But then again … we were the Yankees. Did I need to dignify any other possibility?
I sat in a corner of the equipment manager’s office and stared at a page in my biology textbook, the chapter on Population Ecology. Boring stuff. I doodled a flower in the right margin of the page, then stopped. Refocused and read the paragraph again. This office was the worst place to study: absolutely empty and quiet, especially this time of day. An hour before the team arrived, my freak of a father the only player in these halls. Everything was already set for the game, the balls mudded this morning, uniforms delivered from the cleaners and hanging in lockers, our food deliveries still three hours out. It was a tomb, which was why Dad loved to stick me in there. Good for biology, bad for my entertainment. I wrote down a few notes, reading over the sentences a few times to make them stick, then turned back to the book.
I wasn’t a brilliant girl. Ask me a question about baseball and I’d ace your test. Put a math equation before me and my eyes glazed over. I used to have a tutor. Dad was focused on A’s, thought that was crucial to my success. Three tutors quit before he gave up. Now, I taught myself, scanning in assignments to a home-school company in Jersey. They graded my work and required me to be present for exams four times a year. They also decided, at the end of the year, if I’d learned enough to graduate. It was May. One more month, four finals, and I’d be done with high school forever. I’d ditch my book-bag at home, say sayonara to books, and fully commit my time to the pinstripes.
I already had a contract penned for after graduation. Equipment Staff Assistant Manager. Not the most glamorous title in the world, but it’d keep me on the team bus. I wasn’t really sure what the next step would be. Denise in Marketing had been trying to get me to intern up top with promises of a more permanent job. But I couldn’t imagine breathing in the air of an office and not the field. I couldn’t imagine looking out a window and down onto the action.
My graduation both loomed and beckoned. I was probably the only teenager in the city who didn’t want to grow up.
If fans leaving a game looked closely on the subway, they might see Frank Cinns. Our back-up third baseman pulled on a maintenance shirt and cap and turned invisible. He lived in Manhattan, as did Madden and Tripp, but their deep wallets used drivers to get home. Brooklyn held another five or six, a few preferred the Hamptons, but Dad and I lived in Alpine. Dad liked to drive, and used the twenty-mile trek to clear his mind after a game. I typically fell asleep. Something about the hours of intensity followed by the quiet hum of road … it was my lullaby. That and the nineties country music Dad lived by. A lethal combination to wakefulness, especially at one in the morning. Tonight was even later, an extra-long press junket holding up everything, a litany of questions drilled at every member of the Yankee organization, all regarding the same topic: Chase Stern.
They asked Tripp how he’d react if Chase slept with his wife. Tripp laughed. Fernandez, when asked the same question, broke his pencil in half. Dad didn’t get that question. Even reporters occasionally have tact.
They did ask Dad if he thought Chase would be a good fit for the team. I had straightened in my seat, my eyes on my father, but true to form, he gave little more than a grunt.
Half awake, I stood in bare feet before my bathroom sink, and washed my face. Leaning forward, I examined a zit that hadn’t quite decided to live or die. Once moisturized, I clicked off the light. When we traveled, I typically fell asleep to the TV, lulled to bed by an ESPN reporter. At home, it was nice to have the quiet. I stood on my bed and reached high, turning the window crank, the cool breeze immediate, the sound of the waves soothing. Our home perched on the short edge of a cliff, the crash of water against the rocks constant. Squatting on the bed, I pulled back the top blanket and crawled in, reaching out and flipping the switch beside my headboard, my room going dark.
Twenty-two miles away, in an executive conference room of Yankee Stadium, a printer hummed, spitting out the pages of Chase Stern’s new contract.
It wasn’t lost on me that I was sitting in the wrong place. On the other side of the pool, a cluster of teenagers, their music floating over. I had caught bits of their conversations as I’d passed them—once by the food, once in the house. Bits of a foreign language that discussed Adele and parties, Spring Break, and Twitter. I knew most of them, we’d been clubhouse brats together, back when we were eleven or twelve. Then they’d moved on to private schools and new friends, weekends spent somewhere other than the club, my spotting of them less and less, their game seats up in boxes and not in the dugout. It had been a clear parting of ways and now, I was a million miles away. Sitting next to their fathers, chiming in on conversations that would cause them to roll their eyes and itch for an escape.
They were all glued to their phones, clustered together in the cabana. I watched them, half of their heads down, their conversations seamless, despite the constant movement of their thumbs. Maybe having friends was the secret ingredient needed for a phone addiction. I watched Katie Ellis giggle and tried to recall where I’d left mine. Probably the truck. My last sighting of it had been days earlier, no real need for it when I was with Dad.
In the past, he’d tried to push me to join them, had seemed to think that social interaction with them was crucial to my happiness. But over the last few years, he’d thankfully given up. I didn’t want their friendship, certainly didn’t need it. Not when we had absolutely nothing in common.
“Need a drink?” Thomas Grant stopped by my chair, putting a gentle hand on my shoulder.
I looked up with a smile. “Sunkist, please.” I liked the man, the patriarch of the Grant dynasty, which had owned the Yankees for the better part of the century. A man who had taken me under his wing at a young age, a beam crossing his face whenever we met, my future in the Yankee organization all but guaranteed with his fondness for me. And the occasional hints that I should marry his son and live happily ever after as a member of the Grant family? I could handle those.
“You got it.” He squeezed my shoulder and stepped toward the house.
The conversation around me was about a Cleveland Indians trade, and I pushed out my feet, settling deeper into the chair, the warmth of the fire heating my shins, the weather still cool on the Hampton coast. We were at the Grants’ massive Hamptons estate, an impromptu barbeque grown bigger by the inclusion of wives and kids, the four teenagers on the other side of the pool just a small part of the party. Tobey Grant, a sophomore at Harvard and the future king of the Yankee empire, caught my eye, his cup lifting to his face, his gaze holding mine as he took a long sip, then lowered the drink. I looked away, back to the fire. We’d had a thing, once. Two years ago, during spring training. A few stolen kisses in a Hilton hallway, his hand sneaking up my shirt. He’d been my first kiss. It’d been okay, the second time better. I thought it had made us something; he hadn’t. It was really just that simple.