“Saturday night? A baseball game with three of the most gorgeous bachelors in Southern California? I think I can manage that,” Anna answered Gabe’s invitation. “I get home from working about 5:30p. We can drive up then.”
“How about we come and get you guys that way we can feed the boys before we get there?” Gabe suggested. “And with the Deluxe Box tickets we can park in the back lot, closer to the entrance.”
“Great, we’ll see you then,” Anna skipped a step after she hung up.
Her phone rang again, but she didn’t recognize the number. “Hello?”she answered.
“Hi,” she recognized the voice but couldn’t place it, “This is Matt, Gabe’s friend from last week?”
“Hi, how are you,” she responded politely.
“Great, I hope you don’t mind, I stole your number out of Gabe’s phone,” he laughed hoping she would be impressed with his efforts to contact her.
She paused a second then shrugged it off, “Of, course not. How can I help you?” She wondered why he called.
“I just really enjoyed talking with you and I wanted to make sure that you weren’t too put off by Adam that you wouldn’t like any of Gabe’s friends?” Matt tried to put her at ease.
“No, I think his bark is probably worse than his bite. If Gabe is willing to ignore his opinion of me, then I can too. I think he’s actually just too intelligent for his own good,” Anna tried to remain positive, still unsure of Matt’s motives for calling.
“Are you working now?” Matt asked, trying to find a way to get her to open up and talk freely like she had before.
“Yes, just finishing an organizing appointment. I’ve got to drop off the donations and trash and then head home to finish a sewing job,” She rattled off her list of to do’s.
“You take away their donations and trash?” He asked skeptically.
“I make sure to haul it away. Too many times if I leave it for them to do, they will fish back through things and half of it ends up back in the house I just spent days cleaning up,” She smiled as she talked, letting him know it wasn’t as bad as it sounded, but still ridiculous that people would pay her to do work for them that they would turn right around and undo.
“Wow, maybe you’ll have to come over and help me get straightened out,” Matt added with a little too much charm.
Unfazed, Anna responded, “You probably have a bachelor’s apartment with the least amount of everything possible, except over sized televisions and take out containers.
Matt laughed off her suggestion, knowing it hit a little too close to home. “I’m not as bad as that. I actually have a very nice home, but yes, it definitely lacks a woman’s touch.”
Anna started to understand that maybe Matt called for more than just a chat. It usually took being hit with an 18 wheeler truck for her to begin to guess a guy was interested. Suddenly she felt flattered that he went to the effort to call, but confused if Gabe gave him her number or if Matt really got it without his knowledge. She wasn’t sure which was worse. She didn’t want Gabe giving out her number, but Matt going behind his back did not impress her. She gave him the benefit of the doubt and continued the conversation.
“Well, I have the number of a few designers, if you ever want some help with that,” she willing played along, but she did not promise more than she was willing to deliver.
“Actually, you could give them to me if you wanted to go out to dinner Wednesday,” he said.
I walked right into that one, she thought kicking herself, not for him asking her out, but she didn’t like to be talked into anything. Control Freak
“Yes, that would be nice,” she agreed, “but not on a school night.”
“You’re still in school?” he teased.
“Thankfully, no, but there is homework and sixth grade takes a lot of getting used to for a boy who hates homework,” she explained. “Saturday’s are best? But not this Saturday,” she added remembering the previous conversation. “Sorry, to be so difficult, that’s just the life of a single mom. Next Saturday would be perfect. Does that work for you?”
“No, I really don’t want to wait that long to see you again, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice.” She could tell he was teasing again and her heart beat a little faster at his boldness.
“Patience is a virtue,” she teased back.
“I’ll have to get some of that. I’ll add it to my grocery list,” he laughed now. Abruptly he added, “I need to go, but next Saturday, 9pm, you’re all mine.”
“Nine?” she was confused, hadn’t he said dinner?
“Nine’s good, unless you need to make it later,” he commented accommodatingly.
“Uh, no, nine is fine. See you then, bye,” she hung up the phone wondering what she had gotten herself into and how she will stay awake through dinner. The life of a single mom is often less than glamorous.
She dropped her phone in her purse and dropped Matt from her thoughts as she drove to pick up Chris from his friend’s house.
Saturday afternoon Gabe loaded Sean in the car and headed south toward Long Beach. He found himself thinking about things he wanted to talk to Anna about. Articles he read that morning and the Dodgers chances in the playoffs. All summer they had continued talking and texting, sharing small moments through the day. Often when he read a piece of news or heard a funny story he wanted her to be the one he talked to. She was becoming like the female version of Matt, someone he turned to when he wanted a second opinion or wanted to share his.
Sean spoke up, explaining his latest attempts at Pokemon domination and so Gabe’s focus centered on that for the rest of the 40 min drive. Her car wasn’t there when he pulled in front of the small, well kept home Anna and Chris rent. It really impressed him that she did so well as a single mom trying to be home with her son as much as possible.
Chris stood in the gate struggling to get his bike through while it shut on him. Sean jumped out and ran to help and the two of them disappeared inside. Gabe walked to the front door and stood there for a few minutes waiting for the boys to come let him in. It became apparent that they had completely forgotten about him, so he rang the doorbell. A sheepish Chris answered the door, apologized, and let him in. Sean sat, already on the computer, talking about the latest challenge on his game. Chris returned to the couch to continue their conversation.
Gabe interrupted them, “Chris, dude, no offense but you stink,” he said with a smile fanning the air around him. “Why don’t you go clean up a bit while we wait for your mom?”
“Yes, we were running around a lot and I’m pretty sweaty. Do I have to get in the shower?” Chris asked tentatively.
“I think you should, and get some clean clothes,” Gabe added. He walked to the kitchen and got the small red tomato timer and set it for 5 minutes. He knew the tendency of boys to drag their feet to get in, but then never want to get out. “You have 5 minutes, so wash quickly.”
Chris ran off to get his clothes and headed into the bathroom, resetting the timer for the full 5 minutes. Gabe waited a few minutes and then knocked on the door and asked Chris if he knew when his mom would be home. Chris’ voice came muffled through the water so Gabe knew he had actually gotten in. Sometimes you have to be smarter than the average bear to raise kids.
It surprised Anna how much she looked forward to the game. Since their explosive visit to the Aquarium she and Gabe had become real friends. She wasn’t surprised anymore to receive a text message or email from Gabe and Sean and Chris constantly asked to hang out together.
At 5:15pm she dropped off a load of boxes at the thrift store near her home. Anna tried to support the store. They raise funds to help out abused mothers so they can finish school and establish careers. Anna maneuvered toward home mentally planning what needed to be done before they could leave. Hopefully, she could work in a shower and clean clothes before Gabe and Sean arrived. Chris would ride his bike home from a birthday party and would need to change too. I’ll remind him to wear his Dodgers cap.
Anna came around the corner and saw Gabe’s car in front of her house, her heart sank a little that she wasn’t going to be able to get ready. She walked in the house carrying an armful of organizing and cleaning supplies. Gabe and Sean sat on the couch, but Chris was no where to be seen. “Is Chris home?” she asked Gabe.
“No, we randomly broke into your house because we had a huge desire to sit here on your couch and stare at your walls,” Gabe’s sarcasm dripped heavily.
“If I had known you were so interested in my walls I would have touched up the paint for you,” she threw right back at him.
“So you’ll know for next time.” Gabe threw her a sarcastic look. “Chris is actually in the bathroom washing up and changing. He was pretty sweaty.” Just then Chris walked out and before Anna could even say hello Gabe asked “Did you remember deodorant?”
Chris hung his head and silently turned around and walked back in the bathroom. For a second Anna felt a little uncomfortable with someone else telling her son what to do in her own home. Then she realized she should be grateful for someone else to reinforce what she tried to teach him. It felt nice to have someone else be the adult. She smiled at him appreciatively.
“I’m going to take a quick second to clean up too. I’ve been hefting boxes and dusty clothes and things all day. But it should just take me a couple minutes,” she explained to Gabe, hoping he wasn’t in too much of a hurry.
“No problem, How about I take these bottomless pits out to get burgers and we’ll be back in a few minutes?” Gabe offered.
Anna nodded and then headed to her room to get clean clothes. She heard them leave and she quickly jumped in the shower. They hadn’t returned yet when she finished and dressed so she added a little make up and earrings. Make up and jewelry were nice but not essential to her and usually only applied in the car as she drove somewhere.
She heard the door and walked out to meet them. “Wow, you clean up well,” Gabe joked, “and fast. I figured we’d be back, eaten, and waiting.”
“Well, when you are as naturally beautiful as I am…” she flipped her hair behind her and smiled a horribly cheesy grin. “Actually, all the make up and hair supplies in the world don’t do much, so I don’t bother.”
He assured her that was definitely not true. She was closer with her first comment. She’s not gorgeous like the women I work with, but she is so natural and happy that she really is beautiful.
Out loud Gabe said, “Let’s get going then,” and they piled in the car.
The drive to the ballpark took about 45 minutes and when he pulled up to the gate of the parking lot he showed the attendant his tickets. The attendant slipped a bright salmon colored piece of paper under the windshield wiper and directed them to drive around to the farthest lot. Anna had never been back there, she usually ended up parking with the masses in a lot that spread down the hill.
The nearest entrance was located behind third base and they stopped to get sodas, water, and popcorn for the boys who were already hungry again. Instead of climbing up to the seats where Anna usually sat, they snaked around down to the boxes behind home plate. As they sat down she was surprised by how close they were.
“Wow, we can actually see faces on the people,” she joked to Gabe who gratefully realized, once again,all the opportunities he took for granted.
“The players don’t usually have faces?” Sean asked confused.
“Where we usually sit is so far away, you can’t see anything more than the numbers on the jerseys to identify people,” Anna explained. She’s not bitter about it, she says it as though it’s matter of fact.
“Why would you sit there?” Sean asked innocently.
“Because season tickets for these seats would cost more than my house,” Anna laughed kindly. “Not everyone is lucky enough to be as spoiled rotten as you,” she teased, wrapping her arms around him, throwing him gently side to side.
“Oh,” he responded, suddenly understanding, “We are pretty lucky. Aren’t we, dad?”
“It’s not just being lucky. Your dad works hard for what he earns. He has to be away from you most days while he’s filming and he’s lost a lot of privacy,” she told Sean. Gabe looked at her admiringly. Then she jabbed Gabe in the ribs, “For a Pretty Boy Actor that is,” she added with a smirk.
Gabe admired her levelheadedness when it came to wealth and money. She didn’t sound resentful like so many people. He knew he had advantages in life that others did not, but he also worked very hard. He had taken jobs he didn’t like and roles he hadn’t wanted because a job is a job and the more you are out there the more of the right kind of opportunities come your way. No one is going to hire a nobody in this business.
The Announcer started, the National Anthem sung, without too much over singing this time, the first pitch thrown out and the game began. It was the last home game of the regular season and the Dodgers were on a 17 game winning streak, so the seats were pretty full.
It threw Anna off a little sitting down so low and behind the plate. She almost preferred the birds-eye-view of the cheap seats. She focused hard to determine where the ball was going and whether it was fair or foul from that vantage. It did give a better view of close plays at the base and she could see that the umpire had made a lousy call at third which she wouldn’t have been able to notice sitting somewhere else.
The fifth inning was half way over and the boys were a little antsy. Gabe took them to get refills and walk to the memorabilia shop to get some of their energy out. Gabe was stopped by a guy who he had met on one of his visits to troops over seas. He didn’t remember the guy, he had met so many over there, but he stopped to talk with him. He made sure the boys shook his hand and they all took a picture together. He even signed his hat. Gabe shook the man’s hand again and thanked him for his service before saying good bye and walking toward their seats.
Sean teased his dad, “Maybe I should get your autograph on my hat, just in case I’m poor one day and need to sell it.”
Gabe tussled Sean’s hair and told him he could have his autograph on his emancipation papers when he made Sean live in the field behind the house. He then had to explain Emancipation and that is what they were discussing when they returned to their seats.
“Gabe is going to emancipate Sean, so he will be poor and then he can sell his autograph to pay for food,” Chris blurted out to his mom in explanation of their strange conversation. Anna laughed silently and looked at Gabe with a questioning glance, as if he was crazy.
He just smiled back and confirmed, “Yep, as soon as we get home, boot to the gutter, baby. You’re out on your own.” Sean, obviously unruffled by his dad’s announcement, rolled his eyes and sat back in his seat.
The sixth inning had started and the score board showed pictures of couples surrounded by a heart and the words “Kiss Cam” beneath their faces. The camera stayed on the couple until they gave in and kissed. First a young couple, then an older couple, then the former soldier Gabe had just spoken to. Finally the background changed and the words “Major Kiss Cam” appeared on the screen and Gabe realized the camera pointed at him.
Anna was so focused on the game she looked around suddenly when the crowd let out a cheer. There isn’t anything going on, what are people looking at? Just then Gabe bumped her elbow and pointed at the Score Board. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek before she had even figured out what was going on. Maybe that will satisfy them. The crowd let out a boo.
“Don’t worry about it,” he whispered in her ear. She had finally figured out what he saying.
Gabe saw her eyes open wide in surprise and she looked around at all the people in the stadium. She’s probably horrified. She actually considered what his fans would think if they didn’t kiss or if they did. Will they think he’s too stuck on himself to play along? What will the media publish if I did kiss him? Will they think we are actually dating? What will Chris and Sean think?
She glanced at the boys and they both had a look of horror on their faces, as though their parents had been asked to eat cockroaches. For twelve year old boys, eating bugs might be considered cool, this was much worse. She only took half second to think through what she should do and she turned smiling toward Gabe with a plan.
She shocked him when she faced him, removed his hat and covered her face with it. He deduced her plan as she leaned toward him and he bent his head to hers happy to play along with the ruse. His heart jumped a little and warmth spread through his chest as her lips touched his briefly. He started to close his eyes, but she quickly pulled away. Her lips are fuller and softer than they look.
She had planned to only hide behind the hat, make it look like a kiss, but not actually touch him. She wondered what had made her do it. Maybe, the fact that he leaned in close to her, maybe, the realization that the fans sitting behind us would be able to see we hadn't actually kissed, maybe, that last minute whiff of Cologne that made her heart melt, or maybe, I really did want to kiss him. Definitely the fans sitting behind us. Definitely! I'm going with that one. Anna looked him in the eye, smiled and then looked away toward the game.
“Go Dodgers,” she cheered loudly, but instead on the next pitch the batter grounded out. She turned to look at the boys and they were staring back as if she’d grown three heads.
“Ewww, Mom, you kissed him?” Chris said incredulously.
“On the mouth,” Sean put in, “in public,” as if she’d just kissed a bubonic pig.
“Well, they were expecting it,” she waved her hand at the stands. Then, she raised her eyebrow, “you two are just jealous.”
She made an exaggerated pucker and kissed Chris twice on the cheek. Then, she added loud smacking kissing noises and pawed at Sean. She grabbed him and got in a kiss on the forehead and another on the cheek by his ear as he squirmed.
She noticed that Sean complained and squirmed but didn’t move away. Does he miss having a mom to kiss him? She stole one last kiss from Chris, pinned between Sean and her, and released them both. Chris exaggeratedly wiped his hand on his face and then wiped it again on her jeans.
“Aw, Man, now I’m jealous. I only got one kiss, you guys are so lucky,” Gabe joked. Anna glanced at him and knew she was forgiven for the kiss. He leaned over and whispered, “You’re hat stunt guarantees that it will appear on the sports reels. Every gossip outlet is going to be trying to figure out who you are.”
Her face dropped, apologetically she stammered, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t thinking about that. I just tryied to get them to stop but not have pictures out there.” She leaned forward to rest her head in her hands.
“It’s not a problem, Anna,” He assured her, “any good media is free advertising, right? I think it’s kind of funny. I’m so used to it, it’s second nature, but there isn’t any way you could really have known.”
She peered between her fingers at him and she only raised her head once to assure herself he was being honest. “You’re a lot of trouble, but Sean likes you, so I guess we’ll let you guys hang around with us,” Gabe smiled, put his arm around her shoulders and shook her gently in a mock hug.
The next two innings passed quickly and the top of the ninth ended in a double play that continued the winning streak. They gathered their trash and followed the crowd toward the exit. As they approached the parking lot gate, Gabe looked at the people around them and spoke to the attendant who nodded at him. Instead of following the line of cars through the exit, Gabe circled back and went out the entrance, past the attendant who waved at him, and into the throng of cars leaving the other lots through the narrow streets in the hills.
“If anyone tried to follow us, they’ll have gotten lost in the crowds,” Gabe explained as he turned onto the main road and headed for Anna’s house.
The boys were lost in a conversation about their latest gaming adventures. Anna and Gabe were content to listen to the music on the radio, talking from time to time, but relaxing in the silence as well. Soon they arrived at her house and Gabe jumped from the car to open their doors and walk them to the porch.
Chris waved good night and headed inside. “Thank you for inviting us,” he said when his mom grabbed his arm and turned him back around to face Gabe. She let him go in.
“Yes, thank you. It was a lot of fun,” she echoed.
“Sorry about the whole kiss cam,” he interrupted.
“I’ve had worse things happen to me then having to kiss a cute guy at a baseball game,” she laughed. He smiled back, said good night, and walked back to the car. She waved before walking into the house. With any luck Armageddon will start so the gossip shows have something else to focus on. Just for added protection she got on the computer and shot out a post about: not actually dating anyone, the whole thing being for publicity, and please not sharing her name or contact information with anyone. Hopefully, that ends it.