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chapter three

     Trevor continued to stand near the water fountain for a few seconds, part of him wondering if what had just happened could have been some kind of hallucination, or if at any second he was going to wake up and find that it had all been a dream. The whole thing seemed somehow unreal. Then he suddenly turned and ran back to the bleachers, and instead of going around to the front to get back to his seat, he climbed up the metal supports on the rear. He slipped slightly as he scrambled back onto the top bench, and before he could catch himself completely he crashed into his father's shoulder.
     "Hey! Watch it!" exclaimed Mr. Pendall. "Didn't I tell you not to climb up the back of the bleachers?"
     Trevor chuckled. "Yeah, when I was about nine," he answered.
     "Well, it still goes, for obvious reasons!" replied his father, rubbing his shoulder.
     "Sorry about that, Dad," said Trevor. He looked out on the field. Cindy was taking her warm-up pitches for the bottom of the fifth inning. As he watched her, his mind recalled the image of her beautiful smile. A warm, pleasant sensation came over him. After a few seconds his father spoke again.
     "You cold or something, Trev?" he asked.
     "No, why?" Trevor replied.
     "You look like you're shivering."
     "Really?" said Trevor in genuine surprise. "I don't know, I'm definitely not cold."
     "I hope you're not coming down with something."
     "Yeah, me too." But Trevor now realized what his father had seen: the thought of Cindy smiling at him was actually making him tremble.
     What in the world is happening to me? Trevor thought.
     As Cindy waited for the first batter to step in, she looked up at the bleachers. After scanning for a few seconds she spotted Trevor, and smiled at him. Trevor smiled back and waved. Suddenly Cindy realized that the batter was ready and she had to pitch.
     As her arm was reaching back, she took her eye off of the plate for just a moment and glanced back up at Trevor, a glance that was almost certainly involuntary. She smiled slightly as she let the pitch go, but her smile was immediately replaced by an 'Oh no, what have I done?' expression: the ball was coming in belt-high over the center of the plate, with a low arc. If she had been trying to give the batter a good pitch to hit, she couldn't have done better.
     The batter swung hard, and the ball took off like a shot to straightaway left field. The left fielder turned and ran, but she had no chance. The ball carried well over her head, and by the time she had tracked it down the batter was already rounding third. It was a homerun.
     At first Trevor was shocked by this turn of events. Then he became horrified as it occurred to him that Cindy might blame him for the bad pitch and subsequent homer.
     No, Trevor told himself, she was feeling the same thing I was when we were smiling at each other. I could tell. Something special is already happening between us. She wouldn't throw that away over a softball game!
     But then he looked out at Cindy as she stood on the pitching rubber. He noticed two things: she was now ignoring him, and she looked angry.
     Trevor suddenly found himself on the verge of panic. He wanted to wave to her again, to jump up and down and wave both arms if necessary, just to try to get her to acknowledge with a smile that she wasn't mad at him, that everything was still all right between them; but he knew that if she were angry with him over the previous distraction, another one would only make matters worse.
     So he sat there and did nothing, fighting the emotions within him as best he could, and wondering again just what it was that was happening to him. Was this what it felt like to be in love? Constantly being worried about the other person's attitude toward you? Trevor didn't know if he was ready to deal with that.
     Maybe this whole thing is a mistake, he thought. I had a bad feeling about coming to this game in the first place. Maybe that whole thing at the drinking fountain didn't mean as much as it seemed to. Maybe after the game I should just tell her that I only want to be friends.
     But then he looked back out at Cindy. He found himself fascinated by every move she made: the way she crinkled her forehead just before she pitched; the way she opened her mouth slightly as she released the ball; the way she held her right hand out from her body as she took the catcher's return throw. It was a level of preoccupation with another person that he had never experienced before.
     But still she acted as if he didn't even exist, and Trevor's feeling of panic got worse.
     This is CRAZY! he told himself. She's just a girl!
     But even as he was telling himself this, his mind began replaying their earlier encounter. He saw the way she had looked at him when he had first spoken to her; he saw her laughing at his silly jokes; and he saw that glorious smile, and felt his heart melting within him.
     He knew then it was too late: he couldn't just turn these new feelings off or push them aside. He wanted badly to be with Cindy again in a boy-girl way, to have the chance to talk with her more and get to know her, to continue the bonding that had begun between them. Then he imagined himself holding Cindy tightly in his arms. No, just being friends wasn't an option. With all his heart, Trevor wanted Cindy to be his first girlfriend. It was impossible to make it all just go away.
     So Trevor instinctively did what he had done on other occasions when he could think of nothing else to do: he began to silently pray.
     Please, Father in Heaven, don't let her be mad at me, he thought. Please let her forgive me. Oh, please, Please, PLEASE don't let her be mad at me. PLEASE Don't Let Her Be Mad At Me! PLEASE DON'T LET HER BE MAD AT ME! PLEASE-
     "What did you say?" his father asked.
     Trevor sat up straight and jerked his head toward his father. Apparently he hadn't been praying as silently as he had intended.
     This just gets better and better, he thought.
     "Nothing, Dad," Trevor said weakly. "I was just thinking out loud." He looked back out at Cindy.
     "You're sure you're all right, Trev?" asked his father. "You're acting awfully strange tonight."
     As his father was speaking, Cindy's team recorded the third out on a weak liner to the shortstop. As Cindy began walking toward the bench, she looked up at the bleachers and saw Trevor looking back.
     And she smiled and waved!
     Relief flooded over Trevor like a tidal wave, and he felt himself start to tremble again as he smiled and waved back.
     Thank you, God! he thought, this time being careful to keep his prayer completely silent.
     "No, Dad, there's nothing wrong," he said in a wavering voice. "Everything's just fine." He closed his eyes and sighed loudly, then quietly chuckled.
     "You do know you're breaking my heart, don't you?" said his father.
     Again Trevor jerked his head to look at his father in surprise.
     "Huh? What do you mean?" he said quickly.
     "I was right, wasn't I? You DO like that pitcher."
     Trevor realized there was no point in denying it: if things went as he hoped Cindy would be his girlfriend very soon, and he would of course want his parents to know about that.
     "Yeah, Dad," said Trevor, nodding. "Cindy. How did you know?"
     "I thought I was kidding when I said something to you before," his father replied, "but then I noticed you talking to her by the drinking fountain. You seemed to hit it off with her. And you just waved to her for the second time. So it was simple logic, nothing more."
     "I'm really sorry, Dad," said Trevor sincerely. "It all just kinda happened - but I'm glad it did. I don't know yet if it's gonna lead to anything long-term, but I really hope it does. I like her, Dad, even though I know she's not as pretty as Katie, and not as athletic, and maybe even not as smart, and there's probably other ways that she's not as good as Katie to you, and I really don't want you to be disappointed in me-"
     "Hey!" Trevor's father interrupted. "I was only kidding about you breaking my heart. I would have thought you, of all people, would know when someone is kidding." He put his hand on Trevor's shoulder. "Now listen to me," he continued, speaking slower. "One of the things I want for you most in this life is to be as generally happy a person as you can be. Granted, if it were completely up to me you would find that happiness with Katie. But if someone else can really make you happier, I want you to be with her, not Katie. If this Cindy does turn out to be the girl that will make you truly happy, I WANT you two to be together."
     "Really, Dad?" asked Trevor hopefully. "You're not kidding this time?"
     "Of course not," answered his father, "and the fact that you have to ask that tells me I've been pushing you toward Katie more forcefully than I realized. I'm sorry, Son. I truly am."
     Trevor put his arm around his father and gave him a big squeeze.
     "Did I ever tell you what a great Dad you are?" he said.
     "Many times, as you well know," answered his father. "But I never get tired of hearing it. And you're quite a wonderful son, too."
     "I never get tired of hearing that either, Dad."

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