Genevieve and Travis’s daughter, Mila, had the best of her parents in her personality. She was tender-hearted like her mother and ran through life with her father’s tenacity. It didn’t work so well in her position of right fielder.
Mila kneeled over something Genevieve couldn’t see. Her pigtails were lopsided, and her Ashbrook Combiners jersey hung to her knees.
She cupped her hands and stood; her face was a picture of childhood curiosity. The Wiffle ball rolled by her unnoticed.
Rick and Amanda’s eldest son, Caleb, raced past her, chasing after the ball.
Mila held out her hand to show him her prize.
He threw the ball to the infield and watched the play to completion. The other team got a home run. Caleb, three years older, doted on Mira, as did the cousins who shared her birthday. If Mila wanted to show him something, he gladly stopped to see what it was. He leaned in and poked whatever it was in Mila’s hand.
“Caleb, we’re playing a game.” Eric threw Travis and Genevieve a pleading glance. Travis slid out of the bleachers and trotted to retrieve his daughter.
Genevieve’s heart hitched. Time had only made her husband more attractive.
Travis took the long way around the field to reach his daughter. He kneeled to talk to her, and she held out her hands for him to see her prize. Travis picked her up and sauntered to the bleachers like they were a king and his young princess.
“Mama, look at what I found.” Mila held out her open palm, revealing a smashed violet.
“I think it’s a sign.” Travis took his place beside Genevieve.
Genevieve scoured her memories for symbolism. What would a violet mean?
“If it’s a girl, we name her Violet.”
“But what if it’s a boy?”
A flutter traveled across Genevieve’s slightly swollen belly. She caressed it. Could the baby feel her touch? The flutter danced a little higher than the first time as though it could read her mind.
Most husbands gave their wives flowers for an anniversary present. Travis defied the odds and impregnated Genevieve once again. When she told him, he cried, wrote a song, and had been by her side ever since.
“She moved?” Travis’s face brightened with awe. He wasn’t there for the beginnings of the pregnancy with Mila, so it was almost like they were first-time parents. Each milestone was met with joy and awe.
“He was telling me that he’d prefer a different name.”
Mila slid between Travis and Genevieve and hugged her mama’s belly. “I love you, baby inside.”
The people in the stands around them rose and cheered. Victor, taking on the role of the assistant coach, waved the runners around the base. The first one crossed home plate, then the second, and a third was followed by the batter.
The new score was the Ashbrook Combiners-2 and the Hope Springs Pirates-5. Although if anyone were to go by the cheering, they would have thought they were at a major league baseball game, not a pee-wee league tee-ball game. The hoots and hollers were so loud Mila snuggled into Travis.
Kate slid into the space on the other side of Genevieve. “Did you see Noah catch that pop fly in the second inning? My nephew’s a natural.”
Life was better than anything Genevieve dared to imagine. She was married to the man who had been in love with her all his life too. With everythig they’d denied out in the open, they were able to nurture their love.
Gina and Mayra were at the edge of the bleachers recording stats for the game. Genevieve’s cousin from Hope Springs, Ginger, was sitting in front of her. Ginger’s attention focused off in the distance, drew a line for Genevieve’s gaze to follow. It landed on a tall, slender man that looked faintly familiar but not enough to call him by name. ,
“Who’s that?” Genevieve asked.
Ginger shook away the dream she had been lost in. “Oh, nobody.”
“Nobody seems rather handsome.”
“I have to agree,” Kate squinted. “Is that Owen Armstrong?”
“In the flesh.” Ginger softly exhaled her appreciation. “How do you know him?”
“He’s been to some of the town council meetings with questions about remodeling his house. It’s in the Hope Springs historic district, and he wants to do everything according to code” Kate tipped her chin in his direction. “You should go say hello.”
“He already knows me.” Ginger turned, so her back faced him. “We were friends when we were kids. But you know how it is. People grow, change, move in directions where they prefer to forget the past ever happened.”
She clapped for one of the players on the plate and leaned her back into the seat in front of her.
Genevieve and Kate exchanged a glance that asked who wanted to take the lead in the conversation.
Kate nodded. “ I have this friend. She had this thing for a man who had eyes for everyone but her. Funny thing. When she was ready to give up on love, it proved it was a gift worth waiting for. They’ve been happily married for six years.” She pointed at Sam standing behind home plate. “He makes a great steak sandwich.”
“I think I’m there.” Ginger shook her head. “I’m not miserable or anything like that, but it would be nice to have someone to argue with about what we’re going to watch on t.v.”
Travis’s raised brow said he had a plan. Genevieve could guess. He’d walk around with Ginger. If the guy showed any interest, Kate was right. “Ginger, do you want to go with Mila and me to the snow cone stand?”
He winked at Geneveive. As with Mila, she craved cold treats. He knew her well. “What will it be beautiful?”
“I would love a sour watermelon snow cone.” Genevieve put on her best please and thank you face.
She had hope for Ginger because her path to love was a reverse trajectory of what Ginger had described. The past five years were filled with Travis proving in the little moments that he wanted Genevieve. It was five years of Genevieve growing in her understanding that she was the person who kept him steady, and five years of accepting that they had a mutual relationship. He was there to take care of her too.
“Okay,” Ginger pushed off the seat.
Travis kissed Genevieve on the cheek and walked toward the stands with her cousin. The teams were changing positions, and all the cousins were in the dugout. Genevieve noticed that Owen was standing by the fence on the edge of the field.
His attention was fully focused on Ginger. She glanced up, and he averted his gaze.
“When do you think we’ll be helping her with her wedding?” Kate asked.
Genevieve tapped her bottom lip. “By next summer.”
Travis held four snow cones in his hand. He passed one off to Genevieve, another to Kate. They dropped Mayra’s into one of the solo cups they stored in their ice chest.
Genevieve, Kate, and Travis were well into their forties, but it felt like somewhere along the way to adulthood, time had pressed a reverse button. They were family who were lucky enough to also be friends sitting in the stands, cheering on their favorite team and enjoying each other’s company.
Travis’s grin and easy manner said that he was happy as Genevieve to have some sugared over ice chips on a warm summer afternoon. He spoke for both of them when he said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”