryly. Of course she did. “I can’t imagine for a second my father playing a sport.” She mused. “Well, maybe golf.”
Dar’s face wrinkled up into a scowl.
“Yeah, me either.” Kerry admitted. “Golf was acceptable for girls, in a ‘let’s ride in the cart and sip ice tea while gossipping’ sort of way. Or Tennis.”
“I played football with the guys.”
Kerry tipped her head back and gazed fondly at Dar. “Of course you did, honey.” She said. “So I guess you know how to use that thing?” She set her water bottle down and picked up a ball, walking out into the grass and turning to face her partner. “Ready?”
Dar assumed a very credible batters position, setting her feet at shoulder width and cocking the bat. “G’wan, toss.”
Amiably, Kerry complied, throwing the ball at her partner. A second and a soft crack later, a white missile was coming right at her face and she only barely evaded it by diving for the grass with a startled yelp. “Dar!!!”
“Whoops.” Dar let the bat rest on her shoulder. “Sorry about that.”
“Jesus!” Kerry got to her hands and knees, then stood up, brushing the grass of her. “What in the hell was that?”
Dar actually looked mildly abashed. “Um… “ She shrugged her shoulders. “A hit?” She walked over to where Kerry was. “Didn’t mean to buzz you with it.” She handed Kerry the bat and trotted over to where the ball had ended up, on the other side of the green space.
Kerry recovered her breath and removed her glove, tossing it onto the bench and addressing her attention to the wooden pole she now held in her hands.
It felt weird. She wrapped her fingers around the handle and swung it. “Yow.” She only just kept from hitting herself in the knee. It was top heavy and awkward, and heavier than she’d expected. She looked up as Dar came back with the ball. “Show me how you did that.”
Her partner came around behind her and pressed up against her back, wrapping her arms around Kerry and taking hold of the bat. “Okay, Now.”
She paused, to reposition her hands, then became suddenly aware of Kerry’s warm body, pressed against hers. “Um… now.” She repeated, a bit bemused.
Kerry leaned against her, tipping her head back and batting her eyelashes. “Now what?” She asked. “Did you say something?”
It was an interestingly sensual moment, unexpected and public and Dar had to force herself not to do what had become natural for both of them. Instead, she nibbled a bit of Kerry’s hair and bumped her with her nose. “Do you want to learn this or..”
“Or?” The green eyes took on a warm twinkle.
“Or do you want to get another homeowner complaint letter?” Dar reminded her. “There’s some guys behind us driving a golf cart. Want to cause an accident?”
Kerry sighed melodramatically. “Oh, all right.” She turned back around and focused on the bat again. “Now where were we?” She felt Dar move her hands back. “Oh.”
“Okay. Stand like this.” Dar nudged Kerry’s feet apart a little. “Hold your arms like this.” She shifted her grip and the bat lifted a bit. “Now, the thing is, you can’t look at the bat.”
“No.” Kerry agreed. “I have to look out for the ball, or I’ll be taking the helmets off anyone in the vicinity.” She let Dar swing her arms through a stroke, twisting her body around to the right as she imagined connecting with the ball. “Right.”
Dar released her, and picked up the ball, then she walked twenty feet or so away and turned. “Ready? Watch the ball.”
“Watching.” Kerry focused on the ball intently, watching it as it left Dar’s hand and headed her way. She swung at it, but it didin’t connect and the force of her swing turned her all the way around and made her sit down abruptly on her butt. “Ow!”
She looked quickly up at her partner. Dar’s face had that stony expression she often used in important board meetings when she didn’t want everyone in the room to really know what she was thinking. Kerry accepted that as the compliment it was, and got to her feet. “Thanks for not cracking up.”
The dark haired woman’s lips twitched.
Kerry picked up another ball from the bucket and tossed it to her. “C’mon. It’s getting dark.” She took up her position again, gripping the bat tightly.
Dar tossed the ball at her, and she swung at it again, this time catching a small piece of the ball and sending it ricocheting off the bench, nearly beaning herself in the kneecap with it. “Yow!”
“Yes?” Kerry peered over at her, a touch frustrated. “Dar, this is ridiculous. Little kids do this.”
“Stop trying so damn hard.” Her partner told her. “Just relax.”
Kerry put the bat end on the ground and wrapped her hands around the top of it, taking a deep breath and letting it out. Twilight was coming on in earnest, and she had an abrupt desire to trade the muggy, gnat filled air for the cool of the condo, leaving this odd and frustrating activity behind.
Immediately, then, she was ashamed of herself. “Jerk.”
“Not you.” Kerry lifted the bat and faced her . “Sorry, one more time?”
Dar waited, the ball held in her right hand, her left hand perched on her hip, watching Kerry’s body posture until she saw her partner’s shoulders drop just a bit, the muscles in the sides of her neck relaxing. Then she gently pitched the ball towards her, as Kerry’s eyes tracked it’s progress, and then she swung at it.
A soft crack split the gathering gloom, and Dar tipped her head back as the ball arched away from the bat and up into the sky. “Nice!”
Kerry blinked in surprise. “I hit it!”
Dar got herself under it and caught the ball as it fell. “Yep.” She walked back over to where Kerry was standing and leaned forward, giving her a kiss on the lips. “You sure did.” There was relief in her partner’s eyes, and she bumped against her lightly. “Not bad for the first try.”
It was really almost stupid. Kerry bumped Dar back. “Yeah, not bad.” She agreed. “It’s harder than I thought it would be though. I’m glad we got some stuff to practice with.” She tugged Dar’s shirt. “Let’s go chase down those balls.”
“Sounds good to me.” Dar collected both of their gloves and the bucket. “We can play around the rest of the week with this, before we travel.”
Kerry walked along with her for a few steps. “I know no one expects us to be really great players.” She said. “But… um… I don’t know, I just ..”
“Want to win.” Dar finished her sentence.
“No, it’s not really that.” Kerry protested.
“You’re competitive as hell, Kerry. Of course you want to win.” Dar disagreed placidly. “There’s nothing wrong with that.” She collected the last ball and draped her arm around Kerry’s shoulders as they headed back towards the condo.
“You make me sound like a soccer dad.”
They both chuckled as they climbed the stairs up to the door. “Better than a soccer mom.” Dar said, as they went inside. “I can’t even imagine what that would be like.”
“If you had a mini van, it’d have a machine gun turret.” Kerry closed the door behind them, and finally, had to laugh. “And a satellite dish.”
“And a beer keg for you.”