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chapter one

     "But you like baseball, Trevor! It's your favorite sport!"
     Trevor set down his fork and looked at his father.
     "Dad," he said, trying not to get angry, "you're about as subtle as a major earthquake. I know it's like your greatest dream that Katie Mason and I should get married someday, but it's not gonna happen. Watching her play softball isn't suddenly going to make her girlfriend material."
     "She IS girlfriend material, of the highest caliber," replied his father in exasperation, "if you'd just open your eyes and use your head! My goodness, she's one of the most beautiful young ladies I've ever seen, in addition to being an honor student and an all-city gymnast. And it's no secret that she likes you! I'm personally of the opinion that the only reason she doesn't have a boyfriend already is that she's waiting for you to start paying serious attention to her. But she won't wait forever. You're going to be sophomores when school starts up again in a few weeks, and there'll be more boys than ever-"
     "And they can have her!" Trevor interrupted. He was still fighting valiantly to control his temper, but the battle was close to being lost. Normally his mother would come to his aid in a situation like this, but she and his sister were away at Girl Scout camp, and his father was taking advantage of the fact that it was just the two of them at dinner.
     "All right," Trevor's father said, his tone suddenly gentler, "let me go at this another way. How handsome do you think you are?"
     "That's kind of a weird question, Dad," replied Trevor.
     "No, I want you to answer, as honestly as you can. If you had to grade yourself on looks, what would the grade be?"
     "Well, I don't think I'm Brad Pitt or anything...honestly, huh? I guess I'd say...oh...B minus. On a good hair and complexion day, anyway."
     "OK, I'll give you that because you're my son."
     "Do I get extra credit for my razor-sharp wit?" asked Trevor, in a tone of deliberately exaggerated hopefulness.
     "Nice try, but no," replied his father. "Now, how would you rate Katie?"
     "A. Definitely," answered Trevor without hesitation. "With a nice hairdo and a pretty dress, maybe A plus."
     "Thank you!" said Trevor's father triumphantly. "Now, tell me: how many other girls with a grade even in that neighborhood do you think are ever going to be interested in you, in your entire life? Especially girls like Katie, who has so much more going for her than just looks?"
     Trevor sighed. "Dad," he said, "you're not telling me anything I haven't thought of myself. I really wish it was that simple, but it isn't. Please, Dad!" he continued quickly, as his father tried to interrupt. "I love you, and I don't want to disappoint you, but you've got to accept the fact that your best friend's daughter and I just aren't meant for each other."
     His father didn't respond for a few seconds. Then he took a deep breath and let it out. "I don't know how you can say that, at your age," he said. He shook his head slightly. "You're only fifteen, you don't know what you want in a girl yet. I really think if you'd just give her a chance, you two would grow into being a good team." He paused for a moment, then continued. "But I'm sorry if I seem to be trying to push you into something. When I started, I was only shooting for encouragement."
     Trevor breathed an inward sigh of relief. The inquisition seemed to be ending.
     "I will concede one point to you, Dad," said Trevor. "The part about not knowing what I want. I feel like I'm just about ready for my first girlfriend now, but I only have vague notions of what I want her to be like, except that I want her to be a Christian and to like the silly kind of jokes that I make all the time. And I totally acknowledge that Katie is majorly cute, and a generally awesome person. I really like her and admire her, and I'm flattered that she likes me, and part of me wishes that we could develop that kind of relationship. When we were younger, I thought maybe it would work out that way someday. We used to get along pretty well, and even when I was young enough that I didn't think I would ever want to marry a girl, I appreciated how pretty Katie was. But after all those years of living a couple houses away from each other, and playing together a lot, and our families spending a lot of time together and everything, by the time we were hitting puberty I had gotten to feeling less close to her instead of more. At the very time when I should have been thinking more and more about her as a potential girlfriend, instead I started thinking of reasons why it wouldn't work out."
     "Reasons strong enough to outweigh all of her good points?" questioned his father. "What could those be?"
     "Well, first of all, for some reason we just don't communicate very well anymore. I mean, when we were younger we always got along pretty good when we played together, from one-on-one board games all the way up to the Saturday afternoon pick-up softball games we used to play in together in the summer. But as we got older, things changed. By a couple of years ago it got to the point where when we tried to have a real conversation, it was like the wires weren't quite connected up right. It's still like that now. Maybe you've never noticed, but often when we're together she'll start talking to me, and I'll answer a little, and then she'll talk a little more - and then suddenly we have nothing left to say to each other. She's tried talking to me about baseball, even, but it just doesn't happen. I usually end up feeling uncomfortable, even a little stupid. That's not the way I want to feel when I'm with my girlfriend.
     "There's other things, too. Our personality types are completely different. She's a total go-getter in everything she does, and I tend to be more laid-back. If we were a couple, I'd be run ragged just trying to keep up with her. And she's never really liked my jokes much either. She'll chuckle a little, but I can tell she's at best only mildly amused."
     "All right," sighed his father. "I give up, for now. But I hope you don't mind if I cling to my dream a while longer. Till your senior year, anyway."
     "As long as you don't put pressure on me, you can keep dreaming till I marry someone else," replied Trevor. His face assumed a thoughtful expression. "I wonder who it'll end up being. Maybe someone from Church or school who I already know but just haven't thought about that way yet. Or maybe somebody completely new, and I'll know the second I see her that she's the future Mrs. Trevor Pendall."
     "Maybe even a girl from the neighborhood," suggested his father.
     Trevor frowned. "I thought you said you were giving up, Dad."
     "Hey, I didn't mention any names," his father replied; but after a moment he added, "OK, you're right. That was uncalled for. It's just hard for me to let go, not only because I'd love to see you marry Mike's daughter, but also because I keep thinking how much I would have given when I was your age for someone like Katie to be interested in me."
     "You're not saying you have regrets about who you ended up with, are you?"
     "Oh, no! Of course not!" his father replied emphatically. "I adore your mother! She was the right girl for me, absolutely. And that's a good point on your side, too. Compatibility is extremely important. If you really feel you don't have that with Katie, that does tend to outweigh everything else."
     Trevor smiled. "I knew all that already, of course," he said, "but thanks for saying it. You might not realize it, but you and Mom are an inspiration to me these days. I want to be the kind of boyfriend to any girlfriend I get that you are a husband to Mom. I've found myself thinking about that more and more lately, which is one reason I think I'd like to have a girlfriend soon. I really like the idea of sort of sweeping a girl off her feet, of giving her compliments, and buying her presents sometimes for no special reason, and doing nice things for her, and just generally making her feel special. Just like you do for Mom."
     "She does that for me, too, you know," said his father. "I just hope you find someone who will appreciate what you want to do." He opened his mouth to speak again, then suddenly closed it, obviously having changed his mind.
     Trevor chuckled. "Like someone who really WANTS to be my girlfriend, right?"
     "All right, I admit I was thinking that," his father confessed. "But please notice that I didn't SAY it!"
     "I appreciate that, Dad," said Trevor. "I know it must have been hard not to."
     "You have no idea," replied his father.
     Trevor chuckled again. "Tell you what, Dad," he said. "I know you always encourage me not to act impulsively, but this time I'm going to do it anyway: I'll go to Katie's game with you - not to watch Katie, just to hang with my dear old Pop. How's that sound?"
     "Sounds good, Son," his father answered with a smile. "Except for the 'old Pop' part."
     "I meant that in the nicest possible way," said Trevor.
     As he resumed eating the beef stew his father had made for them, Trevor started second-guessing his spur-of-the-moment decision to go to the softball game. He had a terrible feeling he might end up regretting it.

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