MEANT TO BE
The last two innings of the game seemed to Trevor to take forever. Cindy continued to ignore him as she pitched, but she smiled and waved again at the end of the sixth inning. By then Trevor had figured out that she was simply focusing herself on her pitching, so she wouldn't be distracted into making another mistake. Trevor forced himself to do his part by resisting the temptation to go and hang around by Cindy's bench.
The fact that Katie was also there made this less difficult.
Cindy made no more mistakes. In the sixth inning one batter reached on a grounder between first and second, but no runs scored. In the top of the seventh Cindy's team scored one more run, and left two runners on. It almost seemed to Trevor that each batter had been instructed to take at least three pitches before swinging, just so he would have to wait longer for the game to end. Then Cindy retired the side in order once more in the bottom of the seventh. Katie recorded the last out on a towering fly ball, and Cindy's team had won the 9th grade girls' summer city championship, by the score of 5-1.
Trevor jumped off the back of the bleachers and hurried over to Cindy's bench. She and her teammates were on the field hugging and high-fiving each other. After a minute or so they all lined up, as the other team had already done, and the two teams passed each other slapping hands.
With the post-game rituals complete, the teams returned to their benches. Katie was one of the first to arrive at her bench, and as soon as she spotted Trevor she tossed her glove on the bench and ran toward him.
"We did it, Trevor! We did it!" she said excitedly. As she approached Trevor, she extended both arms toward him.
SHE'S GONNA HUG ME - AND CINDY'S GONNA SEE IT! he thought in sudden panic. He reacted instinctively to prevent the hug. He reached out and grabbed Katie's forearms tightly in his hands, locked his elbows and took a big step backward. Then he eased his grips, spread his arms a bit and allowed his hands to slide down Katie's forearms until the two of them were holding each other's hands.
There was both surprise and hurt in Katie's face as he completed this maneuver, and it bothered him; but he felt he had had no choice. It was the lesser of two evils. Now he wanted to do what he could to make Katie feel a little better. He smiled broadly.
"Congratulations, Katie!" he said, shaking her hands slightly. "I'm really happy for you! You played great out there!"
Katie smiled again, but only slightly.
"Thanks, Trevor," she said, but there was no longer any excitement in her voice or her face.
Trevor felt like a total jerk. Katie had wanted him to share her moment of joy, and he had responded by taking a big chunk of that joy away from her. He almost decided to change his mind and give her the hug she wanted, and apologize for previously stopping her.
Then he looked past Katie and saw Cindy coming toward them, flashing that amazing smile. No, he couldn't risk giving Cindy the wrong idea. It might give Katie the wrong idea too, for that matter; but he did feel he had to try once more to make Katie happier - and he remembered that he still had an unplayed card.
"Hey, by the way," he said enthusiastically, "that was the greatest catch I've ever seen! You're really an awesome ballplayer!" He squeezed Katie's hands a little. "I'm proud to be your friend!"
Katie's smile grew a bit at this, though she still didn't look nearly as happy as she had been a minute before.
"I'm glad to be your friend too, Trevor," she said.
"Be happy, OK?" said Trevor earnestly.
"OK," replied Katie, shaking her head and chuckling slightly.
Trevor released Katie's hands and took a couple of steps past her to meet the approaching Cindy.
"Hi, again!" he said, trying to control his sudden excitement. "Congratulations! You guys were awesome, and you in particular!"
"Thanks!" said Cindy, who was obviously quite excited herself. Trevor wondered how much of the excitement was from the victory, and how much was the kind he was feeling. "Y'know," Cindy continued, "for some reason it was harder to concentrate in those last three innings." She cocked her head slightly. "I can't imagine why!"
"I was afraid you were mad at me after the homerun," said Trevor. "It was a big relief when you smiled and waved at me at the end of the inning."
"Really?" said Cindy, her smile changing to a puzzled expression. "I don't know why you would have thought that. It was MY fault that that pitch got away. I didn't blame you."
"It just suddenly matters to me a lot what you think of me, that's all," replied Trevor.
"Oh," said Cindy, her smile returning. "Yeah, I guess I understand that. By the way, can I ask you something?"
"Sure," answered Trevor. "Anything!"
"What's your name?"
"Huh?" Trevor replied. He quickly thought back on their earlier conversation, then burst out laughing. "Aw, man," he finally continued through the end of his laughter. "What a doofus I am!" He extended his hand. "I'm Trevor Pendall! Glad to make your official acquaintance!"
"Cindy Schlossman. Me, too!" she replied, and took Trevor's hand.
Immediately Trevor noticed that her skin was softer and more touchable than Katie's - quite pleasantly so, in fact. Plus, her grip was exactly right: firm but not squeezing. It was the most pleasant handshake he had ever experienced.
He also looked at her face a bit more closely, and realized that his original perception of an overbite was almost completely the result of an optical illusion: her top front teeth projected out only a tiny bit, but they were large and unusually white teeth that you almost couldn't help but notice. From a distance, in particular, the mistaken impression of an overbite was almost inevitable. Trevor's appreciation of Cindy's face went up another notch, and her smile seemed even more radiant.
"All right, girls, gather 'round," yelled the manager from the grassy area down the line from their bench. Cindy released Trevor's hand.
"Gotta go again," she said in mild annoyance. She began to move away. "See you in a few," she called over her shoulder.
"I'll be waiting," Trevor called back.
As he watched the girls gathering around their manager, Trevor suddenly realized that during the brief conversation he had just had with Cindy, there had been absolutely no trace of that terrible uncomfortable feeling. The encounter had been thoroughly enjoyable, and he was greatly anticipating talking with her again in a few minutes.
But what about after that? Trevor abruptly thought. I want to see her again as soon as I can!
He took a minute to contemplate some potential options. Then he looked around for his father, and spotted him talking to Katie's parents a short distance away. Trevor quickly went over to him and took him by the arm.
"Dad, can I talk to you for a second?" he asked as he gently pulled his father away from the Masons.
"I'll be right back," said Mr. Pendall to his friends, then turned to his son. "Trevor, what are you doing? Is it that important?"
"Sorry, Dad," said Trevor apologetically, keeping one eye on the team meeting. "I know that was kinda rude, but I don't know how much time I have. I need to ask you something: does spending an afternoon at the mall with a girl qualify as a date?"
"Because you can't single date until you turn sixteen next March, right?" replied his father.
"Exactly. I want to spend some time with Cindy, but I don't want to break any rules." Trevor smiled. "Unless you leave me no choice, of course."
"Of course," chuckled his father. "You must really like this girl to even joke about violating rules to be with her. But it's no problem, as far as I'm concerned. Being at the mall together in broad daylight doesn't quite qualify as an official date, at least by my definition. But stay out of the 'make-out corners'." As Trevor stared at him in disbelief, he added, "Hey, I was young once too, you know!"
"I know," replied Trevor, "but for some reason the thought frightens me. Anyway, thanks a lot, Dad! You're the greatest!"
Trevor moved back toward the area where the team meeting was taking place. After another minute or so, all the girls and the coaches gave a loud yell, followed by another round of high-fives.
"All right!" yelled the manager. "See you all Saturday!"
The girls began to disperse. Before Trevor could reunite with Cindy, a middle-aged woman and a man who appeared to be about twenty joined her. The man gave her a high ten, then a big hug. This was followed by another big hug from the woman. Trevor did a little cough as he walked up to the group.
"Oh!" exclaimed Cindy, as she and the woman released each other. "Mom, Toby, this is my new friend, Trevor. Trevor, this is my Mom and my big brother, Toby."
"Nice to meet you, sir," said Trevor as he shook Toby's hand. "A great pleasure, ma'am," he continued as he shook hands with Cindy's mother.
"Well, you're certainly polite," she said. "Almost TOO polite. You're not pulling an 'Eddie Haskell' on me, are you?"
Why, no, Mrs. Cleaver, Trevor thought, and may I say, you're looking very lovely tonight!
"No, ma'am," he said with a smile.
"I hope not," Cindy's mother said. "I like good manners, when they are done sincerely." She looked at Cindy. "I don't recall you mentioning Trevor before."
"I couldn't," replied Cindy. "We just met today."
"Really?" said Cindy's mother. "You weren't kidding about his being your 'new friend,' were you?"
At that moment, Trevor's father walked up to the group.
"Excuse me," he said apologetically. Before he could continue, Trevor interrupted.
"Dad!" he said. "I'd like you to meet my new friend Cindy, her Mom and her brother Toby."
"Rae Schlossman," said Cindy's mother, accepting Mr. Pendall's hand.
"Adam Pendall," replied Trevor's father, who then shook hands with Toby, and finally with Cindy. "Very nice to meet all of you."
"I see now where Trevor gets his good manners," said Mrs. Schlossman.
"Would the three of you like to chat for a minute," said Trevor, taking Cindy's arm, "while my associate and I briefly confer?"
Mr. Pendall and Mrs. Schlossman both smiled.
"I think that would be acceptable," said Cindy's mother. Trevor's father nodded his agreement.
Trevor led Cindy a short distance away.
"OK, first of all," he began, "where do you live?"
"1912 Blair Avenue," answered Cindy.
"Great! That's almost between my house and the mall." He paused to think. "Just 3½ blocks out of the way. Are you free tomorrow?"
"Well, I've got some chores to do at home, but that won't take real long. I do have plans for the evening."
"All right, here's the deal: if it's cool with your Mom, would you like to go to the mall with me in the afternoon? I'll buy you a treat at the ice cream place, and we can talk there for a while. Then we can hit the arcade, and even do some general browsing around, if you like to do that."
"I'd like that a lot!" said Cindy with a big smile. "All of it!"
"Great! By the way, you got a bike?"
"OK, let's go ask your Mom then," said Trevor with a big smile of his own.
But neither of them moved. Trevor didn't want to stop looking at Cindy's smile, and that surrealistic bonding feeling was starting to happen again. And he could tell Cindy was feeling it again too.
For the second time that day, Trevor decided to go against his father's standing advice and act impulsively. He quickly tried to figure out how to put what he wanted to say into words.
"Cindy," he began softly. "I was just wondering...well, do you think it's too soon for you and me to be officially boyfriend-girlfriend? I know we just met today-"
Cindy interrupted him in a soft but emotional voice.
"Are you asking me?" she said, her smiling face shifting its expression to include amazement.
"Well," replied Trevor, "I think I was really asking you if I could ask you, but if it's OK to ask you, then yeah, I'm asking!"
He expected Cindy to giggle at the remark, but instead she raised her hands to her mouth for a moment and seemed on the verge of tears.
"During the little team meeting," she said, even more emotionally than before, "I thought that the perfect ending to this whole great evening would be if you asked me to be your girlfriend! I don't know how, but I just knew that you wanted it too! So yes, let's make it official, and thank you so much!"
"Thank YOU!" said Trevor. She's my girlfriend! he thought excitedly. She's really my girlfriend! WOW!!
He felt like he should say something more to Cindy, but words failed him. He could tell by looking into Cindy's eyes, though, that at that moment further words on the subject were unnecessary. So he just added, "We better get back to our parents now."
As they rejoined their other family members, Trevor addressed Cindy's mother.
"Mrs. Schlossman," he said, bowing slightly, "may I please have the honor of escorting your daughter to our local mall tomorrow, for an afternoon of entertainment and conversation? All G-rated, of course."
Mrs. Schlossman looked at Mr. Pendall.
"You really have taught him well, haven't you?" she commented. "I'm impressed. Very well," she continued, turning back to Trevor. "Under other circumstances I would probably have wanted to talk with you longer first, but it's quite evident that you are a nice young man from a good family. So, I grant my permission, provided Cindy finishes her chores before she leaves, and returns no later than five o'clock."
"Thank you very much, ma'am!" said Trevor. He gave Cindy the thumbs-up sign, and she gave him one back.
"Well," said Mrs. Schlossman, "we have to get going."
"Us too," said Mr. Pendall.
The three older members of the group began moving toward the parking area. Trevor and Cindy fell in behind them.
"I hope I can get to sleep tonight," said Trevor to Cindy. "I'm so excited about tomorrow."
"I can hardly wait, too," replied Cindy.
"What time should I stop by?" Trevor asked.
"Let's see...12:30 should be good for me," answered Cindy.
"My bike and I will be there then. 1912 Blair, right?"
"I'll write that down as soon as I get home," said Trevor, "although I can't imagine ever forgetting it." He paused. "Y'know, I originally didn't even want to come to this game. I'm SO glad I changed my mind!"
"Me, too!" declared Cindy.
The group reached the parking area. One row in, the Pendalls and Schlossmans had to split up to go to their respective cars. Farewells were said all around, and at the same moment Trevor and Cindy reached both hands to each other.
"Glad to have met you, Cindy," said Trevor. "Really glad! Really, REALLY glad! Really, REALLY, REALLY-"
"OK, I get the idea!" giggled Cindy. "I'm really, REALLY, REALLY glad too!"
"See you tomorrow, then!" said Trevor.
"I'm really looking forward to it," replied Cindy. "Really, REALLY looking-"
"I give up!" chuckled Trevor. "You win!" He released her hands, and began to back away.
"Bye!" said Cindy with a wave as she started to move in the other direction.
"Bye!" Trevor replied, waving back.
As Trevor was buckling himself in, his father looked over at him from the driver's seat.
"What do you think, Trev?" he asked. "Is being in love what you thought it would be?"
"I don't know if I'm exactly 'in love' yet," answered Trevor. "If not, I'm certainly well on the way. But so far it's...it's not like anything I could have imagined. It's better. Really liking a girl who really likes me...it's just so cool I can't even describe it. Is it always this good, Dad?"
"It's usually pretty wonderful when a new relationship starts," replied his father. "If you both still feel this way in a few months, then it might be growing into something special."
"I hope it does." Trevor looked out the window for a moment as his father started the car, then looked back at his father. "Dad, remember all those times when you and Mom insisted that I learn and use good manners, no matter how much I whined and protested? And how you said I'd thank you someday?"
"I certainly do," his father answered.
Trevor smiled. "Thanks, Dad!" he said.
"You're very welcome, son!" replied his beaming father.