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Correction — I accidentally called Connie “Bonnie” in the prior chapter.
From Chapter 10: “Whoa. Who are YOU so pissed at?” A voice said from outside the cage.
“Um, no one, why?” Lacey asked without turning around.
“Just the way you’re swinging, putting everything into it. Moving those hips,” the voice said, hesitating before commenting. “I was wondering if you would be coming back here.”
IN HER COUSIN’S FOOTSTEPS- Part Eleven
Lacey focused on the pitching machine and drove several balls back at it, leveling off her swing.
“Looks really good Dana. Can I give you a tiny piece of advice though? It’s okay if you don’t want to hear it.”
Lacey took a final swing before turning around and taking her helmet off.
“It’s Lacey, not Dana,” she said, bending over to catch her breath.
“Oh, that’s strange. For some reason I had ‘Dana’ stuck in my head.”
“Look, April — right? I know you mean well but I’m not really in the mood to…”
April nodded. “I’m sorry. You just have been working so hard, and you’re so close. It’s something Connie taught me early on and I just thought I’d — you know, like pay it forward.”
“Sorry April. I’m, it’s…never mind. Um, what do you think I should do?”
“Connie told me to balance myself and you do that really well. If you just flick your hips as you swing and pretend like you’re squishing a bug with your back foot, so it’s almost facing the pitching machine when you’re done. You’ll get more power that way. Try it.”
April pretended that she had a bat in her hand and demonstrated in slow motion.
“See, like that? Everything else looks perfect,” she said blushing. The redness wasn’t lost on Lacey.
“Okay, maybe I’ll try it. Let me know if I’m doing it right, okay?”
April nodded as Lacey got back in the cage and fed another token into the machine. She took her position slightly behind Lacey and focused on her butt, waiting to see if she would rotate. The first few pitches were a challenge. Lacey missed them badly, laughing for the first time in several days.
“Any other advice, April?” She said it kiddingly.
“Just give it some time. You’ll get it.”
She was right. By the end of the round, Lacey was smashing the ball with authority. She exited the cage and smiled at April.
“Thanks for the tip. Do you play?”
“I used to, at Duke a little bit before I got hurt.” April said quietly.
“Wait, you’re April? April Chadwick? THE April Chadwick? You were great in high school. Panther Creek, right? Even my cousin couldn’t break your records.”
“Oh…Kristi’s your cousin?” April was wondering if Kristi and Lacey were a “thing,” but was relieved and somewhat intrigued to know they were related.
“Yeah, and my trainer for the summer, well at least she was my trainer. We’re taking a break.”
“Well, I offer sessions if you’re interested. I’m pretty cheap. Well, I’M not cheap. My sessions are,” she blushed.
Lacey thought about it. With the new pointers she felt reinvigorated, but also for some reason it was as if she would be cheating somehow.
“Um, let me sleep on it, okay? It sounds like a good idea though.”
“Sure. Well, I better get back to the snack stand before Connie beats me,” she said half-kiddingly.
Lacey watched her as she left the area, and despite her mood she couldn’t deny that she was at least mildly flattered at the attention and the positivity. Yes, she admitted. There was also an attraction. April had boyishly short auburn hair and a taller, softer body than Kristi, but there was something about her that Lacey found attractive, even going back to her first visit to the complex. She shrugged it off and fed another token into the machine, trying to remember the pointers. Her swings weren’t nearly as violent, and for the first time in days her mind wasn’t on Kristi and the betrayal from the prior week.
She finally finished, now drenched from the activity. She had to remember to bring a water bottle the next time, she thought as she gathered her equipment and walked over to the snack bar. She was only mildly disappointed to see Connie behind the counter, and she asked for a large energy drink.
“You are really making progress from what I can tell, Lacey. It is still Lacey, right?” She smirked as she asked.
“Um, yeah. April just told me a couple of things that seem to really help, and Kristi gave me lots of fielding pointers too. I can’t wait to actually play.”
Connie looked at her, hesitating before commenting, “If you’re serious, we have a rec softball team, and we could use another good player. I don’t think we even have enough to field a team for tonight’s game. You’re very welcome to come to the game.”
“Um, sure. I mean, do you need a batboy or something? I could help out.”
“No, I mean to actually play. We could stick you out in right field and bat you last until casino şirketleri you get more comfortable. Stay right here, okay?”
Connie left the counter and went into the back room before coming back with a red jersey. On the front was “SuperSlam” in big white letters with black shading. On the back was the number fourteen.
“Sorry, all the good numbers were taken. And we don’t have any more shorts, so sweats or leggings are fine. Come on out. We’ll leave from here at five, okay?”
Knowing she needed to divert her thoughts from Kristi, Lacey agreed.
“Okay, I’ll be here. And Connie? Thanks.”
Connie smiled and looked her up and down. “Do you have a job this summer? We have a few hours a week available here if you would like. I could start you out at the snack bar, and when it’s not busy you can get some free hitting in.”
“Really? I guess so. Should I bring my resume tonight?”
“No, it will all be ‘under the table’ if that’s okay.” As she said it, Connie felt herself getting moist at the thought.
“Um, okay if that’s not a problem. See you a little later.”
Lacey looked around for April before leaving but couldn’t find her. She gently placed the jersey into the passenger’s seat, flattered at actually being asked to play on a real team. She got home and was surprised to find her dad there.
“How was practice?”
“Good dad. Really good.”
“Feeling better? You scared me for a while there.”
“Yeah, a little bit. Hey dad, guess what? I was asked to play on the SuperSlam softball team. We have a game tonight.”
“Oh, that’s great Lace. Is Kristi on the team?”
“Um, no. At least I don’t think so. So, if you want to watch tonight, I mean, I don’t know if I’ll actually play, but there are some girls who are supposedly on vacation, so maybe.”
“Okay, let me know where it is and I’ll try to get there after work. Sounds like your hard work is paying off.”
“Oh, and dad? Remember April Chadwick from like six years ago? She set all kinds of state records over at Panther Creek? She offered to train me. I’m not sure what it will cost, but I might be getting a part-time job at SuperSlam, so I could probably pay for it myself if that’s okay.”
“Let me know. I can pitch in a little bit. How’s basketball going?”
“I haven’t really played that very much since…” She almost said ‘since breaking up with Kristi but held back.
“Since last week. But I might try to join a rec league too.”
“Wow, look at you all athletic!” Her dad was surprised, but he had noticed a change in her confidence level and was nervously anticipating seeing her in a competitive environment.
“Anyway, I’ll text you the game location when I find out.” With that she went to her room and as she glanced at her phone on the end table, she realized that she hadn’t turned it on since coming back on Saturday night. She hesitated before reaching for it and hitting ‘on,’ and feeling the butterflies in her stomach as she wondered what she may have missed. She powered it up, expecting dozens of texts and hating herself for wanting to see some from Kristi. Instead, there were only four, all from Maddy. The first again apologized for her behavior and asked to make sure the risqué pic was deleted. The second asked if she made it back okay from NC State. The third asked if she was planning to come back next weekend, and the fourth came at 1:15am the prior night:
Lacey blushed as she read it and correctly assumed that Maddy was again intoxicated. She briefly considered sending her what she wanted before shrugging and deleting the texts, but she again found herself scrolling back to the pic that Maddy sent the week before. She was learning that she preferred the more ‘tomboyish’ look, natural and almost boyish; however, she had to admit to herself that despite her revulsion for Maddy’s arrogance, the fact that a debutante like Maddy was in some way attracted to her was something of a turn-on. She found herself again daydreaming about Kristi and wondering if she was planning to go back to school this weekend. She almost wished that she would, hoping to avoid her for as long as she could. She couldn’t wait to play tonight, although she already felt butterflies, even more than four hours before the game was scheduled to start.
She decided on a pair of grey yoga shorts and glanced in the mirror to see how she looked in them. Although she hadn’t weighed herself since she started training, she was sure that she was down at least seven pounds, and even though she wasn’t doing any real weight training, she felt more toned. She kept looking at her phone and scrolling back to the last of Kristi’s texts, now from nearly a week earlier. Her fingers fumbled with the keypad, taunting her, wanting to reach out to Kristi, but she knew that she couldn’t, despite her intense feelings which she knew wouldn’t easily go away. She took a short nap and woke in plenty of time to eat casino firmaları and get into her new uniform. She reached the complex and found Connie and April loading their gear into Connie’s Jeep. She pulled next to them and waved, making a mental note of their contrasting sizes. Connie was stocky yet muscular, and Lacey guessed her to be nearly six feet tall and solidly built, while April was wiry, probably four inches shorter and at least fifty pounds lighter.
“Hey Lacey, wanna ride with us? It’s maybe a twenty-minute drive to the old high school field. Shit, Lacey thought, they’re playing at the same field that she and Kristi nearly made love, of all places.
“Um, I’ll go along with you if it’s okay.” She threw her gear into the jeep and sat in the back seat. She couldn’t help but feel anxious about the game. If she did get to finally bat, it would be the first time in a real game since coach pitch in sixth grade. As they pulled up to the field, she reminisced about her get-together with Kristi just a week or so earlier. The dugout, the phone, everything rushed back and flooded her mind. “Relax! Focus on the game, not on Kristi,” she told herself quietly. They parked and she was relieved to see that they were going to be in the opposite dugout, and she mentally counted only six players. God, what if they didn’t have enough to field a team? She quickly texted her father and let him know where the game was being held, then changed into her spikes and ran out with the rest of the team to stretch. As they did, April introduced her to the rest of the team. The remaining three players showed up, and Lacey’s heart raced as she looked over the field. After they warmed up, Connie called them into the dugout and read the lineup. To Lacey’s surprise, she was batting seventh – not ninth – which made her wonder how bad the other two players must be.
She couldn’t remember ever being this excited about playing, and Connie smiled as she caught Lacey taking a photo of the lineup card with her phone. They watched the opposing pitcher and Lacey realized that her speed was much slower than the last several rounds in the batting cage. The first inning was uneventful with no balls coming close to the outfield. April was an outstanding pitcher, and the other team’s batters were fortunate to even foul the pitches off, much less put them into play. With two outs in the second inning, Lacey was on deck. She looked back and saw her dad waving at her from his lawn chair. She tipped her batting helmet at him but inside she was absolutely gushing. The sixth batter worked a walk, and Lacey walked to the plate, trying to remember everything that she was taught over the past weeks. She watched the first three pitches before swinging at and fouling off the fourth pitch. She dug in, envisioning the ball flying deep over the center field fence. She knew this was her chance, and she timed the ball perfectly, taking a mighty swing and making contact. The ball dribbled a few feet in front of the plate and she took off for first base while the catcher jumped out to field the ball. With only a few feet to go before reaching first, Lacey knew she was going to make it and broke a smile a fraction of a second before being nailed in the back with the errant throw. Her foot hit the bag before the pain coursed through her body. She didn’t mind. Despite the pain, she was actually on base! Her first thought was that she wished Kristi was there to see her, but she quickly dismissed that. The inning ended uneventfully, and she ran back to right field as she heard her dad cheering almost maniacally for her.
She struck out her next at-bat after fouling two balls off and grounded out in the sixth inning on a sharply hit ball. The game ended with a win, and although Lacey didn’t technically have a hit, she couldn’t be happier. She ran to her dad and gave him a hug before heading back to the bench. The players all high-fived and Connie asked her if she would like to join the team for pizza, which was quickly becoming a tradition after a victory. Lacey agreed and six of them met at a nearby spot for deep dish pizza, soda and beer. Lacey realized that she was the only one drinking soda while the rest of them opted for beer. She wondered if she was the only one who was underage and felt even more proud realizing that she probably was the youngest by a few years. Connie toasted the team and their newest addition, and Lacey felt that it was a bittersweet victory party, again wishing that Kristi would have been there to see her. April stayed close to Connie and Lacey assumed that they were together, but she couldn’t really tell if any of the other players were ‘together’, at least not by their actions at the parlor. She did catch April smiling at her a few times but Lacey was careful not to get caught returning the look for fear of upsetting Connie. They finally finished up and said their goodbyes in the parking lot before Connie drove them back to the dark SuperSlam complex.
“Let’s güvenilir casino drop the gear off inside. Mind giving me a hand?” Connie asked April. Lacey also obliged, taking the bats and gear from the Jeep and waiting for Connie to unlock the door for them. She followed them into the back area but was suddenly feeling like a fifth wheel. The lights didn’t turn on for some reason so they felt along the walls in the dark, giggling and trying not to trip. Lacey couldn’t even see her hand in front of her face but she worked her way along the wall, reaching out and feeling someone’s back for guidance. More giggling as they stopped and crashed into each other.
Lacey heard April say, “Didn’t you pay the bills, Connie? Jesus, I can’t see anything… Ohh… mmm.”
Silence. Lacey shifted and waited. More light moans in the darkness.
“Um, should I just drop the bags here?” As she asked, she hated that she was getting mildly excited. Her mind connected the dots and she imagined what may have been going on in the darkness just ahead of her.
Connie commented, “I just keep forgetting where that light switch is for some reason.”
“Yeah,” April said, “How convenient for you.” She said it sarcastically but giggled as she commented.
Lacey smelled the beer in the air and just waited in the total darkness, torn between finding her way back and, what? Reaching for them? Did she have the nerve? Her mind raced, unsure but realizing that she hadn’t climaxed since fantasizing about Maddy back at NC State. She dropped the gear and waited in the darkness, listening to the passionate kissing that was happening just a few feet from her.
“Hey, no fair! Mmm…stop!”
She felt herself getting moist and despite her inclination to leave them alone, she couldn’t bring herself to turn away. Instead she leaned against the wall, peering into the darkness.
More giggling, then “Hey, that tickles!”
Lacey felt like the invisible woman, hearing more light moans in the darkness. She reached to keep her balance and was surprised to feel an arm right next to her. She held it lightly, trying to determine where she was in relation to the entrance. The arm moved and it briefly frightened Lacey, as if she had breached a private space. On the contrary, the hand reached out and gently held Lacey’s hand. They remained that way for what felt like several minutes as she listened intently to what she was sure was heavy kissing with light moaning. The mystery hand removed itself from her hand and moved up her wrist to her elbow, then gently brushed her biceps. Lacey was sure that it was April’s hand, and despite the darkness she felt somewhat voyeuristic although it surprisingly didn’t bring on any guilt. She leaned a bit closer to the mystery hand and felt her bare leg pressing against another leg. The hand caressed her arm before moving to her cheek and lightly brushing it. Lacey’s hand held the mystery arm as her face was being caressed, and she couldn’t resist kissing the back of the hand that was touching her so gently. The figure next to her shifted closer, and she felt a hip pressing against her side. The hand dropped from her face and massaged her shoulder blade. As it did, the elbow touched her right breast. She initially thought it was an accident, but the elbow continued to press against her. She dropped her hand to touch the thigh and as she did, she felt a rush of heat through her body. Now sure that it was April, she pressed her right leg more tightly against her as her hand felt the muscular thigh. She sensed more movement near her hand, and another hand briefly touched hers before slipping away.
“Pull them down,” Connie’s voice said firmly through the darkness, and the hand left her face, disappointing Lacey as the figure pulled away. More giggles, followed by an “Oh God,” and an “Ouch!” A hand found Lacey’s and pulled her closer. Her eyes adjusted somewhat to the darkness and she found that she was barely able to make out the forms now. The hand pulled her even closer and she felt hair, probably April’s, at waist level, facing away from her. Suddenly she realized that she shouldn’t be there, not like this. She removed her hand from the back of April’s head, which she assumed was pressed against Connie. She eased her way slowly along the wall, backtracking until she felt the doorway. She pressed against it and as she did, it allowed a sliver of light to shine through. She blushed at seeing April’s head turning to face her, and briefly glimpsed Connie’s softball shorts down around her ankles as both looked over.
“I’m so sorry, um… thank you for tonight. See you soon.” She staggered out the door, leaving them to enjoy themselves in the darkness. She walked to her car and dropped her bag inside before starting it, wondering how she was going to be able to process what just occurred, and how she would handle seeing them again. Of course, they were surprisingly very casual about it all. She reached home and found her dad on his recliner with a beer.
“Sweetie, you did great tonight. Did you have fun?”
“Yeah dad. I almost got a hit too. Thanks for coming. It was so much fun. We have another game on Saturday if you want to come.”
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